Tomboy vs. Girly

Like most teenagers, growing up was not an easy process for me. I realized that I wanted to be treated like an adult and that would shake the foundations of some of my childhood beliefs very severely. I didn’t have issues with accepting responsibility, or duties. I was having an internal crisis at being able to deal with all of these changes that I was going through my personal life and trying to manage the world’s growing expectations on me for the same matter as well. It was a time for me to realize that I was going to have to expand to fill more roles. I was going to define some fundamentals of being me, and it wasn’t going to be easy. From being just a kid, a student, a girl, a daughter, a friend I had to expand to being a young woman, a caretaker, a confidante. And somewhere in this story, being accepted played a major part in how I viewed myself.Unfortunately, my peer group and I did not board the roller coaster of change at the same time. So, they went on ahead without me, experiencing their joys and fears and curiosities simultaneously, while I was a late rider, left to those trials and tribulations alone. More so, it was the problem of being able to deal with that loneliness that really bothered me. After being shunned for being “weird” and/or non-conformist (which was a whole other conflict in itself: Did I want to belong with these people or should I carve a niche for myself?), I was left with a lasting sense of inadequacy. There was something that everyone else had that I didn’t. I couldn’t quite place what, but it engendered this highly annoying habit I developed of questioning my self-esteem. This cycle continued until it came to a point where I was constantly seeking validation of my worth from other people around me.This was also the rather sensitive time period of my life to be exposed to the ideas of relationships that were beyond platonic. Forget the continuous on-going discovery and explorations of sexuality, this was literally a moment of First Contact with the alien race that would someday provide a specimen for me to select as a mate. The hormones seem to push up this selection process on my priority list until I was actively assessing almost every accessible member of this species.

And so it began. I watched as some of the girls around me grew into boy-obsessed, “girly”, if I may misuse the word, beings, while the guys were more withdrawn and caught up with their own lives, which seemed so much cooler, and less dependent on some shallow expression of appreciation.   That was how my preferences grew. I began to dress with apparently less attention to what I was wearing, though deep inside me I knew I was being careful enough to camouflage myself. I listened to more heavy metal than pop. I played more video games than the girls around me did. Everything about me screamed of being a boy metaphorically stuck in a girl’s skin,  because I was trying so hard to emulate the very thing I was trying to understand. At a more subconscious level, I think I chose to be that way so that even if I approached a guy, and attempted to actively befriend him, I would have some grounds of common interest to begin with. Thus I aggressively called myself a tomboy, indulged in classically “male” habits, disregarded all semblance of fragility and made a stoic appearance of being different. In doing so, I also committed to shunning the other larger group of people as “girly”, which was, until quite recently, a state that I swore to myself I would never stoop to.

For a while, I was good at it. And even now, I think I still believe in some of the positives of being a tomboy. It felt good to be different from a common group and still be part of a sub-community that was large enough to be categorized by it’s own niche. It gave me just the right degree of attention I wanted, just enough to help me stand out, just enough to help me blend in. For a while, my internal conflicts were appeased. But then I realized that no matter which category I chose to belong to, I would always be compared to someone else who subscribed to the same philosophy. For someone who’s self-esteem was wobbly, at best, it was a serious blow to find myself out-done in every aspect of some sub-culture that I had chosen to idolize over another.

Perhaps another evolution that affected my self-esteem was my interaction with the guys in my new tomboy mode. The accessibility of common topics made it easier to be friends. But the easier it was to be a friend, the harder it became to cross the boundary beyond  being “just friends”. I had achieved my first target: being able to befriend the alien species. I even came across a few specimens who would serve as eligible candidates for the mating selection process. But how was I to convince myself that any of these would accept me? Especially since they were now accustomed to viewing me as one of their own kind and not as something exotically different?

It took me a few more years of maturity to realize that any category I wanted to belong to did not truly encompass the entirety of me. And so it was going to be the rest of my life. We don’t necessarily choose to ascribe to each and every principle of a belief we personally resonate with. We choose the one which has the largest number of positives, imbibe them and continue to find other truths which fill up the rest of our answers to life. So, while a part of me remained a tomboy, another part of me found immense strength in accepting the fact that I was a woman and that all of these changes that were happening to me were perfectly normal. It took me a long time to accept my more feminine attributes as I had suppressed them, especially those about my budding sexuality.

It was then that I decided how important it was for me to “be myself”. Of course, at first the prospect seemed terrifying. Once more, I was making an outcast out of myself. But then, as I grew to understand people better, I realized that everyone was in search of some form of identity. People who are constantly morphing find it difficult to accept a permanent bound to any one philosophy. Like me, they would be searching too. I was not alone. I was going to fit in this world okay, just like the rest of them. It was going to be just the right degree of different, and I would still have the comfort of homogeneity to support me. By affiliating myself to any one such group, I was cutting off the benefits of another. In order to experience the best of multiple worlds, I needed to get my internal compass straightened out. I was going to be me, no matter what. If I chose to indulge in an activity that could be categorized as boyish, or if I chose to dress myself up and feel girly, I would no longer have to deal with a conflict of principle. The essence of being me would try to encompass the best (or whatever I thought was best) of these diverse lifestyles.