The Virtues of Being Second

You kind of have to feel sorry for this kid. You really do. William gets the attention. I heard the phrase so much in my youth, "red-headed stepchild," to mean the one who really didn't get as much attention, that I can sympathize. They said it as a joke. When I found out what it meant, I didn't take it as one.

I've been called everything from honey blonde to strawberry to flat-out redheaded. Take your pick. Whatever. I'm just me.

How must it feel to have that famous "rusty hair" line repeated in book after book? To have it said publicly that your father was not real crazy about you and that it was implied in such a fashion almost the instant you were born? Wow. Imagine having to live with that. Whoever started that rumor, I'm sure, really didn't mean to hurt Harry. But think about it. Words get entrenched. Tabloid writers can't think of anything else to say. And phrases get repeated.

And if my family ever calls me "kid" again (I'm by far the youngest of three), I swear I'll nuke the lot of them. No respect. Just because I was the kid, supposedly, meant (implicitly, but it was there) that the smart-person positions were all taken and I was just going to have to fill in the blanks as best I could.

Sorry. I'm going to be me.

William's the smart one. Harry's the one who's into athletics. Implying, perhaps, he's not as bright. Well, 'scuse me. I've taught. Intelligence manifests itself in more than one direction. Yes, William is a bright child, but Harry (if nothing else) has been raised around William. He was raised around Diana, one of the more successful females (I don't know how else to word it) of the modern decade. And I swear there is some intelligence in those eyes. He would function very differently in a classroom from William, but then I suspect most of us would. We would also all function differently from each other.

So quit labeling people. Will Harry ever really be able to be himself? I think of a line posted on a message board a few months ago that I'm sure was meant to be funny. But it struck me as hellishly poignant.

It had to do, if I remember correctly, with someone posting that Harry was quite attractive -- obviously one of the younger contributors. And then someone faked a message (it was obviously a fake -- people were in that kind of mood that week or so) from Harry, telling William to (and I believe these were the exact words) "shove it up your good-looking bazoo." He had found an admirer of his own at last.

Look at the pictures. Look at the headlines. Look at the wild and woolly William message boards. What must it be like to be the younger brother to that? I cannot imagine, not having been raised in that very particular environment.

But I do know that my family's response to me did not reinforce who I was, and so I do not have as much contact with them as I might. By my own choice. Not that Harry should follow this path. Not at all. But I can empathize.

And I'm not even a real flaming redhead like you see. Just a redhead to some people sometimes.

When can Harry be categorized as himself? Perhaps we have no business asking into private matters, but we are certainly treating him as a public figure. And it has to have some effect. How others treat you can become a real mirror to yourself of who you are.

Harry likes to ride. We are told. Harry likes video games. We are told.

Can Harry be just Harry?

More Harry. I promise.

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