92: The Brilliance of Blond

92: The Brilliance of Blond

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

The Brilliance of Blond

If you are ashamed to stand by your colors, you had better seek another flag.

~Author Unknown

I felt the sweat drip down my neck as I sat in the black salon chair. It was hot out, but the air conditioning should have prevented the small bead from seeping out of my pores. It dripped down my back and pooled somewhere above my pants. Suddenly, I began questioning the decision I was about to make. Was I a blonde or was I a brunette?

I had decided having blond hair was more of a burden than a blessing my freshman year in college while sitting in the math center, waiting for one of its many tutors to sit down next to me and begin lecturing me on what most math majors see as black and white. Listening to the math tutors speak always reminded me that math is everything I’m not. I will never be math. In math, answers are right and wrong, and in my bleak situation, they were wrong more often than not. Put simply — math is a brunette, and I am a blonde.

My calculus class had not been agreeing with me for a large portion of my second semester. During every lecture I was tempted to get up and scream, “Boring!” I have taken more interest in twiddling my thumbs than I ever did learning the ins and outs of level one calculus. I planned to switch to an English major but I still had to pass.

A skinny young man with glasses slipping down his nose took a seat to my left. I have forgotten his name, but his demeanor has stuck with me. He put one foot on the table and leaned back in his chair, his far-too-short khakis hanging above his ankles, and his brown hair glistening for all the wrong reasons. Mr. Math Tutor was in dire need of a shower. He spoke as though he was God’s one and only gift to earth, and I found myself rolling my eyes as he listed his credentials for my edification.

As we delved into the world of derivatives and anti-derivatives, it became apparent to both my tutor and me that if the world depended on my mathematical knowledge for survival, we were going to need to find another planet to live on. He looked over at me with frustration, his forehead wrinkled and his eyebrows raised. He then asked me what my major was. I lied and told him English. Even the thought of uttering the word “math” evoked the same feelings one has when dry heaving.

“What are you going to do with English? It seems kind of pointless,” he said, as he cracked his knuckles obnoxiously. I looked at him with disbelief. This bold statement was escaping the mouth of the person who had just told me he was one class short of graduating, but was not going to take that class or get his math degree. While I may not have been great with numbers, I was more than capable of multiplying UNH’s annual tuition by four.

I was beginning to get annoyed as he continued to prod me with questions about my uncertain future. He made mention of the current economy in reference to something he had seen on the news, and proceeded to say, “But you wouldn’t know anything about that. You don’t look like the type who watches the news.”

Until that point in my life, I wasn’t aware there was a specific look to those who watched the news, but I knew exactly what he was referring to when he said it: I have blond hair, therefore I’m stupid. There I was, slouched over in my chair, nearly in tears, all because of the color of my hair. I shot him a look that most of my friends describe as horrific. It’s the only facial expression that I cannot reproduce on command, and though I have never seen it myself, I’m sure it conveys the appropriate feelings.

My tutor then explained to me that he was currently reading The Heart of Darkness, something, I’m sure, he figured a feeble-minded blonde like me had never heard of. I explained, “I read that when I was a sophomore — and it blew,” before leaving the tutoring center and dialing my mother.

In tears, I explained to her my frustration with being reduced to nothing because of my hair color. “Everybody here thinks I’m dumb,” I said to her.

“You’re not dumb, Nikki,” she reassured me, like I didn’t already know.

The truth is even my parents thought I was a little “flighty,” simply because I didn’t have my life planned out, and occasionally “dreamed out of reach.” When looking at their faces as I told them I wanted to be a math teacher, one would have thought I’d won a Nobel Prize. Clearly my one and only plan had not worked out, and finally years of people assuming my intelligence level was somehow correlated with the gene that made me a blonde had finally come to a head. I was sick of people talking to me like I was hard of hearing or avoiding intelligent conversation with me for the sole reason that I looked as though I could not understand it. I had reached a point in my life where I was sick and tired of trying to change a stereotype, and I thought it was time for me to be a brunette.

“So you’re going darker?” my hairdresser said to me as she ran her fingers through my hair.

“Yes,” I said. “I’m in need of a change.”

She went over to mix up the new color, and as she walked away, Mr. Math Tutor’s long face popped into my head. I began to think of his sudden appearance as a sign. I could see his pockmarked face and pursed lips, and atop his head was a mass of brown hair. This young man had underestimated me; he had prejudged me as a bimbo. He was a dumb brunette! It was in that instant that I turned around and called out to my hairdresser that I had decided on a simple trim and the color would not be necessary. That moment, I decided being a part of the endangered species called “Natural Blondes” was brilliant in itself. Mr. Math Tutor saw the world in black and white. Mr. Math Tutor was math. I am not math. I am blond.

~Nikki Yuskowski

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