I have here an email from Mason, a 13-year-old in Buffalo, who writes:
“I hate my hair color… I am a redhead and people make fun of me and I am afraid I’ll never get a girlfriend because I’m red haired, how do I get girls to like me?”
This has got to be the best letter I’ve ever received. And as a fellow redhead, I can relate to this question, Mason.
It is hard being a redhead. And it’s especially difficult when you’re young. But I promise things will get easier once your hair finally turns white.
As a kid I hated my hair. My head looked like a mint penny, I had buckshot freckles, pale skin, and fainting spells. Redheads are prone to fainting: something in our genes.
My mother says people in the supermarket would ask if they could rub my copper head for good luck. She always obliged them, although I don’t know why. Many times in the produce aisle there would be a single file line of strangers waiting to fuzz my hair violently and make a wish. By the time I was three I was nearly bald.
Also, when you’re a redhead you’ll find that you stand out in pictures involving flash photography. Poorly lit photographs will transform your unique hair into the orange flames of Satan.
My friend Johnny Paul said this was because all redheads were secretly witches. His remark really hurt my feelings so I boiled him alive in an iron kettle.
I disliked my hair so badly that I tried dyeing my hair once. I heard that shoe polish worked. I spent an entire afternoon rubbing Kiwi “oxblood brown” shoeshine into my hair to make it brunette. When I finished, my mother was mortified. She vigorously washed my hair, but the tint was permanent. For six months thereafter my hair was burgundy.
But if you ask me, one of the strangest things about being a redhead is all the ridiculous red-hair myths circulating. Some of these wives tales are still believed today.
There’s the myth that if you see three redheads in a row you will win a large sum of money. And you can take it from my uncle Tommy Lee, this doesn’t work. Also, it makes no difference whether the jockey has red hair, either.
In Corsica, France, there is a myth that after encountering a redhead you must turn around twice, close your eyes, and spit, thereby avoiding bad luck. But remember, the French also serve snails to company.
There’s also the myth that redheads have bad tempers. Which is absurd. And if anyone ever accuses you of this you should set fire to their car.
Some redheads are supposedly less sensitive to pain. But many redheads are HIGHLY sensitive to pain, which is the case with me. It’s a DNA thing. I am extremely sensitive to all things, including seasonal allergens, laundry detergents, and the closing scenes of “Steel Magnolias.”
I can’t tell you how many times a doctor has given me medication and said, “Whoa, I’ve never seen anyone THIS sensitive.”
So in many surgical situations, I receive approximately the same amount of anesthesia as it would take to sedate a domestic rodent. Like when I was 11, I had major dental surgery. The doctor was prepping his syringe and before his needle even touched my skin I passed out and was good to go.
Which brings me back to what I said earlier. I have a history of fainting. I’m not proud of this, but it’s true. I come from a long line of fainting redheads. You should have seen our family reunions. We were fun.
I remember one such reunion. My cousin (also a carrot-top) and I were both stung by wasps. The stings weren’t bad, but we both got so worked up that we BOTH fainted.
When we awoke, we were lying in my aunt’s bedroom with the lights off, and (this is true) resting beside us was my aunt Eulah. Aunt Eulah (longtime redhead) told us that she heard screams from our wasp incident and was so startled that she fainted and spilled potato salad all over her dress.
So yes, it’s hard being a redhead. For most of my life I hated my fair complexion, I loathed my 82,379 freckles, I despised my hair follicles. Often, I prayed that one morning I would awake with darker hair.
Well, be careful what you wish for. Because in my 20s, my hair began changing to an auburn color and all of a sudden nobody in the produce section wanted to rub my head anymore.
Even so, the color of your hair has nothing to do with whether you get a girlfriend. If you want girls to notice you, believe me, friend, what’s on your head is not nearly as important as what’s within your chest.
Furthermore, there is no reason to be ashamed of your hair. I realize we redheads are not typically portrayed as vibrant beauties, but I disagree with this notion. Some of the greatest men and women I have ever known had ginger hair.
Like my father, grandfather, my aunts, uncles, and cousins. And my ancestor, the Scots-Irishman with a ruddy complexion, who stood upon the shore of Ellis Island, holding a red haired baby, and a sack containing all his possessions.
I never knew these ancestors, but believe me, they weren’t ugly. And when I look in the mirror I still see their hazel eyes, their jawlines, their fair skin, their freckles, and I feel grateful that we bear their proud marks. Often, I am so moved by this vision that I wake up lying on the floor.