In Corsica, if you pass a redhead in the street you’re supposed to spit and turn around. For good luck or to ward off evil, I’m not sure.
When it comes to being a ginger, I’m not sure about anything. And no wonder—the world has been screwing with us for centuries. The Germanic peoples called us witches and burned us at the stake. Queen Elizabeth’s fiery mane made red hair all the rage. The Nazis prevented us from mating and making more freckled freaks. Rita Hayworth made the world want to finger our ringlets.
So, like, do you love us or do you hate us? Is red symbolic of evil and hatred, or love and passion? Make up your goddamn mind, world. We’ve not only inherited a recessive gene; we’ve also been handed down hundreds of years of mind games.
We may not be buried alive anymore, but we’re still the oddballs. Less than one percent of the human population is red-haired. When we get older, of course, we realize being unique is great. But when we’re young, we just want to be like everybody else, and unfortunately being ginger is a giant flashing disco light on your melon.
Last week after bath time, I dried Max’s ginger jewfro and he looked in the mirror. “Noooooo! I want it to be flat! And not bright!”
“Why would you want that?” I thought of all the folks paying big bucks for dye jobs and products that “volumize.”
“I don’t want the kids at daycare to laugh at me.”
They get a kick out of his hair sometimes, which is often askew. They’re not being mean. They’re being kids. Hair is a funny thing. My husband’s back hair, for example.
But I get it. I’ve had people talking about my red hair for 35 years. I’ve heard it all: Coppertop, Rusty, Raggedy-Ann, Little Orphan Annie, and everyone’s favourite—Carrot-top. People tell me my hair is beautiful now. Feisty, fiery-haired gals like Joan from Mad Men and Merida from Brave even have blondes wishing for the ginge tinge. But when I was a little girl, I wasn’t sure if my hair was good or bad. Was it a compliment to be likened to a singing orphan or a root vegetable? And why must they always talk about it? What was the big hairy deal? So I think I understand what Max wants: Less talk about hair. More talk about saving the galaxy from the evil Sith Lord.
I can’t stop people from talking about his hair. And I don’t want to, really. Being unique comes with good and bad, and we must all learn to deal. Not every comment is cruel. When someone politely says Max’s hair looks like carrots, he should thank them—carrots are noble and delicious. I could flatten his hair to deter not-so-nice remarks, maybe bleach his tips a little, conform to the superficial world that… WHAT THE EFFIN’ EFF? Hell no, mofo.
Listen, Max. Life is not a walk in the park. It’s a scavenger hunt. When some hater says something mean about your hair, scratch them off your list. You just found another one of the world’s stupid people. Fist bump, my little ginja ninja.
This article appeared in the April edition of The Overcast, Newfoundland’s arts and culture newspaper. Check it out online at theovercast.ca