Saturday, January 16, 2021

I am not a young man!

August 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Self Esteem

That day, that terrible, nightmare of a day, when my identity was mistaken. The scene is etched in my head forever, the details clear as a bell.

Her name was Sister Virgina, the nun at our church, who ruled the evening CCD classes with an iron fist and a scowl that scared the crap out of all of us.

I was 10 years old, maybe 11, and I was rushing down the long school hallway to make it to my dreaded weekly religion class (to take a nap) when I heard her voice behind me.

“Young man, can you help me please,” Sister said.

I kept tooling down the hallway, furry hood up on my black parka, my frozen hands deep inside the pockets.

“Young man!” she said more forcefully.

“Me?” I questioned, as I slowing turned around to face her.

“Yes, come and carry this record player,” Sister said

As I walked towards her, I pulled my hood down, figuring when she sees me closer, and has a look at my face, my hair, my girly-ness, she will be embarrassed and I’ll be able to ditch her.  I was a major tomboy–but I thought I still walked, talked, and dressed kinda like a girl.

No dice. Sister Virgina stared me down, handed me the record player (which was heavy as hell) and pointed the way upstairs to the church office where I was to make the delivery.

I was crushed, just horrified. I was a complete and total tomboy through and through, but still —I was a GIRL.

So I had no choice but to lug the huge record player up a flight of stairs, and into the church office. The secretary nodded me in while chattering away on the phone, so I dropped the record player next to her desk, and turned as quickly as possible to peel the hell out of there. But what does the secretary say?

“Thank you, young man.”

I turned around, eyes a fire, and took one look at the lady and yelled loud as hell;


I got out of the office, down the hall, out to the parking lot, down the pitch dark road towards my house a few blocks away. I remember slipping as I ran down the icy, snow covered street, tears frozen on my cheeks, until I reached the arms of my mom who tried to comfort me as she asked me over and over what happened.

I buried my head in her chest and balled my eyes out for a good 15 minutes before I could even get the story out.


To this day, our family tells this story, and we have a good laugh….but I am telling you, I was devastated. Totally and completely devastated! From that day forward, I grew out my hair, tried to be just a little more girly be there was no way I was ever going through that again.

On the other hand, I am BIG on allowing children have their own personal style. If my son wanted to grow his hair out, or wear a pink shirt, or do some other traditional girly thing ….I wouldn’t have any issue with it, in fact I would encourage it.

How about you?




No Responses to “I am not a young man!”
  1. twistsis says:

    I think children should have the freedom to be who they want to be, kids have to grow up so fast these days and they will have to change soon enough when they grow up. I dont mean that they actually have to change but for example if they go for a job interview and the employer is looking for a certain someone and they want this job then they will changew to be what their employer wants them to be.

    Be free while you still can and do what feels good for you is what I say x

  2. Claire says:

    Cringe for him?

    I personally cringe for him because a young child- thrust into the spotlight by proxy -is having his looks dissected by the brain- dead drones that read Hello magazine and the TMZ website.

  3. lissa10279 says:

    What a story, Heather! I am sure that was very hurtful for you — not a good memory, for sure.

    I don’t have kids yet so I don’t know what I’d do really. The mama-bear in me would probably want to protect them (by having them assimilate to some extent so they’d never endure teasing — though that can happen to anyone/at any time) but the individual in me would probably encourage them to embrace their uniqueness.

    There’s so much pressure for conformity … I guess you just have to take it situation by situation and keep an open dialogue with children, ask questions, stay involved.

    • J.Lewis says:

      How about when you’re the only Mom in the cafeteria of their Kindergarten class to test blood and administer insulin for Type 1 Diabetes? I can only IMAGINE the HELL she’s gonna catch for that!!1

      What if they exclude her b/c she’s different in that aspect? What if they think she’s contagious? What if they’re just jealous b/c she really IS very beautiful (and tall i.e. FAT to other children?) I am not just saying that b/c she’s MY kid, I’ve had PLENTY of ppl tell me she should be a model and don’t even get me STARTED on my Son!!!

      I have grown Women practically asking him out on a date and he’s only 3!! I’m not bragging or anything, I’m just saying how looks seem to be so important in our society and I, too feel this pressure to be perfect. Especially since I had lost over 70 pounds b/c my thyroid FINALLY decided it wanted to work and literally RUNNING after these two kids ALL day! And have ppl say how much “better” you look and whatnot.

      I know I’m rambling and going OT, but I feel this post soooo much it hurts!

  4. marinasf says:

    I mean, growing up is hard enough as it is isn’t it? Why add to it some obvious reason to be made fun of or be misidentified?

    Because trying to perfectly conform to gender stereotypes and beauty standards is a never-ending, all-encompassing, impossible-to-win game. Telling boys to “Be more manly!” for their own good is the same thing as telling girls to “Be cuter and thinner, more girly!” for their own good — that is, it’s not good at all, and tends to lead to range of disordered behaviors.

    I could very easily see him responding to your question with this part of the WATRD mission statement:

    No more bowing to media pressure — time to put pressure on them.

    No more posting about hating our bodies – start loving yourself already.

    No more wishing we were someone else – embrace who you are.

    It seems he is being “unapologetically himself.”

    • mamaV says:

      Hi marinasf: With all due respect, we are talking about a six year old boy. At this age, parents tend to play a major role in how a child is allowed to dress, how their hair is cut, and how they behave —this is why I am posing this as a question to parents.

      To reiterate my last paragraph, as a mom I am waaayyy on the side of personal self expression. I consistently allow, choose and/or recommend that my kids do and/or try things that are not “the norm” for their gender and/or age. For example, my son’s name is Sidney (one of those gender neutral names currently more popular as a girls name) and my daughter likes to dress like a skater boy with converse and black nail polish. My parents were always this way as well, thus the story about me as a tomboy being called a young man.

      The question of this post is – If you are a parent, how would you feel about this hair style on your son, or allowing your children to deviate from “the norm” for their gender?

      • marinasf says:

        Children as young as 10 are reporting poor body satisfaction (and I believe it starts much younger; I’ve been counseling an 8-year-old who believes that no one likes him because he’s “fat”, and I’ve read stories about children as young as 5 being concerned about their weight).

        Of *course* parents tend to “play a major role in how a child is allowed to dress, how their hair is cut, and how they behave” — this is why I’m making these comments as a plea to parents (and bloggers) not to unthinkingly reinforce gender norms.

        Because parents and other adults in power pressuring children to conform to external standards of gender or beauty feed into children’s poor body image. This being a blog dedicated to improving body image, it would seem sensible to question this pressure, rather than reinforce it by talking about “cringing” when you see a young boy with long hair.

      • Clare says:

        To echo what marinasf said Girlguiding UK (of which, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’m proudly a member) conducted some research with seven to ten year olds about body image. They admitted to problems with body image but said that one thing that really helped them was having a positive message at home. According to the girls in the focus group having a supportive voice at home helps even if you are being teased in the outside world.

        From my own experience, not with having long hair but in dressing a bit like a freak, a parental ban wouldn’t have stopped me wanting to dress the way I did. I always wanted to have long purple hair even if I had to wait until I was older but I do still feel that there is something wrong with me for finding it attractive and thinking like I do.

        And I also find it quite jarring that you admitted to ‘cringing’ thinking about someone’s hair. Even if it stems from your own memories it sounds kinda mean when talking about a kid.

        (You can find the research here:

      • Candice says:

        I think MamaV was cringing out of sympathy, not out of judgment. I, too, was mistaken for a boy when I was younger (fat girl with short hair wearing husky boy’s jeans because they didn’t make fat girls’ jeans) and would also wince or cringe if I read that Rene was mistaken for a girl. I have often wondered about the implications they have experienced for letting his hair be long.

        I’m all for blurring gender norms. The more we let kids do that, the more of them that will grow up with fewer gender stereotypes, hopefully.

      • J.Lewis says:

        I’m still messed up or have been brainwashed (what’s the diff., really?) but “for his own good and my personal tastes (?) I’d want his hair short or a fade.

        But it just looks sooo good on him, his eyes shine EVEN MORE!! Also, Celine’s boy does have gorgeous hair, I just wouldn’t want my Son getting picked on b/c nowadays school children like to stab each other.

        (Body wasn’t moved for what seemed like FOREVER!!! So sad!!)

        Or has it ALWAYS been that way and we just know more about it due to the media and internet?

  5. Yum says:

    I get called “sir” all the time. It’s usually funny to me. People seem to think it’s impossible for a girl to have short hair. (Although my deep voice doesn’t help.)

    I think that we need MORE images like this in the media, with people NOT falling into stereotypical gender roles. Once people see that gender roles are only in their minds, they’ll stop assuming every boy with long hair is a girl, and every girl with short hair is a boy.

  6. tom brokaw says:

    Celine Dion’s husband is fat and old. He should probably get a paternity test for his daughter here.

  7. Allegra says:

    My 11 year old son has always (like his dad) let his hair grow long – past shoulders – then he will cut it, let it grow long again, etc. I don’t think that he looks like a girl at all. He has a boyish body, he dresses very masculine, and I think his face is clearly masculine, though his features are fine and he is very handsome 😉 Point is, whenever his hair is long, people call him a girl. Often. I’ve always been really glad that he doesn’t seem to care. We kind of chuckle about it. We live in Berkeley, CA and he has been exposed to a lot of varieties in personal expression, so maybe that has helped.

  8. J.Lewis says:


    That p. much described how I felt when I went to the girl’s bathroom at me and my Sister’s school with her friend.

    I was a tomboy (still kinda am) all the way through as well and I had a short haircut so my Sis’ friend asked what I was doing going in there. I tend to block out 99.9% of my childhood but I remember that one!

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