“Mom, are all those people red-haired?” She inquires, wondering if what she’s seeing is real.
“Yes, it looks like it,” I reply, smiling.
“Is this a real thing?” Her eyes widen.
“It is. It’s in London this September.”
She jumps up and down, “I wanna goooooo!!!”
I sometimes forget how aware she is that she is different, because of her hair. There are a lot of things that make her different, but this is the one she feels the most. From the time she was a baby (a.k.a. “public property”), kind strangers have reached out to touch her hair, and I found myself guarding her more than I ever did the others. I wore her a lot more than the others because of this. People are far more reluctant to breach an adult’s personal space than a child’s (which is a whole other issue).
As she has grown, the touching has stopped, to be replaced by comments everywhere we go. Most of them complimentary, to be sure, but often a little disconcerting to her. She doesn’t understand why strangers feel the need to say something about her hair. She cannot get a haircut without the hair dresser exclaiming about how much money people pay to get hair that color. Then there are the “Does she have a temper to match,” comments. “I bet she’s a fiery one!”
And always the ubiquitous “red-headed stepchild” phraseology so prevalent that no one thinks about it any more. It’s disrespectful to redheads AND stepchildren!
Sigh. She feels every single one of these more than the average bear.
She’s a highly sensitive child (1 in 5 kids are–it’s a variation of normal), and is acutely aware of facial expressions, body language, and other non-verbal cues that many people miss. So, I trust her sensations of unease over the smiles of strangers, and have taught her how to be polite without feeling obligated to engage with someone she’s not comfortable with, strangers or no.
I often forget how acutely she feels her differences. She is very small for her age, fair, freckled, red-headed, and highly intelligent. She is intuitive, tender-hearted, and extroverted. Sensitivity and extroversion aren’t traditionally associated with one another, but they are paired interestingly in her, and often mistaken for defiance.
So, when I see her ecstatic reaction to a ginger pride festival, I wonder at myself for being surprised.
Of course she wants to go to a place where she wouldn’t stand out. A place where no one would comment on her hair, because everyone’s hair is the same. A place where she might feel normal for a day. What a relief that would be for her!
I only wish I could afford tickets to London in September.
Of course, she is very normal, but she doesn’t feel like she is. And no amount of telling her so will convince her.
Grace & Peace,