(1)We all know about racism; we even know about ageism; but do we really know about the daily jibes and abuse that is aimed at some people due to the colour of their hair appearing: odd, weird, strange, horrible, freaky... RED?
(2)Looking into the mirror I could see it: my long flowing hair causing me hours and hours of misery. Closing my eyes, I prayed it would disappear or even fade. No amount of makeup, hairstyles or different clothes masked my feelings of hatred for the hair I had been genetically inflicted with. ‘Hey Ginger, can I get a heat?’ is a phrase commonly repeated to people inflicted with red hair.
(3)From an early age the comments made to me about the colour of my hair have irritated me to my inner core. On my first day at Secondary School it was a scorching summer’s day. I felt so hot and nervous that beads of sweat formed on my forehead as I stood waiting in the playground. My heart was pounding and a strong feeling of trepidation strongly lingered as I wondered what my new teachers would be like.
(4)However, when I entered the school, that's when everything changed. I could hear them. I could hear the hyena-like laughs. I could hear the comments of ‘check the state of her hair. That's horrible’. At this, I felt like I had been ripped apart. I was in pain and just wanted to escape and not return. Tears began to obscure my vision as I desperately tried to escape and hide. I frantically rushed to the toilet and dreaded the rest of the day. Why did they have to say this to me? Why would they say such a thing? I just couldn't understand.
(5)A long time has now passed since these initial comments; unfortunately they continued on a regular basis. I would regularly beg and plead with my mother to dye my hair so that I could feel more ‘normal’. The hair styling aisle at the local supermarket would call to me as soon as it entered and mocked me as I left - minus any hair dye. Even my Uncle, at the birth of his daughter, said ‘Phew... for a minute I thought she had red hair, thank God it's not’. It is these types of remarks that really infuriate me. People may only utter these words for a few seconds, but these words resonate within your mind for years to come and eat away at you like a severe case of woodworm, eventually leading you to feel unworthy of functioning in the real world.
(6)Now that I have grown older, I still have red hair but I no longer feel so distressed about it. Looking back, I now understand that these people (or bullies) found something that - in their opinion - was my flaw. They pounced upon me like wild animals on their prey and succeeded in crushing my confidence.
More importantly though, I recently reached a crucial turning point. Last year a close friend of my family was diagnosed with cancer. I remember meeting her at the local supermarket and she had lost all of her hair; yet was still smiling. The pain and suffering that this gentle woman was experiencing was excruciating and much more extreme than any feelings that I had ever endured. She later passed away.
Her death seemed so unfair to me. When I received the news I was dazed and confused; this is what it really felt like to be ripped apart. My ludicrous, shallow worries about my hair colour were dramatically put into perspective and really made me re-evaluate what was important in life. For too long I have wasted time thinking about hair colour and appearance. Above all, I have now learned that it's OK to be different. I know that I was not the first person with red hair to be picked on, and I will not be the last.
(7)If I am truthful, I actually don't want to blend into the background - I just want to be me. The society we live in is looks obsessed but it doesn't mean that I have to be. I now like the fact that my hair is: odd, weird, freaky and dare I say... GINGER! Looking into the mirror, I now know that I am so worth it!