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It probably was not the answer Red was expecting when she asked me, "Growing up, what woman influenced you most?" My reply? "That Girl." For those of you who might not remember the sitcom that ran from 1966-1971, "That Girl" was Ann Marie, played by Marlo Thomas. This was in the days before the internet or cable television. (When you had to get up and turn the dial on the television to change channels, and there were only a handful of channels.) And, I did not realize it until decades later, Thomas had formed her own production company, Daisy Productions, to produce and own the series.

I will not get into how television influences our perception of the world. But, I will say that up until that point in time, women in prime-time sitcoms were either someone's wife, someone's mother, someone's secretary – but never someone independent. Until "That Girl." She was an aspiring actress living on her own in the big city, New York City, so it was easy for me to relate as I grew up just a short train ride away on Long Island.

I was about 9 years old when the series started so, initially, had no idea that the size of her apartment or her fantastic wardrobe was unrealistic for a struggling actress. But, it introduced me, much to my mom's dismay, to being fashionable (as did a neighbor who worked as a saleswoman at a high-end women's store), resulting in my first budget (that is a separate story that still amuses me). And, ultimately, it led me to start working when I was a teenager so that I would have money of my own.

"That Girl" focused on a single woman's dreams and aspirations. A woman who was ambitious. Willing to try new things and willing to fail. But, what made her truly revolutionary was that she made it acceptable to prioritize work over marriage or children, proclaiming, "But I don't want to get married!" Which, growing up, became my mantra.

In the last season, she got engaged to her long-time boyfriend, but the final episode of the series was not them getting married, but about them going to a Women's Liberation meeting. I can remember it as if it was yesterday, wondering at what point she would ultimately call off the engagement. It was not that I believed she would never get married; it was that the timing was not right. She first needed to establish her independence.

And, I was determined to be "That Girl."

So, when Black mentions Redhead Appreciation Day, I know it’s related to Red & Black and not her being “nice” and giving me a day off (or telling me that she appreciates me). And when she asks, “What is it like to be a redhead, Red?” part of me wants to reply, “What’s it like not to be a redhead?” because, for my entire life, I’ve been “Red.” (There’s a story there, but I’ll get to it later.) The honest answer is, well, I never thought about it, until now …

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Photograph of Jackie Aguilera courtesy of Jackie Aguilera


red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

I have a confession to make, which I’m sure will make you roll your eyes.


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Interesting caveat and probably true.


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Every time we meet with Jackie (Aguilera) from the Mayor’s Office of Adult Literacy and hear what she’s doing in the world of adult education, I feel like I’m back in school and having to take copious notes.


Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

I am more than happy to send you “homework assignments” as I come across relevant articles and research.


red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick to taking notes. But that does explain why you’re so knowledgeable about literacy.


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But, reading information is very different from being at the forefront of literacy innovation. And, if we had never met Jackie, I never would have realized how literacy is more than the dictionary definition, and encompasses more than just reading and writing.
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Photo by Lynda Sanchez on Unsplash

As Black knows, going to the movies is my escape (and even sends me research about it), but she also knows that it’s all about the popcorn. So, it should come as no surprise that’s how I like to celebrate my birthday. And even though she’s not one to “celebrate” birthdays, she does indulge (or maybe the word is “tolerate”) people who do, and whenever my birthday falls on a workday, she gives me “permission” to escape to the movies.

Which is what I’m doing today on my milestone birthday, and although the “rerun” part of this post (below the line) was from last November, some things never change. Except … this year, as I’ll be waiting for the movie to start (and waiting to start eating my popcorn as I refuse to eat even a single kernel beforehand), I know I’ll be wondering, “How did I get to be 60 years old?!”

It's a running joke in my family that the only reason I go to the movies is for the popcorn. And while that isn't 100% true, it's probably close as I can't remember a time when popcorn wasn't an essential part of the experience. (I'll admit I couldn't believe it when I recently read that South Korea's banning movie popcorn in the theater!)

I can still remember seeing "Young Frankenstein" when it was first released (in 1974) at the Massapequa movie theater, which was literally at one end of an old strip shopping center. It bore no resemblance to the multiplex cinemas of today, and the concession stand offerings were very limited. It was dark and a bit dingy, and the seats were old and uncomfortable. But I didn't care because the popcorn made up for it. And while I sat through multiple showings of the movie (hey, it's still one of my favorites), I was grateful that my dad had given me enough money to get multiple popcorns as in those days, there was no such thing as the big bucket, let alone free refills.

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