The slogan ‘Persil washes whiter’ was my first experience of discrimination.
There, under my affronted eight year old gaze were these huge hoardings, and on one was a sparkling white double sheet pinned to the clothes line, and blowing in the wind, with a sparkling blonde admiring with smug pleasure her domesticity. On the matching hoarding a grey sheet was pinned to the line with a brunette looking glum – presumably Persil thought sluts looked glum as well as dark-haired.
So I grew up feeling the injustice of assuming that because a woman had fair hair, she had other advantages. As the blondes paraded across the world’s stages, on screen and telly and magazine front covers, the feeling that gentlemen did indeed prefer blondes continued to be reinforced. And the blondes were undeniably gorgeous – sex bombs like Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot, would-be princesses like Grace Kelly, real ones like Diana. Even Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first woman prime minister was a blonde. Blondes seemed to have all the advantages, based not on gender,talent or nationality, but hair colour.
Perhaps the unkindest cut of all to a brunette, was the remark of the woman who served me in the corner shop. She had always been a perfectly acceptable and slightly mousy person with light brown hair. One Monday morning after a long weekend, she stood behind the counter triumphantly blonde and beaming. I made no comment. But as the weeks went by, I asked her if she felt different now she was blonde. She looked at me with sparkling eyes – “I’ve never had so much fun in my life. I’d never go back to being dark”. I walked out gnashing my teeth.
The world’s brunettes didn’t give me much encouragement either. Jane Russell was too brazen to be taken seriously, while Jackie Kennedy, with her little girl voice, tragic destiny, and un-used opportunities to change the world in some way with all her influence and mana, was a bit of a let-down. Then there was tragic, raven-haired Queen Soraya, the beautiful Persian empress dismissed because she didn’t conceive an heir. She simply retired to the ski slopes in her large black sunglasses which became her trademark long before Jackie Kennedy learned to hide behind hers. I longed for both these women to have used all the goodwill and influence at their disposal to achieve something great.
But the times they are a-changing, and the habit ‘of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move’ and in what seems like a just re-arrangement of destiny, brunettes are now beginning to have their day in the sun. It began with the blessed Mary, the long haired Australian brunette who married the Crown Prince of Denmark, and then the also-blessed dark-haired Kate Middleton who snaffled her prince from under the noses of countless blonde society beauties.
Better still, some research has shown that brunettes tend to be paid better than blondes in the work force, as they are perceived to be more intelligent that blondes. Now we’re talking. And then there are the blonde jokes, many relayed to me by my grandsons who have more of a foot in the modern world than I. Maybe the crest of the wave was reached the day I was served with my coffee by a pretty blonde waitress. She wore a slogan on her t-shirt, which read: “Speak slowly. Genuine blonde”. A statement which told me many things, and laid my old demons to rest.
And as the years go by, while Persil’s blondes may continue to wash whiter, their roots will only get darker. Brunettes, on the other hand, will grow old gracefully – I think!
Food for Threadbare Gourmets
It’s a bright sunny day in this corner of the Antipodes, and absolutely freezing. So I’ve the hot pot on for comforting pea and ham soup.After washing the dried peas, several handfuls or more, put them in the hotpot. Add three chopped carrots, and a hambone or pieces of bacon if you haven’t got a knuckle from the butcher. Then add a chopped onion, a couple of chopped celery sticks, one or two chopped garlic cloves, a bay leaf, salt and pepper. Cover with boiling water, and leave to bubble away for five hours or more on high, or until it’s all cooked. Fish out the bone, by which time all the meat should be falling off it. I whizz the peas and vegetables in the blender, leaving some to make the soup a bit chunky.
Before eating, stir in lots of chopped parsley, and if you like, make some croutons – good bread cubed, and fried in olive oil. Make plenty, and freeze the rest for another cold day. You can use lentils if you haven’t got dried peas, and make sure the dried peas aren’t old, or they’ll never really soften. I sometimes use some chicken stock cubes if I use lentils in this recipe.