I’m a girl.
When I was young, I was taught being a girl had something to do with whether you sat down or stood up when your bladder was full and which of the bathrooms you went into when you were at a store. In kindergarten I was informed that it had something to do with the “parts” you had, after a classmate pulled down his pants during Show and Tell to show us his favorite underwear, and before the teacher could grab him managed to explain that girls couldn’t wear it because they didn’t have the right parts. And when I was six, someone in the third grade (two years older and still confused) told me that girls have long hair and boys don’t and that’s the difference.
As a first grader, this was enough for me. I was a girl, my brother was a boy, and according to Melina, all the boys in my class had cooties, which were like germs but only boys could get them. I didn’t buy it.
In third grade, I met a boy who had long hair and one of the girls in the next classroom over went into the boy’s bathroom by mistake. In six grade I learned that sometimes there are boys who want to kiss boys and girls who want to kiss girls and that’s okay. Because if and a boy and a girl can want to kiss and a boy and a girl can be best friends, and a two boys or two girls can be best friends, why shouldn’t two boys or two girls be able to want to kiss each other?
In seventh grade in Health we learned more about those “parts” and how girls turned into women when they got older and had to start wearing bras.
In ninth grade I had to start wearing a bra because I was a woman. My mother told me a funny thing that day; she told me that I was only a woman in words, but in body I was still a little girl for as long as I wasn’t ready to be an adult.
I wasn’t too sure of what she was talking about, except that identity is subjective and only you really get to know who you are. Anyone who loves you just has to take your word for it.
In tenth grade I met a girl at school who had been born into a man’s body. She told me that her body hadn’t asked what she had wanted, because her body developed before her mind and her mind, after all, was what told her she was a woman. Then she told me I had pretty hair. When I was in twelfth grade this girl grew out her hair, started wearing make-up to school and told everyone that she was happy and felt beautiful.
I am in twelfth grade. I’m seventeen and I’m stick thin, which means that while I was a young woman and need to wear a sports bra to run, I don’t need a very big one. It means that I wear my watch on the tightest increment and have to ask where the store managers hide all the clothing in my size. They have it, they just hide it because they don’t understand that being stick-thin doesn’t mean that you don’t want to wear clothing. I have to wear clothing because otherwise I’ll get cold, and also because if I don’t I won’t be allowed to go to school.
Today, my mother took me to the store to get myself running clothing, because Track starts a week from today and the knees of my running pants are getting worn out. She wanted to go look at some pants for my brother, and she told me to pick out two pairs and maybe a sports bra and then to meet her by the cash register.
Today, I stood in front of the rack of pants and flipped through until I found the two that looked the least frustrating (just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I like pink), and then walked over to find myself a sports bra. Another girl was standing at the rack, flicking through and sighing to herself with frustration. I didn’t say anything, figuring that she wasn’t pleased with the color choices or perhaps couldn’t find anything in her size.
Humming to myself, I quietly took my place behind her. There wasn’t room enough for the two of us, and she was there first. She noticed me then, raising her eyebrows in surprise as she turned around.
I’ve already braced myself for the impact, but no words come. Instead, she walks away with a smile full of ill intentions.
Other times, I have not been so lucky.
Once, it was the store employee who called me over to inform me that the children’s section was over on the other side of the store and laughed when I told her that I didn’t need the children’s section, wasn’t a child, didn’t need children’s clothing…
Other times, it’s the snickers as a group of girls watches me attempt to find a shirt that won’t hang on me like a tent.
Sometimes it’s the boys in the hallway who tell me that it’s a pity I’ll never be a real woman.
Never be a real woman, never be a real girl, never be an adult…
It made me cry the first time, but by now it’s like the lesson you never manage to remember. Because every time I have to start back, affronted, and bite back a response. Because those statements don’t merit a response, or so my friend once told me when I told her why I hate stores so much.
It still upsets me though.
I wish I didn’t have to know that my clothing size is the measure of my femininity.