Why Having Red Hair Has Proven To Be My Crowning Glory
Who needs a soul when you have a glorious mane?
From when I was young I always had everyone touching my hair. If my hair was in reach, it would most certainly attract a crowd of middle-aged Jewish women, cooing and stroking. Now, this sounds incredibly intrusive and uncomfortable - well, as a young girl growing up in the North West London Jewish community, you get used to having your personal space invaded daily. As a toddler I was blessed with a halo of red curls, similar to that of Ronald MacDonald of the fast-food franchise. Adored and loved by many, my mother's gaggle of friends would make pilgrimages to our house, just to catch a glimpse of the prodigal ginger. I was constantly told I had beautiful hair, that I was lucky to be so distinguishable and have such a unique quality. My grandfather affectionately called me 'Ginger-Bonce', to the chagrin of my cousins who did not share this bond. I was not the only redhead in my family either; my sister, father, grandparents, and an assortment of aunts and uncles on both sides had inherited the gene. We were the Weasleys, characterised by our titian locks and love for mismatched jumpers.
At primary school my hair blended seamlessly with my personality, and the two were never separate. I was the 'funny redhead', easily marked in games of tag or hide-and-seek. It never seemed to be an issue with anyone, never a joke. If anything, the fact that embodied the perfect trifecta of being asthmatic, nut allergic and poor-sighted was more laughable. My hair took a back-seat.
By the age of 12, I had started secondary school, a definite blow to my self-esteem already due to the fact that I was absurdly different. Having been previously rewarded for my humour and quirks, I was now smirked at and scorned. I quickly learnt the art of pre-teen and abandoned the limelight for the dark corners of the library. My school was single-sex, but there was an adjoining gate leading to the neighbouring boys' school. After a few initial trips I decided to not return. The other girls, the majority of them Jewish, were skinny brunettes with sparkling wit. I languished amongst the books, transforming from Ginny Weasley to orphan Annie. My lack of friends, self-confidence and abrupt outburst of teenage-acne culminated in using my hair as a shield, growing it so as to hide my face. If I could not disguise my hair, I would vehemently use it as a distraction. My concerned family sent me off that summer to camp, a tradition common for young Jews in the community. "You'll have fun!" they promised, their words of encouragement becoming echoes of doubt. Sure enough, it was the Summer from Hell, only a confirmation that I was certifiably ugly. Surrounded by the dark-heads of loud, teenagers, I stood out like a bright red, sore thumb. The lack of interest from boys soon manifested into teasing, and then straight-out bullying. One particular boy saw it as his mission to harass me, and label me as 'Satsuma'. I begged my mother to let me come home, but she assured me that this was their way of being friendly, that this was how boys let you know they liked you. I already knew at aged thirteen that this wasn't true, and that this was my first exposure to fuckboys.
From that summer I retreated from the world, hiding behind my ever-growing, ever-brightening hair. To only be able to hide behind the thing you hate, it was the biggest irony.
Two years later I discovered the contraceptive pill and the wonders it could do to my skin, and more importantly, hair-dye. I was always discouraged from dyeing my hair, always taught to love it. But how could I love something that in my community represented the complete opposite of what was considered attractive? My only option was to run from it, rather than accept.
It was only really once I had got to University that I fully embraced my hair. My first and current boyfriend at aged nineteen loves it and tells me so. I am at peace with my hair now, something that I had originally loved and had grown to detest. I feel almost like I betrayed myself, like I had begun to hate something that was an integral part of me. But what I have since learned is that confidence stems from how you feel about yourself, rather than how others feel about you. I needed to find a balance between the two extremes - relalise that I could have a healthy relationship with my hair that was neither dependent nor hateful. . I had felt ostracised by my community, but perhaps this was a skewed perception. Fuckboys are fuckboys and some girls will always be mean. I just need to learn how to love who I am, and accept that orange really is the new black.