Growing up, I was called all sorts of things because of my red hair. I was a painfully shy, awkward, nerdy kid, was bullied relentlessly in general, but my red hair was an easy target. "Pippi Longstocking", "Little Orphan Annie" and "Carrot Top" come to mind, among some other, less appropriate remarks. I remember wanting desperately to disguise my freckled skin and dye my hair blonde (oh, to be a blonde -- they clearly have more fun), but my mother would never let me. She would always tell me how beautiful my hair was.
And the 13 year old version of myself would cross my arms and pout.
Fast forward to the 27 year old version of myself, pregnant with my first child. By that point, I was older and wiser, and able to accept the uniqueness of red hair (we are only about 4% of the world's population, I speculate that this is because, historically, so many of us were burned at the stake for being "evil".). But whenever people would ask me, "Do you think your baby will have red hair?" I'd laugh, and have a slight pang of worry. My husband is half Italian with dark hair. I thought for sure she'd come out with his hair and complexion. And much of the time, I hoped so. I wanted to spare her the torment of the name-calling I had encountered on behalf of cruel middle school kids for being a freckle-faced, redheaded kid.
On May 29, 2008, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who had her Daddy's facial characteristics and my pale skin and, much to my surprise, auburn fuzz. She was so beautiful. Everyone commented on how beautiful she was. And I loved that, as much as she looked like her father, she at least had inherited at least one trait that was definitely mine.
|Angelica, only minutes old, with her auburn baby fuzz|
A few weeks after she was born, her baby fuzz fell out and I was sure it would come back in a darker color. Much to my surprise, it came in even redder than when she was a newborn.
|5 month old Angelica, with her auburn fuzz|
By this point, people would stop me in stores and remark, "What a beautiful baby you have! And oh, would you look at that hair! You can definitely see where she gets that from!" To this day, it's still the #1 thing people stop me and comment on. First her hair color, and then her beauty. I'm quite sure she's going to get a superiority complex from hearing it all the time.
As she's gotten older, her hair has remained red, though streaks of her father's DNA have come through as well. My hair has always been perfectly straight (and it takes a can of hair spray and pomade to get it to hold any curl). My little girl has little bouncy curls, which she inherited from her dad, and I think they're precious.
|Me and my redheaded, curly haired princess|
So I tell her how beautiful her hair is. I tell her she's got red hair like me, and that makes us special and not many people are so lucky. I try to put a positive spin on it with the hopes that when she'd older, and kids are meaner, she'll already have that confidence. I also hope that since she has me, who went through the teen years as an awkward kid with red hair, that she'll feel comfortable talking to me about any bullying that does come up.
Do I still worry that she'll get picked on in school? Absolutely I do. No parent wants their child to feel hurt. I hope that in the 20 years since I was in middle school, that things have changed, and it's cool to have red hair. (Don't people these days work hard to get it from a bottle? That's what my hairdresser always says!) But if it's not, I will take my mom's cue, and make her hold on to it, at least until she's 18. She's unique. She's special. She's beautiful. She's my wonderful, red-headed, freckle-faced, pale-skinned girl who is already growing up too fast, and I wouldn't change a thing about her.
But I will smack silly anyone who calls her "Carrot Top".