The longtime stereotype of hair color has been that blondes have more fun. I could never imagine where that came from, because that honor definitely belongs to redheads.

Of course the reason I believe that is because I was a redhead. Well, I was never a carrot top; my natural hair color fell somewhere into the auburn/copper category. I have a can that contains three cuttings of my hair, one from about age 12, another from my mid-20s, and the third from when I was undergoing chemo and a friend came to the hospital to cut it all off. I didn't want to see it accumulating around the shower drain as it fell out.

Comparing the three samples, my hair got lighter - more coppery - from the first to the second cutting. The third and last sample was straight from the bottle, and pretty much matched the second one, which of course was what I was striving to achieve. I found my first white hairs when I was in my mid-30s and decided I was too young to go white like my mother did. So I became intimately acquainted with Loreal; I never did find out how white I really was as I got older because I did not let the roots get that "telltale" look.

Recently I've found a lot of evidence that I am not alone in believing that redheads have more fun. Natural redheads make up only 2 percent of the U.S. population; the highest percentage of redheads in a population is in Scotland, with 13 percent; second is Ireland with 10 percent.

Even with so few, it is a common perception that they are "saucy," fiery and lively.

Others may have heard the old joke, "How do you get a redhead's mood to change? Wait ten minutes."

And another one, "What do you call a redhead with an attitude? Normal."

I read (in the Washingtonian, 12/19/2011, "Do Redheads Really Have More Fun?" by Karina Giglio) about a woman who dyed her hair red. Before she did it, she said that she had acquired an image of redheads from various media ads and stories: "To me that fiery hair was it - unapologetic and mesmerizing. This was not the hair of someone who went quietly through life." She quoted British reporter Robin Givhan, who said it is an advantage in a crowd: "It makes one immediately memorable without having to utter a single word..."

When Giglio was having the dye job done, one of the salon owners said to her "You know how blondes have more fun? Well, redheads do what blondes only dream of." And that statement actually has an historical basis: "Red hair was thought to be a mark of moral degeneration. And when her dye job was finished, Giglio reported that as she left the salon, she alternated between "feeling like a doll and like someone on her way to work at a gentleman's club...."

A study done by a German sex researcher found that redheads have more sex: he even went so far as to say that women who dye their hair red from another color are signaling that they are looking for a partner. The researcher, Dr. Werner Hadermehl, added that "Even women in fixed relationships who dye their hair are signaling that they are unhappy and looking for something better."

Lucille Ball reportedly once said that "Once in his life, every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a redhead."

Bruce Springsteen evidently agreed: "Man, you ain't lived 'til you've had your tires rotated by a redheaded woman!"

A few - quite a few - years ago, long straight hair was very fashionable. Because my hair is thin and fine, I knew I could never have long hair much less straight hair, and feeling playful, I indulged in wigs.

I accumulated a few of them, all long, and both red and for some unremembered reason blond. When I wore the red one, strangers expected me to be more outgoing, to be lively and fun to have around and treated me that way. On the other hand, when I wore the blond ones, people treated me as if I was the proverbial dumb blonde. Eventually, not really caring anyway about being "fashionable," I got rid of them all.

Now, having totally white hair, I am gaining a whole new experience of how hair color affects behavior. People with gray or white hair become invisible and others seem to feel we are helpless.

Checking in at an airport at a self-service kiosk now brings an agent rushing to help; internally I want to casually mention that I was doing their job before they were born. But that would be a redhead's response, not one appropriate for a white-haired old woman.

People on a bus or light rail occasionally give up their seats for me. I have learned to take advantage of these offers to help, especially when they want to lift my heavy bag for me!

Being invisible requires a bigger effort at adjustment. As a redhead, I never lacked for conversation with strangers. And it could be about work, careers, business and even politics. Now, it is difficult to get beyond the weather; the perception has definitely shifted.

It would be fun to "go red" again, testing whether the expectations of strangers change again! But I likely won't, because I don't want to send any false signals!

On the lighter side, there are a whole lot of dumb blond jokes, but not many about redheads; why not? "Because someone made the mistake of telling them to a redhead!"