Beitzel: It’s hard out here for a ginger

By David Beitzel

Growing up left-handed, I’m something of an expert on discrimination. Ordinary tasks like high-fiving require extra focus. People would say things like, “All left-handed people look alike,” or, “Hey, d**chepaw, why does God hate you?”

Then, I found out that left-handedness was only the beginning of my trials. I realized I wasn’t like the other kids at school.

I was a ginger.

Forget being a southpaw, having red hair is harder to overcome than struggling to high-five or shake hands. Ever since the 2005 “Ginger Kids” episode of “South Park,” gingerism has been at an all-time high.

Recently, The New York Times chronicled research on why redheads are wimps. Thanks to the recessive gene that causes our hair color and alabaster skin, we have lower thresholds for pain. This also results in a resistance to Novocaine and a need for larger doses of anesthesia during operations.

That mutant gene brings more bad news. Some evidence suggests that redheads will die out within 100 years. These rumors spread when the Oxford Hair Foundation said that, because of gene pool dilution, redheads could disappear by 2060. The foundation’s claims were quickly disputed, though, because of its connection to Proctor & Gamble, a hair dye manufacturer. But I believe the criticism was a conspiracy perpetrated by Big Brunette to muzzle the truth. They want us gone.

National Geographic reported that less than 2 percent of the world population grows naturally rouge locks. My kind is an endangered species. Get your fill, because we won’t be around forever.

If my species is really going extinct, I want the indifference shown to the behavior of a terminal patient, like a demented version of Make-A-Wish in which the rules no longer apply. I want women engaged in feral combat for my exotic seed. I want governments conducting savage warfare to mine my blood locks.

Yet, I doubt the likelihood of the third fantasy. Historically, red is the color of America’s enemies: the Redcoats and the Red Menace, including Red China and the Red Army. In 19th-century industrial neighborhoods, storefronts even hung signs that read, “Help Wanted – No Irish Need Apply.” Red tape, red lights, even the devil is red. It is a color that carries perpetually negative connotations, unlike its opposite, green, which conjures images of lush meadows, minty gum and cash-money.

This hair is my scarlet letter. There is no escaping it. There is no assimilation.

Yet, I understand why society reviles my brethren. Redheads have spurious role models: Carrot Top, the thickneck twins in “Rushmore,” Chucky and Ron Howard, though Howard’s waxen scalp barely gets him “halfie” status. Admittedly, we have some greats, too, such as Thomas Jefferson, Vincent van Gogh and David Bowie. But for every one of them, there’s a Lizzie Borden, Napoleon or L. Ron Hubbard.

Then, of course, there was the infamous representation in “South Park.” It reinvigorated ginger bias and popularized the epithet “day-walker” for redheads who can withstand exposure to the merciless sun.

Bathing in SPF 50 for every hour spent outdoors gets expensive, but the alternate price is skin that matches the hair. When poseurs chase the red dragon with dyes, they casually forgo consequences like sunburn and freckles.

But with courage, I live with this red badge. There’s something to be said for natural rarity. Plus, a few open-minded elderly women have called it “the most beautiful hair,” and it’s difficult to wear a sneer after that.

Though I might be more comfortable in my own scalp because I was fortunate enough to get black eyebrows, not the full ginger. This comfort led me to turn my hair into everything from a grunge mop to a mullet to a Mohawk. It’s all part of the process in finding my identity as a redhead.

So it’s a mixed bag, and at the end of the day, I like this mutation. I can take the low tolerance for pain — I was a Dashboard-listening sissy well before there was data available. Even future extinction doesn’t personally affect me — my cadaver could be on display in the Natural History Museum someday. This color instantly sets me apart from the dark-haired horde.

Maybe I should take stereotypes more seriously, but it’s a post-modern America, and it’s hard to take anything seriously, least of all generalizations based on uncontrollable colors.

With Irish luck, hicks will die out long before gingers.

Send Dave some hate-mail at [email protected]