As a kid with a strong affinity for fantasy, more often than not, I would get caught up in playing house. I didn’t want to be the mom or the sister, though. I wanted to play the boy, and if I couldn’t do that, my second choice was always the dog. I didn’t carry around baby dolls pretending they were mine. I was the son who provided comedy relief, or the dog the cozied up under the table. I wanted to be funny, or I wanted out of the human race.
While on summer break from grade school, I begged my mom to send me to theatre camp. At the risk of having to watch a one-girl show entitled, “YOU DID THIS TO ME,” for three months straight, my mother relented and off I went. Never in my life have I been so confident. One day, the counselor had us read scenes from a play she had written. That’s a pretty great reason to teach theatre camp, really. You get to workshop your stuff and get paid for it. Brilliant. The best part of the play was clearly Teddy, the mischievous little boy, and even though it wasn’t the lead, I begged and begged and begged to be him. There were plenty of boys at camp who could have done it, but none of them wanted it as badly as me. The counselor begrudgingly let me have at it, but when it came to Parents’ Day, she took me aside and suggested maybe it would be better to let one of the boys be Teddy. I was heartbroken, and they failed to bring the character to life, so I hope you're happy with your life choices, counselor. I was regulated to play one of the daughters, who had little to offer the story and spent much of the scene rolling her eyes. I forget if that was written in the script, but it’s what I did all of the same.
During the school year, I took every opportunity to be a boy. I tried renaming myself on several occasions – Cory, Taylor, Alex, Ducky (?) – in hopes someone would let me be somebody else. It never caught on, so I remained Shannon, the girl, and an awkward one at that.
I was happy with my body being female (honestly, no complaints), but I realized early on that boys just get a better deal. They’re encouraged to be leaders, they’re seemingly more carefree, they get all the good jobs that I wanted, and when they were funny, everybody laughed. When I was funny, nobody laughed. I mean, it’s possible that I just wasn’t nearly as funny as I thought I was, but looking around my classroom, it wasn’t just me. Lots of girls tried to crack a joke, and it would fall flat. People just weren’t as receptive to girls being entertaining, and it was maddening.
As I got older, I tried chopping off my hair, wearing oversized hoodies, skateboarding, playing guitar, and trying so hard to blend with the boys, it’s as if I believed that if I blended in enough, I’d eventually be swept up in their success. It wasn’t really until college when I learned to embrace my femininity and be proud that I am a woman who just craves to be better than all of the men.
Would I rather be a boy? Absolutely. But I’m learning to cope.