If I Were A Boy
`If I were a boy
Even just for a day
I’d roll out of bed in the morning
Throw on what I wanted and go
Drink beer with the guys
And chase after girls
I’d kick it with who I wanted
And I’d never get confronted for it
Cause they’d stick up for me”
It’s been a few months since I first heard this song by Beyonce. Every time I listened to the song, I found it haunting my thoughts for hours afterwards. I liked it but… there was also something about it that nagged me. I’d listen to it on repeat, trying to put my finger on exactly what it was about it that didn’t quite sit right with me. I think every girl on the planet has probably felt the same sentiments as the song expresses at least once or twice. I think every woman who has ever had a serious relationship has felt, at least a time or two, as though she were talking to an alien instead of another human while trying to get her point across to a man. A lot of women probably feel as though men do, indeed, “make the rules as [he] goes.” Plus, it was just interesting to think about for a minute—what would I do differently, if I were a boy? I was never really given enough time to ruminate on this question before life interrupted me. Little ones needing attention or food or a bath or something always pulled my thoughts away from the question before I could really come up with a suitable answer. I’d “let it go” (another song-inspired blog entirely) and forget about the song. Until the next time we were in the car and one of my girls asked to hear it. Then we’d listen to it again and again I’d feel conflicting emotions—I genuinely did like the song but it made me sad in a way I couldn’t explain. I’d start thinking about why, get interrupted by something and then the cycle would repeat itself.
I saw this article from Huffington Post. In it, 12 women are pictured holding up signs that say things like, “If I were a boy, I wouldn’t mistake a woman’s kindness for weakness” and “If I were a boy, I would take the time to have a conversation.” Parts of the signs resonated with me (I,too, have sometimes felt that if I were personable and kind, it would come across as flirting when, in fact, that was not what my intention was) but, on the whole, this whole article upset me not because of the perceived inequality between men and women but rather because of what the women in those pictures were failing to recognize. Basically, they’re trying to make others understand that even today in 2014 women are not treated the same as men. Let’s be honest: they’re not. Worldwide, they are not. If you don’t see that, if you don’t admit that, then you’re not paying attention. I mean, Saudia Arabia women were only granted the right to vote in 2011, a right they will be able to exercise for the first time in 2015. In the meantime, they’re still not allowed to drive or choose their own clothes. Here in the United States, women have the freedom to chase whatever dreams they want, political or otherwise. Still, there are some differences in the way men and women are treated here in the United States. For instance, I read a blog in which a woman proposed to her boyfriend by taking a picture of herself holding a sign that said, “Marry Me?” Instead of receiving congratulations for this life milestone, the comments were full of stupid things like, “Is this a joke?” and “I’m going to be disappointed if this is an April Fool’s Day prank.” A man might get criticized for proposing to his girlfriend via social media but no one would dare assume that a man holding a sign saying, “Marry Me?” was a joke. My oldest daughter routinely comes up with plans for making a boy ask her out. None of those plans involve her simply asking him out. In fact, none of them even involve her simply telling him, “I like you.” Why? Because our American culture has already painted her ten year old head full of the idea that boys ask girls out and not the other way around. Bottom line: I understand the #ifIwereaboy campaign’s goal. Awareness brings change but if awareness is never brought, change is unlikely.
My name is Tiffini and I am 33 years old. Defining who I am in a series of words is hard because I am like a patchwork quilt, sewn together from many different experiences, beliefs and ideas. Twenty years ago, I didn’t want to climb trees because I was afraid I’d fall. Twenty years ago, my universe revolved around writing stories and listening to country music. Sometimes I’d practice my autograph, terrified I’d be made fun of during my first book signing because my penmanship has always been terrible. Math made me feel stupid. Fear blanketed my every waking moment. I survived school by pretending I didn’t want friends. Instead of going to pep rallies, I had my teacher lock me in the Advanced English classroom by myself. Instead of going to the lunchroom, I stayed in the art room with the teacher. Making myself invisible was my goal. Those patches are still a part of me but have been covered with new patches. Today, I still love country music, but I will happily listen to anything. Writing is still a major part of who I am, but I don’t have to rely on fictional characters to help me survive anymore. Being a mom and a teacher and a public speaker have sewn patches of confidence over the fear of inferiority. I still don’t climb trees but only because I’m too tall now. Instead, I get my feet in a creekbed as often as I can and make mudpies with my daughters. Getting dirt on my hands or my face isn’t scary to me anymore, instead it’s refreshing and important. I love the countryside and mountains make me feel safe. Hot bubble baths help me dream and I still stubbornly believe in an old-fashioned way of life. But if I were gone tomorrow, perhaps the most important thing I’d want my daughters to know, besides the fact that I love them with every cell in my body, is that life is not something to fear but is instead a gift to be treasured and appreciated, a gift to open every morning and savor every day. What I’d want them to know is that there are men who care and won’t intentionally hurt you; there are women who will stick up for you. I’m very personable. Whether you’re a male or a female, I’m likely to greet you with a big smile and aimable chatter. Whether you’re a male or a female, I’m likely to give you a hug before walking away. Even though I’m not very good at it, I like to sing and, if you ever ride with me in a car, you’re likely to hear me try to carry a tune. It’s just what I do. I talk to people who don’t exist; they are my characters. I homeschool my daughters. Messes don’t bother me because it means there have been children playing. I love to cook but still buy fast food for dinner sometimes. We hold hands and pray before every meal, if we’re at the Melting Pot, home or McDonald’s. This year, I bought the first Christmas presents in June (usually, it’s August). It’s hard to really get to know me; I have walls around my walls and I’m probably never going to be very good at one-on-one relationships. Loyalty is important to me—I still go visit my high school teachers who made a difference in my life. I write books about sad topics because it’s my way of healing and because I feel like it’s what I’m supposed to do. I like feeling safe and having control. Water makes me very happy, whether it be whitewater rafting with my sister, swimming in the lake with my girls or lounging in a hot bath. My handwriting is still terrible but book signings are very special to me. Watching my girls eat honeysuckle for the first time or pick strawberries or make homemade cheese are memories I wouldn’t trade anything for. I’ve never had a drink of alcohol and I’ve never smoked a single cigarette (I like control, remember?). Sarcasm is not funny to me but I love a quick sense of witty humor. Lightning bugs are worth waiting up for and, although it is very hard to find, Lipton’s Peach Tea is a staple in the house. Reading to my girls, having living room “sleepovers” and singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” in July… these are moments I wait for. Caterpillars crawling towards becoming butterflies, complete with wings with which to cook their own meals and fly alone, is a journey I’d take again every day from here to forever. Movies like “Beaches,” “Steel Magnolias,” “Pretty Woman” and “Radio Flyer” are so engraved into my heart that I still quote them in everyday life. Re-reading sappy, meaningless books by Judith McNaught and Elizabeth Lowell when I’m lonely or sad gives flight to fancy dreams of heroes and true love while reading thought provoking books like “Room” and “The Book Thief” lights a fire in my soul to work harder to bring awareness to issues I deeply care about. Building personal connections with those I admire, respect and trust is fundamental to my emotional well-being. Not because I depend on them but because such connections make me happy in the same way playing with blocks does. I’m fiercely stubborn. I will not fight. And, as long as my children are safe and happy, there isn’t much that’s worth getting upset over; this philosophy gives me great patience and adaptability. My goal in life is not to find a husband or to impress any man. My goal in life is to be the best mom I know how to be, so that my children are prepared to enter adulthood with the knowledge they are loved and capable of doing anything they set their minds to.
If you put the standards for men and women on a balance scale, I don’t know that they would be equal. But what I do know is that I don’t want to teach my girls that being a man is preferable to being a woman. I want them to know that it doesn’t matter what the scales say, that they are free to be exactly whoever they want to be. If they want to wear a bikini, then they can wear a bikini to the pool. If they want to be an astronaut or the President of the United States of America, then they can become that. I want them to know that they are truly princesses—even greater princesses than the Disney variety because they care about other people. Their vulnerability, their personable natures, wearing their hearts on their sleeves, enjoying makeup and cooking and playing with dolls and loving fashion… these are some of their greatest strengths, not something they should be afraid to show others. The very feminine traits that might sometimes cause douche bags to mistreat or undermine them are the very same traits that make them beautiful to the rest of the world. When I was in the ninth grade, I was horribly bullied… and my bullies were three girls who made fun of me for how much I weighed, for writing, for the clothes I wore, for everything I did. Those girls taught me a valuable lesson…. douche bags aren’t only men. There are people who are going to hurt you no matter who you are or what you do. But those people are the exception to the rule. Most people are kindhearted and trustworthy. I’ve tried to change who I am to fit others—I tried to be “normal” and “perfect” for those who I thought highly of and I’ve tried to stifle parts of myself for those who were unkind to me because I didn’t want to “provoke” them. The truth is, though, other people do not determine my worth as a human being. It does not matter what I could do as a man, it matters what I can do as a woman. When it boils right down to it, I’m not going to waste my time trying to make others see me as their equal; instead, I will just do whatever I have to do to make the most of life for myself and my girls. I strive hard to be a Proverbs 31 woman; if I accomplish that, then I’ve done the best I can do. Life is too short to be a competition. I won’t compete with other women to be the “best” at anything. And if a man thinks buying me dinner is an invitation to my bedroom, then he’s not worth my time.
If I were a boy….
I can’t think of anything to add to that sentence. Good men have qualities that complement and add to my existence as a woman. Good men have the ability to make me feel safe and protected just by being in the same vicinity as me. Do I need protection? No, I can take care of myself, but that’s not the point. The point is, sometimes not having to would make me happy. Good men see my dreams, encourage me, then celebrate my victories with me, all without undermining or patronizing me in any way. I don’t need a reward sticker every time I accomplish something but the point is there are good men who would care about things that are important to me.
If I were a boy, I’d still love playing with my girls. We’ve played football together and I coached my daughter’s soccer team but, if I were a boy, maybe we’d have played more sports-like games. Still, I’m certain we’d have still enjoyed Elephant in the Jungle and Picasso Days. We’d have still loved to set up the tent in the backyard and camp out. We’d still go canoeing and I’d still have taken them to rock climb and zipline. I’d still have played cars and dinosaurs with my youngest when she was interested and I’d still have taken her to the My Little Pony Convention we attended a few months ago. If I were a boy, I’d still brush their hair every morning and make them go to church every Sunday. If I were a boy, I’d still color with them and play Just Dance on the Kinect. If I were a boy, I’d still let them paint on my face and help me cook dinner. If I were a boy, we’d still play in creeks and catch frogs and turtles.
If I were a boy, I’d still love to write. Because of my childhood, I’d likely still write about the same kinds of things but, even if I didn’t, I’m certain the characters would still be my friends. If I were a boy, I’d still want control over what my covers look like. If I were a boy, I’d still have terrible penmanship (but, granted, might not care). I’d still be excited every time I was confirmed for a book signing or speaking event. If I were a boy, I’d still care about the vulnerable kids around the world who are experiencing abuse and neglect. It might have taken me a little longer to do so but, eventually, I would have still come forward, would have still found the courage to turn a terrible chapter in my life into something capable of glorifying God.
If I were a boy, I’d still have strong faith in God. I’d still have attended synagogue. If I were a boy, I’d still find myself praying and re-reading favorite verses. If I were a boy, I’d still know that this earth is a masterpiece of the most talented, most awesome painter in the history of the world. I’d still find myself in awe of things like rainbows and butterflies. If I were a boy, I’d still love the water.
If I were a boy, I’d still find myself wishing for a personal, one-on-one connection with someone I’d trust. And the funny thing is, if I were a boy, I’d long for someone with a passion for life, someone who loved to cook homemade bread and cheese and do silly things in the mornings. If I were a boy, I’d dream of holding a girl who cried during sappy movies (even if she did freak out every now and then over Matthew McConnaughey’s dimpled smile and Louisiana accent). If I were a boy, finding someone who smiled every time I talked to her would be a wonderful thing.
If I were a boy, I’d still be loved by my family and by God.
If I were a boy, I’d still be me.