Redhead. Carrot top. Fry with ketchup on top. Frickin’ ginger. Fire crotch. A near endless list of puberty-related taunts.
It is not known if Prince Harry, sixth in line to the British throne, has ever been called these names, but he probably has heard some of them.
I know this because I, like him, have been a ginger for my entire life, and have become used to both these names and an outsized amount of attention because of my hair, pale skin and freckles.
And besides the fact he is a prince and is getting married to American actress Meghan Markle on Saturday, one of the next three things people probably know about Harry is that he has red hair.
He is the world’s most famous ginger and this weekend people from Jacksonville to Jakarta will watch his nuptials at Windsor Castle outside of London, a big moment not just for the British monarchy but for gingers around the world.
We have only gotten snippets of information on how Harry feels about his not-so-secret identity.
He told a teenager in 2007 that he had been bullied for his hair, though shortly after the engagement in autumn, a brave fellow redhead asked him how he felt about marrying Markle “as a ginger” and the prince replied “it’s great isn’t it?”
“Him getting married to a sort of ‘stunner’ is very good for the ginger man’s credibility isn’t it? He is an absolute ginger hero,” said Thomas Knights, a photographer who is known in the ginger community for a photo series showing redheaded men as sexy.
The project “Red Hot” was launched because Knights was tired of ginger men like himself being portrayed so often as a sidekick rather than a leading man, often given goofy Ron Weasley types.
Knights said that black, South Asian and South American women were quick to embrace his exhibition’s portrayal of sexy red-haired men, though none of those groups control the narrative about attractiveness in the UK or U.S., whose most famous ginger export may be Ronald McDonald.
Indeed it is easiest to talk about being ginger, something that is too silly to really be part of one’s identity yet somehow still keeps mattering to one’s life, as a joke, with the punchline (you) sitting right in front of whoever you’re talking to.
But ginger bullying is real, and though it doesn’t come close to the breadth and historical weight of other types of discrimination based on origin or belief, ginger children in the UK have killed themselves in recent years after being teased by their classmates.
My biggest unsuppressed ginger jibe was someone in a car shouting “fire crotch” at me from a car when I was a teenager running shirtless along the side of the road near my house in suburban St. Louis.
It was the year after the infamous “Kick a Ginger Day” episode of South Park and happened twice in about a month. When I ran after that, I ran more covered up, though of course I would have needed to trot around in a football helmet to hide my hair.
Knights says some of the ginger models he worked with were painfully lacking in self-confidence, but younger models around 18 or 19 years old often have a different perspective and own a rebellious love of their features.
Emma Kelly, a blogger at Ginger Parrot who deals with the stereotype of being hypersexualized as a ginger woman, says that even before the recent “ginger moment” led by the Ed Sheerans, Julianne Moores and Damian Lewises of the world, she saw life for red-haired children improving in the age of self-promotion.
“The way I see it, social media might be helping. You have a lot of cyber-bullying and things like that, but the flip side of that is when you do have Instagram and those things you do want to look different, because what is the point of posting a bunch of photos of something that looks the same as someone else?” she said.
Despite a prodigal youth that involved naked billiards in Las Vegas and an unfortunate choice of costume for a party, Harry in his more settled roles of soldier and now fiancé may have served as a catalyst to the “ginger moment” and a positive image for young boys with red hair who have suffered.
There are few gingers to begin with, and then potential heroes get knocked down, like when Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling says Ron shouldn’t have ended up with the brilliant, ambitious Hermione or you feel the remaining innocence drain out of you as your onetime idol Mark McGwire cowardly refused to answer questions about steroid use in front of Congress.
So many gingers are willing to take a bit of Prince Harry’s moment in the sun, SPF 50 required, as their own.
Saturday is also the date of Redhead Day UK 2018 in London, and the royal’s image will feature prominently at the gathering, whether he knows it or not.
“One of the extraordinary things about hair is that it is yours. It’s individual to you. It belongs entirely to you, and it’s public property at the same time,” said Jaclyn Harvey Colliss, the author “RED: A History of the Redhead.”
Colliss adds that red hair is interesting to look at intellectually because of how minuscule the changes are that differentiate gingers from “normal” and make them a target.
She said it can provide a “doorway through which people can explore the different ramifications of all types of discrimination.”
And beyond-the-pale speculation around Harry’s hair, such as whether Prince Charles is really his father or whether the trait will get passed on to any children he may have with Markle, who has a white father and a black mother, does show how absurd it is to attach any meaning from the expression of a gene to who a person actually is.
Or how absurd it is that a difference in skin color, or body type, or facial feature, would mean anything about someone’s character.
Indeed, the fact that Prince Harry shares a hair color and strange solidarity with millions of other redheads is less mind-blowing mathematically than the fact that he is one of a handful of otherwise ordinary people picked to be a royal and a fixation in the lives of more than 65 million Brits.
Or the minor miracle that he and Markle found someone to spend their lives with out of the more than 7 billion people in the world.
Source: Ny Daily News