I want to start this off by saying, I love this little guy right here. I remember this exact moment at 6 years old, and in the first grade. The school photographer had just posed me and said, “Smile!,” and I did just what I knew how to do best. The adults probably laughed amongst themselves at my childlike enthusiasm, but I didn’t care. All I knew was, that I was gonna have the best damn school photo, and everyone would get to see how brave and mature I was for pulling out not just one but three of my baby teeth—all by myself! I’d gotten more disciplinary notes sent home than my entire schooling combined in first grade alone. I’m sure that, to my teachers and caretakers, I was simply another unruly child who loved to talk too much, had trouble staying on task, didn’t particularly care to follow all the rules, and was always looking for a way around the assignment. In retrospect, they weren’t completely wrong!
As a teacher now myself, though, I recognize that my unruliness was just a cry for love, attention, and to be seen exactly as I was, not how some of the adult figures in my life wanted to see me. I knew I was fascinated with things like Barbies, playing with long hair, art, Polly Pocket, dresses, high heels, and make-up. Sports? Yawn. Playing rough and wrestling? Ew. Doing regular gross “boy” stuff? Goodbye. Twenty years later, not much has changed, really—I still love long hair, art, dresses, high heels, and make-up. I can do without the Barbies and Polly Pocket toys now, but I’m proud of myself for continually acting against social pressure to conform and be a “normal” boy.
I’m proud of myself that, in the face of all the mean names, violence, bullying, gossip, and ostracization that kids can sometimes do to each other when one of them is a little different than the rest, I still chose loving, and being true to, myself over wanting to be like everyone else. I’m proud to say, “Here I am!” at 26 years old, still smiling that same goofy smile, except now, I finally have my adult teeth!
Gran Varones Fellow