[Exercise: Tell me a memory associated with a bicycle. The spokes. The wheels. The narrow seat.]

a girl who dresses and acts like a boy, especially in playing physical games that boys usually play

When I was ten I wanted a BMX or Mongoose bike more than anything. My want, my longing was so intense, the bike felt like an extension of myself—part of my identity—and just like the kind of boys who rode BMXs, I felt free and tough like them. I played tackle football after school in front of my babysitter’s house, and my punch, thrown in the face when called for, stung, like a boy’s. My father’s gift of a light blue, hand-me-down Huffy with a banana seat was crushing, but being the good child that I was I bought a can of black spray paint and got to work. I rode the darn thing because my fear of getting left behind paled in comparison to my embarrassment of riding an ugly, sissy bike.

As I reflect upon the “me” then, I see a curious, free, and unafraid tomboy. I think my parents saw a “niña bonita.” I wanted to take karate and play drums. Instead I took flute, ballet, voice lessons. I felt most comfortable in plaid and flannel button-down, cotton shirts, jeans torn at the knees, and tennis shoes with laces undone. I liked my hair long, uncombed, and slightly covering my face. Once my mother snapped a photo and said, “One day, you’ll look back and feel embarrassed.” I don’t blame my parents for seeing the girl in me: she’s certainly there, but so is this other part that doesn’t give a damn what others think and who just wants to be her-self—the self that be-longs-only-to-her-and-her-alone.

[After I wrote this I asked my mother if she remembered how badly I wanted a BMX bike. She said she never knew anything about it. I’m reminded of the tendency introverts have to keep their feelings inside. I wonder how my life might have been different had I learned to be more open and outspoken.]  


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