In the case of my primary, there was only one thing to do if you were a socially ambitious “girl”. You could lob a secreted tennis ball over the fence, birth yourself through a basketball-sized aperture, and enjoy six seconds breathing air in God’s own country. What you’d meet on the other side were energetic, scabby people who’d stare at you like you were a luminous tumour. Back with your comrades, you’d share what you’d seen.
While I then enjoyed some activities thought ‘boyish’ – football, public spitting – I don’t recall trying to show the scabby people I was like them. What I do remember is trying to affect an aloof dignity– not admitting the ball had been thrown on purpose. After all, what I did know about “boys” – from experience, from vibrant American media – was that they needed the stillness and goodness of a “girl” to throw their scrubby anarchy into relief. It was all a question of counterbalance, opposition; “boys” needed someone to be good, restrained, pretty, and basically unlike them. These ideas were surely in part inspired by the saccharine diet of winsome Disney princesses I fed on then. They were “good”. They were “pretty”. And if many of your heroines are perpetually groomed, well-behaved, then it follows you evolve a fear of the consequences of diversion: of the attributes unseen. After all, if Wendy joined the Lost Boys then… where would we be? Who would comb everybody for mites?