Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Little Encouragement for those who despair that redheads may perish from the Earth

There's been quite a bit of noise in the news about redheads becoming extinct. It has even reached me 2nd and 3rd hand from total strangers in places like Costco, shopping malls, and the grocery store.  They see my two little ones in the cart with their 'Eric the Viking' style red hair and big blue eyes and are drawn to them as if by a magnet.  Frequently they'll say something about the way that redheads will all be gone by some year---2050 is the popular one---while talking and playing with the little ones.  Usually I'll reassure them that my wife and I are doing our best to insure that there are little redheaded children around for future generations.  Sometimes they'll even encourage us to have more beautiful children, which is a surprisingly positive sign of cultural health when you think about it.

Here's the thing though---both my wife and I are redhead carriers---having a fairly significant number of redheads in our respective families, but neither of us are redheads ourselves, although we both do have blue eyes.  My wife does have some strawberry in her blonde, which does create the question of whether our children had a 50/50 shot or merely a 1 in 4 chance of being redheads.  As it is though, both of them are.  So we've successfully increased the frequency of redheads, and may further increase that frequency with a child to be named and determined later.  Besides the redheads born to redheads, there are quite a few born to redhead carriers like ourselves.

On the other side, there's my brother, who is a full-on Irish redhead (his hair is VERY red and he's regularly asked for directions in Ireland when he visits with his wife and kids).  His wife is one generation out of Spain, with the archetypical very dark, almost black hair, dark eyes, and fair skin.  None of their children are redheads, looking much like their mother, but all of them are redhead carriers.  They will quite likely produce a fair number of redheaded grandchildren.  Since they've got 3 children, the genetic frequency of my brother's redhead genes has increased, and it's likely to show up in the phenotype going forward.

So don't despair.  Redheads will not perish from the Earth---especially as long as the opposite sex continues to find them compelling.   Even as mere toddlers, they're positively totemic in the fertility sense, having apparently touched off a minor baby boom among our church and close circle.

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