When I was little, my mother made me have short hair. Her theory was that it easier to look after, which makes hair seem less like part of the body, and more like a part of a car. Forget fashion, forget what I wanted, maintenance came first.
So anyway, I was this little girl with short hair called Robin. One day my we went and visited my mother’s insane aunt on a farm. Me and my brother were both dressed in shorts and t-shirts. I think I was probably 5 and he was three. Anyway, my great-aunt said “Oh look, two little boys”. Yes, she thought I was a boy.
I went over to mum and told her that her aunt thought I was a boy. I would like to think, that if I had a daughter who was mistaken for a son, I would correct the person as soon as possible. But my mother didn’t. In fact, it seemed to me that she didn’t really care what gender my great-aunt thought I was. So I was left to go over to insane auntie and say “I’m not a boy!”
Anyway, my mother dressed me and oh my god, there were some hideous garments. I remember a matching shirt and blouse that would be more suited to some old lady working hidden away in a library than a 7 year old girl. I was helplessly unhip.
Not only that, but I wasn’t allowed to wear sneakers because unlike ugly leather shoes, they didn’t let my feet breathe. Like that matters to an 8 year old.
So I was this little girl being make to dress like a 65 year old woman. Then my class was going to visit a farm. My mother made me a tracksuit and told me I had to wear it to the farm. I didn’t want to, but I eventually did and it was revelation. It was comfortable, and it didn’t suck too much.
After that day, I decided I didn’t want to wear a skirt ever again. This did not please my mother. For some reason, it was wrong, oh so very very wrong for me to not want to wear a skirt. Like it would turn me into a lesbian or something?
I remember by mother being like “Oh why won’t you wear skirts, Robin?”. I don’t know if there were rumours about me, or whether it make her look like bad mother, but I got hassled by my own mother for not wearing skirts.
I remember giving in and going to school wearing some hideous outfit consisting of a pink floral skirt, a pink t-shirt and a pink cardigan. Fortunately that didn’t last for long and the tracksuits won out. Whilst not exactly very cool, they were better than the flowered skirts.
Now that I look back on it, I was getting really mixed signals from my mother. First of all she doesn’t care that her aunt thinks I’m a boy, then she’s yelling at me to dress like a girl.
I always felt that I’d been given a boy’s name. There was a guy in kindergarten called Robin, so from a very early age I felt like I had a boy’s name. All the Robins I knew of were men, Robin Hood, Batman and Robin, Robin Gibb. I knew no female Robins.
However, sometimes I would tell someone my name and they spelled it with an y and it seemed somehow liberating. Like Robyn didn’t just say “a person called Robyn”, but “a female called Robyn”. Then at the age of 8 I started to call myself Robyn. It was great moment.
I knew I was a girl, no matter what my mother said, or didn’t say. Fortunately I’ve gotten over it all. No damage done, just having to grow up with a retarded sense of fashion, really bad hair and the mistaken belief that complete strangers care about me.