Katy Guest: Confessions of a Titian-haired lovely

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As a genuine fake redhead (No 64: Deep Copper Red), I'm well aware of the stereotypes; let's face it, I spend good money and countless ammonia-stung hours buying into the redheaded myth. So last week's news that scientists have discovered a high pain-threshold gene in red-haired women came as no surprise: I have had a few years of wondering why I should have become so much more "tough" and "formidable" since I dyed my hair.

As a genuine fake redhead (No 64: Deep Copper Red), I'm well aware of the stereotypes; let's face it, I spend good money and countless ammonia-stung hours buying into the redheaded myth. So last week's news that scientists have discovered a high pain-threshold gene in red-haired women came as no surprise: I have had a few years of wondering why I should have become so much more "tough" and "formidable" since I dyed my hair.

The words "feisty" and "redhead" go together like "dumb" and "blonde", and since going under the nozzle I must have received more accusations of the "volcanic" variety than in the rest of my mousy-brown life. I've been called a "Titian-haired lovely" and compared in awestruck tones to a Burne-Jones angel with pre-Raphaelite curls. And if I had a euro for every time I've been asked "do you have any Irish in you?" (and then, optimistically, "would you like some?") I could buy most of Cork. "Plantagenet queen, actually," I usually say, nonchalantly, with one hand covering my roots. You don't go red if you shy away from attention. Blondes may have to live up to the "having more fun" label, but "redheaded women buck like goats" (according to James Joyce). It's a choice between Barbie and Jessica Rabbit, and one that can be hard to live up to.

Of course, it's very different for genuine gingers. "You're not a real redhead unless you had to go through school as a redhead," says a posting at www.redandproud.com. "Those years are hell." A stunning, red-as-hell cousin says the teasing is what makes redheads strong. "You stick together," she says. "Most of my strongest alliances have been with redheads. At school they called us the Ginger Circus. They tried to make us do tricks." Is it any wonder flame-haired children grow up with a higher tolerance of pain? "I don't know about that," says my cousin, "but people say tattoos are supposed to hurt." Hers – "Carpe Diem" across her Venus-white bottom, since you ask – was a doddle.

Red is as red does, you see. Look at Sex and the City: there's the sensitive one, the slutty one, the intellectual and, well, the redhead. Red hair speaks for itself; Miranda needs no other label to say she is sassy, sexy and strong. Just as we don't need scientists (mouse-haired the lot of them, I guess) to tell us redheads are powerful. With a golden halo to distract you, who'd feel pain? Pass the L'Oréal, I feel a headache coming on.

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