I have always felt that redheads were special. Anyone can have blonde, brown, or black hair, but only a select few have red hair. I only knew two redheads as a child — Sam, and of course, Linda. I had serious thing for redheaded Linda when I was in sixth grade.
Throughout history, redheads were either revered or burned at the stake as witches. Warts, moles, and freckles (common in redheads) were also considered “signs of the devil” by 15th century, when they murdered about 45,000 of those afflicted, solving the mystery why redheads were becoming scarce in those days.
An old medical colleague, Rick, had a real thing for redheads. We could be in a crowded conference room with a few hundred people. Should a redhead walk-in, his “red-dar” would start beeping and he would swoop over and make his move.
It is apparently lucky to rub your hand on a redhead’s hair, but don’t try this on a strange woman at the mall or you may end up in jail. Your amorous cellmate could have red hair. This would not be considered lucky.
We now have four grandchildren, with one on the way. Two are redheads, and not that subtle red that only parents can see. I am talking about real RED (orange, actually). My eldest stepson, the father of these two redheads, was not pleased. For most of his childhood, he made it his mission to make fun of redheads, mostly his carrot-topped friend, Bryan. It was a bit of poetic justice that he now has two of his own.
Red hair is one of life’s most pleasant genetic mutations. Of the zillions of genes carried by humans, only one — melanocortin 1 receptor — can cause red hair. In order to have a child born with red hair, both parents must carry this gene mutation. In countries swimming with redheads, this is going to happen more often. We were absolutely surprised and even questioned paternity when our two grandchildren emerged, both from different mothers.
Working in pediatrics now, I see a fair share of cute little redheads in my office. There are some redhead mothers, too, but one can never be sure these are natural redheads. I have learned not to ask. Parents are particularly proud of their redheaded kids and like it when someone comments on how special it is. I keep hearing about a “redhead personality,” like mischievousness, temperamental, or feisty, but I can’t say I buy into that theory.
For some unknown reason, redheads require more general anesthesia (up to 20% more) than people with other hair colors. Bees tend to sting redheads more, and of course, redheads (due to their fair skin) have a higher incidence of sunburns and skin cancers.
Less than 4% of the population is redheads, with the highest percentage in Scotland, followed by Ireland. About ten years ago, my wife and I traveled to the British Isles — England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland — and saw this firsthand. Redheads are quite prominent in Australia, too. These geographic areas are Redhead Central, so I was puzzled when I heard that the future of human redheads may be genetically threatened in the next century. We can’t have that. [Editor's note: The recessive gene that is responsible for red hair won't disappear unless all of the people carrying the gene fail to reproduce. This seems highly unlikely.] Incidentally, there are no redheads in Red China.
Of course, a world without redheads is unlikely. The future may allow people to know the genetic make-up of their intended spouse, thereby increasing the chance of having redheads, in reducing the chance of, say; having a child with big, ugly feet like Dad.
I grew up with the humor of Lucille Ball, a famous redhead who was enhanced by a bottle of henna. Other famous redheads range from Wilma Flintstone, The Little Mermaid, Little Orphan Annie, Ronald McDonald, Bozo the Clown, Raggedy Ann (and Andy), Red (of course) Skelton and Carol Burnett, to such contemporary redheads as Sarah Ferguson and Nicole Kidman.
If you were lucky enough to be born a redhead, you have my admiration and respect. Consider yourself special, but not an endangered species. I would not want to live in a world without redheads, so redheads of the world…unite! (If you know what I mean.)
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