A few years ago while visiting my family in Texas, my mother casually informed me that had I been born a girl, she had planned to name me Angela.
“Angela!” I said. “Why would you name me Angela?”
“I thought it was a pretty name,” Mom said, while she washed dishes. “What’s wrong with it?”
“Well, nothing, but …”
“You probably would have eventually started calling me Angie for short, and you know what that means,” I said.
Mom dried her hands on a dish towel. “I’m afraid you’ll need to enlighten me.”
I opened my mouth, but it took me a second to spit out the words. “I don’t like the name Angie. In fact, it’s one of my least favorite names for a girl.”
“Isn’t that enough?” I asked.
“How do you know that you wouldn’t have liked being called Angie? If you had grown up with it, you would have been used to it.”
“I don’t think so. You see, Angie is the kind of name that conjures an image of a bossy girl who will be voted Most-Likely-To-Walk-Up-To-You-And-Say-I-Heard-You-Called-Me-A-Bitch, as well as intimidating weak-willed boys to spend all of their lunch money on buying gifts for her.”
“What about your friend Angie?” my mother asked.
“Who do you think my research is based on?” I said.
My mother rolled her eyes and returned to the dishes. “Well, look on the bright side, you weren’t born a girl.” She scrubbed a plate. “I suppose I shouldn’t tell you that if you had been born a dog, we were going to name you Poochie.”
“Are you trying to make up now for all the mental anguish and emotional abuse that you never subjected me to as a child?” I shook my drinking glass at her. “I have a good mind to call the rest of the family and tell them that you and Dad were devil worshippers and that the only reason I was a born is because your coven needed an understudy for infant sacrifice. ”
Mom snatched the glass out of my hand washed it–end of discussion.
As I was waiting to fall asleep that night, I found myself still thinking about what my life would have been like if I had been born Angela. I decided that I would have probably gone by my middle name, thus made a mental note to ask what middle name my mother had had in mind if I had been born a girl. And then I wondered what kind of girl I would have been.
I called my friend Trixie for her input. “Trixie, if I had been born a girl, what would I have been like?”
Without missing a beat, she replied, “You definitely would have dyed your hair black. You would have wanted to get a tattoo of the tragedy and comedy masks on your shoulder, but I would have talked you out of it and convinced you to have your nipples pierced instead, just so I could find out long it really takes for them to heal. You would have struggled with a chronic gag reflex, much to the disappointment of a steady string of sexually frustrated boyfriends and–”
“Thank you, Trixie. I’m hanging up now.”
“Well, don’t ask me if you don’t want the truth,” she huffed. “Besides, if anyone would know what you would have been like as a girl, it would be you.”
I hesitated. “But how would I know?”
“What are the things that women do that catch your eye? Those are usually the indicators of what you would have been like if you had been born a woman.”
“Hmm … I’ll have to get back to you on that, Trix.” I hung up the phone and started making a list of all the things I observed about girls that always caught my eye.”
If I had been born a girl, I would have been given carte blanch to explore my obsession with faux animal prints, leopard skin being one of my favorites. Oddly enough, I could hear my mother’s voice in my head suggest, “Big girls should always avoid zebra prints; all of those horizontal stripes are not flattering.”
I also liked girls who wore go-go boots, or thigh-high boots with leather catsuits. It became clear to me that if I had been born a girl, I would have stuck out from the rest of females at Burleson High School as the one who dressed most like Barbarella. (I figured that I would have probably been a big Duran Duran fan.)
I think I would have been tough, though. I like to think that I would have been a girl who could karate chop her way through an army of ninjas, but who could still be moved to tears by a tender McDonald’s commercial on television and who had a soft spot for kittens. However, I think that my basic personality, sense of humor, and beliefs would have remained the same.
Hair scarfs! I think I would have really gotten into hair scarves and cat-eye sunglasses, too.
What do you think you would have been like if you had been born the opposite sex?