redhead with pale skin


I am out running.

It’s a bright, sunny afternoon – one of those near-mythical crisp days which make me almost understand why people love autumn. I’m jogging along, listening to music through my headphones, totally lost in my own little world, when all of a sudden, two things happen almost simultaneously:

First, I feel something hit my shoulder and fall to the ground at my feet.

Almost immediately afterwards, a girl of maybe 10 or 11 (I’m terrible at guessing people’s ages, so let’s just go with old enough to know better) runs up from behind me and gets right up into my face, laughing and jeering at me, all the while pointing at whatever it is that just hit me.

What DID just hit me?

I look down, and see a small, plastic object. It is bright yellow, and about the length of one of my fingers: I have no idea what it is, exactly, but even although it hasn’t harmed me in any way, the fact that someone has deliberately THROWN SOMETHING at me, and is now laughing in my face – and RIGHT in my face, too – is enough to bring out that famous temper we redheads are always being told we have.

(Because we are all the same, us redheads. All exactly the same. It’s almost like we’re one person. Amazing, isn’t it?)

I’d already stopped in my tracks when the mystery missile hit me: now I pull my headphones out of my ears and confront Jeering Girl, who is still standing there laughing, like this is the most! hilarious! thing! ever!

“Did you throw that at me?” I ask calmly, pointing to the mystery object.

Instantly, Jeering Girl’s expression changes. She is utterly shocked to be addressed like this. She obviously thought she would throw something, hit me with it, laugh in my face and then we’d all be on our way, like nothing happened.

She is wrong.

“It wasn’t me!” she tells me, smirking. “It was one of them!”

I turn. Sure enough, standing behind me are two other kids: another girl, around the same age as Jeering Girl, and a boy who looks a little bit older, so maybe about 12 or so. He is holding a gun.

A GUN, people.

“OMG!” I think. “I’ve been shot!” But whodunnit?

Obviously Gun-Totin’ Boy would be the prime suspect in this crime, but he’s having none of it. Neither is Other Girl.

“It wasn’t me!” they exclaim simultaneously. “It was one of them!”

And then they all point at each other, in a move so perfectly executed it was almost like they’d practised it. It was like Spartacus, but with cowards.

“Look,” I tell them, “I don’t care who did it. You’re all idiots for throwing things at people in the street. Do you realise how much trouble that could get you into?”

(Yes, I know: shouldn’t have called them idiots. Bad of me. Realised that the second the words were out of my mouth. Felt pretty stupid. But still, was annoyed. And also: had just been shot in the street! And seriously: our town isn’t exactly Disney. It really IS pretty stupid to deliberately try to provoke passers-by, and it was clear from the behaviour of these kids that this wasn’t just a case of them “playing” and me getting hit by accident – they were deliberately trying to provoke me. If they’d picked someone else, a lecture might’ve been the LEAST of their worries…)

“Shut it, gingernut,” said Jeering Girl.

redhead in blue dressWhat’s wrong with my ginger hair?

It was at that point I realised I was fighting a losing battle. I mean, “gingernut”, seriously? It’s a long time since my hair has been used as the insult of choice, I’ll tell you that. Why, I can’t even remember the last time someone slowed down and yelled “ginger” out of their car window at me, for instance. Perhaps I am losing my touch?

(Aside: I’ve always wondered what the correct response is to someone who shouts “GINGER!” at me out of a slow-moving vehicle. Should I yell back “Brunette!” or “Baldy guy!” or something? What IS the etiquette for this kind of thing, anyway?)

These kids may have proven themselves capable of a) shooting a moving target and b) correctly identifying my hair colour, but I suspect my short but (I thought) eloquent speech on Why We Do Not Harass People In the Street or Use Their Genetic Makeup as a Stick to Beat Them With was pretty much lost on them. I suspect this because the whole time I was making this speech, they were still calling me “ginger”.

I made the speech anyway. I did it for ALL the redheads. I did it because… well, because I might be crazy (I think they called me that too, actually, now I come to think of it?) but I just think it’s important not to harass people, you know? And when I was done, my three assailants looked at me, in silent hatred.

“They’re just little girls,” Older Boy managed eventually, conveniently forgetting that HE was the one holding the smoking gun at the time. And, of course, he was right. They’re just little girls. But one day they’ll be older girls, and then they’ll be women, and they’ll be the kind of women who think it’s perfectly OK to throw things at strangers, or call people names, because no one ever told them any different. That makes me sad.

And that, my friends, is the strange story of how I was shot in the street that one time. It’s the kind of thing that could only happen to me: or, OK, to anyone else who happened to be running past at that particular time. (I’m actually quite surprised it’s taken this long for something like this to happen. I’m used to people – both children and adults – stopping in their tracks to stare at me with open hostility as I run past them, but I’ve heard some absolute horror stories from other runners, so I have a feeling I’ve gotten off pretty lightly.) Someone else might have been called “fat” or “ugly” or some other equally offensive term: I got called “gingernut” because, as I am all too often reminded, to some people, red hair is just as bad as those other things, and just as cutting an insult.

Unfortunately for my three assailants, their insult of choice failed to have the desired effect. I didn’t rush home and cry into my pillow, or hack off the offending hair with a carving knife or anything like that, because, well, they were the children in this little story, not me.

I did, however, renew my determination to move house at some point in the next year. It’s never a good sign when the neighbourhood kid are armed, is it?

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  • Children can be dreadful*. And it’s harder to call them on it, because they’re children, so well done for doing so. It might not sink in immediately, but they’ll remember it one day.

    I’m sorry you had to deal with the crap, but admire the way you dealt with it.

    (Also, and this isn’t really relevant, because it’s not okay to do this to ANYone, for ANY reason, but I feel there’s never a bad to time to say it: OMG your hair is beautiful. As are you. So there.)

    *Relax, people. I like children. I even HAVE one, whom I adore almost beyond reason. But to pretend they can’t be horrible little buggers is disingenuous. Horrible adults start somewhere. Their responsibility might be less, but that’s all the more reason to get in there early and put them straight.

    October 9, 2012
      • I’m glad that helped! I’d be so ashamed to have a child that did that – and if I’d done it my parents would have been seriously mad.

        October 9, 2012
  • Sandy


    I think children SHOULD be told off when they misbehave or over step the mark, that’s what’s wrong with the current new generations IMO. We’ve become such a weird society that we feel we can’t tell kids off so they then think they can do as they please because no one is telling them no. It’s all very odd.

    I’m not saying all kids are wrong but a lot seem to think they own the rights to everything! I have one of my own and I woud have been horrified if I ever learnt that he’d harangued a stranger in the street…especially over hair colour!

    Rant over…..and I think you should move, which was going to be my short answer post!

    October 9, 2012
  • Caetlin


    I really don’t understand this hatred people have towards readheads. I think that it is beautiful hair colour (that probably explains why do I *dye* mine to have then orange) and your hair is extremely pretty (I think that everytime I read you blogposts, so it might be time to tell it to you).
    I think you dealt with them the right way, it is important to tell them off, the fact they’re children isn’t that important – when they are “mature” enough to insult other people, they are mature enough to be told they’re stupid.

    October 9, 2012
  • Shonnah


    Its frustrating when you’re a grown woman and we thought we’d left all this behind at school isn’t it? You’re quite correct though, if you don’t tell them its wrong they’ll never learn- and they’ll turn into the kind of adults who harass people.
    Once… whilst on my way to the corner shop I was asked for directions by a bunch of people in a car. Full grown adults. Once I’d told them what they wanted to know- the driver said… “Thanks fatty” and drove away laughing.
    If we don’t correct kids on these things then they are destined to become the kind of adults who insult total strangers for a laugh.

    October 9, 2012
      • Exactly, it makes no difference that they are kids, old enough to insult people-old enough to get told off about it. Yeah it was pretty upsetting, I was more furious than anything else, turned the air blue!
        By the way I think your red hair is gorgeous, I used to dye my hair red but its too hard to maintain cos it fades so quickly.

        October 16, 2012
  • What a shocking thing to happen to you. I agree, children need to be told the rules of society. And that the one those kids think they live in, all Lord of the Flies where they accost people and “insult” them, will also actually not do them any favours in the future!
    And I have to tell you: your hair can never be insulted! I first found your blog this week and read the post on how you get your hair looking so fabulous, and so this weekend I went to Superdrug to buy some of the rinse you use to get my “strawberry blonde” hair more pronounced!! 🙂 Hurray for redheads!

    October 9, 2012
  • I can’t believe that happened. What kind of a world is this when you can’t go for a nice jog without worrying about being struck by something actually aimed right at you? Who expects something as stupid and random as that? It’s a sad statement about the way those kids were raised. Seems like they have no respect for anything.
    I think you handled the situation very well.
    BTW…the “insult” about calling you a Ginger is kind of like saying “you’re extra beautiful” as an insult. Doesn’t make one bit of sense.

    October 9, 2012
  • Mel


    Good for you! I wish more people would stand up like that. If those stupid kids are let off the hook for this kind of bullying, what will they do next? Use a real gun?

    P.S. I LOVE your hair! Same color as my beloved granddaughter’s hair. 🙂

    October 9, 2012
  • My goodness that sounds so scary! I am glad you ended up being ok. It makes me the saddest that they were laughing at you. I can’t imagine laughing at someone for being in pain, even when I was younger. Sorry 🙁

    October 9, 2012
  • As a redhead and school teacher I think you handled the situation quite well. I haven’t been teased for my hair color since I was quite young and I think I’m be speechless if it happened now.

    They were old enough to know better. If they are old enough for the responsibility of playing unsupervised then they are old enough to know not shoot things at people. I think what you did and said was totally appropriate.*

    *Idiot was probably not the best word choice but it was true and there are much worse things you could have called them.

    October 9, 2012
  • We had a little turd that was ding dong ditching us. What he failed to realize was that we have a camera watching the front door, so we knew exactly who he was. My sister in law borrowed the dog, found the kid and scared the living daylights out of him with a speech about not being a little idiot, while his sister ran home to tattle on him.
    I’ve gotten called “Hey, blondie!” in the street. My general response is “hey, [expletive]!” and a middle finger while I keep walking. I’ve also gotten “what’s it to you, tits?” which earned the gentleman a hard stare and “I am more than the parts of me you’re jealous of. Try again.”

    October 9, 2012
  • 1) Come to America. Redheads are worshipped here(By me, at least).

    2) Remember that nobody can successfully insult you unless you value their opinion first.

    October 9, 2012
  • It’s really awful thinking kids can do that to an adult who they’re meant to respect. What does that mean they do to each other?! It really makes me sad.

    October 9, 2012
  • Jenn


    Also a redhead, also a school teacher. You totally did the right thing! If the adults in those kids lives are not there to tell them what is right and what is not, then you have been a hero to your town, even your country, by telling them yourself!

    I still get the *ginger* cough which I usually follow with an exaggerated “OMG! halarious, never heard that one, quit your day job and become a comedian” Tends to make the offender blush and shuffle away.
    The comedian Tim Minchin’s words “Only a ginger can call another ginger, ginger” Makes a good response to name calling. Its not insulting them back, but gives you something to say.

    Rock the Red!

    October 9, 2012
  • LauraCrezz


    Oh my! I’m also a redheaded teacher! There’s a lot of us read your blog Amber! I agree you did the right thing! I haven’t had a ginger comment from a stranger for a while, maybe it’s a sign I’m getting older…my ultimate episode was a perfect stranger calling out to me “alright ginge how’s your minge?” I was too shocked to reply but really this man had a green Mohican and in my opinion he was the wrong side of 30 to be sporting such a do. Sigh. I always think the hair colour gives the baddies something to pick on that is less offensive than say, bum size or nose size…every cloud!

    October 9, 2012
  • Victoria Burroughes


    As a long-suffering redhead from Great Yarmouth, I’m sure I don’t need to over-state how much abuse I encountered growing up purely because of the colour of my hair. Thankfully, I’d never had or known anyone else who had an issue that my hair, so by the time I got to school it just washed over me. Any time anyone said, “Heh-heh, Ginge” (as was the sophisticated insult of the time), I heard it as a statement of fact. It was just a matter of waiting for everyone else to realise that, which I believed happened around four years later in Sixth Form.

    October 9, 2012
  • I think you were far nicer to those kids than I would have been. Idiot would not have been my first choice of word.

    October 9, 2012
  • Panthera


    I’ve had to “deal” with kids like that throughout my years growing up in Bodo; North of Norway is known for swearing and not sugar-coating/saying what they think.
    Unfortunately I’m over-sensitive, and get really hurt by any little comment (which is why I put “dealing” in “”s, and why I did NOT enjoy growing up there..).

    I think my worst “not really dealing with this properly” moment was when I was back in Bodo for the holidays and a chubby 11-12 year old boy yelled at me “fat ass!!”. I replied “you’re one to talk” … :oS

    October 9, 2012
  • Steph


    I once had a 10(ish) year old boy make fake orgasm noises at me when I ran past. It was incredibly creepy and almost made me throw up. And I kind of wish that I had, right in front of him. I think that would have been an appropriate demonstration of how I felt about him.

    When I have children they are definitely going to be taught that these things are not ok.

    October 10, 2012
  • I agree with everyone who said that you were right to speak to these children about why their behaviour was inappropriate – it’s only sad that their parents haven’t done so already! It was my experience as a teacher that even the nice kids at this age are pretty vile – I suppose they’re still testing the boundaries. I lost count of the number of times I was asked if I was pregnant or why I had such a stupid accent or whatever. But the point is, as an adult, it’s appropriate and right to say that sort of behaviour is unacceptable!

    October 10, 2012
  • What is is about redheads that makes people feel the need to harass us? Like you I’ve had to deal with the comments for as long as I can remember. If I had a dollar for every time some dumb ass called me a fire crotch or asked “if the carpet matches the curtains” I could quit my freaking day job. I am impressed with the way you handled the situation, I would have flown off the handle at these ill mannered terds… I mean children. I am just amazed that they think their behavior is acceptable, makes me seriously wonder what type of parental role models they have.

    October 10, 2012
  • Oh, God! I would’ve lost it completely! Had that happened to me, those kids would be having nightmares about me and my rage against their puny souls, but you did the right thing!
    I’m sorry this happened to you, I love your red hair if it’s any comfort!

    October 10, 2012
  • Le Fresne


    I find it hilarious, but also disconcerting, that someone would be mocked for their natural hair colour. I didn’t expect ginger was still being used as an insult! I’m Scottish, so obviously I think red hair is the coolest (unfortunately mine is brown)!

    On a frivolous note – love your dress!

    le fresne x

    October 10, 2012
  • LOL …I shouldn’t laugh but did let out a little chuckle. Cheeky little *?!*%%%’s. …at least it wasn’t a real gun …anything seems possible these days. :o/

    Jackie @ Minerva Collection UK Handbags&Jewellery

    October 10, 2012
  • diana regia


    Amber, what would have happened if those kids had make you fall with their action of hitting you, and then you got with a broken leg or arm, or some kind of injury like broken tooth or another kind of injury in your eyes?

    That’s the kind of question that I have, if that had happened to me

    I live in Mexico, and kids are becoming killers at that age, shooting to other kids or even participating in organized crimes with drug dealers, helping them to get rid of the persons they kill, like amputating their legs, fingers, ears . . .

    It is something that concerns to all people, the lost of our fundamental values.

    Benito Juárez, mexican heroe and president proclaimed: between humans as among countries, respect to the rights of others, means peace.

    Love your hair by the way !

    October 11, 2012
  • What the hell?! Kids can be awful – you did a really good thing by talking to them and explaining to them why We Don’t Do Things Like That – shame can be a really powerful motivator when you’re that age so I hope you made them want to crawl into the concrete.

    As an aside, you have beautiful hair. I wish mine was that colour!

    October 11, 2012
  • Caroline Watt


    I once had a child call em a c*** in the street. He must have been about 8 with his (I’d guess) 6 year old sister with him. I was so disgusted I couldn’t speak. I would have complained to his parents but to be fair they were just as bad. :-/ It was when I lived in a rough ish area of town.
    If my son ever threw things as people or called them names I would have him locked in his room till he was 30. I hope he grows up knowing how to respect his elders, and those the same age! It’s a shame some kids behave like that. I like kids to be kids you know?
    Anyway I agree with everyone, idiot may not have been the best but it’s not that bad, and your hair colour is fabulous. My brown hair envies it..

    October 12, 2012
    • Yuma


      The first time I read about that redhead prejudice in UK I was puzzled: when I was a child I wished that when I grew out I wanted to be a vibrant redhead with green eyes, just like a german actress who was famous then (the 70’s) at my country, Spain.
      Well, I’m a brunette with a reddish hue now (thanks to henna), since I realiced that your gorgeus hair color only goes well with creamy skin (i’m quite fair-skinned for a spanish, but with a yellowish tinge), and I’ so envious I could throw something at you!
      …Well, maybe just look at you an be green with envy!
      See! Now I just fulfilled my chilhood dream: red(dish) hair and green eyes envy.

      October 12, 2012
  • Juliette


    Hi Amber, I think you did the right thing being assertive with the kids. Children do need to be told when they have crossed the line and if they begin to learn how to treat others respectfully when they are young it could be saving them from a painful and difficult socially isolated future. Or just from having to hang out with other jerks. It’s always ok to tell others when they have crossed a line.

    PS. You, and your hair, are beyond stunning. Keep treasuring that titian head, it makes you so special.

    October 14, 2012
  • I’m in shock that such beautiful and desired hair color (at least here at the tropics – Brazil to be more exact) could be used as an insult!! I dye my hair red – pretty much the same color as yours – and get the most wild responses from people (while I’m a natural brunette, I’m extremely pale and got the freckles, so the red color suits very well), positively, I mean. They want to know where I did my hair, wich color did I use, etc. So I advice you to come to Brazil and be WORSHIPED for your hair color instead of being bullied for it!

    If I’d get called “ginger” from people on their cars passing by, I would yell back “THANK YOU!!!!” and be so grateful that I’m considered ginger and diferent and unique! Cause that’s what I think of all of the redheads! So congratulations for you BEAUTIFUL hair color and congratulations on the handling of the bully children. If you ask me, you got them off lightly! 🙂

    October 19, 2012
  • I’m a little confused right now. I’m brazilian, where redheads like us are pretty rare, people look weird at me on the street, like I’m from outer space, but people never refer to me in a negative way, because of my hair, but always about my pale skin, but this is another story. So in Europe, and some other places is a bad thing when someone call you Ginger, or Ginge?!

    December 2, 2012
  • Dear Amber, I’m so sorry to hear it! I do understand how you felt! I’m not a ginger, but a copper red haired, however that hasn’t saved me the ugliest teasing! Here in Northern Italy I discovered the existence of slams such as “Carrot skin”, “Rosso Malpelo” (a character from an Italian book, whose name literally means Red Badhair and he’s a hot-tempered boy!), “Go to the country of the carrots where no one can see how obscene you are!”, “Devil’s daughter” (?!?!?), “The kindest of the red people threw its father down the well!” and, last but not less hurting for a woman “She’s got red hair so she’s greedy for …. (a very vulgar word for the male member!). I felt so bloody hurt during my life, that I even reached a point in which I died my hair brown! However, as the days went by, I understood that the little lousy people were those insulting me, not me and my hair! And I’m proud of being red-haired! Of course, I will never adapt and tolerate these free insults, but at least I know there’s nothing wrong with me. Red/ginger/auburn is beautiful…and you can tell it by all those famous stars or normal people that dye their hair red!

    January 30, 2014
  • Georgia


    I’ve read a couple of posts on foreveramber about the (inane) red-head hate going on in the UK (doesn’t seem to be much of an issue here in Germany) and I thought I’d just post this coz I think it’s BRI.LLI.ANT :-DDD

    September 1, 2014