Tuesday, September 1, 2009

On Being Red

During dinner last night my daughter mentioned that several boys on her bus have been giving her a hard time about her red hair. That particular morning one of them broke out into a chorus of "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" while rubbing his hands together over her head. We all chuckled about it. And then I told her that they do it because they think she's cute; that's how middle school boys flirt with redheads. If she were blonde, they would tell her dumb blonde jokes, that's what 12 year old boys do. She was quick to silence me, "Stop it, Mom, they do NOT think that I'm cute, just stop." (She's far more bothered by me, than by them.)

She's actually ok with her red hair; in fact, she's always been ok it. Which is rather odd when you consider that she doesn't like attention of any sort. You would think she would prefer being a brunette so that she could blend in, but I don't think that's the case. Apparently only 1% to 2% of the human population has red hair, but I didn't realize how truly unique it was until I had a little redhead of my own.

I must come clean, while I think her hair is beautiful, there was a time, not so long ago, when I was not a fan of red hair. I knew a girl in college who had a wild, crazy, unruly mane of flaming red hair that was, well, in a word...tragic. Poor Grace, she didn't resemble Bozo, per se, but her hair was the same shade and it certainly had the same texture of the popular clown's wig. The phrase "better dead than red" was often muttered under my roommates' breath whenever poor Grace walked in the room. Today I'm eating those words ...

Since the beginning of time people with red hair have struggled with a bum rap, treated as a redheaded stepchild, if you will. They've been thought to be untrustworthy: Judas is most always depicted as a redhead. During the Spanish Inquisition, flame colored hair was evidence that its owner had stolen the fire of hell and as such redheads were burned as witches. Another common perception about redheads is that they have fiery tempers and sharp tongues.

My daughter's red hair came as a complete surprise to my brunette husband and I. But I think it was more of a surprise to my BFF. She was one of the college roommates who coined the phrase "better dead than red" and she was there in the delivery room when my daughter was born. I was in the throws of the delivery when my friend glanced down (as only a BFF could do) to check on my progress as the doctor announced that the baby's head was crowning. And as I watched the expression on her face, I knew something was terribly wrong. Did my baby have two heads? Was she missing an ear? I couldn't bear to hear it. But then my doctor, very matter-of-factly proclaimed, "Ahhh...we have a redhead!" I looked at my BFF and she winced as she patted my arm and whispered, "we can dye it."

So you see, when your own mother and godmother are dissing your hair color before you're even born - a little ribbing from the boys on the bus is simply small potatoes. Red hair is often associated with fair skin, and while my redhead has her fair share of freckles, I'd say her skin is pretty thick.

It didn't take us long to fall head over heals in love with her... and her gorgeous red hair.

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