Playing with Identity

This afternoon I helped Gleek add highlights to her hair. They went on top of the red that we colored her hair several weeks ago. Neither of us was completely happy with the red by itself, but I think the highlights really make the red work in a way it didn’t before. I’d always said that once my kids were twelve, I’d help them color their hair if they wanted. Gleek has been the first child to take me up on it.

Gleek has also been experimenting with clothing. She has decided that ties are awesome and sometimes wears one. One day she donned a white shirt and tie, slicked her hair back and looked very much like a boy, except for the curves. Gleek liked this look. I worried about how the world at large would react to it, but didn’t argue with her. Her identity is hers to define, not mine. I don’t know that she got any overtly negative reactions, but she’s since reverted to clothing that is socially more standard for girls.

Sometime last fall I became aware that Gleek’s friends and teachers were all calling her Leeka. Not literally, but they were calling her a variant of her real name that bears as much resemblance to it as Leeka does to Gleek. I always find it interesting when teens choose their own nicknames. Kiki ended up with hers because she decided it was easier to let people call her by it than to try to explain how to pronounce her full name. Gleek, who already goes by a shortened version of her full name, went out of her way to ask people to call her something different. They did. It’s a cute name and it suits her.

Thirteen is a prime age for playing with identity. Gleek has left behind the child that she was and is trying to figure out who she is now. It is fun to be an observer and assistant while she figures it out.