You're Just a Girl
Growing up, I don't think there was any phrase I hated more than, "You're just a girl. My immediate reaction was always to show "them" that I could do anything that a boy could do. My Dad actually encouraged me. He was the epitome of the Southern outdoorsman (I'd say Hillybilly, but some family members read this. My Dad objects to the term Hillbilly although I frequently call myself a transplanted Hillybilly. You know, Jeff whats-his-face's "You might be a redneck jokes?" They ALL fit our part of the country!)
My Dad taught me some of his country craft. I could out shoot my male city slicker cousins; I drove tractors; I could put together the transmission on a car; I could re-wire small appliances and pick cotton. I could also skin a squirrel; dress a chicken (That involves this icky, messy process of removing feathers and "innards"); scale a fish and milk a cow. He wouldn't let my sister or I drive until we could change a tire to his satisfaction. He had his limitations, though, on what his daughters could do. Things my Dad deemed inappropriate for girls included changing the oil in a car, using hammer and nails, bucking bails and chopping cotton for hire.
When my uncle received two pair of boxing gloves for christmas, I was anxious to try my hand at a new skill, one I knew was not intended for "girls."
"Aww, c'mon. I can box," I wheedled.
"You're jest a girl!" He challenged me. "And besides you're only eleven years old. I'm fourteen," he added.
The "just a girl" remark did it. My mind was made up.
"Okay. We'll make it fair," I bargained.
After some consultation with the troup of younger cousins and an uncle there, a deal was struck. Dale would box with one hand behind his back. I could use both gloved hands.
The sparring began. I started with short jabs that he easily blocked. He tried some jabs that I blocked. The cheering section was bored. They egged us on. Finally he got a good cross to my nose. I retaliated by going in head down with hard body hits. He wasn't expecting this pummeling of his midsection and staggered backward more in astonishment than at my attack. Unfortunately, there was a window behind him.
The tinkling of falling shards of glass broke the sudden silence.
Then we sprang into futile action. Dale and I quickly jerked off the boxing gloves and stashed them under the couch. Someone brought a rag to stop my nose bleed. No one touched the glass as we all raced to sit properly on the sofa and chairs.
His mother entered to an idyllic scene of her lovely children and grandchildren seated primly on the furniture, hand in their laps, smiles on their silent faces. Did I mention there was broken glass everywhere?
After much inept hand-wringing and moaning about the broken window and my bleeding nose, she wandered back into the kitchen still muttering, "What will Roy do?". We looked at one another in amazement. Mostly her diatribe was aimed at Dale, which I thought unfair since I knew I was equally if not more guilty than he.
"That's it?" We were never sure who said what we were all thinking.
"I can't believe she's blaming me for it all," Dale pondered.
"Maybe it's because I'm a girl," I offered tentatively.
"Just wait 'til your dad gets here!" Dale reminded me.
"What will Roy do?" Ah yeah! Roy was my dad, noted for severe discipline, as I knew well. The girl thing didn't usually matter to him.
We spent the rest of the afternoon quietly, playing chess or checkers, staring at a book, or just sitting around wondering what our fate would be when "Roy" arrived. He was the one who'd have to fix the window, too.
To my immense surprise when my Dad arrived to pick up my sister and I, his anger focused on Dale. He reamed him out royally. When I recognized the lay of the land, I smiled angelically at Dale from behind my father's back, mouthing, "I'm just a girl."
It lessened the sting of that remark just a bit to know that, sometimes, it worked in my favor.