Born in the winter of 1956, my girlhood was fraught with gender envy. If being a girl meant sitting quietly, playing with dolls, minding my manners, wearing frilly dresses and behaving in a lady-like manner, I did not wish to be a girl. If being a girl meant becoming a princess and someday marrying a prince, I rejected girl-ness.
These early observations led me to an indisputable conclusion. Girls were restricted and boys were free. Being a boy meant riding my bike, playing baseball, running wild, scraping my knees, and shooting mud pellets from my air rifle. Therefore I simply chose to be a boy. I got away with it, too. Yes, I sometimes fielded the innocent, yet brutal inquiry, Hey kid, are you a boy or a girl? It was worth it.
My carefree boyhood, sadly, was cut short. Junior High School and its cruel sidekick, Puberty, knocked me out, dragged me down and slugged me in the gut. I put away my baseball glove, my air rifle. After my mother took me bra shopping, I succumbed to the bulk of a sanitary napkin between my legs, the stranglehold of its chaste elastic belt. In my reincarnation as a female, I discovered Day-Glo orange patent leather shoes, nylon stockings, garter belts and blue eye shadow. I took to kissing boys rather than beating them up. I learned to let them win. In the midst of change, I lost my voice, my spunk, my edge. I had never heard the word depression, but late at night, alone in the dark, I contemplated the sweet release of suicide.
Jump ahead to 1974. Picture a seventeen-year old girl walking into her first women’s studies class. The word feminist described who I was, what I believed in, who I wanted to be. This moment of homecoming set in motion a lifetime commitment to choice—to equity, as a mother, an educator, a wife. These days I’m still reclaiming my voice, my spunk, my edge.
Footnote: I discovered my inner princess, and I embrace her, too.