Several times in recent years, I have suggested that my Inner Child is a nine-year-old girl. I don't see anything particularly weird about this: several female friends seem occasionally to be inhabited by barely-preteen boys, and your typical Twitter-based social-justice warrior manifests as a three-year-old of indefinite gender. And while I have never been a nine-year-old girl in Real Life™ I seem to relate rather well to what I envision as the concerns of my phantom peer group: the term "fangirl" obviously wasn't invented for me, but it describes some of my Real Life™ reactions perfectly. An example from earlier this decade:

Toward the very end of yesterday's shift, an actual nine-year-old girl — I didn't ask her to verify, but she wasn't trying to look like a teenager, so nine is plausible enough, though I'm willing to believe ten or even eleven — wandered into my department and offered me some hand-drawn pictures of Twilight Sparkle, since I'm such a big fan and all.

And we proceeded to run down everything we knew about all things Equestria, including the inevitable Best Pony discussion (she holds out for Fluttershy), whether Rainbow Dash was originally intended to be a stallion instead of a mare (no, it's just the way she wears her mane), and why pegasi shouldn't wear dresses. Were it not for my basso not-so-profundo, you might have thought it was a couple of nine-year-old girls chatting.

Of course, the dynamic was inevitably colored by the intrusions of the aforementioned Real Life™: I wound up offering her a small handful of cash to provide artwork for some of my ponyverse fanfiction. Then again, I have no idea how much allowance kids get these days.

With this emotional structure pretty well established by now, I should not have been surprised to find manifestations of it in my dreams. In this particular not-quite-nightmare, it's a week or so after birthday number ten, and the shifting values of tweenhood have resulted in a trip to the counselor's office:

"Do you have any idea why you're here today?"

I had an idea, but I didn't want to go there if I didn't have to. "Not a clue."

"Your mother says she caught you reading a book."

Oh, that. "I read lots of books."

"Do you normally read them without any clothes on?"

"I was wearing my bunny slippers."

She gave me that "listen-here-young-lady" look. "Why would you take all your clothes off to read a book? Was there something about that book?"

"It's just a story," I said.

"Do the people in the book take their clothes off?"

"They didn't, no."

"So why did you?"

This was getting annoying. "It had nothing to do with the book. I was getting ready to change into my pajamas, and I decided they were too boring."

"Are your school clothes boring?"

"Sometimes ... yes."

"And are you going to take them off?"

"Not if I have to go to the office all the time."

At least some of this, I have to conclude, was intended as a show of solidarity with my younger sister, who decided at thirteen or so that clothing was superfluous and thereafter did without whenever she thought she could get away with it. But at bottom, it's a variation on a common theme: "Was that wrong? Should I not have done that?" Pre-adolescents, irrespective of gender, were asking that long before I ever did, in Real Life™ or elsewhere.

The Vent

  26 May 2018

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