I noticed something peculiar early in my life. No one looked like me. Not my family, not my neighbors, not my friends.
My parents were both brunettes. Dad had brown eyes, and mom’s were slate-gray green (mine are green with flecks of blue). My features, hair, and eyes didn’t match anyone in my immediate or extended family, or even the people in my communities (there were several—we moved a lot).
To make matters worse, when I was younger, my hair wasn’t the dark red it is today. Nope. It was neon orange. Neon.
I grew up in rural Ohio, and then in the deep south of Florida. It was very strange and isolating to not even have family who looked like me. I tried to figure out why I was different, and I came up with the only theory that made sense to me.
I was an alien.
Specifically, I was from the planet Mars. It is called “The Red Planet”, after all. I thought (and often said) that my red hair and freckles were part of my natural camouflage for my native planet.
This did not help me in making friends with the local Earthlings.
Every time we moved, I was excited at the possibility of meeting someone with red hair like mine. It didn’t happen until I was eleven years old (strawberry-blonde was close enough!).
By that time, it was too late for me. I was irrevocably even weirder than I started out. I was also obsessed with aliens (though at that point, I was more convinced that I was from Earth than Mars).
When I finally learned about genetics in High School, I had to dig back to my great-great-grandparents to find the two women who provided the right mix of DNA to churn out a red-headed, green-eyed human like me. Three generations later. Apparently, one of them even wrote romances <3
Chance and circumstance are fascinating things. All these experiences and thinking about how they came about—how I came about, exactly as I am, so different from everyone around me—feed into my stories. It makes them richer.
Being different was (and is) challenging. But it helps me see the world and all the beautiful Earthlings around me as the unique and amazing creations that we are.