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April 10, 2014



Even at age 3
I seemed to be trying to get rid of
my red hair - check the bangs.

I wasn't really special, although I assumed for the better part of my early years that I must be, but not in a good way.  My looks set me apart from others, even from the rest of my family.  

My mother and sister were blondes. Aunts, Uncles and cousins were all blonde or brunettes.  Not one of them had a hint of red hair.  

Not only did I have this particular distinction, but I had to deal with the large (plentiful) reddish brown freckles that had been added to my singular burden.  

Did I mention my stick-out ears? 

"I hate my hair and freckles!" My mother's reply was always the same; "Your hair is beautiful and your freckles will fade.  You're pretty, honey."  I believed the first sentence, but I knew I wasn't pretty and that she was just saying what mother's say to protect their children.

Growing up in the 1950's I took some comfort in identifying with the likes of Howdy Doody.  A red-headed, freckle faced puppet - I don't believe I was conscious that he had red hair, but I suspected it because he looked all too familiar - freckles, and his ears stuck out. Saturday mornings were spent planted in front of the tv waiting for the famous words; "Hey kids, what time is it?"  "It's Howdy Doody Time!" I'd yell back at the tiny, black and white screen,

I carried some pain and angst throughout my childhood because of this inherited gene. In spite of it and with great perspective on my life now - having grown some confidence, I admit that I'm a bit conflicted to learn that I'm part of this diminishing, gene pool that makes up only 2% of the population on the planet.  Maybe we are a majority on some other planet where 'GINGERS' RULE!

When I was a kid, adults would look at me in a way that made me uncomfortable. I could sense that they didn't think I was cute or pretty, but they did like my hair - a lot! They would insist on torturing me by fussing over it - making me sit still far too  long, while they brushed, tied ribbons to the end of braids and scraped my scalp trying to insert a pretty barrette or two. 

Then there were the ones who declared the colour as something they'd never seen before, which inspired my mother to let it grow for about a year before dragging me to her hairdresser where my ponytail was ceremoniously cut off & carefully place in a drawer, elastic band intact.  This ritual seemed 'creepy' to my childish mind.  Apparently, the 'ginger' hair would be made into wigs and attempts were made to replicate the colour.  


When I was old enough to take control of my hair, I went blonde and kept that up for about ten years.  When I came to appreciate what I had been lucky enough to be born with, I let it grow out and was shocked to find I had turned into a 'strawberry blonde.'  Was it the years of maintaining the blonde? But, I liked it a lot, so I left it alone. 

Then, in my mid-thirties, I started noticing my roots were changing colour - grey. This presents a whole new problem and until I'm able to figure out how to transition painlessly to all grey, I will happily remain a strawberry blonde.

Nearly seven decades later it seems that being a red-head remains a stigma, despite all of the beautiful 'gingers' out there - some of them famously red (Lucille Ball, Rita Hayworth, Lindsay Lohan).  And, when someone wants to illustrate how awful someone made them feel, they will say; " I felt like the red-headed step-child."  


There are stunning redheads in the entertainment industry, including Jessica Chastain, Julianne Moore and the quirky, Tilda Swinden who rocks the 'red' in many of her incarnations.  

Tilda Swinden

Jessica Chastain
Julianne Moore


I recall the day I finally learned that I really did belong to my family of blondes and brunettes.  I was a young teenager and had been whinging & whining to my mother  about my red hair & freckles and posed the question, "Why am I the only one with red hair?" to which she replied, slightly puzzled that I would even ask, that I was the spitting image of her redheaded mother (my grandmother).  I was shocked. She'd never talked about her family.  I'd never had cause to ask about my grandparents as they'd passed away long before I was born and the few family photos that had existed had been lost years before.

She explained that her mother was one of eleven siblings, all born in Wales, UK., and every last one of them was a redhead.  Mom described how she would watch the freckles on her mother's arms appear on her pale skin when she sat in the sun.  In addition to this vital information, I have since learned that the 'ginger' gene has a tendency to skip a generation or two. This seems to hold true, as my daughter is blonde. So, if the theory holds, and she had children, there's a likelihood that one of them could be a 'ginger.'  

And, if this was to come about, my 'ginger' grandchildren would find themselves the recipient of an extra hug and lots of positive, 'ginger' stories ..