I love blonde hair, so let’s get that out of the way first. I have persevered in my desire for honey locks and have failed spectacularly. Twice. My hair is actually still recovering from my last attempt. NB: I’m a Mediterranean brunette with pale, white skin. You see the flaw in my plan.
Out of the blue, I remembered that dumb blonde jokes were all the rage in the mid-late 90s. One in particular has stuck:
A blonde walks into a hair parlour listening to her walkman*. The hairdresser tells her to take off her earphones, but she protests: “I can’t! If I take them off I’ll die!” The hairdresser insists that if she doesn’t take them off, he will not be able to cut her hair, and with that, he yanks them off her head and she almost immediately falls down dead. The hairdresser then picks up the earphones and listens: ‘breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.”
I’m not sure why this was ever funny. The only reason I have ever revelled in dumb blonde humour is because I know that hair colour is 100% irrelevant to intelligence. The image above adorned my favourite coffee mug, which is broken now. Not to mention that Clueless and Legally Blonde are two of my all-time favourite feel-good movies… so… as above… yay for blondes! But I think that was just me. Most people who enjoyed this joke enjoyed it because they were laughing at blondes, not their own misconceptions.
Today, 20-something years later, this joke has an entirely different context. The blonde in this scenario could represent the white upper middle class woman, and the breathing exercise: yoga and meditation.
The Atlantic posted an interesting piece on Why Your Yoga Class is So White.
“This community is kind of steeped in Christian fundamentalism,” said J. Cole Thomas, one of Green Tree’s volunteer teachers. “You have to have an education about yoga. Otherwise people think it’s some kind of devil-worship.”
A 2009 study in the Journal of Religion and Health found that 63 percent of African Americans and 50 percent of Hispanic Americans pray to improve their health. Only 17 and 12 percent, respectively, reported relying on an alternative spiritual practice like meditation or yoga to stay healthy, and almost everyone in that group also prays. In contrast, twice as many white Americans identify with alternative spiritual practices and don’t pray at all.
“It’s easier for someone who’s not committed to anything to do yoga,” Champ said. “Ethnicity is connected to spiritual practice. Culturally, African-Americans and other ethnic Americans have their own [spiritual culture]. To get buy-in from those communities is pretty heavy lifting.”
So it seems that former Christian fundamentalists are trying to move away from the stigma of their former sins, and yoga/meditation is the answer to their spiritual crisis.
Forbes responds on Where the Practice Goes from Here, reminding us that despite the current white woman mascot, yoga actually started out in India.
The goal of many yogis and scholars, like Melanie Klein, M.A., associate professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at Santa Monica College, is to get yoga away from the pop-workout image and back to what it once was – or at least to a fuller version of itself (more on this later). “This trend of selling spirituality,” says Klein, “encouraging spiritual consumption of newly minted ‘yoga’ products and the cult of celebrity that helps sell yoga mats, DVDs and ‘yoga clothes’ has utilized the advertising tactics found in much of the one-dimensional imagery of pop culture. This is a long way from the yoga traditions in the east.”
It’s nice to think that the dumb blonde part of the joke is (at least becoming) redundant. But what about the walkman? I think this part of the joke is what gets me. Our stress levels are through the roof, and we constantly need to remind ourselves to take deep breaths. The blonde died when they took her headphones off.
Why? When did we forget to breathe?
I see images like the ones below everywhere. They’re not funny. They are necessary. We live in a time where we need to remember our basic needs. They are so easy to forget in this world of distractions.
*Jeez… do you understand how old this joke is ???? Remember mix tapes? When I was flat-hunting, one of my potential flatmates had a mix tape on her side table and I FREAKED OUT (probably why we’re not living together, but it’s all worked out for the best). She told me it was an invitation to a hipster wedding and I realised anything more than 20 years old is considered vintage, and that from now on, every year that passes will add a new year of vintage discoveries to my life. Cassettes will now and forever be a major source of joystalgia for me.