My identity is made up of many parts (isn’t everybody’s) and I like to think that I am more or less all right with all of those parts, but I didn’t used to be. I’m Irish, a writer and an oldest child. These parts I have always been fine with. Before I was finished with high school I realized that I was an activist (INFJ to the very core), liberal and a Buffy fanatic (the best television show of all time – period). One of the things that I am most proud of today was something I always tried to hide growing up. I know this may shock you with the title of my blog, pictures, and my bio page, but I am also a redhead. I am darn proud of that fact and yet for the first twenty years of my life, I was anything but.
When I was in growing up I kept my hair short. Technically, I didn’t have much choice in the matter because my parents demanded it, but I could have put up a fight if I disagreed strongly, and I didn’t. My hair was curly and in the fourth grade a few boys teased me, “Do you use a curling iron on your hair in the morning?” Sure it was a weak insult, but to me that is exactly what it was. (To be honest the fourth grade was bad enough – divorce, moving several times, a new school that I hated and that was the tip of the iceberg – it was a defining year to say the least.)
My hair wasn’t just curly, it was coppery. It wasn’t as noticeable when it was short (nearly buzz short), but when the sun hit it right way it gave away my purposely understated scarlet mop. Every year my hair worked in the reverse that you hear about, in terms of hair changing color. I went from auburn to copper to firecracker red before my hair seemed to settle for bright, in your face, here it is, bordering Carrot Top territory, red. I would say that I could use him as an example of my curls, but honestly, my curls became even worse. (Funny story, the redder my hair became the tighter and crazier my curls became. I have no idea why, but I digress.) I used to think that every summer the sun would lighten my already reddish hair by at least three shades. My brother’s hair did the same, except he went from light brown to blonde. The difference was that by the end of fall he was back to brown and my hair never did go back. It happened every summer and just kept getting lighter and lighter.
I decided to take matters into my own hands and dye my hair, but I never got it right because as I know now, red hair can be very difficult to dye. I started with medium browns. I figured my parents wouldn’t notice a change unless it was drastic and while they never said I couldn’t dye my hair (I never asked) I was certain they would have a problem with it because I wanted to do it. That was the way it worked when I was ten. I followed the box instructions and it was easy enough to do when your hair is only an inch or so long. By the time I was in high school, when it became acceptable to dye my hair, I tried blonde and black, but I am far too pale to pull either color off, so I stuck with browns. I never dyed my hair red though, what would be the point?
By the time I got to college, the hair dye got a little out of hand. At one point during my junior year I dyed my hair every few days. Partly because I was curious, but mostly because I couldn’t get a color to take like I wanted it to. My hair was longer now and it was as if the natural red in my hair had finally had enough, so in December 2004, I chopped it all off. I decided, “I’m going to stay natural. To hell with it.” And I did.
It was only when I started to embrace this part of my identity that I realized I couldn’t have chosen a better hair color for myself. Opinionated? Check. Blunt? Check. The kind of person you never want to cross, just in case the stories are true? Check and check. Stubborn as all hell? Triple check! While I had never bothered to investigate redheads, their traits or history, the only good I saw in it was that I was sure it meant I was adopted. Neither of my parents were gingers and no one else in my family was either.
I later learned that I was both right and wrong. None of my cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles or other relatives were redheads (at least ones that weren’t seconds or thirds, I never could keep track of them) but all four of my grandparents were! My mom’s dad died years before I was born, my grandma had gone blonde by the time I was a toddler, my grandpa’s hair had turned white as did my other grandma’s hair. Pictures of them when they were younger were always black and white photos. How was I supposed to know?
I have always embraced my inner red by just being who I am. I never realized that my directness or other personality traits could be blamed on the hair I was hiding. My problem with authority (and yet I have never been in trouble with the law), desire to fight the power on the premise that it always corrupts, fiery nature and sharp tongue were never covered up by the dye in my hair or my ignorance to these (quite justified in my experience) stereotypes.
Of course, now I own my red hair as much as I have always owned my inner red. I have for the last ten years. Being a redhead is awesome and one my favorite and most fun parts about me, more than a hair color, but down to my very core. Let’s face it; everyone needs a little red in their lives.