Not A Pink Girl

It’s a white white world for Vera Bradley (conclusion)

June 25, 2008

I remember when I was a kid in the 1960s & 1970s & catalogs started to integrate. Every once in a while you’d see an African-American woman posing for Montgomery Ward. We had that catalog more than we had Sears, Roebuck, although we’d get that once every other year or so. It was really a big deal when this started happening.

It was by no means common though. It was really a big deal though when television sitcoms started to have African-American characters, like Julia (which I adored because she was so skinny & gorgeous) & The Jeffersons. There was also Clarence Williams III on The Mod Squad; Lloyd Haynes who played Pete Dixon, the history teacher on Room 222 (I went to Catholic school & was taught by nuns, so I was like, Golly, not only a male teacher, but a black male teacher! [& yes, I really did say Golly; my citified Philadelphia cousins used to call me Gomer Pyle]); not to mention all the sitcom spinoffs that followed.

In 1968, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act (Fair Housing Act) was passed.  This prohibited discrimination in housing-related transactions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (single families, pregnant women), or handicap (disability). I remember when this happened because advertising changed.

It used to be that when you were looking at ads for apartments or houses for sale in the Evening Star (the DC-area newspaper back then) or the Washington Post, the cute little families pictured would all be white (you know, sort of like the families in the Vera Bradley catalog circa 2008). Now, when you look at these ads, families of color are depicted. It seems so silly that we would have to pass a law to get this to happen. You have to be pretty cloistered if you never see an ethnic face. Of course, in this area, most of the people in the service-related industries (restaurants for example) are immigrants.

Knowledge of how advertising has changed over the decades makes the Vera Bradley catalog even more weird to me. I don’t think companies spend money on advertising without doing serious market research & analysis. So the question is, did Vera Bradley – the person or the company – make a conscious decision to market her things only to affluent whites? Is she trying to make a statement (through subliminal messages) that rich white girls carry Vera Bradley purses?

The anomaly of this all-white advertising stuck out like a sore thumb to me. I wonder if anyone else noticed it?


Feeling beautiful 101

May 26, 2008
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Spoke to my friend Nancy today. She got out of the hospital & is back at her parents’ house. She sounds bone-weary, but she has a great attitude.

When she first found out she had cancer (7/2007), she was horror-stricken that she might lose her long chestnut brown hair. She’s a Civil War living history re-enactor (Confederate) & she has an exceedingly authentic look about her, especially with her undyed hair down to the middle of her back. After awhile, she got things in perspective & figured oh well, if I lose my hair it will grow back.

She was lucky in that she didn’t lose a hair through her whole first round of chemo. The second round though, she figured she’d just get a short haircut.

For Nancy to willingly submit to the hairdresser’s scissors is just something I never thought I’d ever see. But she did it. She left the hospital on Friday 5/23 & headed straight for the hair salon. She had her hair cut in a beautiful & tres chic short style that really accentuated her striking facial features (remember I told you she looks like Cher). She loved it! It helped take the edge off of her extreme fatigue.

She woke up this morning with every hair on her head having fallen out overnight.

I spoke to her on the phone a few hours ago. She said, “Kathie, do you know that I have never felt this beautiful? I looked in the mirror, scared to death at what I’d see. And I’m telling you, an inner peace spread over me. In my whole life, I’ve never felt this beautiful!”

Isn’t that stunning?

I think back on all the heartache I’ve gone through in my life to try to make myself pretty: worrying about my weight (that’s always been my number-one preoccupation with my appearance), fretting over my hair, etc. How much time & money have we spent on our hair?! I mean, Lord! When I was in second grade, my mother cut my hair in a pixie or “Sassoon” haircut (Vidal Sassoon was a celebrity hairdresser who was all the rage in the mid-1960s; he did Mia Farrow‘s hair for Rosemary’s Baby).

In my next life, I will look like this.

For some reason, my older sister (the oldest in our family & 15 months older than me) was allowed to have long hair, but my mother chopped my hair off to the point where I looked like an upside-down balloon with my pinhead as the tiny knot. I was mortified! I mean you might not think a 7-year-old really cared that much about what she looked like, but I did not want to be seen in public.

I went to a Catholic school & wore a uniform. Somehow, in my desperation to figure out how I could keep my classmates from seeing my freakish hair (or lack thereof), I remembered that our uniforms – bought at the Bo Peep Shop – came with a little plaid kerchief! The saints be praised! I wore that flippin’ kerchief on my head for months. My class picture that year shows my big-eyed, chipmunk-cheeked self with that quirky bandana on my head too. I think I was the only kid in the history of Saint Mary’s in Landover Hills, Maryland that ever wore that little triangle of fabric! I looked so doofy, but I’m telling you, my stomach was clenched with panic at the thought of going to school with that practically-bald head.

Even 40 years later I agonize over what to do with my hair. I found my first gray hair when I was looking in the mirror at school, getting ready to have my high school senior portrait taken! I was 17 years old. Do I need to inform you that now my hair is much more completely-white than salt-and-pepper gray? I’ve dyed my hair since August 1989. Back then, I used to get these dainty little blonde streaks pulled through the cap. Cap Schmap! Now I let the hairdresser slap a bucketful of color on this head from roots to ends.

When Britney Spears shaved her head, I laughed at all the reporters who said, “Britney’s had a nervous breakdown!” Ha! She finally got smart. I think she did it 1) because her flippin’ hair was probably driving her to distraction; 2) she has a whole fleet of assistants at her beck & call who can tie extensions onto the tiniest tuft of peach fuzz growing on her cueball noggin; 3) she doesn’t have to stoop to the Rachel Welch collection to find a fabulous wig; and, most important, 4) there’s a theory that a woman’s hair represents her sexuality & she just said Eff it! These men just aren’t worth it! & cut those men right out of her hair. Breakdown my butt.

So, as I sit here with my light-auburnish-strawberry blonde-highlighted-lowlighted shoulder-length hair that cost me $230 (not including a $40 tip!) to get cut & colored (in the far-out suburbs, mind you, not in Beverly Hills or something), I think of Nancy who realized in an exceedingly convoluted way that it really might be what’s on the inside that makes us beautiful.

But if I could just lose about 15 pounds by the first day of summer…

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