I was pretty much a tomboy growing up. I went camping for the first time when I was three months old. (Okay, I realize my parents had a lot to do with that!) I spent 95 percent of my time outside unless it was raining hard, and sometimes even then I put on my raincoat and rubber boots and stomped around in puddles. The only thing I regularly got in trouble for was coming home late for dinner. I would climb trees, jump the fence to wade in the creek, and play hide and seek, coming home only after it was so dark I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.
My brother and I would tear around the neighborhood on our bikes doing wheelies and riding with no hands. Sometimes he got tired of hanging around his little sister, so I’d have to go find some girls to play with. When I was lucky, I’d find other girls who were tomboys and we’d rope my brother back in because lots of games are fun with more people.
Learning to “speak girl” was a slow and difficult process. Even freshman year of high school, well after hormones kicked in, I still went around looking like a cross between hippie and Seattle grunge, buying engineer’s overalls and painter’s paints from a uniform store and wearing my hair long and straight, parted right down the middle.
My two best friends bought me a Seventeen magazine one summer and ordered me to read it. My eyes were opened to a whole new world–makeup, grooming and fashion. I still liked to go hiking and camping, but I started to look like a girl while I did it.
Right around the same time frame, I became a Christian. Because I did a good job of disguising myself as a girly girl, I fit right in with some of the conservative teachings about how to be feminine, at least on the surface. But I was very uncomfortable. I felt like a fraud.
I would hear lectures about how women like do all the talking in relationships and feel mannish because I am less talkative than most people, less than a lot of the men in my life. I would go to church parties and get pulled into the kitchen where ladies wanted to talk to me about recipes. What? I could barely boil water. I did know how to fix barbed wire fencing on my uncle’s ranch, but that didn’t really come up in conversation.
I loved the Bible stories about King David. He was small and cute, and a lot tougher than he looked. He wasn’t taken seriously at first. But of course he was God’s chosen, and I was really just a girl.
I remember once hearing God speak to me about all the books I was reading about proper behavior for a Christian woman. I was really stressing out about it, I felt completely miserable and unable to “do the right thing.” I’m sure I was crying about it, one of the girly things I do quite freely from time to time. I heard a still, quiet voice cut through all my emotions and tell me, “Throw all those books away. Get rid of them!”
What a relief that was, but I still felt at odds with the church world around me. I loved my church world, I loved learning from the Bible, I loved singing worship songs, I loved being part of the community. But I still felt like a fraud. A pretender. A fake girly girl.
Thirty odd years later I’d like to say I’ve figured it all out, but I haven’t. I still feel like I don’t quite fit in. I have figured out a couple of things though. It’s perfectly all right for me to passionately pursue being a disciple of Christ. And I don’t need to take a class to learn how to be a woman. God made me a woman, and that’s what I am. He didn’t make a mistake, and I don’t have to correct any errors. (As if! I can’t believe I was ridiculous enough to think I had to make up for His “mistakes.”)
I wonder if there are others out there who have felt the same way?