What happened to tomboys?
I’m more than a little worried about raising a little girl in these times. News of pedophiles teaching in public schools and the increased pressure to be sexual at an early age makes me want to pack my family up and move to a remote island. A less devastating but still troubling trend also has caught my attention — from blinged-out bikinis for toddlers to the shrieking coach on Dance Moms to high school girls requesting plastic surgery … what happened to all the tomboys?
Though I’m a little more refined now, I can recall very clearly my days as a bona fide tomboy. I collected Michael Jordan gear (all I wanted for Christmas in sixth grade was the legendary “Art of the Dunk” Michael Jordan poster), I wore No Fear shirts and would have much rather gone searching for snakes at the local park than be caught dead getting a pedicure. At the time, I didn’t think I was being alternative or different, I just hung out with fellow tomboys and figured I fit into that world. Now, I did enjoy makeup sometimes and an occasional dress, but I really just wanted to be comfortable.
Fast forward 20 years and the girls that I see in advertisements and on television look like mini Real Housewives and it makes me incredibly sad. I want my daughter to grow up knowing that she doesn’t have to look like a glamorous movie star every time she goes to school or the movies. I want her to get her clothes dirty with grass stains because she played outdoors all summer long. And mostly, I want her to find the self-confidence I had from being completely comfortable in my sporty skin.
As a child, I started competitive swimming at 8 years old and continued to dedicate more than 10 years of my life to it. OK, so I wasn’t the fastest swimmer, but I loved the rush of standing on the blocks, swimming my heart out and hearing the cheers as I came up for a breath. For a few unfortunate years, I also tried my hand at basketball. I was one of the scrawniest members of the Tech Tigers, but I was determined, I was dedicated, I was … a complete doofus and utter embarrassment for the team. But I showed up, got sweaty and waved to my sweet parents, tirelessly supporting me from the sidelines. We girls practiced hard, wore our jerseys to school and took pride in our toughness. This was during a time, I kid you not, that I got mad at my friend because she started wearing eye shadow. Maybe I took it a little too far, but I think my heart was in the right place.
Now I know as a parent I can’t force my daughter to wear oversized T-shirts and play basketball, but I might drop a few hints here and there. I want her to get dirty, to try for the big win and avoid wanting to buy a glittery bikini while she’s still innocent and scrappy. I want her to be part of some team, any team, and be proud of herself for taking a chance. I’m definitely not against girlie dresses and room décor, I just want to make sure she’s not taking herself too seriously during a time when she can get away with wearing comfy clothes and scaring the neighbors with a harmless pet snake or two.