Last time, I introduced myself as Gray. This is actually short for a female name, which I don’t like because it’s just a bit too feminine for me. Plenty of others have the name too and they all seem to be PR princesses and journalists who write for Marie-Claire. However, I was struck by the words of a counsellor I once had, who observed that I’d chosen a ‘deliberately ambiguous’ name. When you see it written down, you don’t really know who I am… I like that. People often jump to the nearest female name they recognise when I introduce myself, which sometimes annoys me. But I’m still amused by their confusion.
I’m not a girly-girl. I don’t do pink or frills or cushions. I like motorbikes, loud music, computers,graphic novels, the workings of the London Underground. You’re more likely to find me engrossed in a programme on refitting a narrowboat or a documentary about black holes than ‘How to look good naked’. I browse through sale racks of industrial metal CDs, not handbags or heels. Actually, I don’t think I even own any heels. I know I don’t own any skirts.I have to use something as a title, so I’m a Ms. For years I had very short hair, until last year when I decided to grow it to cover my new hearing aids. I never wear make-up, either– although I can, and do, such as at weddings. I then have to bite my lip when people make crass comments about me scrubbing up well – as if, in my normal scruffy state I’m incapable of anything else.
It’s hard to pinpoint why I’m such a tomboy. I always saw my brother as having much more fun and freedom. I can safely say I knew this from as young as three years old. My first two best friends were both boys (both, oddly, were also called Jonathan, and both shared the same birthday). I liked the idea that girls who are tomboys stand out and get attention. I liked being ready for action at any time. I liked the additional pull for potential boyfriends of being a bit more forthright and down-to-earth than a lot of girls I knew. I’m certainly much happier hanging out with men than women, especially at loud gigs when you’d always find me down the front ‘slamming’ (moshing) and talking technical details of valve clearances at a bike meet.
This has had its disadvantages, of course. It’s left me feeling very isolated sometimes. It’s all very well having male friends, but not so good when you need to talk about your Girl Bits or if you’re upset and just need a hug. Societal expectations seem to have no age limit; I know 15-year-olds and 75-year-olds equally who have problems with me. I can’t believe people's nerve and rudeness, sometimes, but hey... It hurts, when you try to be as open-minded and as accepting of other people as you can, when people are blatantly blinkered. It also makes finding close friends pretty hard; I don’t trust people so much nowadays so I may even be closing the door on people now before I’ve even given them a try. What a round-and-round!
I do laugh, though, when my good friends say “She’s not a girl, she’s a Gray.”
So today, as I sign off, I’m wondering how much closer I actually am to answering my question before: Who am I?