Thursday, January 27, 2005


"Put the hair dye away, please. Bury it deep underground."

Reihan doesn't like dyed hair. And, as someone currently waiting for a strange shade of red to grow out, and for the dark brown (so said Stuy kids) or black (so say Chicago kids) natural color to return, I sympathize. But as someone who had a supercool hot-pink streak in her hair for the first two years of college, and who still harbors a not-so-secret desire to have hair the color of Lola's from Run Lola Run, I must protest. While I agree with Reihan that highlights-lowlights should be banned for aesthetic reasons (and feel the same way about stilettos, but not other high-heeled shoes), and while I, too, believe "there ought to be some limit to self-fashioning," I don't see hair dye as the place to draw that line. Unlike cosmetic surgery, hair dye is only sometimes used to make a person fit a conventional beauty ideal. While cosmetic surgery tends to have an end goal of making a person look younger, WASPier, or bustier, hair dye can--and in many cases does--make a blonde a brunette, a brunette a pink-haired individual, and so on. While many go for the "I may be naturally anything but blonde and blue-eyed, but see what I can do" look, others, myself included, use hair dye not to look a different race, but to look, well, different, to mix things up a bit, with the knowledge that, in a few months, the natural color will have returned.

There's something arbitrary, though, about where natural-looking ends and fake-looking begins. Accepting that showering, nail-clipping, and such are sanitary and not beauty routines, whether one draws the line at lipstick, hair dye, Botox, or facelifts is just a matter of personal preference, though such preferences are often couched in moral terms. Along the same lines, spending $100 on a pair of shoes seems obscene to some, while a person whose shoes cost $150 may find another disgusting for spending $500, while that person, in turn, finds another, who spent $800 on the same pair before they went on sale, ridiculous. Then, there are those who are horrified by fur, and who wag their finger with one hand while carrying a leather briefcase with the other...

The only belief I have about beauty treatments that could count as ethical and not just aesthetic is that I am creeped out by any procedure whose end goal is to make the recipient look "Aryan." Walking around my neighborhood in NYC, I see a sea of nose jobs and dyed-blond hair, and for what, to acheive using new technology what other, more sinister projects across the Atlantic failed to solve? Super creepy. My sense is that, what with the increasingly obese population and thus with thinness becoming progressively more scarce, along with slenderness, beyond ethnic resemblance to the Founding Fathers, being a sign of prosperity, racial characteristics are becoming less important determining factors when it comes to beauty in America. A thin but "ethnic" person will get a role on TV, a modeling contract, or a date, well before someone who is blond, blue-eyed, and heavy. Just a thought.

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