By: Maureen Quinlan 

“Is that your natural color?”

A question so frequent, I don’t think twice when answering “yes” with a smile. When a stranger compliments my hair, I can see a twinge of envy or curiosity in their eyes. Recognizing those emotions comes with the territory. So do sunburns and the struggle to find the right makeup. Despite all the bad and the weird, I wouldn’t trade being a redhead for anything.

It is so much a part of who I am, I can’t separate my identity from my hair color, and I’m grateful.

When a co-worker suggested offhandedly last year that I should dye my hair blonde, I scoffed. What she, as a brunette, didn’t understand, is that being a redhead isn’t as simple as saying you have a certain blood type or eye color. Being a redhead is intrinsic to my personality. It doesn’t wholly define me as a human, but it plays a big role in how I navigate the world.

I try not to live or die by stereotypes, but often find myself guilty of being fiery, passionate, and louder than life. I embrace the quirks about being a redhead. Things like:

1. Possibly having a higher pain tolerance

2. Needing more anesthesia

3. Requiring SPF 100 for any time spent in the sun.

RELATED: 13 Astounding Facts About Redheads

I’ve endured all the jokes about being a “ginger”.

I roll my eyes at questions about my soul or my “curtains and drapes.” I play up not being able to stand the sun for more than five minutes. I detest when someone calls me “Red.” And most of the time, I politely inform some that it is, in fact, good luck to see three redheads in the same day–an old wives’ tale I heard once and have never let go.

I have been every red-haired character in the book for Halloween. Thank goodness pop culture has an obsession with redheads disproportionate to the actual amount of redheads in the world, or I would have limited creative range on one of my favorite holidays. From Lucille Ball to Wilma Flintstone to Cady from “Mean Girls,” I step into these redheads’ lives once a year, not to disguise myself, but to transform into someone with whom I share a kinship.

These questions, these qualities, and these facts of my life are just that, facts. I have never lived a day without my hair color, so I have grown accustomed to being someone proud to have hair that is compared to carrots, oranges, and, yes, even ginger.

I am never shocked by the nearly fluorescent wave of hair I greet in the mirror each morning. I no longer lament how pale I look next to even the palest of friends, or how bright my hair appears in photos; especially if the sun was shining that day. I think about the amount of people who pay hundreds of dollars to replicate my locks.

I wear my red hair proudly, like a badge of honor.

It says to people, “This is who I am, who I will always be.” I might be feisty and sunburn-prone and freckled, but that’s what makes me proud to be different. When forced to stand out simply because of appearance, I have found ways to always find a way be unique, distinct, and noteworthy.

Being a redhead has never hindered me. It has only ever enhanced my life in ways I most certainly take for granted.

Happy National Love Your Red Hair Day + Rock it like a Redhead!