Red Let­ter

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My next door neigh­bour when I was a kid was the on­go­ing ob­ject of my envy. For one, she was a star bal­le­rina. And then she had loads of sib­lings, in­clud­ing adorable baby twins. But most of all she had long, wavy, dark red hair. “Auburn,” my mother called it in a tone of re­spect. LUCKY.

All the hero­ines in the books I read had the same thing – Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Long­stock­ing... two long fiery plaits that the au­thor would stress de­noted a feisty, in­de­pen­dent, spe­cial spirit. I stud­ied my bor­ing brown hair in the sun­light – at the right an­gle it was ac­tu­ally a lit­tle bit red, wasn’t it?

Need­less to say I was slow to pick up on the sup­posed stigma of be­ing gin­ger. One night I was at a teenage party with a friend who of­ten got into ar­gu­ments with strangers. That night was no ex­cep­tion. I came in on the end of a heated ex­change, as a guy walked away yelling in­sults. “I called him a ginge,” she ex­plained. “A what?” A ginge, you know, gin­ger...” “And he didn’t like that?” My eyes were opened. Peo­ple were mean to red­heads! But why? It’s the coolest colour. And how, in this cen­tury, can we cor­ner one group based on their pig­men­ta­tion and make them the re­peated tar­get of dumb break­fast ra­dio hu­mour?

We can’t. Red­heads are fight­ing back. See page 10.

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