There’s no easy to way to write this, and not just because I’ve given myself crippling carpal tunnel “playing” drum solos on my iPhone.
I’ve always been different, and, well, what I’m trying to say is: I’m ginger. A redhead. Carrot top. Frecklejuice. Big Red. I’ve been called them all. This may be difficult to hear, especially for those who picture me as a dark, rugged, Antonio Banderas type (which I know, from my writing, I sound like I am). But I just feel like I can’t keep silent any longer.
The other night at a wedding, a fellow ginger shared the following story with me — redheads feel an affinity for each other, and often discuss tidbits like this. Apparently, she said, sperm banks are no longer accepting, er, deposits, from red-haired donors.
So, I did some research. Turns out, she’s right… sort of.
According to a segment airing last month on NBC’s “Today Show,” Cryos, the world’s largest sperm bank, will no longer accept red-haired donors. Why? According to the company’s official statement, women do not want redheaded sperm—especially blue-eyed redheaded sperm.
For one, tell me something I don’t know; I could’ve told you that at age 15.
Secondly, what are ginger men supposed to do for extra cash now? Drive a cab?
Third of all, how will I save for my retirement? Sperm IRA? What are the tax implications of that?
Joking aside, though, this quirky news byte, which subsequently appeared on many media outlets, points to a dark cloud brewing for us gingers. And normally dark clouds are good, because that means we don’t have to wear those ridiculous sun hats.
It seems our very existence is at stake. Some scientists believe natural redheads will go extinct within the next 100 years, possibly as early as 2060. And why? Because of “gingerphobia,” a longstanding and widespread prejudice against redheads.
Don’t believe me?
At certain points throughout history, red hair was thought to be a sign of a witch, werewolf or vampire — think Susan Sarandon in “Witches of Eastwick;” Michael J. Fox in “Teen Wolf” (then Jason Bateman in “Teen Wolf, Too”) and the redheaded hottie on “True Blood,” respectively.
In medieval times, people considered red hair to be a mark of beastly desire and moral degradation. They may have a point, there; I’m sort of prone to both things. Seriously, though, during the Spanish Inquisition, they burned redheads at the stake. Kind of puts the sperm donor thing in perspective.
Still, common belief holds that redheads have fiery tempers and sharp tongues—what the @^#%! I’ll curb the next *$&@ I hear spewing that *#^$%@*&#$^&#&^@! Also, according to the writers of “South Park,” redheads have no souls. Not true. We have souls; we’ve just got to keep slathering them in SPF 70.
And so gingerphobia, and its second cousin once removed, gingerism, are alive and thriving. In modern-day Britain—born of a millennia-old prejudice agaist Irish—the term “ginger” is considered derogatory almost to the point of racism.
Case in point: in 2008, the “Kick a Ginger” Facebook group attempted to establish a “National Kick a Ginger Day,” slated for Nov. 20. Spreading across the commonwealth and into the U.S., in the process attracting some 5,000 members, the plot was eventually foiled—by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, of all people (seriously). And so nothing happened on Nov. 20, 2008. Well, aside from the Dow Jones hitting a two-decade low. Guess we all got kicked that day. Right in the kidneys.
And now redheads are barred from anonymous artificial insemination. What next, our own drinking fountains? Actually, that would be kinda nice. They’d be a lot cleaner; not nearly as many people using them.
So, my redheaded brothers and sisters, what can we do to stem the tide?
For one, take back the word. To borrow from James Brown: say it loud — I’m ginger and proud!
Which reminds me… In Australia, redheads aren’t referred to as gingers, but “rangas,” derived from “orangutan.” I actually think that’s cool. Orangutans rank among the most intelligent primates and their arms are wicked long—I could drive and smack my kids at the same time. Of course, I wouldn’t beat them “like redheaded stepchildren,” because for one, I’m their biological father, and two, they’re strawberry blonde, and that’s not the same.
You know what else I’m going to do from now on? Stop helping my mom “pass.”
The only people who prize red hair — other than those who have it — are older women who spend hours slathered in chemicals, wrapped in foil and baking beneath giant cone-shaped head kilns to achieve it.
My natural gingerhood allows my mom to fake hers without anyone suspecting. Sorry, no more. Next time a gravel-voiced sexagenarian comes up to me and says “oh, I see where you get your red hair,” instead of smiling politely, I’m going to tell her I get it from a mutation in my MC1R gene, while certain others get theirs from some dude at a salon named Narcisso.
But lastly, and most importantly, we need to change the ginger narrative to highlight all the good we’ve done.
Look at this list of notable gingers: Willie Nelson; Shaun White; Lucille Ball; original signer of the Declaration of Independence and coiner of the phrase “give me liberty or give me death” Patrick Henry; Dave Mustaine, guitarist/vocalist from Megadeth and original lead guitarist for Metallica until they kicked him out (not for being ginger, but for being a heroin addict); Danny Bonaduce; female professional wrestler The Fabulous Moolah; Lucky the Leprechaun; Red Skelton; former tennis star Boris Becker; Beaker from the Muppets; basketball player/announcer Bill Walton; that dude from the Harry Potter movies, the one who sweats Hermione; Judas Iscariot; Geri Halliwell (aka Ginger Spice); Napoleon; Seth Green; Gen. George Armstrong Custer; Winston Churchill; Eric the Red; Axl Rose and the Little Mermaid. Oh, and Bozo the Clown.
Who among them will unite us? Prince Harry? Molly Ringwald? Conan?
Perhaps I’ll raise the question at next Redhead Day, the annual international redhead conference and festival that takes place the first weekend of September in the Netherlands.
You know, I’ve been looking for a reason to go to Amsterdam. Well, actually, I can think of several reasons for going to Amsterdam (none of which I’d like to publicize). What I really need is an excuse. And about five thousand Euros.
Yeah, that’d cover it.
• Slack Tide runs every other Sunday in Neighbors. To read more of Geoff’s work, visit www.geoffkirsch.com.