I suppose it all started when I was younger, but my fascination and phobia with red heads hit a peak during college. I recall sitting in my genetics class sophomore year when my professor said something that caught my attention. “blah blah blah blah …. red heads will become extinct within the next hundred years … blah blah blah.”
I gasped, a little dramatically, and threw my hand into the air.
“Mr. Hartinger. I told you before, if you ask about doing a punnet square again, I’m taking points off your participation,” she said as if she was annoyed.
That was my obsession of the week, which was trying to figure out the eye and hair color combination of my future children if : a ) I was straight and b ) If I fucked a girl with green eyes and blonde hair.
And further, I should have been the one to be annoyed; she looked like a crossbreed between two Muppets that didn’t quite make the cut for Sesame Street and her voice constantly sounded like she took a bong hit too many and didn’t have a glass of water to compose herself. In addition, I’m not sure what type of little science experiments went down in the class after I left, but it always smelled as if a sewer rat had a late term abortion that went bad.
“Actually, can you expand on when those people will be extinct? A tentative date would be helpful.” I said.
She rolled her eyes and mentioned something about recessive traits and shit about evolution. A few classmates looked at me weird. They already didn’t like me because I took the class as an elective and was caught more than once looking at their answers during tests. A female red head from a few rows over gave me a dirty look. I tried not to look her in the eye in the fear of turning into stone. Her hair looked as if it was dipped into the blood of a baby.
At that moment, two things went through my mind. First, to send a potential fuck buddy a nice text message as it was a few days from the weekend. My second thought was that I needed to get over my fear and animosity of redheads. Sure, I was friends with a few in high school and college, but that was only for the simple reason of keeping my friends close and my enemies closer. You can’t trust a red head even if you dye their roots the deepest shade of blonde. That was my mentality at the time and I was ready to be accepting and progressive. But – alas – like any phobia, it began in my childhood.
Each summer, my family and I would drive from Buffalo, New York on a cross country road trip to Southern California. At the time, I was ten-years-old, and like I usually do, I was minding my own business on our day trip to Newport Beach. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of them submerge from the water and make a dash for the beach in my general direction.
As he got closer, I examined him – dark red hair, probably a shade lighter than a lobsters vagina, almost transparent skin that was burned in many areas, light green eyes, and jagged and pointy teeth, which he claimed were still his baby teeth. I was not buying this shit.
“Stop right there!” I screamed. “Why do you look like that?”
“Like what?” He said nicely.
“Like a demon. Where are you from?” I asked.
“Down south,” he responded, “near Atlanta. Where are you from?”
“Don’t change the subject. Down south you say? I never heard of Atlanta, but I have heard of Hell.”
I ran to my grandparents, and from that point forward, an irrational fear was instilled in me. The years went on, and as a budding gay activist during college, I tried to keep my redhead racism under wraps. After I was informed that red heads were in fact going extinct, I was a little beside myself. To be honest, I wasn’t for nor against their extinction, but I needed to overcome my phobia so I could tell my great grandchildren that I had made friends or even fucked one of these mythical creatures.
My junior year, at the prompting of my roommate, I joined a dating website. Every night, I would run into her room and complain how there was such a lack of suitable young gay men in Buffalo.
“Well, Jeff, that’s probably because you have already fucked them, fucked them over, or done both to someone they know,” she said nonchalantly. “Let’s go set up your dating profile.”
The online dating was fun and a few good dates came from it. One day, I logged on and had a message that I wasn’t expecting. It was from a redhead named John. Before I read it, I walked into the bathroom and splashed cold water in my face to calm myself down. I poured myself a glass of wine and finished it in the kitchen. Then I made my way back to my bedroom. I was so nervous that I checked all the locks in the house and wrote a letter entitled “If Dead Or Missing” that I hide under my mattress.
The Red Herring / John : Hey handsome. You are cute. What’s going on? I like your profile.
Normal Hair Guy / Me : Hey Red. Are you naturally red?
The Red Herring / John : Uh, what? Oh God, not another guy that is obsessed with red heads. What the hell.
Normal Hair Guy / Me: Excuse me? Don’t flatter yourself. I’m scared of red heads and had to get drunk to answer you. Let’s just go on a date so I can get over this fear. When are you free?
Needless to say, I never heard from him again.
I’m not proud of my past behavior, but people should make a calculated effort to overcome any fear – irrational or not. It’s a work in progress and I would like to thank everyone in advance for their understanding.
If you are red haired, gay, and living in the greater Los Angeles area, I would like you to help me overcome my phobia. A few things. First, you will pay for the entire date and will give me $20 on top of that. If you look like Raggedy Andy, it’s not going to work. Last but not least. If you have more than 1,345 freckles on your dick, please do not send me an email. Everyone has a limit and that is mine. Also, please learn about the time I Considered Blackface to get a date.