Sunday, August 14, 2005

When I was a boy...

Reading this article made me realize why it was that I stuck it out in math and science - because I was a boy in middle school.

Not literally, but socially and physically I did not begin to gain feminine qualities until the 8th grade or so, maybe even later. I wore baggy clothes, I hadn't hit puberty, I played sports, and I hung around with my brother and his friends. Until the 8th grade I refuuuuused to shop in the girls section. I despised all things feminine and prided myself on the fact that my brother's friends all used to tell me how much like a boy I was.

Now you might ask, what the hell does that have to do with math and science? Well, just think about it - my female middle school counterparts entered the phase of lip gloss, skin tight jeans, boyband obsessions, and crushes. Suddenly, they cared about their image - they wanted boys to like them. Did I want boys to like me? Sure, but I wanted them to respect me in a different sense - as an equal. I hated girly girls - I thought they were boring and stupid. I prided myself on being able to do more push-ups than my brother, on my basketball skills, my bruises from climbing trees, and all other unfeminine things.

In fact, until I met a boy at sleepaway camp the summer before 8th grade, my parents were afraid that I didn't like boys at all - that I'd grow up to be a lesbian. (Now, I don't know how they would get that idea - I despised girls!)

By the time I hit puberty I was at a math and science high school surrounded by a very non-judgemental atmosphere. Everyone there was a nerd in one sense or another, everyone was smart - I didn't have to try to fit in.

I remember this one girl in middle school who was every bit as smart as I was (her final average was only 4 tenths of a point below mine, something she would never let me live down). She had an obsession with Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys and spent lunchtime chit chatting with her girlfriends about boybands and lip gloss. She was real smart, but she never spoke up in class. The teachers only knew her from her great exam scores and stellar papers. And that is what made the difference.

I really believe that my late-blooming saved me. If I had thought of myself as a female in middle school, I would have taken cues from everyone around me as to what was feminine and what wasn't. Speaking up in class was not feminine, answering and asking questions was not feminine. Doing well in math and science sure as hell wasn't feminine. The expectations were there, I just ignored them because I didn't associate myself with girls. So maybe I was a little bit of a "show-off" in middle school. Not too much, but enough for me to gain the confidence I needed to believe in myself. People told me I was smart and I started to believe them. (And don't tell me that people don't have to be told they're smart to know that they are - it's just not true. People form an image of themselves first and foremost through the reflection of themselves in the eyes of others).

And that's the story.

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