There is an old saying from my Grandparents time, “Pretty strawberries don’t fall off the crab-apple tree.” It was an admonishment to a red-headed child to straighten up and stop being naughty. The warning suggested to the misbehaving child that it was less than attractive to be crabby.
I wasn’t the classic ginger, but more of a flaming auburn while I was a child. I still got the taunts and the name calling growing up. Somehow though, I ended up proud enough of being Red to continue to buy L’Oreal to maintain my status as my flames fade in the sunset here.
While my fifth grade teacher, Lavinia Dole, read Anne of Green Gables out loud to us, I began to associate being a red-headed “Annie” with strength and perseverance. Thank you Mrs. Dole for that early infusion of confidence and girl power! Current research bears witness to the relationship between having the hair color of red and possessing a confident outlook on the world. According to a Clairol Color Attitude survey, 71% of red-heads think that the word “bold” describes them, which is 24 points ahead of blondes. Thus the joke: What do you call a redhead with an attitude? Answer: Normal.
Red hair is actually a mutation. The mutation blocks the production of eumelanin (dark brown and black pigment), which causes a buildup of the phaeomelanin (red and blond pigments). Some scientists believe that higher levels of phaeomelanin may produce more mutations and dangerous effects when exposed to UV radiation, so we red heads need to be cautious in the sun. While Scotland has the highest proportion (13%) of red-heads (followed by Ireland with 10%), the United States has the largest population of red-heads in the world, with between 6-18 million red-heads, or 2-6% of the population. Other research associates red hair color with greater pain sensitivity and higher intelligence. Maybe we are just so confident that we think we are smarty pants?
Over the years, I’ve been dubbed Boss Red, Backdraft, Beaker (from the muppets), Ginja, Carrot Top, Fanta Head, Fireball, Garfield, Ginger Snap, Pippi Longstocking, Orphan Annie (I do love the dog), Wendy, Pumpkin Head and since moving to Florida……….Copperhead.There are many more tags that the intellectuals of insults have created to reference those of us who are blessed I am sure. But to all the little children out there who are sporting this blessing, I hope that you come to embrace it! Only about 1-2 percent of the population has red hair and that make you pretty special! And red-heads have influenced history out of proportion to their numbers, so you just may be destined or great things. Famous red-heads include Roman emperor Nero, Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, the ancient god of love Aphrodite, Queen Elizabeth I, Napoleon Bonaparte, Oliver Cromwell, Emily Dickinson, Antonio Vivaldi, Thomas Jefferson, Vincent Van Gogh, Mark Twain, James Joyce, Winston Churchill, Malcolm X, Galileo, and King David.
And let’s not forget the freckles! We red-heads usually have pale skin to go with our hair color and that paleness can be either creamy white, or more ruddy, accompanied with a gazillion freckles. My own freckles were limited to a dusting across my upper cheeks and nose when I was a child but they have come back with a vengence thanks to the Florida sunshine. Add Freckle Face to the list.
So, to all of my red-headed stepchild sisters out there, just remember the Bruce Springsteen lyrics: “Man, you ain’t lived till you’ve had your tires rotated by a redheaded woman.”