Recently, I saw a Twitter handle I didn’t like. It was something like—but not exactly—@RedHeadWriterGirl97. I clicked on her avatar, which showed a head full of dyed, muted auburn. You are not a redhead, I thought at her. How could I trust anything @RedHeadWriterGirl97 wrote, when she was being so dishonest about something anyone could see with their own eyes?
One of the things that I found challenging about writing on the internet every day is that it nearly always felt like I ought to be angry about something. It’s not that I wasn’t; I just felt so much anger at such frequent intervals that expressing it in writing began to feel like assembling something that didn’t want to be assembled. In The Bathroom, a novel by Jean-Philippe Toussaint about a man who decides to live in his bathroom, there are a few memorable scenes in which a pair of Polish painters work endlessly to skin six dead octopuses, the rubbery corpses stubbornly defying efforts to impose order onto their motionless glop. Stirring up public emotion about important issues is a good thing to do, but it took me a while to realize that there’s a finite supply of it, and a finite amount of individual emotion available to be scooped up and performed, and pretty soon writing anything at all began to feel like wringing out a dry towel, or painstakingly skinning a half-dozen jiggling invertebrates that no one asked for.
For a while, anyway. Now that I don’t blog all the time, I suddenly would like to fight. I want to initiate major drama. This may sound unhealthy, but for me, a rigidly tentative person, it is mostly a good thing. My anger has retreated from its post amongst thousands of blogs and reconstituted itself as a breathing thing that lives inside of me. She’s got Picasso eyes and spirals out of my stomach like an undrawable Ursula. We’ve been having a great time together.
Recently, I went on a date with a perfectly nice man who made me want to paint my face blue and crush a brick with my fist. Well into his thirties, he spoke about his college experience and other uninteresting things for a long time. At a certain point, he revealed, to my surprise, that he was writing a comedy script. Occasionally, upon realizing that he wasn’t asking me any questions, he would ventriloquize me with joke-y third-person statements like, “Okay, Sam*, enough about you!” When he mentioned how excited he was for automated cars, I think I hissed.
“Are you serious?” I replied. His smile faded, puzzled. His eyes widened a bit. I explained for a while, loudly, why he was wrong. He tried to placate me, his hands motioning surrender. I was unmoved. I started talking, still loudly, about how human extinction is probably what’s best for the planet long-term.
“The good news is that the trees and mushrooms may outlast us,” I said intensely. We mutually decided at that point to go our separate ways.
It was perhaps unfair to this optimistic Brooklyn technocrat for me to unleash the full brunt of my reassembled fury directly onto him. The world is not his fault, after all. Instead, maybe I ought to just leave my complaints with you, like a trembling French bulldog taking an urgent poo after many months of constipation.
Here’s what I want to fight about:
- How Instagram stories splinter our humanity into performance and destroy our ability to enjoy life on a moment-to-moment basis
- How it should be okay to pick your nose—is it not worse to have a booger out there for everyone in the world to see?
- Bill de Blasio
- The Kentucky democratic gubernatorial primary
- How it is actually not okay to plaster a dry erase board onto the fridge for the express purpose of leaving passive-aggressive notes to your roommates who may or may not have accidentally dropped a leaf of kale onto the floor and forgotten to pick it up
- Why didn’t anyone tell me that it was bad for my joints and body in general to cross my legs?
- Cell phone towers
- When people publish a tweet praising an article they claim to have read, even though the article was published 2 minutes earlier
But for the purpose of getting a solidly dumb argument started, I’d like to circle back to my initial point.
If you’ve got a streak of auburn—or a hint of strawberry—you are not, I’m sorry, a redhead. I’ve said it before, but clearly I have to say it again. If your hair hasn’t been orange as Hell from birth in a kind of intense way, you aren’t really a redhead. If a total and complete stranger has never taken you by the arm at a grocery store and demanded that you be grateful for that hair, you are not a redhead.
If you have not experienced light humiliation in middle school specifically related to your hair color, you are not a redhead. If “redhead” is an often-repeated personal branding device for you, then you, in my opinion, are not a redhead, because clearly no one has ever used that term against you while wearing a weird aren’t-I-funny smile on their face, yelling, “Ginger!” or “Red!” or, worst of all, “Red, eye on the ball!” And if you read Jacky Collis Harvey’s questionable 2015 book comparing anti-redhead bias to racism and did not think, this is so embarrassing for all of us, you might be a redhead, but you are not a very good one.
If you would like to call yourself a redhead but are unsure, please feel free to DM me. I will probably say no, just a heads up. Real redheads, even though we may love and appreciate ourselves, do not feel the need to constantly remind everyone that we look like Lumière. It is simply a visible and obvious fact.
Do you disagree? Good.
*His name was not Sam.