Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Optical Brown

     Last Sunday, while attending Quaker Meeting, I sat behind a woman whose hair color was one I call “optical brown.”

     By that I mean it was a medium-brown color subtly suffused with red-orange.

     I call it optical brown because the only place I have seen this exact color hair previously is on movie actors I’ve observed in various Los Angeles locations and on airplanes.  These are people whose natural hair color is elusive and, in a very real way at this point, irrelevant.  Work requires them to dye their hair frequently and I believe that the hue of brown you see on them (which looks freakish and unnatural up close) probably photographs extremely well and looks rich and lustrous on-screen. 

     Unfortunately, the harsh treatment these actors’ hair receives coarsens it; up close it really looks ghoulish.  In one two-week period some years ago, I had occasion to observe Winona Ryder, Sigourney Weaver (both engaged in making the final Alien picture) and Kevin Bacon (my seatmate) up close. All of these physically attractive individuals sported optical brown coifs that had the texture of the cheap “doll hair” you might recall from childhood.  They looked, for all the world, like a variant version of Village of the Damned.

     I should mention that the person seated in front of us at Meeting had really beautiful hair, which reminded me (in its color and gloss) of the coats of some of the gorgeous horses we passed by on our way there.  We spoke briefly with her at the rise of Meeting and she seemed as pleasant as the very fine weather that day which, unlike yesterday, was a very good one.


  1. Ah, but the brown of the horses is so lovely! I know what you mean about hair color. About seeking an ultra-color or kind of perfection. It's almost more disturbing when it's close to realistic, close to what one imagines to be attractive, and yet it is slightly off. It reminds me of doctoring photos in a dark room, or now photo-shopping, when you perfect someone's features for them, and suddenly they are surreal and slightly hideous. I am distracted by the glow-in-the -dark whiteness of some people's teeth these days, as if someone turned on a black light.

  2. Nin: Hi. I was glad to get this off my chest. As I said, it was really triggered by seeing that woman (a stranger; this is not the Friends Meeting where we are members) with the "close to" optical brown hair. Caroline and I have discussed this subject for years and, based on our former jobs, we're very familiar with the progression from photo retouching to contemporary digital "beauty treatments." Weird, but the ultra-white teeth do take the cake. The Meeting we attended last Sunday in Willistown Township, PA, is surrounded by horse farms everywhere. Driving there is glorious and sets an appropriately heavenly mood. Curtis