Sunday 17 December 2017

Why blondes boast bigger brains

As a new study reveals blondes have a higher IQ than brunettes, Claudia Carroll says the end is nigh for ‘dumb blonde’ jokes

Gentlemen prefer blondes? Marilyn Monroe put platinum hair on the map in the 1950s.
Gentlemen prefer blondes? Marilyn Monroe put platinum hair on the map in the 1950s.
Claudia Carroll says results of a new study are a victory for fair-haired women.
Legally blonde: Model Jerry Hall.
Actess Reese Witherspoon.

Claudia Carroll

Personally, I blame Marilyn Monroe. Up until she came along, blondes were either glacial and aloof, (thank you Grace Kelly,) or else femme fatales in the Barbara Stanwyck mould, who chain smoked, had legs up to their armpits and lured innocents like poor old Fred McMurray to all manner of unfortunate endings, (thank you, Double Indemnity.)

But then Marilyn had to come along and ruin it for the rest of us, didn't she? In How To Marry a Millionaire, she's breathtakingly gorgeous with her whispery voice and that trademark platinum pouf… but, seriously, the character she played was as thick as the wall. Similarly in Some Like it Hot, Marilyn is adorably vulnerable and almost steals the whole movie from the combined forces of Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, but let's face it, Sugar Kane, the boozy night-club singer she played, was hardly ever going to ever be a candidate for Mensa, now was she?

Gentlemen may well prefer blondes, we were dutifully warned, but they marry brunettes. They may sow all the wild oats they want with the swishy blonde-haired Cresssida Bonases and Chelsey Davises of this world, but ultimately, they'll settle down with a good, sensible brunette, preferably whose last name is Middleton.

All changed, changed utterly. Because now, we have concrete, hardcore scientific proof that the IQ of blondes is actually slightly higher than that of their sisters of another hair colour. And no, that's no make-y-up-ey fact of the day either; the study was just published in the US by the journal Economics Bulletin and was based on the AFQT or Arms Forces Qualification Test, which apparently is used by the US Pentagon no less, to determine the IQ of all its new recruits. So there's posh for you, now.

The results were heartening too - at least they were for those of us who've been reaching for the bottle ever since we were 16. (The peroxide bottle, that is.)

Findings conclusively showed that blonde women scored IQs of on average 103.2 compared with 102.7 for our brunette sisters, 101.2 for redheads and 100.5 for those with black tresses.

And okay, so the differences may be marginal, and a lot of it has been put down to 'external stimuli,' such as growing up in a home where there were far more books at hand, but still.

For those of us who've had to put up with decades of stereotyping, not to mention having to listen to a load of lame blonde gags, it is a vindication, of sorts.

Because we've all heard them at one time of another.

'What do you call a blonde with half a brain?'


'What do you call it when a blonde dyes her hair brunette?'

'Artificial Intelligence'.

Having a 'blonde moment' these days has even become synonymous with doing something that you fear will end up on You've Been Framed in years to come.

Accidentally mislaying your housekeys then finding them hours later in the fridge, for instance. Or driving your car over the plinth at Leinster House.

Well haa bleeding haa and now the joke is officially over. We blondes have had a lot to put up and that, I'm delighted to say, ends here and now.

Just like our redheaded sisters have had to endure their own stereotypes about being temperamental and having fiery natures, we've had to put up with decades presupposition that your hair colour was an effective way to summarise your entire character and personality.

We've even had all manner of blonde sub-categories such as Bergdorf Blondes, (think Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy), the Eleven-Day Blonde, (for those who can't stray any further than that from their colourist, lest a dark root appear,) the Hitchcock Blonde and not forgetting the unfortunate Brassy Blonde, which happens when a home dye job goes a bit skew ways - and believe me, we've all been there.

In fact you show me a so-called 'natural blonde,' walking the streets these days and I'll show you a big, hairy liar.

So what is it that makes us reach for the bleach in such record numbers? After all, it ain't cheap to keep your hair blonde. It demands commitment and staying power. Telltale dark roots sprout up faster than the weeds on your driveway and the whole look needs more maintenance than a 15-year old Nissan before its NCT.

Blondes have more fun? My arse. Blondes just have more discipline, staying power and dedication to their hairdresser, more like.

Throughout history, blondes have had a bad press. Back in ancient Rome, prostitutes used to dye their hair blonde to denote their availability. This was apparently done with a mixture of quicklime, ash and gone-off wine, which may well have lightened your hair, but can you imagine the stink?

Then, throughout the dark ages, blonde hair became something of a genetic mutation that spread like smallpox across Northern Europe and Scandinavia in particular. Because the hair colour was novel, it meant that men were that bit more likely to select blonde mates, which meant fair-haired women reproduced more often. Ahh, them was the days.

And by the time Marie-Antoinette came along, no one at the French Court particularly gave a toss what your natural hair colour was, as long as it was powdered white-blonde with starch, then smothered in Cyprus powder to keep it good and stiff. The blonder the hair, it seemed, the closer to Jesus.

Not only that, but a true aristocrat would sleep with a wooden slat behind the bed, to support their flaxen hairdos throughout the night. Say what you like about blondes in pre-revolutionary France, but they sure as hell knew about commitment to their look.

As for me, like a lot of Irish people cursed with freckled, pasty skin that goes red raw at the first hint of sunshine, I was born blonde, but gradually got darker and darker till by the time I was a teenager, every spare penny of pocket money went on Clairol home dye kits.

With mixed results too; at one point girls sitting behind me in school claimed they'd while away the time in double biology by trying to count all the colours in my hair. (Thankfully, all photographic evidence has long since been destroyed.)

'Your hair is a disgrace' our head nun used to tell me, during one of my regular visits up to her office. 'Why don't you just go back to your natural colour?'

'I would, sister,' was my line of defence, 'if I could just remember what it was.'

The fact is though, by and large we're a fair-skinned nation and whether we like it or not, we live on a rock in the middle of the North Atlantic that sees approximately three days of sunshine per year. Chances are if we all lived in the southern hemisphere, constant exposure to sunshine would help to keep those of us born blonde that way for longer. But we've got two seasons here, winter, and winter-minor, so if you're blonde by birthright and want to stay as nature intended, then get thee to a decent colourist.

The good news is that your range of options on the 'blonde' colour menu now is limitless. You've everything to choose in the spectrum of blondes, from Hillary Clinton's low-key, polished colour that practically screams 'vote for me… I'm statesmanlike,' to Gwyneth Paltrow's glossy mane that you know she probably washes in kale juice and hemp oil.

The fierce 'blonde ambition' look favoured by Margaret Thatcher and Madonna in the 1980s has thankfully softened now, to a more relaxed, natural-looking, non-threatening 'girl-next-door' blonde, viz, Reese Witherspoon and Sarah Jessica Parker.

And the next time someone has a dig at you for your hair colour, just quote right back at them the wise words of Jerry Hall.

'Underneath this dumb blonde,' she once smiled, 'lies a very smart brunette.'

Irish Independent

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