birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

I Should Have Been a Boy!

“I should have been a boy!”

I stood looking deep into my own eyes, looking back at me from the mirror.

I don’t recall exactly when the refrain began—“I should have been a boy.”

I only know it sounded non-stop in my head throughout the spring.

My hair was short and bent and mouse-brown. My face was square, and my nose stuck out from the center of my face like an “eagle’s beak”—the appellation given to me by my friend Sharon. (She had a hostile name for everyone!)

I’ve often wondered if it began after I saw how besotted my father was with my little brother—who was two years old by then.

Before he arrived, all scrawny and weak, I had been the special one. But afterward, he alone got to follow my father into his shed and along the riverside. He was the one who got to sit on his lap, and share his fishing pole.

“I should have been a boy”—was it a mantra to explain my banishment?

Was it an attempt to make sense of my not-prettiness? I was too stout, too square, to angular. I was too strong and not strong enough. I was too smart, and not cute enough.

Later, in junior high, I was too good at math and science. The other girls made fun of me for being advanced to algebra ahead of them. The boy of my dreams made fun of me—“You sit like a boy!”—when I crossed my ankle on my knee instead of sitting primly with ankles kissing and toes and heels on the floor.

“I should have been a boy!” And, I wasn’t. And, I was—in an odd mixed up disembodied way.

But I stopped short of manliness in college. A guy friend told me bluntly, “You’ll never get a husband if you persist in being pre-med, you know. Besides, you can’t compete with all those frat boys who already have the answers to all the tests. Really, you’re too pretty to be a doctor anyway—and, too sexy. So, why?”

So, wait—he’s saying I shouldn’t be a boy?

Well, what would it be like for this boyish face to try being a girl for a change? But, really, I should have been a boy!

Fairness Divining Rod

Cambodia