Tales of life with red hair.
I’m a redhead.
I’ve spent my 20 years proudly sporting fiery tresses (except for my brief hiatus as a blonde in grades nine and 10). As a redhead, I have spent many hours pondering why those of us gifted with the world’s rarest hair colour (only 1-2 per cent of the world’s population have red hair) receive such huge amounts of awe, and at times, ridicule.
I have been fortunate enough not to bear the brunt of criticism from my peers, friends or passers-by. Rather, I have involuntarily recruited a cluster of admirers. Rarely can I take a trip to the local supermarket without being ambushed by a member of the older generation nonsensically gushing about how much they love my hair colour or a fellow twenty-something female jabbering about how they wish they had my hair; insistently grilling me, “is that your natural colour? OMG! Do you know how lucky you are?!”
As a child, I never paid a great deal of attention to my hair or my appearance in its entirety. I was too busy re-reading Harry Potter, studying too hard for year seven exams and convincing myself I was good at touch football (I was not).
Although I often heard comments about how only a few people are gifted with hair as ‘nice’ as mine, the only thought I ever concerned myself with was whether or not it was slicked back in a tight, bump free ponytail (a ‘fashion statement’ which was apparently cool at age 12). I did not wear make up until I was 15, let alone know a thing about ‘foundation’. I was yet to discover the confidence boosting power of the winged eyeliner/red lipstick combo; which today makes me feel like a man eating, demoness bombshell. And I refused to don a dress between the ages of 11 and 14 when I experienced the mandatory tomboy phase.
However, my high school days inevitably introduced a host of new species in human form; eighth grade Victoria’s Secret wannabes, 16-year-olds who spent two-thirds of the school day in front of the bathroom mirror, and boys. Of course.
My ninth grade PE teacher was famed for his classroom tangents. I vividly remember him conducting a survey amongst the males in my class on the hair colour they ‘prefer on a girl’. Naturally a vast majority of the hormone-governed, pubescent 15-year-old boys in my class confidently assured my teacher they liked blondes. I remember the boys leaving the classroom that day drooling over Google images of Scarlett Johansson and Amanda Seyfried. I left wishing I was blonde and wondering if I was pretty.
This random yet routine classroom ritual brought to my attention that yes, unfortunately, I wasn’t blonde, and apparently this mattered more than I thought. Over 50 per cent were blessed with blonde locks and probably left the room feeling incredibly validated and armed with an extreme ego boost. But for me this inconsequential sex education class exercise, that was intended to inject humour into an otherwise dull and slightly awkward lesson, came across as unnecessary, misogynistic and generally insulting. Luckily for me the survey mustn’t have represented a high level of accuracy, because two months later I scored myself a boyfriend.
Turning 18 coincided with the arrival of the wild clubbing phase. The prospect of a new experience and a chance to buy one too many cheap vodka lemonades excited me. However, this also brought forth a host of cheesy pickup lines from my overly hopeful male admirers. An irritatingly overused, prime example being, ‘I’d love to find out if your carpet matches your drapes!’ Somehow this was designed to catch my attention. Instead, it made me walk away and wonder if I should even bother dating again.
Even a beach trip poses an array of problems. This was especially difficult for me, and still is. Having grown up coastside in Port Macquarie, patronising the beach was almost considered a summertime initiation. Tanning is virtually a non-option (unless I want to sport a charming shade of red) and the first half an hour of the beach visit generally involves a vigorous sunscreen application regime. Then there was the dreaded rash shirt, a hideous item of beach side apparel I was forced to adopt during my younger years. Every other girl present was fortunate enough to show off their glowing tan and cute new bikini. I was forced to sit in the shade wearing something comparable to a bad winter fashion trend.
Now, to avoid both the rash shirt and the sunburn, I run from the shade to the water to the shade again. For someone who enjoys swimming as much as I do, this is an extreme dampener on a day at the beach, especially when all your friend’s beeline for the sand and the only possible way to join them without looking like you have just spent five hours in a glow yoga studio, is by putting a hat over your face and draping your body in a towel.
Despite some of the annoying cliches, like the fact that a quick trip to the supermarket and a relaxing, burn-free beach day are virtually impossible. Red hair is a physical trait which I can confidently say I feel lucky to have. Despite, the overuse of the word “ranga” which has caused fellow redheads to experience varying degrees of grief and irritability in recent years, I like my red hair. It is unique. It defines me and most importantly matches the colour scheme prevalent within my rapidly expanding wardrobe.
If Emma Stone and Isla Fisher can rock the red, there is absolutely no reason why I and other redheads can’t follow suit. I am also a writer and in my opinion, every good writer needs a trademark; red hair happens to be mine. – Samantha Barrie.
Top photo by Jessica Heckley.