Sunday, 15 February 2009

Gingeritis - the sadness that comes from having red hair

I had my hair cut recently. I got bangs, that sort of float coquettishly over my eyebrows. And I left the salon and walked outside and had the biggest shock of my life.

My hair is ORANGE.

I mean, I've always known I was a redhead. And I can see it in pictures and stuff. But in the cold light of day, walking to my car, I suddenly realised that I had a gigantic mop of ORANGE on top of my head.

In a way it's kind of good, it's the high point after a dark period of redhead related identity crises.

When I was four there was a playground by my house where the neighbourhood kids would gather. We were all assembled up there, when someone whispered that they had seen a woman with red hair. Like actually red hair. I didn't understand. The kids all turned on me like I was some kind of liar for claiming to have had red hair my whole life when I actually didn't. I was confused. Brown hair was brown. Black hair was black. But red hair was...not?

A few days later I saw the woman walking past the playground, with her hair dyed fire engine red. My world view had just been shattered.

So, in a way, I was a little relieved to discover that my hair was actually mostly orange when I had it cut a few weeks ago. I mean, it's a pretty large part of my identity. I had the crayola set of 24 pencil crayons, and every time I had to use the orange brown for hair colour, the other kids would say "what is that? Is that one supposed to be you?".

No, it's not. I have red hair, but not every person who has red hair is me. We don't all look the same, ok?

I mean, give us a break, we have a recessive gene that causes us have a mutated MC1R protein. We don't produce enough melanin! It's a serious problem!

My aunt bought a sort of copper-coloured minivan a little while ago, and as we were leaving it in a busy parking lot, she looked back and noted that the distinctive colour actually made it quite easy to find.

"Yeah, I bet my mom's always thought the same thing about me," I said.

Which is true, actually. I'm very easy to pick out of a crowd. People I've barely met recognise me off the street. Do you ever have a moment where you see someone in public that you'd rather not talk to you try to blend in and avoid them? It's impossible for me! I might as well have a flashing neon sign saying "she's over here!"

And then there's the freckles. Do you think freckles are cute? A little splash of a few dozen on someone's cheeks? Adorable! How about being covered with them like you stood too close to a can of brown spray paint? Not attractive.

I fry like a lobster in the sun, my eyelashes and eyebrows are barely visible, and people play connect-the-dot on my arms when I'm not looking.

Also - Anne of Green Gables?!

When I was at the salon getting the bangs cut, as usual the hairdresser cooed over my hair colour and called a bunch of other people over. "Oh I just wish I could get colour like yours," they'd say as they ran their fingers through it.

"Really?" I said. I raised an eyebrow (but of course, they couldn't see it). I don't think they understood what they were getting themselves into. The lack of camouflage, the freckles, the constant teasing and identity-seeking-- the ability to synthesize extra vitamin D is just not worth it.

So just remember, be kind to your redheaded friends. We're confused about our identities, teased mercilessly, and probably sunburnt.

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