Thursday, June 05, 2003
I'm A Neanderthal Man
One of the reasons I've never signed up for one of those
Most of the questions pose no problem. Colour of eyes (blue). Body definition (good). Type I usually go for (pulse preferable, not essential). I can rush them off without thinking. And then comes the Big One. Hair-colour. Black? Definitely not. Blond? No. Grey? Do us a favour! Brown? Well, no, not exactly, er, I mean, you wouldn't really call it brown...
Which leaves me with just the one dreaded alternative in the drop-down list. Red. Yes, that's right. Not auburn, or copper or strawberry blonde; not Titian, or russet or fuchsia; not even burgundy, or magenta or fawn. But red. Red, red, red. And we all know what that really means, don't we? Yes. That's right. Ginger.
When I was small, I really was a ginger-headed leprechaun. Nowadays, my hair has matured into the colour of mulched autumn leaves (although with my new Compton Crop you'd never tell). But all the ginger insults still get lobbed my way - ginge, ginger-minger, copper-nob, traffic light, even carrot-top (which is actually green, but never mind).
On a woman this hair-colouring is fine. With the exception of Cilla Black, red-headed women have always enjoyed a universal reputation for being desirable and sexy, tempestuous and passionate. Take a look at Rita Hayworth or Nicole Kidman or Jessica Rabbit
On the other hand, we red-headed lads have always received a bad press, even when that press was in hieroglyphics. In Ancient Egypt they buried us alive; the enlightened Greeks just thought we were insane. At best, we've been considered untrustworthy, duplicitous and unlucky to know. At worst, we're the flame-haired seed of Old Nick himself (another red-head by the way), and have been burnt as witches before now.
Apparently, Judas Iscariot was ginger, and he betrayed Jesus Christ. Napoleon had red hair, and was French, which is a far greater crime. And Les Battersby is, well, Les Battersby. The only consolation we have is that Lord Byron was also One Of Us, even if his reputation of being mad, bad and dangerous to know just confirms the stereotype.
And yet there are no support groups for we red-heads, and only one or two dedicated websites. We have no private clubs where we can mix with Our Own Kind, no weekly freesheets, and we'd be jeered even more should we ever take to the streets to demand our Right to be Red.
We Reds make up between 2 – 5 per cent of the population. This sort of prejudice and name-calling wouldn't be tolerated against any other minority without voices being raised in Parliament, Peter Tatchell chaining himself to a railing, or, at the very least, Bono doing a benefit concert. There's even some serious scientific talk that, alone among homo sapiens, the Reds have inherited their genes from Neanderthals. Which makes me extinct, I suppose, a member of yet another bleedin' minority.
So give us a break. We Reds are every bit as Good As You, you know. And what's more, we're starting to get a little annoyed with all this blatant erythrophobia (look it up) around. And you know what they say about red-heads and their tempers, don't you?
(And, before you ask, and to spare you any embarrassment, yes, they are.)