As a redhead from birth, I have evolved over time in my evaluation of my hair color. The kid me hated my red hair. I dreaded the attention it drew as well as the distinction from others that it gave me. Over time, I learned to accept it and take some pride in it. Although ginger hair may be currently all the rage on the internet, some of us didn’t grow up with an appreciation for our brightly colored hair.
When I was younger, I knew I was different. There were no redheads on television other than those children in Irish Spring commercials, and the only true ginger star back then was one of my favorite actors, Eric Stoltz. Having red hair set me apart, and I didn’t like it. I wanted to be a brunette or blonde, someone who would fit in with the rest of my classmates.
Too, I drew some unwanted attention from women when I shopped with my mother. Even as a child and preteen, strange women would approach me in stores and ask me what hair dye I used. Most would accept my claim of being a true redhead, but I remember one who didn’t. I was perhaps 12 or 13 and shopping with my mother in a Hallmark store. A woman found me among the knickknacks and insisted that I tell her what dye I used to get that bright red color. When I explained that I was a natural redhead, she became somewhat irate and upped the volume of her questioning. I was becoming scared and quiet, but luckily my mother wasn’t. She appeared behind the woman and loudly told her, “I am her mother, and I can assure you that she does not dye her hair!”
Thank goodness for mothers. Since then, I have had few such problems when out and about. Now I find the inquiries quieter and more of a reminiscence. Elderly women, hair already gray or silver, will fondly remember their own ginger years and warn me that I will soon lose my own red hair. Although some of the talks can be quite humorous—some women’s red hair seems to have been limited to tints seen only in bright sunlight—I appreciate these talks and the camaraderie that they provide. In some ways, it seems to be a passing on of the baton, and I enjoy their trusting me with their stories.
Now, as I see the occasional gray hair, I don’t mind being a redhead. Fitting in was important as a youngster, but no longer. Even if I don’t have long legs or a beautiful face, God granted me with truly unique hair. At an age when many women are already covering up a lot of gray hair, I don’t have to worry. And that’s a small gift in middle age that I’ll gladly take.