Tomboy v. Girlie Girl

Be Your Own Girl

Were you a tomboy or a girlie girl?  Did you think of yourself that way, or was it what you heard be said about you?

I will let you guess which I heard as a girl.

I liked to read, climb trees, play with Barbies, ride my bike, cook miniature cakes in my Easy Bake Oven, roller skate, and daydream.  I loved red shoes, colorful tights, shorts, and t-shirts, all worn together.  I always loved long hair, but wore it braided for years to avoid sitting still while my mother yanked out the tangles.

Girlie Girl or Tomboy?I wasn’t interested in sports or dance classes.  I didn’t play with make-up or play army.  I was neither boy-crazy nor one of the boys.  I liked dresses, but only if they were comfortable.

Can you guess?

According to my mom, I was a tomboy and did not like girlie things.  That is what I heard my entire childhood.  She said it to me, and she said it about me.

I don’t think she meant it as an insult; it was a statement of fact to her, like saying, “My daughter is a redhead.”  Well, maybe it was more like sighing, “She burns so easily.”

It felt like a negative, and I accepted that others would always think of me as not quite feminine enough.

Fortunately, “alwaBe Your Own Girl.  Love what you love.ys” only lasted until I was twenty, and my husband found me quite appealingly feminine.

For many years, I didn’t think about the issue at all.  Happily married, and a mom to boys, it fell off my radar.

Then I became the mom to a daughter, and an aunt to nieces.  My ears again tuned into the stereotypes of femininity.  Or the rejection thereof.

And I just want to say, “Stop it!”

  • Girls can wear dresses every day and still ride bikes and play in dirt and run fast and be strong.
  • Girls can play with dolls for years and still not want to babysit your kids.
  • Girls can love Disney princesses and Lord of the Rings equally well.
  • Girls can love or hate make-up and love or hate science class.
  • Girls can love sports and/or write sappy love poems.
  • Girls can be ridiculously dramatic or quiet and reserved.
  • Girls can wear baseball hats or tiaras while practicing their dance moves or catching frogs.
  • Girls can love what they love and not have to prove anything.

There is no such thing as a typical girl.  Children do not need to be burdened with labels, whether it is meant as a compliment or not.

Tomboy v. Girlie GirlThey also do not need to be pressured to “overcome” stereotypes.  Some girls just don’t want to play with trucks or Legos.  No matter how much their parents want to avoid gender stereotypes, there are girls who want Barbies and frilly dresses.

Society will not collapse, nor will a daughter be doomed, because she will only wear pink.  Or refuses to wear pink.

I want the girls I love to each to be their own girl, willing to explore and learn and discover their own interests, develop their own style, without worrying about what others think.  Without thinking about what will be said about them.

I don’t think that can happen with the world commenting on everything they do or do not.  How can a girl discover who she is when she’s constantly being appraised by others?  Waiting for the “like” button to be pressed, so she knows that she is okay.

I want people to say of my girl, “She’s her own person,” and I want it to be true.

My childhood home

My childhood home, by Levitt & Sons

This was the home of my childhood.*  Stereotypical of mid century suburbia, it was built by Levitt & Sons, in a planned community with matching street names, walking distance schools, and children everywhere.

At about 1500 square feet, it never felt small to us kids, and we certainly knew bigger families than ours living in the same house.

My sister and I shared the room in the front right corner.  In my memory, it was big.  Our matching twin canopy beds and dressers left plenty of floor space for laying out Barbie homes and villages.  Carefully building a house for each Barbie and her family was a day long process for my sister and me, and, once built, we’d leave them up for days on end.

Years later, my husband and I looked at homes in the Levitt community.  Like a nostalgic character in a movie, I was surprised at how small the houses were compared to my memories.  More than that, though, I was struck by how practical these houses were.

There was less redundancy in these homes, no matching living and family rooms.  The family room labeled above was where everyone placed their kitchen table and chairs.  We only used our dining room for holidays and company, but I knew larger families who used theirs regularly.

Not a fan of the McMansions which dominate the housing landscape today, this appeals to me, but I know the original homeowners did not all feel that way.

Many people converted those garages to living space.  Others, like my parents, built an addition off the kitchen. Nobody really wanted their children’s toys strewn about the living room, so these rooms were called playrooms or rec rooms.

They quickly became family rooms, leaving the living room as a show room, and children were still not allowed to leave toys laying about.

When I was eleven, my parents moved to a larger home, a newly constructed traditional colonial style which better suited my mother’s tastes, and, foremost in my mind, allowed my sister and I to have our own bedrooms.

My mom still lives in that house, or, rather, she lives in three of its rooms.  I wish she lived in this more manageable one, but she likes having the extra space when her children and grandchildren come to visit.

Levitt & Sons Rancher, Bowie, Maryland

*The closet configuration in our house was slightly different than in this rendering.  The laundry room was only accessible through the garage, and there was no side door in the garage.  The living room had a fireplace between the two windows, but there was no door or window in the dining room.  Other than those small differences, the floor plan is accurate.  Our house was not brick like the one in the advertisement; brick cost extra.

What was your childhood home like?

Were we all picky eaters?

When I was a child, we ate at home. Eating out was something you did on vacations, which were not annual events in our family.

McDonald's Tampa 1979 05 02

There was, however, this one McDonald’s where my father would stop on our way to our grandparents’ town.  It was near the halfway point of the four/five hour drive, which we made several times each year.

My siblings would look forward to this treat, but I dreaded it and wished we would not stop.  We always did.  Then the ordeal began.

I would ask if I could just have french fries, not a burger (these were pre-McNugget days).  My parents would insist that I needed to eat meat, so I would order a plain hamburger.

My family would eat their meals while I waited, and waited, and waited at the counter for the staff to grill a fresh burger for me.  (Special orders did upset them.)  I’d eat it walking to the car (no eating in the car), while my parents complained about the inconvenience I’d caused.

I don’t deny that I was a picky eater, but my parents were misguided in thinking that I took any delight in mealtime drama.   The only thing worse than the embarrassment would have been the stomach cramps and nausea from the vinegar in all the condiments.

Who doesn't like mashed potatoes?Of course, it wasn’t just McDonald’s where the food drama occurred.  It was a regular feature of my childhood.  I was the picky eater, the one who couldn’t swallow the fried liver, didn’t like the mouth feel of mashed potatoes, and was disgusted by the smell of canned green beans.

My siblings and parents could not relate.  To them, a potato was a potato.  Mashed, boiled, baked, fried, or instant did not matter.

As an adult, I came to believe that I was not the only picky eater in my house.  My parents claimed to “eat anything,” or at least “normal foods,” and it’s easy to see why they were able to delude themselves.

My father, like many others of his generation, was only served meals that he already knew he liked.  My mother only cooked foods she liked.  There were set meals that he and my mother ate, and those were rotated on a regular basis, with only small substitutions.  (Look, we’re having creamed corn instead of regular corn tonight!)  Neither of my parents were adventurous eaters, and my mother was not a good cook, but most of my friends described the same meal-rotation that my mother employed.

I can understand why having a child who didn’t like six of the ten meals they regularly ate would be incomprehensible to them.  Their childhoods were marked by food rationing, necessitated first by the Depression and then by the War.  The idea that a child would refuse to eat perfectly good food must have been maddening.

Nobody talked about sensory integration issues or food sensitivities in those days.  Picky eaters were just being difficult.

In retrospect, sometimes I was.  After so many bad food experiences, I dreaded mealtimes and the ensuing battles.  My guard was always up.  The best I could hope for was to not be noticed.  The only meal I enjoyed was breakfast, where I could eat my bowl of Kix or Rice Krispies alone, in peace.

Cold cereal is still a comfort food for me.  I still prefer to eat alone.

It wasn’t until I moved away that I began to discover foods I liked.  None of them come from McDonald’s.  On road trips, my family is welcome to get whatever condiment soaked meat they want while I walk the dogs.  I’ll happily eat my apple and graham crackers when we all pile back in the car.

What were the mealtime staples of your childhood?  Did you love them, endure them, or hate them?

Are you too old or too young for fairy tales?

C.S. Lewis, on fairy tales

Every Wednesday on Facebook, I ask, “Whatcha Reading?”

I love hearing about what others are reading, whether it is something I’d read myself or not.

Among other things, I’ve been re-reading fairy tales, one or two tales from Grimm’s each night.  It’s like a late night snack of comfort reading.

Fairy Tales, Auden

 

One of my childhood favorites was Snow White and Rose Red.  I had one of those children’s book club by mail editions with bright illustrations which made it easy to imagine myself as Rose Red and my sister as Snow White.

I was always disappointed that my parents planted forsythia instead of red and white rose bushes.

Parents can be so prosaic.

Albert Einstein quote on fairy tales

I read fairy tales to my own children, too.  My boys loved fairy tales, especially ones involving horrible deaths and the meting out of justice to the cruel.

In our house, we only read versions where lazy pigs were eaten by wolves and evil witches danced themselves to death.

I waited a long time for a daughter who would appreciate bears who turn into princes and happily ever afters.

Of course, she favored the gory parts, too.

Did you read fairy tales as a child?  Did you have a favorite?

(I made the fairy tale posters while I was laying around sick last week.  The first two illustrations are by Virginia Frances Sterrett, in a book that can be found here.  The last is by Harry Clarke, and can be found here.)

The Crush I Never Outgrew

If you asked my husband, he would say that my celebrity crush is Sean Connery.  It’s not true.  I never think about Sean Connery unless someone is talking about James Bond.  I don’t think about actors or celebrities at all unless I’m watching one of their movies.  Then I might look them up on IMDB while I am listening to the movie, to see how old they were when it was filmed.  (I don’t know why I care, but it’s something to do while the movie is running.)

There is, however, one celebrity whom I fell for in a big way at a young age, and I’ve never gotten over him.

I was what people today call a “high spirited child,” and used to call rambunctious, stubborn, hot-tempered, wild, unmanageable, and a host of other vaguely unflattering but very accurate words.  According to my mom, the only time I wasn’t in motion was when I was watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which began to air on PBS the year after I was born.

I don’t remember those first couple years, but I do remember watching him when I was a little older, with my sister, who was four years younger than me.  I loved him then, and I loved him over the dozen years I watched him with the children I babysat, and I loved him even more when I watched him again with my own children.

I still do.

Mister Rogers was, in all honesty, the dad I wanted.  In the opening sequence, he could have been.  My father, too, came home at the end of his work day, changed from his suit to his casual clothes, carefully hanging everything in his closet, putting away his leather office shoes and putting on his canvas tennis shoes.  My dad always called them tennis shoes, never sneakers.

My father, however, didn’t talk with children.  He told us things like, “We’re washing the car this morning,” but he was no conversationalist.  He didn’t ask how our day went (nor did we ask about his).   He didn’t talk much at all, and certainly not about feelings.

I never doubted that my dad loved me, and I loved him, but I loved Mister Rogers, too, who showed me interesting things about how musical instruments made sound,  pretzels and crayons were made, and how to make an icebox cake.  An adult who acknowledged and talked about feelings, fears, and joys, who wanted every one of us to know that we are unique and important.  How could I not fall in love?

As a young mom, I didn’t wish I’d had a parent like Mister Rogers.  I wanted to be like him myself.  I wanted to be patient and gentle, soft spoken and calm, eager to teach and learn, respectful of my children as individuals and respected by them.

On my best days, I was.  We went on field trips and learned together; we built volcanoes and kept Venus Fly Traps; we talked and listened and read; we used our imaginations and our manners; and we talked about feelings and their expression.

On my worst days, I learned to forgive, both myself and my mom and dad, for our many shortcomings as parents.  I think Fred Rogers would have liked that.

(That’s a young Wynton Marselis on trumpet, with Joe “Handyman” Negri on guitar, and the house band:  Carl McVicker, Jr on bass, Bobby Rawsthorne on drums, and musical director Johnny Costa playing Fred Rogers’ “It’s You I Like.”)

I’m participating in a BlogHop today with the Generation Fabulous bloggers on the topic of Celebrity Crushes. It’s not a topic I’d have chosen, and I almost skipped participating because my immediate thought was, “I don’t have a celebrity crush; what would I say?”

I could not get the Linky to work for me, but if you’d enjoy reading about more celebrity crushes, the bloghop starts here.

Joining the In Crowd.

Throughout high school, I had what teachers and administrators termed an attendance problem.  “We need to talk about your attendance problem,” they’d say, “because in the real world, you have to show up for work.”

I always thought, “But this isn’t the real world!”

Never, at any job, did I have difficulty showing up, every day, on time, and completing the tasks assigned me.  So, I was right in knowing that my work ethic would not be determined by my school attendance record.

I was also wrong.  The real world, much to my chagrin, turned out to be much more like High School than I anticipated.

The cliques, the obsessions over grades and rankings, who likes whom, the adoration of the athletic and the beautiful, the pettiness and bullying, the drinking, the name calling, the popularity contests, and the insecurity – they’re all present in the real world.

I’m glad I skipped it when I could.

As a blogger, I’m asking again:  where do I fit?  The answer, now as then, is more easily framed in the negative.

  • I am not a mommy blogger.
  • I am not a food blogger.
  • I am not a motivational blogger.
  • I am not a health blogger.
  • I am not a style blogger.
  • I am not a craft/sewing blogger.
  • I am not a political blogger.
  • I am not a social media expert blogger.
  • I am not a product review blogger.  (But, Costco, if you need one, I’m here.)

Is there a category for bloggers who write about anything that pops into their head?  A random blogger?

Recently, I joined a blogging support group:  Generation Fabulous.  They are a very encouraging and talented group of “women of a certain age.”

I am out of my league.

Being in this group is like my freshman English class in high school, where classmates were already talking about MIT and how many AP classes could be fit into the next four years while I was figuring out how few math classes were required to graduate.

Likewise, these women are going somewhere.  They are starting or running successful businesses.  They are comediennes.  They are professional writers, tackling serious (or seriously sexy) subjects.  They blog for empowerment, education, and influence.  Or at least they stay on topic.  They discuss blog views in thousands and analyze marketing strategies.

Me?  I want to make a few friends, read and comment on their blogs, have them do the same.  I have visitors in the tens and can’t back-up my phone because I forgot the password.

They want to become a market force and change the way middle aged women are perceived and defined.

I am shopping at thrift stores, hadn’t noticed I was any more or less relevant than I’d ever been, and – dare I admit – didn’t even like Hope Springs.

Even so, I’m in because this clique is all about encouraging and supporting each other, not judging or competing.  Besides, I can’t be the only voice for the middle aged underachievers of the nation.  There must be other women who never lost touch with their inner child; who don’t want reinvention, just a bit of adjustment; who are happily doing their own random thing.

If not, I guess I’ve found my unique market niche.

Do you remember pet store monkeys?

Remember the days when people kept leopards and cheetahs and other exotic animals as pets?

Neither do I.

All my knowledge of big cats as pets comes from movies like Bringing Up Baby.

(If you have never seen it, you should.  Not only did Bringing Up Baby star Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant and a leopard, but it also stars Asta, the best canine actor ever.)

I am, however, old enough to remember monkeys being sold in suburban pet stores.  Nobody I knew had one, but I did have an memorable encounter with a pet store monkey once.

I was quite small, and we were there choosing replacement fish for our tank.  I’m not certain, but I think my brother and I were on our own in the shop while my mother was buying groceries next door at the A&P.  That might not be true; I suspect my various memories of that pet shop have merged into one, but in any case, I know my brother and I were in the pet store, choosing fish.

I am certain I chose an angel fish, because I never chose anything but angel fish.   Free of decision making, I could roam the store looking at the puppies, kittens, and monkeys.  That was the best part of the pet shop, the puppies and kittens.  The monkeys were a novelty, but I didn’t want one the way I wanted a kitten, which were forbidden due to my brother’s allergies.

The monkey cage was front and center in the shop, with the cash register between it and the door.  I was standing by the cage, simultaneously waiting for my brother to choose a fish and watching the door for my mom.  So my back was to the monkeys.

One of the little imps reached out and grabbed my hair!  He yanked his arm back in the cage, slamming my head against it.  Monkeys are strong and tenacious!  He was not going to let go.

I did what any little girl in that situation would do:  I screamed as if that monkey were about to eat my brains!  The pet shop man ran over and pried my hair out of the monkey’s grasp, while the monkey and I both continued to shriek in horror.

Never again did I stand near a monkey’s cage.

Also, I decided to stick with dogs and cats….or, maybe, a cheetah or a jaguar or a herd of baby elephants, like the lady in Hatari.

What about you?  If you could have an exotic animal as a pet, would you?  Which would you choose?

(Since this is make believe, pretend it is not cruel keeping wild animals as pets, and pretend nothing is in danger of going extinct.  However, do not pretend that tigers are herbivores or that monkeys won’t pull your hair or anything crazy like that.)

Has your dog ever eaten your panties?

Have you seen dog-shaming.com? Some of the entries make me laugh til I cry. Dogs are so bad (my own included), and the owners are even worse (myself included).

Still, I cannot help but wonder about the panty-eating dogs. Or, more accurately, their owners. Do these people not own laundry hampers? How many pairs of panties get eaten before you start putting them somewhere the dog can’t get them?  Do they not worry about their dogs suffering from bowel blockages?

I’ve lived with a panty eater. We adopted Pepper from a shelter when I was eleven, and he lived to see me become a mom. A twelve pound rat terrier, we never bothered to try to train him. He had all kinds of bad habits, like running away (which is how he ended up at the dog pound) and nipping our ankles when we ran, but the only trait I did not find endearing was the panty snatching and eating of feminine hygiene products.

Those two were gross. Worse for a painfully shy teen, they were embarrassing, because he would bring my panties downstairs when visitors appeared. Increase the embarrassment factor by ten because most of the time the visitors were the friends of my teenaged brother.

Slob though I was, it only took a couple occasions of seeing Pepper trotting into the living room carrying my panties to learn that lesson. Jeans and t-shirts could be,  and were, safely left littering the bedroom floor, but dirty panties had to be stashed out of his reach. And he was a high jumper.  Blood soaked pads had to be wrapped in bags, then put in the trash, which I moved under the sink. At least by me. The rest of the family never embraced the trash under the sink concept, but I have stuck with it to this day.

Goodness but I loved that bad dog.