My story: part 1

There was a bit of an altercation over the weekend that’s left me feeling particularly fragile and vulnerable today. I won’t go into details, because it’s sort of still going on, but it reminded me of my childhood, and I think it’s about time I started talking about some of the things that happened to me.

I don’t remember my early childhood with any clarity, and large chunks of my later childhood are also fuzzy or missing. I’m told this is abnormal, that I ought to have clearer memories going back further, and that it may be a trauma reaction. I don’t care to press too far into it; if my brain doesn’t want me to have a clear memory of the bad times, that’s fine by me.

What I do remember is I was never popular. I had friends, sometimes, but rarely more than one or two, and often boys rather than other girls. I remember being envious of the Boy Scouts; I never wanted to be a Girl Scout, because in my head they just baked cookies and did girly crap. I wanted to do boy crap, like racing toy cars and tying knots and going camping and whatnot. Since they wouldn’t let me join, I didn’t want to “settle” for gender-appropriate activities.

I did play with Barbies; I had no interest in what they wore, but rather used them to tell grand sweeping epic tales. The one I recall best involved them working on a ranch, riding stuffed dogs. I had a Sleeping Beauty doll I often decided was “deathly ill” (since she had a soft body and so didn’t stand or sit on the stuffies), and made the other dolls ride out in search of rare medicine ingredients. It annoyed me to no end that their feet were permanently in high-heel shape and thus would not stand flat.

Other than that, I didn’t behave much like a little girl. I liked to play pretend, but my fantasies were very action-oriented and involved exploring the “wilderness” around my house rather than tea parties. At school, when I was in elementary school, I declared war on a group of guys over territory (a coveted spot to play on the hillside) and threw rocks and generally had a fun time play-fighting them. I did like horses; I remember playing horse-rancher with another girl for a while until she changed schools. We were both teased and outcast so we found each other.

I was also overweight, pretty much my whole life. I have pictures of myself at age 5 or 6 where I was skinny, but I remember being proud of being the first kid in my class to reach 100 lbs because that meant I had a weight advantage on my playground rivals. My hair was also unmanageable, and I recall being self-conscious that my hair didn’t behave like the other girls’ hair.

Eventually I reached middle school and, well, the boys who used to be my rivals saw me as some kind of freak for not being girly, and the girls who I’d never really gotten along with continued not getting along with me. My name became a curse sneered at me: “Ew, Bayley!” people would say as they passed by. Probably that’s why I don’t like my name to this day. I spent a lot of time alone, reading books rather than playing with other kids.

I had two best friends in 5th grade: Angela and Jennifer. Angela had been my friend first, and then we added Jennifer to our group. I remember vividly a conversation in which I outlined the social dynamics for Angela, explaining how the girls broke down in to groups and tiers, and how I was at the bottom of the pecking order and technically lowered her status by associating with her. I was quick to point out how grateful I was that she didn’t care about that and wanted to be friends, but in hindsight she began to grow distant fairly shortly afterwards.

I was away from school for a week or so for some reason or another; I remember coming back, being excited to see my friends again, and watching Angela walk right past me to go greet Jennifer, babbling about her weekend. From then on, I was tagging along after them, and they went to increasing lengths to make me feel unwelcome: constantly talking about one trip to the zoo they’d taken together just so I couldn’t join in, playing with each other’s glasses even though I wore glasses too and was never asked to join, playing with a korean phrasebook ignoring my attempts to change the subject… I remember crying, begging them to talk to me, and they just ignored me. I tried a number of stupid things to work things out and eventually ended up sitting alone at lunch.

I knew it was bad when the recess monitor felt bad for me and started eating lunch with me.

In high school, well, I was fat and clumsy and did my freshman year at a different school than the other three so I missed the crucial bonding period. I eventually found a group of guys who played card games at lunch, and later a group of girls from the Animanga Club, and reveled in my new identity as a geek. Again, though, I was much more comfortable with guys than girls.

I used to say I hated girls. Guys were so straightforward and easy to understand; girls, I insisted, were manipulative and prone to lying almost as a matter of course. Girls would never, ever let you live something down, and once you were out, you were out forever. Guys were much more sensible. Obviously that’s a product of socialization rather than nature; with some distance, I now am much kinder in my opinions towards people in general. But I’ve still only rarely had female friends I felt close to, and usually geeky ones who also admit to not quite “getting” the whole fashion, makeup, boy-crazy thing that is held up as the archetypical “teenage girl mentality”.

I don’t wear makeup. I wear male clothing to work (omg pockets, you have no idea). I consider myself not quite a good fit for the gender binary. And my best friends are guys.

Maybe if I could have just convinced myself to try harder to be feminine at age 8 or so, I’d have grown up much happier. I guess I’ll never really know, though. All I can do is try and push for a world in which kids like me are accepted as perfectly normal.

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6 Responses to My story: part 1

  1. Jarred H says:

    Just wanted to say I read this and appreciate you sharing your story. Unfortunately, I have nothing insightful to offer in response.

  2. storiteller says:

    I empathize with so much of what you say here. I too was never a girly girl and fundamentally didn’t understand why they were all obsessed with the same boy-band songs or the same movies or the same whatever. As a result, junior high was horrifying for me. I had a small group of friends, but we tended to be frenemies because at least a few felt like if they could shove someone down they’d have someone else to stand on. Since then, my best friend at the time has actually written to me and asked for my forgiveness, which as I surprised as I was to receive the letter, I certainly gave. (I should actually email her!) High school was much better, in part because I went to a very large high school where there was a large enough mass of “weird people” for us to get together and be popular among one another. We didn’t need the popular people anymore, so they ignored us. I actually met my husband in high school and we’re still very close to many of our friends.

    As for Scouts, if my husband and I have a daughter, I either want to find an alternative to Girl Scouts or ensure our local troop does a lot of outdoorsy stuff. From what I’ve heard, they’ve made Girl Scouts much more practically outdoorsy in the last 20 years though.

    • yamikuronue says:

      yeah, I honestly have no data on what Girl Scout troops are like, I just sort of “knew” that they’d be inferior. It’s very possible that if I’d joined I’d have been pleasantly surprised.

      I have dreams sometimes that my old friends call me up again :(

      I met my fiancee when I was in high school too, but we met online because I was so desperately lonely for companionship.

  3. Amaryllis says:

    I don’t remember anything of my early childhood either, and little more than bits and pieces of my later childhood. Impressions, and people, and places, but few specific events. Of course, those days are much father away for me than for you, which may have something to do with it!

    Still, I don’t remember remembering, so to speak. And I have no evidence of any trauma from back in those days either, so I don’t think it’s that. I just don’t have a good memory; or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. But I’m always surprised to meet people who do remember “when I was three, my mother said…” or whatever.

    I have a general remembrance of running around in a mixed pack of little boys and girls. Then the boys and the girls started playing separately…then some of the girls started getting “girly” and some of the boys started acting strange, and I had no idea how to handle it. I wouldn’t relive sixth grade for anything.

    As for Girl Scouts, from what I’ve seen the experience varies a lot by individual troop.

  4. Velicia L. says:

    I totally feel you here, if from kinda the opposite perspective. I was never comfortable growing up as a boy, and always wanted to do girly things. I’m an MtF trans woman now, and I’m much happier for it.

    I have a hard time remembering my childhood too, probably for similar reasons. I attended a small baptist school up through junior high, which was pretty miserable for me.

    Also, pockets? Seriously? I hate full pockets, just this mass of stuff on my thigh and… aaagh! I love my purse. :P Funny how that works, huh?

    • yamikuronue says:

      I keep losing purses, or they slide off my shoulder onto my elbow, or they have a long strap that falls right between my boobs and looks awkward. And you can’t stuff your hands into a purse awkwardly while standing, or hook your thumbs in a purse, or sneak your cellphone into the bathroom unseen… I generally have a purse full of large awkward things and then pockets are a must on top of that. :) To each their own

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