A PEEK BEHIND THE (RED) CURTAIN • by Jennifer Brophy

“So… is it true what they say about redheads?”

I noticed him when he first walked into the bar. I don’t mean that in a “he walked through the door and my heart skipped a beat” kind of way. He was loud. And drunk. He came stumbling in with two buddies laughing and slurring their words. I didn’t give him too much thought at first. They were keeping to themselves. They seemed to be having a good time. Good for them.

Then I heard him hitting on a woman on the other side of the bar. I won’t repeat what he said, but it was not gentlemanly. Or attractive. Use your imagination. She politely turned him down. This only made him more assertive. The woman looked uncomfortable and avoided making eye contact. That’s when he reached out and grabbed her arm. The bartender quickly moved over to them and said something, giving the woman an opportunity to move away.

“My bad, dude. My bad,” the man said, raising his hands in the air. He then walked back to his snickering buddies, seemingly unembarrassed.

I turned back to my phone, hoping to see a text message from the friend I was supposed to be meeting here. No luck. I was so fixated on what I was doing, I didn’t notice that the man was back on the prowl again. And his time, he was coming for me.

“So… is it true what they say about redheads?”

It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I learned to be skeptical of this question. I was probably one of the few with ginger locks who never got teased for it as a child. Of course, the far more likely alternative was that I did get teased, but it just went over my head. I loved my red hair — still do.

The first time in my adult life a man asked, “Is it true what they say about redheads,” I was excited. You want to listen while I talk about my red hair? Gladly! What would you like to know?

What would he like to know…

Over the years, I would hear these words many more times. Okay, “many” may be a stretch. But it happened enough times that I could make some educated guesses on what would come next. This question was rarely followed by any language I would classify as “not offensive.” And 82.8% of the time (feel free to check my math) it was followed by language that was both offensive and of a sexual nature.

It was always said with a smirk and a bit of a head tilt. Like he knew it was naughty to ask, but he just had to do it. “Does the carpet match the drapes?” That’s the line. Well… that’s usually the line. One night in my early 20s, I was at a bar with some friends when an only partially inebriated man approached us. Partially inebriated. He was not super drunk. He had, in my estimation, retained enough sobriety to carry out a conversation. He skipped right over the “So… is it true what they say about redheads” part (the only person to ever do so, incidentally) and just immediately asked, “Do the curtains match the drapes?”

Do the curtains match the drapes? The question, when said correctly, was bad enough. But seriously dude, you couldn’t even bother to get the analogy right? If you’re going to hit on me with the laziest, lamest pick up line in the English language, couldn’t you at least be bothered to learn your lines? It would have been much more polite.

I wish that’s what I had said to him. When faced with this type of behavior, I tended to freeze up. Maybe I was scared. Who knows. But I always thought of the best thing to say about 4 hours after the incident was over.

The good thing about this interaction was that it was one of the many times someone proved to me that not all men think this sort of behavior is acceptable. In fact, I truly believe that most of them don’t. The words “do the curtains match the drapes” were still lingering in the air when a man sitting at a nearby table came over and got right in the guy’s face.

“Hey man, what’s your problem?” That was enough to scare off my would-be pursuer. I can’t say I generally liked the feeling of having a man fight my battles, but it was still pretty much the sexiest thing I had ever seen. To this day, I wish I had gotten his phone number.

My attention returned to the present and to the man standing before me. I took a second to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that wasn’t where this was going. And then his eyes flickered down. Just for a second. But it was enough. I knew what was coming next. Unlike so many times before, I felt something stir within me. This time, I refused to freeze up.

“Before you say anything else,” I whispered seductively, leaning towards him. “There’s something I just have to know.”

We paused for a second and looked into each other’s eyes. And then, much too loudly, I said, “What’s your situation with your hair down there?”

The other bar patrons looked over at us. My mystery man quaked a little.

“Are you well-groomed,” I asked.

He stuttered.

“Do you have any, ya know, gray there? I just have to know!”

I could hear a few stifled laughs coming from those seated closest to us. I was tempted to look around the room, but I kept my eye contact with the man sitting next to me — staring him down.

“Freak,” he said, and he stalked off.

‘That’s right,’ I thought to myself as I took a sip of my drink. ‘No one likes being asked that question.’

Jennifer Brophy is a redhead living and writing in Orlando, Florida. This is her second piece published by Every Day Fiction.

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