A cloying, half-baked book on the blond myth can’t hold a candle to Helen Gurley Brown’s gutsy new memoir, “I’m Wild Again.”
BY ANN MARLOWE
“Why do women teach the rules and strictures of father culture?” Natalia Ilyin asks in her first book, “Blonde Like Me.” Unfortunately, this perceptive question comes after several chapters in which the author has done just that, relentlessly. “Blonde Like Me” looked promising: The subtitle is “The Roots of the Blonde Myth in Our Culture,” and Ilyin, according to the jacket, has taught “American mythic images” at Yale and Cooper Union. But alas, rather than illuminate the blond myth, analyze its history, perhaps examine statistics on the use of blond hair dye or the percentage of blond leads in films, Ilyin has produced a half-baked paean to a hair color. It’s part memoir and part soft cultural criticism, but successful as neither.
“Blonde Like Me” is almost purely descriptive, dividing blonds into types — Innocent, Moon and Sun are Ilyin’s major divisions — and offering glimpses of the author’s past through the lens of the blonds she has known and been. There is nothing wrong with organizing things this way, but the book is disappointingly bland as narrative and disappointingly shallow as analysis. Is a woman’s “deepest desire for herself” really revealed by her choice of hair color? Ilyin’s assumptions about women and the world are both narrow and conventional:
The Innocent Blonde inside every woman wants to kick over the traces every now and again. There are moments when we all get the urge to abandon the four-by-four by the side of the road, dump the kids off at the sitter’s for fifteen years, pay off the mortgage with a flick of the pen, and make tracks for Aruba. But we can’t, so we buy a box of hair color.
Oh yeah? There’s an “innocent” blond inside all of us, including Asians, Africans and we brunets who have never had the slightest interest in being blond? And many of us never pick up the “traces,” or we do kick them over, and not with a box of hair color. Who is teaching father culture here? (more…)