Saturday, March 09, 2013

"A girl playing in the mud?!"

A little story from my childhood in honour of International Women's Day.

I would have posted it yesterday, but first I was busy helping my family and then getting all dressed up for a night out. Just like a woman. :)

One year my elementary school was renovating the long jump pits. The construction crews had dug them out leaving a massive mud pile in the middle of our playing field. I doubt that I need to explain what a temptation this was for a yard full of bored children. Naturally the administration instructed us not to touch the mud pile. And just as naturally, being told not to touch it made it next to impossible not to.

 The other girls managed to resist the lure of the mud pile, but about a dozen boys and I scaled the mighty mud mountain. We clambered happily over and around it, slipping and squelching until, inevitably, we were caught. They frogmarched us to the office and lined us up outside the principal's door. I was last in line, and I was petrified. Sure, I'd been chastised by the teacher for talking too much on occasion, but I'd never been in the kind of trouble that required the principal's intervention before.

One by one the boys went in, the door shut, the principal's voice droned for awhile, and then the boys came out. The line inched forward silently until it was my turn. I stepped inside the office, eyes cast down, and stopped on the worn spot in the carpet in front of the desk. I peeked timidly up at the principal from under my lashes and saw his eyes widen in surprise. "A girl?!", he exclaimed. "A girl playing in the mud?"

Not "A student with a perfect behavior record!", or "A child with straight A's!", but "A girl!", as though there was something shameful and shocking about a female who liked to play in the dirt.

I remember wondering as I carried out my punishment (copying two pages out of the dictionary by hand) if there was something wrong with me. Was it not OK for me to like dirt and bugs and the Ninja Turtles? Did I have to trade in my sneakers for jelly shoes in order to keep my 'girl card'? At the time the thought repulsed me. I was most decidedly a tomboy and I was determined to stay that way.

Now I'm a little smarter. I know being a girl can mean anything I want it to. I spent the first half of this International Women's Day using power tools to help hang a sign on my aunt's store. In a few minutes I'm going to put on makeup and heels and a fancy dress and spend the evening being ladylike. And tomorrow I'll probably go out and play in the almost-spring mud. All those girls are me, and that's pretty OK.

Horseshoe crab!

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