Girl Colors This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By
     Barbecues used to be the focus of my summer. Each weekend, my family would get together with friends on Long Island who had kids the same ages as me and my brother. I was the only girl in the group. This bothered me at first, but after five minutes, I would be getting down and dirty for an intense game of Red Rover. Oh, how I loved Red Rover - the excitement of getting picked and hearing the fateful rhyme. I’d look at the other team and see the fear in their eyes - fear sometimes so overwhelming that they would let go before I even ran through the human chain. I was a strong girl, and usually the little boys that I picked as my prey preferred to avoid a broken wrist. Even so, I came out of each game feeling proud and in control. The boys knew better than to chant “You got beat by a girl” because to them, my ponytail and short shorts didn’t put me in the wimpy girl category.

After endless rounds of Red Rover, we would race to the kids table, the plastic Playskool kind with the bumpy surfaces that you could run your fingernails across. I would always sit on the red side of the bench. Some of the guys would claim that I sat there “because I was a girl,” while others knew the real reason - the red side was

closest to the basketball court, and after dinner, I was sure to be the first one there. From the red side of the bench, I never lost sight of that blue and white Nike basketball.

Sure enough, I usually ended up with that basketball. Jason would sometimes mumble, “You should use a girl’s ball,” but he’d zip it as soon as I beat him in knock-out. Eventually, it was understood that the Nike ball was mine. It didn’t matter whether I wore my pink jelly sandals or my LA Gear light-ups, the boys knew that I could play. I would smile as they hung their heads and shuffled off the court in their sweatbands and basketball sneakers, time after time. I had established myself as a competitor - a competitor worthy of the blue and white Nike basketball, even if those weren’t “girl colors.”

When it started to get late and there was no room left on the driveway to record the names of the knockout winners in chalk, we would go inside to play Nintendo. While it was never my strong point, I wasn’t one to back down from a challenge. I would scream at the TV just like all the boys when the ghost ate Pacman or when Donkey Kong fell into a ditch. After this, we would have an ice cream sundae contest, which quickly turned into a food fight. I would emerge from the kitchen with a whipped cream face and chocolate syrup on my eyelashes. It was moments like these when social standards were farthest from my mind.

Then we started to see less of each other; some of the families moved away and life got more complicated. For a while, we denied the truth that we had grown apart. Time had run its course, and effaced the friendships that drew us together every summer. And each summer without a barbecue, I was without a small part of myself - that super-tough girl exterior softened and my wild side was tamed, slowly but surely. Not that I still can’t beat the guys in basketball, it’s just that now, I’ll sit out if I don’t have my sneakers on. I’d rather watch from the sidelines than get a blister, or crack my newly polished toenails. That Red Rover queen now does Pilates and kickboxing. She never plays Nintendo, but she does have the urge to start food fights, though the echo of “act like a lady” rings in the back of her mind.

She suppresses that inner tom-boy, refusing to wear hats, and when she screams, it’s always for a reason. She uses an umbrella when it rains and wears boots when it snows. She unconsciously goes for the girl’s ball, instead of her be-loved blue and white Nike one, claiming that her hands are too small. On a summer day, she’ll wear her DKNY sunglasses. She sees the world in girl colors. carbecues used to be the focus of my summer. Each weekend, my family would get together with friends on Long Island who had kids the same ages as me and my brother. I was the only girl in the group. This bothered me at first, but after five minutes, I would be getting down and dirty for an intense game of Red Rover. Oh, how I loved Red Rover - the excitement of getting picked and hearing the fateful rhyme. I’d look at the other team and see the fear in their eyes - fear sometimes so overwhelming that they would let go before I even ran through the human chain. I was a strong girl, and usually the little boys that I picked as my prey preferred to avoid a broken wrist. Even so, I came out of each game feeling proud and in control. The boys knew better than to chant “You got beat by a girl” because to them, my ponytail and short shorts didn’t put me in the wimpy girl category.

After endless rounds of Red Rover, we would race to the kids table, the plastic Playskool kind with the bumpy surfaces that you could run your fingernails across. I would always sit on the red side of the bench. Some of the guys would claim that I sat there “because I was a girl,” while others knew the real reason - the red side was

closest to the basketball court, and after dinner, I was sure to be the first one there. From the red side of the bench, I never lost sight of that blue and white Nike basketball.

Sure enough, I usually ended up with that basketball. Jason would sometimes mumble, “You should use a girl’s ball,” but he’d zip it as soon as I beat him in knock-out. Eventually, it was understood that the Nike ball was mine. It didn’t matter whether I wore my pink jelly sandals or my LA Gear light-ups, the boys knew that I could play. I would smile as they hung their heads and shuffled off the court in their sweatbands and basketball sneakers, time after time. I had established myself as a competitor - a competitor worthy of the blue and white Nike basketball, even if those weren’t “girl colors.”

When it started to get late and there was no room left on the driveway to record the names of the knockout winners in chalk, we would go inside to play Nintendo. While it was never my strong point, I wasn’t one to back down from a challenge. I would scream at the TV just like all the boys when the ghost ate Pacman or when Donkey Kong fell into a ditch. After this, we would have an ice cream sundae contest, which quickly turned into a food fight. I would emerge from the kitchen with a whipped cream face and chocolate syrup on my eyelashes. It was moments like these when social standards were farthest from my mind.

Then we started to see less of each other; some of the families moved away and life got more complicated. For a while, we denied the truth that we had grown apart. Time had run its course, and effaced the friendships that drew us together every summer. And each summer without a barbecue, I was without a small part of myself - that super-tough girl exterior softened and my wild side was tamed, slowly but surely. Not that I still can’t beat the guys in basketball, it’s just that now, I’ll sit out if I don’t have my sneakers on. I’d rather watch from the sidelines than get a blister, or crack my newly polished toenails. That Red Rover queen now does Pilates and kickboxing. She never plays Nintendo, but she does have the urge to start food fights, though the echo of “act like a lady” rings in the back of her mind.

She suppresses that inner tom-boy, refusing to wear hats, and when she screams, it’s always for a reason. She uses an umbrella when it rains and wears boots when it snows. She unconsciously goes for the girl’s ball, instead of her be-loved blue and white Nike one, claiming that her hands are too small. On a summer day, she’ll wear her DKNY sunglasses. She sees the world in girl colors.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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