TOMBOY IS AS TOMBOY DOES

As I said in a previous post, it has always been pretty clear that I never was your average, typical girlie-girl, all pink and dolls.
My dad couldn’t have cared the less, since he got the best deal ever with me: he had the daughter he so desperately wanted who was a total daddy’s girl, but his little girl behaved like a boy and, most importantly, liked boy-ish stuff. Not to brag, but I was the one who took my dad at San Siro Stadium for the first time ever in his life to see AC Milan playing (and then we ended up buying season tickets), just sayin’….

My mum, on the other hand…. Well…

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My mum and I. WTF was I wearing?

She has always been fine with me being who I was, don’t get me wrong, and whoever dared to say anything against my tomboy nature ended up regretting it big time. Having said that, she would have loved a slightly less tomboy daughter, and she has always tried to make me appreciate more feminine things. I think she hoped that, by forcing me into wearing girlie clothes, somehow, I’d become more of a girl by osmosis.
The problem is, my mum sense of style has always

dress
You can see it on my face that I was NOT happy

been quite… ehm…. Interesting. Ok, it was the 80s and we were quite flamboyant, ok, but… mum, what the hell! Oh, my goodness gracious me, she made me wear some hideous stuff when I was a little girl! For the record, she still stands by her choices and she still think I was sooooooo prettyyyyyyyyy (no mum, NO).

Unfortunately for her, I have always been a rebel at heart, so I’d (repeatedly) crush her hopes of appreciating less boy-ish stuff at any given occasion. I have been so ruthlessly destroying all her attempts, so much that when I now buy some very nice, female clothes (and some very daring ones too), or stiletto heels, or makeup (I have an addiction for lipsticks that I can’t or won’t fight) she asks me first if it is for some dress up party, then when I say “no mum (eyes rolling) it is to go to work / out / to this dinner (etc.)”, I can see in her eyes that she is about to shed a tear or two. To give you an example:

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Wimbledon princess

A month ago I bought a white dress and a Panama Hat to go to Wimbledon. I took a very lady-like selfie. I looked really pretty. I sent it to my mum, hoping to fish some compliments AND to impress her. She texted me back asking me if I photoshopped myself in that dress.
Thank you very much mum!
In the end, I had to FaceTime her, whilst wearing that dress, to convince her that I actually owned it and that it was really me who was wearing it. I know….!
Back to my childhood though, It was not just the dresses and the toys that I didn’t like, it was… everything, really.

Oh my, I still remember my first (and last) Nativity play at school.
My mum bribed my teachers to allow me for once to play the role of the Holy Mary. My mum was (and still is) very catholic so it was a big deal for her. More so, it was one of the main characters, so I would have been a girl, in the role of the most important woman in Catholicism, and all the school would have seen me like this. Dreamland!
My mum had a cunning plan: she knew that, to make it appealing to me, my teachers had to make me think it was not something already decided: I would have had the chance at having a go at that role, but I would have had to fight tooth and nail for it; if I suspected my mum was behind the idea I would have refused for sure (I guess I have always been a bit of a looney).
I fought tooth and nail, yes, just not for what she hoped for. During the day teachers were assigning roles, my mum got a call. They informed her that her lovely, precious daughter ended up having a tantrum of biblical proportion (pardon my pun!) because at first, I was refusing to take part in the play. Like, over my dead body I am doing this shit and stand in front of my whole school. No way, Jose. The teachers then hoped to sweet talk me into giving me THE role every girl dreamed of, and apparently I said:
“Holy Mary? I don’t want to wear a light blue sheet and I want nothing to do with that creepy baby Jesus doll”.
They tried to find alternatives for me, but I stubbornly refused every single possible female role they came up with. When they were ready to give up, they simply asked me what the hell did I want to be. About time! I kindly and happily replied them that if I were to take part, the only role for me was being one of the Three Kings, either Melchior or Balthazar because they had the coolest names ever. They called to beg my mum to make me change my mind.
Aaaand this is the story of how I ended up being the first ever female Melchior in a nativity play in that school. Ohhhh I was so proud, carrying my frankincense! Oh, when I kneeled in front of baby Jesus, damn! I made quite the impression. Holy Mary may have had baby Jesus doll and the “central” role in the play, but I was the king and I was wearing a massive CROWN. In your face bitch! (I asked my parents to look for those pictures. If they find them, I’ll post them I swear!).

There was one time though where my mum didn’t try to make me do female things. I still laugh about it when I think of it.

add
The original add featured on a magazine back in those days

I think it was the end of the 80s or early 90s. My mum and I were having lunch and we were watching tv. The ads came on and BAM! To promote their jams, this Italian company made a contest for children to participate: in order to win one of the toys they had as a prize, children had to draw a picture of their favourite fruit (or fruits); it could have been a funny picture, a cool one, or simply a very nicely drawn one; they had to include a lovely letter saying, in case they were selected amongst “the lucky winners”, which toy they would have liked to win. They had to send everything in a letter by mail (those were the days) and then hope for the best.

Whatever, I thought. I rarely ate jam anyway, and definitely not of that brand.

Not long after that, I saw the very same add on a magazine I was reading. I had a look at the toys (the boys’ ones, of course). My heart stopped. One of the prizes was a massive Ninja Turtle action figure, and not just any Ninja Turtle, but MY FAVOURITE Ninja Turtle: Michelangelo (hey, come on, in the cartoons he ate pizza all the time, he was a bit goofy like me and was the funniest, sweetest turtle of the lot).
I wanted it.
Oh my god I wanted that toy so badly I would have done anything to get it.
I had a friend at school who I always played with (our mums were very good friends) who had Leonardo, and I asked my parents to buy me Michelangelo so that we could have played together, but my parents told me that it was too expensive and they could have not afforded it so… no.
This was my chance.
I knew that bloody turtle was meant to be mine.
I went to my mum yelling and screaming, all excited. My mum said, “ok sure let’s do this, let me read the rules so that we do everything right, we can do this!”.

I stared at her reading the terms and conditions of that contest in awe.
At some point, she stopped reading and said “oh… oh no”
“what mummy?”
“well, it looks like girls can only pick girls’ toys and boys can only pick boys’ toys”

Hey, this was 30 something years ago ok? Now there would be Twitter storms full of hashtags and pure rage, Facebook would be plastered with boycott campaigns, there would be articles on every newspaper and magazines, debates on tv, you name it. Back then? Nobody really cared.
Apart from yours truly, who wanted that bloody Michelangelo turtle and was having none of it.

The lawyer in me started arguing my case (in a slightly hysterical way): oh my gosh this is so unfair that I have to choose a girls toy that I don’t even like, and why is that, why can’t I have a Ninja Turtle, I don’t even like jam anyway unless it’s apricot jam, it is not my fault if all girls’ toys are rubbish, look mummy, look, they are disgusting, this is outrageous, mummy, we need to do something, we need to do something about it because I want it so badly”.

My mum was not even listening.
She was reading and re-reading the add, trying to come up with a solution.

“ok, I have a plan”

I froze. Silence fell. My eyes became as big and shiny as two lightbulbs.

“you want that turtle? Ok. Listen. We are going to draw the best picture ever, and when we’ll write the letter, you’ll sign it as SILVIO. We’ll pretend that you are a boy, they’ll never check anyway, and if they do, we’ll say that your handwriting is shit – after all, an a is an o with a little tail, right?”

Hell yeah, lying has never tasted so great like that day.
My mum and I draw something like 10 drawings, they were funny as hell, we made fruits say something very silly: I still remember what we made the cherries say because it was in rhyme and I almost peed myself from laughing hard (“noi siamo ciliegine e siamo un po’ cretine”, which means “we are little cherries and we are a bit silly”). Anyway, she helped me writing the super lovely letter in which this poor boy Silvio desperately wanted the Ninja Turtle of his dreams that his parents could not afford and off we popped to the post office to ship that precious envelope full of hopes.

I think we waited a month or so for an answer, I don’t remember, but it had to be quite a while because my mum and I convinced ourselves that we didn’t win.
One day the postman knocked on the door.
My mum went to open as usual, and I followed her because I was nosey as fuck.
The postman was holding a parcel.
My mum looked surprised as she was not expecting anything.
Then the postman said “It’s not for you madam, I think this is for your daughter, though funnily enough they misspelled her name (start laughing) see? they wrote SILVIO”.

We both had a heart attack there and then.

My mum quickly dismissed the postman and slammed the door behind her back. We both quickly run in the living room and, with incredible fury, we ripped that parcel to pieces.
There is was: my incredible, amazing, fantastic, beautiful Ninja Turtle.

I have never, ever been so happy in my life.

I gave my mum the biggest hug ever. Silvio fuckin’ won this shit!

GREEN IS THE NEW PINK

Before puberty hit me hard like a brick thrown at my face, when someone tried to make me feel like a freak of nature I simply shrugged my shoulders thinking “whatever – who cares, you boring prick!”.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that being different and quirky didn’t have an impact on me;

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In case you wonder, I’m the one with the white shirt and hideus shorts on the right side.

it did, and still does to this day. However, being an only child taught me how to be perfectly fine alone: boredom was something unknown to me, I never felt the need of having someone to play with, therefore being rejected and isolated has never been a massive issue. It was just an ordinary day in my life. Of course, I liked having friends and being with other people, but it wasn’t something I necessarily missed when I didn’t have it. Later in life, being an outcast became a badge to wear with the upmost pride, but I’ll discuss about this in depth on another post.

The problem was that, even though I was kind of ok with the whole me-being-weird thing, my parents had to endure the pain of dealing with an environment which was pretty clear on the fact that I was not acceptable as I was. Since they weren’t forcing me to behave as society expected me to behave (aka: as a girl), and they were not remotely bothered to make me change, they were considered bad parents who got it wrong somehow along the way.

Hey, we are talking about Italy in the 80s: not exactly the land of the free. Ok, it wasn’t hell on Earth for sure, such as Iraq under Saddam Hussain, but with the Church having a massive influence on people and dictating what was ok and not ok, Italy wasn’t amongst the most progressive and liberal countries either. Italians’ mentality was quite conservative, especially in towns and villages.

Hand on heart, I couldn’t have wished for better parents (ok maybe wealthier – but I am digressing here). They fiercely encouraged me to be what it felt right to be, rather than what was expected; they have been on my side through thick and thin without questioning whether “it was appropriate for a girl” to say / behave / act like I was. Most importantly, they have never been ashamed of having this non-ordinary child.

In their eyes, I was their precious, much longed-for daughter, arrived after 7 years of trying, with all the heartbreak that a situation like this brings. My mum told me she saw every gynaecologist she could, tried every diet, exercise, ritual, you name it, she even when to see one of those “healers” who claim they can fix you with the power of magic (no joking, she was THAT desperate) because she was convinced she had some curse casted on her. When I finally made it into this big world of ours, alive and in my parents’ arms, in their eyes I was nothing short of a miracle. I think I could have been a three-headed grizzly bear that it wouldn’t have made any remote difference.

As said, I grew up in Italy in the 80s, and unfortunately, the rest of society was not as open minded as my parents, and society liked to point out to them what a weirdo I was. People constantly questioned my sanity, my sexuality, my clothes, my toys, my hair, their parenting skills, everything! Whether we were walking in the streets, queueing at the supermarkets (yes, sometimes Italians queue too), shopping for clothes or simply at the park having fun, more often than not someone had to pass their judgement about me.

Unlike today, where people are losing their minds about “the gender issue”, making everything neutral and gender-less, back in my day (gosh I sound like a dinosaur!) you had boys’ things or girls’ things. End of.

“Normal” girls had dolls, Barbie dolls, toy versions of household items so that they could play at being little housewives and so on. Everything in their world, from their bedrooms to their toys was pink, full of glitters and sparkling. They watched Disney movies and dreamed to be Disney princesses waiting to be saved by Prince Charming.

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Pretending to ride my auntie’s extremely old Piaggio Ciao (I think). I thought it was the coolest hting ever. Then I discovered Ducati motorbikes….!

I, on the other hand, had a vast collection of Formula 1 cars and well, cars in general, teddy bears, Lego blocks and WWE wrestlers action figures. My bedroom’s walls were plastered with AC Milan footballers and Ferrari’s cars. I dreamt of joining the A-Team and be best friend with Mr T / B.A. Baracus; I longed to marry Tom Selleck / Magnum P.I. and go and live happily ever after with his Ferrari in the Hawaii; I wanted to buy KITT from David Hasselhoff / Michael Knight; jet on wild adventures with the guys from Riptide (can you tell that Italian TV in the 80s was SO Americanised?!!); I would have rather chopped my hand than touch a doll. Or a skirt. Or anything pink. Or feminine. EWWWWWW!

If now it is considered outrageous, retrograde, and unacceptable to have “blue-for-boys / pink-for-girls” things, when I was a kid this was the absolute norm and you didn’t have a choice on the matter. I know, by today’s standards, that little me holding my mum’s hand whilst I point at the creepiest, ugliest, weirdest creature in the toy shop (in the boy’s aisle, of course) was nothing special, but back then? Trust me, you had to have a mum like mine to survive the looks, the nasty side comments, the (unsolicited) pity, the disgust that people threw at us, at me, the weirdo tomboy destined to be a crazy lesbian mad cat lady (like if there is anything wrong with being lesbian, or crazy, or a cat lady, or these things combined).

My mum. Well, she is one hell of a woman. She is not someone who can keep her mouth shut and just take it. She is feisty as hell and has an extremely short fuse; if you make her angry, you won’t forget it. If you say or do something stupid, she will embarrass you by yelling everything she can possibly yell at you: put it this way, no one should dare to be at the receiving end of her anger. When I think of it right now, I’m seriously impressed of how my mum managed not to end up in jail.

To give you an idea of what I am talking about, here is a little story for you.

One day my mum and I were in a little, family-run stationery shop. I was a 5 years old little girl. The trendiest thing to have at that point in time, bless us silly kids of the magnificent 80s, were tiny little soap bubbles bottles charms that you’d wear in a cord necklace and then brag about what amazing tiny soap bubbles you could make. It was a very cheap thing, and my mum decided to buy me one. So, in we were at the shop, and I was so excited I could barely breathe. We weren’t rich (we made it to the end of the month somehow), so buying a toy was a real treat. The shop attendant, a man in his 50s, asked me to pick a colour. I was too shy, too overwhelmed, too OMGMYMUMISREALLYBUINGMETHISSHIT! that what came out of my mouth ended up being a bold and loud “GREEN!”.

The shop assistant looked at me like I just cursed in the middle of a church.

“Sorry, what did you say?”

“GREEN! (are you deaf ffs???)”

“…green… are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure! Green is my favourite colour!”

“But…. are you really, really sure?”

“Yes sir!”

Behind my back, my mum was reaching boiling point. In my 5 or so years old mind, she is just fed up of being in that shop. In reality, she was quickly calculating how many years of jail she would have gotten if she choked the guy on the spot. She was hating that nonsense.

After some more “are you sure – yes, I am”, the shop assistant said the thing that finally triggered my mum’s fury:

“But green is not a colour for girls!!!! And you are a girl! Look at AAAALL these pink ones! Wouldn’t you prefer one of these?”

Like the thunder that you hear rumbling in the distance before it explodes with a bang worth of 10 nuclear bombs, I could hear my mum’s going from 0 to “volcano eruption”. She slammed her hands on the table. Time suddenly stopped there and then.

She then started barking like a total mad dog.

“NO, SHE DOESN’T WANT IT PINK O-K? SHE DOESN’T LIKE ANY FUCKING SHADE OF PINK, OK? SHE TOLD YOU GREEN TWENTY TIMES NOW. IF YOU HAVE HEARING PROBLEMS GO AND GET CHECKED! SHE SAID GREEN OK? HOW HARD CAN IT BE? IS THERE A LAW AGAINST GIRLS WHO LIKES PINK? ARE YOU DUMB OR JUST ANNOYING US FOR FUN?

CAN – WE – HAVE – THAT SHIT.

IN GREEN.

NOW?

AND NOT JUST ANY KIND OF FUCKING GREEN! IT MUST BE BLOODY EMERALD GREEN. AND QUICK”.

The shop assistant went white as a ghost – he was so not expecting it. He probably though my mum was about to yell at me something like “for eff sake Silvia cut the crap you are not a boy get this pink-y shit and let’s go”.

He tried a timid “…but…” but my mum was now on full hysteria mode and she was not having it anymore “BUT WHAT? BUT WHAT?”. She grabbed my hand so hard I thought she was going to break all my bones (but I didn’t dare to make any sound or to look in pain) “CAN WE HAVE THAT FUCKING THING IN GREEN RIGHT NOW OR DO WE HAVE TO BUY IT IN THE SHOP NEXT DOOR, UH?”. The guy quickly gave me the green little bottle, my mum paid, she stormed out of the shop and that was the last time we ever shopped there. I was petrified. I was so embarrassed. I spent my youth avoiding walking in front of that shop in case the guy saw me and told me like “no wonder why you are so weird, with a mum like that what can you expect?”

Back at home, I stared at my object of great desire, this tiny little bottle in my tiny little hand. It was so cute, but it also reminded me of my utterly pissed off mum. I never worn it. I preferred to let my mum believe I didn’t want to lose it rather than admitting I was hiding it in my drawer because it was a constant reminder of what happened: me being not average girl who loves pink resulted in her having to lash out at the shop assistant to defend me.