For as long as I can remember, people around me have remembered me by my most distinguishing trait: my bright red hair.
Kids in elementary and middle school teased me relentlessly; a popular nickname was Carrot Top. Being an Amelia, sometimes I genuinely consider changing my last name to Pond. Just the other evening, as I was sitting down to beer with friends, not one but two women came up to me and, at lager-loud volume, declared their love for my hair.
Since I went mostly blonde last winter, transitioned to rose gold, and finally dyed my hair its current deep auburn color, I've had grandmas from all sides telling me they don't understand why I would "ruin" such a beautiful color.
It's fairly common knowledge that redheads are a rare breed; in fact, we only make up between one and two percent of the world's population. But when I read an article about the potential for my people to go extinct in Scotland, that was news to me.
Apparently, Scotland's "gloomy climate" might have been cause for the recessive redhead gene, which scientists say could be a genetic adaptation meant to help people gain the right amounts of vitamin D. As the climate changes and the earth warms up, these scientists theorize, vitamin D becomes easier to acquire, and the redhead gene works its way out of existence.
It's a frightening idea. A world without redheads?! Who will keep the sunscreen market from crumbling? How will we explain the "Ginger Kids" episode of "South Park" to our children? Who will buy all this fantastic redhead paraphernalia?!
Personally, I'm a bit skeptical of the idea that the redhead gene could be entirely wiped from the planet. And luckily, the cited scientists say that redheads will stick around "for many generations," and by that time, it's possible that the climate will fluctuate back into a cooler period.
While the idea of a genetic mutation to help absorb vitamin D is great, life as a redhead isn't all rainbows and unicorns. A 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association concluded that redheads "reported significantly more dental care–related anxiety and fear of dental pain than did participants with no MC1R gene variants [the variant that causes red hair]" due to a resistance to local anesthetics. My dentist and I can confirm this, as I've now cried during two appointments.
So, have I had a spiritual awakening in light of this ominous news? Do I hereby renounce my current (albeit fading) dye job and return to my naturally bright red roots? Sorry, every relative ever, I love the way my color looks when it's maintained, and you can bet that a portion of my next paycheck will go toward my colorist.
As I keep telling everyone, the nice thing about hair is that it's always growing, and I can grow it out whenever I'm ready. Now that I'm older, I've learned to take pride in my red hair, but I also like to remind everyone that it's not my only memorable trait.
I am curious, though: In light of this news, will European sperm banks reverse their embargo on redhead juice?