Saturday, March 5, 2011

3-5-11 on being a tomboy

I don't actually remember the first time I heard the term "tomboy" but I remember proudly owning that label by the time I was in the first grade. Evidence of tomboyishness survives all the way back to when I was a toddler, though.

What interests me is that I did love my baby dolls, and tea set, and play kitchen, which doesn't fit the stereotype. However, I was ruthless on the babies, typically tearing them up pretty quickly. I climbed all over and in the play kitchen as much as I pretended to make dinner. I made forts out of the tea table as often as I tried to have a civilized afternoon tea. . . 

Here I am around age 2 about as girly as I ever was.

And look! Mom's fancy fuzzy house slippers.

But soon, a whole lot of the family photographs show me just as interested in being daddy.

I was either the Lone Ranger or Zorro.

All the dirty clothes in the hamper, and instead of going from something to twirl around in, here I am pulling on daddy's pants.

And daddy's shoes (and socks?)

Mom tried her best to girl me up. This must be Easter. What I remember most when I look at this picture was the relief of getting out of those itchy lace tights as soon as we got home from church and feeling like I'd been released from prison. I also, to this day, dislike Mary Janes and shiny patent leather.

This was much more my speed.

Before pre-school I remember resisting any form of dresses. I wanted jeans, cowboys boots or sneakers, and a boy shirt.

I remember other little girls coming over and being mystified that I only wanted to play tinkertoys, or forts, or chase. The tea parties and dolly conversations bored me.

Only the length of my hair gave me away as a girl, and some summers I got lucky to get it cut short.

When I fell in love with the orange bike in the 5&Dime in Mexia, as soon as Mammammy said, "but that's a boy's bike," I knew I had to have it.

Hat requirements were: nothing frilly or fancy or girlie.

Now in the midst of all of this, I knew I didn't quite fit in with other little girls very easily, but as an only child, this was just part of the environment. I played how I wanted to play, with what I wanted to play with, when I wanted to. So running into girls who looked at me funny or whispered behind their hands while watching me was not as much about being boyish as being me. They didn't get it.

And for a long time, I didn't care.

I was happy to go off by myself and make mudpies and kick rocks in my cowboy boots and pretend to hunt the bad guys in the woods.

The forced socialization of school was what finally put my "oddness" on the radar. Pre-k, first grade, and second grade class pictures of me demonstrate this pretty well. That blue jumper that flared at the legs was the closest thing I owned to a dress that I didn't pitch a fit about wearing.

Sorry, mom. I know having the most dressed down girl in the first grade at the Easter program was probably hard to take.

But you can't climb trees or run fast with a dress flipping around your legs and slowing you down. There was a pole in the playground that may, at one time, have had a tether ball attached. But when we went out to play, all the boys and I would take turns seeing who could shimmy to the top, legs wrapped around it, and touch the top before sliding back down. These important feats were simply not accomplished in dresses. Of course, that's also how I broke my arm in first grade, coming off the jungle gym . . .

I had an affinity for animals at a young age. They made more sense than people. Boys made more sense than girls. It was just the way of things.

I fantasized about being Grizzly Adams.

I wanted to be one of the Dukes of Hazzard.

Comic books, hot wheels, dirt bikes, camping, fishing, trucker hats . . .

So it was a terrible shock to the system when the order came down: from now on, you can wear pants at home, but you need to look like a lady at school and out in public.

On our summer trip to Tennessee, I ignored propriety and wore my beloved coonskin cap anyway.

But this was as dressy as I got.

At home, though, I got to relax in sweatsocks and shorts in my decidedly un-girly room. I picked out this furniture myself.

I started the 6th grade with a second broken arm, complete with overalls and another short haircut. Of course, this was also the year of the first boyfriend, and holding hands on the hay ride during our class field trip was thrilling. But this was entirely logical to me too -- boys made so much more sense than those difficult, tricky, crying girls. Of course I would be interested in them.

During those awkward middle school years, when puberty crashed the party, when guys my age became possessed by aliens that made them incredibly stupid and primarily interested in girls who were exactly NOT like me at the time -- all curves, no brains -- I felt profoundly betrayed.

But it didn't exactly drive me to change much in those flat-chested lonely years when I still wore trucker hats and cowboy boots and plaid shirts.

Add to that an inability to understand curling irons or makeup, the need for monstrous braces and headgear, and a sinking realization that I would never be one of the in-crowd.  But in many ways this was actually very liberating. It didn't stop the very human need for acceptance, but it gave me enough time to learn what kind of girl I wanted to be.

And no one has ever, even to this day, accused me of being too lady-like.


Post a Comment