I hated my red hair when I was younger. Even though I was obsessed with The Little Mermaid I desperately wanted black hair like my cousins.
“But we’re cousins Mum, how come they got black hair and I didn’t?” I implored, demanding to understand my fate. “It’s because your Aunty Helen got black hair, and your Uncle Joe is Italian”, Mum clarified. Well then, with two red headed parents of my own, that settled that pretty quickly.
Not to mention the daily reminder to embrace my unique physical feature, “you’re very lucky”, Mum stressed to me and my sister, “millions of women all over the world dye their hair to get your colour”. I always thought that was bullshit, but over the years I’ve had what seems like hundreds of women insist to me it’s true.
I was never bullied as a child and teenager, and rarely picked on – particularly as a teenager, I’d learnt to fire up any way, a classic red headed cliché. But I’ve heard every possible red headed nickname and insult in the book: Bluey, Fanta Pants, Carrot Top, Ginger Spice, Fire Cracker, Ginga Ninja, Little Orphan Annie, Ginger Kid, Fire Crotch (does the carpet match the drapes?), and the slightly more endearing Madeline. Most recently, thanks to Chris Lilley’s brilliance, “Ranga” has been introduced into our vernacular and I’ve chosen to embrace it. It’s even spawned an annual “Sorry Ranga Day” in August; complementary to the already existing “Hug a Ginger Day” in November and the kind of cruel “Kick a Ginger Day” in February.
With nicknames or insults – or terms of endearment, depending on who you ask (FYI it’s not the red head in this scenario) – come their equally frustrating and highly feminised stereotypes. They can be positive or negative: blondes are fun but dumb and brunettes are intelligent but boring. Red headed girls are ugly and nerdy (I don’t recall any positives), and red headed women are aggressive or fiery (get it?!), but passionate, which I understand is code for being great in the sack.
So somewhere between being a pubescent youth to becoming a woman, I have meant to have gone from this:
I’d say that’s about as 180 a change as you can get in a stereotype: from a gross freckly ginge to a flame haired bombshell. I’m not sure that I’m 100% (or 180% if you will) comfortable with that kind of perception change.
Having red hair is unique – about 1-2% of the world’s population have it. As an adult, I love having red hair and I can’t imagine having any other hair colour, not to mention being part of such a small population sector is pretty cool.
But none of this defines me.
I am not my hair, I am not your expectations, I am the soul that lives within: