I turned 41 on Sunday.
On Monday, I returned to the ENT doctor. It had been 2.5 weeks since my tonsillectomy and I still wasn’t better. Two weeks was supposed to be when I returned to “normal,” but I still couldn’t swallow without pain or eat real food.
He looked in my throat and said, “Well, that’s interesting,” and asked another doctor in for a second opinion.
The diagnosis? Because I am older, and a redhead, it is taking me longer to heal. That’s just great.
There is a scientific basis for the “redhead” dilemma. We take longer to heal, have more sensitive skin, are more sensitive to anesthesia, are quick-tempered (ok – maybe that one is just anecdotal).
Growing up, I hated being a redhead.
I lived in Southern California – not near the beach but it was still impossible to get away from the “ideal” look – Barbie/Marsha Brady with long straight blonde hair, tan skin, and no flab.
Not much there to make a freckly face, four-eyes, ghostly-pale, plump, wavy-haired redhead feel good about her looks.
My hair refused to feather like Farrah Fawcett’s. I was teased endlessly about my fair/non-visible red eyelashes and eyebrows. They called me Casper the Ghost in gym class when I was forced to wear shorts. Just your average miserable junior high experience that seemed to last forever.
It took a good 30 years to finally appreciate my looks. I always had boyfriends but assumed this was because of my awesome personality and love of sports.
A few things helped put being a redhead into perspective.
- Hearing the phrase “Boys don’t like redheads but men do.” How true that has turned out to be.
- Realizing that it is good to stand out in a crowd. I like telling someone to “look for the redhead” because I am usually the only one in the room.
- Even though I had awful sunburns in my youth, I’ve stayed out of the sun as an adult and my skin has rewarded me for it. I am 41 but often am mistaken for much younger!
- I met Dan and he makes me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world – not that my personality and love of sports don’t help!
Now that I have a redheaded daughter, I see her facing some of the same dilemmas I do.
Sometimes she wants her hair to be straight and blonde; she doesn’t like it when adults make a huge fuss out of her hair; she wants to be just like everyone else.
As a mother, it’s my job to teach Mia how to be a good person and a secure, strong woman. It’s difficult already (she’s only 5!) to answer her questions like why do I straighten my hair sometimes? Why do I wear mascara? Why do I wear contacts?
I don’t tell her that deep down, even though I am in my 40’s, I am still that insecure seventh grader – that we all are – and need this vain primping in order to face the world.
Instead, I tell her that it’s fun to play dress up and wear make up and when she’s older, if she wants to, she can too.
I tell her that she is beautiful just the way she is. And so am I.