Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Tomboy Stage

Historically, at one time for some people, the pre-preteen girls posed a bit of unnecessary worry if they were slower than average in blossoming into young womanhood and persisted in engaging in behaviors that are deemed "nonfeminine."  A lot of what happens is determined by biology, and some by what is available for her at the time.  Fortunately, that reaction was largely a thing of the past, but not completely.

Research by developmental psychologists has indicated that being ahead in development as compared to one's age mate peers is usually advantageous to boys: these early-maturing boys tend to be stronger, faster, larger, and better able to compete for status and in sports with other boys.  They're more confident in their abilities and tend to be higher in self-esteem. [Think of the stereotypical jock.]  Late-maturing boys tend to be more nervous, have lower self-esteem, are less able to compete, and generally have a hard time.  They might be subjected to bullying because of their low status in the male totem pole.  In  short, if you're a male and you're far behind the curve, it sucks.

In the case of girls, early-maturing girls may feel conspicuous and awkward, especially if they are way ahead of their classmates in maturation.  Early-maturing girls might also be hit on by older guys and pressured into sexual behavior when they're unable to handle it.  After all, suppose you're a head taller than the average guy in your class.  How do you know what to do?  

Girls who are slower than average in development do not have the same degree of adjustment problems that late-developing boys do.  In fact, they tend to be more studious than their early-maturing peers, who spend more time in social activities.  On the other hand, they might experience anxieties because of of late onset of breast development.  For some of us, the Boob Fairy comes dismayingly late. 

Some of us slow developing girls may go in for an extended period of being a tomboy.  Under the circumstances, if you have fewer resources, it's better to wait and not compete with your earlier-developed peers.  At least nowadays there's less worry about tomboy behavior.  As a matter of fact, one of the nice side effects of Title IX is that it's okay to be athletic if you're a girl!  Hooray!  Didn't want those frilly clothes, anyway!

I was once a tomboy.  And a left-handed one, at that.  I remember an aunt going  to Mom, "How can you let Tee Angel go like that?"  She did.  As for dress, my Mom took a compromise approach to what I wore.  I would wear the prescribed school uniform for the Catholic school I attended; but at other times it was largely my choice.  Or, maybe she was just doing what she could, given that she had five children and most kids turn out okay even though they're not always up to the ultrafeminine or ultramasculine ideal!  Shoes were regarded as optional indoors for my family. Yes, I would wear knee socks in outlandish colors suitable for Hello Kitty World! 

She did instruct me in hair care, and left it up to me.

Oh, I took ballet lessons.  Seeing The Nutcracker was motivation enough for me to see there were other options beside being a tomboy.  And suddenly boys became interesting in another way, and that was also okay.

Mom made being a kid fun for me, and I think she had fun too.


Big Sky Heidi said...

Very interesting about the effects of early or late maturation.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

You must have been a delightful tomboy, Angel!

Mike said...

I'd never heard the term tee angel before. A goolge search sent me to Victorias Secret. Thanks.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Lucky you!! I wanted to be you.
I was the dreaded early maturing girl who was taller than the boys with boobs. DREADFUL!!

Dianne said...

I was one of the early maturing girls and it wasn't easy

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Mike -- Cajunsuse 'Tee' to mean 'little.' Probably after petit.

Elvis and Heidi -- THank you

Margaret and Dianne -- In general, girls being on schedule with regard to maturation seems to have the fewest bad effects. Breast development seems to be loaded with issues.

Bilbo said...

I matured right on time (well, physically, anyhow), but was more studious than athletic, which led to all sorts of issues. I learned that the early developing girls were sought after by the early developing boys (jocks), and tended to hang out with them. It wasn't until my 40th high school reunion that I learned that one of the "early-developing" girls I'd had a crush on from a distance had also had a crush on me from a distance ... but because our social caste expectations locked us into our geek and goddess roles, it took us 40 years to admit it to each other, look back, and laugh. The Boob Fairy and the Testosterone Fairy can be equally sadistic. Great post, as usual!

Anemone said...

Yes, I was one of those tomboys so prolonged that the school actually had a conference with my mom about it and what could be done.

Nothing was, thank God!

Insane Penguin said...

A great post!

The Bastard King of England said...

How old were you when you stopped being a tomboy?

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Bilbo, adolescent social roles and categories can unfortunately limit their lives. Yours is a very poignant story of what did happen. I hope what did was as happy for her as it is for you.

Anemone, I hope that was not too much of an additional burden.

Thank you, Penguin.

King, I guess Iwas about 14 or 15.

Banana Oil said...

I was a tomboy when I was young. Still am. :)