real life

'The moment I learned to love my red hair after decades of despising it.'

To say I’ve been unlucky in love in my short 25 years would be an understatement.

An eternal single gal and third-wheeler, I became dangerously good at being a wingwoman. My strike rate was near-perfect, as was my capacity to cope with the rejection of pretty much every romantic conquest I’d ever undertaken.

Throughout my schooling, I always fit the class clown archetype. I set up camp in the friend zone and made myself at home.

If my life were a TV show, I would 10/10 be this poor guy.

Me... every Valentine's Day. (Image: FOX)

A lot of this stemmed from insecurities about my appearance. Specifically, my afro-like mop of bright red hair.

Like most kids, I was ridiculously cute - shiny curls, rosy red cheeks and a glint in my eye - up until those standard 'I'm going through puberty' years.

ADVERTISEMENT

You've been there, wrestling into a crop top trying to cover up those boobie things. And you stunk. And looked... greasy.

But unlike other kids (or so it seemed to me), my awkward phase was more like an awkward decade. Hence, my entire primary and high school experience can be summed up in two words: unrequited love.

My first crush and I were worlds apart. (Image: Supplied)

First, there was Riley. We met in year one during an amateur production of Snow White. He, Dopey the lovable dwarf. I, hungry for the limelight as a camp version of Snow White. On paper it was perfect, but it wasn't to be.

From there, my list of former crushes who never loved me back reads like an all-boys school roll call.

Jesse, Sam, Phil, Matt. William with the rebellious streak and Alistair, from the year above.

I mentioned I liked Matt, yeah? (Image: Supplied)
ADVERTISEMENT

I learned pretty quickly that boys don't respond so well to love letters anonymous notes left in their locker, or eye contact being watched from a safe distance. I also realised that guys just don't like girls with red hair.

Nope, it definitely wasn't my over enthusiasm or collection of High School Musical stationary. It was obviously my freckly complexion that turned them off.

Which is why when, years later, I received my first 'match' on Tinder (you've heard of that, yeah?), I was at a loss as to why someone would swipe right... to me?

I first heard of Tinder huddled around a girlfriend's iPhone 3 before a night out circa 2013. Fruity Lexia in hand, a few of my friends were sharing details of their latest Tinder matches, something which I knew nothing about, but felt inherently disheartened by. If anything, the idea of dating based purely on my looks further heightened my anxiety.

I was merely amused to begin with, but by the time I stumbled into bed fully clothed in the wee hours of the morning, I couldn't wait to start swiping. And why the bloody hell not? I had been single for ages, and obviously the technique of staring at people as I took their coffee order wasn’t yielding great results.

Listen: The girls discuss the perfect response to an unsolicited dick pic on Mamamia Out Loud (post continues after audio...)

Yes, I knew of Tinder's reputation as a savagely shallow and superficial black hole, but what I didn't know was how a dating app would completely change the way I saw myself.

I'll never forget my first Tinder match. The feelings of excitement and anticipation, setting my search parameters, carefully curating my images to reflect the real me. With an ocean of fish in the palm of my hand, my thumb began to glide across the screen – right, left, right, right, right, right, right… you get the picture, was keen. 

And then it happened. I received my first match, with Dylan, a 26-year-old fitness trainer and self described “stress free cat”. As the matches started piling up, I felt my self confidence rise at a rapid rate. I wasn’t me anymore - Amy, 21, *dancing girl emoji*. I wasn't the 13-year-old girl wearing too many layers of foundation, trying to cover up freckles. I felt like a solid eight. I was attractive, hell,  maybe even... hot.

Me walking away from all my Tinder matches. (Image: )

And perhaps, if I matched with the right person, loveable. 

For some, this might read like a cautionary tale. Why should I need validation from anyone in order to feel good about myself?

But for me, it was a simple reminder of something I'd been told again and again by my mum, friends and well-meaning old ladies in supermarket aisles, but had failed to believe. That red hair isn't something to be ashamed of, but celebrated. Turns out, being different is what makes us most attractive after all.

And all I needed was for a Daniel, 23, 3kms away to tell me so. No, it wasn't love at first swipe. But it was the nudge I needed to start taking pride in who I am and put myself out there. As a result, I matched with my current partner of two years... which was a miracle in itself considering the use of pick up lines that shall never be repeated.

If only I'd had this epiphany twenty years ago. It was your loss after all, Riley.

Fellow proud rangas, head down to Federation Square today (Saturday the 29th of April) for the Buderim Ginger Pride Rally. Redheads and fans of carrot tops alike, prepare to have your ginger socks knocked off with ginger speed-dating, ginger Messina, a ginger kids zone, ginger beer pong and so much more! For more info and to stay up to date, check out their Facebook page.

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???