Much to my mother’s dismay, I was a certified tomboy in my younger days. My mother was – and is – a beautiful lady. A fashion model who always wore the latest styles. Football jerseys and jeans were my attire of choice, and, like a good Southern girl, I was happiest when wearing no shoes at all. My many misadventures left me with scarred knees that looked perpetually dirty, and my hair was either styled in a pixie or pulled up in pigtails.
On the rare occasion that my mother was able to wrangle me into a dress, she made the most of the opportunity and took pictures. Pictures that carry a theme: cute sailor outfit, big frown; lovely pinafore, serious scowl.
Looking at the pictures would lead one to believe I was a horribly unhappy child. Nothing could be further from the truth. I had a wonderful childhood and was one of the happiest kids you’d ever meet, except when wearing a dress.
My mother was a good sport, however. She not only gave up the clothes battle but willingly purchased football jerseys for me when she bought them for my brothers. Still, she longed to have a “real” little girl and tried to encourage my feminine side as much as possible. To no avail.
One Christmas, Santa left a doll under the tree. I tried my best to like her, but I couldn’t understand how anyone could have fun holding and playing with a pretend baby. Fortunately for the neglected babe, my brother Phillip – later a football star and now a high school coach – took Pebbles under his wing and carried her until she lost all her hair, Velveteen rabbit style.
My mother often let me accompany her when she modeled in fashion shows; she even arranged for me to walk the runway a few times. On one, and probably the last, such occasion, my beleaguered mother had to stop and buy shoes on the way to the show because I had managed to sneak in the car without any.
She was probably hopeful when a friend managed to cajole me into taking ballet, but even weekly dance classes and time in a tutu couldn’t curtail my tomboy tendencies.
I remember well the night of my first big recital. There was nervous tension in the air as the girls waited to go on stage. I watched in bemusement as my fellow ballerinas passed the time by practicing their moves, prancing around in their bright blue ballet costumes festooned with sequins and feathers, and preening in front of the many floor length mirrors while adjusting their garishly heavy makeup.
I did none of those things. Instead, for reasons unknown even to me, I looked down at the many feathers flowing from my costume and deliberately plucked one of the larger ones from my garment. I then walked over to the nearest water fountain, held my feather under the fountain’s stream until it was thoroughly soaked, and proceeded to chase shrieking girls around the room with my wet feather.
I’d like to say that I later put down the feather and went on to dance beautifully. The sad truth is, I remember nothing about dancing that night, although I suppose I did. I only remember the feather incident. By the way, I think that’s the night my mother decided it was hopeless and stopped all efforts at reforming me.
I was a true rebel, however. As soon as no one seemed to care if I was a “real” girl, I decided being a tomboy wasn’t so appealing after all. The timing may have also had something to do with my discovery that boys were good for more than kickball and football.
At any rate, I went from one extreme to the other. Instead of jeans and football jerseys, I insisted on wearing only the most expensive designer fashions and even kept a calendar so that I wouldn’t mistakenly wear the same outfit twice in one month. I was a real beast, or at least something that started with a “B.”
So, what happened to the ballet dropout and extreme makeover girl? I grew up and landed somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. I got married in a traditional white gown but showed up before the ceremony wearing shorts and flip flops. I had two kids but still lifted weights the whole time through both pregnancies. I learned to cook but had much more fun playing ball in the backyard with my boys than preparing a home cooked meal. I wrote a book about fashion, but it was a satire.
Looking back, I think being a tomboy has served me well. And, I’m glad there’s still a tomboy inside of me today. She takes me horseback riding, scuba diving and skydiving. She’s not scared of much, and she’s pretty darn tough. She never did learn how to dance, but she enjoys life and loves a good laugh. I think I’ll keep her around.