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There’s a little girl I adore, who always has a huge smile and an even bigger hug when she sees me, who used to hold my hand while we snowshoed, and who climbed into my lap and fell (almost) asleep at a local restaurant one night. This little girl has the loveliest red hair and a silly streak a mile wide and reads beautifully (though she’s only in first grade). This sweet girl has the best supportive parents, everything going for her, and wisdom beyond her years. She is ravishingly beautiful, and kind, and sensitive. She is the little girl I wish I had, and also the little girl I was.

And yet, this girl isn’t happy.

I know your jaw just dropped. Mine did too, and does, every time this reality sinks in.

Damn this world we live in, with unattainable standards of beauty that find their way even to 7 year olds. Damn this world, with ridiculously sexualized clothing for little girls. Damn this world in which even first graders know when they are different, and know (unmistakably) that different is not OK.

This sweet dream of a girl thinks that she is fat. And that her clothes are ugly. And that she is terribly, irrevocably, unforgivably DIFFERENT.

Nothing, and no one, at least right now, can convince her that different is good, better even. And yet we’re all leaning into her, and hugging her as often as we can, because this. stuff. sucks.

Recently, this girl invited me to her birthday party. Just me, not my boys. gift

I was thrilled, and honored, and felt charged with such responsibility. I would go, I would love her, I would tell her that she’s amazing just because she’s her. I would be one of the ranks of strong different (weird) women who reflected the exquisite funky weird gorgeous self that she is.

The party was this afternoon. Of course, the boys here are sick, and I worried about leaving them, and also about spreading the germs. In the end I stopped by for a few minutes, dropped off the gift I made, hugged her mom, and then left.

It wasn’t much, and it couldn’t possibly say everything I wanted to tell her. But maybe it will be a friend, on those dark nights when she needs one. Every little girl should have such a friend.