Ginger Judgments

Even though I’m a redhead, I’m not a vegetarian.

That’s what I’ve come up with, anyway, for the reason why so many people assume I’m a vegetarian. There was some point growing up when I realized that many of the redheads on television were characters who participated in vegetarianism, loved nature and animals, and were morally wholesome. At least, maybe that’s what I chose to notice about a lot of redheaded characters. I remember Chelsea from That’s So Raven as one of the characters of my childhood who I admired– she was a little goofy and kind of ditzy, but she cared about a lot of things and stuck to her beliefs.

This redheaded-vegetarian concept could be total bull-pucky, or whatever nonsense phrase personally pleases you best, but a lot of people during my life have projected ideas of vegetarianism on me. At many family gatherings, I’ve heard comments like, “Oh, we have vegetarian stuff over here,” directed at me, or someone will ask, “You’re vegetarian, right?” My grandpa asks me all the time when I stopped being a vegetarian. “You’re eating meat?!”

I do give off that nature-loving, animal-hugging, vegetarian redhead vibe to some extent, but I’ve never been a vegetarian. I guess since even my own family assumes that about me, it shouldn’t be surprising when strangers or acquaintances ponder at the possibility. And while I’m not a vegetarian, nor has it ever been entirely appealing to me to become a vegetarian, I suppose it is fair that some people question this about me, because I’m not necessarily a meat lover. By which I mean, I’m definitely going to be picking off some of the toppings of a meat lover’s pizza. And I’m definitely not going to be eating meat every day, because it’s not a super mandatory food group for me. If it’s there, it’s there, and if it’s not, I probably won’t miss it.

And, to be totally fair, my mother is a vegetarian, and she and I have been accused of being sisters (although most people who make this remark are usually looking to get something out of our wallets) so it’s reasonable for my family to assume we have similar lifestyles and habits. We’re both redheads, too, and I’ve in the past been called my mom’s name or have been mistaken for her, so I guess it’s not totally offensive if my grandpa mixes the two of us up.

The one thing that everybody is right about, though, is my soul, or my apparent lack thereof. Sometime in my younger days, some television show meme cropped up that satirized the fact that “gingers don’t have souls,” and ever since then I’ve sporadically had to deal with the aftermath of horrible ginger-soul jokes. There is even widespread controversy regarding my status as a “ginger,” as if that’s something that’s determined by putting to a popular vote, but I’ve had people describe very different definitions of “gingerhood” to me. Some people consider only brightly redheaded people with freckles and pale skin “gingers” while others consider anyone with red-tinted hair to be such. I’ve never really actively identified as a “ginger” but I suppose I am one, although I have a mere moderate amount of freckles and strawberry blondish hair. In any case, because I ride that borderline, people crack the ol’ “gingers don’t have souls” joke at me only once in a while, which almost makes it more annoying because it’s never clear when to expect it. In any case, I most certainly do not have a soul, but that has nothing to do with my status as a redhead and more to do with my personal affairs and the deals I have made with certain business partners of mine.

And redheads are supposed to be Irish, right? Well at least that was the myth when I was a kid. I figured that anyone who had red hair had Irish heritage, but apparently that’s not even the case. And on top of that, most of the Irish population doesn’t even have red hair! Here to find out that this beautiful redhead utopia I had built up in my mind wasn’t even real–Ireland was not a luscious resort where those with red hair dwelt, in a community composed of predominantly the redheaded, but rather a smoggy kind of place with a bunch of scraggly people who had dark hair. And moreover, there is no apparent location where redheads reign as a group–except maybe Vegetarian Club or something, but I mean on a broader scale.

If we could convince enough people to dye their hair red, we could fake this phenomenon. Myself, I was never allowed to dye my hair growing up. My mother said people would kill for my hair color, that it wasn’t a hue that people could get from “a box.” This did make me feel incredibly grateful for this unique quality, one that set me apart from other people for better or worse, like when we’d read about a redhead in class, I always subliminally felt everyone was associating the redheaded character with me. Like, “Ah, Character X was a redhead, like our classmate right over here!” and the spotlight clicks on over me as the sweat forms, or when there were more than two redheads in my class and it felt like there were awkwardly too many redheads. But also, there’s the fact of shining with a different sheen than everyone else, having some genetically-gifted quality about me that is rare and sometimes desired. The slight embarrassments of my hair color felt massive when I was younger. Now, I only let people admire my red hair.

Maybe one day I’ll become a vegetarian to match the stereotype. Maybe one day I’ll become a vegetarian on accident, just by inadvertently cutting out meat, or maybe I’ll become a vegetarian because I shift my viewpoints and values. But no matter how my diet evolves, I will always be a redhead, non-dyed and true.

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