On Friday morning, I woke up in a good mood. Max had slept through the night, the sun had come out after two solid weeks of rain, and we were going out that night to celebrate a good friend’s birthday, so I was looking forward to that.
Then I opened up my WordPress app to see if there had been any new comments posted on my blog, and I found this, posted on my ‘Parenting Predictions’ post:
(For those of you reading on phones, etc, it says, “The baby looks so much like Terry. The ears! At least it’s not ginger, that must have been a relief, although it does look like his hair is getting lighter.”)
Now, I think it’s pretty obvious, both from the “at least” (“Your baby has ears like his dad, but at least he doesn’t have hair like you, too!”) and the fact that Lou has obviously been following my blog closely enough to notice that Max’s hair has gotten lighter, but still refers to him as “it”, that this comment isn’t actually about red hair or, indeed, about Max. No, it’s just a blatant attempt to be cruel – and hey, isn’t it nice to know there are people in the world who will stoop so low as to insult a baby’s appearance, just because they don’t like his mum’s blog?
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.
Because, while Lou’s comment is transparent trolling, which probably has nothing to do with the colour of my hair (i.e. I’m sure if I didn’t conveniently have red hair for her to target, she’d have picked something else…), her attitude isn’t uncommon, sadly. True, most people aren’t nearly as vicious about it, but when I was pregnant, I did have a few comments – all from women of an older generation, interestingly – which left me in no doubt that, as far as they were concerned, if I were to pass my unfortunate hair colour down to my poor, innocent child, it would be a real affliction for him.
“What if it’s a GINGER, though?” commented one woman to her friend, upon hearing that the baby was a boy. “A GINGER BOY, can you imagine!” And then they both looked a bit shamefaced, and rushed to assure me that of course that would be fiiiiine, and that if the poor child was “a ginger,” (And, lest we forget here, only a ginger can call another ginger “ginger”...) then we would obviously still love it just the same as we would if it had a normal hair colour. Like, it would be a struggle, obviously, but we would somehow cope, right?
Right. I mean, just call me Anne of Green Gables, yeah?
This kind of attitude is really common here in the UK. I know it’s not common in other places, and that, in some countries, the opposite is true: every time I write about this subject I get comments from people telling me I should move to X country, because people love redheads there. But, in the UK at least, there are still plenty of people who view “ginger” hair as an affliction, and who have absolutely no hesitation in making their views about that crystal clear.
Honestly, though? None of that affects me. It never has.
I tell you this mostly so you know this post isn’t a plea for reassurance or head pats: I don’t need you to tell me you like my hair, or anything like that, because, the fact is, I like my hair colour, and, well, I’m the one who has to walk around with it stuck to my scalp, so as long as I’m OK with it, that’s really all that matters. Sure, when I was a child, I’d occasionally get teased about it (I mean, if you think being a redhead is bad, try being a redhead called “Amber”…), but teasing was all it was, and it really didn’t affect me. My parents raised me to believe that anyone who’d go out of their way to try to make another person feel bad was obviously a bit hard of thinking, and so all of those stupid comments just went right over my obnoxiously red head. Which, honestly, is kind of odd to me now, because I’ve never been the most confident of people: I’ve never been happy with my appearance, and I’m still incredibly self-conscious about lots of things – it’s just that my hair colour isn’t one of them, and no amount of stupid comments is going to change that.
I’ve never wanted to change my hair colour. I’ve never dyed it. (Other than to try to make it MOAR RED, that is.) In fact, it’s my absolute intention to be a redhead until the day I die, and I am 100% happy with that.
So, no, actually, it wasn’t a relief that Max isn’t a “ginger”.
It wasn’t a disappointment, either, though: which is the other thing people keep implying must be the case. Yes, really. Because, while in “real” life I got a handful of, “OMG, not a ginger baby!” comments, online it couldn’t have been more different. (Well, other than “Lou’s” comment, obviously, but we’ve established that Lou is a troll, so…)
Online, almost from the second I announced my pregnancy, I started getting comments from people excitedly saying they really, really hoped the baby would be “ginger”, and would be keeping their fingers crossed that he was. I was asked over and over again if I thought he would have red hair, and when I answered honestly that, actually, there was almost no chance of that happening (For a baby to be a redhead, both parents have to carry the gene, and, as Terry’s parents were both Greek, and red hair isn’t common there, I’d honestly have been amazed if Max had my colouring, rather than Terry’s…), I’d be told not to give up hope, because it could still happen, and I might just get “lucky”.
Now, obviously people mean nothing by this: in fact, I’m sure most were just trying to be kind, by letting me know they like my hair colour. The more people told me they were “praying” for my baby to have the hair colour they deemed to be most attractive, though, the more uncomfortable I got about it. For my own part, I honestly could not have cared less what colour of hair he had – or if he even had hair at all. As time went on, though, and the comments kept rolling in, it was hard to escape the feeling that a lot of people were going to be very disappointed by what I knew was highly likely to be a little, dark haired boy – and the thought of anyone being disappointed by anything about my baby made my heart hurt.
Still, though, people continued to fixate on the idea of the baby’s hair being “ginger”, and then finally, the night before I went in for my c-section, I got a message from someone saying she knew I’d be having the baby the next day, but that, unfortunately for me, as my husband is Greek, it was very unlikely the baby would be a redhead (I couldn’t help but read this part in the tone of a doctor in a TV drama, all, “I’m sorry to break this to you, Mrs Miaoulis, but there’s a very good chance that your child will have disappointing hair. I’ll just give you a moment to come to terms with this…”), so she was wondering how disappointed I’d be if that was, indeed, the case? Because, if she were the one having a baby the next day, she’d be praying right now that it came out with red hair, for sure!
And, I mean… OK? I guess you could pray for the “right” hair colour? For my own part, I don’t pray, but, when I got that message, I was lying in bed, literally shaking with fear that my baby might not make it out alive, so if I had been going to pray for something, it would’ve been for him to have been born healthy, and for us both to make it through the birth alive.
Thankfully, of course, we did. The next day, Max made his entrance, safe and healthy – and with a head of jet black hair, which has gradually lightened over the past few months to a beautiful shade of brown. He is perfect… but still people fixate on his hair colour. Still, barely a week goes by without someone trying to convince me that his hair is turning red, or that it WILL turn red eventually, and being almost palpably disappointed when I say that no, if it looks a bit red, then it must be either the light or the Instagram filter, because it’s very definitely brown. And, again, people mean well: of course they do. I think, a lot of the time, it’s probably just something to say. And, when it comes down to it, I’d much rather get comments from people desperately trying to detect a glimmer of “ginger” in my baby’s brown hair, than ones like Lou’s, which take the “ginger” obsession to a place that’s really quite disturbing. That goes without saying.
Still, though, the fact remains:
People are weird about red hair.
I’m not really sure why it seems to inspire this very extreme, “love it or loathe” it kind of reaction, but either way, it’s just a little bit odd to me, because, really?
It’s just hair.
Does it really matter what colour it is?
When you have red hair, you get used to people making a Big Deal about…