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Published: April 22nd 2010
Or: Life as a Laowai
Having blonde hair sets you up for a lot of things. For one, I could tell about a hundred "dumb-blonde" jokes by the time I was ten, because my friends never tired of relaying the latest to me. One thing I didn't expect, however, (ok halfway expected) was the way it would set me apart in China, for better and for worse.
I don't know where the "dumb-blonde" myth came from. All of the true blondes I have known in my life are feisty, intelligent women who go after what they want. Maybe it's because all the blonde jokes give us an "Oh, yeah?" attitude. In China, blonde (or light) hair is also all the rage, but without the "dumb-blonde" schtick.
Fair skin is also hip. Sadly, there are many skin-whitening products on the market, and sold by Neutrogena and other reputable skin brands, no less. I look at some of the whitening products with smiling Caucasians on the labels, and think how ironic it is that probably the vast majority of white girls in the U.S. spend their money on products or activities that do exactly the opposite.
Not so much
Being a stylist's guinea pig
The stylist chopped my hair off. I was horrified. My mother called the look "gamine." Thanks, Mom.
sad as rad are the hair-dying trends. I have to say the men in China are much more fashion-forward than in the U.S.; I've seen all kinds of 'dos (even perms) and they look great. Girls usually get chestnut highlights in a light-brown background. And some particularly daring folks (mostly celebrities) will go blonde. Going blonde is not allowed at the hotel where I work. There was a funny moment in one of my hotel etiquette and grooming classes where the managers told us, "Don't let your hair get too yellow." The bellboy sitting next to me made eye-contact, and we both started to giggle. Everyone in the front row began to laugh, too, saying, "Poor Samantha!"
So how does all this impact me? Well, I just got photographed by a guest in the hotel, who maybe had never seen a Chinese-speaking foreigner before (Huhehaote is not Shanghai or Beijing). And that wasn't the first time. Whenever I go shopping, the salespeople pour it on thick; the number-one comment is, "Wow, her skin is so white!" I always feel like the proverbial sore thumb. Friends who have known me for a while have spontaneously touched my hair: not so weird when the girls do it, but pretty weird when a guy-friend did it. I think I got him back when I touched his spiked hair and started calling him 刺猬头: hedgehog-head.
The first time I got my hair cut here? The receptionist at the salon caught it all on her cellphone cam. I guess they were giving me the celebrity treatment.
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