Leave Out the Prepositional Phrase, Please

By Ronnie Finley

When the words rolled off his tongue, I was so happy. I immediately texted my best friend and told her that the guy I was into at the time told me I was pretty. We exchanged a few excited messages over text and it wasn’t until days later that I realized what this boy had told me was not at all a compliment, but rather an insult. The initial happiness of my “crush” calling me pretty made my stomach flutter, but the entire sentence that he said, “you are really pretty, for like, you know a ginger” reverberated in my mind for a long time, causing self-doubt and insecurity.

That weekend I explained the full story to my best friend about how this boy was “sooooo into me” and she responded with, “Ronnie, do you know how demeaning ‘for a ginger’ sounds?” At first, I was furious at her for not being excited for me. I was appalled at her reaction and argued with her saying, “I don’t think he means it like that.” I was mad at her for a bit and then I started to reflect on why I wasn’t just plain “pretty,” yet I was “pretty for a ginger.” I realized that this boy was putting me down. He was basically saying that we carrot-heads needed to have some other characteristic besides red hair to determine our beauty. 

Girls, he was so wrong. Not once did he comment on how beautiful my mind is, how good of an athlete I am, how lovely my paintings are, how good of an older sister I am for basically raising my younger brother, or how intellectual I am. He made me believe that I was just “pretty for a ginger” and that is all I attributed to myself for a long time. I went through a phase of thinking that if I dyed my hair a different color – any color besides red – maybe I would be just plain pretty. This was a breaking point for me.

I talked to my friend about whether I should dye my hair blonde or brunette and she told me neither. She told me that she has heard “you are so pretty for a black girl” all of her life and that there comes a point of not just acceptance, but finding self-love in the qualities you were born with. She said that she is proud of her culture and her heritage and she wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. She inspired me to embrace my recessive genes and love my natural self. 

Less than 2% of the entire population has red hair. This means that I have something 98% of other people don’t have. I have a physical characteristic that makes me unique from others and I don’t want to change it anymore. I have learned through the ups and the downs of self-discovery that I am more than “pretty for a ginger” and even more than just “pretty.” I have confidence and kindness within me that radiate out of me like sunshine, which is way more critical than physical appearance. Every single person is so much more than meets the eye. Knowing the difference between phrases of endearment and phrases of shame is so important for every girl to distinguish.