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When I was little I looked like a small ginger Einstein. My hair stuck up in every which direction possible. Why? To this day I really can't tell you. No one else in my family had hair resembling mine in the least. My sister Kristen's hair was perfectly normal and cute. Some people said we looked like twins while others doubted we were even related. Our biggest difference has always been our hair and I'm still jealous of her's.
My parents tell me about how they used to find me in the bathroom trying cut my hair because at daycare, kids would make fun of me and tell me I had "sticking up" hair. I was upset and embarrassed so Mom took me to different hair salons to ask professionals for help but even they were stumped.
In my elementary school years my hair grew longer and weighed itself down a little, but it was still an unmanageable voluminous mushroom of orange. Therefore I stuck out, not only because of my hair's shape but because I was one of the two redheads in a rural town that was eighty percent Hispanic. Most days I didn't even care or bother to think of what I looked like because I was too busy being a kid and having fun in the warm California sunshine.
But we all know that almost any bullying takes place on the playground. So on hot days of sweaty tether ball matches and flag football some of the kids with "normal" black hair and slight accents made me realize I better just learn to deal with their occasional taunts and teasing because there wasn't a solution. Even my friends noticed and made comments about how some days my hair looked like an afro.
Often times the remarks ended up being more embarrassing than hurtful with everyone turning to gawk at the freak with giant orange hair. I hated how my face would heat up to a rosy red whenever someone put me on the spot about my hair. People had, and still have, a lot of questions about it: "Do you straighten it?" "Can I touch it?" It's just hair, people. Sure, it's messed up in comparison to theirs but I feel like one of the only reasons people ask me is because I'm white and yet I kind of have "ethnic" hair. It's not stereotypical "white people" hair.
The questions are always embarrassing. In fact, just this past halloween a girl asked me if I was wearing a wig, when I wasn't. Over the years I've practiced playing it off and tried changing the subject because someone petting my poofy mop of hair is too awkward for words.
Sometimes there's just no way to ignore someone who is blatantly being an asshole. I'll always remember the names I was called. It's hard to forget. My personal favorite was electrocuted Barbie doll. That name picked up quickly. I'm surprised it wasn't the death of me when my sixth grade crush started walking around calling me "Kaboom" for half the year.
The most embarrassing and hurtful memory I have from our time in Coalinga, CA was from my friend Alexandra's tie-dye birthday party. After dying all the shirts bright patterns of swirly pinks, blues and yellow, we didn't have much to do. It was too early for dinner and cake so we had an Ice War. It was summertime in our little desert town and about one-hundred degrees. We divided in to teams and threw ice cubes at each other. Being a softball player for most of my life, I had a pretty good throwing arm and accidentally threw ice too hard therefore Alex's police officer dad made me sit out.
Her dad was a funny guy, tall with a blonde crewcut, strong jaw, and a loud hefty laugh of someone with power. He constantly joked around with a lot of Alex's friends, including me. I was a witty kid, quick with my comebacks and we'd always make fun of each other in a semi-nice joking way.
I leaned against the white porch rail, flicking peeling paint chips off the dry wood, waiting for the Ice War to end, when Alex's dad and grandpa came over and started talking to me about my hair for no apparent reason.
"You know, Erica, I think we've figured out why your hair looks like that," he said gesturing to my wild hair with a look of contempt and mischief like someone who thinks their joke is the funniest thing to ever grace the Earth.
I could feel a flush start running up my neck. This wasn't going to be funny. I didn't want to hear this. I was already in a bad mood from not being allowed to play with my friends. "What?"
"Well, when you were a baby you must have crawled over to an electrical socket and stuck your fingers right in. ZZZ!" He mimed being electrocuted and the sprouting of invisible hair like mine that stuck right out. They roared with laughter.
For the rest of the party they kept coming by me so I'd overhear the loud questions they were asking each other like "Do you think a baby's fingers could fit in here?" pointing to an outlet. I think I defended myself but I'm also pretty sure I've tried to block out the memory so who knows what I said. What could I have said anyways? "Haha you are so right. My brain got fried and I'm ugly too?"
I do remember walking away eventually and crying to myself. Or maybe I cried to my parents later. Either way, I stopped being friends with Alex. She was a b**** anyways.