On the outside, I was a total tomboy. I wore nothing but jeans, dirty sneakers, and messy ponytails. Instead of hanging out and chatting with other girls, you could find me throwing a baseball, kicking a soccer ball, or racing around the school playground with boys. But this was a deceptive picture of me. At home, where no one could see, I secretly wore frilly dresses and played with dolls.
By the time I reached middle school, being a tomboy was no longer acceptable. Other girls were busy experimenting with makeup and hairstyles, parading around in cute, girly clothes. Me? I still wore boys’ 501 jeans and dirty sneakers and treated makeup like it was poisonous.
“You hate dressing like a girl?” a girl asked me once, when I was in 8th grade. She seemed genuinely puzzled. “Then how do you express your femininity?” She didn’t know it, but her words had a tremendous impact on me. Why did I dislike being feminine? Why did I insist upon being “one of the guys,” more focused on playing sports and computer games than shopping at the mall? I was not gay. I was frightened. Frightened of growing up and changing. Frightened about entering this alien territory of makeup and boyfriends and kissing. It was so much easier to pretend that I was not a girl, to pretend that none of it mattered, when in fact, it mattered very much!
So I studied. The summer before I began high school, I pored over magazines for teenage girls. I experimented with clothes and hair. I begged my older sister, who lived in another town, to come and teach me how to shop for clothes, since my dad was completely clueless about the needs of a growing young woman. On the first day of school, I shocked my classmates by wearing a skirt–a skirt! And makeup! Electric blue mascara, blue eyeshadow, and shiny red lipstick. Okay, yes, it took me a few years to get the makeup thing just right. But the message was clear: the tomboy was growing up. I was making an effort to become what I was always meant to be: a woman.
I will confess, at the age of 36, I still struggle to balance my tomboyish tendencies with my inner girly girl. I live in jeans, but still wear makeup and earrings. I am still more comfortable on a soccer field or virtual battlefield than hanging out with groups of women, but I have learned to enjoy “feminine” activities, too, like baking, homemaking, and handicrafts. I am still frightened and clueless in some ways. I have never had a pedicure or had my eyebrows done or waxing of any kind (I’m supposed to shave where? Eek!).
I guess I am just not finished growing up. Just as I did as a teenager, I have begun to turn to Cosmopolitan for advice on how to become the sexy, confident woman who hides inside of me, so afraid to embrace her potential. I do not have to leave the tomboy behind. Today, I allowed her to come out and play soccer and watch the Superbowl. But first, I went to the mall to buy a sexy, pink, lacy new bra.