My daughter Syd is a cute, outgoing little brunette. Her big sister Brooklyn is a quieter, introspective blonde. Whenever we’d start a movie, Syd would say “Is there a brown-haired girl in this one?” Sydney didn’t care for Alice in Wonderland or Sleeping Beauty, but she loved Belle in Beauty & The Beast and Lucy in The Lion, Witch & The Wardrobe. Brooklyn was generally the opposite. But when we took took the girls to see the musical “Wicked”, I was surprised by their reaction. When we got home and the girls were singing and acting to the soundtrack, Sydney always played the part of the blonde and extremely outgoing Glinda, while Brooklyn always took the part of the bookish and introspective Elphaba, a dark haired (and green) character. For the first time I could recall, my girls picked people to look up to and imitate, not because of their looks and color of their hair, but because of their personality and character. That simple choice told me that my girls were maturing, and seeing themselves for who they were not only in a mirror, but who they were inside.
I realized that I’d shared something similar in my own childhood. The very first team name I could read was the Reds, and therefore they became my favorite team. My first favorite player was the Reds’ great catcher, Johnny Bench, who basically looked like a giant-sized version of my dad.
However, by the time I reached age 9 or 10, I had a new favorite player. I’d begun to realize that I really liked being well-rounded, and the Reds’ Eric Davis was just that- a speedy center-fielder who could field, hit for power, steal bases, and basically do everything. I still have 144 Eric Davis baseball cards. It didn’t matter that he was black and I was white- he was the type of player I wanted to be.
As an adult, I switched to playing second base and usually hitting 2nd in softball for a decade. While the Reds had NL MVP Joey Votto and power hitting Jay Bruce on their roster, it never occurred to me to not have the slick fielding second-baseman and under-appreciated hitter Brandon Phillips as my favorite Reds player of the last decade (plus, he’s hit 3 home runs in the 3 Reds games I’ve seen him play in and he’s a great follow on twitter @DatDudeBP). Beyond sports, there are a number of writers and thought leaders from different countries, backgrounds and even centuries with whom I can identify as well, who don’t look anything like a stocky farm boy in constant need of a shave.
Obviously, what you look like is and always will be a part of who you are. But I think it’s an important part of growth to see yourself from the inside as well as out, and to connect with people in the same way. There are a lot of very cool people in this world.