Having red hair definitely draws attention and makes me quickly noticed, but not usually in a good way. I never felt I really fit in, anywhere. I didn’t grow up with a lot of friends, I was always the “odd ball” or “had too much energy” or “weird.” Growing up, I attended a Catholic School starting in Kindergarten all the way through 8th grade. I was with the same group of people from beginning to end, some new kids would come and go, but there was a core group of us. I liked the feeling of knowing everyone and seeing the same people every day, it felt safe. However, it didn’t mean that I really fit in. I was different and I always knew that. I had a lot of energy and was a big weirdo. Being a red head, I was teased on the playground and still to this day I get comments about my hair and looks. There is no avoiding it! On the playground it was “Freckle Face!” “Carrot Top!”, which then only grew worse once I reached high school. It was those moments that began to push me out, and from then on I allowed myself to be the outcast.
In high school, I was ashamed of my red hair. I never fully accepted it and appreciated it. I remember always trying to die it, any color, but mostly trying to lighten it so it was more blonde. However, my hair didn’t take die very well and nothing ever stuck. One time, I actually took liquid bleach to my hair. Nothing happened, just frizzed the shit out it. Having red hair in high school was quite embarrassing because people wanted to reference other parts of my body. In college, the comments continued but it turned into more outrageous things that I had never heard before. I received comments such as “Oh, you have red hair, you must be a freak in the sheets” and “Watch out, we have a red head amongst us, don’t piss her off” and “You have red hair, that means you are temperamental.” So, not only did I feel like an outcast, I felt as though people thought I was a bitch, just from having red hair. Then it kept increasing, strangers more often than I can count would say to me “Wow! You must burn really easily, I bet you have to wear a lot of sunblock!” and “It sure is sunny today, did you wear your sunblock?” I always wondered, did people really care about the future of my skin or did it make them feel better to point this out in public, amongst other people? I’ll never really know, but one thing is for sure, in my young adulthood and into my early twenties, it made me feel uncomfortable. I always felt I had to prove that I really did get a slight tan from the sun, but people always believed that my freckles were connecting. That I was really only getting a freckle tan. The majority of my life I have tried to change myself to avoid the comments and to “fit in” with the crowd. That to be desirable, I need to have tan skin, and blonde or brown hair. I quickly learned, through my substitute teaching days, that now red heads don’t have a soul. “South Park” had an episode on red heads, taking over the town and stealing everyone’s souls. One might think, oh people don’t say those types of things as you get older. Wrong! Just the other day, I was enjoying a beer and a burger at a local pub. This married guy insisted on opening up conversation with me. We lightly talked about our partners, business and the like. Then the conversation turned to “You red heads are freaks, you are all crazy!” There it was, the ugly truth. People still have weird belief systems around red heads and I know what they think when they see me.
It’s interesting though, because as I have reflected on all the hurtful things people have said to me, I realized a lot of people have complimented me on my red hair. But, I chose to let the negative comments stick with me instead. One time, I was browsing a yard sale and this older man sitting on his walker shouted to me, “Wow! You’re like a unicorn you know!?” I uttered, “what?” He continued, “red heads are like unicorns, you are so special and rare, it’s like encountering a unicorn!” I remember feeling so incredibly special in that moment. Later on, I looked in the mirror and began to appreciate my hair. My hair is gorgeous! How did I ever let anyone cloud my vision of that!? From that day on, I began to embrace my hair and became more proud for being so unique! I don’t always see my red hair first, but it definitely makes me feel somewhat confident.
My now fiancé tells me every day how beautiful I am, how much he adores my red hair and freckles. He will say “Hey red head, you’re so pretty! What are your freckles telling me today?” He has helped me to not take myself so seriously when people say certain things to me and to just let it roll off my back. Which I have now accepted that no matter where you turn, someone is going to say something mean or have an opinion. I had to finally accept that I will never change anyone’s opinion of me, I can only change how I react to those opinions and I can change the opinion of myself. Remember when Lindsey Lohan began wearing that shirt with the saying “Team Fire Crotch?” It’s the same concept, once I began owning my red hair, I was able to disconnect and move on. I might not fully see myself as a beauty, but I have started looking at what makes me feel beautiful. I truly am like a unicorn and I love having such a unique hair color. Owning this aspect of myself is what has helped me on my path towards self-love.