A universal fact of coming of age is that everyone has certain obstacles to overcome. Maybe you're shorter than everyone else in your grade, perhaps you haven't quite "filled out" yet, it's highly likely that acne will be a part of your early years—or maybe you have a combination of numerous shortcomings. Not everyone is born a Ryan Gosling, a Ryan Reynolds, or any of the other conventionally hot Canadian Ryans. However, only 1–2% of the human population can say that they overcame the self-consciousness of being a ginger.
All I wanted as a young boy was for there to be a redhead version of Chad Michael Murray.
In pop culture memory, redheads have often been portrayed as goofy and strange. Never desirable. Representation in media was claimed by Carrot Top and Chucky from The Rugrats. All I wanted as a young boy was for there to be a redhead version of Chad Michael Murray. I needed a sunset-hued hero to prove to myself that my recessive genes were just as good as everyone else's. Thankfully, I at least had Ginger Spice.
As a tween, I was the token ginger kid. My gingerness seemed to eclipse all other initial impressions I could give. My twin brother and I were to be defined by our red hair first; an appreciation for our talents came later, like my ability to lip-sync Hilary Duff's Metamorphosis album after school.
The first time I bleached my hair I was around six or seven. I wanted "frosted tips," as they were lovingly called. At the time, I loved it—I felt aesthetically closer to Chad Michael Murray. Over the years, I've rubbed bleach into my hair more times than I can count, not realizing that I was just using the hydrogen peroxide to hide from my true self. At the time, I was sorting out some other aspects of my identity as well: If you couldn't pick this up from the Hilary Duff performances, yas, I also turned out highly gay 🎉.
In the current depressing political and social unrest, I believe that people are becoming more aware of the lame tendency that humans have to judge people based on their outward appearance.
The turning point in my ginger identity came on November 9, 2005, when South Park aired an episode simply called "Ginger Kids." The comedy positioned kids with red hair, pale skin, and freckles, as a group of others to be taunted and discriminated against. In reality, the episode was intended to be a potent satire on racial discrimination. The years following that episode, however, saw the birth of "National Kick a Ginger Day." Google it: Across the world, kids with red hair came home with bruises and bloody noses because of how they looked.
From that moment forward, I simply stopped looking at my red hair as one of life's curveballs. Instead, it was time for the first wave of ginger empowerment—it was time to reclaim what it meant to be a ginger in the 21st century. Now I sit here, 23 years old, beyond thankful for the red hair bestowed upon me by my Irish ancestors. Over the years, I have to come realize how incredibly powerful our unique quirks and traits can be. Having a rare hair color is one major factor that can set you apart in the minds of your peers. It makes you feel special. And I've realized that being different from the group is an extreme asset. Instead of looking in the mirror and seeing Reba McEntire staring back (no shade, I love you, Reba), I see myself!
Looking around, there seem to be more and more examples of popular, hot reds on the scene. Michael Fassbender, Eddie Redmayne, and Prince Harry are on everyone's list. There is definitely a growing, well-deserved appreciation of our redheaded brothers and sisters in the public sphere. In the current depressing political and social unrest, I believe that people are becoming more aware of the lame tendency that humans have to judge people based on their outward appearance.There aren't many things much more emotionally liberating than coming to love the way you look. I've learned from my stylists that red hair is one of the most requested tones in the hair salon, and it's the toughest hair color to maintain. This means that I get the color of the season, every season, effortlessly. Still waiting on a red-haired emoji though.
Follow me, @ryanduffin if you like cats or anything of the sort.