When you have red hair, you get used to people making a Big Deal about it – for both positive and negative reasons.
My hair colour is often the first thing people mention when they meet me (of course, it doesn’t help that my name is ‘Amber’: if I had a pound for every time someone’s made the totally-unique observation that, “Your name is like your hair colour!” or “I bet I know how YOU got your name!” I’d have… well, I’d have a good few pounds, at least. Also, I bet you DON’T know how I got my name, because I actually wasn’t named after my hair colour, SO THERE.*), and, strangely, they will often continue to mention it every time they see me after that, almost as if it’s the only thing worth mentioning about me. Maybe I shouldn’t tug too hard on that thread, huh?
(* I was named after my mum’s friend’s dog. My mum met said dog while she was pregnant, and thought the name was ‘too nice for a dog’, so there you have it. I like to tell people I was named after Amber St. Clare – i.e. the ORIGINAL ‘Forever Amber’, but it was actually that dog. Shame.)
Where was I? Oh yeah: when you have red hair, people mention it. A lot. They also tend to repeat the same things over and over (and over and over) again, each time thinking they’re the first person who’ll have said it. They’re not, though. Far from it. Here are some things I bet most redheads in the UK (note: the “IN THE UK” part of that statement is very important…) are sick of hearing:
When you have red hair, random passers-by will shout the word “GINGER!” at you. Sometimes they’ll even slow down their cars and wind down the window so they can yell it at you as they pass. I really wish I was joking about this, but no, it actually happens, and no matter how often it happens, it doesn’t get any easier to understand. I can’t even imagine sticking my head out of the car window to shriek, “BRUNETTE!” at a random stranger – in fact, I can’t imagine wanting to scream ANYTHING at strangers – but if you have red hair and you’ve never had someone yell “ginger” at you, all I can say is that you’re probably not from around here, are you?
(This is why many redheads hate the word “ginger”, even when it’s NOT being used as a taunt. It’s also why Tim Minchin says only a ginger can call another ginger “ginger”…)
I bet you have a fiery temper to go with that hair!
Er, I DO have a fairly hot temper, so if you want to assume that all redheads are the same, then you could certainly say that we have fiery tempers. If you want to assume that all people with a particular hair colour are exactly the same as each other, though, well, I for one will probably lose my temper with you. Because I’m a redhead. We’re like that.
Is it real?
Because red hair is seen as “usual”, a lot of people assume that it can’t possibly be real. Most of the time, I don’t get asked IF I dye my hair: I just get asked what colour I dye it: and when I say it’s natural, people refuse to believe I’m telling the truth.
Have you heard that redheads will be extinct one day?
Why no, please tell me more, because it’s not like I have TV, or internet access, or tons of people all repeating this fascinating factoid to me over and over again! By which I mean, yes, I HAVE heard that. Many, many times now. I’m not a scientist, so I’ve no idea if it’s true or not, and I also don’t really know how I’m supposed to react when people tell me about it for the 675th time. If it’s true, it’s not like I can do anything about it, so… I guess I’ll just lose my temper again?
Don’t worry, your hair isn’t the ugly shade of ginger!
Because of the stigma that still exists towards red hair in the UK, a lot of people assume that those of us “cursed” with the “ginger” gene will be deeply ashamed of it, and will require constant reassurance that we’re not THAT ugly. I’ve had people tell me I’m “actually quite pretty… for a ginger!” and I’ve also had people earnestly try to reassure me that my hair isn’t REALLY red – it’s actually quite blonde in some lights! Or brunette! Yes, if you dim the lights and kind of half-close your eyes, my hair could totally pass for brunette! Whew! Dodged a bullet there!
Did you know that in some countries people actually like red hair?
As with the “one day you’ll be extinct!” point, yes, I did know that. People who aren’t from the UK are often incredibly surprised by the amount of prejudice that exists towards “gingers” over here – they think it’s absolutely crazy that people attach so much importance to something as silly as a hair colour, and I’d have to agree with them there. As I said in my intro, “gingerism” is a peculiarly British thing – which is surprising, because there are a lot more of us redheads here in the UK (and particularly in Scotland) than anywhere else in the world. You’d think people would be used to us by now, but apparently not!
Can you not tan AT ALL?!
Nope, and even more shockingly, I don’t want to, either, so that’s TWO super-weird things for you to digest about me!
You look sooooo like <insert random redheaded celebrity>!
Pretty much any redheaded female you can name, I’ll have been told I look JUST like her. Because we all look the same, didn’t you know?
Redheads are the best! They’re better than everyone else! Yay, redheads!
Look, I’m all for helping people not to feel like they’re somehow “lesser” human beings because of their genetic makeup, but I see a lot of the “RED IS BEST!” stuff on social media, and I have to admit, it really rubs me the wrong way. Red hair is not “better” than any other hair colour. Redheads are not special, or unique, and while everyone has their personal preferences, and that’s fine, acting like any one colour is intrinsically better than any other colour is… you can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? I hate seeing people bash redheads, but I also cringe when I read some of the “ginger power!” stuff, too. I DO think it’s important to educate people away from prejudice, and to stop the bullying that goes on, but you don’t do that by simply bashing ANOTHER group, or setting yourself up as “better” than them. All that does is to perpetuate the stupidity: you’re still creating an “US” and “THEM” divide, and actually, we’re just people at the end of the day. So I can’t stress it enough: IT’S. JUST. HAIR.
Do you ever worry that your children might inherit it?
No, I don’t: do you ever worry that yours will inherit your lack of tact?
(Sadly, some redheads DO worry that their children might inherit “it”: not because they think that “it” is ugly, or will make their children unloveable, but because of the very things mentioned in this post. I guess that while there are people in the world who think it’s OK to bully people over the colour of their hair, we should probably ALL worry about procreating, though…)
It’s OK on a girl, but I really hate red hair on a boy!
I’ve heard people say this so many times, and it honestly takes my breath away every single time. I mean, what a HORRIBLE thing to say to someone: especially to expectant mothers, who seem to be the group most often on the receiving end of this insightful thought. Again, people will always have their personal preferences, and things that they find attractive/unattractive, but for some reason it seems to be generally accepted that red hair CAN be OK on a girl, but is ALWAYS ugly on a boy. And that pregnant women will want to hear it. Because everyone wants to know that people think their baby is going to be ugly, don’t they?
Is it true that you have no soul?
Yes. Yes it is. And you should be very, very afraid of us…