Red hair is a woman's game.
The harsh truth is, most red-haired men look like blonds who've spoiled from lack of refrigeration. They look like brown-haired men who've been composted. Yet that same pigmentation that on a man can resemble leaf mold or junk yard rust, a woman wears like a tiara of rubies.
Not only are female redheads frequently lovely but theirs is a loveliness
that suggests both lust and danger, pleasure and violence, and is, therefore,
to the male of the species virtually irresistible. Red O red were the tresses
of the original femme fatale.
Of course, much of the "fatale" associated with redheads is illusory, a stereotypical projection on the part of sexually neurotic men. Plenty of redheads are as demure as rosebuds and as sweet as strawberry pie. However, the mere fact that they are perceived to be stormy, if not malicious, grants them a certain license and a certain power. It's as if bitchiness is their birthright. By virtue of their coloration, they possess an innate permit to be terrible and lascivious, which, even if never exercised, sets them apart from the remainder of womankind, who have traditionally been expected to be mild and pure.
Now that women are demolishing those old misogynistic expectations, will redheads lose their special magic, will Pippi Longstocking come to be regarded as just one of the girls? Hardly. To believe that blondes and brunettes are simply redheads in repressive drag is to believe that UFOs are kiddie balloons. All redheads, you see, are mutants.
Whether they spring from genes disarranged by earthly forces or are "planted" here by overlords from outer space is a matter for scholarly debate. It's enough for us to recognize that redheads are abnormal beings, bioelectrically connected to realms of strange power, rage, risk and ecstasy.
What is your mission among us, you daughters of ancient Henna, you agents of the harvest moon? Are those star maps that your freckles replicate? How do you explain the fact that you live longer than the average human? Where did you get such sensitive skin? And why are your curls the same shade as heartbreak?
Alas, inquiry is futile: Either they don't know or they won't say -- and who has the nerve to pressure a redhead? We may never learn their origin or meaning, but it probably doesn't matter. We will go on leaping out of our frying pans into their fire, grateful for the opportunity to be titillated by their vengeful fury, real or imagined, and to occasionally test our erotic mettle in the legendary inferno of their passion.
Redheaded women! Those blood oranges! Those cherry bombs! Those celestial
shrews and queens of copper! May they never cease to stain our white-bread
lives with super-natural catsup.
Tom Robbins's novels include Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and, most recently, Jitterbug Perfume. He is completing a new novel, to be published by Bantam Books in 1989. He has been called a redhead, but his hair is more brown.