Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fighting nature

It's boyish! her elder sister said with undisguised horror. I know! I like it! she replied with an indeterminate ratio of younger-sister-automatic-defensiveness and genuine pleasure. I don't think she loves it, asking when she'll be able to wear braids or pony tails again, but she isn't upset by the breeze on her neck. She's spent hours trying to give herself shaken-baby syndrome, whipping her head wildly around for the pleasure of feeling the air move against her shorn locks.

She is the girl who will get mud on her for the joy of stomping in mud and the girl who will climb every tree, railing, post she finds. She is the girl who loves jeans and hooded sweatshirts and rugged Keens just as much as frilly skirts, the one who wants to be a firefighter, who IS, she tells us, already a firefighter.

You could call her 'tomboy' but I've always bristled at the term. Why isn't there a girl-word for this kind of girl? I've called her tomboy, fumbling for something better, but it's descriptive despite its shallow characterization. Maybe after today I won't call her tomboy just as I don't call her middle child. She is who she is, not super girly, content to be called boyish, confident in her demeanor and place on this planet.

I have a girly-girl and boyful boy and one in between, girl but not girly, one who will wear tulle while playing pirate and sequins while chasing a football. She had a sweet bob and now it's gone, but the sugar-and-even-more-spice girl is just the same underneath.

"I left it longer on this side," said the hair salon stylist, "so that you can brush these parts over the short patch." There's a spot at her hairline where she may as well have used clippers. It stands up scraggly and ragged like straw. For all that the stylist tried hard to shape her hair, this girl's head doesn't whorl that way. Her natural part falls open right at the little haybale on her forehead.

Don't touch it anymore, she says with exasperation. I like it. And I need to go play.

And because it is not my place to put more emphasis on beauty than she places there herself, I kiss her on the haybale, and rumple her up the way she likes it, and pat her on mud-spattered bottom. "Go play, Ladybug," I offer.

I almost don't hear her response; she's swept away from me so fast. LADYBUG FIREFIGHTER, YOU MEAN! And she's gone from sight.

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