The Gilded Girl

Once upon a time there was a girl named Sunny. They called her Sunny because of her golden hair and smile and the way she would light up a room when she entered. And the light emanated from her, and the light was good. 

Sunny’s mother was named Gilda. Gilda had discovered when she was young that she had a very special super power: if she tried hard enough, everything she touched turned to gold. She failed at nothing—she was perfect and pretty and powerful. Many people tried to rob her of this power, but as they tried, she became all the more skilled at her craft. 

It took some time, but soon Gilda lived in a gilded castle with a gilded prince surrounded by gilded treasure.Yet something was missing for our golden heroine: someone to pass on her power, so she tried and she tried. For years she tried until she finally had a perfect, golden daughter, Sunny. Gilda loved that Sunny’s light made all of the gold glitter and shine all the brighter, and she had high hopes that Sunny would develop the ability to turn everything to gold too.

Years passed, and Sunny showed much promise. She too could be perfect and pretty and powerful. She too could turn what she touched to gold. And for many years, that is how she lived her life: in a beautiful, golden-hued world, in a perfect, gilded castle. But Sunny also had a weakness: she was drawn towards the broken and the dark, the people made of clay. The clay people were not perfect and pretty and powerful. They were messy and earthy and malleable. They often had flaws, and Sunny found that flaws were often what she was drawn to the most.

When the time came for Sunny to go to college, her mother helped her move into her new dorm room. The room was drab and simple, but her mother brought in load after load of treasure until the room was brimming and beautiful. “Shine your light,” her mother said, but what she really meant was, “Be golden and make sure everyone knows you are golden.” 

So Sunny did just that. Only there was a boy at the school: he was one of the dark, broken ones. He was the first to notice Sunny’s super powers. The powers both scared and intrigued him, and he told Sunny that he was unfixable and not to try to touch him. Of course, this made him all the more desirable. 

“I can fix you,” said Sunny. “I can take all of your broken pieces and turn them into gold.” 

“But I don’t want to be turned into gold,” he said simply. “And honestly, I don’t think you actually like being golden.” 

Sunny had never dreamed that someone could possibly not want the benefits of her super powers. But there was something to his words that echoed in her mind: “I don’t think you actually like being golden.”

Through that relationship, through many others, through life, Sunny slowly changed. She allowed herself to break and bend. She allowed golden pieces to be replaced with the more malleable clay. She even developed a new gift. She could turn what was once gold to clay.

It wasn’t that she lost her golden “gift.” She just curated when and where to use it. 

The place she used it the most was in the presence of her mother, of course. Her mother saw the places where Sunny was tarnished; she saw some of the bits of clay. Sometimes she ignored them; sometimes she gossiped about them to her gilded friends and family; still other times she was ashamed of them and tried to turn them again into gold. And Sunny allowed all of it, because even though she didn’t actually like being golden, engaging in this dance seemed to be the only way she could maintain any connection to her mother. Sunny had become one of the people made of clay. 

One day, Sunny married a man. He was not golden. He was broken too. There were seasons when she tried to be as gold as possible for him, but he would tell her he loved that she was Sunny, not because she was gold but because she was herself. There were seasons where they broke together and seasons where they broke apart, but the beauty was that they could break and remain. 

They had children. And the children did not learn Gilda’s trade. They were never golden. They were not perfect. They were always who they were. They allowed themselves to bend and break. They had imperfections and flaws and chips, and they loved those with imperfections and flaws and chips. They knew that the golden ones didn’t actually like being golden. And Sunny watched the gilded world of her past, realizing that proximity would not bring closeness, only brass. 

This Red Tent woman has requested to remain anonymous. We applaud her courage to risk sharing this part of her story with our community, it is our privilege to honor and protect her identity.