It was the fourth grade, and I was talking to my friend about Harry Potter. Though I have mixed feelings about the series nowadays (and negative ones about its creator); back then, it was everything to me. Not only was it exciting, fun, and charmingly written, but it gave me a common bond with my peers. In fact, some of my friendships revolved solely around the series. This was one of those friendships, but I hadn’t realized it. Right now, we were just talking about our favorite characters. However, I was about to make a mistake.
“My favorite character is Luna,” I announced.
“I don’t really like Luna,” she said, wrinkling her nose.
“Why not?” I asked, incredulous.
“She’s just…I dunno..”
I did. She (along with a lot of my other friends), didn’t like Luna because she was weird. The sad part was that I understood. Weird girls are generally less appreciated. She wore weird clothes such as spectrespecs and a lion hat. She spoke in a singsong voice and was always prattling on about nargles and who knows what else. She was, to put it simply, odd. And yet, those were the very reasons I loved her.
Looking back, I can say that Luna was the first character I really fell in love with. In the past, there were characters like Anne Shirley and Ariel (from The Little Mermaid) who my mom would compare me to or say I looked like, but Luna I discovered all by myself. From the first moment I encountered her, to when I saw her come to life in the films, I always found myself intensely moved by her existence as a character. Never before had I seen a character so willing to be herself, despite how others treated her. I was amazed by this, and worshipped her because of it. I remember underlining her lines in the book, and drawing picture after picture of her to put on my wall. I tried to dress like her, and begged my mom for radish earrings like the ones she wore in the series. Though I knew I liked her and wanted to be her, I didn’t really realize that was because she resonated with me. Like me, she believed in mythical creatures and said things that other people dubbed as “weird” or “out there”. Like me, she often experienced alienation and struggled to connect with her peers. Like me, she was the weird girl.
Of course, Luna was not the only weird girl I’d connect to. Soon after Luna came Petra Andalee of the Blue Balliett books and Claudia Kim of The Baby Sitters Club; both of which shared similar struggles as me with school and friendships. There was Lydia Deetz, of Beetlejuice, who I found during my Hot Topic phase. There was Jess Day and Ilana Wexler, who gave the hope that things would get easier after highschool. More helpful still, were women outside of fiction who I related to on the same level. Women like Florence Welch, Tavi Gevinson, Regine Chassagne and Frida Kahlo, who I knew experienced similar struggles when they were my age before becoming famous. They were especially wonderful, because I was able to watch them not only succeed, but be loved and appreciated for their oddities. However, real or fictional, they had one undeniable thing in common; they got me through my adolescence in a way that no one else did.
Reflecting on these women, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for how they helped me. I’m approaching the end of my teens, and as I’m doing so, I’m coming to realize that I don’t really need these women anymore. Because they helped me find myself, I can say that I know who I am and am starting to thrive as my own person. I know without them, I may not have made it this far. Because of Luna, I found the strength to wear bold pieces of clothing. Because of Regine, I knew it was normal to feel trapped in my hometown. Because of Claudia, I was able to recognize that being bad at math was a normal thing for creative people. Because of Petra, I didn’t feel insecure about carrying a notebook everywhere. So as I draw to the end of my childhood, I guess I just would like to say thank you to everyone who helped me get to this point. Thank you to all the authors and writers who made me feel seen in their work. Thank you especially to the real life weird girls who dared to be their true selves. You all made me feel less alone, and I know I’m not the only one. By merely being themselves and going through struggles, they paved the way for not just me but weird girls everywhere. Girls who constantly faced rejection, alienation, and exclusion on a daily basis for the way they dressed and carried themselves. Girls who would try to find acceptance everywhere and sometimes would still have to deal with lack of connection when they did find it. They represented us, and though they are far from perfect, they are the role models that a young girl needs when she feels that she is the only one of her kind.