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Seeing Red June 5, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Personal.
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Better dead than red. That was my mother’s take on red hair. So it was my misfortune to have been born with red hair (as was my mother’s). There are gorgeous photos of my mother in college, but alas they’re all in black and white. So, there’s not even any hard evidence that my mother ever was a redhead.

My mother always felt that her red hair made her stand out, something she was loathe to do. As a child, I watched her mix the magic solution that changed her hair to a color that can best be called basic brown.

She mixed two shades of Nice ‘n Easy hair color to get just the right color for me. I called it “House Mouse Brown.” Can hair actually look beige?

Many people assume that with my red hair and green eyes, I must be of Irish ancestry. But my ancestors were from England, Wales, Scotland, and Germany. Scotland actually has the highest proportion of redheads with 13 percent having red hair and 40 percent possessing the recessive red hair gene. Even my father had reddish sideburns that emerged in middle age and remained red long after his hair started going gray.

While my hair was strawberry blond, my younger brother’s hair was carrot red. My mother tried to talk my brother into dying his hair too, but his defiant “stage” outlasted mine.

What I didn’t know (and what my mother didn’t tell me) was that for centuries “red hair was thought to be a mark of a beastly sexual desire and moral degeneration.” Hey, that’s me to a T!  To learn more, check out Redheads: Myths, Legends, and Famous Red Hair.

In college, I let my hair revert back to its natural color. And I finally quit trying to straighten my hair. I had a virtual mushroom cloud of golden red curls and, for the first time in my life, I was okay with my hair. In fact, I actually quite liked it.

My friend Lesley in England is a gorgeous cheeky redhead, and she’s joined a Facebook group called “Ginger – It’s not a hair colour, it’s an ethnicity and a way of life.” That’s where I got the photo above. I had fun reading through the group’s invitation to “live the ginger life.” (I’m still adjusting to this “ginger” thing.  It didn’t help that they did an entire episode on South Park on “gingers.”)

I keep my hair cut shorter now. I tell my hair stylist to think of my hair as a native shrub – low maintenance. There are entire weeks where I simply run my hands through my hair and that’s that.  But now I know – better red than dead!

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And eat men like air.

Sylvia Plath


1. CZBZ - June 5, 2009

A native Shrub? ROFL!!

My sister has red hair. My grandmother had red hair. My father had red hair until he lost it. He’s been looking all over the farm for his ‘native shrub’ but I don’t think he’s ever gonna find it! ha!

I’ll have to get my sister to read your blog entry! When she grew up, she absolutely HATED her hair. Maybe ‘DREAD’ is a better word to describe it. All the kids at school called her Colonel Redhead.

Now that she’s older, she loves the color of her hair…but it took several decades to heal the trauma of being the only redhead in grade school.

Fun post…thank you!



2. Bev from england - June 5, 2009

have to refer to catherine tate again….

watch and enjoy !


Bev – This is HILARIOUS! For the record, I don’t have freckles and certainly no freckly arms. OMG, maybe I’m not ginger enough! I’m willing to start my own “ginger refuge.” Conan O’Brien could be our mascot, but I’m voting for Simon Baker. Jan


3. Catherine Sherman - June 7, 2009

This is hilarious, and I loved the Catherine Tate video, too. My mother’s father had red hair, although she said she never saw it. It was just a legend. It was gray by the time she was born. (He was 40, the old goat! And there three more after her.) There were 40 grandchildren, but none with red hair, but some of the grandchildren could be “carriers”! One niece, a greatchild, is a reddish blond. I have freckles! My father used to sing, “She has freckles on her but, she’s nice.” I got my freckles from him. I’ve gone on long enough about family history.


4. elissestuart - June 7, 2009

The video is hilarious. I’ll have to cllick back to have hubby watch. My father had mahogany red hair when my mother met him; now it’s snowy white. When he would grow a beard it was even a darker shade of red. Hubby was born with strawberry blond hair that would get lighter in the summer. He always called himself the ugly red-haired step child. (He wasn’t.)
Attend any extended family gathering and you would see various shades of red. When hubby had chemo many years ago, all his hair fell out except for a few strands. We weren’t sure what color it would grow back in as. It came in thick, wavy and dark red.
And boy has he got freckles.
“She’s got freckles on her but, she’s nice” was part of my family history too! I’ve always wondered if there were any other verses to that song!

Elisse – Googler than I am, I found the song lyrics. I’d never even heard of it. Who would have known? Enjoy. Jan

(Harry Stewart / Larry Vincent)

I’ve got a girl that I’m just simply wild about
Folks say I’m a lucky boy
Everywhere we go people rave about
This little bundle of joy

She’s got freckles on her but she is nice
And when she’s in my arms it’s paradise
She smells like a rose from her head down to her toes
She’s got freckles on her but she is nice

She’s got freckles on her but she is nice
And when she’s in my arms it’s paradise
All the sailors give her a chase
‘Cause they love her navel base
She’s got freckles on her but she is nice

She’s got freckles on her but she is nice
And when she’s in my arms it’s paradise
She’s like my Nellie from her head down to her elbow
She’s got freckles on her but she is nice

She’s got freckles on her but she is nice
And when she’s in my arms it’s paradise
With old men she likes to neck
She necks the wrecks and gets a check
She’s got freckles on her but she is nice

She’s got freckles on her but she is nice
And when she’s in my arms it’s paradise
She was born in Hackensack
She made a fortune on her career
She’s got freckles on her but she is nice

She’s got freckles on her but she is nice
And when she’s in my arms it’s paradise
She drinks until she gets plastered
She gets drunker than my brother

She’s got freckles on her but she is nice.


5. Bev from england - June 7, 2009

glad ur all enjoying the video….im sure there are more sketches from the ginger group too ! its soooo funny…

ive always loved red hair and dont understand the reason red isnt good….my german friends were totally bemused by the whole idea…seems its ok to be red in germany ( they have other issues of course lol 😉 )

my eldest daughter must have a tiny bit of red in her cos shes v freckly but blond ! so she too has freckles but is nice 😉


Bev – Above your link to the video, I’ve linked Catherine Tate’s name to the Wikipedia entry. It mentions her character’s trademarked expression, “Am I bovvered?” Interesting lady indeed. Jan


6. elissestuart - June 7, 2009

Jan –
Hubby tells me that Dr. Demento used to play the song often on his radio show. I thought we might have it in our collection so I could tell you who wrote it. Glad you found the lyrics.

Elisse – I’ve added the writers’ names and yes, Dr. Demento did play a version of it. That was there on Google as well. I was going to add a clip off of youtube, but Richard heard it in the next room and said, “What the hell is that?!!!” I decided if someone is THAT into the song, they can find it themselves. 🙂 Jan


7. janelleholden - June 10, 2009

So, I too have red hair. Born with carrot red, and now what would be described as a strawberry blonde. Never bothered me to be red, except that I wish I had some sort of tan gene in my body. Glad you’re enjoying the ginger lifestyle!

Janelle – The funny thing is that I always loved my red hair – it was my mother who had a problem with it. I’m sure Freud could have a field day with THAT one. I don’t have a single freckle, so I do tan (or did). Now begs the question – Where did that tan gene come from? Jan


8. Katie Spain - June 25, 2009

Hi Jan!
You left a comment on my blog (katiespain.wordpress.com) I do plastic bag crochet sculptures… I will be happy to help you figure out a lesson for kids involving plastic!
They could make jumpropes? How old are they?
I just taught a bunch of people how to make plastic into yarn ( and crochet it), and the biggest stumbling block in the class was teaching the people who didn’t know how to crochet how to at the same time as teaching the other more advanced people how to do more complex things.
Fun! Challenges are great! And I think kids could really get into making bags into other things.
I also have red hair! I really like this blog! And I am SO going to join that facebook group! I really love that Sylvia Plath quote, and am going to have to look into the mythology of us gingers.

Katie –
My students are 8-9 and making jump ropes is a FABULOUS idea. We’re getting into recycling and my school has an emphasis on the arts, so I can teach them to do things “in the name of art.” I taught them how to stitch (sew) and they did a fabulous job using the needles I’d made with paperclips. I’d love any input. I’m out of school for the summer, but it’s never too early to plan. Jan


9. Katie Spain - June 25, 2009

Hi Jan…

I’d check out youtube for videos of how to make plastic bags into “yarn”. All the kids will need is scissors then. Then you could just braid the ‘yarn’. That’s the easiest thing I can think of. You could even use curled up plastic cups for handles (add tape probably). Something like that. Some other recycled thing. Toilet paper tubes?

One thing I like to tell people about in the workshops that I do is the great pacific garbage patch. It’s a lot of plastic bits about the size of Texas, out in the sea between us and Hawaii, about the center of the currents. In the north pacific gyre, I think. Anyhow, seabirds eat the little bits of plastic, they think it’s food.
This is a great thing to tell people about to make them want to recycle more plastic!

What a great lesson! I am excited! I may use this jumprope idea too – sometime I am sure I will teach kids how to reuse plastic bags.

Thanks for the blog comment too! I’ll keep on posting – but you are the first person to comment so far! Yay new things!

If you need any more plastic bag input let me know… I just got married but I have a website under my old name still – http://www.kathleensimpson.info – with some more photos of plastic bag sculptures. And by the time the school year is starting I’ll have http://www.KatieSpain.com, so the kids can see what people are doing with the bags besides throwing them away!

Yay art!

Best, Katie

Katie – Sounds great! We had an assembly and the guy showed a film that showed a massive mound of plastic bottles floating out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. After that, my students decided that they needed a water bottle they could refill. We were able to phase out plastic in our classroom, but it took some getting used to. I’m looking for things to do next year, so this sounds great. Jan


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