When I Was a Boy

I have absolutely nothing to say for myself at the moment, so, instead of a proper entry, here’s the next installment of my occasional series of “Embarrassing Photos of Me as a Child”. I call this one, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”:

Oh, I’ve come a long way, baby. You see, although I was to grow up to edit a website about shoes and own more makeup than Sephora (actually, come to think of it, I more or less own Sephora’s makeup. All of it.), what most people don’t know about me is that I started life as a tomboy. In fact, when my friend Ed saw this picture (on my 21st birthday, when my parents blew it up to giant proportions and taped it to the door of my bedroom at University, no less), he looked at it for a few long minutes before saying, “Yes, you were a nice little boy, weren’t you?” And you know what? I totally was. I was a PROPER boy. I was always dirty. I was always on my bike. I would sometimes frighten little sissy girls by pretending to be the Incredible Hulk. I liked to collect worms…

Actually, no, that’s not quite true. I didn’t collect worms – I just used to “rescue” them. You know how when it rains, all the worms come up out of the earth and you sometimes find them on the path, dying? I was their Avenging Angel. I used to rescue them, and by “I used to rescue them” I mean “I used to pick them up, put them in my jacket pocket or in the little box which sat on the back of my bike, and then forget about them.” The poor worms. My poor parents, who would unsuspectingly put my jacket in the wash and… well, you know.

This picture was taken at what was probably the height of my tomboy phase. As you can see, I look dirty, tousled, and as if I’ve just been in a fight. Which I probably had. The swing was not mine: it belonged to the kids next door, who were the type of kids who weren’t allowed to play with their dolls in case they got them dirty, and who almost certainly wouldn’t have been allowed on the swing in case it messed up their hair or something. Clearly I had no such concerns. They were always clean and perfect, and actually, come to think of it, God knows how they were ever allowed to associate with the likes of me. In fact, they probably weren’t. I probably broke in to use the swing and decapitate their Barbies or something.

Anyway, the man of the house next door liked to go fishing, so one day as I was out “rescuing” some worms, an idea came to me. I went to the house next door and rang the doorbell. When the lady of the house opened it and smiled down at me, I gave her my most charming smile in return, and told her I had brought a present for her husband – something that he could use on his fishing trips. “Oh, isn’t that nice!” she exclaimed, holding out her hand and closing her eyes as instructed. You can probably see where I’m going with this…

Yes, into the open hand of The Lady Next Door, I placed…. a handful of wriggling worms, sill covered in the mud I had just pulled them from. I meant well, my mum explained later, once the lady had been revived and the worms were back where they belonged (in my jacket pocket). I though the Man of the House might like to use my worm friends as bait. I meant no harm. (Other than to the worms, obviously). The apology was accepted. The worms lived to fight another day. Well, probably not, actually, but let’s just pretend they did.

I don’t know why, though, but when I think about it now, I like to think I did it deliberately…

(I won’t forget when Peter Pan came to my house, took my hand
I said I was a boy; I’m glad he didn’t check.
I learned to fly, I learned to fight
I lived a whole life in one night
We saved each other’s lives out on the pirate’s deck.

And I remember that night
When I’m leaving a late night with some friends
And I hear somebody tell me it’s not safe,
someone should help me
I need to find a nice man to walk me home.

When I was a boy, I scared the pants off of my mom,
Climbed what I could climb upon
And I don’t know how I survived,
I guess I knew the tricks that all boys knew.

And you can walk me home, but I was a boy, too.

I was a kid that you would like, just a small boy on her bike
Riding topless, yeah, I never cared who saw.
My neighbor came outside to say, “Get your shirt,”
I said “No way, it’s the last time I’m not breaking any law.”

And now I’m in this clothing store, and the signs say less is more
More that’s tight means more to see, more for them, not more for me
That can’t help me climb a tree in ten seconds flat

When I was a boy, See that picture? That was me
Grass-stained shirt and dusty knees
And I know things have gotta change,
They got pills to sell, they’ve got implants to put in,
they’ve got implants to remove

But I am not forgetting…that I was a boy too

~ Dar Williams, When I Was a Boy )

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  • I still am a bit of a tomboy. I just like girly things a little more. But I would still rather spend my time at a football game, drinking beer and belching out loud.

    I was in the tom boy phase (with the clothes, the hair, etc.) for way too long. Like until I was 21.

    October 23, 2007
  • I was always very much a girly girl…but I think I looked like a boy as a baby!

    October 24, 2007
  • Amber! That is so adorable. I was never really a tomboy but I always wanted to be. I just couldn't stand dirt.

    October 24, 2007