Ginger Willinger

My Hair

In life, everybody has certain difficulties or frustrations, which they simply have to live with. For me it is my hair. Through all of my life, the first thing people notice about me is my hair. People notice my hair because it is curly, obnoxious, and red. Ever since I was very little, people have always been mentioning my hair. Not only is this extremely annoying, but it is also unnecessary because hair color should not be a big deal.

Although many people strive for attention, I never had to. As a child, and still today, people always talk to me about my hair. Almost daily, complete strangers ask me, “Wow, is your hair natural?” or say “Your hair is so gorgeous”, or, “You know you’re very lucky to have hair like that”, and sometimes people even feel the need to touch my head. I have also had people avoid me out of jealousy or intimidation from my hair. On the other hand, I have had a book illustrator ask me to model for illustrations of a version of The Little Red Riding Hood, and I have modeled for a hair salon, twice.

I know that sometimes attention is a good thing and people strive for it, but for me it was too much. Throughout my life, I have attempted to take attention away from my hair. For example, in first grade I cut off all my hair and kept it that way through all of elementary school. Then, from sixth to seventh grade I always kept my hair in a ponytail. In eighth grade, I made the biggest change of all and got it permanently straightened. Making these changes to myself made me feel more “normal”, which is exactly what I wanted. However, permanently straightening my hair actually gave me more attention, especially from a girl I’ll call Julie.

Although I did not know it, Julie was one of the many people who noticed my hair. She is an autistic girl who needs consistency in her life, and my coming to school with straight hair completely shocked her. This change caused Julie to pay even more attention to my hair. Eventually, my curls began to grow back, so sometimes it was half curly, half straight. Sometimes I straightened it, sometimes I let it go curly, and sometimes I wore it up. Utterly shocked by my constantly changing hair, Julie started to tell me how I should and should not wear my hair.

First, she wrote me very long letters telling me which days to wear my hair straight and which days to wear it curly. Since I did not follow her commands, she started telling my friends to tell me how to wear my hair. She even called me to leave me very long messages telling me how I should or should not wear my hair during certain months. At first I figured her demands were just a phase she was going through, so I ignored it. After a few months, however, she had not stopped. This started to bother and annoy me extensively.

As my difficulty is my hair, Julie’s difficulty is being autistic. After learning more about autism, I realized that in her commands to me about my hair, Julie is actually telling me everything she knows. For example, she tells me each individual day of the week and every single month of the year when telling me how to wear my hair, simply because she knows all the days of the week and all the months. Over time, I have gotten used to her, and her demands do not bother me anymore.

I have come to realize that my hair is not such a bad thing. Having red hair is just one of the things that is unique about me. Also, having this hair has helped to learn and understand autism more clearly. It has taught me to be kind and patient to Julie. It has also shown me that other people have far greater difficulties to face than mine. Therefore, having red hair has brought me a lot of over attention throughout my life, and although it has been annoying, it is not all that bad.


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