SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch Fall 2009 Personal Memory Ethnographies
Growing up Girl
I am the youngest child of three, with a very large age difference between myself and my two siblings. I am also the only girl. My oldest brother is now 41, my youngest brother is now 38 and I am 27. So in some ways I was treated as the youngest but in others I was treated as an only child. I learned early on that there were some major differences between myself and my brothers. They were able to go where they wanted, when they wanted without many questions. It was ok for them to stay out all hours of the night even on a school night and they were able to try for many different jobs while I was limited to just a few choices.
I had always wanted a daughter, but I had no idea how difficult she would actually be. My oldest son Brent was born when I was 18 and Brian was born three years later. I had expected just the two of them, so imagine my surprise ten years after Brian was born when I found out I was pregnant with Amanda. From the beginning she always wanted to do everything that her brothers did. She was a complete tomboy and that frustrated me because I wanted to dress her up in cute dresses and she wanted to run around shirtless.
During my childhood my oldest brother Brent was not around much, he was either living with his father or was away in the navy. My brother Brian and I became very close. We talked about everything and he always made time to hang out with his “baby” sister. When he was in high school I was just starting kindergarten and I remember waiting for him to come home just so we could play. Sometimes he stayed out until I was long in bed. By the time that I reached high school I was ready to hang out all hours of the night. That is the first time I realized that I was being treated differently. I was never allowed to ride in a car with a boy and had to be home by a certain time every night. I would ask my parents why does Brian get to stay out all the time and I don’t. They would always tell me well Amanda he is a boy and you are a girl, things are different for girls. I hated that; I couldn’t even go to the mall without one of my parents. At fifteen I met a boy who was 16 and had a car. He was the most handsome boy I had ever met. Of course before I could actually go out with him I had to bring him home to meet my parents. I don’t remember either of my brothers ever doing that. I asked again why I had to do this and again I was told well you are a girl and things are different for girls. It was a very frustrating thing to listen to. I mean I was a girl yes and I was small but I did know how to take care of myself, Brian had made sure of that.
About the time that she turned 15 the problems really started. She was very independent and still wanted to do everything that Brian did. She would ask her father and I if she could go to the mall with a friend, but we always told her no. Of course, because that was her nature, she asked why Brian always gets to go. We told her it was because she was a girl and Brian was a boy. That always frustrated her, but I felt that I was just protecting her from anybody that may try to hurt her. I kept protecting her by not allowing her to do certain things that I felt a young girl should not do. She was always so mad at me and always said, “Well Brian gets to do that”. How can you explain to your youngest child that that is just the way things are? Sometimes boys get to do more things than girls because they are generally bigger and stronger.
My first job was working at Dominos Pizza which was great except my big brother was a delivery driver there. It seemed that wherever I went my parents made sure he was there to watch over me. I did like working with him though because it allowed me to spend time with him that had been taken away when he got married and started his own family. By my senior year of high school I was 18 so I figured that I would be able to do as I wanted without much interference from my parents. I got a job at Castles-n-Coasters and within 5 months was promoted to a ride supervisor. I finally had a life of my own or so I thought. I met my husband there and we started dating, of course I was expected to bring him home to meet my parents, but by that time he was also expected to meet the very high expectations of my brother also. It was a constant struggle for me but thankfully Josh loved my family and they him.
At the age of twenty I became pregnant with my son. It was the scariest moment of my life so naturally I went to my brother first. We went to my parents together and told them. It was a crazy moment and I expected them to tell me how disappointed they were in me because I was so young. It didn’t matter that Brian had had his daughter at 20, I was a girl. For the first time in my life I was surprised by my parents, they were upset yes, but they never told me how stupid I was or how I had ruined my life. Although my oldest brother Brent did say that I was ruining my life and I would regret it. My parents stood by my side. Both of my brothers had children, both girls, who were ten years old. The same age I was when they were born. My dad was convinced that I was having a boy and I did. Nicklaus was born in October and since that time the whole “you are a girl” stereotype has pretty much been thrown out by my family.
The day that Amanda came to me with her big brother in tow, I knew something was off. She blurted out, “Mom, I’m pregnant and I’m having an abortion!”, well talk about a shock. Of course I asked her why and she really didn’t have an answer. She did decide to keep the baby and as can be expected I was very concerned for her. She was doing this all on her own without the father there to help her. After she had Nicklaus I think she finally understood why I tried to keep her under my wing for as long as I did. Amanda is one of the most overprotective mothers I have seen in a long time. She keeps Nick from doing all sorts of things because she is worried about him. However I do think that if she and her husband Josh do have a daughter someday she will be in the same situation that I was in all those years ago.
During the past twenty years there have been many obstacles that women have overcome. It was determined by Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson 1986 that sexual harassment was a form of job discrimination and United States v. Virginia in 1996 stated that women were allowed to attend a previously all male military school. These were very big feats for women, and allowed them more of a chance to do the same things as males were.
Now that I am a parent myself, I can understand why my parents did what they did. I want my son to be safe but seeing as how he is a boy I don’t have to worry about him as much as I think I would had he been a girl. My husband and I are trying for another baby and I would really like to have a daughter, and yes I do think that I would treat her a little differently than I do my son.
I really have tried to think about why this still sticks with me after all these years, and I really don’t know. I guess one reason is that I was singled out from my family just because of certain body parts. It seemed really unfair. Now that I think back to my childhood and teenage years I can understand why my mother said what she said and why she felt that way.
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