First of all, for my sarcasm-challenged readers, I just want to begin with a disclaimer that the title of this blog is drenched with sarcasm. Moving along…
There is a picture of me at three years old, sitting in the front of a firetruck with my best friend. We are wearing fireman hats. His name was Peter. I don’t know his last name and I doubt if I’ve seen him since 1986, but if I were going to blame someone, maybe it would be him. I’m not going to point fingers, though, because that seems pointless. I hope Peter is having a great life.
In first grade, I started having a bit of a crisis regarding my dolls and my Nintendo. I had two best friends: one who would argue over Barbies with me, and the other who just wanted to play Nintendo and ride bikes. When it came to that point in elementary school when the clear divide between girls and boys started to make itself apparent, I started becoming something of a tomboy because I didn’t want to alienate that boy who was my best friend. The one who liked video games and bike rides. So I started pretending to be interested in basketball (a sport in which I truly have no interest. I honestly enjoy baseball and football, but basketball bores me to tears). I played video games like nobody’s business. In an effort to hide my weight and disguise the fact that I felt so ugly compared to other girls my age, I just started wearing guys’ clothing for a period of time, too. I developed an interest in what are generally thought of as boy hobbies, and as the years went on and I started to be treated like it, I started to feel like, well, one of the guys.
This was fine for a long time. I had no real interests in boyfriends in 5th and 6th grade. I just enjoyed hanging out with my friends. It was this silent understanding I had that guys would never accept me as a girlfriend the way they did with my friends, but they would accept me as one of them. I knew it was a little weird when, in junior high and high school, my guy friends basically used me as a way to get to my girlfriends they wanted to date. This never bothered me too much until later years when I wanted to break that silent understanding and discovered that it was really deeply-rooted, but at least that mess was my own. I know guys who have dated circles around me because I’ve been the girl who would approach my friend, talk about what a great guy so-and-so is, and then try to persuade her to date him. That’s not to say that this has always been terrible. I’ve made some friends and some really good friends this way. The problem is that even now, at 27.5 years of age, try as I might to shed my inner 11 year old tomboy, I still come off somehow as one of the guys. And I guess I can’t blame poor Peter No-Name for this. I did this to myself. When I was ten. Come on, Universe! Who takes a ten year old seriously for life? Let it go, already.
That being said, I still enjoy watching baseball and football. I still enjoy playing video games (although not quite as obsessively as when I was in elementary school). I don’t mind learning about cars because I feel that’s useful information. There are any number of other traditionally male hobbies that I can easily tolerate even if I don’t find myself interested in them on my own. On the other hand, I also enjoy buying pretty shoes. I enjoy days when my hair looks good. I like getting dressed up every so often. I like to hear someone tell me I look nice when I’ve made the effort to do so, even if it’s just an old lady squinting at me through her Coke-bottle glasses. Every girl likes to be told that she looks pretty, after all. I enjoy being smart and not playing dumb just so some guy will pay attention to me. Every once in a while I cry about something stupid. When I get angry enough, I cry then, too. I think babies are cute (usually). I get upset. I have feelings, and at times (not all the time) I like to talk about them and clear the air, and I love when people will oblige me in that because it’s normal to need to talk about things, and nice to be able to do so without feeling like you’re inconveniencing or annoying someone who just wants to get through it. That’s what conversation is, right? Just because I know where I stand doesn’t mean I don’t welcome reassurance once in a while on any number of things. I don’t like to make a big freaking deal about everything, but when something is bothering me, I’d like to be able to discuss it without someone’s eye-rolls or someone telling me I’m such a girl. Newsflash: I AM a girl. I can hang and I can banter. I can have a good time and hold my own. I may not be as uber-girly as most girls, but I’m also most definitely not most girls.
So maybe it’s a good thing I allowed myself to become one of the guys in the sense that it’s given me a different perspective. It’s made me more tolerant in some ways and less tolerant in others. I derive pleasure from hearing someone, impressed, say “Hey, most girls wouldn’t know that.” I also find that many girls get on my nerves because they’re TOO girly. On the other hand, the down side to being seen for so long as one of the guys is that it’s difficult to get people to understand that I’m not. Changing minds is tough. I’m constantly discovering new things about myself and testing myself in different ways. I like thinking and I like figuring myself out. As it turns out, when I’m not pigeonholed, I’m a cornucopia of surprises.