Image: Mitya Ku
It's international Redhead Days festival in the Netherlands next month and as a ranga myself (to use a slightly insulting-but-hilarious Aussie term) I think it only apt to comment on this clearly special event, created for the clearly special amongst us (apparently we make up just 1% of the world's population - most of whom are probably in Scotland).
The fact such a festival exists suggests we're a slightly alien race in need of associating with other redheads in order to share our apparent plight. Well let's not lie, that's probably partly true. According to recent studies, redheads may soon become extinct as a result of climate change. We're like polar bears - surely we deserve special attention.
Chances are if you're part of the aforementioned kind, you probably feel a sense of solidarity every time you pass a fellow member of it on the street. You may then revert to the rather embarrassing habit of staring like you've never seen one before, leading to victims of said stare thinking you've never looked in the mirror (or maybe that's all just me, but either way, it's a thing).
And it's no wonder we feel that really - we've probably all been through the same life process. It's like a long-lost family with a shared ancestry. We understand.
The growth of a ginga more or less goes like this: when you're a toddler you think you're just like everybody else; when you start primary school the 'carrot-top' comments begin and you realise there's something different about you - seemingly envious old ladies tend to comment with rather irritating 'is it natural?' questions and you start to feel a little confused; when you become a teenager it gets a bit ruder ('ginge minge'?) and you may start to envy your blonde and brunette buddies (possibly resorting to the biggest betrayal imaginable to fellow auburn-ers - hair dye); and when you finally grow up you realise there's a whole bunch of borderline fetishists out there who seem to fall at your feet solely because you have a 'mutated MC1R gene' (yeah I just googled it) - "I have a thing for redheads" becomes a strange statement you learn to accept. You embrace your uniqueness (and stick a proud middle finger up to any immature twats who continue to shout "ginger!" out of wound down car windows), take compliments with a polite pride and smile smugly when you realise members of the blonde/brunette crowd are now dyeing their hair your colour. Bizarrely the odd 'ohmagahd-I-tried-to-dye-my-hair-blonde-and-it-went-ginger-instead-what-am-I-gunna-do' comments from the more ignorant never seem to stop, but on the whole you're pretty well received and if you're not you couldn't really care less because you love it.
What's especially bizarre is the sheer number of terms anyone of the rarer colouring has probably been made familiar with - auburn (usually used by grandparents/great aunts/anyone over 60), gingernut/ginger/ginga (the terms you accept as a child and shake off as an adult for want of less Ginger Spice and more Kate Winslet in Titanic/Prince Harry-esque connotations), orange (the worst), strawberry blonde (used in annoying "it's not ginger, it's strawberry blonde" primary school statements which no self-respecting person should continue to use in adulthood), ranga (Aussies like to compare us to orangutans - see the resemblance?) and redhead (automatically implying some sort of sexiness combined with a fly-off-the-handle temper). And that's just the beginning.
Those are pretty specific labels to have been given and life stages to have gone through but I'd bet significant dollah they ring true for a rather large majority of the redhead minority - regardless of type (and oh there's many a type; from entire orange-headed Weasley families to our fair-skinned freckled friends to the subtler golden glories, the list is endless).
So the three-day Dutch redhead festival, like 'redheads UK' in Britain, gives those gifted with the golden halo a rare chance to surround themselves with people who have experienced exactly the same things. It's also a chance to celebrate uniqueness in all ways and to show we're not the self-conscious wallowing-in-self-pity children we may well have once been. We're not bothered any more about what other people think and we're so immune to the stereotypes we're happy to embrace them by all coming together in a semi-ironic 'we're a separate group from the rest' way, with the same comfortable acceptance and self-ridicule Catherine Tate shows in her legendary 'ginger refuge' sketch. Of course everyone's different and without that the world would be a pretty boring place. Realising that and embracing what makes us individuals is an essential part of growing up.
Admittedly I'd find it a bit weird being surrounded by 5,000 people who all share my hair but I'm tempted to give it a go and bond with all those who, like me (according to the rather infamous South Park episode) don't have souls and, like Edward Cullen, should stay out of the sun. At least if conversation ever dries up there's always the option of resorting to the 'ooh I love your hair colour' compliment (where you're essentially admiring your own natural attributes whilst simultaneously praising someone else - never fails).
For more of my writing please check out my travel blog at http://laviedeparis.wordpress.com/