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Dear Tomboy

Dear Tomboy,

I'm not quite sure where to start. I thought about it for weeks now, but tonight, something went off in my mind. Tonight is the night I write this to you. I still don't quite understand why, but here we are!

Hello World, it's me, Natasha.

Let's get something out of the way: my mother was born in 1949. Her desire to have a "girlie girl" was beyond comprehension to my little malleable mind. She tried. So hard. Hence the pink scarf, and more pink as we move along. There was also an attempt at ballet, but that's a whole other story. I'm 5'1" and pretty much split across the middle, I really don't know what she was thinking... Needless to say, I grew a disdain for pink later on. Right!

I was a tomboy (and still am). No matter how hard mum tried to get me into ballet shoes and to play with Barbies, all I wanted was dad's Kubota and Ninja Turtles at 4pm after school.

There's the pink again...

I didn't get along with "the girls". I enjoyed studying rocks, trying to outdo the boys at every angle, playing in mud and kickin' non-testosteroned butts in Jujitsu:

Me, white belt, face off! George St-Pierre is sitting there, somewhere. Cool dude.

I loved fishing with pops, playing softball, bowling in a league with adults 'cause I was pretty damn good with my 180 average (shhhhh don't judge me), taking names on the pool table - I was attracted to the exact opposite of what she hoped from her "daughter".

Little would she realize, now with dementia, that the apple actually didn't fall far from the tree, I just picked up some cool shit from dad on the way down.

The big difference, I think, between my boomer mom and your millennial mom, is that my mother never questioned what I actually wanted to do. What I mean by that is, she never tried to discourage me, or tell me that's not what girls do. Let's be real for a sec: she escorted women from Montreal, Qc, Canada, to NYC, USA, to get aborted, chaperoning for Dr. Henry Morgentaler, she was a born-fighter who felt deeply for women.

You may be a tad young to remember when abortions were illegal in Canada and women were using coat hangers in back alleys, but she raised me with these stories that sounded stranger than fiction.

She was discouraged from following her passion to become an astronaut after she was told to change direction "because girls don't become astronauts" -- from her TEACHER.

Although she wished so badly that I wear dresses (and BOY did it take time), she never showed any signs of being disappointed. She didn't suggest I was born in the wrong body, neither. She DID ask me if I was lesbian, once. LOL.

Yeah. It took a while.

Rather, she was my #1 cheerleader. From sports to public speaking and even helping me organize my first ever protest in '99, she lifted me up and did the best she could to make sure I didn't feel "different" even though it was obvious, I was.

She cheered when I won an award for best overall in the sciences. She cried when I was named MVP in my sport and division. She bawled when I was accepted into the T.a.G. program. She loved me for every bit of camo-coloured-pants, Magic-The Gathering-playing, and mushroom-cut hair that was me. As long as I was doing something positive, she never missed a beat to help me UP.

But there was ONE THING she just didn't know how to really help with, or maybe thought it wasn't as bad as I was making it out to be.

The bullying.

Although I was standing out academically and athletically in school, she was rather blind to that part of it all.


She didn't know people on the bus, on my first trip to high school, stood up, leaned to one side, and yelled "Shamuuuuu" in a slow, torturous group moan, as I stepped up and in to take my seat. Keep in mind; it's my first day and I know 3 or 4 kids who are 1 year ahead of me and are sitting with 'the cool kids' in the back. If you don't know who Shamu is:

I was the whale, and I was causing the bus to tilt to one side because I was a chunky teen. I wasn't huge, but I was bigger than "the other girls":

I also always wore baggy clothes due to a medical issue with the growth of my breasts. As if being the thick chick wasn't bad enough... Thankfully that was handled right before my 16th birthday.

The Perfect Prey

I was bullied for the first 2 years of high school. I had everything going for me:

  • Spotted as the fat ass by "my elders".

  • Instantly labelled a nerd, "TaG Fag", because I was in a gifted program.

  • Called a boy because I was rougher, tougher, and well fuck it SMARTER, than average: was even told I was "in the wrong locker room" by rivals.

  • No previous family members who established reputation before my arrival.

  • Damn it, I was in the choir and played badminton competitively.

I was a bully's perfect prey.

I started cutting. Listening to really dark, suicidal music. I started isolating myself. I started hanging out with other misfits - and bad influences.

Mum saw this bullying as 'part of growing up' - little did she know that the drops of blood staining my sheets were not from roughin'n'toughin'n'youngin', but from the careful carving of my own skin with a blade.

You see, much like you may be feeling every-so-often, I hated being a girl. The bullying, the teasing, the periods, I didn't look like the others, I didn't act like the others... I HATED IT. But then...something happened.

As I was walking up the stairs in school, I noticed a quote that I had not paid any attention to until year 3 of high school. It was always in my face, right there, every day.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
E. Roosevelt

Mind. Blown. In that very instant, I realized I was the one giving power to the words my bullies were using. I decided words = violence, not them. I was allowing their bullshit to hit me.

But... they're just words. My mum saying "Sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you", suddenly had a whole new meaning to me.

She may not have known how to handle my complaints about school (shit, I wanted to change schools at one point.), but she 100% tried to drill that saying into me.

And then, the mindset shift: Is my value determined by my bullies who don't know me, or by the academic and athletic legacy I am leaving behind me as I set my path ablaze with success through high school?

Puberty is hard. For all of us. We're taught that words hurt. But do they, really?

Getting stabbed, hurts. Getting shot, hurts. Words? THEY'RE JUST WORDS, BABE. Suddenly, my bullies no longer had any power over me. By my 3rd year, they had graduated, and now was my time to shine. FREEEDOOOOOMMMM.

I lead my sports team now with a fervor I didn't even know I had. I was named MVP. I won academic awards, graduated with honours, lead the school's first ever walkout, and left a legacy I would hear about in my 20's when meeting an old classmate's little sister:

Hey, you're the Nat that caused a walkout at CRHS?

She didn't say:

Hey, you're that fatass from CRHS?

The last 3 years of high school would be the greatest years of my life as a teen. I never lost touch with who I was and what I loved along the way to finding my femininity while embracing my Tomboy:

Fishing by day

Attitude by night

I stepped up as a leader, and discovered a skill I had no idea was being developed through my tumultuous debut:

I fit in... with everyone. No matter which "clic", I had my way of connecting and communicating that made me a chameleon. And THAT is how I survived the first 2 years of high school, actually. I adapted myself to every crowd to not "make waves" and be bullied. You see, kindred female of the androgynous kind, you may not recognize it now nor see it yet, but you're secretly developing communication skills as a self-defense mechanism. You'll learn how to talk to different types of people. You'll figure out when your calm, inner voice is needed, and when it's time to put your foot down.

You'll learn about boundaries where most will pay a few grand for someone to coach them in their 30's and 40's to figure that part out.

You'll be able to sense danger around you and "vibes" from crowds. You'll get along with the girls and the boys. Now THAT is a super power if I may say so myself.

You'll open your heart to others in pain and not stand for bullying!

You WILL find your tribe; let it happen naturally. My only promise is this: if you're not authentic, truly you, you'll never attract your tribe. FYI: The odds of them coming from high school are slim to none.

Most of your friends from high school will take their own paths once they hit their 20's, so don't hang on too tight. Besides, you're only now, as you're reading this, figuring out who you really are.

Here's what a Gen Xer has to say about Tomboys:

And so, dear Tomboy, I leave you with this:

Do not let anyone tell you you're not girlie enough. Don't listen to those who say "you're too masculine". There is no right way to be a woman. I promise you, better days will come, you'll find your tribe; focus on being the best you can be, and your light will shine brighter than any hateful piece of shit at school whose mother didn't smack 'em around enough (or maybe too much).

Being a Tomboy is the too-cool-for-school way to roll; show 'em what you're made of, you have so much to offer.

Play the sports you want to play. Be friends with those as smart or smarter than you. Focus on YOU, don't be bothered by the hoopla of teenage angst around you.

You're beautiful, and this path through puberty is the transition, pun intended, towards it.

Signed with love and small kick in the ass to remind you again that WORDS CAN'T ACTUALLY HURT YOU,

A Tomboy for Life

P.S.: I'm 41 now and STILL FUCKING OWN IT:

Don't let anyone tell you "you're too old for that." I mean, look at these Dr Martens?!

If you need a tribe of women to uplift and support you, Women Who Care, click here.

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