Much like when we watch pharmaceutical ads during our nightly TV viewing, we feel that we may need whatever it is they’re selling because we identify with some of the symptoms.
“Do you suffer from watery eyes? Dry mouth? Are you tired in the mornings? And again at night? Do you breathe in and out?”
That’s me! some shmuck says, then rushes to his doctor to get a testosterone supplement that won’t make his wife want to bone him anymore than it did yesterday, but now he runs the risk of a massive stroke as a side effect, so he feels like he’s living life on the edge. Woo hoo!
Don’t get me wrong, I love drugs. Compared to many Americans, I could’ve been considered a pharm animal while in grad school, but I knew some genderqueers who made me look like a Quaker, so my perspective may be a little skewed (You think?) Some days I miss drugs almost as much as I miss smoking cigarettes. But the ads are predatory and ubiquitous, which makes them unfunny.*
So, to avoid falling into the same category as Viagra Peddlers, let me list the primary qualities of being a tomboy debutante, to assuage your fears that it may be contagious. It’s not. I’m not sure if it’s hereditary; as of yet no one has deemed it a disorder that merits clinical research. But I do know that, like most of my gay friends, I knew from a very early age that I was different.
I hated being a girl. I didn’t want to play with dolls, I didn’t like dresses. I didn’t like most of the other girls in my classes or play groups, and I understood that boys got to do all the cool things, like rough house (as we call wrestling in the South when you are under the age of 10) get dirty outside, ride ten-speeds, play cool sports** and spit. I didn’t like ribbons in my hair and hated having my picture taken (still do).
None of this would have been so bad if I hadn’t looked like the All-American Suburban White Girl Poster Child. I was thin, smart, pretty, with good manners, long blonde hair and big blue eyes. Seriously. I was a walking stereotype. I looked like a miniature Barbie Cheerleader Aryan Supergirl. (And my mother and I began our epic battles over both behavior and clothing Early On.) I was daddy’s little girl (still am), could tell jokes with actual punch lines, and was well-behaved when we ate dinner out in a restaurant. I went to Sunday School every week at the First Baptist Church, took piano lessons, was good at drawing, swam on a swim team and sang in the choir. I was a Brownie *** for Fuckssake. Is there anything damn cuter than a Brownie!? My dad made a nice living, so we lived in a nice house with a big back yard, in a green, well manicured suburb with lots of other kids, and we never worried about having enough. Enough food, enough clothes, enough toys. We got to go to the beach every Thanksgiving, and there were presents every year under the Christmas tree.
From about eight years old, though, I can’t remember a year when I didn’t think about how great it might be to run away.
It’s shameful, no? But I was wired wrong, and I always knew it. I was raised in a house where the expectations of me were clear and I resented them, even though I complied with almost every one.
I wore long skirts and dresses that hid bruised knees from touch football games and started wearing make-up earlier than most, not because my mom had a sick Jon Benet Ramsey-esque pageant streak, but because it hid the bruises and scratches I got from rough-housing. At various points in childhood, I broke both arms, my nose, my collarbone, and had stitches in one eyebrow, one shoulder, and one ankle. In high school, I got two cracked ribs playing baseball, a broken nose, and almost had the tip of a finger chopped off (they were taped, set, and saved, respectively). Add in braces and removed wisdom teeth for both me and my brother and the cost is enough to start you on birth control.
The tomboy part was clear. Boys were fun and funny, and girls were gossipy and stupid. It was that clear. (Sometimes, at cocktail parties, it still is.)
But it is also true that I was a debutante. Oh yes, white dress, escort and all. I had mixed motivations, to be sure, but the fact still remains that I did it. I was a DEB. I was beautiful and I curtsied and danced (all the while sharing dirty jokes with my dad – who’d bought me and my friends a keg of beer and had it delivered to our hotel room) posed for all the pictures, and accepted all the compliments with grace and courtesy.
And I do love some girlie things. The sexy ones. I didn’t want to be Audrey Hepburn or Dorothy, I wanted to be Princess Leia, who got to hang out with Wookies and shoot Storm Troopers. I wanted to be kick ass while wearing cool accessories. What girl can say no to jewelry? Not me. I love earrings,necklaces, and rings, Oh My! I would open my mother’s jewelry box and go through it piece by piece when she was out. I wouldn’t put them on; I would just look. I’d pick them up and turn them over, feel their weight and think about how they’d be better if they were silver, or blue, bigger, smaller, shorter, longer.
My mother, while a crazy bitch in many ways, was always well turned out. She never went out without looking nice, hair and make-up done. She would never been caught dead in the grocery store or carpool lane in curlers or a baseball cap. My whole life I have never seen my mom wear a baseball cap. The only hats she wore were big stylish things that went with Easter dresses or to church in summers. Men stared at her everywhere we went; she was glamorous. Before she went back to teaching, she had painted nails and wore perfume, and was a tremendous cook. Fucking tremendous. No one else’s mom came close. We were always inviting friends over after school and for dinner. She painted (very well) oil on canvas, and ceramics, had a beautiful soprano voice, crocheted, and gardened like a champ. She canned vegetables and sewed Kickass Halloween Costumes. She was the only other girl in our house and she was Ultimately Feminine.
I was feminine and didn’t want to be. I looked good in dresses and skirts, but all I wanted was sweatshirts and bluejeans. My mom hated it. I wanted to listen to rockNroll and dress more like Madonna than Donna Reed when it came to accessories. I have and always will love high heels. I will wear them with blue jeans, I will wear them to funerals, I will wear them anywhere I please. The crazier and higher the better, often. If I could wear them while making a living on a pole, it’s a good bet I am buying them.
This is the essence of a tomboy debutante. It is a strange mix of wanting to be something you are not, only to ultimately, at some point, find a balance between what you want to be and who you are.
I am a tomboy debutante.
* These guys need to run the country; they are obviously great salesmen and businessmen, (we keep buying drugs and they’ve never needed a federal bailout) so don’t you think they could find a way to chisel away our national debt? Don’t you think the Chinese would love some of our drugs? I bet they would. We could barter – rather than cash payments, we could pay them in Xanax, Vicodin, Lunesta, and Adderall.
** I hate running without a purpose. Getting from point A to pont B is not a purpose, so track and jogging were (and remain) stupid. Soccer was just running in a designated square. Equally stupid.
*** My short-lived experience in the Girl Scouts to be the subject of a future blog.