I have never been a girlie girl. As a young child, I was much more content to play soccer or read books than to ever play dolls or jump rope. I played Star Wars on the playground and lobbied to be Han Solo rather than Leia whenever the boys tried to typecast me. My best friend in elementary school was a little boy and I’ve always gravitated more to “boyish” pursuits with one exception. I danced ballet for 15 years beginning when I was three years old.
My hair though, has always been short. When I was young I had several embarrassing incidents wherein I was mistaken for a little boy. These were very humiliating for me, but at the time, I didn’t really stop and consider why that was. I was only eight; I had comics to read and Star Trek to watch. Introspection wasn’t on my “To Do” list.
All of my life, I avoided pink, anything glittery anything that lumped me in with the girls. It wouldn’t be until I was 38 years old that I would realize, I actually had deep seated issues with being a woman. The revelation came when it was time for me to get my hair cut. At this particular time, I had been rocking a pixie cut much like Winona’s here and my daughter asked me why I kept my hair so short. Her own was past her shoulders and she wanted it down to her butt.
I couldn’t answer her. My ready excuse of “it’s just easier to take care of” sounded wrong. In my heart, it wasn’t the real truth. The real truth was that I associated long hair to being feminine and I didn’t see myself as feminine. I tended to see women as weak.
Growing up, my mother ran our household, but she did this by lying and manipulating my father. When I was sixteen I would finally tell her I wouldn’t hide things from my father and I wouldn’t cover for her anymore. My mother was a distant woman who neglected me and my father was virtually absent from my life despite living with me every day. I spent a large part of my most formative years with my oldest sister who was married and living on her own. As a result, I had neither a strong father figure nor a strong maternal figure.
I also was regaled time and again with stories of how my mother wanted a son and how they were so convinced I was a boy they didn’t even pick out a girl’s name. I was supposed to be named Steven Ray. But, out I came missing the requisite penis. I would go unnamed for ten days until my mother’s doctor finally suggested the name my parents ultimately chose for me.
It would be a life time later before I understood the effect that knowledge had on me. All I saw growing up was that boys had more freedom. I wanted that freedom, so I rejected anything that lumped me in with the girls.
As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve noticed that I have been drawn more and more to feminine things. I used to hate sparkly things, now I love them. I used to be the same way with flowery things, now I love those as well. I think it’s been watching my daughter grow. We went out of our way to not force her into any specific gender role and she is a unique blend of traditionally “girlie” and traditionally “boyish”, but the one thing you never doubt is that she’s very feminine.
I saw that missing inside myself. In the split-second after she asked me that question, I realized the truth. I didn’t wear my hair long, because I didn’t see myself as feminine. It had nothing to do with anything else. What I also saw, was that I spent my childhood unsuccessfully trying to be the little boy my parents had wanted.
In that moment, I decided to grow my hair out. I spent the next two years growing it until it was past my shoulder blades. It was interesting to see the difference in my appearance and the compliments I received on it. I can honestly say it felt very different to see myself that way. I felt like a woman and I had to get used to that feeling. And, I did. I’ve grown comfortable with myself as a woman and with the feminine aspects of my personality that I used to reject. I no longer feel conflicted over embracing “traditionally” girlie things and, more importantly, because I’ve gotten to know so many lovely and strong women over the last several years, I no longer see women as weak.
Two weeks ago, both my daughter and I got our hair cut off. She got a Mohawk and looks so aggressively feminine it’s unbelievable. I admire her in so many ways.
Me, I’m back to my Winona Ryder pixie, but this time it’s just because I like my hair that way. I spent two years with long hair and enjoyed my time that way. But, the me I like best has short hair and lots of sparkles all over.