Columns | Scaring Children

After the Green Ribbon

The story of the girl with the green ribbon was once a generic tale of horror. Now, it is about about gender.

This isScaring Children, a column by A. E. Osworth that explores children’s horror media from the nineties and early aughts through the lens of queer adulthood.


Once, there was a girl named Jenny. She was like all the other girls, except for one thing. She always wore a green ribbon round her neck.

In a Dark, Dark Room

But Alfred kept asking, “Whyyou wear it?”

And Jenny would say, “It is not important.”

In a Dark, Dark Room

“Tell me about your ribbon,” he says.

“There’s nothing to tell. It’s my ribbon.”

“May I touch it?”


“I want to touch it,” he says. His fingers twitch a little, and I close my legs and sit up straighter.


There are two rules: He cannot finish inside of me, and he cannot touch my green ribbon.

“Most importantly,” my father said, arriving triumphantly at his final piece of evidence, “why did no one notice the toes except for you?”

As a grown woman, I would have said to my father that there are true things in this world observed only by a single set of eyes.

The Other Black Girl

“Please,” I say. “Please don’t.”

He does not seem to hear. “Please,” I say again, my voice louder, but cracking in the middle.

He could have done it then, untied the bow, if he’d chosen to. But he releases me and rolls on his back as if nothing has happened.

No ribbon. A boy.

“I’ve given you everything you have ever asked for,” I say. “Am I not allowed this one thing?”

“I want to know.”

“You think you want to know,” I say, “but you don’t.”

“Why do you want to hide it from me?”

“I’m not hiding it. It just isn’t yours.”

I am up for a long time, listening to his breathing, wondering if perhaps men have ribbons that do not look like ribbons. Maybe we are all marked in some way, even if it’s impossible to see.

—and Jenny’s head fell off.