Tom Boy

The Life Of A Tom Boy (Part 1)

When I was a young girl, I was very much a tom boy. I grew up with two rather aggressive, boisterous brothers, a father who wanted nothing more than for me to fit in as ‘one of the boys’ and a very self-contained mother who didn’t like doing girly things with me like talking about clothes, doing our nails, being cute or anything like that.

I was raised for fighting, trash-talking and working with life as I got on with it – ‘boy-style’. I often think it was because they were accustomed to raising boys, and I suppose they didn’t think things should have been much different when it came to raising a girl aside from offering her girly things like party dresses or Barbie dolls I never really knew what to do with.

As a young girl, pretty much all my friends were female friends. I never tried to make friends – I was a friendly albeit introverted girl – kind of nerdy but cute. But I was always nice to whoever made their way to me and wanted to keep me around, because I needed people to have friends as too, right? I generally liked people that liked me.

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I guess we did have our fun. Girls would team up against boys in running games during lunchtime and after school – our teams were always very competitive. The girls in my primary school had a similar mindset to me in that we enjoyed winning. We enjoyed having clever fun and we liked being able to show the boys that we were just as good as them in spite of what they thought. However, when it came to social dynamics, I always realized there always ended up being a hierarchy in the way we communicated. As female kids, at least.

Tom Boy
Tom Boys. (Credit: TOMBOYISH)

I knew a girl named Amalia* – she was strong, bright and sweet. Her mother was very strict – I didn’t know how she could deal with her military tactics and still be so happy. I was happy to be a friend in her three-person group, even if she could be detached sometimes. We spent our lunchtimes exploring and playing games, but I did take note that she always played the ‘leader’.

Whatever led to this leader complex doesn’t really matter, but I always did feel a little bit aimless and pointless wasting time playing the imaginative games and going on the imaginary adventures she came up with because I could somewhat tell it didn’t really matter so much that it was us with her, even if she enjoyed her company – she just needed a group to have her fun with. And I happened to be a part of that.

The same thing happened with a three-person group I was part of – we were like the Powerpuff Girls, haha – with a girl named Lucy*. Even if the social contexts were slightly different, the relationship dynamics were the same. There were two types of girls in those scenarios – the girls who wanted to lead the other girls for themselves, and the girls who let themselves be led for no real reason.

I never consciously distanced myself from these relations because they were my classmates and we had light fun, but once we were in different classes the next year, I didn’t hold on because I knew what we had wasn’t built to last. It was merely friendship for the sake of convenience. We didn’t know much of anything about each other as individuals, nor did we discuss anything consequential – we were really just killing time.

And then there were the one-on-one relationships. There was a family friend I had named Grace – my mother and hers were old friends. I used to stay over at her house every few weekends for a very long time. She was a youngest daughter like me, with two older siblings as well, but she had a very different background – she was raised with staunch Christian ethics & habits, also very strictly by her parents who didn’t make many allowances for her in respect to results.

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She never tried to boss me around the way other girls did – as a matter of fact, she preferred it when I took the lead, which is an imposition I resent being pressured to be on the receiving end of to this day.

I didn’t mind sharing my company with her, things came to a point where I was being pressured to sleep over at her house more and more often because she really loved her siblings who were away for studies and she was lonely, not to mention that I truly already saw enough of the girl, as she carpooled back and forth to school with me and my brothers every single day and I had at least 4 hours of tuition with her every week.

Tom Boy
Tom Boy (Credit: She’

Eventually, I was sleeping over at her house, and somehow one night turned into two because she wanted me to spend more time with her. I decided that was fine.

Two nights turned into three, and I can’t remember how long this went on, but eventually I was so stressed out (I felt so unwillingly alienated from my own life and at the idea of being expected to feel joy at the idea that I was allowed to spend so much time with a friend because ‘she wanted me around’ when I had already made it clear for a long time I wanted to go home) I ended up crying like a little girl all the way until my mother arrived to pick me up and bring me home.

Another incidence with a slightly different context played out very similarly with a girl named Sharifah. She was a new friend I’d made in Standard 4, and she could be a little bit of a materialistic diva (which was prominent to me, from a girl who was just as privileged as her at the time from the sound/looks of things) but she seemed to like me enough for me to not mind spending time with her since she was nice to me and we liked to have fun.

We had a Sports Day event, and I slept over at her house because she lived much closer to the venue and I didn’t see why it couldn’t be fun. Things were fine, and after Sports Day, she asked me to come home with her so my parents could pick me up from there. There was no way in hell my parents were coming to a faraway stadium to pick me up, so of course I went with it.

Tom Boy
A Tom Boy

But when we got back to her house, she begged me not to go home. Her siblings were also away studying. She made it clear she was very lonely. I felt bad for her, and I guess I thought I didn’t mind, so I stayed. But again, one night turned into two, which turned into her begging for a third and then a fourth, which was the night I again snapped and could not stop crying until my mother arrived to pick me up from home. After that, our relationship stagnated and was a little awkward, but I figured that was that.

Now, later that year, a group of boys invited me to be part of their ‘singing friend group’ (we weren’t lame enough to call it that but that’s basically what it was) because they had discovered during our Vocal Examinations that – surprise – I could sing.

I felt really embarrassed but I was really happy to be appreciated for something I truly felt lucky to have the ability to enjoy for myself – I had a group of friends I could rely on to hang out with AND enjoy my company during lunchtimes, and we were all selfless enough to share our snacks and everything. I still remember, the first time we hung out was the first time I ever shared a drink with a boy (teehee) – his name was Nigel. 🙂 anyway, fast forward a few days and I’m in my classroom alone during lunchtime trying to get some homework done – and in walks Sharifah.

I feel a little bit uncomfortable because she has that cold, distant look on her face – I continue, hoping she will leave me alone. But she walks straight over to my table, bitch-face well-on and prepared, and says something along the lines of, “Are you happy with your new friends? You all sure look fine without me.” She was insanely jealous they wanted me in their friend group. She also had a crush on Nigel. I knew what was going on.

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But I couldn’t keep it together. I burst into tears and couldn’t stop crying until the boys from that friend group came over to find out what was going on and defended me against Sharifah, stood up for me and made me feel a lot better.

Watch out for the second part of this article

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