I was a tomboy as a kid. Now that I think of it I still feel like a tomboy as a woman. I like to play male characters on stage...it’s a nice release from the expectation of gender. But I digress, I used to deflect being bullied or sexualized by taking on many forms of aggression be it, verbal via humor or physical. I had red hair and a voice in the octave of gerbil...I needed some defense tactics. I was the fastest runner in my school and I would engage in what we liked to call monkey bar wars, where two kids would start on either end of the monkey bars and meet in the middle and try to push the other off. I always won. I had really strong upper body strength and there was this aggression inside of me, this need to be seen as strong. I was constantly trying to turn my pain into strength. Puffing my chest to the world.
I volunteered to be the bus patrol, which suited my need to assert authority despite my soft appearance. There was this boy named Curtis on my route, who always antagonized everyone on the bus. I can’t even remember an example of what he would say but he liked to call people names and spew unnecessary confrontations. One morning, I had enough with him, I rolled up my newspaper, and in front of the 7 am packed bus smacked him with it until he was silent. Everyone cheered for me and I felt a mixture of adrenaline and extreme guilt. I knew that resorting to physical confrontations was not how I wanted to operate and yet I felt a rush of self respect for finally doing something about a frustration we all felt. It was an assertion that just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean you can mess with me. Looking back now, Curtis was hurting too, he was bullied extensively and ended up having to leave public school. He didn’t seem to be able to develop social skills to make friends which must have deeply affected him. I remember seeing him on the outskirts of dances watching the rest of us have fun. He too was caged in his own version of aggression.
*names have been changed in this story to maintain anonymity.