Tomboy Raising a Girly-Girl

The first color she recognized was “pink!” She squeals over dresses. Her favorite toy is her pretend make-up kit. She’s vain about her painted fingernails and insists you look at her toes, as well. She’s a girly-girl, and I have no idea what to do with her. Because I’m a tomboy. And I’m her mom. 

There’s just so much pink in one picture.

When I was little, the bane of my existence was getting ready for church on Sunday. I lamented stockings and found patent leather shoes confining and impractical. Dresses were more than clothes: they were nightmarish hindrances of mobility. My friends seemed to relish staying in their frilly frocks as long as they could, but me? I couldn’t wait to run home and change into my jeans and a t-shirt, complete with flip-flops. The Birkenstock trend could not have come at a better time for me–just slide them on beneath your flare-leg jeans and you’re out the door! What a time to be alive!

Lipstick, powder, and eyeshadow. She’s thrilled. I’m being tortured.

Make-up and I have a rocky history together. My first memories of it involved my mother making the same bizarre faces in the mirror as she methodically applied her mascara and blush. Later, I would come to begrudgingly accept it because I did community theater in my youth, having to wear “stage makeup.” I felt like a clown. My childhood best friend, a dancer, had a caboodle spilling various powders, sticks, and brushes. Everything looked like it fell into the two necessary Southern Shades of “Blush and Bashful.” I didn’t know what most of it meant or was used for. I still don’t. Honestly, I was 28 before I owned my own tube of lipstick. I still have it because it’s barely used. Chapstick is my go-to, so if I want some color, I just get some poppin’ flavor like “Razz-berry!” or whatever it was that the first-grader suggested at my last trip to Walmart. When I went for my makeup consultation for my bridal portraits, the patient ladies asked about my makeup routine as if it existed. I learned to call it a “natural look” and almost panicked when they whipped out shades of purple “to bring out the eyes.” No, thanks. My daughter officially owns more “makeup” than I do. 

So after having two very manageable, low-maintenance little boys and finding out that baby number three was a girl, I became immediately intimidated. How am I supposed to navigate Barbies when I never owned one? Are they pre-programmed knowing the name of every Disney princess? Because I swear she knows them all, and I certainly don’t! How does she know what the pretend eyeshadow brush is for?!

Her father is responsible for this.

I try not to roll my eyes or in any other nonverbal way express my loathing for coordinating her outfits, but now I’m worried that I haven’t stood my ground enough. She becomes outright giddy when she gets a new dress. Gift from Maw-Maw? Elation. Special occasion outfit from Nana? Ecstasy. And then she insists on putting “a pretty bow” in her hair. And oh! the hair! I’ve struggled to maintain my curly locks ever since puberty reared its ugly head, ultimately resorting to some gel and air-drying. She bears the same curly curse, which is easy to handle now, but what do I do when it grows out? I always resort to a pony-tail, but there are some Pinterest-inspired looks that I’m definitely unprepared for. 

The boys and I have a healthy understanding. We like The Great Outdoors. We only have about three pairs of shoes (Tennis shoes, dress shoes, flip-flops. How many does one person need?!). Our style is Functional Meets Thrifty. 

I think it’s too late for me to try out this whole “style” thing, but maybe I can learn along with her as she grows. I certainly can’t teach her. This little girly-girl and all her paraphernalia sure keep me on my toes. My unpedicured, unpainted toes. 

Megan Southall
Megan is “Mommy! Mom! Mom-Mommy!” to four: Carson (9), Atticus (7), Evangeline (4), and Bo (8 months). She is from Port Allen and went to high school and college in Baton Rouge, getting her Bachelor’s Degree in English with a concentration in Secondary Education from LSU. Megan then moved to the ‘burbs in Zachary. She and her husband of 9 years, Ryan, are teachers, Ryan at Zachary High School and Megan at West Feliciana High School in St. Francisville, where she is also the Instructional Specialist. Megan is Nationally Board Certified in English Language Arts and has a Master's in Educational Leadership. She adores her job, as it gives her awesome opportunities: working with teenagers, gaining perspective on parenting them, and getting to pretend she’s a SAHM over the summer. When she’s not learning piano or reading, Megan can be found on the couch, talking to episodes of “Real Housewives of New York.”


  1. This is too funny. I’m actually in the opposite side. I’m a girly girl kind of gal and my daughter is more of a tomboy. The first plush toy she picked was a t-rex (and yes, I tried to sway her to the cutesy teddy bears, raccoon, lamb, puppies, you get the idea). “Pretty bow” had never stayed longer than 3 minutes on her hair. Last halloween, she preferred to be a pirate than princess. It broke my heart a bit but at least she still likes pink 😀

  2. I’m in the same boat as you! I’ve embraced my girly girl and have actually learned a lot. What I admire is that she feels comfortable and confident in any situation. Formal event and all dressed up? She knows just how she wants to look. Playing outside? She’s got the right clothes for that and has a great time. At 6 years old, she’s my in house style consultant. If she says I look like a “TV mom”, I know my outfit works!

  3. I know a friend who can relate to this situation. In the daughter’s early age, everyone assumes that all girls will be ‘girly’ by default. So she’d take her to the shopping malls and bought her lots and lots of clothes. The daughter was extremely ecstatic in every shopping trip! But she also took her to the gym. Of course the daughter didn’t like it, but she was forced to join in the name of good health. She also had a talent in sports and joined school sports teams in elementary.

    Fast forward to junior high, she started to open up that she actually hated sports all her life. She might say that she likes sports just to make Mom happy, but she just can’t be bothered with it. She voluntarily dropped out of all the sports teams she contributed to. Being a teenager, she started to dye her hair, opened lots of social media accounts, started taking hundreds of selfies per day, and also had lots of photo filtering apps. Now that she’s expected to be more independent, she’s also allowed to use some of the parents’ money. And guess what she spends them all on? Every kind of pretty clothing, shoes, makeup and other beauty product imaginable. She also loves cooking, watches lots of chick flicks and romance dramas… She’s basically a PURE girly girl who despises anything tomboyish by nature. She has ZERO physical activity now. The mom often offers her to take yoga and ballet classes to stay fit and healthy, which are considered as girly sports, but she rejected them. She just wanted to be sport-free.

    The mom was furious, but occasionally joins in and shares her fancy dresses and hair dyes. At one time, she dyed her hair the same colour as her daughter, and started to understand her enjoyment. The family also eats out often because the tomboy mom can’t cook, but now learns cooking occasionally from her girly daughter, and is starting to find it enjoyable. Maybe after a few more years, the mom can catch up to her girliness. Or maybe she’ll continue preferring sports in her free time, it’s fine either way.

  4. I have always been more of a girly-girl, and honestly, I was very bothered when you said, “I’m worried that I haven’t stood my ground enough.” First of all, is it putting anybody or anything in danger? If yes, then you should stand your ground. If no, then let her be. Is anybody too uncomfortable? If yes, then of course you should stand your ground. If not, then let it go.

  5. I grew up being very girly and my mother had always been a tomboy. She criticized me for liking makeup and fashion and wanted me to be more like my brother. It really hurt being treated like my interests are not valid and that I’m inferior for being girly. It took many years for my mom to finally recognize and apologize for her internalized misogyny, and realize that there’s nothing inherently wrong with being girly.

    I hope you recognize that your daughter’s interest in fashion deserves the same amount of respect as your sons’ interests in hiking. And additionally, that rejecting femininity by becoming a tomboy does not make a woman superior or more down to earth than the more girly women.


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