Why did God make me this way?
I'm in the minority of the population, having the misfortune to be born with red hair.
Curly, bright red hair!
I can tell my parents are embarrassed by my unusual mane; neither of them share this trait. When people inquire about this discrepancy, Dad makes jokes about extended “visits” by the mailman. Mom laughs and says I was switched at birth. My cousins refer to me a “redheaded stepchild.”
When I was young, people used cutesy names like red, rusty, or woodpecker (and the shortened, pecker). I was addressed by the name of other famous redheads, like Clarabelle (that one was before my time, but I found out and was not happy), Opie, Ronald McDonald, Howdy Doody and Peppermint Patti.
There were also variations of fruits and vegetables—tomato, ‘mater-head, carrot top, strawberry and chili pepper.
I’m sure they all meant well and most probably did it in good fun, but it was hurtful to me.
“Where did I get this red hair?” I asked my parents.
They smiled and said it was just a fluke.
Dad vaguely remembered a distant uncle who also had red hair, but seemed reluctant to talk about him. They assured me of their love, but I think they secretly wished they had an answer as well.
People assumed because I had red hair, I had a temper.
Or that I was Irish.
I didn’t want to be stereotyped or stigmatized.
Something had to be done.
I didn’t want to be a...redhead.
As I got old enough to make some of my own decisions, I tried to cover it up, and took to wearing hats. I would dress in such a way to call attention away from that hair.
Mom tried to be supportive, but how could she understand? She was born with straight, beautiful, dark brown hair.
Dad said there was always the chance I'd "grow out it." He pointed out a deacon at church, saying when this man was a kid, he’d had very red hair, but as he got older, it darkened. Now it looked more brownish-bronze.
The hope of that hair-transforming possibility kept me sane during high school.
At school, there was another kid who not only had red hair, but she colored it to make it almost orange. I could not understand how she could flaunt this defect so blatantly. It made me queasy, and I refused to be seen with her.
Once I graduated from high school, and out of my parent’s control, I made that difficult decision. I was tired of being defined by my hair and I was not comfortable being in the minority.
I didn’t want to be…like this.
I could change!
I would dye my hair.
I knew better than to attempt such a radical change by myself, so I went to a professional and endured the tedious process. As a redhead, there was no way to go for something as popular blonde, so I opted for the more conventional and conservative dark brown. That way, I could blend in with the majority of the population. I would fit into a society that valued locks of a more traditional hue.
When it was done and I looked in the mirror, it was stunning. So many emotions flooded me—delight, pride and excitement. There were even a few tears at the transformation.
I was a new person!
I’m a brunette.
I’m not…NOT…a redhead.
The first week with my new hair color was amazing. I felt different, and it seemed people treated me differently. I loved getting out of the shower and combing my hair.
My brown hair.
But after that first week, as I coiffed my hair in the mornings, I began to notice a slight ruby tinge peeking through.
That didn’t last long, I sighed to myself.
I decided this required a more drastic solution. I asked my stylist if there anything we could do that would be more…permanent.
“I never want to be a redhead,” I pleaded. “Can’t we change it to brown…forever?”
She was kind and supportive, but told me it was...genetic. Since I’d been born a redhead, all we could do was continue regular treatments. It would be a life-long process of keeping my red hair hidden from myself and the world.
But my stylist was wrong. I could not keep it hidden from myself. I thought about it every time I looked into the mirror. I would bend close to see if my scarlet secret was emerging again. I finally began buying my own hair color to use during those periods between treatments. It was exhausting and expensive, but I refused to be a redhead.
The thought of spending the rest of my life hiding my hair color from the world is a bit daunting, but what else can I do? I need to conform. I need to be accepted.
I don’t want to be a redhead.
If only I’d been born…normal.
Why did God make me this way?
DISCLAIMER: This story is fiction. I am not a redhead, though I happen to love redheads in general and one in specific!
No redheads were harmed in the writing of this fabrication. Any resemblance to real redheads or real-life situations is purely…allegorical.