Archive | August, 2011

Red Hot: A Heatwave Through The Eyes of a Ginger

1 Aug

I wouldn't dare show that much shoulder.

‘Ooh that’s better, summer’s finally here. That’s glorious,’ is uttered from sweating faces with relaxed mouths and closed eyes.

‘Oh yes. ‘Int it lovely?’ will say another from the comfort of a sun-faded garden chair, hands clasped and ruddy elbows rested on its searing hot plastic arms.

For our weather-obsessed nation, the proclamation of a good run of weather is akin to Moses’ appearance at the brow of Mount Sinai waving a couple of slabs of stone around. It’ll hit the front pages of every tabloid, usually with some buxom, bikini-clad young fillies ‘making a splash’ or ‘making summer get a bit hotter’ on a beach somewhere.

Your peripheral vision will be invaded by hairy knees and crusty, beflip-flopped feet and my intolerance for sunglasses etiquette abuse soars off the scale. (Unless you are blind or committing the fancy dress cop-out of ‘being a Blues Brother’ then shades should not be worn indoors.) Generally, spirits are high and moods are fantastic.       That is… for most people. But there are other people. Forgotten people. The misunderstood and downtrodden, the ostracised and wretched.

The gingers.

 

For gingerkind, the utterance of ‘heatwave’ inspires fear as well as igniting a panic buying mission to Boots for soothing gels and sunscreen. ‘Have you not got anything higher than 90?’ is spat out at mousy shop assistants with a sense of urgency seen in disaster films. If you’re not one of this freckled and pasty people then you just won’t understand.

I’ve been living as a ginger for nearly 25 years now, and it never gets any easier. I’m currently in hiding, my true identity concealed beneath a shocking pink mop of hair that actually makes me feel more accepted by society than my natural form. As a kid, I actually hit the jackpot in terms of aesthetic setbacks for the reputation by being a ginger with glasses, braces and really good academic success. Had I had acne I would have been the poster girl for society’s notion of ‘Geek’ across the land. It caused me to be shy and almost painfully quiet, a kid that would have been adored in the speak-when-spoken-to Victorian parental era.

Summer holidays often meant a trip away with my family somewhere sunny, which only complicated my relationship with my gingerness. While all the other kids could run around in the sunshine in a fashion replicated by adverts for Soltan and Haven Holidays, kicking up sand and glowing with heat and happiness- there I was having to shelter from the vicious rays. I distinctly remember trying in vain to tan over the years, to the point where my skin would go so pink that my freckles looked a bit green. Have you ever seen such a sorrowful creature beyond the boundaries of a monster-filled fairytale? No. Before my teens caused me to squirm away from my mother’s sunblock-wielding grasp, every step beyond the safety of shade would see me grabbed and endure a facial slathering of weakly coconut scented grease to protect me from that great burning foe in the sky. 90% of early holiday snaps feature my brother and parents golden and smiling next to what looks like a sulking ghost.

The worst part of a ginger’s summer can actually come at the end, just as you return to normality after your glorious holiday feeling relaxed and refreshed. You can almost lay money on the following kind of conversation occurring:

Acquaintance: ‘Not seen you around for a couple of weeks, are you alright? Where have you been?’

Ginger: ‘Oh, I just got away to Lanzarote for a couple of weeks.’

Acquaintance, confused: ‘What- really?’ Surveys Ginger’s post-holiday glow. ‘Was the weather no good?’

So as you can see, summertime might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

At this gorgeous time of year, please spare a thought for us ginger people. When you complain about the longevity of tan, please just remember that we have a choice of red, pink or white. Such a limited palette can get awful depressing. When a ginger friend returns from holiday, remark on how well they look. Try and see beyond their peeling shoulders and angry looking complexion. What we all secretly hope for is that one day the Elizabethan trend for cadaverously pale skin will knock the day-glo look well and truly off its perch and when that day  happens, you may very well want a ginger friend by your side.

Gingers have feelings too.