While standing in line at the bank, holding my checkbook in one hand and my paycheck in the other, my thoughts and my gaze were directed towards the window and the approaching storm in the air. As I studied the cement gray sky and the ominous black clouds in the distance, I heard a small voice below me chirp, “Are you a boy or a girl?” Caught off guard, I abruptly jerked myself back inside the bank and looked down into the inquisitive blue eyes of a very young girl. Surprised by such candor from a child, I blurted out “What did you say?” quite bemused. Responding quickly she again reiterated her question. “Are you a boy or are you a girl?” she stated once again, putting her hands on her hips for a bit more emphasis.
Looming behind the inquisitive child, stood what I assumed to be her mother, eyes wide open with a mortified look on her face. Confounded, I swallowed hard and searched for the words to answer her candid enquiry. Before I could open my mouth, the teller called them up to the window and the girl’s mother let out a definite sigh of relief as she yanked the child out of line and sprinted up to the counter. I exhaled as well, feeling the blood drain from my cheeks, as the other customers waiting for their turn at the window repressed their snickers.
When I got home that afternoon, I stood before the full length mirror in my bedroom staring at my reflection. The child’s question played over and over in my head. “Are you a boy or a girl?” As I looked at myself, I could understand her bewilderment. With short hair cropped around my ears and resting upon the collar of a black polo shirt that I had bought on clearance in the men’s department of Macy’s, my eyes traveled down the Levi jeans which scrunched up at the bottom to reveal the tops of my favorite tan, Timberland work boots. The rugged ensemble was topped off with a man’s watch and a wallet in my back pocket. Yes indeed, her confusion made perfect sense. My appearance was rather deceiving and I understood her query, for it was a question I had asked myself all of my life.
As a child, my boyish tendencies had been disregarded by family and teachers as a “tomboy” phase. Perfectly content playing with G.I.-Joe dolls and Tonka trucks, I passed off my Barbies and Easy Bake oven to my younger sister. There were no ballet, tap or piano lessons for me after school. I spent my evenings playing basketball, baseball and kickball with the neighborhood boys. Every year I begged and pleaded for a Daisy pump action B.B. gun and smiled with glee when I finally received one on my 13th birthday. I spent many, joyful Saturday afternoons shooting at tin cans and bottles in the back yard. In high school, the captain of the football team was of no interest to me, Instead, I spent my time at the games, sitting in front of the cheerleading squad with my elbows propped up on the bleacher behind me watching the pretty girls over my high top sneakers, stretched out and crossed in front of me. I did not go to my senior prom because I refused to wear a dress, make up or high heels, besides, no boy would have the nerve to ask me out for fear that I would laugh at them or worse than that, I’d say yes!
“Are you a boy or a girl?” slipped back into my thoughts. What a profound and multifaceted question the little girl had raised. Had I been forced to give her an answer at that moment, there is no telling how I might have responded. As I turned to walk away from the non judgemental reflection, I glance over my shoulder one last time and thought to myself, I am not a girl, nor am I a boy. I suppose that I am just me, someone special in between.