JUDAS WAS A REDHEAD. And that was pretty much that for any hope of redheaded men ever being considered icons of attractiveness, trustworthiness or temperance. Red-haired women, by comparison, fare far better, forming a sisterhood whose stereotypes are far more flattering, though no less ancient.
In fact, the expectations we still have of redheaded women—sexy, fun-loving, hot-tempered—pre-date Judas, and can be found as early as 600 BC, in prescriptions against ever acting like someone named Lilith, the world’s first redhead (and the subject of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s painting, above). Pretty much ever since, as any redhead will tell you, every redhead has come in contact with beliefs about our behavior that are as much a marker as the haircolor itself.
The color itself divides us from others, even from our sisters. Forever, I’ve been “the redheaded Roach sister,” or merely “the redhead,” though no one ever calls Margaret, “the brunette.” And with that color-marker came the expectation that of the two, I am the wild one. And I was, though I am not now. Hot-tempered? I was, and I still am. Fun-loving? Always. Does this mean that she is none of these things? Not at all, only that any of these behaviors are not universally expected from her.
The behavior expected of redheads may be why more women than ever are making the decision to ramp up the color. While only 2 percent of America is naturally red, 30 percent of women between 18 and 34 years old who are coloring at home are going red—a 17 percent jump in recent numbers. The newly converted include top model Coco Rocha, who just gave in to what is reported to be a lifelong yearning to do so.
My theory on the hike in the color is that women, no longer afraid to be powerful, are finally willing to telegraph that power. I see redheads everywhere. And while I have only this advice to offer all those newly-reds—do as you like, not as you are expected to do—I wonder what Margaret might say to a sister who has transposed herself to my side of the color wheel.