I'm a city kid. I can't pretend to have been anything else growing up. I was raised to be fussy, leery of activities that might cause me injury, and to Always Wear My Helmet.
It's not because I'm a girl, either, because there was exactly one girl my age in the neighborhood, and quite often I did not understand her motivations. Her Barbies were princesses - fiscally responsible princesses, no less - and mine were emergency room patients who were, shall we say, a little too interested in each others' injuries. I tried my entire childhood to be Best Friends Forever with this girl and always suspected she didn't actually like me at all. (I went through a phase of trying to alleviate the stress of this by stealing things from her. It didn't work as planned.)
There were significantly more boys in my neighborhood. By which I mean there were four. Five, including my little brother, but who does that? The point is, that two of those boys were almost my age, and they were Cool.
And more importantly, it was okay if I hung out with them.
So for one bright, shining year of my life, I stomped barefoot through the running cesspool that separated our neighborhood from the highway, digging around in the sand for treasure and little snapping turtles. I motored up and down the cul-de-sac on my bike, going so fast in Cops and Robbers that it didn't matter that Santa had brought me a hot pink bike when I specifically said no girly colors. I crashed that bike so spectacularly picking up speed down a steep embankment that Johnny ran two blocks to my house to get my dad without being told, only to have him meet me at the bottom of my own driveway, bleeding and limping. I was all right in their books, and it was amazing.
I don't really know exactly who or what shattered this for me. I just have this feeling, this sneaking want-to-blame-someone-else feeling, that one or both of my parents noticed that I was not behaving the way a Little Girl was supposed to behave, and thought they should perhaps give me a few more examples of my gender group's behavior, since I really only had the one, and she was six years old and saving her pennies for college.
I played girl's soccer, and was at first quite good, for a seven year old who had never played before. On a whim, my coach put me in goal one game - the final game of our season, I recall -and I was so good that in his little pep talk at the post-season trophy handout he joked about how he guessed he knew who the team goalie was gonna be from then on. I played on that team all through elementary school and middle school, becoming progressively worse and worse as I became less and less active in the rest of my life. We almost never won. It was never about winning.
Somehow along the way, though, I stopped playing Cops and Robbers, and creek stomping until it was dark, and breaking into neighbors' yards after blizzards because their hills were the best for sledding. I slowly became the chubby girl, and my self-confidence cracked and peeled away from me until I was too awkward to ask Johnny and PJ if I could come along when they came to collect my brother for a game of glow-in-the-dark football. I stayed inside and read books and ate things and picked at the acne puberty was kind enough to inflict upon me.
Fast forward to now. I run 45 miles a week, and I finally feel like I'm in good enough physical shape to try things. In high school, you could never have convinced me to even put on a pair of ice skates for an hour. I'm playing hockey now; I have my own skates and I just bought myself a left-handed stick. I think seriously about joining adult soccer leagues, and playing frisbee in the park on a sunny afternoon.
I'm taking my inner fat kid on all the adventures she was too afraid to go on.