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The Joys of Being a Carrot Top

Updated on August 28, 2009

It took me a long time to fully accept my red hair and freckles and eventually to come to love them.  In kid-dom different is bad, and as a child all I wanted was to look like, and be like everyone else. My red hair made me stand out, and got me in a lot of trouble before I could even really get in trouble.  I learned quickly that the red head always gets caught.  It's tough to be sneaky and scoot under the radar with bright red locks.  My mom and my sister both have red hair.  My dad has a bright red beard.  His brother and sister both have the fire engine "holy geez!" thats some red hair, red hair.  It would seem that I was doomed to be a red haired chick, and I've got to be honest I'm totally okay with it, and now I think being a red head is pretty rad.

Red hair results from a gene mutation responsible for melanin production, specifically, the mutation is located on chromosome 16 and it is responsible for changes in MC1R protein.  This accounts for freckling, palish skin tones, and red hued hair.  Red hair is the most rare of a hair colors.  It is a recessive trait, so only about 3% of the population is red haired, and since not a lot of red haired couples get together and make carrot topped babies, there is a good chance we are slowly being selected out for in the gene pool.  Researchers believe that red heads could be extinct by roughly 2100.  I think that's a little bit sad, I can't imagine a world without gingers, and hope that by the luck of the draw, I pass on a little red hair to my children.  It's not always easy being red haired, but it is truly great to be different and has become a source of pride for me.  It's funny how that goes on the long road to self-acceptance.

The chromosome mutation and subsequent protein changes cause some pretty bizarre traits in red haired folks.  For instance, we feel pain more intensely than other people and as a result likely have higher pain thresholds.  We may bruise more easily than those with other hair colors.  Interestingly as well, researchers have discovered that it takes substantially more novocaine or related anesthetics to prepare red haired people for medical procedures.  Thank goodness there is a scientific finding to back up my (at times) traumatic experiences in various medical offices as a younger person.  My dentist is always amazed at how much novocaine is needed to get me numb, and thankfully knows exactly the right amount after a few years of painful trial and error.  I still feel horrible about how strongly I reacted to the poor ER nurse who attempted to stitch my finger after the soup can incident of 2003. In my defense, I had informed her of my bizarre resistance to numbing agents and mentioned that she was most likely going to have to use much more anesthetic than normal.  I wasn't entirely pleasant though as she stitched me preemptively, and I still feel a little bad about that.  

Often, there is an expectation for red haired people to have crazy, lunatic, hot-tempered tendencies.  I tend to skew on the more mellow end, but I totally get why red haired kids could get sick of carpet/drapes references, carrot top name calling, ginger taunting (thanks South Park) freckle-face, etc and totally lose it on their caveman-clever tormentors.  It seems socially acceptable to pick on ginger haired kids and that's kind of a bummer.  I think red haired boys have it far worse than red haired girls in terms of teasing and bullying.  Just think about the O'Doyle bullies in Billy Madison, that's definitely not a favorable portrayal of red haired boys and like I said before being different is hard enough as a kid.  Red heads are a passionate people, but I think the hot-tempered expectations are more linked to a color association with fire, heat, and intensity, than based in fact.  Lots of people have tempers after all.


Kid sister and I
Kid sister and I

I think being red haired is a blessing, although as a child it was something I was very self-conscious of. I've come to realize that red hair is pretty sexy and due to its relative rarity can be quite attractive to those who appreciate it for all its awesomeness. Tons of literary figures throughout history have been red haired, although often red haired folks were utilized as a literary device to reaffirm stereotypes, particularly in terms of perceived English superiority to the Irish and Scottish, but either way a shout-out is a shout-out in my book. My friends tease me and call me a day-walker, as I'm able to get pretty tan if I try, although with a family history of skin cancer, I try my best to avoid getting too much sun, and wear sunscreen religiously. Pale skin is beautiful, and red hair is unique and something I've finally learned to appreciate. So take it easy on the ginger kids, please, we're kinda rare, and may be barely treading water in the gene pool.


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      russ 6 years ago

      I couldn't have put it better myself. Great post Julia, I am a 43 year old man, and have a 8 year son, we both have red hair. I am going to print this and let him read it when he has a bad day with the bullies. Thanks, Russ.

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      sam 8 years ago

      geeze julia, extinct by 2100? not cool at all. i'm going to put some ginger kids into this world.

    • juliarg profile image

      juliarg 8 years ago

      thank you!

    • E. A. Wright profile image

      E. A. Wright 8 years ago from New York City

      Beautifully written article ... and beautiful hair.