“Have Your Son Give It a Whirl”

Some things just stick with you forever.

I think I was seven or eight years old, and living in Hanover Park back in the early 70’s. Yes, I’m showing my age here, but whoever reads my posts knows damn well how old I am, so frankly, I could care less. I barely embrace my gray hairs which are covered with hair dye to disguise how old I REALLY am.

Anyway, I had a flashback to my time as a child of let’s say, seven years old. My dad wore the horned rim glasses, white t-shirt and gray utility pants with paint stains on them, while my mom had learned with the expertise of Vidal Sassoon how to tease her hair into a beehive without even looking in the mirror.

As for me, I was a little, fat Italian/Polish girl. I had long, thick, curly hair down to my butt, until my mom decided it would be best to cut it all off because she was sick and tired of brushing the knots out of it. So, there I was: 7 years old, fat with short hair. And, lest we not forget at that age, girls didn’t wear makeup back then….and seven year old girls didn’t have boobs either. That’s me————————————————-> on the bottom with the twin peaks hairdo after my hair got chopped off. My, my, my….that haircut did WONDERS for my girlish looks, didn’t it?

So, my dad gets on this health kick (as he normally did), and decided he wanted to buy an exercise bike at home. Maybe this was for my benefit as well, but when you’re seven years old you don’t think in vain terms, but rather thinking if this thing would be “fun” to have in our basement. Back then, this “new invention” was the bomb. No one in our neighborhood had one. It was the equivalent of having a color television set vs a black and white television set.

On a Saturday, an older gentleman showed up at our doorstep (well, to me he was older, but he probably wasn’t any older than my dad was), and plopped into our basement this new piece of exercise equipment: A bike you could ride in place as the seat rose up and down while you pedaled. SPECTACULAR! What a way to burn a 100 calories in an hour!

I felt like putting on my pink velvet stretch pants (with elastic waistband), and matching tank top to look like I was ready to work out! But, before I got too excited about this newest contraption, we all listened intently as the man gave us instructions on how to use the machine.

My dad sat on it first and thought it was awesome. “Honey, you should give this a try. It’s works pretty good.” My mom never exercised a day in her life (unless you call golfing exercise), and politely declined. Having just teased that huge beehive on her head, I’m sure she didn’t want to mess up the “birds nest” for someone to land on (this is a whole other story unto itself, but I won’t go into that here).

Then, the man turned to me and said, “Why not let your son give it a whirl?”


I turned around and looked behind me. Did I have a long lost brother that suddenly appeared because we now have a piece of sports equipment in our house? What’s his name? I hope he’s younger than me so I can push him around….hmmm… don’t see him anywhere. Then it dawned on me – Did he call ME a boy? Why, I believe he did. Let’s make a mental checklist:

1. Fat? – Yes.

2. Short hair? – Yes.

3. Was I wearing makeup at the ripe old age of seven? – No.

4. Did I have boobs back then? – definitely NO.

So, if we do the math correctly, 1 thru 4 = BOY.

Where was Justin Bieber when  you needed him? I was stunned. My dad politely corrected the man in stating that the “boy” was his daughter. I declined to “give it a whirl”. Being a “boy” and all, I was afraid I’d damage my nuts and fall down to the ground crying like, well, a GIRL.

What does a seven year old girl do in these types of situations?  Should I have gone over to him and kicked him in the nuts? I don’t think my parents would have approved. I could have corrected him myself, but I surely thought he wasn’t talking to me at first, but rather my fictitious brother who was standing behind me.  Instead, I remained quiet, went up to my room and then cursed my mother for making me cut my hair off. I supposed if I still had my long, thick, curly hair I wouldn’t have been mistaken for a boy.

This provided an identity crisis for me – did I now need to buy a cup to ride this exercise bike my dad was going to spends hundreds of dollars on? Did I now need to join all kinds of manly sports like football and baseball because I looked like a guy? Should I start spitting and grabbing my crotch whenever baseball was on tv?

One thing I knew for sure – I hated dolls growing up. My mother adored dolls. She never had any when she was growing up and felt that my sister and I should have them to make up for the stuff she never had. I remember getting this doll for christmas one year. My mom was gushing about how “life like” it was.

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear. To a little girl, anything “life like” scared the living shit out of me. I definitely thought this doll was going to drag me under my bed at some point in the night and take me into some perilous depths of doll hell where I’d have to endure tea parties and play dress up. Thinking ahead, I was keen to make sure to let this doll know who was the boss. So, I promptly decided to carry the doll around by her hair.

I dragged her around and turned her head into the corner of the wall. I couldn’t bear to look at her. Being 6 or 7 at the time, all I could think of was what that doll was going to do to me at night when I slept…..it was unthinkable.

My mom was furious with me. She couldn’t understand how I could treat such a “life like” doll in that manner. “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you want to feed your dolly?”

“Boys don’t feed dollys”, I thought to myself… “we blow up frogs with firecrackers and light up paper bags filled with dog poop.”

But, I didn’t do that either.

I was a girl – I just didn’t like dolls. I wasn’t a boy, but sure looked like one.

I guess over the years, things have changed, and people now recognize me as a woman (thank goodness). But, at times people still think I’m a guy. I occasionally get responses to things I’ve said or done that sound something similar to, “Wow…that took a lot of balls, lady.”

Yet another identity crisis.


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