I’m not one of the boys.
I saw this on Facebook yesterday and it jumped right out at me. It was posted by a close childhood friend and commented on another, not so close, but close enough, someone who knows me well enough I suppose, knew both of us in high school when we were all quasi outcasts. Different together. Only I’m not so different now. Or less different. Anyway, the close childhood friend, we ran barefoot in the dirt together, rode our ponies bareback through cow pastures, swam in rivers, sat in creek beds, wondered where our breasts were and thought about whether we cared enough to think about boys and then went back to thinking about ponies and whether or not our feet were tough enough yet this summer to handle the gravel on that particular back road. Later we played at flirting and looked at ourselves in the mirror and tried on small bikinis and I took shrapnel but I don’t know if she did or not. We grew apart and then I moved away. I have no idea if she thought she was one of the boys because there weren’t any boys per se; there was just us and we weren’t doing anything at that age other than looking at them sideways periodically. We did run in a pack now and then with my baby brother and his friends but we were a little older and the concept of having to try to fit in or impress any of them never occurred to either of us or if I went back and asked her and she said it did I’d be shocked as shit. We were just kids. And we were bigger kids. Whatever. This is something I know. We didn’t hang out with a lot of girls. I had some girl type friends and she might have had some girl type friends but since we were a year apart in school they wouldn’t have been the same girl type friends. What’s important is she’s the one I ran barefoot in the dirt with and wondered if my feet were tough enough yet for that gravel road…
Rewind a few more years when I lived in a small neighborhood: three families with a total of 6 kids close enough in age to run together. Two brother sister sets and then two brothers. One older sister outlier and one way younger sister outlier and that was that. So we ran in a pack, now didn’t we? Except Jennifer fell out of the pack somewhat, I don’t know why exactly and her brother Rodney fell out of the pack now and then which left me and baby brother and the two neighbor boys and sometimes Jennifer and Rodney. So mostly me and three boys. Running barefoot in the dirt. The only time it was ever brought to my attention that there was a gender difference was when the Nazi Wife pulled my skinny little ass in out of the dirt so my brother could have my bike because his was broken. I ironed boys shirts. I didn’t get it for years. Not really anyway. Point is, I wasn’t trying to be one of the boys. I wasn’t one of the boys. I was a kid and probably tougher than all of them just because I’m wired that way or because of what was happening to me that required toughness. Had nothing or very little to do with gender. I had nothing to prove or didn’t know anything about proof. Not yet.
Oh. Wait. There were some gender imbalances. I didn’t get matchbox cars for Christmas. That pissed me off a couple years running but I just played with my brother’s. I wonder if he secretly wanted my barbies? I didn’t get to go on the father son camping trip into the wild (because only boys do that I was told – I think I might have thought that was a crock of shit when I was seven but I don’t know how much of a fuss I put up) but I got over that too. My Girl Scout troop did a significant amount of camping three years running before I moved from Moodus (yeah, that’s a real town) to Glastonbury where Girl Scouts were very different. I dropped out three weeks in. I didn’t need a cooking badge; I already knew how to bake bread (plus they were hardly baking bread) and my mother gave me free range of the kitchen and a copy of The Joy of Cooking after school as long as I cleaned up after myself.
Fast forward to 1980 when I started jumping out of planes. It got a little dicey on the field. I didn’t have to worry so much about running with the boys because in my experience, and maybe I was just sheltered a little because of who I was, everybody was equal , at least anybody jumping out of a plane without sniveling was equal. My problem was my sexuality. How to have any without losing my self respect or being treated differently. Looking around me it was radically apparent that there was a giant gap. Men could do anything; screw whatever they wanted. Actually, the more, the better. A woman got one chance, maybe two at best and after that she was the village bicycle. Careful, careful, careful… My dad suggested I talk to one of the more established women about how to handle myself. I never actually did but I was careful, careful, careful, or at least as careful as a 16 and 17 year old girl can manage to be.
Later. Girl in a corporate world and then girl in a male dominated industry. I DID run with the boys then. I DID model my behavior to fit in. I DID do those things. I did them thoughtlessly at first and paid some heavy prices. I was careful later and lost less skin. But I WAS doing my best to be a BOY. Or run with the BOYS. I was proud of breaking through this barrier. I worked damn hard to do it too.
Except I didn’t really. Boys can be brutal and harsh and even mean. Boys can raise their voices and pound their fists and go to war and their penises just get longer and they are FEARED and LOVED (ok, sorta, kinda, depends on the circumstances and who and what is getting wet in the panties over this) and revered and sought after depending on the results and the fallout. GIRLS may not do that. Not quite the same way. But you may get yourself a ticket to the game and you may run in that pack.
Things have changed, no doubt. But there was that period. I don’t play that game so much anymore. It is still there/here and I still work in a male dominated environment and I still notice things but I don’t go out of my way to fit in anymore unless it looks like something that needs doing.
I’m just me. Not a BOY, not a GIRL, just a person. With dirty feet.
I wear lipstick (ok not really, but I do own some), I have dirty feet because I don’t like to wear shoes but I love pretty shoes, no, I love HOT, sexy shoes and little black dresses, the drop you dead in the street kind. I sit in the dirt and use power tools badly because I’m making it up as I go along and I used to raise chickens when I had more time and once I built the ugliest looking chicken coop ever which horrified my dad but it did work – right up until the weasels. I built it from what was the top of an old swingset. I’m still actually proud of that damn thing. I was not being a boy. I wear dresses at work because they’re more comfortable. I try to remember to brush my hair but unless I happen to see a mirror during the day it’s probably not going to happen. I sit cross legged in my chair sometimes and leave bruises on the inside of my thighs from my heels. I can’t tell many people that. Women look at me funny and men think it’s sexy. That’s just weird. I try not to do it in the winter because it puts runs in my panty hose and I can’t afford to replace them. I put high lights in my hair and while it’s actually part of the corporate uniform part of the reason I do it is I think it’s pretty. You might not think it’s pretty but I think it’s pretty and I don’t really care what you think (at least not much).
I am not one of the boys. I am not one of the girls. I am just me and I happen to have dirty feet. Right now I have blue toes.
I think the statement in the cartoon above is one of the most sexist things we’re saying about ourselves these days. I think we should stop doing that the same way we should stop being victims about how boys look at our breasts and our asses when we have them. Whatever.