they called me a “tomboy.”

me, age 10, summertime being a tomboy.

the term isn’t used frequently these days, although the lgbtq community uses the label “tomboy femme,” which is generally the same definition as above. in fact a girlfriend was trying to similarly describe themselves in regarding a point in their childhood & couldn’t remember the word “tomboy.”

i was reminded of this point in my life after reading an article this morning on facebook which got my attention entitled “dear son, about that pink bathing suit.” an accompanying photo of a giddy, towheaded boy adorned in hot-pink immediately caught my eye, so i read on.

i found myself associating with what the mother said in regards to my own story growing up. you see, i had two older brothers & i wished to be just like them. they were THE coolest. they listened to the best music, shot off firecrackers & they played sports. they played little league baseball, football, basketball & soccer & i wanted to be right in the middle of it.

now, in our small southern town we had two things going for us. 1) girls could already play basketball in a girls league. & 2) soccer was making a splash for itself & luckily the girls were included from the beginning.

conversely the girls had a softball league (which i loathed & ultimately quit because it was too slow), rather than baseball & you guessed it, there was no organized, female football league. we played mixed gender, flag football in phys ed, but it simply was not the same. there was no tackling, the best part.

i remember when we moved into the northridge neighborhood for my third grade year. like a scene from a 1980's coming of age classic, the girl next door swinging lazily from a tree branch, watching the neighborhood boys roughhousing in game of pick-up football, i longed to join in.

over the next few years, during elementary school, there endless discussions regarding my desire to play football & baseball like the boys, which was met with the standard reasons of why this isn’t allowed. i remember a specific, albeit brief chat about me going to tryouts, but girls simply didn’t play these games, which was why there were no teams for us, which is why i was weird for even wishing it true. it wasn’t going to happen.

fast-forward to college where two things occurred. 1) we had intramural football (okay it was flag football again, but it was just women!) & 2) a young girl made headlines for challenging her high school to allow her the right to play on the football team. damn i was so proud of her & envious all in the same breath.

so i did the next best thing. i signed up to manage the men’s soccer team at birmingham-southern college. we did not have american style football, so this would suffice. plus i had played soccer as a child, therefore i knew a thing or two about it.

as the manager i not only brought out the water, ensured the equipment was available, but of course did the laundry. the irony here is not lost on me. it was the most challenging & one of the proudest moments in my life (second only to my solo, senior art exhibit, then later the birth of my daughter as a single mum.) in a way i ultimately got my wish. the team treated me like family, like their little sister, but yet just one of the guys.

in full disclosure, i did play basketball my elementary & secondary career. i was also a cheerleader, but like many things in my life, given unmitigated shit for this choice as well. i never win, but i digress.

we all want to be included & we all have a need for belonging. why do we try so hard to make children feel as if their own desires are erroneous? especially if they don’t meet our expectations (which is our issue, not theirs)? even more so, why do we continue this treatment into adulthood? why must everyone fit into a certain box?

i know the answer. people make decisions based on FEAR. well, the adults do. kids are fearless until they are taught otherwise, either from experience or by the adults, who are too worried about themselves being ridiculed to allow the children to have said experience.

as author katie, of the original pink swim suit article stated today…

“It’s all such a shame, son, because here’s the secret: very few people actually fit inside that box.
Even the ones who look like they do on the outside often feel like they don’t on the inside. The sad result, I believe, is a sea of people — especially boys and men — who are filled with shame about who they are.
Boys and men who exhaust themselves trying to prove they DO fit inside that box.
Boys and men who have suppressed their feelings for so long they literally don’t know how to feel any emotion other than anger.
Boys and men who physically and emotionally harm women to assert their masculinity, despite how damaging it is to everyone — including themselves.
You, my dear son, are so much better than that.”

so to all the little boys who wish to wear their bold, beautiful hot-pink swimsuits or to the little girls who wanted to get down & dirty playing all the sports in the world, you do you kid. remember the adults are over here still trying to figure out a few things. if we were all a little more honest with ourselves, it wouldn’t have to be so hard.

one of us finally got it right. we bossed up & created a lane for ourselves when there wasn’t an organized team. we no longer care if everyone else doesn’t understand us, what we do or how we love, it’s okay. it’s them, not us. truly.

oh & if you need me, i will be over breaking down that proverbial box. i have a box cutter & i get paid to use it.

as always, thank you for reading.

with peace, love & gratitude

xo, PG