I never was any good at playing the Good Girl game.
Sure, I had the right parts and pieces. I came with the required two X chromosomes, two ovaries, and two breasts. And my mom paid the extra money for the gear: a helmet of insecurity, knee pads of perfectionism, and a quieted mouthpiece. On the first day of practice, I showed up prepared—physically, at least.
Even with all the right equipment, I could not wrap my head around the game’s objective. And I struggled immensely with the regulations—there were so many and you had to know them all to win. On top of that, every new opponent came with their own set of house rules. You never played Good Girl the same way twice.
I just couldn’t keep up and the other girls on the team took notice. At first, they helped me out. Girls pulled me to the side after practice. They spent one-on-one time teaching me moves. I picked up some things better that way but when game time rolled around, I contributed more to our losses than anything else.
I continued to practice every day with little improvement. After a while, I played—not because I wanted to, but because other people wanted me to. Disheartened with the game soon I stopped trying altogether. Maybe this just wasn’t my thing. My mother, though she meant well, refused to believe that. She used to call me a sore loser, too competitive—more like my father. Because I figured if I wasn’t good at it, why waste my time? And if I didn’t even like the game, why keep playing? Eventually, I quit the team.
Quitting didn’t feel right either—but I didn’t want to be a liability anymore. I kept going to the games; I decided it might be better sitting on the sidelines cheering the other girls on. They approached me then, while I sat watching. The Girls Leadership Institute told me about a new game they started. They called it Real Girl.
The complexity of the game rivaled that of Good Girl. For one, our game required just as much heavy equipment (if not more). But I wore my helmet of self-awareness, knee pads of self-acceptance, and my active mouthpiece with pride. Second, I trained just as hard for Real Girl because actually abiding by the rules got difficult. But something about this game felt right.