My life as a natural redhead
It has been a journey — life with red hair. Living in California, with the abundance of sunshine and life outdoors proved to be a challenge growing up. Plenty of sunburn reminders for those of us with the mutated MC1R gene that we aren’t built to bask in the glorious sun.
As a child I knew having red hair made me different from others. Not only was I almost always the only redhead in my classes…people always came up to me and made comments on my hair often touching it while I cringed in silence. Most of these people were the elderly and… men. Ah, rather strange men. My mother noticed this early on from when I was about 10 years old, the oddity of men that would gravitate to me…. or rather my hair. This still happens today…at 40 something years old. Just a few months back, I had a man follow me around the grocery store…never saying anything and then while I was at the self-check out he came up to me and stated, “you are a natural red head”. I responded kindly with a “yes, I am” as I tried at record speed to finish up my purchases….and he just stood there…staring. “I love red heads” he said — loudly with now everyone within earshot listening. This is something I bet most redheads experience that I doubt they ever talk about. While you have the percentage of people out there that “hate” redheads and fully supported Kick a Ginger Day (what the heck!) …there is the flip side with those that love red hair. And honestly, thank goodness for those as I do believe it takes a certain type of person that appreciates the coloring we have.
I struggled accepting my hair color. The name calling no longer bothered me as I got older— hello Strawberry Shortcake — but one incident pushed me into trying to change what I was born with. My mother was driving me to my softball game with our car windows rolled down when a car pulled up to us at a light and the man yelled out his window “Lady, you sure do have an ugly daughter”. My mom sat in silence. I sat in silence. But I was dying on the inside. Angry I was born “different” looking than others while my brother was graced with blond hair, blue eyes and tan skin. I was going to change that. I had my mom order a tanning lotion from Avon. It felt like Christmas when it arrived. The problem with such a cream…is it was dark! Ridiculously dark for someone so pale. And then came QT — Quick Tan. Another weird looking color. I tried it all. Nothing of course looked good, but I thought it was better than my ghostly pale skin.
I also spent my allowance on a fade cream to fade those awesome (wink wink) freckles I also so desperately did not want. And lemons…thanks to the episode of Brady Bunch where Jan wanted to get rid of hers as well…I rubbed lemons all over my face for months. I woke up every morning hoping they had faded with no such luck. My face just burned. You name it…I tried it. Anything to change how I looked. I was so desperate to get tan I slathered baby oil, yes baby oil all over me while laying out in 105-degree heat on our wooden deck with tinfoil surrounding me to attract more sun around me! How crazy is that?! I dyed my hair black and my parents were horrified. My mother took me to get it corrected but to her disappointment nothing could be done. We had to wait the slow process of it growing out. Of course, I was secretly elated I got to keep my black hair.
As I got older, I upgraded my resources to change my appearance. By then, I was getting spray tans and forking a ton of money for highlights to look blond. It didn’t look good…but no one ever told me that. Even if they did, I probably would have ignored the truth.
After I got married and got pregnant, I actually prayed to God my children wouldn’t have red hair. Can you imagine wasting a prayer on this? I did not want my children to experience what I thought at the time were all the challenges of being a red head. Neither of my children have red hair.
With only 1–2% of the world population having red hair, it was not easy to embrace being part of this small percentage. I may be on the slower side regarding acceptance but finally in my mid-forties accepted what I was born with. I no longer tan or get insane blond highlights. I now wear colors that enhance my coloring and I say thank you when someone comments on my hair color versus cringing inside. Kick A Ginger Day was prohibited nationally in 2016 by the Thirteenth Amendment. It has been replaced by hug-a-ginger day. And while I still haven’t decided if I like the term ginger to describe us, I will welcome the hugs any day!