Out of the red

ginger jokes red hair

My sandwich board last year at the Edinburgh Fringe

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m ginger. In the UK, that means that I am part of the last minority group that it is acceptable to discriminate against. Whether you like it or not, having red hair defines you in the UK. Having ginger hair is a misfortune, like having a big nose or a third leg. But unlike having a big nose or a third leg, people feel that it’s acceptable to comment and joke about your misfortune. As a ginger, I have been:

  • Given terrible nicknames. All the obvious ones like carrot top (although I’ve never understood that one, a carrot’s top is green) as a child, and later in life, my darling flatmate gave me the supposedly affectionate nickname of ‘ugly ginger f-er’ – this became so popular that I was called UGF for most of my university career.
  • Abused at work. On my birthday last year, my best pals at work dressed up in ginger wigs and cooked only foodstuffs containing ginger, carrot and orange for us to eat. Another workmate regularly made comments about my hair, sent me weblinks to ginger dating websites, and on one memorable occasion, asked for a meeting in which he explained that my presence in the office put the rest of my colleagues at risk of ginger-vitis. (According to a friend who works in employment law, this does not legally constitute discrimination as ginger people are not a group that it is possible to discriminate against.)
  • Subject to random criticism. Whether that be from abusive facebook ‘friends’ referring to my ‘disability’ or from people randomly shouting ‘GINGERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR’ out of their car windows, low level, stupid criticism is a fact of life (and normally only happens when you are already having a bad day).
  • Allowed into London zoo for half price because a ginger monkey had been born. I’m not complaining, it was a decent discount. But can you imagine the outcry if black people were allowed a 50% discount because a Black Rhino was born?
So imagine what a shock it is for me to come to a country where gingers are not only not a national joke, but they don’t really exist at all. I don’t mean that there aren’t Bulgarians with a similar hair colour to myself; in fact, there are. But there’s no real concept of people with red hair being different to anyone else. In fact, more than once, people have referred to my ‘blonde’ hair.

When you’re away from the jokes, you realise just how bizarre they are. I remember a friend who lives in Germany saying that she had made a joke to a ginger colleague about his hair colour, and he couldn’t understand why it was funny, as there was no real basis to the joke (that, or it’s true that Germans don’t have a sense of humour).

Being here in Bulgaria is also rather good for the old self-esteem as not having a misfortunate hair colour means that I am considered proportionately more attractive in this country. That, and the fact that the men are generally more flirty here (especially the old ones), means that I find myself recipient of a lot of compliments. Said compliments are made even more enjoyable by the fact that the men here generally have quite deep, relatively monotone, voices, and an accent that sounds almost Germanic to the untrained ear. It’s like being seduced by Arnold Schwarzenegger…

About sozofia

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2 Responses to Out of the red

  1. Emma says:

    I miss you so much!xx

  2. Orl says:

    We’re just wise… Chuck Norris is ginger

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