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It's All Becoming Clear

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I have often heard of people who say they can remember little of their childhoods. Usually, the lack of such memories is associated with some sort of adversity. Or, at least that seems to be the case.

I was an army brat. I enjoyed moving around and seeing new places. The draw-back to that is always leaving friends. I used to believe that my brother and I compenstated for that by being each other's best friend. In the past few weeks, new thoughts have come to mind about my childhood. I'm beginning to think that I didn't really have any friends. I don't think moving around had anything to do with it.

I don't really remember any so-called "best [girl] friend" until junior high. I do remember being made fun of (by girls), or being left out (by everyone). I remember a few occasions where flat out mean things were done to me. I didn't know why. I'm now wondering if perhaps by junior high I had figured out how I needed to act (like any other girl) in order to fit in. I'm wondering if that is perhaps, at least where I was concerned, why my brother and I were so close. I wonder now, considering my brother has told me that I was more like a brother to him, if I was close with my brother because I didn't have to pretend to be something else, and/or because he accepted me the way I was.

It was 9th grade, before I had a "best friend." Until then, I really remember only one girl from when I was in 5th grade, and she wasn't so much a 'best friend' as she was just a good school mate. She was a slight girl, very nervous and flighty. I used to wonder if she was treated right at home. Back then, I didn't know anything about abuse, so I had no words for it. But still I wondered if there was something at home that made her always seem scared. We always rode together on the bus. Somehow, I felt like her protector. I liked her. I think perhaps she was my first crush. However, I did know at that age (or by that age) that I could never tell her I liked her like other boys could tell a girl when they liked them.

It occurred to me that I cannot remember any but one birthday [celebration]. Oddly, if my memory is serving me well, it was a birthday party from when I was very little - under six years old. In contrast, I can remember a few of my brother's birthday celebrations. So I know we celebrated birthdays. Was I not happy with how my birthday was being celebrated? Was I unhappy because it was not the birthday of a little boy, and so that unhappiness has caused me to bury those memories?

Halloween has been a favourite topic - at least among many here at TGG. The ladies especially enjoy/ed halloween because more often than not, it was the one time that people didn't get all bunched up over a male dressed up as Cinderella or a Go-Go Girl. But, despite the fun of halloween, I can only remember three of them from when I was a kid and one as an adult: 1. one year as Casper the Friendly Ghost, very young; 2. two years as the headless horseman, once in elementary school and again years later; 3. one year as an Indian brave. I was 19 or 20 at the time, but I think I was still at home.

Perhaps I remember going out as Casper because, well...he's a boy, though I guess there were girls who dressed up as Casper also - I don't remember. When I went out as the headless horseman, that was an era when people still staunchly applied gender to certain things - it was pretty much assumed that a kid that went trick-or-treating as such a character surely had to be a boy. A girl would not like something so gruesome. Back then, my brother and I were still of an age that my parents would not let us go trick-or-treating alone - my dad always went with us. Because I was the headless horseman, my dad would pretty much have to "steer" me this way and that. It was fun though, because throughout the evening, I constantly heard little girls squealing and shrieks of, "he doesn't have a head!" I dressed again as the headless horseman a few years later because I knew I was more likely to be thought a boy than a girl. The year I dressed as an Indian, my brother and I had gone out for halloween together (I was old enough by then that my parents didn't worry about us being out). No one realized that the Indian brave wasn't really a boy.

I do remember a few more Christmases. And while I played the part of the excited child over the gifts I got, I remember a few occasions where I was jealous of what my brother got, but that jealousy never lasted too long because more often than not, my he and I spent more time playing with his toys than mine. But there were times when he and I played with all the stuffed animals and dolls together. Many of the dolls I had, I changed them into boys.

I remember when I was very little, I had a cowboy hat, and a gun and holster. I also have an electric train set that I got before age five. I have to believe that I had those things because I wanted them since most parents don't voluntarily go out and by girls cowboy hats and guns and trains. What I don't know is when the time came that either I stopped asking for what would usually be considered boys toys because I thought I shouldn't, or my request for such toys were being denied. Or maybe it was a combination of both. Whatever the case, I remember wishing that I had gotten the same kinds of things like my brother... like skateboards and banana bikes, matchbox cars and jeans.

So, I think a person didn't have to suffer physical or mental abuse, or a parent trying to beat the boy (or girl) out of a child. I think unhappiness over not being able to express our true gender can blot out chunks of our memories. But then...what fondness can be had for those memories, so what's the sense in remembering...

-Michael


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