Super Soaker battles. Mortal Kombat tournaments. Nerf gun standoffs. My childhood was not normal for a little girl. I grew up with three rough and rowdy brothers who often turned our suburban neighborhood into a war zone, racing track, or wild west. While they went on their medieval quests and space missions to test each other’s athletic prowess and masculinity, I was often left trailing behind trying to keep up.
I tried to do everything to fit in into their merry band of mischief, but I had one big thing that stood out. My unruly, red, curly hair. The kind of hair that only appears on little mermaids and in Vogue editorials. In my family of coiffed brunettes, I was the mutt who heavily favored the Irish and Scottish genes. And my brothers let me know it too.
They loved to tease me about my hair. Often calling it “ the mop,” they drew pictures of me resembling Cousin It or Chuckie from Rugrats. They yanked it while pretending to be asleep on family car trips and laughed uncontrollably when my hairbrush got stuck in my tangles.
But nothing compared to their most evil trick they would pull. When we would walk together in the fields of a nearby park, they would pluck grasshoppers from the ground and stick them in my hair when I wasn’t looking. And undoubtedly, they would get stuck in my tendrils as I flailed and screamed. My brothers would snicker as I ran home with tears in my eyes, and … well, one very confused grasshopper.
To this day, I’m still afraid of grasshoppers.
And yes, I realize that sounds silly when everyone else in this series has written about fearing those big, hairy, scary things like success, rejection, and failure. But that one little bug symbolizes a lot of big scary things for me.
All it took was a grasshopper to show me how different I was and how I would never fit in. My brothers with their matching bowl cuts let me know it with their seemingly small and innocent prank that I was not welcome. Both me and my curly red hair.
All it took was a grasshopper to start the cycle of mercilessly molding myself to try to fit in with everyone else. My mother caught me several times trying to cut off my own hair. She would pick up a few ringlets from the tiled floor of our bathroom, take the chunky plastic scissors from my hand, and let me cry and apologize into her checkered apron. She rubbed my back and told me how beautiful I was. I told her I didn’t believe her.
The first thing I did when I moved out to go to college was have my new roommates dye my hair in our dorm room sink. I spent my college years bouncing between every hair color but my natural red. I began using those torture devices commonly called hair dryers and straightening irons. I wasted so much time and money to get rid of something so unique, so special, so me.
I never fit in with my brothers or any other kid with a simple bowl cut. I wasn’t meant to live in their world of boyhood games and grasshopper tricks. Instead, I created my own world where it was just fine to wear princess gowns with Converse, read fairytales and make mud pies, and always, always laugh louder than anyone else in the room.
I grew up to become a woman in love with the written word, finding her own truth, and helping others do the same. I wouldn’t be who I am today without first living in a world of my own making, where it was okay to break the rules, do what you want, and be who you are.
I’m proud to say my hair has been its natural color and texture for three years now. It hasn’t been an easy three years, that’s for sure. My brush still gets stuck from time to time, I’m still tempted to dye it a socially acceptable shade of blonde, and of course, grasshoppers are still my least favorite animal ever. But self-acceptance is a beautiful thing. An unruly, red, curly thing.
Laura Bond is a recovering academic turned brand strategist for ballsy, but oh so feminine women entrepreneurs. She loves to help others embrace who they are and tell their story with smarts and sparkle. She blogs at Red Lips and Academics, updates frequently on Facebook, tweets regularly on Twitter, and pins far more than she should on Pinterest.
Fear Confessions is a series of essays by creatives who share personal stories about facing their fears. It’s a celebration of vulnerability.