The Overgrown Tomboy

In retrospect, I think I’ve spent half my life defending being a woman, and the other half wishing I wasn’t. Egypt is a patriarchal society, where men call all the shots and have all the fun – well, except when it comes to traffic police. Meanwhile, us women either attempt to fight the status quo and get labeled whores or feminists, or we’re stuck in a Stepford Wives-like nightmare. Yes, I generalize. But Stepford Wives scared the shit out of me.

I’ve envied men ever since the age of six – until then, I was running, climbing trees and playing hide and seek with the boys in my neighbourhood.  Then one day, my mother informed me that it was time to put on the top half of my two-piece swimsuit instead of running around in shorts (I apparently spent the first 2.5 years of my life running around naked in people’s gardens , which makes for very awkward small talk 20 years later when I run into them).

I remember being absolutely indignant at my mother’s request.

‘Why should I?’ I hollered, ‘The other boys don’t wear tops.’

‘You’re not a boy, dear,’ my mother sighed. ‘You’re a girl.’

‘So what? I climb faster than them, and some of them cry like girls.’

It’s true. I remember a whiner called Sherif who would run blubbering to his nanny every time he got hurt while tree climbing. Yes, I was a tree climber and crying boys were sissies.

‘You’re not the same as boys, dear,’ my long-suffering mother tried again.

‘Why? What do they have that I don’t?’

An anatomy book landed on my bed the next day.

My mother tried to hammer into my stubborn head that my body was going to change and I would have to wear tops like all the other girls. I was horrified, and pursued a valiant two-year campaign of running, jumping and climbing things to outrun this garish nightmare. Eventually, the bastard known as puberty hit me, and I was suddenly expected to play with Barbie dolls, nail polish and wear pink frilly things and not climb trees anymore.

Fast-forward twenty something years later, and I still find myself often wishing I was a man, instead of being a gender that is physically, emotionally, and socially prevented from doing everything I want to.

It’s funny to realize that the possession of boobs holds you back more than it helps you. To my male counterparts and my community, my gender is a liability, one that attracts attention and trouble, both for me and for them.  And as a former tomboy, I’ve come up with a practical list of why it sucks to be a female:

–          Can’t pee standing up

–          Can’t pee standing up in groups by the road side

–          Burping is unladylike

–          The word dainty

–          Etiquette

–          Brazilian wax

–          Threading

–         Sexual harassment

–         People who justify sexual harassment

–         Society’s expectation of you producing kids like guinea pigs before you’re thirty

–          Disappointing your parents by not producing kids like guinea pigs before you’re thirty

–          Disappointing your parents by being female (‘I wish I’d had five boys instead of you. They’d have been much easier to handle.’)

–          Not being allowed to joyride a microbus

–           Or to hitchhike

–          As a journalist, not being able to crack into underground men-only worlds of prostitution and drug dealing

–          Underwire bras and high heels (motherfucker who invented them deserves to be eye-gorged)

–          Ladies’ clubs

–          Egyptian weddings

–          Being cajoled into the bouquet catching ceremony at Egyptian weddings

–          3o2balek

–          having periods

–          Nadia El Guindy

–          Women hanging out in the ladies’ room, or even worse, insisting on coming into the stall to keep talking while you pee

–          Self Help Books

–          Talking about Self Help books

–          Thinking Self Help books will actually explain men

–          Having a cat means you’re one step away from Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction

–          The existence of Female Genital Mutilation till today

–          Oprah Winfrey

–          ‘You’re so cute when you’re angry.’

–          Not being able to jog shirtless like Omar Sharif’s grandson

–          Chest bumping is awkward

I could go on but I kind of forgot the point of this list. I like making lists. They make me feel efficient. Sometimes I’ll write things that I’ve already done on the list so that I can cross them off and congratulate myself on being accomplished. [Day One: Get out of bed. Check.]

Honestly, life was so much easier when the measure of my worth was how high I could climb or far I could swim, and not how dignified I behave while politely eating a burger. Note: there is no demure way of eating burgers, watermelon, crabs, mussels, mangoes and spaghetti -my mother once told me: ‘Never eat spaghetti in front of the man you love, dear. The way you eat it, he’ll never love you again.’

And frankly, I do often prefer my male friends’ company to my girlfriends’. Conversations are so much simpler – and often monosyllabic – and do not involve detailed, blow-by-blow accounts of HelookedatmethenIlookedathimthenhesaidtomebutIsaidtohimsohewalkedawaydoeshelovemebutIhatehimletsfacebookstalkhim.


Me: Blablablablablablablabla

Male: Uhuh.

Me: Blablablablablablablablablablablabla

Male: Cool.

Me: I’m so glad we talked.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t hate women nor do I hate being a woman, it’s just that this whole being feminine thing often perplexes me; especially when we spend hours of tweaking, sweating, squeezing and straightening our bodies, faces, clothes and minds to please our other halves who are meanwhile lounging in stained sweats in front of the TV with their feet on the table laughing at Beavis and Butthead.  I mean, I can wear a dress and everything, but I’ve been such a tomboy/klutz my whole life with arms and legs that always get in the way that if you looked at my knees you’d think I was a) a football player b) a mountain climber c) a man.

Let me make another list (yay!) to explain:

–          There’s a photo of me when I was two years old with a black eye. I apparently gave it to myself by punching spoon into face.

–          I have stopped ironing because every time I’d iron, I’d accidentally iron over a finger or into my arm. Hello burn marks.

–          I once dripped burning hot wax onto my leg. I stared at it for a good two minutes (still burning) then reached for a towel. And wiped the floor instead.

–          I can’t slice anything or open a can without cutting into my thumb and bleeding everywhere dramatically

–          I once stuck my hand into a hot toaster to see if it was hot enough, then burnt all the skin off my fingers.

–          I set my fringe on fire after lighting the oven and didn’t notice until the smell of burning hair filled the room minutes later

–          I am the only person I know who was injured by sand after reaching for a Frisbee and scraping all the skin off my leg on the beach. My friends died laughing.

–          My baby toes are permanently disfigured from running into table legs and sharp objects

–          I sat on a glass table. I fell into the glass table.

–          I once bumped into the fridge and apologized. To the fridge.

Once again, I can’t remember the point of this list, but I think what I was trying to write something profound about being a woman, etc. Err. Yeah. I think.



Filed under Blame The Parents

16 responses to “The Overgrown Tomboy

  1. OH MY GOD, Suzie! I LOVE your writing! This made me laugh, and I so bloody relate x

    Someone give this girl a book deal!

  2. LOL! So true, I often day dream about riding on the roof of a microbus, or even better a train-in India. And 3o2balek is by far the worst part of it, IMO. Oh and shaving/waxing/heels/bras. Makeup, why should I plaster gunge all over my face to ‘look pretty’? Meh.

  3. i luuv it and i cudn’t relate more!

  4. efjnfekjnsfkjsw

    I read this while listening to “The Immigrant Song – Girl With the Dragon Tattoo S.T.”

    Let me start off by saying your article was rather funny )) but in a nice way

    We’re not very common in backgrounds or destinations but I would relate to some of what you said, generally about accepting rules we haven’t made – Won’t everyone relate ! – and I personally liked the parts where you Enlisted about you longing to your tomboy personality. Any way…If I may take the liberty to add:

    – Boys will be boys , girls will be no fear there of thinking or implying that you’re a guy-ish girl – I’m trying to find a nice way of saying you won’t necessarily be perceived as gay – Although that’d be a good teaser

    – The only reason behind this Feminine lifestyle thing from A to Z – what I call the MBC4 Syndrome – is purely commercial. Aaand we’re successfully falling for it since the 18th century, more or less.

    – There is Nothing that can tell a girl what she can do and what she can’t do other than common sense and her own interests. Least I think there shouldn’t be any.

    – The main reason (not the only one) men tend to Show off Masculinity and women show off their Femininity, I think, was, should be and mostly is a sort of Mating Call. Kinda like رقصة أنثى الضفدع فى موسم التزاوج

    – Just because you don’t Act like the rest of your wolfpack – so to speak – doesn’t make it wrong. Matter of fact I’m looking forward to the day Girls would jog more than guys and guys turning to funny copies of Homer.

    Why did I write all of this…Idk, just felt relevant…تقبلى مرورى ومشكووووور على الموضوع يالغلا

  5. From one fellow former Tom boy to another, I feel your frustration! We are both in the same boat. However, women like us have something that men like, simplicity, bluntness and they don’t feel as though they are tip toeing on egg-shells around us. What they don’t like is that we don’t make them feel needed or manly like the other damsels do. It’s a catch 22.
    I am 34 year young woman of mixed ethnicity, proud and still single. I have no regrets about it. I would rather remain this way than be married for the wrong reasons or for the sake of being married, with the high expectations to produce an heir to a family fortune or a litter to keep the family name going.
    won’t like I do occasionally feel lonely and in need of companionship, especially when going to weddings, engagments or other social functions. It is nice being able to walk in to a venue on the arm of a dashing man and not being the only single female standing when the bride throws the bouquet (a load of hog wash by the way, I caught it 3 yrs ago and still NOTHING). When I hear the drama of my friends relationships…, let’s just say I become grateful that I can go home to a quiet and problem free house hold.

    As for never eating spaghetti in front of the man you love… sound advice! I did that once in front of the guy and his family, all my mother’s years of teaching me sterling table manners went out the window!

    Being a woman can be quite empowering if you know how to use your talents wisely, but it does come at a heavy price. We are an evil speicies of temptresses who pray on vulnerable men and their weaknesses, so we are to blame for all that is wrong with the world. We curse them with our distracting curves… no wonder we were burned at the stake!

    Great Post! Really enjoyed it.

  6. girl, i feel you!
    my egyptian mother is constantly nagging me about online dating (yes, it’s come to that) to find someone, because apparently, “i’m not doing anything on my own”, and “it’s time for me to find someone”- i’m 26. living in europe. half swiss. my dad just looks at me, and winks. i love my dad 🙂
    love your writing!

  7. I love your writing 🙂
    I think you would love the book “How to be a woman” by Caitlin Moran, it is described as a feminist “rant” / memoir that touches all those points you are talking about, and it’s hilarious.

  8. Liked your writing style…..nice post

  9. I’m surprised that ‘periods’ wasn’t first on your list.. that would definately be my first because when THAT happened- everything changed. Being a woman can really suck.

  10. Julia

    This is so amazingly true! Btw, knees without scars don’t deserve to be called knees, my opinion 😉

  11. Anonymous

    Young woman, you’re good, don’t stop writing.

  12. The story of my life total klutz nice to find other fellow tomboys living the daily nightmare of “why can’t you act like other women”, but you forgot one thing that is also forbidden for us to do or else we ‘ll be called sluts ( when you see a guy you really like you can’t say anything unless he shows his feelings first and while waiting you see someone else who knows how to use her feminine wiles drags him away and you end up marrying just for the sake of marriage ( social obligation if it’s without love) and having kids so not to live lonley with your cat/dog – ever wonder why even abroad they consider revealing your feelings to your crush as being forward while a complete stranger can come up to you and declares that he wants to marry you? Sorry if my comment seems irrelvant but seriously when the time comes you will find that everything pales next to it.

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  14. My partner and I stumbled over here by a different page and thought I should check things out.
    I like what I see so i am just following you.
    Look forward to going over your web page again.

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