What it’s really like to be a redhead

My dear friend and fellow blogger Franki Hobson wrote a blog this week called “What it’s really like to be ginger.”

It was sparked by the Ginger Pride Rally in Melbourne last week, organised by Buderim Ginger.

Over the years, Franki spent thousands of dollars on becoming a bottle redhead and noted “While I did it for compliments, many of my ginger-haired friends copped a mouthful of insults and experienced incessant bullying.”

It got me thinking about how my red hair has coloured my life.

I’ve been called many names, including – due to my surname – House on Fire.

Aaron Webb, cofounder of RANGA (Red and Nearly Ginger Association) told the ABC News that while it is frowned upon to discriminate people due to their race, gender or skin colour, people still find it funny to tease redheads.

“We’ve been called things like bluey, carrot top, copper top, fanta pants, rusty crotch, all sorts of things, blood nut is another one,” he says.

“We can either say don’t call us those names, or we can put such a positive attribute on those labels that they’re not negative any more.

“Be proud of being ginger. It’s fantastic.

“You might be copping it a bit now, but later on, you will be the desirable ones and the joke will be on the bullies.”

I was also accused of being a witch by other kids, which stung.

And it was a bit discomforting when I was living in Singapore to learn the colloquial name for foreigners was “ang mo” which translates as “red haired” and sprang up in the 16th century as a way to describe the “white devil” Dutch traders to the area. According to the Urban Dictionary, it’s now “regarded by many non-Chinese as a racist derogatory term used increasingly as a racial slur to describe Caucasians in Singapore and Malaysia.”

I hated having red hair when I was a teenager. My alabaster skin burned so easily, I couldn’t go to the beach all day like my friends, people made fun of me at school for wearing a hat in the playground, I was covered in freckles and was convinced no boy would ever find me attractive.

Then there were all the jokes about having a fiery temper and queries as to whether the carpet matched the drapes. Ho, ho, ho.

But, as an adult, I’ve made peace with my hair hue. Although I wish it didn’t mean body waxing hurt so much (redheads have the thickest, toughest strands).

I was gutted when grey strands started appearing. My colour isn’t found in the beauty aisle of a chemist or supermarket, so I pay a fortune to a hairdresser every six weeks to recreate a shade as close as she can to my original.

I could have any colour other than my natural one, but it’s come to define me, a bit like my unusual name. I wouldn’t be me without it. It’s what makes me unique.

I don’t know how many men have been turned off by my hair colour, I’m sure it’s not for everyone. But I’ve found some wonderful partners who’ve adored me, flaming locks and all.

I asked DD if he found redheads attractive (or unattractive) before he met me and he sweetly replied: “Beauty exists in all.”

Now I have a red-haired daughter who’s poised to become a teen. She tells me she’s never been bullied for her hair colour, which is wonderful.

I would hate for her self-esteem to be put through the ringer for being a “ranga.”

Much as modern society insists that it’s more important that our children know they are smart and resourceful and kind, they also need to look in the mirror and love the person who stares back at them.

I’m 48 and I’m still struggling with it.

Song of the day: Tim Minchin “Prejudice”

Erm, and this is a bit of a naughty one …

Bruce Springsteen “Red Headed Woman”






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