I am an only child. However, I had the distinct pleasure of being raised with boy cousins. Many women I know who lived through this scenario talk about how they used to wish they had another girl to play with. They felt out of place with the boys in the family. I, on the other hand, was my youngest cousin’s detachable tail.
Jamie was about five years older than I was. When I look back at this at 30, I realize he was indeed a gracious boy for letting his annoying little girl cousin trail behind him. Wherever Jamie went, I followed. He didn’t baby me either. He knew I was determined to keep up with him and he made sure I figured things out myself.
When he sneaked out auntie’s car to take it offroad, you can bet I was riding shotgun. Pinching some rum from auntie’s bar? I was the one holding the juice box it was hidden in.
The River Incident
Of all my adventures with Jamie, the one that stands out most to me was the day we went exploring on the property behind the house. I’m sure the land belonged to someone and I’m not at all sure it was our family. So really, we were probably just trespassing. Trespassers or no, there was a river to cross and I couldn’t swim.
Jamie was a tall boy and hopped across with ease. He stood on the other side and coaxed me across, thinking I would hop on over like he did. But then, he realized that for the first time, I had real fear of this river. I begged him to come get me and carry me across, but he refused. He was adamant that I should at least try, and if need be, he would come in to get me.
Well, try I did. Sure enough, I landed flat on my behind into the water and screamed for bloody murder. I was certain I was being swept away and that Jamie would never reach me and I was going to drown. Turns out the water was about knee-deep and I was just fine. Jamie stood on the other side guffawing so hard, he couldn’t stand straight.
Finally, I stood up and got out of the water. Jamie was still laughing his head off. I was furious. He insisted that I return to auntie’s restaurant, where Mom worked, so I could change. But, I was sure going to show this boy that I did not need him to baby me now after he had left me to drown.
I stomped right on ahead of him until he caught up with me. When we finally made it back to the restaurant, Mom was furious. Unfortunately for my poor, dear mother — who was one of those girls raised with boys and just wanted another girl to play tea party with — this was a common occurrence.
She would send me off in pretty dresses, which I loved, and I would come home looking like a ragdoll from the dumpster with a proud smile on my face.
The Tree Incident
One day, Mom decided to take me way into the countryside to visit an old friend of hers. As is always the case, I grew bored at this adult gathering where people talked about adult things. So, I asked to go outside.
I had seen several trees in the yard that were perfect for climbing and I could not wait to make my way onto one of them in this pretty little skirt Mom had dressed me in. Off I went and found the perfect one with wonderfully spread branches.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that the tree had big thorns, — or, as we would say in Jamaica, macka! I learned the hard way when halfway up the tree, I slipped and fell. Instead of falling backward out of the tree, I somehow slid down the side.
Recognizing the thorns, I put my hands up to cover my face, so the back of my forearms took the beating. They were ripped open by the thorns and bleeding. Like any wise Jamaican child, my concern was not the injury. My concern was that I was going to be in a lot of trouble for climbing that tree in the first place.
So, I hurried back to the house, straightened my skirt and sat quietly on the veranda — front porch, for the Americans. Mom eventually came out and was ready to go. Unbeknownst to me, my injuries had been betraying me the whole time, leaving a long trail of thick, red blood on the white tiles while I looked up innocently at the ceiling.
Mom was too distraught to punish me this time. She thought I was in pain, but I think the anticipation of a well-deserved whoop-ass had long ago diluted that. I did not get the ass-whooping, but I don’t think I was as fond of climbing trees after that incident.
Fast-Forward to 30s
When my teenage years rolled around, large breasts, wide hips, long legs, and a small waist killed my relationships with boys. My female best friend laughed about how my cleavage created an “angle of depression” with boys even when it was covered. I hated my body and wore a lot of boys’ clothes to hide it. I did my dress-ups in private away from masculine eyes.
I fared no differently in college. Big T-shirts and skinny jeans were so much my chosen uniform that a lot of people confessed to me in my final year that they thought I was gay. It wasn’t until my early-mid 20s that I reconnected with men. By then, they had matured, knew how to maintain eye contact and were finally fun for hiking, paddle boarding and the like.
When I moved to America, I had expected to carry that on here. But, a few months into marriage, I realized that the spirit of adventure had been a facade to win me over. And, here I was, trapped by a born-again couch potato who wanted me to feel grateful for going on “hikes” five minutes up the street.
Within the first year, it dawned on me that if I was to reclaim my adventurous life, I would have to take those adventures alone or with friends. I started off with friends, but all of last year, I spent 100% of my adventure time alone. I enjoyed every second of it, though, for the first time, even Dad joined Mom with the fretting.
Those solo travel adventures were not my first, but they were certainly the most dangerous I had taken alone. Since then, that preference for my own company and my own time has remained a consistent vein in my life. And recently, my grandfather has been along to witness it.
A few years ago, my mother reconnected with her father. After years of building a relationship over the phone, she decided to invite him to visit us. He is now getting to know me for the first time at 30 years old.
Last week, I took my bike out for a spin to test a phone mount a client had sent me. Halfway up the street, I realized the bike was making strange sounds and that the front tire was going flat. I brought it back to the house, opened the garage door and started looking for the bicycle pump.
I was maybe about a third of the way into re-inflating the tires when I heard Mom’s front door open. “That’s just how she is!” I could hear her saying. “That’s how we were raised.”
Out comes my grandfather with a strange look on his face, while Mom watched from the doorway. “You could have called me, you know?” he said. “I know about bikes too. I could help!”
I laughed. I had heard those words before, in one form or another, from almost every man I’ve ever known. “I didn’t assume you don’t,” I told him. “I’m just … used to doing stuff myself.”
He got down on the concrete beside me, took the pump and got to work. After a while, he started to shake his head. “It’s one thing about you,” he began, “you’re really like a man. You never ask for help. You just … do things.”
Phone Call From a Friend
A few days later, one of my friends called to catch up with me on life and my cross-country plans. I explained that the California magic carpet had been ripped out from right under me and why, but that I was still moving anyway.“When do you leave?” she asked me. I gave her the date.
“You have the exact date planned?” she shrieked. “How are you going across? Are you driving?”“Yup,” I answered. “Me and puss!” “By yourself? Aren’t you scared?” she asked me.
“I was, at first,” I admitted. “But, I also think it’s a little ironic that women always think we need a man to protect us when more than half the time, that’s who we need protection from.”
She was silent for a moment, and then she said, “Honestly, you’re my Woman-Spiration. I want to be just like you when I grow up.”
So, am I a 30-year-old tomboy? In today’s gender-fluid world, that’s a heavy term to throw around. Masculinity in women is quickly attributed to butch-lesbian aspirations, of which I have none. I am not romantically interested in women and I don’t identify as a man. I think I’m just a feminist who has been forced throughout life to fill the gaps incompetent men leave behind and who still thinks boys shouldn’t get to have all the fun.
But, I do thank Jamie for standing on the other side of the river and letting me fall in. I thank all the trees that I fell out of. All the times I fell off of bikes and tore my ankles and knees open. The men who took me hiking and taught me to paddleboard and snorkel and shoot a gun and drive a stickshift — all before I ever set foot in America.
I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. All of them. And, though I may never get to say those words to their faces, if they ever see me strolling about in the world, I hope they know they helped me get there.
25 thoughts on “Am I a 30-Year-Old Tomboy?”
Love thepost, but let me say that I am in no way an outdoorsy type. You won’t find me hiking, camping, etc. But growing up, even when I was dressed in my church best, my aunt and I would leave church, have some lunch, and head over to Yankee Stadium to catch a baseball game . The women in my family did the tomboy stuff in North Carolina , and not only did that include driving, cleaning and killing animals, it also meant a HUMONGOUS love of sports, which I and the younger generation of girls in my family inherited . I think that’s why I get along with guys so much better (although a lot of my female friends are sports fans , too), I don’t discuss girly things with them. But get us talking sports, omg the “tomboy” in me comes out.
Not all boys are outdoorsy. I’ve learned this the hard way living in America. 😅 So while I do think it’s a masculine interest, I certainly don’t think of it as a requirement (though it really should be for men!! 🤣). So, your love of sports fits right in.
That’s the cool thing about the gender fluidity of modern-day society. Even outside of the LGBTQ community, women are no longer as successfully boxed into certain gender roles as before. Society sure is trying though!!
I thought we had gotten over the idea that if a woman is adventurous she is like a man. Lately I have been astonished at the total confusion about gender that seems rampant. As far as know we old school feminists ended that nonsense 60 years ago. But I guess not. You go girl!
Oh, Elizabeth! You know men better than that. When men are not needed, they rejoice in the free time at first and then begin to feel threatened and marginalized. 😅
That said, grandpa is quite proud of us girls. I’m the only one who takes the independence into traveling, but all the women in the family are super independent in other ways. I think sometimes he just feels left out of the action. It might also be a little guilt you know? He wasn’t a part of my life and him and mom lost touch ages ago.
Women who are not feminists also seem to feel threatened by the idea that someone else is out there Living a life they are too terrified to embrace.
“So, I hurried back to the house, straightened my skirt and sat quietly on the veranda — front porch, for the Americans.” well! this old white male land owner american…knows what a VERANDA is!!! humpf! lol and im sure many other americans do too. roflmao.
loved this post! had me in the giggles often.
in my life, i have known and do know many girls/women like you. and nothing wrong by being one of those girls/women. i have slowed down, way down. lol
Hahahahaha! I’m glad you know what a veranda is! I have gotten a lot of weird looks in America for using that term instead of saying porch, particularly in the South East!
I’m also glad you know my sisters out there. I think the world needs a few more of us, so we can inspire others to stop feeling limited by the expectations forced upon our gender. Adventure awaits!
I’m glad you enjoyed it. ☺️
and im glad you “heard” the humor in my comment. it is way past time we assign any job/role based on gender or even what gender/sex one feels they are. a person is a person no matter who they are or where they live.
I wasn’t girly enough for my mom either. I have fond memories of being dressed in frilly frocks and being told to sit on the front porch. When I emerged from my adventure, as you stated I looked like a rag doll. Of course I was sent to bed without supper. I recall the days we would play touch football, street skating, making sling shots and mud pies with fondness. Watching my male cousins tinker under the hood of a car. I was right there to check out the action. So those things that are not considered feminine in my mom’s view actually became the catalysts for my being independent. After all what nine year old girl bought a tool set and paint set for christmas gifts for herself. Me.
I’m not surprised to find you shared a similar upbringing! It does bring to mind the chicken and the egg question though.
Are we independent because of those experiences? Or did we choose those experiences over dolls because we were already independent? 🤔
If you are, so what?
Does it matter to you?
Has it got anything to do with anyone else?
Does it make you any the less of a person?
I think not.
One of my best friends as a child was a tom boy, and boy, did we have lots of fun. She also taught me about the birds and the bees. Not in a physical way, but we were able to discuss our thoughts, our development, our feelings, all in a natural, healthy, and informative way.
I do rather think that the modern need to put a label on individuals is counter productive. We are who we are, what we are, and how we are. All individuals, and all with equal worth.
Haha, I think you misread the tone of the article. It does matter to me, but not for the reasons you imply. I rather like being reminded I’m not like other girls and that I don’t need a man to protect or support me.
That said, I think people often choose labels for themselves. I see nothing wrong with that. People who have no one to identify with inevitably choose to identify with an idea instead, ie a label. What I have an issue with is when people slap labels on others that they didn’t consent to.
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. ☺️
I can show you the scars on my body from my tomboy moments and I was the baby of the family of all girls and one boy. My sisters sucked their teeth over my lack of being girly. I never was until I was in my 20’s and succumbed to pier (and guy) pressure. And then a bit later on when I went through my fashion and over priced shoes phase. Now I’m into comfortable and getting out there in the wilderness (to an extent) but occasionally I like dressing up.
Haha, I got lucky with my skin. Most of my scars have healed. The ones I have left behind are mostly on my knees and ankles.
I was pretty resistant to the pressure to be girlie and never got into fashion. I guess The guys I dated loved how low maintenance I was most of all. I was that girlfriend who was the ONLY one allowed on all boys trips and if I couldn’t make it, you could bet they’d call to find out why and try to convince me otherwise. 😅
That’s another thing we have in common! I have 5 brothers and, when I was a child, I’d rather play their rough games than what was considered girls games, like playing with dolls. I still have scars of those rough and tumble days and I remember them with fondness. We played football, built and rode karts, went exploring all over town and beyond, got lost and found our way back. I could even run faster than some of them and I took pride in that. I developed long legs thanks to that. All this helped me a great deal on my long hiking adventures with my husband and I’m certain I owe my health and fitness to them. I wouldn’t swap it for anything in this world. And yes, I could repair a puncture and pump a tire on a bike too! 😉 I’m surprised that people find that strange in a girl these days as I was doing it over 40 years ago. I thought we had evolved!!!
Haha, oh memories! Boys are so much fun to grow up with. Girls who opt out of their activities really missed out! The boys also had all the cool toys: the robots, remote control cars, helicopters. What’s a doll compared to that?? 🤣
You know, I’ve been wondering if it’s that men find it strange or feel marginalized. They were taught to be useful and now a lot of women don’t need them.
Very true on both counts. I do believe men need women more than all the way round. I’ve seen it far too many times.
Ha! Agreed 100%. The smart men are those who learn independence. That’s what I always liked about the Spanish men I dated. They didn’t need me for anything. Spotless apartments, good cooking and a sense of adventure. I was just a nice addition to an already complete life. I prefer it that way.
You are a great story teller! Thx for sharing!!
Thank you, Ruth!
I think there are a lot of active outdoorsy woman today that are not “gender fluid” in any way, shape or form – it’s natural. For some.(Being a guy who has hiked, biked and kayaked with many more women than men…)
I wish I knew more of the women you do. Most women I know don’t seem all that interested in being outdoors. 😅
Sometimes it is living in the right area (if you live in an area known for outdoorsy people, you tend to find them, male or female) Also I met a lot of people in my years belonging to a bicycle club.
Atlanta is definitely not the right area for outdoorsy people. People walk the concrete beltline and then go on Instagram and talk about how they want hiking in nature today. 😅
lol, I know what you mean. I lived in Dallas ages ago and it was pretty bad. At first I couldn’t find trails and so walked by the road. People would stop and ask if I was OK and if I needed a ride. About a month before I moved I finally found a park that had walking trails – I went there every day and never saw a sign that any one else had been there during that month!
Atlanta has TONNES of parks. A city fact here is that you are never more than 15 minutes from a trail. But Atlanta people are not outdoorsy in the real sense. They’re city folks. Some of them have never heard of the parks I visit just 10 minutes from where they live. Hiking, camping etc is not up their alley. They want nice cars, city apartments and weekends for clubbing. Even the exceptions seem to get caught up in that lifestyle once they move into the city. I’m not a fan. I live in the burbs. 😅