I don’t know where my obsession with red hair came from. I suspect it started with Anne Shirley, who was my heroine as a kid. I loved those old movies (well, back then they were relatively new) with Meghan Follows. To this day, I do not know if my fondness for Anne is due to us being so similar, or if we are similar because I loved her so much I was determined to be like her. But neither of us have much time for “boys,” both of us love to write about tall, dark, and sinister men (… whatever that means — in my case, it means sometimes my villains are way cooler than my heroes… darn it), and we tend to get really, well, annoyed at having our works critiqued. Unless we ask for a critique, of course, and in that case we only semi-mean it, and if you’re Gilbert Blythe, don’t even go there. I fortunately do not have her temper. In fact, I am usually the one rolling my eyes while everyone else has tantrums and saying, “Oh, for heaven’s sake — calm down!”
My love of red hair branched out significantly when I discovered Kathleen in The McGregor Saga. Her hair was not just red, it was really, really red. Stare-at-it-in-awe red. Kind of a luxurious deep auburn-red. I loved it, and I loved her. Kathleen came into town and picked an immediate argument with Matt McGregor, of the “you can’t tell me what to do, and I don’t need your help” variety. You see, even then I was an independent little feminist. I couldn’t help it, it’s in my nature. Although I do wonder… I work at a magazine, as an editor, for a living. Kathleen wound up running the local newspaper as their first female editor. Coincidence?
Please don’t speculate on that, I’m not sure I want to know.
Then I discovered Elizabeth I, a natural redhead. I owe my obsession with her in general to both the fact that she is awesome and on Cate Blanchett’s tremendous depiction of her in film, even if it is total rubbish when you compare it with history. (… pretty costumes… great actors… but HUH??) Other than Isabella of Spain (whom I also adore), what other women do you think of when you look back on the powerhouse females of Europe? Pretty much no one, right? It’s all Elizabeth. She ruled alone. No husband needed. They tried to boss her around. It didn’t work. She altered England for the better and did it alone and that in of itself is remarkable. Guess she inherited more than her daddy’s temper — she also got her mother’s strength. (Elizabeth really did inherit Henry VIII’s temper — she would become so aggravated and hysterical in the midst of her tantrums that she would pass out from not being able to breathe in her corsets! Which… being me, I find absolutely hysterical.)
Adoration settled in a few years back when I found out Katharine of Aragon also had red hair, even though she is consistently depicted as a dark-haired Spaniard. (Boo on them! What a wasted opportunity to fire up the screen! Not that I am diminishing her depiction on The Tudors… she by far got the most accurate and sympathetic depiction and I would not trade Maria Doyle Kennedy for anyone…) That pretty much settled it as far as red hair being fabulous. Katharine was an amazing woman — a woman of tremendous strength, courage, and faith and she continues to inspire me to this day. May Philippa Gregory do penance for writing such rubbish about her in her inaccurate novel. Not that it’s a sore spot or anything. Or that I watched in horrified fascination when a friend literally burned that book. Nope. Not me.
The novel I have been working on for the last year and a half, maybe longer (when you reach a point of insanity, you no longer know these trite details), has two redheads in it. Evangeline, who has supernatural powers she cannot fully comprehend, and her aunt, Henoria, who is well, just plain cool. Because not every aunt has total control over the animals in the northern woods. Not every aunt can compell trees to move. Not every aunt is chosen as a Guardian. And not every aunt must stay out of the moonlight without… well, eventually you will find that out. If I am fortunate enough to find a publisher who is interested. For your sake, I hope I do!
I am, alas, not a redhead.
Or maybe I should say, I am not a natural redhead.
I can fake it really, really well since my pale skin goes with almost any hair color. I am this moment a bottle-born redhead and this time I didn’t go for a natural red, but a dramatic red. A dynamic red. A red that says, “This girl means business.” I hesitated before dying it. I looked at the box awhile, then at my natural hair color, which is what I sourly refer to as “dishwater blonde.” I haven’t dyed it in more than a year, so it was either time to dye it or time to accept that I had moved past that stage in my life and matured.
In the end, I went for it and am glad I did. Because sometimes when the economy is lousy and you don’t like your elected officials and you have decided to give up sugar for 30 days even if it kills you, you just need to do something nuts like dye your hair the color it should have been all along. I am convinced I was intended to be a redhead, but since we live in a fallen world — I got dishwater blonde. The natural byproduct of being born in a sinful world.
Oh, well. God loves me in spite of my hair color, and I really don’t mind it. But I do enjoy changing it now and again. I imagine my love for red hair even makes him smile a little bit.
A little while ago, I walked up the hill in the rain to get my mail. I opened the screen door to my parents’ house and Dad said, “Hiya, Red!”