Thursday, October 27, 2011

Red-Headed Kids...Please Ask Stupid Questions

So, we got a lot of comments recently about kids who don't look like their parents...and you parents of redheads seem to get more questions than any parent should have about how their little Ginger came to be. So, Kate enlisted the help of Guru Louise, because her little man has the most awesomest head of hair in the history of ever. It's totally en fuego. Kate tried to write this post, as Happy is a slightly reddish little kid, but he insists that his hair is the same color as daddy's. And that is...grey.

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One of the shocks of my life is that I birthed a redhead. My son’s hair is not auburn or strawberry blonde—it is straight-up flaming orange with twinges of red.  Are true redheads fairly rare? Sure, but what’s crazy about P’s hair is the utter lack of red hair in the rest of our family. I am a brunette, as are my daughter and husband so whenever I see our family photos I can’t help but hum that old Sesame Street song “One of these things is not like the other…”

P’s red hair has always received attention from strangers. I swear there is something about the fluorescent lights in stores that make P’s head light up like a freakin’ inferno…so I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I get stopped a minimum of three times per supermarket/Target/liquor store trip by fellow shoppers who glance at him, glance at me, glance at his sister and then say “Oh my! Where did he get that red hair??” This stranger is probably a very nice person asking an innocuous question but she doesn’t know that the attention P’s hair color has gotten in the last 18 months has given me issues. (And lately I’ve been feeling unreasonably stabby as a result of said issues.) Instead of being friendly to the nice person in front of me I’m thinking: You’re putting me on the spot, in front of my kid. You’re making a big deal about how he has a different physical trait that none of us can control. And I know somewhere in my brain these nice people simply admiring his gorgeous noggin but I’m the one left pushing my shopping cart away as my son grasps his head and looks at me questioningly, “Mommy? Hair? Mommy? Hair?” I assume he’ll only be more aware of this scrutiny as he gets older.

Don’t get me wrong—I love collecting compliments about my kids—what parent doesn’t? But can we leave it at, “What lovely hair color!” and just skip the diatribe about how unusual red hair is or the inquiry into its origin? It feels invasive for a perfect stranger to ask “Does his Dad have red hair?” What kind of response would I give if I didn’t know his dad? What if P was adopted? Whose business is it where he got his hair color??? Gah! Mind your own dang business, lady, and go back to squeezing your cantaloupes!  

Can you tell this hair color thing has driven me a bit cuckoo?!

So when you’re asked the same question enough times you start to daydream about possible answers you can give the innocently curious person standing before you. I’m toying with some of these possible comebacks for my next supermarket trip when I’m asked, “Where did he get that red hair?”
  • “Well, when a man and a woman really love each other one night they create so much love that they make a baby inside the woman’s belly!”
  • “I’m not sure! I finally narrowed it down to three guys. Conclusive DNA tests come back next week. Let’s hope it’s the philanthropist and not the convicted  murderer!” 
  • “This kid? Not mine. I took him from a nice Irish family. I’m a baby-stealer.” 
  • “Oh, I’m glad you like it. It’s the new Garnier Nutrisse #67—Ginger Spice! Last week I tried #76--Hot Tamale--but that one did nothing for his complexion.” 
  • “Well, see, there are dominant genes and recessive genes. This phenotype likely occurred due to a rare combination of alleles. Gotta love those homozygotes, right? Right??” (Keep spewing nonsensical tidbits of high school biology until the person runs away or falls asleep.) 

Bottom line: People in the same family look different. Period. If you feel you must comment the next time you see a redhead child, please just give the parent a simple, “Wow, what gorgeous hair!” and move along.

xoxo Guru Louise

p.s. Do NOT touch my child’s hair. Touching it will not give you any actual, magical powers. You may, however, draw back a stump if you touch him again.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

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