Better Red Than…Not Red

Freckleface Strawberry


Gorgeous Julianne Moore didn't use her adult picture for the book jacket, but her child picture.  Brava!

Gorgeous Julianne Moore didn’t use her adult picture for the book jacket, but her child picture. Brava!

When my parents married—more than sixty years before he developed Alzheimer’s and she slipped into dementia—they were both vibrant and creative people. They both were also attractive brunettes, and their first child, David, was also an adorable brunette. In fact, in college when my roommate met my brother, she swooned and said, “Wow! He looks like the actor, Tom Selleck.” Then she paused, looked at me and asked the usual question, “So where’d you get red hair?”

Growing up, I got that question a lot. My brother had me convinced I was adopted until my mother put an end to that. Then as we got older, he answered the question with a zinger: “We’re not sure, but our mail man has red hair.” That got him some laughs, but was more than a little awkward for me because my boyfriend was the son of our mailman.  As it turned out, it came from my paternal grandfather and my great-Aunt Addie Lee, who both had wonderful red hair.

Redheads account for 13% of the population in Scotland, 10% in Ireland, but worldwide less than 2% and predicted to eventually disappear. Bees have been proven to be more attracted to redheads; and rumor has it that Hitler banned marriage between redheads to avoid “deviant offspring.” A Russian proverb states, “There was never a saint with red hair.” BUT according to the British Journal of Cancer, men with red hair are 54% less likely to develop prostate cancer than brown- and blonde-haired men.

The beautiful and talented actress Julianne Moore is a red head.  Among her many movie credits and awards, she received the Best Actress Oscar for her role in STILL ALICE, inspired by the true story of a woman’s struggles with early onset Alzheimer’s. Moore also wrote a fun, triumphant children’s book in 2007 titled FRECKLEFACE STRAWBERRY. Boy, do I wish that book had been around when I was a child; I would have used it to smack my brother! Fortunately, I learned to love my red hair, and as it turned out, our daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren all have beautiful red hair.

There was never a more beautiful baby than my redheaded daughter...unless it's my redheaded grandchildren!

There was never a more beautiful baby than my redheaded daughter …unless it’s our redheaded grandchildren!

Yesterday, November 5th, was National Love Your Red Hair Day. Actually, I think the entire month should be a Tribute to Red Hair, but here’s a compromise: Nov. 7th is Book Lovers’ Day, and Nov. 10th is Young Readers’ Day ~ in both cases, you might read Julianne Moore’s book for a fun crash-course in freckles. Spoiler Alert: No, you don’t have to cover freckles with a Magic Marker or a body stocking, and it’s true that A face without freckles is like a night without stars!

“Ruadh gu brath!” (Scots gaelic for “Red heads forever!”)

A former high school student painted this portrait of my daughter.

A former high school student painted this 3’x4′ portrait of our daughter.

30 years later, one of Molly's GED students painted this portrait of my grandchildren.

30 years later, one of Molly’s GED students painted this portrait of our grandchildren.



Filed under Uncategorized

48 responses to “Better Red Than…Not Red

  1. Claudia

    Lots of red hair on my grandmother and her sisters, and I have many red-haired cousins. But we three kids all missed it, and neither of my children had a glint of the family Irish or in Grandma’s case, German, red hair. I have a wee bit of redish in the sunlight or used too, accented in later years by coloring. But now even that is gone. Glad you celebrate your reds!!! And Book Lovers Day…that is every day here, ha-ha. Hope you have a great weekend ahead…we expect a first frost sometime this weekend.

  2. My grandfather’s (and his sister’s) red hair skipped a generation, Claudia, and then I got it. When I was pregnant, my doctor said not to get too hopeful because true red usually skipped a generation, but my daughter didn’t get skipped…and neither did her children, so we’ve had three generations in a row, and I’m no longer in the lonely minority! 🙂
    We dropped to 20 degrees here last night and had snow flurries today. Winter is on the way, but like you, Book Lovers Day is every day for me, so I have plenty of reading material if there’s a storm.

  3. juliabarrett

    We have loads of redheads on our family. My grandmother, my cousins, my sister, myself… A couple of gingers and some of us auburns. We have the passions to match. Oh, your right – skipped a generation!
    Happy November, Marylin. How’s your mom doing?

    • It depends on the day, Julia. Some days Mom is listless, refuses to eat more than a few bites during the entire day, and mostly naps in her recliner. Then she’ll surprise us and suddenly be hungry, thirsty, and chatty about things that make no sense, but which still make us smile.

  4. Thanks, Julia. So far, even though the dementia is exchanging all the present thoughts for long-past memories, she still seems comfortable and content, just doing the best she can.
    I think the passions and energies and all kind of strong things are also part of the red-head personality, Julia. I’ve always liked that, but when I was a kid it made me feel very different, and that was hard (when you’re a kid, it’s hard enough to make sense of things, right?) 😉

  5. Molly

    Mom, I love this story…and not just because I am a red head! I thought it was sweet “vengence” when the family got together for Grandma’s birthday, and red hair dominated the group!

    I will never forget when I was pregnant with Grace and Dr. Gorman prepared Trevor and I that the chance of us having a red haired baby was less than 1%. But then, not just our first baby, but the second also had red hair.

    Here in Chapman I really don’t think that red hair is going extinct, in fact to the contrary I think it is making a HUGE comeback.

    Love you

    • I remember the first school event Dad and I went to at the kids’ grade school, Molly. I’d just read about how red hair would eventually be gone, and I thought that the researchers were SO wrong. Everywhere in the school cafeteria were wonderful redheads; they seemed to outnumber the other colors!
      And you’re so right; the family get-together was amazingly strong in “Red”–and I loved it! 🙂

      • When Grace plays in her 7th grade basketball tournament this weekend, her Grandpa will be the proudest-grandpa-of-his red-head-granddaughter in the stands! You go, Grace!

  6. Not only do red heads have extraordinary hair colour and tone, they more often have the most gorgeous peachy skin. Celebrate minorities – look at all of us who are left handers and are supposedly ‘sinister!’
    Lovely pic of you with Molly. And the portraits are great too.

    • Sinister? I prefer creative! 😉 Doing the red-head research, Jenny, I also came across two sources that said redheads are more likely to be left-handed and ambidextrous (I was ambidextrous until first grade, when the teacher made me “choose”–which of course was to be right handed…)
      If I had only a few minutes to carry out favorite “things” during a fire, I would try to get the painted portraits of Molly and the grandchildren. 🙂

  7. I was a redhead fading now and flecked with grey at the temples. It came from my mother I disliked it as a child but later shrugged it off. Apparently I tried to change the colour by putting flour in it once. It didn’t work. My mother claimed her hair was auburn. So I have no problem with redheads. We’re an elite bunch.

    • Such an elite bunch, Andrew, especially since it’s predicted that we’re also a dying out group!
      The comments seem to confirm the Red Thread that weaves its way through families’ hair colors. 🙂

  8. Marylin, I like how you use the Calendar of Events as anchor points for many of your posts – so instructive.

    About the red hair – as you know from my blog posts, my oldest grandson has red hair and my only grand-daughter, auburn. I had an uncle with strawberry blond hair, but aside from that there are mostly various shades of brown on my mother’s and father’s side of the family. Our son-in-law Joe introduced red hair color into our family gene pool though he himself is blond. I agree with Andrew – redheads are an elite bunch.

    When we visit Savannah, GA, we see many redheads because of immigration of Irish. I will check out Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore.

    After I had read the book, I saw her movie Still Alice. Moore was spot on in her portrayal of the confusion of Alzheimer’s disease and its effect on the patient and family. You pack so much good info into your posts – always a joy to read.

    • When STILL ALICE first came out, it was too painful for me to read, Marian, but the movie was fascinating. I thought Julianne Moore did an excellent job. FRECKLEFACE STRAWBERRY is a lot of fun.
      I do know that you and I both have many shades of red in our families, especially our wonderful grandchildren. And, in my experience, freckles are like beauty marks–many beauty marks–though I didn’t see them that way when I was growing up.

  9. A lovely picture of you with a young Molly Marylin.It’s good the gene is so strong in your family as maybe you can keep it going despite predictions it’s on it’s way out.
    xxx Sending you Gigantic Hugs xxx

    • We’re certainly doing our best, David, as our red-headed grandchildren add a lot of color and energy and wonderful-ness to our lives! Thanks for your sweet compliments; you always make me smile. Gigantic Hugs back to you!

  10. First and foremost I love red heads! I have some red in my hair and my daughter had red hair when she was born but is now strawberry blond. I have several friends who are red heads and I love their spirited personalities! I swear that red heads just have more spunk than the rest of us! And freckles – so cute! Two of my children have them and I can’t imagine their sweet faces without them! Fabulous post and shame on your brother for the trauma over the mailman statement! Hehe! 😊

    • Your photography makes the most of each person’s coloring and wonderful attributes like smiles, glances…and even freckles, I’m sure, Robyn. My brother certainly thought his comment was funnier than I did, at least back then when it happened. 😉

  11. HI Marylin,
    My husband had red highlights when I met him and our daughter had a bit of red in her hair when she was born. I don’t think I was crazy about my daughter’s red hair but I have a totally different attitude about red hair now.
    It is so beautiful and I swoon over naturally red hair in anyone I meet. I did red highlights in my own hair years later so I really came around to how striking red hair can be.
    Your brother sounds like a real comedian. 😉
    xo Joanne

    • I am so glad you saw the light and came around to the Red Side, Joanne.
      😉 When I looked at your gorgeous dark hair at your own baby shower, and then the wonderful hair of your mother and grandmother, there is a depth of beauty in all of you.

  12. Red hair runs in my very German family. My niece and nephew have it but their offspring don’t. Neither do my siblings. It just cropped up. No freckles though. Both of them are in their 60s and their hair has toned down to a deep auburn. Still beautiful.

    • We have a great deal of German in our background, too, and for many generations the red hair seemed to skip generations or just “crop up” unexpectedly, Kate. With my grandchildren, we were extra hopeful that the red-haired tradition would continue. Our daughter is a red head, and she married a red-headed Irish cop, but still the doctor said they might not have any red-haired children, that the color was very unpredictable. We were thrilled when both of our grandchildren proved the doctor wrong. 🙂

  13. Nancy Parker Brummett

    It’s good to be part of the 2%! Always loved your red locks.

  14. Wow! The paintings by the students are amazing, Marylin. My twin nieces are striking red heads. We’ve never figured out where the red came into play, but they also got the mailman comments. 🙂 Happy Book Lover’s Day!

    • According to my doctor, red is more likely to skip a generation or two, so we’ve been thrilled that after I inherited red hair from my grandfather and his sister, then my daughter inherited it directly, as did both of my grand-children. Red is our favorite color at family gatherings!
      Aw, the poor mailman. 😉 Or maybe mailmen think it’s kind of cool?
      Happy Book Lover’s Day to you, too, Jill. When will your book be out?

      • Thanks, Marylin. I haven’t been given a release date. The book is still with the editor going through line and copy edits. As you know, the publishing world moves at a turtle’s pace. 🙂 Have a great day!

  15. No red heads in our family but my son´s daughter has gorgeous red hair (from her mother). I love it. I was born with dull brown hair and have coloured it a rich auburn for so many years that everyone thinks I am a real red head. I do hope it does not go extinct. Red heads rule!!

  16. Jim

    By several strokes of good fortune and faith, I have a loving family full of fiery redheads! Each and every one of you is a talented self-starter and goal-achiever. You keep me waiting in awe to see what comes next. Love you all so much. Dad/Grandpa

    • You’re so sweet, honey. Not many husbands/dads/grandpas would be as comfortable with a houseful of redheads, but your uncle’s red hair maybe showed you the funny, feisty, competent side in advance. You’re wonderful to all of us, always appreciating and encouraging our personalities, and we’re so fortunate to have you in our corners. 🙂
      Love you lots, honey.

  17. My mother-in-law had beautiful red hair, but my son took his hair color from my side of the family. That photo of you and your daughter is gorgeous!

    • Thank you, Darla. For the longest time, I thought I was all alone in the red-head corner, and I put up with teasing. But now I’m so grateful to be surrounded by the next generations.
      That photo of us when Molly was a baby is my favorite. If I had only a few minutes to grab my favorite things before a tornado or a fire, etc., I’d take that framed picture and the two portraits painted by students.

  18. Marylin, redheads stand out in every way! Keep standing out. I love that idea of placing a baby photo on the back of a book cover. Hmm…perhaps I’ll do the same when my baby book every gets published. 🙂

  19. Redheads rock and you rock Marylin! My eldest son and one of my cousins are redheads which we discovered came down through my great-grandmother’s line. It’s fascinating how that happens isn’t it? Also, your National Love Your Red Head Day is on the same day as our Bonfire Night when we let off fireworks, burn fires and celebrate the capture of Guy Fawkes. A celebration with a bang, and so shall it be 🙂 Oh…and I adore your family photos, the one of you with your daughter is just gorgeous, one beautiful mama and her darling little girl 🙂

    • Aw, thank you, Sherri.
      Since your eldest son has red hair, you might agree with what my mom used to say about mine: It really fits your personality, honey. 😉
      You’re the third person to refer to Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night being on the November 5th. Here in the US we don’t understand Guy Fawkes, and although I Googled it, I hope that sometime you’ll give us a more personal perspective in a post. Maybe in one of your terrific 100-word stories! 🙂

  20. What a fascinating collection of facts about redheads, Marylin. I once had a box set of cards from an art museum (the Metropolitan??) which featured famous paintings of redheads. They were gorgeous. Just like you.

    • Thank you, Shirlely. That’s such a nice compliment.
      Years ago I was given an address book of red heads from the Metropolitan Art Museum, and I was stunned that of the 25 pictures, no two were even close to being the same shade of red!

  21. I love the part about you being teased and asked if adopted. Being the child with curly hair, I got that too. (Laughing here) But every so often, I’d hope they were right! Now I’m thankful for it, and it sounds like you are too. Happy Red Hair Day!

  22. Redheads rule! Where would we be without beautiful redheads like you and your offspring?

  23. My sister is a redhead, and suffered as a child from the usual foolish “carrot head” remarks. Thankfully, later in life, she grew to love her beautiful auburn locks and now laughs at the many who dye their hair to gain just such a tint. Whatever our hair colour, we should all be more inclusive, on this but also higher levels. I love Julianne Moore, great actress, beautiful looking woman. Yay for redheads everywhere!

  24. calvin

    Am chuckling here. Every family has a hair question mark. But judging from the picture of you and your daughter, the colour of the hair had little to do with the glowing smile.

    In our family, my Mother had jet black hair, my Father blonde. Their three children a reddish brown; a blend I reckon.

  25. Marylin … Such a gorgeous photo of you and your redheaded daughter. My mother’s mother had beautiful auburn hair. Our family also has had strawberry blondes and several shades in between. All stunning redheads. 😉

  26. A pleasure to read this!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s