angyl: Pinkie Pie humanized drumming (Default)
[personal profile] angyl
Our stories about ourselves are funny things.

I'm about to start off with a story that's one of the keystone stories in my narrative. But it's a story that happened when I started first grade, and my memory that far back is poor, my perspectives were limited. I was told this story again after the fact by my guardians, where it got processed through their own stories they needed to tell about themselves, and the story turned into something I couldn't likely have actually remembered, built around the parts I did. Every time I tell it, neuroscience suggests, it is subject to being re-written with new pieces, from whatever frame I have last pulled it out under.

I've tried this. I've written Important things down fresh, then locked them away for years and compared them to the story I tell years later. There's drift. What I focus on moves, some details get muddy, some remain crisp. Everything softens once I have moved through accepting and integrating it, and a blur of emotions has turned into a stair-step in the rearview.

We call this memory, though we don't understand how it works the way we understand, say, computer memory. We call this self, and personal narrative, and talk about how these stories shaped us. But we shaped them, too. I like to think about that when I listen to these kinds of stories, and when I tell them too. Perhaps this is the very process of how history becomes mythology.

This is the true history of my myth.


I was initially enrolled in a Catholic pre-school. Then I wasn't.  I was changing schools before I really recognized anybody. I am told this is because I had some sort of altercation with authority involving me being collected mid-day with tears streaming down my face, crying about how they were trying to make me put GOD in a BOOK, and a refund of the tuition. I can't remember that at all, to be honest, but I have no strong reason to doubt that something of the sort went down.

I then went to a schmancy Montessori pre-school, because after that there weren't too many options left and, out of my control, my guardians decided to tighten the budget to give me a better chance. The school was all Free To Be You and Me and nonviolent communication and go at your own pace and I thrived at a very fast pace.

Then the money ran out, and for first grade I went to the local public elementary school. Fairly early into the year, I was playing in the playground with my dump truck, a favored toy I had brought from home. A couple boys came up to me, told me "girls don't play with trucks!" and took my truck. They played with it themselves, and took it with them. I complained to the teacher, who told me to let it go or something, I don't remember that part very well, just that I left without my truck.

Here's the thing, that might have very well been the first time a peer had ever said something like that to me. In the hippie school we had always been allowed to play with whatever we wanted, and the truck was my favorite of a huge set of toys and games involving dolls and cooking and stuffed animals and building blocks and art. My second favorite was a doctor's kit that was deemed to have too many small parts to go to school (and probably to wisely stop me from getting in trouble for "playing doctor"). For all I know the whole family might have been initially set aback by my toy choices, but by first grade they were so used to seeing me joyfully rumble my trucks around it was just an Angyl thing to them, like puns, endless questions, taking things apart, and a bossy hands on hips posture, which were also well established by then.

When Grampa picked me up, I was confused and furious. After I explained, he said, "Well. It seems to me that you're a girl, AND you play with trucks. You love your trucks! Are you going to just let them take it? Go get it back!" That's where I burst into tears again. "I TRIED TO! I was even polite! They shoved me away! You say I'm not supposed to get in fights, but the teacher wouldn't help and they wouldn't be nice!!!"

He was quiet a long time. Then he went into Military Officer mode. "Well, Angyl, sometimes if someone takes something of yours and the chain of command won't step in and make it better, you need to go get it back. You go back there tomorrow, and you get your truck. I will come if you get in trouble. For when they shove you, I'm going to teach you some moves. And you put both of them on their tokhes, and you finish it so good they will never question you again."

He did teach me moves. He taught me a lot of moves over the course of my life, hand to hand combat stuff that worked well for a smaller frame, plus lots of dirty Marine Affection fighting, which came in handy later in Anatomy and Physiology because I already knew where so many of those vessels and nerves were. I didn't know it at the time, but he never taught his daughters any of that stuff. He treated them "like girls". But for some reason after 3 daughters and then a granddaughter, when the moment came that I tearfully asked him for advice, he simultaneously let me be a girl, crying in a girl's body, and taught me things he had previously thought reserved for men's bodies and brains. Not just combat and military strategy, but later field medicine, and how to troubleshoot mechanical things and electronics, and all this amazing stuff. His leap that allowed those things to coexist allowed ME to let them coexist, at that exact same developmental moment when most of us are getting shoved in our little pink and blue gendered boxes.

I went back to school the next day, Friday, and I took back my truck. One boy shoved, and I barreled low into him, sprawling him out. The second boy went down the same way, and stayed down. But the first one came back, and apparently there were punches and bites and bloody noses and being bodily dragged apart by adults.

When the principal called Grampa, I'm pretty sure he was expecting it, because he came in dressed sharply and carrying full command aura. The principal went on and on about how horrible it was, especially for a GIRL at my tender age to be involved in all of such things. Grampa listened politely, then looked at me. "Did you get your truck back?"

I nodded, patted my bag, where it was tucked firmly away.

He focused on the principal. "Did she win?"

The principal was was flustered, not quite sure what was going on.  "Well, she sure took a lot less damage, you should see that boy's face!"  I'm sure he wanted to go on, but Grampa was Finished and when Grampa's Finished everybody knows it.

Grampa grunted. "Well, I will take her home now and talk to her about what she has done."

Then he took me to ice cream.

Most of the talking he did was about how I was to be oh so careful with that power I now had, that I absolutely could not use this to merely get my way, that it was only for a specific, knowable wrong that was fixable in this way, and if I ever used it I absolutely had to finish it right there and then. He would not support me under circumstances that didn't match those rules. He had an extraordinary number of rules about when and how to break rules.

And he said he was proud of me.

The next Monday, for reasons I may never really understand, those two boys brought their own trucks over to where I was playing with my truck. We played together. They became my best friends for a couple years, and we developed an elaborate imaginary game where we had Knight Rider KITT microchips in our shoes that could make us run faster or jump higher or could analyze the turf we were on.

If that hadn't happened, maybe I still would have ended up on the same path, through some other conflict. But having someone you love and respect say they're proud of you can drown out all those other voices telling you can't be who you already are because of your phenotype pretty strongly when you're in first grade, and I bet the opposite is true as well.


angyl: Pinkie Pie humanized drumming (Default)

April 2015

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