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Red in the Head

Megan Kinsella
MSN Class of 2013

(3/2011) Women’s personalities have increasingly been generalized by one defining feature: the color of their hair. According to popular public belief, "dumb" blondes have more fun, brunettes have all the brains, and redheads have brutal tempers. I don’t know where or when this categorization by hair color began, but I do know one thing: it is completely and unquestionably out of line. Who are you to take one look at Goldilocks and automatically deduce that she scored a 40 on her IQ test? Why lump human beings together according to physical characteristics? The practice is cruel and downright inhumane.

I have found that redheads especially are subjected to an unusual amount of cruelty and discrimination. Many stereotypes surround redheads, especially redheaded women. Red heads have lower pain tolerance. All red heads are related. Red heads have no souls. These misconceptions, along with many others, are all ridiculous and completely false. Allow me to submerge you into the issue a bit deeper…

Lucille Ball was a famous American actress and model from the 1950s to the 1970s. Her biggest claim to fame was her role in the 50s TV sitcom "I Love Lucy," where she played the goofy, loveable, mischievous wife of Ricky Ricardo. She was beautiful, smart, cunning, funny, and a brilliant actress; truly the definition of an all-American woman. However, one characteristic that sticks out above all the rest is that (drum roll please)… Lucille Ball had red hair. Excitingly enough, this is a trait that both Lucille and I share.

Seeing that less than three percent of the world’s human population has red hair, I feel a certain affinity with this American icon. Author and lecturer Grant McCracken said, "Part of the problem with redheads is that there aren't enough of them. They make up about two percent of the population. So they're pretty extraordinary." I couldn’t agree more. There is a kinship that exists among redheads that only a member of our kind would understand. For those of you out there not blessed with a strawberry mane, let me provide a hypothetical parallel…

You are a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. You attend Mount St. Mary’s University, a school whose majority of inhabitants are Baltimore Ravens fans. The Steelers and Ravens face off in the division championship game and naturally, the Steelers hand the Ravens a crushing defeat. Fearing for your life yet unable to completely hide your joy, you conceal your Steelers jersey underneath a partially zipped sweatshirt on Monday morning for the walk to class. The greatest part of your day comes with the slight nods, stealthy high fives, and knowing smiles of other Pittsburgh enthusiasts. You are a member of a minority on campus and therefore you feel a love for your Steel brothers and sisters that no one else quite understands. I may or may not be speaking from personal experience.

Anyway, I digress. After a long flourishing career, Lucille Ball sadly passed away in April of 1989. As the nation mourned the death of this redheaded beauty, a star of a different caliber was born. Yes, yours truly breathed her first on a cold December night in 1990, far away from the glow of the Hollywood lights and into a family whose name will most likely never be written into the history books. However, one redeeming quality remained—the incessant glow of the wonder child’s cascading crimson locks.

Being a redhead has defined my life since that fateful December night 20 years ago. After seeing my small wrinkly body and full head of orange fuzz for the first time, my brother Kevin lovingly thanked my parents for buying him a pet fox. As if the red hair wasn’t enough, the animal-like crooning and maniacal screaming erupting from that hospital crib surely did the trick in confusing him.

In middle school, I was dubbed "carrot top" and was always picked last for dodge ball games at recess—a phenomenon no doubt caused by my classmates’ misinformed understanding that redheads have a lower pain tolerance than most. I mean, let’s be serious, who really wants a red headed weakling on their team? However, contrary to popular belief, the top of a carrot is actually green and not orange.

During high school my friends got a little more creative. I patiently endured their constant screams of alarm as they dove out of the way and shouted the warning "Your head’s on fire!" As a public service, I was often asked to light the way for groups of fellow students down darkened hallways during power failures, a situation not unlike Santa Claus’ utilization of Rudolph’s bulbous red nose. "Megan the red haired school girl, you’ll go down in history!"

In more recent years, this discrimination against redheads has spread far and wide, aided by the popular TV show Southpark. In an infamous 2005 episode, characters on Southpark dubbed humans with red hair, pale skin, and freckles as "gingers." According to these awkwardly-shaped cartoon adolescents, gingers have no souls. states: "Gingers are generally considered to be inferior to their more melanin-rich brethren and thus deservingly discriminated against." Also, the condition "Gingervitis" is genetic and, sadly, incurable.

Well, I’m going to go against popular belief here and let you all know that red heads really do have souls. No, our faces are not splashed with mud and it’s virtually impossible to play connect the dots with our freckles. I can’t tell you how many kids have asked me why I have little brown spots all over my face, to which I always respond with the same witty comment about "kisses from the sunshine."

No, we are not from a different planet and we are not going to infect you with our incurable disease. In 1995, Professor Jonathan Rees of Edinborough University conducted a study of the causes of red hair. He discovered that melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R), a gene found on the 16th chromosome, is responsible for lovely ginger locks. According to Rees, the MC1R is a result of a protein mutation in the DNA of all redheads. No doubt, the use of the term "mutation" has lead many to believe that those of us with red hair, pale skin, and freckles are, in fact, "mutants."

Surprisingly, not all of us are related. For the past ten years my family and a big group of our friends have gone camping for a week during the summer. It just so happens that more than ten members of our little posse are redheads, a fact that serves to confuse many a passerby into thinking that the entire group is one big happy family. While entertaining at first, this mystification has gotten a bit monotonous over the years.

Also, the majority of us redheads are not straight off the boat from Ireland. Actually, the biggest percentage of redheads in the world is found in Scotland (14%), closely followed by Ireland and Italy with 10% and 8% respectively. If you do the math, this leaves 68% of the redhead population to be spread far and wide across earth’s surface. You can find us virtually anywhere!

I have actually noticed that being a redhead has a lot of advantages. It’s painfully unique; people gravitate towards redheads. Our buddy Lucille was quoted as saying "Once in his lifetime, every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a gorgeous redhead." Similarly, have you ever wondered why I have so many friends? I jest, of course.

It also gives you something to talk about in awkward social situations. I will demonstrate: Awkward party guest: "So… you have red hair?" Smooth, cool, confident ginger: "Why yes I do have red hair!" And so on.

Whenever you need a little boost of confidence, just go to the hair salon. All the hairdressers and older ladies will tell you that they would absolutely DIE to have your hair color. Amid the adoring head pats, longing stares, and fond inquiries ("Is it natural, honey?"), it’s extremely hard to leave the salon without a little pep in your step.

And above all else, if you enjoy being lavishly complimented by adorable elderly gentlemen, red in the head is the thing to be! As a redhead, you are ceaselessly bombarded with complimentary tidbits ("I’ve always had a thing for redheads") and tales of the glory days of old ("You know, my first wife was a red head and boy was she a looker!").

By living through all of the hardships of being a redhead in a predominantly blonde/brunette society, I have become a stronger person. Whatever doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger, right? And in the words of Rupee, a completely obscure and unknown Spanish techno band, "If you’ve got it, then flaunt it; show it off to the world." I love being a red head. It’s unique and I think it compliments my personality. And let’s be honest… the world is a happier place because gingers know how to "flaunt it."

Megan is a Communications major at the Mount

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