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Ginger Nuts

I’m reading ROOTS OF DESIRE: The Myth, Meaning, and Sexual Power of Red Hair by Marion Roach.

I’ve finished the first section called RELIGION and have just started the section called SCIENCE. The last section is called SEX (which makes me nervous, as I'm rather a bit of a prude sometimes). I am a third of the way through the book, and while I do intend to finish it, and I am interested in reading it, something about this book is leaving me unsatisfied. It feels like an infomercial to me. The author keeps telling me that she is about to tell me something, but never quite does. It is also a bit like being swept out to sea, her text is carrying me along buoying me onward with comments suggesting what is coming next. I feel like it is missing a summary or analysis of what has been covered before moving on to her next point or image. I am stopping periodically to reflect on my own, but whenever I do, I’m disappointed by how little was actually covered. I feel like the entire first 100 pages could have been said in just twenty or thirty pages if she had not been trying to build it up so much. (For example, it felt like I read page after page of her talking about her trip to witch camp or her own personal history as a redhead with a witchcraft connection, but I only got to read a few passages about the Salem witch trials. Plus, her basing the trip on a the well-known adage All redheads are witches. meant nothing to me as I have never heard that phrase before, casting this entire line of her research into a questionable status for me.) I expect self-promotion in self-help books (memory improvement, vocabulary development, public speaking guides) where the program creators are trying to convince you how well the method works in addition to teaching you the method. She is not talking about a method, however. I was expecting her to discuss the history of red hair genealogically, the physiological aspects of being a redhead, and famous red heads and their impact on how red hair is viewed by society. While she has laid the groundwork by saying she will discuss these areas, not much has actually been said. Then again, much of the book is her process of self discovery, so perhaps I am glossing over too much of her personal life issues in my desire for more historical and statistical references. I am not anti-case studies or quantitative research, but in this case it was not what I was expecting, and I do not yet trust the author.

I actually had a similar infomercial/rip tide feeling with The Radioactive Boy Scout, and that feeling passed, so I’m hopeful this reaction to ROOTS will pass, as well. (BTW Radioactive Boy Scout was a great story. I highly recommend it.)

Also, because so much of my identity has been tied into being a redhead, I had extremely high expectations for this book. I thought perhaps I would learn a lot about myself and my place in the pantheon of redheads throughout history. I often wonder if brunettes or blondes carry so much of their identity in their hair color. For me, it is an integral part of my being. My first email address was DCMRed (for Don’t Call Me RED) as a protest of the familiarity people take with redheads. I still use that for one of my email accounts, but I have also adopted MadLadyRed, not as a concession of defeat in allowing people to call me Red, but as a reflection of my pride in being a member of such a small population. I have found in talking to other redheads they share a lot of my same feelings about life as a redhead and experiences of being a red head. Did you know that mothers of redheads often collect redheaded items? For example, whenever my mother bought a doll or painted a picture of a person, it was a redhead. I’m curious if this will get mentioned in the book.

What has been mentioned so far is that Lilith was a redhead. Her redheadedness has been used to explain her sexuality and her independence as compared to Eve. This is really neat, except that Eve is also depicted as a redhead, so why is she subservient? If they both had red hair, it cannot be the hair, right? She also says Cain, Esau, David (sent Uriah to his death), and most importantly Judas are all depicted as redheads. In so doing, she cites a real schism between popular opinion on redheaded women (sexy sexy!) and redheaded men (not so much). She also believes the idea of promiscuous/quasi-demonic Lilith and the traitor Judas shaped that popular opinion which was reinforced throughout history via religion, art, and literature. The few references she did give to Shakespeare, Dante, Milton, Dickens, were really interesting, but I would have liked more. I need more evidence to form a conviction. There weren’t very many historical references given either, although she did at least trace several redheads throughout the British monarchy. Still, any biblical, literary, and historical reference has been quite interesting. Likewise, any comment on how society views redheads, how those views were formed, and how they are changing, intrigues me.

She does make some good points about how everything must be viewed in the context of when it was written, and she has made some neat connections for me – including the connection to clown wigs. I am sure I’m being overly critical because up to now I had been reading mainly medium level astronomy, mathematics, and physics nonfiction, so I have been away from the squishy sciences for a bit. This book is probably just intended for a casual read or possibly for titillation and was never intended to be some great treatise on redheads. I would definitely be interested in such a book if anyone knows of one to recommend! In the meantime I will glean what I can from this one. I love collecting odd bits of trivia (good or bad) about redheads, red hair, and how we are viewed.



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 14th, 2008 04:00 am (UTC)
A little tidbit about me, I desperately wish I had been born a redhead. Sense the very first time I died my hair I KNEW I was meant to be a redhead. It's amusing and terribly flattering how very many people actually believe I am a redhead, even long after I have dyed it and the color has faded or grown out. Most people are very stunned that I am not. Stunned and I've actually had people nearly argue with me. I'm horribly jealous of all of you that WERE born red.

I can totally see how you would be disappointed by this book. I can say that I Have heard about redheads being seen as witches. From the information I had heard this was the reason there are relatively few of them. Except for in Alaska. Along the same lines... think about my hair. Not the boring color but the bigness of it. When I was in art school I was amazed at how many people in the painting had hair like mine. The other students use to "tease" me (in a nice way) every time we saw one of these paintings. But how many people have you seen NOW with my hair. Few. I actually had some lady accost me in the post office parking lot. She'd been driving around with a camera in her car for a year so she could get a picture of my hair because the people in her art classes didn;t believe her and she wanted to paint it. I've wondered if the amount of people with hair like mine back in the day was due to .... lack of proper cleanliness, (which I doubt, the dirtier my hair the more normal) or bad cleaners, o maybe my hair people ran afoul of the same troubles your people did. Superstitions.

Odd huh?
Oct. 16th, 2008 02:04 am (UTC)
Believe it or not, I break up red heads into three categories.
* Natural Redheads (Jamie, me)
* Should have been Redheads (you, and Anna too)
* So not a Redhead really, but I'm glad you like us enough to want to be one (most dye jobs) I do understand people wanting to be redheads, because people want to stand out and be different. Red hair does that in spades.

I honestly thought you were a natural redhead when I met you. I think you were meant to be a red head or were one in a past life (when you played piano). I think it suits both your outside (looks natural) and suits your personality (unique and cool). I have to say, that is so cool about the lady carrying a camera out to catch a picture of you!!

Plus, this may sound weird, but I kind of like the idea that my hair ancestors and your hair ancestors were linked, even if it was in their persecution. We're sisters!

Oct. 16th, 2008 02:19 am (UTC)
You are not the only redhead to have thought I was one. Which ALWAYS makes my day! I mean always. It even happens to me long past the time I need to dye it. I LOVE that.

Maybe I WAS a redhead in a past life, and a wonderful piano player! (good add on)

Oh and, it might be weird, but I think it's cool our hair ancestors may have been sisters in persecution too. :D
Oct. 14th, 2008 04:26 am (UTC)
The fascination with redheads seems concentrated on women, as is only right in my opinion. Being a redhaired man is an endlessly fascinating, and absolutely different experience... there are certain expectations that people have of redheads, and I've never gotten to the bottom of all of them... would love to know actually.

We're like aliens who walk among you, so it's no wonder that Captain Drew is in fact a space pirate.

But seriously, I'm not always in the mood to play into people's expectations, but when I do, and am really on my game, I can almost go anywhere I want. We're not exactly witches, but the power that others give us is as close to witchcraft as you silly earthlings need understand.
Oct. 15th, 2008 02:23 am (UTC)
I do have to say, I've always been attracted to redhaired men. I'm a sucker for red hair.
Oct. 15th, 2008 02:38 am (UTC)
Guess I could mail you a sack of it next time I get a haircut.... ;)
Oct. 15th, 2008 02:43 am (UTC)
LOL! I can just see myself rolling around in a pile of hair!
Oct. 16th, 2008 02:06 am (UTC)
That is creepy and funny at the same time.
Oct. 14th, 2008 05:22 am (UTC)
I've always gotten the "You're a brunette so you must be smart!" Which used to be a lot of pressure on me like all brunettes everywhere were counting on me not to break the rule. Its totally silly because brains don't increase with hair color.
Oct. 16th, 2008 01:56 am (UTC)
If you have to be stereotyped for something, being smart is a good thing. Still, I can see how that would put a lot of pressure on someone though. Kind of like following an older sibling to school, the reputation precedes you, and you have to either live it up or live it down when all you want to do is be yourself.

In addition to IQ points rising or dropping thanks to hair color, I have found that people tend to think IQ points drop as weight increases. I don't get people sometimes.
Oct. 16th, 2008 03:29 pm (UTC)
Well in my case it was problematical because my Mom felt I had to be the uber genius and represent kids with disabilities EVERYWHERE.

As if my experiences were the same as someone who was deaf or completely blind. I didn't/don't know what it was like to deal with either of those, I just knew what it was to be me.

I had to look just so and always have some comment at the ready when she decided to pull me out at parties.

And if I fell short of the mark the parental guilt was awful. So yeah I know about the expectation thing.

Don't get me started on how people judge you based on weight. I could go on for hours at how many times I've had friends marginalized because they weren't stick thin. It pisses me off that people can be so shallow.
Oct. 16th, 2008 04:02 pm (UTC)
I'm inclined to agree with your assessment of the book, it could have used a chunk more substance than it delivered. Still interesting in what it did have, but ....

Nowhere near as cool as Radioactive Boy Scout.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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