A few years ago, I stumbled upon a picture of myself in senior kindergarten. The picture made me laugh. In it, is my adorable best friend at the time, Lucia. Her blond hair is pulled into a perfectly pristine bun atop her head, and she’s holding her arms up in the shape of a triangle. She’s dressed in a pale pink leotard and a puffy pink tutu. In the background, there are several other blurry little ballerinas.
Beside my adorable counterpart, I stand proudly, as quite a sight to see. My dark brown hair is exploding messily from beneath a tall red hat. I’m dressed in a square red jacket with big golden buttons. My swollen cheeks protrude further than the brim of my hat, flushed pink with excitement. Happiness lights up my face.
“Why am I dressed like a boy?” Was my initial reaction when I saw the picture several years after its capture. While Lucia looks delicate and adorable, I’m brute and obtuse. The gender roles in the costumes are glaring. I had trouble looking past them as an adult. All I could think was that as a girl, I should be dressed in the sweet girly costume too, shouldn’t I?
The truth is, I don’t remember much about the circumstances surrounding that Christmas pageant. I don’t remember if we danced or sang. I don’t even remember going on stage to perform. I don’t know if this was before or after I developed my mild stage fright.
The one thing I do remember, however, is that I was given the choice. I remember I wanted to be what I thought was a soldier, though I can’t recall why. Maybe I liked red. Or maybe the costume reminded me of my grandmother’s Christmas decorations. Maybe at 4 years old, I didn’t actually have reasoning behind my decision, though I doubt that’s the case. Regardless, I remember I chose to be a nutcracker, and from the picture it’s evident that I was extremely happy about it.
Reflecting upon it now, I wonder if any other girls opted to be nutcrackers, or boys to be sugarplum fairies. I just don’t remember.
The most important thing I do remember is that it really didn’t matter. I remember making the request to the teacher to be a nutcracker, and then I was a nutcracker. It wasn’t a political statement or pointed debate. My teachers, nor my parents, ever gave me any indication that my life was anything but a series of my own choices to make. Nobody cared. It was a nonissue. As it should be. This was in 1994.
As I delve deeper into feminist literature and the continuous struggle for Women’s Rights around the world, I realize that in 2018, there are several girls who still don’t have these freedoms. I am eternally grateful to have been born in this city, with this family. I’m grateful to have been given all the choices that I have been given. So many little girls won’t ever have the choice to be nutcrackers or fairies. They won’t be in pageants, they won’t even get to dress up. They won’t have many choices at all in life. My heart weeps for those girls.
At the very least, I’m comforted by the fact that there are strong girls out there. Girls that will persevere. Girls that really will choose to be soldiers and lead the march for girls everywhere.