In honor of St. Patrick’s Day and your Irish heritage, I want to take a moment to talk about your red hair. Now, I don’t have red hair myself, but I have a sneaking suspicion that by the time you are able to read this letter you will have been made hyper-aware of your ginger coloring. In fact, we can’t leave the house without it being whispered about by a stranger, or noticed by a stray cat. Your hair walks through the door before you do.
Much like President Obama, or anyone possessing some attribute that makes them distinct, the commentary about your hair is not always exactly, well….positive. Friends have gawked, “Oh my GAWD, she’s a GINGA!!” while strangers have approached me, lamenting, “poor girl, she’s going to be made fun of in school.” Eva, I’m almost 30 years old and for some reason I am still shocked by what some people will say. And if I’ve learned anything about human nature, people will shock you too. But though it kills me, you are always going to hear these things and I cannot protect you from them.
I wish I could just tell you that your hair is gorgeous (which, it is) and to not worry about what anyone says about it. But, you will worry. I wish that I could just say, “ignore those dingbats.” But, you won’t. I wish I could tell you to only listen to the people who tell you how beautiful it is. But, that’s impossible. And not for any lack of pride or strength on your behalf. It’s because words hurt, girl. And they’re going to hurt you, just like they hurt the rest of us.
What I will say, Evangeline, is that red has always been my favorite color. It’s energetic. It’s eye-catching. It’s sexy. But you know what I love most about it? Being around red has always made me happy. And the color of your hair is no different. I love the way it brings out a fiery hue in your eyes. How it radiates with your rosy cheeks, making your smile evermore cheerful. I love the way it turns heads. And I cherish how it makes you different.
For now, you don’t notice the color of your hair and there is something so sweetly naive about that. But this will not always be the case. The thing about hair color is that it can be masked, changed… manipulated. And as you get older the temptation to camouflage will be strong for you, Eva. Children don’t like to stand out. Americans strive for homogeneity. And the Nazis even killed for it, I should point out. But your hair is such a unique opportunity to be able to walk through the door before anyone, even yourself. It shows strength; symbolizes resilience. It screams of confidence and shines of pride. And it will always hold not only an aesthetic beauty, but will come to signify the beauty of your character; an ownership of self.
To put it bluntly, I see your hair color as a litmus test of my success as a parent. It is not my job to protect you from hateful comments. It is not my job to make you fit in, or to make you stand out. But it is my job to make sure your hair stays red. I will never make that choice for you, but it is my hope that I can help you embrace what makes you different. More importantly, I want to make you proud of what it is that makes you different. For you, it’s your hair. And I hope so deeply that you will never change this part of you. But I can see that fiery spark in you already. And I have no doubt, Eva, that you, too, will see the pure beauty of the color red.
P.S. I would like to make an official note that your middle name was “Ginger” before your hair was red. I would apologize, but it’s really nothing to apologize for. Own it, girl. Own it.