It's been shitty at work lately, but I actually took a lunch today. I decided I deserved a Happy Meal, and hit Mickey D's drive through. I placed my order and the speaker person asked me a question that still makes me sad to this very day:
"Girl or boy toy?"
I realized they were offering two toys: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Furby. I asked for a ninja turtle and then waited for my turn in line. Why did that question make me feel like crying?
When I was a little kid, we didn't have a lot of money, so McDonald's was a once in a blue moon type of treat. My sister and I looked forward to those trips just as much as luckier kids look forward to visiting Disneyland. One of my most vivid childhood memories is going to McDonald's after a particularly shitty week at school (I was bullied a lot for being the androgynous nerd that I was). When we got there, they had two toy options: Hot Wheels or Barbie. The person at the counter asked my mom whether the Happy Meals were for girls or boys. My mom replied, "one girl and one boy," knowing that I would much rather have a car than a doll. I started crying right there in the lobby.
"I don't want to be a boy, mom! I want a girl car!" The cashier laughed and gave me a Barbie. I didn't want a Barbie, but I was scared to ask for the car.
Some little punk at school told me once that if I didn't start playing with dolls and other girly things, I would turn into a boy. This was my biggest fear for a while. I went to sleep at night terrified that I would wake up and be a boy. I would cry myself to sleep sometimes wondering if I had done enough "girly" things that day so that I could remain a girl. I hated dolls, hated playing dress up, and even hated those little pretend stick-on earrings that my friends collected. I wanted to be outside making things with my Lincoln logs, playing with cars and He-Man, and getting muddy with my (boy) friends. But I wanted to be a girl, too. I told everyone I was going to grow up to be a princess paleontologist. I wouldn't wear my crown every day, though, because it would get dusty in the Montana badlands. I couldn't wear fancy dresses, but a princess paleontologist gets to wear jeans. Looking back at it as an adult, I think I just threw the princess in there so that people would know I still wanted to be a girl, even if I was a paleontologist, digging up dinosaurs with the boys.
Now I'm sitting here staring at a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles skateboard (Raphael! He was my favorite!) and feeling sad. I wonder how many little girls there are out there that ended up with a Furby because they were afraid they'd turn into a boy if they admit to liking the "boy's toy."