We had a question in a recent trivia game where we had to identify the movie in which this was the opening quote: “When I was growing up, I knew I was different. The other girls were blonde and delicate, and I was a swarthy six-year-old with sideburns.” I may not have been swarthy or had any sideburns, but I certainly felt different from the other girls, too. For one thing, I was almost always at least a head taller than the other girls. In group photos, I was always either a “book end” or put somewhere in the back row.
I’m second one from left in back row…taller than that camp counselor at age 9!
But it wasn’t just being freakishly taller than the other girls – and most of the boys – that made me different. Another thing making me different from the other girls? I was never that “girly.” About a year ago or so I visited my parents, and my mom showed me a baby’s outfit of mine that had been stored in the attic of their previous home. It was a frilly pink number with ruffles, unsure if it was a play outfit or a dress. But her remark was very telling – “Even as a baby, pink just didn’t suit you.” Now my mom tends to be a very subtle person, so it was hard to tell whether she was disappointed that I wasn’t more of a “pink” girl. I didn’t bother to ask. But when I was young enough not to have any say in the matter, she enjoyed dressing me in dresses (many of them homemade), tights, Mary Jane shoes and enjoyed styling my hair.
Caption contest? “Mom, why did you make me wear the mushroom dress on my birthday? And why do I have to wait so long to eat cake?”
My hair was long from about first grade to the end of third grade. Before going to school in the morning, I had to sit on a folding chair in the bathroom while mom “styled” my hair. Some days it was braids, some days pig tails with the yarn ribbons. She used the plastic animal barrettes to rein in my unruly locks at my temples, and sometimes those pinched like crazy! My hair was just too unruly to ever really be able to wear it just “down,” at least not in public. My kindergarten photo is the only one of me within that age range where my hair is not corralled into pigtails.
Wednesday Addams, eat your heart out…me in kindergarten wearing a dress that was previously worn by at least two different female cousins. And yes, it was homemade!
My brother and I collecting rocks at Whitefish Point in Paradise, MI in 1978. The scabs on my face were from a bicyling mishap. Note the tight, tight braids…the hairdo my mom deemed the best way to rein in my hair when I went swimming…
When I was just starting to grow out my hair, she would even use the foam clip curlers, which I would have to wear overnight. Now I don’t want this to sound like some kind of “Mommie Dearest” memoir. It was not torturous or anything, and I was not beaten within inches of my life for using wire hangers – or for not wanting to wear pink!
So the seeds for me being a “girly girl” were planted quite early. I wore the dresses, the tights, the Mary Janes, the ribbons…and that “Little House on the Prairie” getup from when i was about 3 or so that even had a bonnet. Time would tell whether the seeds would produce a girl who loved frills – or a girl who loved T-shirts and jeans.
Age 3. “Little House on the Prairie” dress, no bonnet…That TV show is still a guilty pleasure to watch!
The answer? I would definitely become a “jeans and T-shirts” girl. Despite my mother’s best efforts, I was simply not going to be a “dresses” kind of girl. When I was old enough to pick my own clothes, I wore “Star Wars” T-shirts over my leotard in ballet class (one other way my parents tried to get me to be “girly”). My ballet instructor, “Miss Janet,” was displeased with my renegade “dress code” violations, but week after week, I rebelled…
Age 5 – screw you, Miss Janet, I’m wearing my “Star Wars” T-shirt! 🙂 Note the unruly hair and restrictive barrettes…
And the rebellion would continue until adulthood. Third grade class photos rolled around, and my mother despaired that I didn’t have anything “nice” to wear. What, my stained turtleneck/Snoopy shirt combo not good enough? Nope…it was decreed that I would wear my Brownie uniform, even though it was not even Brownie meeting day at school. I was SO embarrassed…and every other girl in my troop reminded me that it wasn’t Brownie meeting day. I know…I know.
By the end of third grade, I would be going to summer camp for the first time, which meant I would be away from home for two weeks! Before I was shipped off, I got my hair cut at a place called “Shear Happiness. ” The result was a shoulder-length ‘do with bangs. Now I could wash my hair myself, and I wouldn’t have to sit in the bathroom chair and have my hair “girlified!” Not only that, I could wear what I wanted. Which, I did, apparently…
This Buick T-shirt which my Dad got while working at Buick City was a hand-me-down from my older brother, the hat a hand-me-down from my Dad. Me basking in my “fashion freedom,” age 9. The orange coat had a “Mini Mustangs” logo on the back from my elementary school. I was sad when I outgrew it.
Throughout my older elementary and junior high years, it was strictly “no skirts or dresses” unless it was for an event which required such “dressiness.” Weddings, school concerts, church, etc. Any photos of me wearing these things during this time in my life are rare finds…and were probably shot under duress! Hell, even photos of me wearing clothes I loved were not much better…
Me in my beloved “Joe Cool” T-shirt, circa 1982. I was obviously in a very surly mood! I was not the right age to appreciate the whole car show experience, this one was at the Sloan Museum in Flint, MI.
In ninth grade, I started relaxing a bit on my “no skirts” rule. I started wearing skirts occasionally to school. Miniskirts were heavily in fashion (no photos exist of me wearing them, I was very camera-shy in high school). I also tried playing the “girly game” by wearing makeup daily, getting perms, styling my hair, etc. I actually read and subscribed to fashion magazines.
Dear lord…not only am I wearing pink…but I think I am also wearing (gasp)…PANTY HOSE! Yes, “Miami Vice” was very popular when this photo was taken on Easter in 1987. Pastels! The horror!
But it was all an act – done in an effort to “fit in” and not draw too much attention to myself. By the time college rolled around, I wasn’t hanging around the same high school friends I had as much, so the makeup/hair styling routine was pared down. The whole “Grunge” music/fashion movement was the balls! I could pick up a ripped, wrinkly pair of jeans off the floor, pair that with a concert T-shirt and throw on a flannel over it all…AND be in fashion? Yes please!
The “Grunge” me in 1993…I still have that tank top – and wear it!
Now that I am in my 40s, I’m at peace with not being a “girly girl.” Though if you ever happen to see me in a skirt and/or tights, try not to have a coronary – I’m wearing them because I want to!