There were two times in my life that I found it necessary to attempt to trick people into believing I was boy.
The first was around age 7. I was a girl scout. I was a girl scout who longed to be a boy scout. Why? You ask?
Simple. Girl scouts had to sit around knitting things and making doilies. This was long before knitting was cool and even if it had been cool back then, my hyperactive little self would not have been having any part of it. I had little to no interest in reading American Girl books or sewing clothing for dolls. I liked baking things, but not nearly as much as I liked more lively pastimes like catching potentially dangerous wildlife with my bare hands.
It just so happened that the boy scouts got to participate in activities that were exactly conducive to that sort of thing. They camped and built fires and fished. They earned merit badges for things like archery and survival skills. They made little wooden cars with their dads and sanded them down all smooth and then raced them to see whose was the fastest.
I knew. I had a little brother in boy scouts. And I was jealous.
My best friend, Deja, also had a brother in boy scouts, though her's was older.
Fortunately for me, Deja was jealous too. So Deja and I devised a plan. We would stuff our (already boyishly short) hair under baseball caps and sneak into a boy scout meeting. They would take us in with open arms, and we'd be camping and building pinewood derby cars before we knew it!
I remember walking in with her, our hands in our pockets, trying to look tough. We thought it was going to work until her older brother appeared from another room and shouted, "Those aren't boys! That's my little sister and her friend!"
We were promptly ushered out.
Not willing to consider ourselves doomed to live only vicariously through our brothers, we quit girl scouts (well, after the year ended as our mothers wanted to teach us to follow through on our commitments) and started our own club. We called it the Straight A Team. Nobody else joined it because they all thought that "Straight A" meant they had to have perfect grades when really A only stood for animals.
Fortunately that wasn't our only club. We also had the Last Chance Detectives, which I'm pretty sure we just swiped the name of from some really cheesy television show we both watched.
Our activities for the Straight A Team largely consisted of dragging the same 3 tires out of the river in our school playground at least once a week, only to find that adults had put them right back in again the very next day. I have a feeling, in hindsight, that those tires were probably a tool to maintain the structural integrity of the river bank or something. As kids, though, every time we hauled them out and onto the grass, we were convinced that we were saving the lives of countless otters and... probably even some dolphins.
As for the Last Chance Detectives, our attention was focused on one caper. The reoccurring mailbox bandit. Someone was knocking down Deja's family's mailbox. Violently.
Whoever it was had to be brought to justice.
We noticed a hapless wanderer who limped up and down the road that ran parallel to the embankment at the edge of my yard and took it upon ourselves to spy on this man with binoculars. We also made notes about him in our club journal.
"Man walks with a limp today but he didn't yesterday."
"Man walks with cane."
"Limp is gone. Looks suspicious."
"No cane today, but now he is wearing a bandana over his face. What is he hiding?"
"Man is growing a beard. Must be changing looks to hide from cops. We'll get 'im!"
This poor guy. We even had plans for some kind of tripwire trap that would have him hanging by his foot from a tree like in the movies. Fortunately for everyone involved, my dad refused to help us set that one up.
The second time I thought it imperative to be mistaken for a boy was when I was 13. The reasons had changed immeasurably, however. This time it was because I had a crush on a boy or two in the tiny class I was in.
Again, a friend collaborated. My classmate Mandy also had a thing for one of the guys in our class. The only problem was that we, being just newly teenage girls, were convinced we could never know what boys talked about (namely, whether or not they talked about us) unless we could be a fly on the wall in their conversation.
The only way to make this happen was to become one of them. To infiltrate undetected into their camp.
Mandy and I planned this hoodwink thoroughly for weeks in advance. We chose our boy names (she would be Brent and I would be Tré with a little accent over the e ) and figured out the best ways to hide our hair. We even got our teacher in on it.
In order to explain our absence when Brent and Tré showed up, we would stage a mock fight with our teacher (who we actually got along with beautifully) and she would pretend to have us suspended from school. This part of the plan was executed with precision. Our teacher took us out in the hall, and we three pretended to shout at each other as we stifled the giggles that threatened to blow our cover.
After going outside to walk around in the sunshine and compose ourselves for a bit, and to make it look like the principal was calling our mothers, we sulked somberly back into our classroom to say goodbye to our classmates and leave early.
Mandy's dad drove over and picked us up. We spent the weekend disguising our hair and ourselves to the very best of our ability. I was frustrated when my amateur quest to dye my hair red produced only a subtle tint on my dark chocolate locks.
When we walked back into the living room after my hair was dry, Mandy's pops said, "Hey that looks good!", to which I replied, "It's not supposed to look good! It's supposed to look different! Really really different!" I sighed heavily before I thanked him for the compliment.
Mandy and I stayed up all night before school began again on Monday putting our hair into a million tiny braids and folding the braids in half as a last ditch effort to make it appear shorter.
There I was again. Monday morning, strutting into a room with my hands in my pockets, trying to look tough.
The boys we had crushes on, the very ones we sought to fool, were the only other souls about as early as we arrived. They took one look at us and said, "Sarah? Mandy? I thought you guys were suspended! Why are you dressed like that? What happened to your hair?"
"Uh" I said in my best guy-voice, "No. Sarah and Mandy got suspended, so they sent us in their place. My name is Tré, with an accent over the e, and this is my friend Brent."
There was a momentary pause.
And then Nathan and Eric burst into uncontrollable laughter. At a loss for explaining ourselves, we made up a story on the spot about dressing up as boys to infiltrate their hang-out talks... as a research project.
Thankfully, they were amused enough with the whole situation not to question us further. Instead, they decided to sneak us into a closet to try and help us make our disguises more convincing. Nathan tried to use mascara to paint facial hair on us, and Eric... mostly just made a mess.
Needless to say, we didn't end up deceiving one single classmate.
But somehow, as with the silliness when I was 7, the endeavor was not entirely fruitless.
Ever since then I have been more than content being a girl. Even if it means that sometimes catching dangerous wild animals is frowned upon. Last I heard, boys aren't exactly encouraged to bring home adult wild raccoons either.
Though that is another story. And shall be told another time.