Here is a long read that I have been working on for a class. Its about childhood memories accompanied by unplanned notes of feminism. Enjoy!
A sanctuary. A place deep below civilization, made to give children—like I once was—a place of comfort. A guest room turned playroom that was the setting for many memories of my life. This room could be considered a basement, as it was below the first floor that had the kitchen and the living room, but an enormous window revealing the outdoors that took over the back wall of the room. I remember this window usually not being very helpful for spying as large, green shrubberies stood in front of it. This room was in a townhouse that supplied housing to a large chunk of my childhood. The neighborhood it is in, Chatsworth, California, is still my home. When we moved out that summer of my 3rd grade year, we moved right into a house that is down the street. I pass that townhouse everyday—when I’m home and not away for school in Cleveland. My family moved into that townhouse when I was very young, about three or four years old, when it was just my mom, dad and I. We used to live in Redondo Beach—a shore side city in Los Angeles, California— in a small one bedroom, but then my mom got pregnant with my little brother, Mackenzie. We, and by we I mean my mom, decided it was time to get a bigger place, and move closer to her parents. To this day I still blame my brother for not still living at the beach despite the fact I still love him with all of my heart.
Just to the left of the entryway of my playroom, was my life-sized Barbie that leaned against the wall when I was not hanging out out with her upstairs in the living room to show off to my family, or at my very own dining room table where I had tea parties with my stuffed animals. One day, I decided it would be fun to take the clothes off of my Barbie doll and put it on my brother. After about an hour or so of undressing Barbie and dressing Mackenzie, my little brother was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen—and I took full credit. I was so proud of what I had accomplished—the social stigma of making my brother a cross dresser never even crossed my mind. I started with a bright-eyed little boy, to a glamorous, glitter-covered princess. I will never understand why he allowed me to do this—that was probably during that age where he was my biggest fan, and would agree to anything I suggested. We went upstairs to show my parents, and there he was— A bright pink dress with frills and glitter, and a metallic silver princess crown with 3 large points accompanied with 3 large pink plastic gems of some kind. That was probably the first time I made my parents genuinely laugh for such a long period of time.
On the far left side of the room was a closet that was a storage center for various items such as costumes and toys. I loved dressing up and playing games. I remember the overwhelming tower of board games, and a clear tub beside it that was filled with superhero and princess costumes, among other things of that nature. Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays, and my costume decisions took extreme contemplation on my part. They were never typical children costumes for little girls like Cinderella, or Belle. The first costume I can remember wearing is a cloth Pikachu outfit that I wore for multiple Halloweens in a row—from the time I was four, to about seven years old.
When I would enter the room, the first thing I go to is my Nintendo 64 and large 1990’s tube television next to it, which took 3 large men to carry into the house, and uncomfortably shuffle together down the stairs to get it into my playroom. Next to the Nintendo was a clear container about the size of my chest that was filled with the best games a child could have—in my modest opinion. Rayman, Pokémon, more Pokémon, and Super Smash Bros—that also had Pokémon characters in it. I should probably mention I have one of those 4-inch wide binders that is not only filled to the brim with cards, but the entire binder is covered in Pokémon graphics. It was clear that my parents loved me very much as they continuously supported my obsession—especially since every single Saturday, from the age of 7, until I was maybe 12, my dad and I would walk down the block to “Always Gaming” and buy a pack of Pokémon cards. The employees at that store were always so excited to see me—I’m sure a little girl my age was not their usual clientele. I don’t remember a certain instance, but now when I go to gaming stores with my boyfriend Mike—who is more of a nerd than me, there would be clusters of 20something year old boys sitting silently at the various tables. When we walk in, we are welcomed by judgmental nasty stares like we are trespassing. Anyways, back when I was a little girl, the judgmental stares were nonexistent. They would even throw in a second pack of cards for free. After we went to get a set of cards, we went next door to “The Burrito Factory”—a cheap low end Mexican place where you can literally see them slap various unknown food(?) items on a plate and throw it in a microwave. To this day I go there any time I am home, I always get the number 4—Beef tamale, rice and beans. Pure bliss.
My current family home is a stones throw away from Chatsworth Junior Baseball League. As soon as my brother turned 5, my dad signed him up, which is probably one of the best decisions he has ever made. Currently, my brother is an extremely passionate and talented Varsity baseball player at my alma mater, Chatsworth High school—which is also a stones throw away. When he got a little older and I had spent some time watching him play, I decided I wanted to play baseball too! Winter ball came around, and my brother and I went to try outs. By try-outs, I mean you play baseball in front of a bunch of coaches and one of them picks you—everyone gets to play. We would rotate around different sections, from pitching on the mound, hitting in the batting cages, and playing catch in the outfield. After try-outs were completed, the coaches had made the decision that I should play in the same division as my brother who is four years younger than me. I was so. Damn. Terrible. I am left handed, but I play golf right handed, so batting was very confusing for me. Not to mention my hands work just as well as my feet when it came to catching a ball that was thrown in my direction. They couldn’t bear to put me with the kids my age. Or at least that is what I thought. It could have just been the fact that I was the only girl who attended try-outs. But again, social stigma for gender did not exist in my mind. Normal people would have been upset to be put in a lower age division from what you belong in. I absolutely adored being able to go and play with my brother on the same team.
That Nintendo, among other things, developed one strong relationship with my dad and I. From going to buy cards, to sitting there and falling asleep while he beats all the levels of Rayman and Pokémon Snap—a game where you literally float around in a raft in a river, taking pictures of various characters and get points based on the quality… Ok maybe I wasn’t a normal child. This room screamed the 90’s, and I loved every piece of it. For someone who doesn’t have a good memory, and to remember all of these moments in my childhood because of a room in a house, I’d say it was a pretty impactful place in my life.
In the middle of the room was a child dining room set—bright pink, and what seemed like industrial grade plastic “dining room” table and chairs. They got a lot of air time, with all of the tea parties I threw with my stuffed animal friends, and sometimes even my real friends from school—the few that I actually had. I really embraced my British culture from my dad’s side, as from the moment I was born I practically had English breakfast tea injected into my veins. Over time, this dining set has collected a lot of marker stains accidentally placed while coloring, and even some drawings placed on purpose that I thought the table needed for a little extra flare. This set was exclusively for little kids only (except for my brother), and especially not my dad, being that he is nearly 7 feet tall. No joke.
Another piece of this room that had more stains than the plastic table was the beige carpet that encompassed the entire floor. A bad decision on the home developers part, but how were they supposed to know this room was going to be the playroom of a rambunctious little girl that had no concept of clean. I can tell you right now, that little girl did not learn that concept of clean and she is currently a month away from earning a Bachelors degree in College. If you look closely, next to the dining room table, there is a bloodstain that came from the bridge of my nose when I was about 8 years old. This is the responsibility of my little brother, when he decided it was a brilliant idea to throw a plastic cup at my face that held his apple juice, that I may have taken a sip out of without permission. I remember that moment more clearly than any moment when anyone today asks me, “So what did you do this weekend?” And no, this is not in relation to being intoxicated.
The blood would not stop any time soon, so after deafening screaming and crying on my part, my dad ran downstairs to see what was wrong, immediately threw me into the car, and drove to the nearest hospital. We arrived, with my pants and shirt all covered in blood, and I even remember it entering my mouth at several moments in time. The doctor said it needed stitches, and I do not remember this part, but my dad told me that he threw the biggest fit in the entire world, and to this day takes credit for the “beautiful nose” I still have today. “You are NOT ruining my little girl’s face with stitches! I went through that and look at my nose! I will not stand for this!” My fellow emergency room patients surrounding me gave my father every bit of their undivided attention, which did not help the situation. I was probably the least injured person in the room; this attention was not in any way warranted. He even earned a stern look from the security standing by the entrance behind us. However, without hesitation, the doctor announced that he could easily fix my fountain of blood with a little medical grade super glue, and he was right! You can barely tell that my brother had a temper tantrum on my face.
Years later, when I finally forgave him for throwing that cup, my brother and I continue to spend a lot of time together at that Burrito Factory, as we aren’t spending as much time together, like we did when we were kids. When lunchtime would come around on the weekends, we would grab our skateboards and make the 5-minute trek to eat our favorite-microwaved Mexican cuisine. I feel terrible for not remembering, but the same guy still works there, and he knows what we order. We enter the door, and walk past all the vivid booths, rotating between red, white, and green, and he already has our check ready to be paid.
“Beef tamale rice and beans, chicken enchilada rice and beans, and a large horchata. Right kids?”
There really is no place like home.
I still remember the tiny blue skateboard that would sit in that playroom, accompanied by every protective body wear you can think of. We still have it, hiding in the corner being smothered by the large collection of boards owned by Mack, my dad, and myself, that we have gathered over the years.
Skateboarding was a big part of my life, and another reason why it was only a few years later when my face was again covered in blood. Instead of my nose, it was pouring out of my mouth. I had a friend who I “like liked” and was also a skater—but immensely more talented than I would ever become. His name was Jesse. We had made plans to go to Skatelab, a skatepark just over the hill from where we lived. We were probably 10 years old, so both of our dads came along with us—both skaters as well. I remember that day so clearly, as I was so amazed when I watched him skate the “big kid” pool. I was almost embarrassed when he offered to go outside of the main skating room, where the beginner half pipe was so that I myself could do some “shredding.” That was the day I wanted to show him that I knew how to drop in. Dropping in is when you prop up the back two wheels of the board and push down the top half of the board to ride down from the top point of the half pipe. He was standing on the top level of the half pipe with me to watch me and I had never been more nervous. I loaded up my skateboard onto the rail, and adjusted all of my various protective gear so I was comfortable and ready to go. My arms were held up to the side to keep balance, leaned forward to begin my descent. I dropped in. and kept dropping. And dropping. I had fallen right off of my skateboard, and landed on my face, but my helmet kind of broke the fall, but my head proceeded to bounce like a basketball. Both of our dads were standing on the sidelines, and all three of them ran down into the apex of the half pipe and carried me out of the crime scene. Yet again, another shirt to throw away because it was covered in blood but this time I didn’t have my pesky little brother to blame. I didn’t even try to be strong in front of Jesse, all of the tears were exiting from my tear ducts, and that was ok. He was my best friend and I knew he would never make fun of me. While that was the last time we skated together for a long time, we were still good friends. Hell, we got married in preschool, and kissed one time on the basketball court in the third grade, so exposing myself to my poor skateboarding abilities wouldn’t change that.
Most of the people I surrounded myself with, before I joined girls golf teams and such in high school, were male. After my mom spent 24 hours in labor to remove me from her uterus, she went back to work and left the babysitting to my dad. He basically created a clone of himself, minus the fact that I wasn’t biologically a boy. Trips to work with him at the golf course hanging out with all of his male employees, teaching me to skateboard, teaching me to golf, buying me Vans skate shoes every other month, I was as tomboy as it could get. Jesse was one of the popular kids, and in a way he would protect me from all the potential bullying that the other girls wanted to inflict on me. They didn’t appreciate my pants wearing, vans wearing tendencies, as they thought it was strange I did not prance around in the plaid catholic school jumper like they did. I was very lucky as a kid, however. The bullying was very minor, although I never truly fit in with the crowd like Jesse did because I was such a tomboy and such a daddy’s girl, which wasn’t quite the norm.
We remained friends even when he changed school in junior high. We would meet up every once in a while, and even one time we went skating again in his backyard where his dad built a half pipe. I mostly watched and hung out. The last time we hung out was in 2013, when we watched Les Miserables at the movies together. After the movie we sat in my car and talked for two hours and talking about our high school experiences and the beginning of our college careers, and made all these grand plans to spend more time together, like when we were kids. Later that year, I spoke at his funeral as he tragically passed away. I would not be the same person I am today, without all of the adventures and experiences him and I had together.
I have had so many male figures in my life that has helped shaped who I am today, and it is because of that playroom and the things inside it that made my childhood the way it was. The video games, costumes, movies, all the outdoor activities, they brought me to people who also loved these things, which for some reason all turned out to be men (for the most part.) Just like how my dad would take me to the comic store as a kid, my boyfriend and I go all the time. I have a stack of comic books sitting in my apartment room, and a picture of a Bruce Timm edition Batman poster (my favorite version of Batman,) hanging on my wall. I have a stack of video games sitting in my living room, next to my PlayStation 3. I continue to reminisce, playing Rayman and it brings me to tears of joy every time. I poorly play Call of Duty on a regular basis, sometimes online with my brother or boyfriend, and it makes me so happy. My four inch wide binder of Pokemon cards still sit in my old room at my parent’s house—which my mom has converted into a yoga studio. A holographic edition of Scyther is on sale for $1,000 on eBay currently, but I don’t think I could ever bring myself to sell that card or any other card. I’d rather watch them collect dust. Nobody else is allowed to have such a reward that came from such hard work—all those weekly trips to Always Gaming. Next to my door, sits my Sector 9 skateboard that I use more for transportation, but it never ceases to please me, even though I receive incessant staring as I fly down Euclid Avenue to get to class. Again, I will continue to reject gender stereotypes for as long as I live. However, I will leave baseball to my brother, he is clearly the man for the job.
All I know is that the world has so many opportunities, and it’s because of my loving parents that I have been exposed to all of it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of women who do not experience the world the same way, and I can even attest to that because of my career in golf—a heavily male dominated sport. This is minor compared to other global catastrophes women face each and every day. However—to be stared and gawked at whenever I walk up to the first tee, or spend some time practicing on the driving range is the most appalling thing I have ever experienced. To hear them react in shock and awe that I can, in fact, swing the club in a pleasing fashion and launch the ball 250 yards down range is disrespectful in so many ways. No father can ever really prepare you for something like that. Teaching me that him and I are equals will never be able to change the fact that there are others out there that do not see the world in that way. I have been approached so many times by men who insist that they can help me become a better player and improve my swing. Yet, when my brother and I go to the range together, he is never approached even though his swing is just as good as mine, (annoyingly.)
Because I was never stopped to do something because of my gender as a child, I see the world much more openly, and will continue to reject such stereotypes. I believe women should feel that the entire world is their playground. If you want to skate, dress up, wear makeup, play golf, read comics, play video games, wear pants instead of skirts, and sneakers instead of stilettos—nothing should stop you. Every child should have the opportunity to be raised that way. I am only touching the subject on the idea of gender norms, but its ideas as small as these, that can start a revelation. Whether it was because I was raised to love these things, or because I was born to love them, it shouldn’t matter because being a chick doesn’t change the fact that Pokemon is beautiful, and that skateboarding is thrilling—injuries and all.