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Not every guy wants a skinny blonde

| Thursday, June 24, 2004

Having dinner recently with a group of relative strangers, there was no reason to expect the evening not to run smoothly. I'd met a few members of the group through mutual friends, and although I was the only African-American at the table, we were all Pittsburghers. This meant plenty of shared experiences to draw upon during conversation.

But somewhere during the third course, the fella on my left inadvertently opened up one of those awkward cultural gaps big enough to stop a hungry diner in his tracks. He was discussing the tribulations of raising a 14-year-old daughter, one who had physically matured beyond her years.

"She goes to the beach and boys just won't leave her alone," he complained. "It's even worse when her cousin is along. She's a tall, thin blonde, for cryin' out loud!"

He pronounced the word "blonde" with a suggestive double-arching of his eyebrows, a gesture I haven't seen since catching an old Maurice Chevalier movie on TV.

There was nothing offensive about his thing for yellow hair and exposed rib cages, but it was funny how he assumed the concept would mean anything to a black person. We have plenty of hair issues of our own to deal with, from the political and social implications of cornrows to questions over the legitimacy of accepting fake hair for our weaves.

But the outright worship of blond hair is -- Patti LaBelle and Dennis Rodman excluded -- a white thing, and one I just don't understand. I've experienced this chasm in racial standards of beauty plenty of times before. Often, I'll be standing around the office or a bar with white male friends who stare longingly at some scrawny, bleach-blond woman while I think to myself, "If a waitress brought me a chicken wing with that little meat on it, I'd send it back to the kitchen."

Lots of guys I know dream of Gwyneth Paltrow, but I find myself dreaming only of feeding her stuffed-crust pizza and fried pork chops.

Expecting that I or any other black person shared in the recent obsession with blond hair was about as silly as assuming this white guy from the suburbs would salivate if I would describe a black woman who, say, has her own fingernails, no babies and a steady job. Those are considered hot properties where I come from, hotter even than blond hair and a bony butt.

But I guess that's why there's lots of choices on the menu. We all like different dishes.

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