Pale freckled redhead burned by words

Marie Farrell,
Brooklyn, NY.

I grew up in San Diego, California where the sun shines all the time. I was the kid that never tanned, just freckled and burned. I was also raised by an Irish mother so there was a lot less love than fights and tension. I recall a day when I bravely went to school in shorts and was destroyed by the words of a black girl who said “You need to get a tan”! I was often looked at weird because of the pale skin, being told to tan as if it were that easy. I was told by a girl in my gymnastics class “You have freckles on your knees,” as if that was such an odd thing. I was called “Annie”, “Pippi”, “Strawberry Shortcake,” and later I was called more inappropriate names like “Fire Muff” and “Ginger”. Since having cancer and losing my hair it has grown back less red, but I feel I am always and will always be a redhead on the inside and out; always feeling like a fish out of water in a hot, sunny climate, being called names that most people might not think are racist, but no matter what they thought it stung. It burned me more than the awful sunburns I grew up with. As an adult I take pride in my “spots” and my pale skin, in my sort-of red hair, and my Irish heritage, but sometimes those words still burn



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