Very few books hit me right in the feels quite like Liz Prince’s Tomboy. Tomboy is a graphic memoir about Prince’s experiences growing up and not fitting into society’s pre-ordained gender roles. She is frank in her explanations of these moments in her life starting with the capacity to tell her parents “no” to dresses to about sixteen years old. Over the course of Tomboy, she retells stories and examines her feelings from them, such as a constant feeling of not fitting in with other girls.
A strange occurrence began to happen to me as I was reading through Tomboy, I almost perfectly identified with Liz Price and her struggles. Sometimes I think underneath I’m just an emotionless piece of blubber. Because usually when I read books I’m like “ok, meh.” Even if I enjoy them I rarely identify with the writer. A lot of her ordeals reminded me of my own childhood. I had a very hard time fitting in as a child for numerous reasons. I had a hard time identifying with these expectations put on little girls. It did not help that I was taller than all of the kids by 3rd or 4th grade. I felt like an awkward unfeminine giraffe. Unlike Liz Prince, who almost heroically, trucked on as a child while still being true to who she was, I was not.
This quote in particular was very relatable to me: “I would sometimes fantasize about what my life would have been like if I had been a normal girl. But I didn’t like the Liz in those fantasies” (p.197). I too would fantasize what this Courtney would be like. However, where Liz didn’t like that version, I desperately longed for that fantasy for a long time. I distinctly remember writing down stories of what my future high school self would be like. I would be a tall cheerful blonde cheerleader with a conventionally attractive All-American captain of the football team boyfriend. In the end, only one of those things came true: me being tall. I don’t think I wanted any of those things that much. Seriously, if I wanted to be on the cheer squad, I could of just I don’t know tried out. The teenager me was too busy listening to My Chemical Romance and writing edgy dark poetry in a Nightmare Before Christmas notebook to really care too much. This is the very stark disconnect with myself as a young child and a teenager. As a teenager, the things I longed for like popularity and a football player boyfriend didn’t matter.
Times have changed, and I warped my femininity/womanhood to fit who I am. As an adult, I am proud to say I’ve defined my womanhood based off my own rules and not as reliant on following the rules like I once was. Once in a while though, those fantasies come back to me, and I long to be part of them. Then, I run off and wrestle a bear or something and everything is perfectly fine.
As I read Tomboy, one thing kept jumping up at me: how is she so “aware” of her feelings as a teenager? If I had to go back in time and write a similar memoir, I would be like my feelings were sour as well as my heart. I would only have the vaguest hint of certain events. Wisps of memory that I still remember, but not so sharply as others.