The past 13 years of my life have been spent vehemently denying my membership to the ginger tribe. The first nine were spent in blissful ignorance, unaware of the future taunts, jibes and insults my hair colour would bestow on me.
Let me just make this clear now: I am only a half ginger. I still maintain my colouring is auburn. I do have justifications for ascertaining this admittedly precocious hair colour; in the summer I tan (a definite sign I am not a pure-breed ginger), and I have dark features. However, neither have spared me from taunts of ginge minge fringe (I used to have the latter - thanks Mum), ginger minger, (particularly hurtful) and my favourite: period-head.
On Saturday, a story emerged about a boy who had been mercilessly targeted and "happy slapped" by a gang because of his hair colour. According to the Daily Mail, the "vicious gang" had been planning their "slap a ginger day" for two weeks prior to pouncing on the poor lad. Police are now investigating claims students are mercilessly launching assaults on red-haired children at the Hove school.
Now, in this day an age, where political correctness has been pushed to the extreme, why is making fun of someone's colouring still considered fair game?
Admittedly, I have myself been guilty of persecuting my flame-haired relatives. My (step) brother and sister are both of the carrot-top variety and so for Christmas I diplomatically purchased 'The Ginger Survival Guide' for the latter. The former has a "donate to gingers: this could happen to you" poster hanging on his wall.
I feel I am fighting a losing battle to establish myself as "not ginger". A friend's mother once commented I resembled Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Great, I thought, not only do I look like a prostitute, she has automatically assumed I'm ginger.
I think my worst experience of gingerism was during my daily hustle to get on the tube. I was standing next to two youths when one gestured to let me go in front. How chivalrous, I thought, youngsters do have manners after all. Alas, his friend pushed in front of me and hopped on first. (Before you think I'm being sensitive - it does get worse.) Thinking I was out of earshot, his friend chided him for pushing in front. "Nah mate", the rude yob replied, "It's coz she's ginger, init."
I was flabbergasted, to say the least.
Even my own dear mother has joined in with the baying crowds. Once I remarked I quite fancied myself as Prince Harry's future wife.
"Don't be ridiculous", she replied, quite obviously horrified at the thought. "Two gingers can't marry, you'd only make more of them."
Strangely enough I seem to have developed a ginger fetish over the years. Whether it is some sub-conscious need to seek solace in the arms of a fellow victim, I don't know, but I actually find them very attractive. Not the pale freckled sort though; just the Prince Harry look-a-likes.
So, to conclude: if you're ever about to insult a member of the ginger species, just remember: carrots have feelings too.