Do tomboys ever grow up?
I was wondering this while reading this article, which has less to do with tomboys and more to do with gender and identity issues. However the headline at least got me thinking about what impact my childhood friendships had on my ability to develop relationships later in life.
Growing up as the nerdy girl whose interests and hobbies didn’t always align with the typical pre-teen girl, my friendships were mainly limited to the opposite gender. I wasn’t the kind of tomboy, who climbed trees and played full contact football. In fact, after seeing the limpness of my throwing arm the boys decided that football wasn’t exactly my forte. But I did rock hard with low-key games like G.I. Joe action figures (which was a lot like playing Barbies but without the hair braiding) and Super Mario Brothers on Nintendo. And as a loyal watcher of “Thundercats” and the original “Transformers” series, I was astute enough to hold stimulating conversations with the fellas about all the important and relevant plot points.
My popularity with the boys in the neighborhood always caught the suspicious gaze of the girls. One day they surrounded me and while finger waving and neck rolling, interrogated me about what I had against the girls. I shrug and said, “all yall do is talk about each other and boys all day. The boys play and talk about other stuff.” The ringleader, a portly brown skinned girl who was way bigger than her age would suggest, wanted to know what this other stuff was. I told her, cartoons, sports and games. She reminded me that they played games too – Barbies being one of them. “Yeah but whenever I play Barbies with you, you always steal my Barbie clothes and shoes.” I always had a problem with being mouthy. Needless to say, portly girl didn’t like being called a thief, especially when some of the girls in her inner circle were cosigning, “uh-hm, it’s true. You do steal Barbie clothes.” I still wear the battle wounds till this day.
Of course, the stakes changed when we started getting older. My tomboyish exterior and knowledge of all things Saturday morning cartoons, was no longer appreciated. The stakes were higher. Boys didn’t want friends instead they wanted to be around girls that looked like women. Likewise, I was on a search for boyfriends not friends that were boys. For the first time in my young life, I was actively seeking out friends of the same sex. Our friendships became part commodore, part strategy in our mission to attract the attention of the opposite sex.
But now, in my thirties, things are balancing out. There are lovers, there are boys that are friends and if you are really lucky, there are boy lover/friends. Yet the relationship with the same gender remains perplexing. Throughout my life travels, I regularly hear from fellow women the difficulty in forming and maintaining friendship with other women. There is too much jealousy and backbiting and stabbing, they say. I’d rather be “one of the guys” than to be one of these “catty, beyotchy” girls, they say.