Living As A Redhead: How Having Red Hair Changes Everything
As you may or may not be able to tell from my Hubber profile, I myself am a redhead and I will attest that being a redhead is an eminently unique experience compared with other natural hair colors.
Herein, I will attempt to prove it.
Redheadedness is the rarest natural haircolor: less than 4% of people on the planet have naturally red hair.
It is more common among individuals with genetic roots in western Europe, and - notably - in Ireland and Scotland.
Throughout history, redheadedness has been associated with negative traits, which I find summed up nicely in this proveb (compliments of the French):
"Redheaded women are either violent or false, and usually are both."
They have been targeted as witches, deemed as 'naturally' quick-tempered, and viewed as the product of 'unclean' sex.
More benign stereotypes of redheads include the idea that they are more promiscuous, wilder, more passionate, and loud-mouthed.
Also, redheaded women are more likely to be the subject of said stigma than redheaded men.
Interestingly, among women who dye their hair, more women choose red shades than either blonde or brunette.
NOTE: even my own grandmother (who, mind you, had four redheaded children and at least seven redheaded grandchildren) said a the birth of my newest cousin: "I never did care for a redheaded child...."
Real Life Effects
As a redhead, most of the nicknames I have been given have been due to my hair color, and the only celebrities anyone every compares me to are redheaded ones...and they do so indiscriminately (evidently, having red hair makes me look like Tori Amos, Julianne Moore, Lucille Ball, and Lindsay Lohan all at the same time....).
Furthermore, much of my identity to others lies only in my hair color. When people are asked to describe me, many can only come up with "redhead," and some will add "tall" to the description.
More than that, though, the strong public perception of redheads as strong-willed, feisty, and whathaveyou seems to have led to people treating me as if it were so. People expect me to adhere to these stereotypes, behave towards me as if it were so, and I have reacted accordingly -- fulfilling their expectations because that is what I was taught from a young age that I was supposed to be.
While that is not science or proof, I am certain that other redheads may have that experience as well.
Many redheads also report having been treated negatively as a child due to their haircolor - mostly by children. Personally, I have had the experience of adult women being fascinated by and jealous of my color. (I have also had men fascinated by the possible color of hair other than that on my head.)
In dating, men are either attracted to the hair as a fetish, or terrified by it's ostensible indicator of my personality.
In foreign countries like Thailand (or others where redheads are far less than 1% of the population) redheads can expect to have their hair fondled often.
Also, everyone assumes I'm Irish. I happen to be Irish, but that's only a scant 12.5% of my heritage...no one ever guesses the rest of my genetic background.
Being a redhead comes with assumptions, stares, taunts, and questions.
The good news, however, is that when people expect you to have a strong personality and you thus develop one, people usually listen to what you have to say and are interested in who you are. I happen to love it and embrace it as part of who I am, a central piece to my identity.
You may learn to love the attention and enjoy busting the stereotypes, but unless you dye your hair permanently, you cannot escape what it means to be redheaded (and, even then, you're stuck with the genetic corollaries).