Being blonde (Blogger’s Note: I’m not blonde)

It comes as no shock to anybody who stumbles upon this blog that Gingermermaid is, in fact, a ginger (ˈjinjər).

Let’s be honest, some of the greatest people and infamous characters of history were of the redheaded persuasion:

  • George Washington, the first president of the United States, held under his wig of white a head of red.
  • Emily Dickinson, eccentric and poetic, like so many redheads are by nature.
  • Katharine Hepburn, 1930s actress that challenged both social and fashion norms of the day.
  • Queen Elizabeth I, representing ginger royalty.
  • Cleopatra, rumored to bathe in donkey milk and use Henna to increase the redness of her hair.
  • Christopher Columbus, the man who sailed the ocean blue and landed on the shores of America, credited for its “discovery,” did so with red locks.
  • My favorite literary character and ginger, Anne of Green Gables, was quoted as saying, “I thought nothing could be worse than red hair, but green is ten times worse!”
  • Um, and how could I not mention, Ariel, a true ginger mermaid.

There are many great examples, and many not-so-great examples that I will not mention and would appreciate no one mentioning—ever. It’s hard enough being in the 4%, more of which I will get to later, then to have to be associated with namesakes that have betrayed the good name of my people (I’m talking about you, Carrot Top).

My people. Yes, in a way, being a redhead is like being in a cult. Part of this is for survival and the other part of it is because we are just that awesome.

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This is my hair. It is red.

I know more redhead statistics than is healthy for any one person to know, and at bars and house parties, I like to bring up little known facts about the ginger race of people, like that we need more anesthesia than “normal” haired people, that we are more sensitive to thermal pain but, in general, have a higher pain tolerance, and redheads appeared most often in paintings of the Rensaissance. Our mutations in the MC1R gene gives our hair and skin more pheomelanin than eumelanin, causing both red hair and freckles (I truly have no idea what that means, but if I’m a mutant than I am an X-Men and that. is. amazing.).

It’s hard being a ginger at times. Some people would say the only form of “acceptable” racism in existence is that against those with the MC1R gene. Despite what outsiders would say, this hurts because gingers DO have souls, and lovely ones at that. Holidays have been designed at our expense, making a festive ritual of kicking a ginger all the day. Tesco, a retailer in the UK (not unlike Wal-Mart) distributed a Christmas card one year that said: “Santa loves all the children. Even the ginger ones.”

“Gingerphobia” and “Gingerism” have given the good freckled people of this world names like “ranga” in Australia and “ginga” in the UK. I just want to go by the word “friend.”

Aside from these overwhelmingly blatant, insensitive (although, yes, a little funny) ramblings, the story that hits ever so close to home was when my sister called me on the phone, my sister who also has red hair (my brother does too…and my dad) to tell me about my little niece, also a ginger (and subsequently so are my sister’s other two other children) that when little Ruby (not even lying, that’s her name) was playing with her dolls, she had this conversation:

Doll one speaking through the voice of Ruby: “Can I play with you guys?”

Doll two speaking through the voice of Ruby: “No.”

Doll one: “Is it because I’m ginger?”

Doll two: “Yes.”

She was 5-years-old when that happened. So young for such a realization…

My nieces and nephew. Little ginger monsters.

My nieces and nephew. Little ginger monsters.

A preconceived notion that makes me batty is that I can’t tell you how many times I get messages from friends like, “Do you have a twin in  Alaska, because I swear I just saw you.” Or from a stranger, ” You look just like this girl I have Chemistry class with at the University of Uneducated.” I get it. All redheads look alike.

Apparently we are also all related. If I am sitting next to a redhead on a bus, at a bar, in a movie theater, everyone will assume we are family: siblings, parents, offspring. Now, in all fairness, I do have a high percentage of redheads in my family, way higher than is normal. Like mentioned, my dad, sister, brother, two nieces, and one nephew all have red hair. My sister’s brother-in-law has red hair. We don’t fuck around with this MC1R gene in the Gingermermaid clan.

Side note, even though not all redheads are related, I am unable to date a fellow ginger. I tried it once, and it ended with a nice hug at the end of the night and a “see you on the flipside” because that is way weird, even for me.

So now that I have set the stage for my post, let’s put to bed some ideas about passionate, tempered, sexed-crazed maniacs that everyone thinks are redheads, and let’s ponder the repercussions of being another hair color: going from red to blonde.

When I was a kid, adults used to croon over how beautiful my naturally curly red hair was. I got asked often if it was natural, which I thought was a little rude. I don’t ask the obviously strand-highlighted 55-year-old woman where she got her gray roots touched up and in the ladies’ locker room if those tatas are real or surgically enhanced.

I learned to love my fiery red pigment and adore the compliments from the grandmas of the world. I grew my hair till it reached my bum, and high school classmates sitting behind me in class used to mess with my long, curly hair, unbeknownst to me, until it was too late and I looked like our high school mascot—a lion.

In college, I rejected the natural curl, so I burned the curly spirit out of the kinks in my hair with a straightener. I decided to spice up the red with some chunky blonde highlights, to which my boyfriend of the time said I looked like Frankenstein. He wasn’t wrong. Then came the day I rejected my hair: color, texture, and everything else that came along with having gingervitus…

I was living in Scotland, and although the percentage of Scots with red hair is insanely high, they aren’t the nicest to the jinjeets of their land. I fit in well among the Scots, that is, until I opened my mouth  and gave myself away as a Yankee. But the Scots, not necessarily known for tact, were ruthless in mocking my red hair and judging me based on its hue. The fact that I was American fueled the flames of inappropriate jokes.

Perhaps I wasn’t as thick skinned as I am now, but I wanted a change and not be defined by red any longer. I wanted to be blonde. I wanted to be considered the “elite” hair color, the one where you can be butt ugly, but if you have golden strands, you’re branded as sexy. I wanted to get away things because I had yellow hair. I wanted to be flirted with based on the fact I was a blonde bombshell. I even wanted the dumb blonde jokes, which considering I didn’t take the redhead jokes so well, was terrible logic. Lindsay Lohan did it, which means that this idea was really, really terrible.

Don’t worry faithful Gingermermaid fans, I stayed true to my roots (bedumchhhh!) and didn’t change the color. However, the idea wasn’t put to bed after leaving the UK.

I moved to Australia and the urge to convert my hair color recommenced. Again, a fairly high percentage of gingers roam this continent. They are a bit nicer about their redheaded peeps than in Scotland…minus the “ranga” comments. “Ranga” is short for orangutan. 😦 Not appreciated.

My blue wig as worn in Australia. My Kansas flatmate made it really pop via photoshop, and she had it worse than me, how many Wizard of Oz jokes can one human really take?

My blue wig as worn in Australia. My Kansas flatmate made it really pop via photoshop. She had it way worse than me, how many Wizard of Oz jokes can one human really take?

Me desiring to be blonde fell back into a mindset that I wanted attention and perks for being blonde. It didn’t help that I was dating an Italian, and let’s be honest, their infatuation with blondes is no secret. I went as far as to try on blonde wigs and actually ended up getting a bright blue one. This was probably because I looked that bad as a blonde…

The idea to change my hair had nothing to do with my own insecurity at the time. Although, even now I wonder what a change would be, but I think I’m far too proud of being a redhead to ever change. In fact, I probably tie too much of my identity to having red hair (cough cough blog name is Gingermermiad). As I age, my hair will slowly turn from red to blonde to white, and it will happen later than my “normal” haired counterparts. Ha.

Plus I have spiffy red eyelashes, extra freckles in the summer, and SPF 70. What more could a girl want?

Also to note, although blondes to tend to garner more attention, I will say that those who love redheaded chicks LOVE redheaded chicks. It’s actually a little bit freaky, partly because the people who have this infatuation are a little bit freaky. At a former place of employment, there was one guy who asked out all the girls with red hair, just us, the lucky ones. We all said “no.”

To find out more about red hair, I highly recommend the Wikipedia page because it’s amusing. There is even an image of “Man with red hair” and although I trust Wikipedia as far as I can link it (after all, I’ve edited and put stuff up there) it’s got some good tidbits.

To my fellow redheads out there, keep calm and ginger on.

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5 thoughts on “Being blonde (Blogger’s Note: I’m not blonde)

  1. Pingback: Are kind strangers really just likely serial killers? | gingermermaid

    • I loooooooove that video! It’s absolutely brilliant. I even intended to put it in the post but I forgot among all my excitement in writing about red-tabulousness, so thanks for putting it here! 🙂

  2. Emily, I just saw this post on my facebook feed. It’s Gretchen! We worked together at Krislund several lifetimes ago. I know I haven’t talked to you in ages, but I loved reading this article. You’re very insightful and articulate about your experiences. I didn’t realize you were also so well-traveled! I can sympathize with your amusement and bewilderment at the stereotypes that are assigned to people based on their hair color. I’m strawberry blonde, as you know (or I think you do…like I said, it’s been a while), and a few years ago I dyed my hair with henna to make it redder. I’ve always loved red hair, and I was tired of the “dumb blonde” stereotype, especially when I lived in LA and the sun turned my hair even blonder. I had started a new job as an attorney, and I think I wanted a dramatic hair change because I was going through a dramatic life change. Seeing Christina Hendricks on Mad Men was what finally made me decide I wanted hair that was really, really red. I put the picture up on Facebook with a joking line that I’d opted for “artificial intelligence.” I was feeling very pleased with myself – people said I looked more mature and even intelligent. One friend actually used the word “intelligent” – spelling it as “intellegent.” She herself was blonde. I loved being a real redhead, but eventually I got tired of the maintenance of constantly dying my hair (also having lighter roots that are close to the color of your scalp make your part look larger, like you’re losing your hair), so I changed it back. When my hair was red(der), I noticed that 1) most people seemed to think I was smarter and more mature, 2) I didn’t get as much blatant attention from men, 3) one or two guys seemed creepily obsessed, and 4) people seemed to gossip about me more…perhaps this is because of the stereotype that you mentioned where people think that redheads are insanely sexual and passionate. I think a lot of your perceptions of the stereotypes of redheads matched my brief experience as being a red-haired (rather than a merely strawberry-shaded) person.
    In the end I also reached a similar conclusion: my hair is fine the way it is. I think that being comfortable in one’s own skin helps unfair stereotypes become what they should be – jokes – instead of someone’s actual perception of reality. I hope you’re doing well! Your hair is beautiful and fantastic, by the way! As it always was. 🙂

    • Aw, Gretchen, you are so sweet! And so wise, in all hair hues.

      Maybe as an attorney people will see blonde and underestimate your skills, and then–woosh! you attorney the crap out of them.

      Remember were co-counselors one week in “tents?” A decade ago! Oh memories.

      Really great to hear from you, lovely lady!

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