I have been a redhead since the day I was born, and so, throughout my childhood, have been subjected to the many overlooked stereotypes that exist for red heads. These stereotypes, including short-temperedness and general paleness, have led me to the daunting conclusion that, in the eyes of my peers, redheads have developed into some sort of endangered species. By personal definition, an endangered species is any specific species who’s low number of individuals put it in danger of extinction, thus they are thrown into a group and are set aside from all other species. In extreme cases of endangerment there remains one final family, or “pack,” of a certain species. So it seems to them that I, similar to any endangered species, am a rare specimen and so come from the last remaining family as all other redheads. I myself can recall the countless amount of times I have been posed questions such as “Do you have a brother?” or “I saw this red headed kid today, do you know him?” All these questions, of course, are prompted by the single chance sighting of some redhead somewhere and have no real premise other than the fact that I too am red headed. So I, having no red headed siblings, always answer with the same exhausted “No.” Which, as you may imagine, can become quite frustrating.
It also appears that with redheads, like any endangered species, everyone has some fascinating tale of an encounter with these oddities. It brings me back to memories of Wal-mart greeters who “oohed” and “aahed” at my fiery locks, pinched my cheeks, and informed me, a child of seven, that they had a grandchild who had hair, just like mine! This, frustrating as it may be, was the first eleven years of my life. Similarly, like an endangered species, there is also a specific quality that makes the species ripe for the picking, the result usually being extinction. For redheads, this quality is the fire-like color of their hair. I have, on numerous occasions, cut tufts of my hair and given them to middle-aged women in their quest to obtain the almost mythical red color. The hair was of course taken from my possession an rushed to the nearest Dye specialist. Usually, when I think of being wanted, or standing out, it’s for who I am, not because of a certain, uncontrollable feature of mine.
Finally, like an endangered species, a red head from any given angle, with a quick glance, will look identical to any other red head. Once, while roaming the halls of my high school, a passerby yelled a friendly “Hey James!” to me and continued on without a second glance. James, being another red head around my school who had graduated the year before, was by popular opinion my “identical twin.” I, upon finding the previous year’s year book, realized that we looked nothing alike. Our hair was even different shades of red, and I became frustrated. If I was Thomas, and James, and every single red head at the same time, who was I really. I knew I was Thomas, but to everyone else I was just the bud off some greater red headed being. To my peers I was just some red head, identical to the next, without any distinction. It was then that I realized what it really must be like to be an endangered species, herded into a group, with their only distinction being that there were few of them and that they’d eventually dwindle to nothing. The more I thought about this, the more I realized that red heads weren’t really like an endangered species, as I had grown up believing. I was different from all other red heads, and so couldn’t be expected to fit into a specific group and be the same as every other member. Thus maybe red heads weren’t endangered after all, but rather thriving more than any other species on the planet. They were fighting the good fight every day and in the end survived.
So I returned to school the next day and upon being asked by a random peer whether I had any red headed brothers or sisters, I informed them that yes, I had five, all the same ages by different fathers, with their mother’s red hair, James of course being the eldest. This comment was received sarcastically, as was its intent, but I finally found a way to get my point across. That unlike an endangered species, redheads couldn‘t be classified as a group, and that they didn’t necessarily like to be thought of that way. That my story was mine and no one else’s, that though red heads may be rare, we are not dwindling. So it is with this that I, a fellow red head, say to my peers and to all the public, that I believe that the redhead is not an endangered species, and that we are here to stay. That is, until we go grey.
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