My Tomboy Dilemma: Get Rid of Your Boxes

This is my first post in quite a long time. In the past, I’ve been fairly inflexible in the way I decided to manage this blog. It was to be about goal setting, accomplishments, and accountability. There was this self-binding, internal agreement that every title had to labeled by the day, and every post had to be empowering and motivating. I mean… “how dare you” share any thoughts or ideas outside of that?

So yeah… I’ve decided to throw that out of the window. I’ve never been one to fit into boxes.

Just this morning while preparing for my dentist appointment, I got dressed in my typical gray, fitted t-shirt and black, Nike training pants. I had it all planned out. There wasn’t really much thought required. I’m a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl. I always have been, but just as I was done getting dressed, I gazed at myself in the mirror and thought, “Wait… should I take a minute to apply eyeliner. No, who has time for that? Yesterday, I had a big meeting, so of course, I was fly, makeup and all. But… every day? Who has time for makeup every day?” These were my thoughts. Now for those of you who don’t know. Makeup isn’t easy for me. Over the past five years, I’ve probably worn makeup ten times, and one of the ten days was my wedding day. I’m no expert. It really takes time for me to do it, and even when I’m done, I question the quality. I’m constantly looking in the mirror throughout the entire day to make sure I’m not too shiny or that nothing is out of place. It’s just too much work.

As a matter a fact, it was in January of 2012 when I found myself sitting in the parking lot of Dayton Mall crying; seriously, crying – like “boo-hoo” crying –  for two reasons. I was about a year into my engagement to be married and soon to take off for a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico. My fiance and I had scheduled to have our engagement photos taken there. I had nothing to wear and no one to do my makeup. The day started with me confidently walking into the mall thinking I would find a couple of cute outfits, but the makeup part was terrifying. Now, you might ask, “what exactly lead to you crying in your car?” First, the lady in the Express store told me they didn’t carry my size 14 jeans in the store, and I would have to order them online. So was she calling me fat? I’m pretty sure she called me fat. Then I went over to the MAC counter. All of the makeup artists were white. What?!?! White girls can’t do makeup on a black girl… Right?

I was devastated. I rushed to my car and immediately let it all out. When I was done, I went back inside, and I asked “the white girl” to do my makeup. She proved me 100% wrong. Not only did she do my makeup like a boss, she took the time to teach me so that I could do it on my own in Puerto Rico. To this day I still covet and use her paint-by-number illustration. I had put her in a box. Based on what? Her skin color? That day, I decided to get rid of that box.

Throughout my life, I’ve been categorized and placed into boxes by others. At a very young age, I was labeled a tomboy because I enjoyed and excelled at the game of basketball and other neighborhood sports. I’m actually okay with being labeled a tomboy, but what bothers me is how much effort I put into not being seen as anything other than a tomboy. I literally would cringe at the thought of being seen in a dress by any of my classmates. I was an hour late to my eighth grade prom because my mom wanted me to wear makeup and I refused because it didn’t align with the identity that was placed upon me. I was a tomboy. I can’t wear makeup. I can’t wear dresses. People will not accept me. That’s just one box that at such an early age I learned to shrink myself down to fit into. I remember my senior year in high school, I had classmates who were surprised when I announced that I would be attending Clemson University for college. I guess they couldn’t conceptualize the idea that I didn’t fit into their “dumb athlete” box. I can hear it almost as clearly as the day my friend said it, “Don’t let those girls at Clemson turn you out now!” What?!?! I didn’t even know I was in the “lesbian” box! And even as an adult, regardless if it relates to my career, my car, my house, my attire, my parenting; I continue to be placed into boxes.

The reality is that no one person is small enough to fit into any box. Our identities are a recipe of our life experiences, mixed with culture, ethnicity, and so much more. Every one of us is unique in our own way. So stand tall in your definition of who you are, and accept the idea that you may still be figuring it out, but don’t shrink yourself down into someone else’s box.

Let’s talk about it. Who are you?