To My Daughter who has Red Hair

To My Daughter who has Red Hair

- in Parenting
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Daughter, you are one year old now and people have started to comment on your hair.

It is the color of orange sherbet—strawberry blonde, in the parlance—but most people will call it “red.”

Red hair is novel to a lot of people. You may not appreciate the novelty because your mama, grandma, aunt, and half of your cousins’ hair are some shade of red. They range from auburn to campfire orange, but to the world you are all “red.”

And some people will fixate on your hair. They will want to touch it. (You do not have to let them.) They may also give you unclever nicknames like Copper Top, Burning Bush and, yes, Red.

You may receive a MacArthur Fellowship, discover cold fusion, or earn a Nobel Peace Prize. But to these people, your primary feature will always be your hair color.

Mark the men who do this. (And, yes, it will overwhelmingly be men.) They are, at very least, unclever.

At worst, they have fetishized your hair. And when they place too much importance on one of your attributes—in this case, your hair—they are ignoring everything else.

Now, not all of these men will be brutes and bullies. In fact, some of them will be very polite. They will compliment your hair and ask to touch it. (You DO NOT have to let them.) They may offer poetic phrases and compare your hair to sunsets or cherry blossoms.

But the flatterers and troglodytes have one thing in common: They have taken all you are and summed it up in the word “red.”

And, to be clear, you are more than a hair color. You are more than your eyes, ears, and the assemblage of your body parts. You’re more than your thoughts, feelings, and what you see when you close your eyelids.

You’re a universe.

Don’t let anyone sell that short.

But here’s the catch: Everyone else is a universe, too.

So never try to define people by a single feature. They are more than their large nose, loud voice, taste in music, tint of their skin, political opinions, religion, or any kind of orientation.

To look at someone else and define them by a single feature is, at very least, as obnoxious as when guys call you Red (and sometimes much, much worse.)

Don’t do it. It limits them and yourself.

So, in closing, you have red hair. It’s lovely. I hope you are proud of it — in part because it is a gift from your grandmother and mama.

But you are more than you hair pigment, more than any label people can put on you. And if anyone tries to make you feel like you are less than that, like you’re just a hair color, then you have my permission to whomp them.

And, afterward, you can tell them that you ginger-snapped.

About the author

Jason Lea has a son, daughter, and a full-time job at the Mentor Public Library. He uses his nonexistent free time writing about parenting for Northeast Ohio Parent magazine. You can tweet him @jasonmarklea. Or not. You're grown and can make your own choices.

1 Comment

  1. As the grandmother in the story, I can truly appreciate this message to your daughter. Well said!

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