That girl in the picture above is me! Cute right?
If you're a tomboy or grew up as one, some of these stories might not relate to you at all. However, if you've been reading some of my previous articles, you know that everything I write is about me. And if you can relate, I hope you already know that there's absolutely nothing wrong with being a tomboy.
There's nothing wrong with being yourself despite criticism you might face and it's important that your confidence stems from accepting yourself the way you are, NOT how other people see you.
1. Church attire
I walked into the kitchen one day to see my mom's friends sitting at the table. One of the women I knew well since I was little. She saw me and her face lit up. Running down the hall to get something, she quickly returned with a clothing bag that when unzipped revealed a white frilly church dress detailed with pastel-colored flowers. She was excited to know that it was something I could wear to church. I looked at the dress with a blank face. This is not something I would wear, I thought. I told her that I didn't wear dresses to church and a confused look came across her face. In a disappointing tone, she asked, "then what do you wear?" I simply looked down at what I was wearing and said "this." She looked over my athletic shorts and a dirty t-shirt with a look of shock, clearly, she was unfamiliar with my apparel.
Luckily, this was after switching churches. At my old church, I wasn't allowed to wear shorts or t-shirts. But I managed to get around the dresses if I could, only wearing them on holidays or special occasions. Otherwise, I was subject to corduroy pants, flats, and an ironed white shirt. Did I look like like a little boy instead of a pretty, young church girl? Yes but that was the last thing on my mind. I was happy and comfortable. And I'm glad the church I switched to accepted that :)
2. The Mean Girls
The cul-de-sac I grew up on had about 6 houses. I lived in the center of it where almost everyone's house was in full view. If there was ever something going on outside like our weekly kickball games or neighborhood block parties, my family knew about it. I loved that neighborhood. We were like a close-knit group of families and kids. I saw them as an extension from my family because of how much time we spent together. There were 4th of July, Memorial Day, and Halloween parties each year. There were also cliques. A group of older teenage girls and a group of boys including my twin brother. Unintentionally, I always stuck with the boy group. It wasn't like I picked sides or always followed my brother, I just naturally liked the activities they did more than the girls. Although looking back, it wasn't always fun, I mean I wasn't allowed to go to sleepovers and the group of "mean girls" looked down on me and excluded me because I was different. I should point out that not only was I the only girl in the guy group but I was also the only black girl on the block. That didn't affect me then, but I think it's important to note.
I remember one day when my brother and the other group of boys weren't home. A bouncy castle was set up on our block and I wanted to go have some fun. But before I had the chance, the clique of girls invaded it. I had always stayed away from them as much as possible but I was bored and wanted to join in. As I approached the castle and the sight of rolling eyes came into view, one of the girls (younger than me but taller) stopped me. She walked me back to my house and told me the bouncy castle wasn't "available" right now and that I should come back later. Now looking back, I wish I had the courage to stand up to that little... you know what I mean. But luckily, my mom was home. After coming back and trying to avoid telling her what had happened, she stormed out and told that girl off. And guess what? I had the whole bouncy castle to myself that day.
3. Phases were my escape
Every single season, month, and year came with a different phase for me. There were so many times when I would switch from one thing to the other. My mom noticed my phases go from finger-cut gloves to long crazy socks that go up to your knees, to different Disney characters, stuffed animals, and anime. But I quickly moved on from each stage and looked for something new even telling my mom or dad that "this" or "that" is what I'm into now so they'd know what to get me for my birthday or for Christmas. I was all over the place and didn't understand why it was so hard to find something I liked to do and stick with it. I think these phases were in an effort to find something that could resemble who I was. And although I was young and had plenty of time to figure that out, my phases still stick with me to this day.
I can't even count how many scars I have. This is a touchy subject for me but it's true. Scars were and still are a part of my life, especially growing up as a carefree tomboy. Thank god my mom allowed me to have that type of space and freedom. However, the anger that spread across my mom's face when I came home from school or camp with my knees bruised and scratched up was never easy. They resulted in noticeable scars on my legs that I have to this day. But I was a tomboy and dolls, skirts, and everything pink didn't come to me as fun. Dirt, sports, and exploring are what interested me. I can remember constantly going into the woods that were right next to my old house almost every single day just to kick rocks around and look for bugs. Nature was my best friend and I know that sounds cheesy but, it's the truth.
But, inspirational videos and articles on Youtube helped me become comfortable and confident in my own skin. That scars meant that you had gotten through something, not that you suffered or gave up. I felt beautiful on the inside which was needed for me to truly accept myself on the outside. This big step in my thinking helped my mind return to the past mindset I had when I was little: as long as I was happy, no one should make me feel anything less than that.
5. Shopping is my worst enemy
Before I start this story, I'd like to give some props to my mom. I'm not really sure how she handles my difficult tomboy tendencies but I appreciate her letting me be free in my own skin. Although she'd drag me to girly stores in an effort to pick out some dresses and skirts, I held my ground.
One time, I had a class in middle school where we were supposed to learn all about etiquette. The final test was dressing up and going to a nice restaurant to practice, like a fancy field trip. I picked something out and proceeded to walk out the door to go to school. My mom stopped me and disagreed, saying that a t-shirt and pants were not dressy enough. I argued with her so much that I ended up not going to that field trip. She made me stay home and I was upset I didn't get to hang out with all my friends at a fancy restaurant and eat fancy food.
Nonetheless, I stood out because my style wasn't what a normal girl would wear. I never shopped in girl's stores and started wearing clothes only from boy stores in which it came down to a point that I looked like a boy sometimes. Cargo shorts, Nike sneakers (from the boy section), and hand-me-downs from my brother's closet were all part of my daily ensemble. Especially in the summer when it came down to wearing shorts. I was in middle school and I can clearly remember not knowing what to wear because all I had in my closet were basketball shorts. The switch came when I when I started high school. Another thing to point out here is that high school was my first experience in a public school environment. Up until then, I had only gone to private schools. Yeah I know, I huge change. Anyways, while other girls were wearing skirts and capris with their free, clear legs, I wanted to cover up my legs as much as possible. During my first day of 9th grade, my eyes widened at the sight of girls' shorts being less than modest and their legs being clear of any imperfections. I envied them. I waited eagerly for wintertime so that sweatpants and jeans would ease some of the self-awareness away. But since I was a committed basketball player, shorts never went away, which weakened my wall of self-consciousness that already seemed broken.
Moral of the story
Ultimately, these situations in my life made me see that I was stronger than I thought; that I was resilient enough to handle the struggles going on in my life. The more I reflected on the things that make me different—from the clothes I wear to my life at home, to who I am as a person--the more self-accepting I became. I realized that just because I appear tomboyish at times doesn't make me any less of a person or a woman. Rather, my ability to still be myself despite difficulties proves that I can take on anything. In the end, my adversity became the stepping stones that made me the strong, capable person I am today, and I embrace it--dirty t-shirt and all.