Today is St. Patrick's Day, which means it is now the 29th anniversary of the day I acquired the unfortunate nickname Tomato Head.
I was in second grade, and Mrs. Johannson, in the spirit of the holiday, was offering a prize for the student who wore the most green. My mother decided it would be wrong if I didn't win, since I was the most Irish person in my class, and I was so competitive that I didn't even entertain the idea of losing.
I was green from head to toe. Green sneakers (oh, I loved those sneakers, kelly green with yellow stripes, although my father complained because green/yellow are Kerry's colors; he favored the maroon and white of Galway), green socks, green corduroy pants, green turtleneck, green Irish sweater, and the coup de'grace, a green ribbon in my bright red hair.
I handily won the contest, but on the playground, one of the boys in my class told me I looked like a tomato. I remember that sinking feeling of knowing he was right. My red hair on my large round head, with the little green ribbon as the stem. I was surrounded by a bunch of kids, yelling "Tomato Head, tomato head, tomato head!" at me.
I was not a sensitive child, so I didn't cry - I think I just went berzerker - screaming and kicking and throwing my fists out in fury. The teacher who was watching over the playground grabbed me firmly by the hand and took me to the nurse's office until I calmed down.