Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Hair

I had a strange experience the other day. I walked up to the cashier at Home Depot and she turned, looked at me, smiled and said, "Ooo! I love your hair color!" Now, I've heard this before, but not quite the way she meant it, which was reinforced when she asked, "Is it your true color?" "Yep, it's all me. Au naturale," I said. She then commented about how lucky I was and that people paid to get it that color. I simply smiled and walked away, thinking, "Oh, if you only knew how much I would have once paid to have it any other color!"

I hated my hair color growing up. Plain and simple. It was hard enough being tall and skinny, but add red head to the mix and it was just a self-esteem nightmare. As kids, we mostly just want to fit in. As a red head, I always felt different from the rest (though I would come to realize that wasn't just because of my hair color!). With having red hair came a sense of weakness. I always had to have suntan lotion on. I couldn't take my shirt off for shirts vs skins games. Ever try explaining skin cancer to a sixth grader? Yeah. My own mother made me self conscious of wearing anything red for years, for fear that it would clash...with my head. Yeah. I've heard probably every red head joke ever uttered (red on the head like the d!ck of a dog). Yeah. It's amazing I made it this far.

But, as with most torments we experience in youth, things changed. It certainly didn't happen overnight, but I learned to appreciate what makes me different. Only a small percentage of the population are red heads (~2%-6% in the US). It makes me feel like more of an individual (among other things). I love my hair now (except perhaps the handful of cowlicks at the back). I wouldn't trade it for the world and I don't look forward to the day it begins to fade. It's already much darker than when I was a child. But, if I have any grays, they're still well hidden amongst the red. Now, if I could trade in this pale blue skin that comes along with it, then I'd be totally happy. ;)

Wikipedia has a great page dedicated to red hair. Here are some facts gleaned from that page:
 1. Red hair is the rarest natural hair color in humans.
 2. Scotland has the highest proportion of redheads (which makes sense...my Dad is from Scotland and the only other red head in the immediate family); 13% of the population has red hair and ~40% carries the recessive redhead gene.
 3. The pigment pheomelanin gives red hair its distinctive color.
 4. Red hair is fairly common amongst the Ashkenazi Jewish populations. Writers from Shakespeare to Dickens would identify Jewish characters by giving them red hair. And, the stereotype that red hair is Jewish remains in parts of Eastern Europe and Russia.
 5. Queen Elizabeth I of England was a redhead.
 6. Red hair and green eyes were thought to be the sign of a witch, a werewolf or a vampire during the Middle Ages (they were all wrong...it actually means you're a dragon).
 7. Redheadday is a Dutch festival that takes place each first weekend of September in the city of Breda, the Netherlands.

Have a physical trait you once hated and now love? Have any trait you once hated and now love? Have a red head you once hated and now love? Let me know!


  1. I spent much of yesterday reading about hair (for my own post), and I still learned a bunch from this. Very interesting.

    And a dragon's not a bad things to be. :)

  2. I get the 'love your hair color' comment pretty damn often, too.
    I've gotten to where I just say "It's Revlon #145."
    Runs about 50/50 on whether they believe me.

  3. LOL...thanks for the comments, guys!

  4. Both my daughter's have red hair. They get compliments everywhere they go...all thanks for the 1/4 Scot they have in them! I used to dye my hair their color until my daughter asked what my real color was. I let it grow out so I could find out for myself.

    I also have a beauty mark on my cheek that I hated growing up. Used to call it the ugly ol mole, now I love it. Yes, I know, that really does sound strange!