Monday, June 7, 2010

A boy named Blue (or RPatz)

Red-haired men. They come up in conversation much more than they used to, thanks to the teen (and grown-up) phenomenon that is RPatz. I don't get the Edward love. I guess that puts me on Team Whatever-The-Werewolf's-Name-Is. I suspect it's a redhead/redhead thing. Put two together and people automatically think you're related, so I tended to steer clear. Only ever considered it this one time...but that ended up in a suitcase.

I had a conversation - via tweet - about my position on red-haired men. It's way too complicated to reduce to 140 characters, so I've decided instead to reproduce an article I wrote on the subject. It first appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald's Spectrum section a few years ago, long before RPatz was a twinkle in a film-maker's eyes. Since then, and thanks to the Undead One, women's attitudes to redheads has changed a bit. Then, Marian Keyes's evil Lorcan Larkin was a man women fell for despite the fact that he was a redhead (The Last Chance Saloon). Now half the planet's falling over itself for a pale, chiselled, ginger-haired Vampire. Progress.

"Extinct within 100 years. High sensitivity to heat- and cold-related pain. Down to two per cent of the population.

With stats like that, if redheads were an animal species, there’d be a conservation group set up, a fund-raising day set aside in which everyone had to wear red wigs, and some kind of cute mascot (possibly a Weasley?) designed to pull in the crowds. As it is, Simon Cheetham, founder of, recently told The Guardian newspaper that discrimination against redheads in the UK is getting worse.

“In this politically correct world you can’t say anything about people’s religion or sexuality, but it’s still okay here in Britain to portray redheads in a negative manner,” he said.

And that’s in a part of the world where they’ve got the numbers. After all, some 13 per cent of the world’s redheads live in Scotland, and 40 per cent of the population carries the gene.

I’d like to say I’ve never noticed this discrimination, but the fact is that I’ve even participated in it.

First, the disclaimer, I am a redhead, with a red-haired sister, a red-haired cousin, a red-haired nephew, a red-haired niece, a red-haired uncle – in fact, a whole family tree of Gingas, Carrot Tops, Jaffas and Bloodnuts. All of which affected me only in small ways: an embarrassing lack of suntan in 1980s Australia, a tendency to blush easily, and a fondness for Anne of Green Gables quotes (“People who haven't red hair don't know what trouble is.")

I thought I was red and proud. And in 2004, when Amanda Third, a Monash researcher (with red hair), found that redhead women had begun to surpass blondes in the sexiness stakes, well, my crimson pride knew no bounds.

Then I got pregnant.

Suddenly, between researching names (Maximus? Hermes? Ridge (not really)) and buying tiny singlets, I found myself obsessively studying genetics. Why? The prospect of The Red-Haired Son.

My husband and I discussed the possibility of a Tinge of Ginge on our unborn child. He waxed lyrical about the idea of a red-haired girl. When I raised the spectre of a boy named Blue, his response was less enthusiastic: “I’m sure I’ll learn to love him anyway.”

Put red hair on a boy and, somehow, the perception is that he’ll be picked last for sports (probably because mum’s still slathering him in sunscreen), geeky (Richie Cunningham anyone?) and have no luck with the ladies (evidence: the declining redhead population). Of course, rugby international Nick Farr-Jones, director/writer/actor/rich guy Ron Howard and notorious airline passenger Ralph Fiennes might beg to differ.

My initial research into our chances of producing a Rusty was encouragingly negative. According to Jonathan Rees, professor of dermatology at Edinburgh University who, with his colleagues, discovered the gene (MC1R, responsible for melanin production) that creates redheads, if a person has one of several variations of the gene, and if the variation is inherited from both parents, then they are likely to be red haired. So two parents with mutant gene equals red hair.

With my husband’s Dutch ancestry spectacularly redhead-free, things were looking good. I should have stopped there.

Professor Rees goes on to say that if you inherit the variation from just one parent, you have an increased chance of being red haired.

One parent with mutant gene equals very good chance of red hair.

Back to square one.

Taking a leaf from Sherlock Holmes’s Red Headed League (“for the propagation and spread of red-heads as well as for their maintenance”), I became a one-woman Red Haired Male Appreciation Society, tracking down the successful, the smart and the sexy of the red-haired fraternity. From Donald Trump and Kerry Packer, to Mark Twain, William Shakespeare and Jean-Paul Sartre, to David Wenham, that guy from Band of Brothers… even Prince Harry turned out better than we could have ever hoped. Archie Andrews was the red Romeo of Riverdale, Thomas Jefferson was President of the United States, Henry VIII was the original serial monogamiser.

True, redheads don’t often turn up as the heroes of romance novels – though I’m assured by my friends at the Romance Writers of Australia Association that there’s no rule about this – but I did discover a personals website ( for redheads and those who love them.

If my boy turned out to be a rude red, I was ready. In fact, I was almost disappointed when he was not. Almost.

Second time around, I was more relaxed. So much so that when Mr3 showed signs of, um, strawberry in his baby blonde locks, I was able to be philosophical. Red-haired men, I’ve decided, are like pink diamonds: increasingly rare and a fine investment."

Update: Sister B (Red, with Red son) has weighed into this debate over on her blog. Read it. She gets to the short and curlies of the subject.


  1. Honoured that our tweetvesation sparked this fine post. Well, sort of. I've always liked pink diamonds.....

  2. Oh how funny! We have a little red head. I think he's cute as a button except that he has zero of my genes and is the spitting image of my mother-in-law (which is no fun and a little disconcerting as he holds his arms out wide for a snuggle and kiss each morning).

    Genes are a funny thing. I predicted a bunch of brown eyed kids based on the lack of recessive genes (I should so stop trawling the internet for information ) and instead got 1 with very blue, 1 with very green and 1 with very brown eyes. And now I love all that techno eye colour I never would have predicted.

    PS I love Edward :)

  3. The sad thing is that red hair tends to fade with time. Are they really disappearing?

  4. Oh, I want to cry. I read this article when I was pregnant. I think I even pulled it out to save it too.

    I loved reading this when I was pregnant. I was worried about having a red headed baby, not because I didn't love them... {I love red heads}, but because I didn't want our child to be ribbed the way that Hubby was as a child.

    I googled the theory that red head lines are regressive, and was surprised when we got ourselves a strawberry blonde girl.

    You write so, so well. Love that I remembered the original article. x

  5. We have a red head. She came out of nowhere, or so I thought. Now I realise FIL's beard has a tinge of red, and I discoivered my paternal grandmother was a red-head.Think Isla Fisher red rather than Nicole Kidman.

    And through all this pondering over red heads I realise with a guilty start that ALL of my previous long term loves have been with men with red hair. Red and curly.

    I must have a thing.

    Dark red and curly.

    I cannot even name a celeb to liken the look too....

  6. Go the Ranga! I think red haired boys have a certain "appeal". Especially R Pat - oh Edward how I love thee - oh sorry forgot I was here. Its the spell of the red head I tell you!

  7. Interesting, very interesting. I think there is discrimination over here in good old Blighty. The ginger one in Girls Aloud (don't know if you know them - all girl group) gets terrible press, we just have a new ginger member of the government and he's getting a lot of stick on Twitter, and Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers)can't get through an interview without them going on about his unlikely heartthrob status being ginger. Prince Harry? Hmm. He's okay until he opens his mouth.

    I love it on women - Julianne Moore, Debra Messing and of course your dear self, but my husband was also slightly wary of having a ginger son not knowing what's in his background.

    Great article - really well written.

  8. My daughter has 'ranga' tendencies inherited from her dad. We also have a boy in my nursing class who proudly goes by the name of the the ginger ninja.

  9. Our nearly 10yr old is a strawberry blond...I tell her that she has hair the color of sunbeams...she has already experienced some teasing from jealous classmates...those mousy brown ones are the worst (I can say that as I am mousy brown!!).

    Great article, as always you are effortless in your lovely prose!!

  10. I love this post and I love your article.

    I started a reply and then realised it was getting longer and longer and longer. I hope you don't mind, but I'm posting on red hair today too :)

  11. Cool! I'm starting a trend! By the looks of everyone's comments, the future of redheads is not as dire as the experts might have us believe.

  12. Four kids. Only one with a tinge of ginge. Not bad stats considering the gene pool! Gotta love a springy-red-hair filled bathroom. That's all I have to say :)

  13. And I just remembered another red headed crush I have! An actor who has been in loads of dramas....he is delicious!

    Toby Stephens - Gorgeous Red Headed Male

  14. I am awful fond of redheads. With freckly skin and green eyes, I should have been one. Instead I've learned to live with brown hair (the word brunette is too glamorous for it) with the occasional hint of red if you stand in just the right way at just the right time of year. Yes, I love red hair.

    I wonder if I would have had I actually been born with it...?

    My Dad was a redhead, right up until he was a bald head, so my son has all the hirsute advantages in the world genetically speaking. Still, he scored brown too. As did my daughter.


    PS - I once went out with a redheaded, freckly, incredibly good-looking boy.

  15. I had a dream about Tom Gleeson - This guy. And he was chatting me up at a bar. Think I need to google randomly getting it on with ranga comedians in my dreams.


  16. In my single days, I was always fond of the readhead guys. They seemed so exotic.

  17. Oh, I do love a red-head, and of late have been pondering how to become one myself {apparently it will take hours of bleaching before the tinting even begins. Sigh}

  18. Oh that reminds me, one my girlfriends when out with and excuse me, but we were young when we called him a "bloodnut". We used rib her endlessly about the colour of his pubes. So juvenile. BTW, yes the curtains do match the drapes.

  19. Well, I have me some redheads. My eldest son is more auburn. Just like his father was at the same age. It will probably go to brown.

    The 6yr old has what he describes as bright "orange" hair (and bright blue eyes and fair skin as well). He LOVES it. It's straight, and he wears it slightly longish (over his ears). He has always had so many compliments on it, that he feels special. In fact, when he found out a kid with his name (not a popular name at all) was starting at school this year, his first comment was, "He doesn't have orange hair like me, does he?" (He doesn't.)

    I think, in fact, because of his hair (and maybe a bit because of his confidence) he's quite the popular little boy at school. Kids seems to be drawn to him.

    I know, eventually, it may not be something he likes. I'm enjoying this while it lasts. Although I never actually thought I'd have redheads, I have to say I don't worry about their hair. Maybe because they're ok with it. And is it just me, or are there so many more redheads these days? I only remember one girl in my class, but at my boys' school there are heaps of them!

    (BTW - funnily enough, even tho my Dad wasn't one - my Mum always had a thing for redheads! My friend though, always said she'd never marry a redhead, as she didn't want redheaded kids (prone to teasing), but ended up marrying one anyway! Her 2nd son is a redhead. He gets very upset if you call it that though - you must say "auburn".)


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