The Stress of Being A ‘Tomboy’

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels I woke up, went to my wardrobe, opened it and stared at my clothes, wondering what to wear for the day. I have dresses on the right side, shirts in the middle and sweaters on the left. I looked at the dresses, most of which I had not worn since I bought them, and said yet again, ‘maybe some time in the future’. Then I went through my shirts and as I touched each one, I knew just what trousers would go with them and what shoes would be perfect for each look.  Shoes.  This was another thing to worry about. I had many stilettoes but as I thought through what shirt and trouser combination to wear, I didn’t envision myself pairing them with those stilettoes. I thought of my flats, sneakers and boots. In my head, ‘stilettoes are great and all but was I willing to go through my day in pains?’ Knowing just what a full day I was going to have, the answer wrote itself out.  So, I dressed in my comfortable shirt and pants, got my boots and set out to work. But this was not before I looked in the mirror and was transported to the very first time I was asked, ‘why do you always dress like this? Why don’t you ever dress like a girl? Are you a tomboy?’ Tomboy.  That word didn’t hurt the first time I heard it, chief because I really didn’t know its meaning. But trust that as soon as I could get my hand on a dictionary, I searched for it.  tomboy in British English (ˈtɒmˌbɔɪ ) NOUN “a girl who acts or dresses in a boyish way, liking rough outdoor activities” My first reaction was, ‘oh’. This was because I didn’t think I was ‘acting like a boy’. I was just wearing (and doing) what was comfortable to me, what was natural to me. Then the overthinking side of me went into overdrive.  From my earliest childhood memory, I recalled dressing the same way as I did when I was a teenager, when I had this word hurled at me for the first time. I loved big clothes. I loved the look. Women who inspired my fashion included Missy Elliot and Queen Latifah. Yes, there were some factors that influenced the look, like my parents buying us bigger clothes so we could wear them longer, but when I began to choose my clothes, I went for those same types. So, when that word was used to describe my style, I felt self-conscious for the first time in my life. But I had a devil-may-care attitude and couldn’t be fazed by what people thought.  Around this time, I watched a basketball game and fell in love with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. I started actively watching sports: the Olympics, track and field meets, and football. I had been following Real Madrid and Raúl when I stumbled on a Manchester United game with Ruud van Nistlerooy scoring a screamer that was the definition of…beautiful. Then and there, I knew I had become a Manchester United fan. After watching a couple of other sports, I determined that basketball and football would be my major thing. So, I learned about the games, followed them weekly and talked about them with friends.  And oh, I played too. I wasn’t the best player – heck, I wasn’t even a good player – but I could run run, so I made the team. I played full back, defending my goal post well and once I got the ball, you were sure I could run with it and give the striker – who happened to be my sister and an exceptional player – who would then go on to score. In my time as player and later coach of our junior and senior teams, we had some of the best records in inter school football competitions in my school’s history.  All these didn’t help me. Girls were not supposed to care about sports and definitely not enough to know about the game, play it or even argue with boys about them. Even though these came naturally to me, boys and girls started calling me – and everyone like me in my school and neighborhood – a tomboy. My unbothered attitude was shaken when I had a crush on someone and heard him tear me down for being ‘like a boy’. He didn’t know I was there when he and his friends went at it. My look was analyzed piece by poor piece and the laughter was raucous. Again, I felt very self-conscious.  But nothing made me as ashamed of my look as much as a teacher telling me to be more lady-like, cut out the interest in sports and the boyish behavior. She said, ‘girls who behave like this are usually lesbians. Are you a lesbian?’ At this point, I was homophobic from my religious and cultural upbringing and the disgust she used to enunciate ‘lesbian’ made me feel dirty and ashamed.  I began to look at my clothes from a completely different point of view. For the first time in my life, I changed my look. I started to wear makeup, and I bought my first snug jeans and shirts. And you will not believe that I bought my first high heels. I became more conscious of doing my hair, wearing seemingly better clothes and acting like a lady. The biggest change however was that I stopped playing any sports. I still followed games and remained interested in all kinds of sports – except wresting and boxing of course – but a huge part of my life was completely shelved into the recesses of my memory.  Ooooh! Despite all I did, I got laughed at a lot. Many of my attempts were a miss, with someone even saying I always looked ‘old school’. I put on a façade like it didn’t hurt but deep down, I was dealing

Wedding Messages Have to Change

Image: Yen I was at a wedding recently and as usual, was frustrated with the wife-centred message that came from most of the preachers at the event. A couple of things stuck out like thumbs dipped in palm oil and I knew I just had to talk about it. First, one of the preachers – someone you can tell is old fashioned – spoke a lot about the role a wife should play, which, if you attend many weddings, is submissive. I was not surprised by his message; I had heard it one too many times. What surprised me was a statement he made as he rounded up his message.  ‘When you come to town, don’t go to your father’s house oh. Go straight to your in-laws’ house. That is your new home.’ I was shook!  Before I delve into every emotion and thought I had when I heard this, I should mention the second thing that got me all hot and bothered. Another preacher, this time a more modern, cosmopolitan one, came up to deliver his message to the couple. He focused on what men and women need in a relationship.  He said women needed;  1. Public Display of Attention; 2. Love; 3. Care…among others.  For men however, he described their needs as;  1. Sexual satisfaction;2. Loyalty; 3. Peace…among others. I was piqued at his categories. Was he suggesting that men and women had differentneeds, especially when these broad categories were the differentiating qualities? I know there are exceptions to the rule but is there anyone that doesn’t need love, care, peace, loyalty? The public display of attention was iffy but only men need sexual satisfaction?  I waited to have him balance out his message, to have him say that all these were human needs and not specific to gender. It didn’t come.  I must say…I was disappointed with that. Maybe I expected too much but I hoped a more urban preacher would highlight on sexual satisfaction for women. You almost never hear any preacher talk about it. Female sexuality is not something that is brought up often in church settings. It doesn’t take much to see that many people assume female sexuality is a perversion; that women shouldn’t like, want or need sex; that sex should be something that women givemen and not something that should be mutually enjoyable and satisfying. This should be shocking in light of more biological information but damn! These thoughts don’t seem to be going away.  Here is the kicker though!    Women are sexual beings just as men are! Let me go and bit further. Women wantsex! And before your pulmonary vein bursts or an embolism occurs, I have to say this.  Women. Need. Sex! Women want to be caressed, kissed, taken to sexual heights un-imagined, pleasured and satisfied as much as men do. And this is not just something that happens when women are ovulating or just because they want babies.  I think that the way female sexuality has been portrayed as (best) an aberration and (worse) promiscuity, has made many women curb their needs to fit into the larger normative behavior of society. This has led to one too many sexually frustrated women who just lay there and go through the motions because it is respectable to be a wife and producer of the only end product of sex approved for the female gender; children.  This is a problem in our society. It is so bad that I heard a story of a young couple who so loved God and each other that, though they dated for many years, didn’t have sex until their wedding night. The sex was horrible as the husband described it. He tried everything to spice things up. They even talked about it. But the girl had been so used to hearing that sex was a duty that she did just that. It was a chore to her and she wondered why her husband kept insistingon sexual satisfaction for her when only men needed that. In a marriage that is barely three years, the husband has already given up on sex except when she wants to make babies; which she isn’t ready for. If this woman had been taught that sex and female sexuality were as real as male sexuality and satisfaction, she would have been riding her husband and screaming like a banshee when he went down on her because it was okay to do that now that they were married; for those who subscribe to the sex-only-for-marriage ideal.  I wanted the preacher to talk about these things. To mention how couples should make it a point of duty to please each other, satisfy each other, be adventurous with their lovemaking, give and receive head, role play, and in the rap artist Wale’s voice, have sex on the bed, floor, couch, more, more, more. I understand that the wedding banquet may not the place for in depth details of sex but just as it was easy to mention male sexual satisfaction, it should have been as easy to do the same for female satisfaction. Anyway, I was really disappointed that the message didn’t touch on that.  However, that wasn’t as disappointing as the message on her in-laws’ house being her new home. To me, it seemed like they were trying to isolate her from her family just because she was adding a new one. I know that there is a possibility that it wasn’t the intention of the preacher but that is how it sounded.  I am worried about such statements because a lot of factors could make going to her in-laws’ house bothersome. She may not like them or they may not like her or she may prefer the home she has known all her life rather than the one she is just getting. Even if she loves her in-laws and they absolutely adore her, she may not always want to be around them. And why should she ignore her family because she is

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