Some people are known as the “token black” in their group or whatever other minority group they happen to be in. I’m often known as the token redhead. Because I’m a token, people only look to me to see the things that are stereotypical of a redhead…not to see the real person that lies beneath the hair.
It’s kind of funny to be associated more with your hair color than your personality. Over the years, I got used to being the one who was associated with having red hair, as it is a rarity in my area to have red hair. I also grew up loathing it. I wanted to be myself and not this girl that everyone expected me to be.
I wanted to be normal. I wanted to be blonde. I didn’t want to be the redhead. To be a redhead meant that for some reason, unknown to me, I had been given this genetic fluke card and been told that I had to look and act a certain way. At least if I was blonde or even brunette, people wouldn’t expect this sense of having to act a certain way. Well, maybe they would expect stupidity from a blonde, but they would be amazed when I would show them that I was actually smart.
I hated that people expected me to have this fiery temper, which, though I did have one, it was actually because of my parents, who were not redheads, and not because I was born with red hair. I hated that people expected me to be evil or wanted me to be dead, which, in case you don’t know, is actually true of some people. (There are people who actually want to exterminate redheads because we’re either evil or don’t fit the norm.) I hated that there were all these expectations that I had to live up to. Stereotypes that, to me, felt unfulfilled because I was desperately trying to prove my uniqueness as a person.
I tried dyeing my hair in 10th grade, but I only managed a deeper shade of red. This only got me slapped by one friend who insisted that I had just done something completely horrible by defiling my hair. I also tried temporary pink and purple streaks to show that I was an individual. Though this was loved by my female friends, it was seen as something horrible by my male friends. I dyed my hair again in college. This time I chose dark brown. For once, I finally looked like and felt like a member of my own family. As the color gradually faded and ended up light auburn again, I felt like I was back to being the queen of unfulfilled expectations.
I don’t dare complain to my friends about the difficulty of being the redhead. It would not appease them to know that I felt ashamed of my hair because of their expectations. It would not be helpful for them to know that I felt completely left out because of my hair. They would just look at me and wonder how this girl who was “blessed” (their words, not mine) with red hair could be so far from thankful that she was given this “gift” and chose to hate it, instead of be grateful for it.
I’m not as much of a self-loathing redhead as I once was. I now like having red hair. I still hate being the only redhead in a group, though. I still find it funny when my mom and I go to places like Wal-Mart and find other redheads that my mom automatically has to go crazy over how beautiful the hair is, while I feel this unique connection with the redhead in question because I know of the difficulties of being the redhead. I know what it’s like to be in their position, and I have to wonder if they hate it as much as I did.