this is a photo of alyce's hair

I Look Like a Bimbo – But I’m OK with That

I look dumb. It’s OK – I know this. I have looked a little thick my whole life. Frequently I have been told things such as, “You’re a lot smarter than you look,” or, “Oh, you’re actually quite intelligent,” or, “You’re actually a very clever girl,” usually said with a smirk, raised eyebrow and higher-octave voice.

It never fails to amuse me. If you’re intelligent, you know it, and do not need to be told. However, I do not look smart. Funnily enough, I don’t sound smart either unless you spend more than a few minutes speaking with me. I come across as slightly dim, a bit of a bimbo, a bit of a ‘dumb blonde’ as they say.

The word bimbo was first used in 1919 in the USA. It’s derived from the Italian word ‘bimbo’ for a male and ‘bimba’ for a woman. It is a diminutive of the word ‘bambino’ or ‘small child’ so a bimbo is someone who is childlike, or immature.

There have been some awesome bimbos throughout history, all of whom I totally love. Does anyone remember the TV show Murphy Brown? There was a cute, blonde character in that show called Corky Sherwood. She later married in the show and became Corky Sherwood Forest. Hilarious! Of course there is also Elle Woods from Legally Blonde and probably the most famous bimbo, Lorelei Lee from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

The thing is of course, none of these women were dumb.

I remember the first time someone called me a bimbo. It was mercifully when I was age 18, so I was grown up enough to know that this person (one of my teachers of all people!) was just an idiot. To frame this story, I escaped being called a bimbo as a teenager because I was not very pretty between the ages of 13 and 17. I was blobby, slightly overweight, it was the 90s and I was more determined to look edgy than pretty. Puberty is not kind to us all. Some of us gain weight and get pimples. That’s life.

So no one called me a bimbo because my appearance was bland. I didn’t stand out. I was not an attractive female. However, by age 18 I had dropped a few kilos, added some highlights to my hair, the zits had cleared up and I dressed a little less like Kurt Cobain after a big heroin session. Suddenly, I looked pretty.

It took me a little while to realise that people were responding to me differently. It seemed that my ‘value’ as a human being had gone up. I remember the first time a stranger came up to me on the train and told me I was beautiful. I remember being shocked, and feeling self-conscious. No one has ever done that to me before. Well, not since I was a little girl.

So, at age 18 I was at a full time acting college. One of the voice teachers was this crazy lady who wore glasses shaped like apples and had an arse the size of two badly parked Volkswagens. She was notorious for yelling at students who were late to her class. She was a real diva. Of course, one day I was late to her class and she thundered to me:

“Alyce, go and sit at the back of the class. No excuses! You won’t be able to pull the blonde bimbo lines out your whole life!”

In that moment, I had never felt so complimented.

“She’s calling me a bimbo!” I thought. “That means I must finally be pretty enough for people to think that I can trade on my looks!!!”

I knew then that I had arrived.

Wow, I thought. This woman actually thinks I’m dumb. At that stage I had never been pretty enough to trade on my looks (not that I have since). Secretly – I was delighted. I have never needed people to make me feel secure about my intelligence. Never. Well, maybe on occasion, but I have always been aware that I can easily learn things, and that I can understand pretty much any concept I put my mind to. I know I’m not dumb. I never was. But finally I had confirmation that I looked dumb. And to a woman, this means you are pretty.

And now I’m older, so no longer pretty like an 18 year old, but still pretty enough to be spoken to like a bimbo. I don’t often trade on my looks, but let’s just say people still greet me in the street and frequently hold doors open for me. There are many prettier women than me.

I was trying to find a quote from former Australian Prime Minister John Howard here on the power of being underestimated, but I couldn’t find it. However, I did find a quote from someone, perhaps more relevant to this discussion:

“I love when people underestimate me and then become pleasantly surprised.” Kim Kardashian.

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