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To The Girl Who's Different—Don't You Let Them Make A 'Lady' Out Of You

12/12/2016 9:44 AM IST | Updated 14/12/2016 8:34 AM IST
Erik Isakson

Dear girl with sleeves rolled up,

You are okay. Trust me. Today you might be alone when you bounce that basketball off the burning concrete court under the blazing sun. But it is all right. The anger inside you will simmer. Hold on to it. Those sniggers that you hear in the background? Get used to them. They will stay. For you are not like them. I know, for I was you. And if I had to go back and change anything, I'd probably just take sports more seriously. Other than that, I was as perfect as you are.

Back then in school, however, I sometimes craved to change myself—have smaller, more "girl-like" hands, hair that fell perfectly, and a genuine liking for the gaggle of giggling girls in my class. Thankfully, the craving was momentary. I couldn't for the life of me ooh and ah over the latest heroes (literary heroes were a different ball game though), the nail paint or the perfect flick that bounced off their foreheads. So Medusa hair it was, along with large hands that could slap the living daylights out of people and a band of friends from the other gender.

Don't let anyone tell you that you are strange, different, or for that matter abnormal. They are just terrified of you.

I am not saying you will never find friends in girls. You will. It will take longer perhaps. We are in short supply, you see! The square pegs in round holes are not easy to spot. You will find your own bag full of so-called misshapen pegs in due time. Till then don't let anyone tell you that you are strange, different, or for that matter abnormal. They are just terrified of you. You, after all, are breaking their comfortable mould, shaking them up, removing the blinkers they continue to wear.

Body hair, odour, wiry hair, a longer than "normal" stride—it is all you, one hundred percent you, and not a page out of a glossy magazine that was photoshopped anyway. The whispers around you want you to change, for you threaten the image of perfection that they strive to attain. Drown those murmurs in your dreams, in the loud thud of the ball when it hits the ground after scoring a point, in the sound of wind weaving through your unruly hair, in the raucous laughter that you share with the boys.

Friends do not need a gender. So if you get along with boys, it is not even a point of discussion. Your face doesn't need lip-gloss, neither do you need nail paint, and for heaven's sake, don't even think you are strange because you roll your sleeves all the way up so that sometimes the "disgusted" women folk catch a glimpse of your armpits. Guess what? Armpits are here to stay. So is the hair. It is their job to get used to it. Not yours.

Trust me, this will pass. You are in middle school. It is the most brutal phase of life. And so far, you are doing a great job swimming against the tide. Just keep breathing and beating those waves. You will just come out stronger, surer and way more interesting than the murmurs you hear when you go high-fiving with the boys.

I am not saying that it is easy. Simpler paths are straighter. We, my friend, are made for the rocky terrain. Cross each boulder, even if you end up with scraped knees and a bruised soul. The exhilaration of reaching the peak and looking down on the round pegs sitting in their round holes is something else. Remember that being alone on that peak is different from being lonely in a row of pegs that are hard to tell apart.

Let no one force you to conform to the rules of a "man's world"—It is not theirs or ours. It just is. So just be. Okay?

Along the way, you will have peers, adults, billboards and Snapchat stories telling you that you are different, that you need to be demure, apply make-up, straighten your hair and talk in a sing-song voice. At times like this, just remember, different is good. There will be times when you might shuffle in a corner uncomfortably and admire your shoes while the rest of the room parties away. And the days when you are filled with doubt about everything that you do and are. Just hang in there. I did too. Believe me it gets better.

Promise me that you will prefer to be alone rather than follow the herd into neat rows of stereotypes. Promise yourself that you will slam dunk rather than adjust that stray hair behind your ear and giggle. And even if you have to giggle, let it be a full-throated laughter that makes heads turn. You are not living in a man's world. We share the space. So let no one force you to conform to the rules of a "man's world"—because there is no such thing. It is not theirs or ours. It just is. So just be. Okay?

Waiting on the other side,

A girl with sleeves rolled up.

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