Confessions of a former girly girl

I was six years old and the worst thing that had ever happened was the recent NICU stay of my youngest brother, who had pneumonia at birth. I wore my clothes appropriately fitted, wore jewelry whenever my mother allowed, and loved having my hair put up in foam rollers for the Shirley Temple look on the occasional Saturday night so I could look extra pretty for church the next day.

We grew up in the Midwest, not Texas, despite my brothers looks in this photo.
My best friends were my brothers and the kids at the farm down the road. Even there, I remember trying to wear my new red clogs instead of Wellingtons when I went out to the barn in the evening to help with the milking. I ended up barefoot in cow manure with my clogs safely stashed by the bulk tank so they wouldn't get dirty.

I remember being teased for my large hands and for being homeschooled. Back then, gender differences were still an expected and very noticeable part of every kids wardrobe. Girls wore dresses to church and boys were in khakis and polos. I remember getting my first polo at around this age, a pink one with the coveted green IZOD lizard still intact, the shirt a hand-me-down from my cousin Tracy, who supplied me with most of my clothes. (Fleet Farm supplied the rest, with the occasional outfit from the second hand store in Menomonie.)

I expected to be a wife and a mother, had aspirations to be a nurse, not a doctor, and started honing my homemaking skills at this tender age of six, my little brother a newborn and my mother shackled to the couch by asthma. I learned to make scrambled eggs, pancakes, and macaroni and cheese. I started doing the laundry in our earthy basement, while my mother folded and sorted while in her requisite repose in the living room. I changed diapers, helped potty train, and never thought a thing of it.

This is what was stolen by the tragedy of abuse. During the abuse, one memory sticks out. My Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, formerly a favorite, had to be forced on me by my mother for a 4-H demonstration night. From then on, it was baggy sweatshirts and even baggier pants, usually bought in the men's section. My first clear memory of the constant teasing that I was a lesbian occurred at around age 11, when I saved up to buy a frog green pair of men's Girbaud jeans. While other girls were wearing trapeze pants and neon pink, I was hiding the self I had begun to hate in an identity I created to make myself look stronger than I really was.

Slowly, surely, as an adult woman with children and a husband, I have felt the building confidence to be the woman I am. My shirts are getting tighter again, I pick florals over stripes (sometimes), and I am beginning to understand just what and how my true identity was destroyed in the 1980's.

Someday I'll make it full circle to my girly girl beginnings, and have a pink swimsuit to show off for all the world to see.