Before starting kindergarten there is that period of time where the recently born are lumped into broad the category of "Children". Not so much Boys and Girls, but simply children. During this time boys can still have stuffed animals, girls can roughhouse and none of their peers know the difference.
But after entering the classroom, the line is drawn: Boys like this, Girls like that and there is no crossing over without risking the punishment of endless taunts and life haunting nicknames like "Danny The Doll Lover" or "Tomboy Tina".
For most kids the decision to honor these time honored traditions is made very quickly, but for some of us the line is blurry and that can lead to only one thing...
Here is one man's confession from the 80's to the 90's.
My first tip-off for the change that was to come happened in pre-school during what I like to call "The Great Popple Conspiracy". Yes, I had a Popple. A Purple Popple no less, but I was only 5 and well within my rights to do so. Small, purple, comforting.
Our pre-school allowed us to bring one toy with us daily, but we had to stow it away in a cubby until the end of the day.
I brought my Popple and tucked him or her (it didn't matter then) snugly away in cubby land. But when 2 O'clock rolled around I sensed something was amiss, call it a Popple-sense.
I looked over to see a girl named Jennoah (a conspicuous name to be sure) holding "my" Purple Popple. THIEVERY!
Quickly I ran to save my little buddy from her villainous grasp, with shouts of "My Popple!" leading the charge.
After pleading my case to the criminal's mother, my Mom showed up, "Now they're in for it", I thought.
But it only got more confusing from there as from out of my cubby came another Purple Popple! How could this be?
Of course I was not convinced that the case was solved until my Mom showed my meaningless initials Sharpied onto the tattered tag of my Popple.
For a brief moment I pondered the fact that the only other person in my tiny world with a Purple Popple had long hair and wore dresses.
But we both had high voices, so I didn't really see any need for concern.
The Popple disappeared as soon as I entered kindergarten, for no toys were allowed in there. But Saturday mornings still allowed me the freedom to pick my cartoon poison.
Although I enjoyed the action packed suggestions of Thundercats, Centurions and M.A.S.K. from "My Boyz" from school, a Siryn's song caught my ear and pulled me into her glittery, pink world...her name, was JEM.
Looking back now I can make up excuses like "Jem was HOT!" or "It was all about the music, man" or "Her bright colors blinded my judgement", but I know the truth, Jem was magic!
She reminded me of another singing sorceress, Olivia Newton-John from Xanadu (my other secret shame).
If you think about it though, the show had some sci-fi action elements, I mean, Jem and the Holograms transformed like He-Man (or She-ra: Princess of Power, yet another of my infractions against the Man Laws).
She had her computer-based, A.I. buddy, Synergy and they drove cars pretty fast some times.
Of course, I did not share this with my friends, I should say, I COULD not share this with my friends. "Truly outrageous" or not, they just wouldn't understand.
Moving into the 90's I thought I had learned my lesson, but again I found myself in a quandary. By this point it was obvious that I "Liked Girls", but I thought that to get them to like you a common interest had to be shared. Well what was more popular than the New Kids on the Block?
Yes, the NKOTB, what better way to strike up a conversation with a pretty girl, "Hey, who's your favorite New Kid?" This tactic worked well, in fact, incredibly well. I was invited over to a girl's house where we sang and danced along to "Step By Step" and "Hangin' Tough", but then I found out I was in too deep.
Soon I was buying NKOTB albums, then I was buying Teen Beat, then I was buying the dolls!
Something was terribly wrong, I even coaxed a buddy into filming lip-synched music videos with us as the "2-Kids", instead of the New Kids (please forgive me, Chris!).
I knew the insanity had to end when I eventually picked a favorite New Kid, JOHN-because he was the quiet one!
I quit NKOTB cold turkey, although occasionally found myself nursing the addiction in private. Unfortunately I soon traded one drug for another...
Beverly Hills 90210 was my vehicle now as I attempted to enter the pretty girl attention fast lane.
But just as before the cycle repeated: Dolls, now Tiger Beat, Brendaaaaaaaaa!
I almost got out when suddenly they added my former celebrity crush Tiffani Amber-Thiessen to the cast!
Those freakin' junkie dealers at Fox! Curse them!
Luckily I soon saw the light and was saved by the glory of Mortal Kombat, Billy Madison and The Jerky Boys, how's that for a healthy dose of testosterone?
Though the lines of manly interests have been clearly defined in my mind for some time now, I can't say I'm completely cured.
Occasionally I still hum the Jem theme song or trade it up for Barbie and The Rockers.
All traces of 90210 and Popples have left the building, but one vice continues to taunt me and is rearing its ugly head again after all these years...
What can't the dead, stay dead?