I saw a hair product commercial the other day with the tagline "Spray the gray away." Wait, what?! I thought the expression was pray the gay away. I couldn't tell if it was a Freudian slip or the tip of the iceberg, but I felt rather alarmed at the two cavorting blondes who seemed almost ecstatic in their shared knowledge that any "grayness" between them had been thoroughly suppressed or even totally eradicated. In the 1987 movie musical Hairspray, Ricki Lake plays a fun-loving, race-mixing, gotta-dancing "hair hopper" who knows all about spraying and praying. Lake, who has always been a good friend of the gay community, would be GLAAD to tell you that changing one's sexual orientation is about as easy and desirable as permanently altering one's race, or even the true color, texture, or length of one's hair. (In Hairspray, Tracy Turnblad is harassed over the sheer height of hers.) But the more I think about this, the more I kind of wonder if Pray the Gay Away might have been a parody of the ad campaign for "Spray the Gray Away" and not the other way around. Who wants to earn some extra credit by finding out when aerosol hair dyes came on the market vs. when journalists and activists coined the faintly mocking "pray the gay away" to describe the aims and objectives of conversion (or reparative) therapy for homosexuals? Anyway, let's all check our catalogs for Awy today, which turned up nine times in OhioLINK (though only about half of those were actual typos) and 147 times in WorldCat. The take-away? Gays (and grays) are here to stay, which is to say not going away.
(Ricki Lake at "Business of Being Born" premiere, 29 April 2007, from Wikimedia Commons.)