may all girls decide for themselves where they belong

I had a skateboard once. Until it disappeared from the driveway a mere hours after its maiden voyage. I had a second skateboard after that. That one was smashed in front of me in case I didn't get the memo.

Girls can't skate. 

Boys only.

Go away. 

There was one boy in particular who thought it was funny to push me around. He put condoms in my mailbox when I was too young to know what they meant, and he once pushed me off my bike so hard I hit my head on the pavement.

Baby's first concussion. 

Later on, when we came together for a "family meeting," his parents excused his behavior as "that of a boy who has a crush on a girl."

Because boys will be boys and girls can't skateboard. 

My mother and his mother didn't speak after that. I was convinced my mom was overreacting at the time and was mortified. Not only was I NOT ALLOWED to be part of the team, I was the girl who got one of the boys into trouble. I was a tattle-tale.

Any hopes I had at being accepted were long gone after that.

Still. My one and only squad goal, even after everything that happened, was to be included. I was naturally drawn to boys at that age - wanting desperately to relate as peers to a group who took great pride in telling me I wasn't allowed.

Had I been a boy, I would have grown up skateboarding like every other boy on our block. Instead, I grew up watching from the driveway.

It wasn't until I grew boobs and became teen-girl-hot that I was able to be part of their world.

I spent my entire high school years dating skateboarders, sitting on their boards, attending their contests, wearing the logos of their sponsors to school on my backpacks and hoodies and shoes. I even worked at a skate shop for two summers, gripping boards and selling trucks and picking up lunch for everyone.

I've written about this several times over the years, mainly because the older I get, the more I realize how DIFFERENT the world was back then. Or maybe it's still the same, I don't know. Skateboarding was a “boys only” activity where I grew up and we girls took our places as cheerleaders on the sidelines.  

Not that there is anything wrong with a girl wanting to cheer on her skateboarding boyfriend, but there was something very EXPECTED about girls as sideline cheerleaders as opposed to participants. And not just for skateboarding, either... football was much the same. Girls didn't play. Girls watched. Girls cheered. Girls wore their boyfriends football jerseys. Girls painted the signs the boys broke through on the field 

I was no different, of course.  I settled on being a cheerleader to skateboarders -- a groupie with a backstage pass.  There were loads of us -- our livelihood dependent on the wants and needs of the same boys who once told us we couldn't.

These were boys -- many of them friends and boyfriends later on -- who didn't want me/us on the field, they wanted us on the sidelines. That was "where we belonged" and that was perfectly fine with me. So long as I was liked for being what I needed to be in order to be liked. Rinse wash repeat.

I was unable to SEE myself as someone other than the spectatorNot that I would have ever become a great skateboarder but now I recognize that instead of standing up for myself I sat down. 

If you've ever spent time with a groupie (or spent time BEING one) you will know that MANY of us/them wanted to play guitar long before we started hooking up with guitar players. Many of us/them wanted to be the boys dropping in on the vert ramp before we became the girlfriends of those who did.

"Here, hold my coat." 

"Can I get a ride home?"

"I forgot my wallet. Can you spot me some cash for lunch?"

I took great pride in being able to say. 


And yes.

And yes.

It is a very real trope, in our lives, our popular culture. We are brought up to KNOW ourselves as leads but to SEE OURSELVES reflected back as supporting characters. As characters who support. Which is why, lately, it has become a huge priority for me to prioritize LEADING LADIES in my daughters' (and son's) lives.

Because RAISING OTHERS, while important, cannot replace the priority that is RAISING THE SELF.And while mothering and supporting and BEING THERE as a sister is beautiful and important work, one must not sacrifice her own needs in order to fulfill the needs of another. 

Girls have always been great at supporting boys. We have been doing it for generations and generations. And generations. We are SO good at taking care of others we often make it our lives and livings to do so. And not just as mothers but as partners. Friends.

Sometimes we don't even notice we're doing it. We're moms, after all, and that includes those of us who don't have children. Because in the same way it is expected of boys to be tough and not give a shit, our softness and willingness to support becomes just as damaging an expectation. Emotionally. Mentally. Sexually... 


I was having this conversation with my friend Angela last month -- my friend, who like me, spent a great part of her adolescence groupie-ing it up. I told her about Bo and how she found Archer's old waterlogged warp-wooded skateboard in the garage and started to ride it barefoot down the driveway, and how for Christmas, I wanted to get her her own board. 

Later that day, we wandered into Supreme, a skate shop on Fairfax in the neighborhood I have spent my entire adult life. Tino was working, a friend of Angela's and an acquaintance of mine from years back. 

We got to talking about Bo and getting her on a skateboard and the conversation drifted back through our own personal narratives -- of skateboarding and what it meant to our young lives...  I told Tino about my first skateboard and how broken I was when it was broken. I told him about being a girl and then raising one, two, three of them... 

Tino listened, nodded, understood, and then disappeared into the back of the store, reappearing moments later with a deck, a sheet of grip tape, four wheels and two trucks. 

"I'm going to set up a board for her," he said. "What's her name?"


"I'm going to set up a board for Bo."

He didn't charge me for the board. He mumbled something about it being a sample or an extra or something they couldn't sell... 

He told me not to worry about it. 

"This was meant for her," he said. 

I cried leaving the skate shop. The whole thing felt so poetic -- my broken board in exchange for her free one... 

My inability to stand up for myself vs my willingness to fight (finally) for the girls.

One of the reasons I rejected feminism for so long (and why so many other women probably do) is that I ALWAYS felt I had power. I was a great fucking cheerleader. I OWNED those pompoms. I was in more control in those days than I probably am now. But that was because my OWNERSHIP was LIMITED to a box on the sidelines.

And that's just it, isn't it?

It wasn't until I had daughters of my own that I realized how UNLIMITED I wanted their fields to be. And how LIMITED I had been without ever having acknowledged it.

I want my daughters to have the whole field AND the sidelines.

I want my son to have the SIDELINES and the whole field.

I want them all to have access to all of the places on all of the fields in all of the land.

I want my son to feel supported by his family and community to continue ballroom dancing and singing at the top of his lungs on a stage. And I want my girls to skateboard if they want to fucking skateboard. Not be bullied by any boy (or girl) to sit down and watch.

I don't know if skateboarding will be Bo's thing or if it will be one of her many things—or if, this, right now is just a blip. Perhaps by this time next year she would rather ride a bike than bomb a hill. Or read a book. Or paint a portrait.

Skateboarding was my unrequited love. But it won't be for my daughters. Not if they don't want it to be. If I regret ONE thing from my past it's this: 

I didn't know any better but to listen to the boys who didn't know any better. 

And whether my children grow up to be professional DOERS or LOYAL supporters of ... I pray they continue to recognize how capable they are to DO and BE and RIDE and RUN and JUMP and TRAIN and INNOVATE and PLAY and in every incarnation of their lives, decide for THEMSELVES where they belong. 
Even if that means on a skateboard.