Born With a Broken Heart, Part II (Ginger Ail)

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Hello. My name is Kate, and I am an addict. They say admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery, but I have owned my addiction for years now and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Experts also say it is important to understand the root cause of your addiction before you can treat it. I have always though it resulted from my first experience with love, back in Kindergarten; my mother thinks the formative event was my open-heart surgery when I was two. If I am right, then I have spent over three decades trying to recapture the superficial magic of a first crush. If she is right, then my problem is merely a savior complex.

Does it really matter, though? Either way, the end result is the same: my abnormal, unhealthy, increasingly destructive addiction to red-headed men.

I hear you scoffing at me, deriding my deviant drug of choice, but this addiction, no matter how irrational, is real. My experimentation with redheads started as soon as I was outside the home, crushing on the one freckle-faced flame head in my elementary school. After my first taste, I continued to send my affections down roads less traveled, favoring the goofy red-haired Mouseketeer instead of traditional cuties like Justin (Timberlake) or Ryan (Gosling). Between the two Coreys, I chose Team Haim, not Feldman.

My experimentation quickly formed a habit, as is the common progression with addiction. When all of my peers tacked posters of Kirk Cameron and Rob Lowe to their walls, I dreamed of dating Seth Green (long before Buffy). I even created a fictional character based on that redhead from the Mickey Mouse Club, and imagined a fantasy world where he lived with an idealized version of me. By high school, I was obsessively giving my heart to the brightest red hair in the room.

Stage three of addiction is when the habit starts to prompt risky behavior and abuse. For me, that was college. My inability to go without a ginger fix led to four years of emotional dysfunction with my Eggplant, and kept me from fully realizing any other, healthier relationships. In later years I went completely irrational, at one point dating two guys and refusing to choose between them even though one was clearly more mature and respectful – simply because the other had such gorgeous copper hair. There was even a time when this kid argued with me about whether half of something was the same as 50% – he took the side against math, and I still didn’t break up with him, because, man, that ginger was tasty. Its hold on me was absolute. When my adoration of carrot-topped actors progressed to a brief but actual crush on Carrot Top, I knew the problem was serious.

But it was too late. My dependency was complete. I needed ginger in my life all the time. The fantasy world I had created around my beloved red Mousketeer took over my dreams – I could not fall asleep without visiting that mythical ginger every night. On several occasions, I tried to convince my brown-haired boyfriend to dye his hair red, or at least copper. Once, my gay best friend (a blonde – I have never been attracted to blondes) dyed his hair red, and I made the picture of him the screen saver on my computer!

Things were out of control. My best friend married a copper-top, and I wrote a whole movie about it. I spent a week doing research on redheads in history, then composed a poem titled, “A Taste for Ginger.” In class, I openly doted over my red-haired students, in flagrant violation of both classroom ethics and common-sense age restrictions. Ron Weasley became my ideal man.

Any one of these shameful acts could have been my rock bottom – a couple of them certainly should have been – but my deviance knew no bounds. I kept sinking, self-respect a thing of the past.

My first major wake-up call came when I agreed to date a boy with bright red hair who I knew to be an immature pot head. He asked me out via text message two minutes after finishing a two-hour stint in the same room with me – a deal breaker for any healthy person – and then he called me a tease to my face on our second date because I didn’t sleep with him. Did I slap him in the face as he so rightly deserved? No; I was actually sad to see him go. All of my judgment and standards were lost, and yet, there was still farther to fall.

Absolute rock bottom came – as so many rock bottoms do – at a wedding. When I found myself in a hotel bathroom stall with a boy I had already dated and dismissed, someone I knew to be disrespectful (not to mention ten years my junior), just because he was a delicious six-foot-two drink of ginger water? That was when I finally felt the cold, hard stone beneath my face.

Recovery in the years since has been slow and unsteady. I was okay for a while after the wedding, fueled more by a renewed sense of shame than a desire to kick my ginger habit. But there are still so many temptations out there! Donal Logue and Louis C.K. certainly don’t make things easier, and even though Alan Tudyk hasn’t had red hair since Firefly, I still have to go see any movie he is in – even if it’s a piece of crap like Transformers 3.

Last year, I relapsed completely. I found myself on a date with an adorable ginger depressive, simultaneously flirting with our hunky red-haired bartender, and trying to figure out how to convince both of them to make out with me. Then, when J.K. Rowling wrote in an online interview that Hermione Weasly (neė Granger) would have been better off with Harry Potter, I cursed her name and nearly broke my computer monitor. Clearly, my taste for ginger isn’t going anywhere.

For what it’s worth, I do think my mother is right about the root cause of my addiction. Our concept of beauty is largely a product of the influential people and experiences of our childhood, and having a red-haired heart surgeon save your life at age two certainly must leave an impression. It makes sense that, ever since, my heart has been searching for another redhead to make it whole.

I am an addict, and I always will be. After more than thirty years chasing the sweet taste of ginger, I have come to accept my fate. Still, I believe it can get better. While I may never kick this orangutan off my back, I can try what every addict knows is the next best thing: replace this addiction with a new one. So look out, all you Jewish men out there; this shiksa goddess needs some sugar.

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18 thoughts on “Born With a Broken Heart, Part II (Ginger Ail)

  1. You need a redheaded female friend. As a rule, those of us who are gingers ourselves find redheaded men completely unattractive. A redheaded wing-woman would remain clear-headed and keep you on the straight and narrow.

  2. Marnie

    Did NOT see that ending coming, and laughed out loud when it did. If the current eggplant is not naturally ginger, short of dying his hair, he could always wear a wig on occasion…

  3. Stephanie

    The redhead from the Mickey Mouse club’s name is Chase Hampton (scary that I remember that) and, I too, was Team Haim (I never thought Feldman was cute).

  4. Stephanie Pfaff

    Oh and I know a single ginger – who’s gainfully employed and adult and stuff albeit a couple of years younger than us. Msg me on Facebook if you want me to hook you up!

  5. I so get this ….. I’ve had hots for gingers for years before I found out that they are soul stealers. I think it was all the blood when you had surgery — it opened you to the world and red became the color of life 🙂

  6. You might have a better chance if you come over here to Ireland. One in ten people here are red heads. That’s gotta mean one in ten guys too, right?
    Mind you, us red hens might resent the competition but then we’re old enough to be happy with the grey heads.

  7. Here is the strange thing Kate. The world does NOT share this fetish for red haired males. It has been a very strange life. I recently heard that sperm banks are refusing to accept sperm from red haired males due to “lack of demand.” Joke is on them cause my “boys can hunt.” I have the most fertile loins of anyone I know and have often thought that empregnating women would be a fantastic survival job for me (until my wife finds out). That being said, red haired women are revered (not by other women, for damn sure by men) and red haired men ostracized. When I moved to CA a strange thing happened. My hair went blond, the sun bleached it and (before the gray set in) I had beach bum blond hair and I did not like it. I wanted my red back, it was such a part of who I was I needed to be that to feel whole. Funny thing, they don’t make red hair coloring for men … AT ALL. It doesn’t exist. Lack of demand.

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