How Do Girls Become Badass Women?

I have two women friends who are good at all the things men are traditionally good at. Both of these women grew up in Idaho. I’m convinced that women who grow up in Idaho are raised differently. When they were girls, these friends both learned how to hunt and fish and camp, how to drive trucks, boats, and sitting lawnmowers. They learned how to ski and mountain bike and rock climb. And all the things that they didn’t learn how to do, like build a camper from scratch or rewire a toaster, they do anyway because they figure, why not?

I’m pretty handy myself. I fixed our microwave with a twist tie. I saved us a bunch of money by reattaching our torn soaker hose system with a tampon applicator. Just last week I rehung our gutters and rewired lights that were pulled down in the snowstorm. But I’m not like these can-do-all-things-male friends. They possess an attitude of confidence that I strive to emulate. I’m a tinkerer. I’ll try anything, but these friends, they embody a different kind of attitude.

Every summer when I was a kid we would drive twelve hours from our house on the South Side of Chicago to our grandparents’ cottage on a lake in Minnesota. We’d stay for a few weeks and fill our little city lungs with fresh air. We ate our grandmother’s cooking —  goodies we never got at home like creamed corn, hamburgers, heaping scoops of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.

We played hours of cards in the bunkhouse devouring the bags of chocolate Twizzlers our grandmother’s kept stocked with her kitchen linens. We wrote and performed skits with our cousins who journeyed to this midwestern paradise from their home on the west coast. The lake house was my favorite place to be.

Our grandfather, a stern Presbyterian physician was deeply invested in giving all of us grandkids a true lake house experience. He taught us to sein for minnows and took each of us out in the boat fishing with him alone at least once every summer. After dinner he’d stand up, stretch, look around the table and ask which one of the cousins was going to come in the boat to go fishing with him that evening.

A few times each summer he took us in the small sailboat. He taught us all to water ski and required us to pick up twigs and rocks from the expansive hilly yard he’d mow with his gas push mower. We all helped in the garden picking green beans and tomatoes from their small crop.

Grandpa made sure we all got the same experiences at the lake, except for a few things that were only for the boys. One of these boy-specific experiences was driving the boat. Only the boys got to drive the boat. Though the girl and boy cousins were all about the same age, only the boys got to drive the boat.