Once a month, like clockwork, I remember that I am not really a brunette. What I am is in denial. Over time, the gray that I like to pretend isn’t happening comes back. So I schlep to my local store and peruse the many slickly produced boxes of hair dye trying to find the exact shade of brown my hair never was. I used to describe my hair B.C. (Before Coloring) as ‘dirt brown’. My actual color now depends upon which L’Oréal product is on sale and how tired my arms get during application. (Slap slap slap. Meh. Good enough.) Sometimes I am a ‘medium frosted hazelnut’, other times I am ‘donkey balls beige’…or whatever tomfool name the marketing department has decided to call dark brown. This month, the box tells me I am going to be Medium Golden Brown. I know that what comes out of the box and what goes on my head isn’t going to be anywhere close to Medium Golden anything. If I am lucky, my hair will still be on my head and I won’t have dyed my forehead orange. You may wonder why, if I know that my hair isn’t going to be the color on the box, do I keep buying it? I have decided that it is because we all choose the lies we want to believe. Which brings up the topic of the day: politics.
On Sunday, I am mid-application when it occurs to me that I am wearing my illustrious Barack Obama “Yes We Can” t-shirt. (Please do not read anything into the fact that I am ‘covering up my lies with a nasty stain’ and leap immediately to Benghazi. I hate that in a story.) Because dyeing your own hair requires really good upper arm strength and the ability to find the back of your head with your hands, this is a difficult thing to do. But, once it is applied, you have to stand around for about 15 to 20 minutes (depending upon how much denial you are looking for) trying not to drip on the floor. This gives you time to think. And what I came up with while slowly turning the backs of my ears a lovely shade of ‘aardvark-ass amber’, is that politics sells the same kind of lies as L’Oreal.
It used to be every four years we would be bombarded with presidential campaigns that absolutely ruined afterschool television watching as a kid. (Although, if Greg Brady had ever run for office, I would have automatically voted for him out of association.) Unlike measles or rubella which, once exposed to and suffered through, allow some modicum of inoculation against future outbreaks, there is no cure for politics. (Please keep violent suggestions to a dull roar…while fondling your weapon in a fashion that makes everyone around you just a little bit nervous.) Today it is impossible to turn on the TV without some slick campaign convincing us each and every election cycle that this time, the candidate will come through. This time he/she will do exactly what they promised to do. This time my hair will indeed be ‘Colonoscopy Chocolate Brown’. It is such an intoxicating lie…how can we not buy it?
I am a bleeding heart liberal, but I had never jumped on a political bandwagon until Barack Obama came along. There are a lot of reasons why I got off my couch and walked around the neighboring subdivisions to promote a man who I really didn’t know much beyond being impressed by his curriculum vitae and his ability to pronounce “Nuclear” correctly. (Sorry, W, but someone in your staff should have clued you in. Perhaps they wanted you to sound like an idiot so we wouldn’t pay attention to your back office shenanigans?) I won’t bore you with the reasons for my electoral enthusiasm. Suffice it to say, it was my one and only stab at the political process. In the years following Obama’s first election, I was somewhat more invested in the outcome because of my door-to-door campaign beseeching the most apathetic voting population ever. So I watched post-election to see if all my follicles were properly camouflaged. And much like every box of self-denial I have ever bought, the reality fell short of the promise.
Before all you knuckle-dragging, tea-party nut jobs ultra-conservative republicans raise your flag and declare victory, allow me to point out that every single politician in the history of the world has fallen short of the promises made to get them elected. Every single one of them. It isn’t possible for the politician to be as shiny and perfect as the packaging and here’s why. Just as any box of hair dye promises gloriously, silken locks, there really isn’t a way to predict with much accuracy how well or how badly that product is going to work for everybody. One person might come out of a four-year presidency feeling, “Yes, my candidate is glossy and healthy and makes me look ten-years-younger.” But most of us look at our post-election results and wonder: “How did I think this was going to fix anything? I can see the grey even better and now my hair smells funny!” And yet, every election we trot back to the polls to vote for our favorite hair dye…er…candidate. Why do we do this? Why don’t we just go grey?* Because we all love the lies we tell ourselves.
When I heard that President Obama had authorized an assassination of a purported American terrorist abroad, I was appalled. Yet, I also fervently wanted to believe that the administration had the legal authority to authorize this action. You can read the complicated details in the New York Times here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/24/us/justice-department-found-it-lawful-to-target-anwar-al-awlaki.html. I am not a legal scholar and no doubt this issue will be waved in the upcoming elections. However, it is part of the job of politicians to make incredibly hard decisions. (Along with deciding what should be the official snack of a state, apparently, #WTH?WhyYogurt?.) If we go into a political arena filled with mud believing that any candidate will come out of it squeaky clean – and with perfectly coiffed hair – we are buying a whole nother level of delusion! If we know that our expectations are a lie, we cannot really complain when the ugly roots start to show.
Self-delusion is our default setting. When the television starts spewing candidates who promise “More Body” or “Better Coverage” we all lap up the promises we like best and take them home to rub on our heads. (Whinny. Whoa girl. Settle down. Note: If this makes no sense, you are not reading your asterisk bedazzled footnotes. )** If your political beliefs are thin and frazzled and your candidate promises “Extra Keratin”, you take that thick-coated promise and stampede over the elderly volunteers to punch your ballot. If another candidate promises “rich, radiant, revitalized” representation, well, then that person really likes alliteration and, unless it is Jesse Jackson, I’d steer clear of anyone but a poet laureate. Regardless of our politics, beliefs or hopes, we all go to the polling centers hoping that this time we will come out of the booth with shiny, spunky-monkey brown hair. (Neigh…jumps fence…trot trot trot.)***
Why would I tell you this? Because sometimes, we all have to agree on what the lie is in order to recognize it as the new truth. Maybe it would help in the process if we admitted up front that we knew the candidates were going to lie—at least some measurable Pinocchio-nose amount anyway. (Wouldn’t you just love to see Wolf Blitzer moderate that debate? “Senator what percentage of your campaign contains bald-faced lies, fibs, faradiddles, and deliberate obfuscation?”) Instead of pie-in-the-sky promises we’d hear: “This product may cause an allergic reaction, please rub a small portion of the candidate against an undisclosed part of your body and wait 24-hours to see if you react.” No longer would politicians label their opponents as a bleach bottle, whitewash artist while busily touching up their own roots. Perhaps our candidates could be upfront? Maybe we could get election ad disclaimers like this: “I may cause premature balding or the tendency to look like Lucille Ball.” Or is that just wishful peroxide-blonde thinking?
It doesn’t hurt to tell ourselves that the dye we use on our hair will make us look younger. But maybe we need to admit that the lies we tell ourselves at election time have graver consequences? Perhaps the simple solution would be to regulate the marketing of politicians as we would any product: WARNING, The Surgeon General states that this politician may cause astronomical expenditures on an unwinnable war which will ruin the economy for millennia and yet will cower from gun-toting Second Amendment enthusiasts while watching the nation’s schools become a war zone. Apply with caution.
At least, this is what I was randomly thinking while I was dyeing.
DING. Times up. I have to wash this gunk out of my hair or I will fry it into an unmanageable, snarly mess. Never spend more than twenty-five minutes covering things up…it just makes the problem that much worse. Besides, that is just about how long I want to spend contemplating politics. I would imagine that is why, when I look at Washington, I kind of feel the gray is showing. Nobody has the energy for that large a dye job.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes
*Okay, that analogy wandered off track like a cantankerous filly, but I drag it back from the fields…
**They are put there for your safety.
***The filly has left the paddock.
(You actually read the whole thing. Enjoy this extra piece of deliciousness)
For your edification, my made-up list of hair dye names that did not make the above article alongside their actual counterpart. Feel free to send in your own or vote for your favorite:
Actual Hair Product Names: Made-up Name:
Black Leather Refuses to Washout Black
Starry Night Depressing Goth Onyx
Blowout Burgundy Velvet-lined Casket Mahogany
Ruby Fusion Crime Scene Red
French Roast Deep Bronzed Brown Overly-caffeinated Starbucks Brown
Moonlit Tortoise Desiccated Leaf Blower Extract
Extra Light Ash Blonde Oozing Fungus Infection Yellow