I wanted to be one until mamu (bless her trusting heart) gave me an assignment to write about this tomboy turned chick. This (copied below) was the first draft i submitted. It still went through some revisions before it was printed.
“I was in second year high school when I started courting this girl. I would send her love letters, give her gifts, spend all recess and lunch breaks with her – your basic ligaw moves,” Sam shares. “But then I got confused. I started thinking if she was what I really wanted. I decided she wasn’t and so I stopped – just like that.”
No surprises here really. This is how most high school romances end anyway and we all know that this is how most boys would choose to end it – just stop cold, no warning, no tips, no heads up. At some point, we girls have found ourselves looking through a glass window on a rainy day listening to sappy songs wondering “Why isn’t he writing me anymore? Why isn’t he calling? What did I do wrong?”
Sam’s story however is not your usual run of the mill boy-fizzling-out story. She actually went through a thorough self-reflection before she stopped writing those letters. Nope. Those were not typos. Sam is a she. A chick. A sister. One of us. And a beautiful member of the fold at that.
“It was a confusing time,” she explains. “High school was different and I didn’t really know who I was yet.”
It was the shift from a co-ed grade school to an exclusive girls high school that rattled Sam’s world. She grew up like most of us did. Hating boys and, yet, somehow fascinated by them. She had her share of crushes. Actually, she confides to having more than her share of crushes. Being young still though (nene pa), she never gave any of them serious thought.
High school for her, on the other hand, was a completely new playing field. For the young and highly impressionable, the littlest of influences can totally rock one’s self identity, if not alter it altogether. And this was exactly the kind of situation Sam found herself in.
“There were two sets of girls in high school,” she tells us. “There were the girly-girly, kikay girls who were so into their hair and dressing up. Then there were the tomboys. The ones who had their hair cut like a guy, who dressed in baggy pants and loose shirts,” she expounds.
Its easy to understand how a girl who neither falls into one of these two extremes can get confused. High school, its been said more than once, is a survival zone. You can’t afford to be neutral. The ‘loser’ label will be cast on anyone who stands out and not being in a group will definitely make one stand out. In an all-girl school, the divide is more apparent. If one were to survive high school, one must choose which group they belong to and commit themselves to it.
Although Sam wasn’t entirely sure who she was yet, she knew exactly who she wasn’t. She wasn’t one to spend an hour fixing her hair. She wasn’t one who would lose sleep over a zit. She wasn’t one to wear skirts and tight-fitting shirts. The decision seemed obvious, she belonged to the tomboy category.
She had her first crush on a girl when she was a freshman. She was a member of the school theatre group and so was she. They spent a lot of time together during meetings, rehearsals and get-togethers and she found herself being drawn to the nice junior whom everybody liked. But nothing resulted from this crush except a casual friendship.
It did start something though. From then on, she, and her other friends, started having crushes on this girl or that but it was pretty much just talk until her sophomore year.
It was a girl from another class, also a tomboy, who pretty much made Sam take her first steps towards that direction. She had a crush on her, she admits that much, but she wasn’t prepared to take any further steps. Her friends, however, thought differently.
“I was pressured to court her,” Sam confesses. “My friends, despite my hesitation, encouraged me to go for her.” And so started the love letters and sweet gifts. “I would pick her up from her class and we would take our breaks together. That sort of thing,” she adds.
One day though, the truth became harder to ignore. “I really thought about it and I decided that it just wasn’t right for me.”
Making the decision to stop courting the girl was easier than making the decision to start ‘becoming’ a girl. After all, being a tomboy was the only life she knew and all around her were friends in the same boat.
On her junior year in high school, life decided to give her a little twist to help her think clearly. What she thought would be a simple appendectomy turned out to be something more serious. They found a huge cyst in her right ovary. At such a young age, she was faced with the thought that do not usually hit women until their late twenties – what if I won’t be able to have kids.
That was when she realized that deep inside, she wanted children of her own and, with that, a husband beside her. “It suddenly became very clear and uncomplicated. For the first time in my life, I knew exactly who I was and what I wanted in life.”
Thus, the make-over begins.
The first move was to stop wearing her hair like Portia Ilagan. She didn’t just start growing her locks, she started styling it as well (don’t scoff, this is a very big step.) Next to go were her clothes. Her baggy pants and her loose collared shirts were packed and sent to Eloys. Her skin felt textile for the first time as she bought her first baby tee and bootleg pants. Her shoes suffered the same fate. Bye bye loafers, hello open-toed sandals.
“Its funny ‘cause I really felt awkward when I tried on bootleg pants for the first time. It was definitely a big change.”
Expanding her wardrobe was not the only thing that needed to be done and she knew it. She then proceeded to expanding her circle of friends. “I decided to give the girly-girl groups a chance and surprisingly, I had fun with them also,” she admits. “I started going out and meeting new people and I started having crushes on guys again and it felt right for me.”
I’m sure Sam is not the only girl who has been through something like this. Some of them believe that it is their true identity. For a good number of them though, it’s a choice imposed upon them by their environment and their friends. The self-uncertainty that we all have at that age (and that some of us never get to resolve) also does not help.
Our puberty is defined by our high school years. At this stage, our hormones are raging and, emotionally, we start wanting for the romantic kind of love. In an all-girl set-up, the problem is obvious, with a blatant lack of the male specie, the females are left to fend for themselves. The tomboys assume the role by filling up the void that the absent gender fails to do.
In a smaller arena, take the theatre for example, women will take on men roles should there be none around. For some, the role playing continues even long after the play has ended. What is as profound as discovering one’s true self is simplified by the most basic tenet of economics; the law of supply and demand. We need men – we get men by becoming men.
Aside from economics, our woman nature might even mislead us. Girls, unlike boys, are more appreciative of beauty and will not hesitate to admit it. Which is why we don’t have a problem proclaiming our affection for Angelina Jolie whereas you will never hear a guy admit that they just can’t get enough of Brad Pitt. So some young girls might start thinking but why do I find her so hot. I must be gay. Which is not always the case. But once that mentality sets in, it might be hard to erase it.
It is easy for a girl to fall into that trap. What is scarier is that its even easier to stay in it. Sam is lucky that she was able to figure things out at a young age. When I ask her if she would have discovered what she really wanted if she did not have that scare of not having children, she hesitates before she answers. “It might have probably taken me longer but I believe that eventually I would have figured it out just the same.”
Unfortunately, not everyone is able to find themselves as Sam did. “Some of my tomboy friends are still the same. In some of them, I really feel that they are where they need to be to be happy. But for some, I still feel that they were trapped into it because they don’t know any better. And that really makes me sad.”
Looking at Sam today, one will never suspect that her teen years were fraught with confusion. She’s become your typical hair tossing, belly button-bearing hot chick. Her life is not worry-free mind you. Like most of us, she fell in love (yes with a guy) and had her heart shattered to bits as well. But with a firmer grasp on who she is, she is able to overcome these problems with a smile on her made-up face and she is able to move on at the snap of her manicured finger.