From Tomboy to "Girl Box"

Tomboy….many girls were called this growing up. I lived it! I played in the dirt, always had scabs on my knees and mainly played with the neighborhood boys. From gnarly bike tires, to super soakers so big they came with a back strap, I was a tomboy. My older sister was the “girly girl” and I remember making fun of her and intentionally rolling down the car window to mess up her perfectly curled bangs. I did not see any “girl box” around me when I was young. Then it all came to a screeching halt.   Summertime, sun is shining, playing in the pool, having cuts on the side on your mouth from freeze-pops,…yes life was good! Until one evening when I got up from my grandmothers white dining room chairs and saw that the inevitable had happen. My mom was so delighted that she shrilled at the top of her lungs “Oh! She’s finally becoming a woman!”  UGH…life as my tomboy self had ended. Clearly I was not as happy about this as my mother was.

Coming from a larger breed of human, pleasantly referred to as “fat and happy”, my first bra was a C cup and I grew 4 inches over a summer. I was taller, bigger, and curvier than all other girls in my grade. I did not understand why my dad was so concerned,why I was not allowed to play “house” with my friends anymore and why running around hurt so bad. My dad simply said, “You are a Girl now; you just can’t do certain things.”  The box had been placed.  Now let me backtrack and say that my dad is the most loving, caring, father a daughter could ever ask for.  Though he was very traditional in gender roles and led the family as a strong patriarchal being, he was not trying to restrict me in anyway, or place me into the girl box. He was trying to make me feel better when I simply did not understand the changes my body was going through. It was confusing and restrictive and I did not like it!

I started to notice different attention from boys. They didn’t just want to pull the tails off of lizards with me anymore! My father noticed my confused state of mind and started to take me on Daddy-Daughter “dates”. He would show me and talk to me about how a lady should be treated and in turn taught me that while some people may place a “girl box” around me, I have the ability and power to do anything. He empowered me to not have to conform to what boys find pretty. He taught me that I do not need to do what others thought I “should do” but instead what I thought I should do. He taught me that I don’t have anyone else’s standards to live up to except my own. He always told me that I never have to be as good as anyone else; I just have to be a really good me.

As time went on, the “Daddy Dates” were replaced by real dates, and my confidence is what out shined my body. I wish all girls had a father that taught them that the most important thing in life is to just be the best “you” that you can be.


Tracy Ryan works as a Director of Catering at Paramount Plaza Hotel & Suites. She starred in the independent documentary Unsupersize Me, winner of 4 film festivals, featuring her inspiring 200 lb weight loss journey — in one year through a plant based whole diet and a regular work out routine.  Tracy received her MBA with a specialization in Human Resource Management but her heart has always been with food and beverage and especially event planning. In her free time, she enjoys working out, running, and cooking for others.