Dear Red-Haired Woman,
I mention not your name, but the colour of your hair, as even your creator chose to name his book by that, rather than your name. What is even more surprising is that he chose to name the book after you, though it is a tale about the enigma of fathers and sons. You know why he did that? Because, in the end, that’s how your town will talk about it: “It’s all her fault! It wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t dyed her hair red… drawing all that unnecessary attention to herself!”
Do you ask me how I know? Because a couple of months back, I dyed my hair red. It was a fancy, fantasy, something that I’ve wanted to tick off on my list of ‘Things to do before I die’ and I thought it was nobody’s business but mine what colour my hair is! Boy, was I wrong?
There is so much baggage attached to that colour especially when it is on a woman’s head. As your creator, Orhan Pamuk, says these are the thoughts that people assume with a red-haired woman, especially one to who it is not natural but who has chosen to dye her hair:
- a woman with an ‘unfortunate run of love affairs’
- ‘an impostor with unsophisticated aspirations’
- ‘fierce and mysterious’
Even when others spoke all that about you, I didn’t fume as much as when Turgay, your husband, felt ‘a redhead was a woman of easy virtue.’ I’m happy you left him.
Not much has changed in the decades that have passed between your time and mine. The mentality of the world is still pretty much the same as your little town near Istanbul. We continue to blame women’s hair colour, clothes, make-up and smile for all that befalls them. Boys will be boys, Men will be men, but it is women who should know better when they choose the colour of their hair.
It was serendipity meeting you like this and finding a resonance between your life and mine. Whether a woman is a married writer with two children, an estranged theatre actor or a school-going teenager with two pigtails, on many levels, we all go through the same thing! You stuck on until the end. You could do that because you were a character in a book. I can’t! Maybe, my hair wouldn’t be so red anymore.
By the way, Happy Women’s Day!
Another Red-Haired Woman