Growing Up Ginger

Yesterday, a friend posted on Facebook a link to this article

A List of Essential Children’s Books To Empower Black Girls to Love Their Hair

and it simultaneously made me really happy, and really weepy and introspective.

It made me happy because, while I can not and will not even attempt to speak from the perspective of the target audience for this particular set of books, I can absolutely relate to being a young girl wanting to feel good about what grows out of her head, and any source of inspiration and positivity for young girls on that front is going to make me happy.

And it made me weepy and introspective because it reminded me how sorely lacking those sources of inspiration and positivity were when I was a young girl wanting to feel good about the mass of frizzy curly carrot-colored insanity that grew out of my head.

It looked like this

during a time when pop culture references for redheads were things like

RAGGEDY ANN

A doll found when she was little more than a pile of scraps after having rotted in an attic for so long.  She was patched up and given eyes, but would forever remain raggedy.

WHAT LITTLE GIRL ME LEARNED: Even at your best, you will never be quite as good as everyone else.

 

PIPPI LONGSTOCKING

A girl whose father thinks leaving her alone on land is a better option than taking her to sea with him, even though she loves being at sea with him.  The good (blond) kids next door like her because she’s weird, and liking her is an act of rebellion that drives their parents crazy.

WHAT LITTLE GIRL ME LEARNED: You’re weird, and people will only want to be around you if your weirdness is entertaining or useful.

 

HEATHER

aka The Little Red-Haired Girl from Peanuts, Charlie Brown’s true love.  She was never shown in the comic strip.  She was never shown in any of the animated programs.  She was never shown at any time, anywhere, at all.  She was referred to in passing, with longing, heard about but never revealed.

WHAT LITTLE GIRL ME LEARNED: Maybe there might possibly be beautiful red-haired girls in the world, but even if there are, no one will never see them.

 

And my personal favorite…

DOLLY FOR SUE

Resident of the Island of Misfit Toys in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  She lived there along with a train that had square wheels, a bird that couldn’t fly, a boat that couldn’t float, etc.  Unlike the other characters on the island, whose traits outside the norm were presented clearly and obviously, nobody ever said what made Dolly a misfit.  But there were those of us who were pretty sure we knew.

WHAT LITTLE GIRL ME LEARNED: It doesn’t matter how cute anyone says you are, as long as your hair is red you’re still not as you should be.

 

By the time red hair became cool, fashionable, desirable, the damage was already done.  And it took me a really fucking long time to undo it.  I was well into my thirties before my false ginger bravado became a genuine fondness for what I can now see had been a blessing all along.

Which is why I get weepy and introspective at the thought of any little girl feeling like her hair is anything other than right, anything other than good, anything other than what it should be.

Which is why I get happy when I see books written specifically to convey that message.  Because every little girl should know she’s beautiful just the way she is.

I was here and read this!

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