Voice: Cultures Not My Own, Part 2

Have you ever felt a particular affinity for a geography or culture that is not your own? Why? What about it do you love or identify with?

Part 2: Gender Culture

For many of my growing-up years, I felt more affinity for boy culture than for girl culture. Actually, let me rephrase that. I was an Anne of Green Gables obsessive, a happy skirt wearer, a sewer and crafter, one of the few who preferred Mary to Laura Ingalls. If it was girly, I liked it.

Except for playing with girls.

Individual girls were fine. I usually had one best friend, maybe two. But I didn’t always play with the girls during recess. Even before girls started getting really mean and political (grade 5), I often preferred to run around with the boys. In Australia, where I lived from ages 6-9, this took some doing. The enormous field of a playground at Jindalee State School was divided in half: girls’ side and boys’ side, and I was often yelled at for playing tag across The Line. That didn’t mean that I joined the boys’ side in the frequent battles for who got ownership of the lunch benches, but outside of jumprope, I have few memories of hanging with the girls at recess.

When we moved to Canada, it got worse. The tiny Christian school I went to had only six other people in my grade, all girls. For some reason, coming from Australia, I didn’t wear pants, just skirts. This was a problem. Even now, it doesn’t take much to transport me back to the Simpson’s department store with my mother, desperately communicating that I needed boy’s pants, not girls pants, expecting that any moment, sirens would start wailing because we were taking corduroys from the boy’s section to the girl’s changing room so I could try them on.

When I showed up in them at school, I was coolly informed that it was good that I’d finally worn pants, because the girls had gotten together and decided that I couldn’t come to school anymore in skirts, and they were going to tell me that week.

It is any wonder that I preferred to play soccer with my younger brother and his friends?

Boy recess culture was straightforward. You chose your team and you played.

Although I could be girly about boy culture. I couldn’t stand fighting, so I became the breaker-upper of playground fights. This being the 70s, there were no teachers on our playgrounds, which were city parks, in any case. My method of breaking up the fights: being more accurate with my feet than the boys were with their fists. I kicked them until they ran apart from each other. And then the drama was over. It wasn’t revisited in ostentatiously whispered conversations. It wasn’t rehashed every day for a week. It didn’t require intervention by the teacher.

Boys were so much easier than girls. Until puberty. When everyone became problematic.

How about you? Did you move in a pack of your own kind? Prefer the other side? One of those few who got along with everyone?