After I was born, the first thing the doctor said was "It's a redhead," and so my mother sat there for several seconds not knowing whether I was a boy or a girl. After some persistent questioning, she finally found out that I was in fact a redheaded boy. Like it or not, ever since, I have been defined by my hair color.
To be honest, I never really minded this -- that is, until my friend showed me the web site for Redheads International (www.redheadclub.com). There, several redheads have created what is essentially an online support group for those with red hair. It may be an admirable idea, but I have just one problem with it. For my 28 years as a redhead, I have never felt that I needed a support group because of my hair.
I am sure I may need a support group for many other things, but being a redhead is just not one of them. Honestly, it never seemed that horrible to me, but apparently others feel differently. For example, as I explored Redheads International, I came across this depressing fact: "According to researchers at the University of Northern Iowa, redheads are seen as less attractive and desirable than blondes or brunettes, and red-haired men rate below all types and ethnicities in attractiveness." Oh, well, I suppose it could be worse. At least, I'm not a researcher at the University of Northern Iowa.
"Hey, Vern, what do you want to do today?"
"I dunno. Let's do a study about redheads and then later we'll go out and watch some corn. Okay?"
(I imagine that right now there's probably a support group forming for researchers at the University of Northern Iowa who have been insulted by redheads.)
On the message boards at the web site, various redheads complained about those who mocked them in grade school. Most had come to terms with their hair ("Now I would be no other way!"), but every message contained a hint of past suffering. And this confused me. Perhaps I'm just an odd redhead, but most people seem to like my hair color. As a kid, I was mocked for many things, of course, but not usually for my hair. Whenever another child would laugh at my hair, I would just look confused, and that would be the end of it. So what if I had red hair?
Admittedly, I didn't always love my hair. As a shy kid, I would have liked to blend in more, and I never understood why older people had to yell out, "Hey red" when they saw me. I could recognize their hair or lack thereof; it didn't mean I felt compelled to yell, "Hey whitey" or "Hey baldy" to them. And there were other drawbacks too. Even now, I'm still annoyed that I can practically get sunburn from a light bulb. Once, I even managed to get sunburn on the top of my feet. But all this doesn't mean I need a support group.
As for the web site, I shouldn't complain too much. It was mostly uplifting and helpful. The people there all seemed to love their hair now, and many were looking to date other redheads. (There was even a link for a redheaded dating service.) The site was also full of useful advice, though it was the trivia that was most interesting. For example, I learned that according to one British superstition, "It is held that red-haired people never can make good butter. The butter always has a slight tang about it." Well, who would have known? I suppose it makes sense that my butter would be bad, considering that on some days I can't even make good toast.
There was more to the site than this, but somehow I couldn't make myself spend the $20 membership fee to discover it. I have the hair. It didn't seem fair to make me shell out $20 to join. Perhaps if someone wants to create a Cheap Redheads International club with no cover, I'll think about joining.
Then again, I probably won't. I still chafe at the idea of a club for redheads. Must we form a support group for everything? I guess I just don't want to be special for my hair color. My hair color, after all, is not an accomplishment; it is merely a relatively obscure genetic trait with which I was born.
I don't need my own club. Just pass me some 45 sun block, and I'll be fine.
|Copyright 1999 by Joe Lavin
Joe Lavin's Humor Column is published every Tuesday at: http://joelavin.com
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Submitted By: Joe Lavin
Jun 8, 1999 18:38