Right off the bat, this post is not about the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers nor their red team colors. It is not about the ubiquitous team cheer, “Go Big Red”.
Big Red is the nick name given to me by the assistant manager of the grocery store I worked through my college years. I once asked David why he addressed me as Big Red and not my given name. I had believed that he had been teasing me in a contrary way–because I was very skinny and my hair was brilliantly red. David explained that “Red” is a common nickname for redheads, and that he called me “Big” in order to boost my self-esteem.
With that explanation under my belt, I felt much better. I thanked my lucky stars to have such a perceptive, kind-hearted boss. From that day forward, to hear my boss call me “Big Red” over the store’s intercom speakers gave me a psychological boost.
To have orange hair when you’re a child, especially a boy, means you’re probably going to get teased and bullied in school and on the playground. If you’re the only redheaded boy in class, you’re going to stick out like a sore thumb. Looking back, having been cursed (or blessed) with red hair helped to give me a strong personality.
Today is National “Love Your Red Hair Day”. This is the perfect time to reminisce about growing up red and how having this type of hair color affects kids and adults. Of course, redheads are not a monolithic subculture. Female redheads often have more positive childhood experiences. The two girls with red hair, Linda and Tracy, were very popular classmates. Linda was a knockout-gorgeous girl who should have been a fashion model. Tracy was pretty in a rustic, freckle-faced way. Tracy also had that stereotypical redheaded temper. She commanded respect.
Although my first seventeen years were spent in redhead hell, I think that overall, it not only toughened me up, but helped me feel in league with other minority status people. Having ginger hair helped to foster a “bigotry sonar” that has been much more effective than my “gaydar”.
Being a boy with red hair, I always wanted to fit in better. Having the full redhead physical traits made that challenging. The bright white skin that sunburns very easily, and freckles that are a pox to adolescence, were very easy to dislike. These days, I understand how being different has actually been a boon to my life.
If you’re a natural redhead or love a natural redhead go out of your way today to celebrate National Love Your Red Hair Day.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes British actor, comedian, screenwriter, and novelist, Mark Gatiss. “I grew up with low self-esteem. I didn’t think I was very pretty. I had glasses, red hair and was generally quite a spod.”