How To Be a Boy (Some Tips for Girls and Others)

By Ivan E. Coyote

1. Never allow lack of knowledge, experience, insight, directions or a map stop you from approaching a task with confidence and vigour. Scars and purple thumbnails are a status symbol. When attempting to operate, maintain or repair anything mechanical, always remember the words of my grandmother: “One must always keep in mind that the vast majority of machines are still designed, built, driven and fixed by men. Therefore, they cannot be that complicated.” Men are not born with superior technical abilities, they are just taught from a very early age to pretend they understand things they don’t. Girls are taught to watch carefully and ask questions, or better yet, to get someone else to do it for them. Abolish this behaviour from your repertoire. Build something from a plan in your head. Take your blender apart and put it back together. Buy yourself a cordless drill. Learn the names of the parts of an internal combustion engine, and use them in casual conversation. It’s easier than they want you to think.

2. Eat like you mean it. Repeat in public.

3. Carry a pocket knife, a lighter and a handkerchief on your person at all times. Pull them out whenever you see someone who needs a light, something to cry in, or something to cut their apple up with. Learn flashy lighter tricks, and practice them while waiting for the bus.

4. Learn how to start a fire with a flint and some dry moss. Then use lighter fluid or gasoline, and a blowtorch.

5. Trim your nails short enough that you could safely insert your fingers into your own vagina, should you ever want to.

6. Avoid drinking beverages like peach or pear cider, white wine spritzers, pre-mixed coolers, and any liqueurs flavoured with coconut, pineapple, or strawberry.

7. Only wear pants with back pockets wide enough to fit your cigarettes into. Never put your cigarettes into your back pocket, however. Keep them rolled into the sleeve of your T-shirt.

8. Wear footwear that makes a clomping sound, as opposed to a tick or a swish.

9. Wear a hat. Tip it to ladies you pass on the sidewalk.

10. If you must talk about your emotions, do so only using sports metaphors. Example: we played with a lot of passion, we just didn’t have enough depth on the bench to carry us through all the games we played away from home, and, I knew if I just kept playing through the pain, eventually me and the scoreboard were going to connect.

11. Open doors for men, saying “Let me get that for you.”

12. Burn most of your eyebrows off lighting the barbecue with a birthday candle, and then tell everybody all about it.

13. Let the weird hairs on your chin and around your nipples grow unhindered.

14. Drink straight from the carton.

15. Give someone a friendly slap on the back more often.

16. If you can’t fit another pair of pants underneath the ones you are wearing, then they are too tight.

17. Cook yourself a dinner using only rice and condiments. Save some to bring to work for your lunch the next day.

18. Brag about how little you paid for your outfit.

19. Learn to pee standing up, and then do so from a moving vehicle, off of a bridge, and on all four corners of your backyard.

20. Sleep around. Repeat, this time without feeling guilty.

21. Be exceptionally nice to old ladies. They really need their faith in the youth of today restored. Let them butt in the line at the Safeway. Slow down and walk with them at crosswalks so they’re not the only ones holding up traffic. Drive your grandma to bingo. Shovel her driveway. Let chivalry not be dead.

22. If you’re going to be a boy, then be the kind of boy you wish you would have slept with in high school. Be a gentleman. Let her finish her sentence. Let her drive the car sometimes. Do not stare directly at her breasts. Share the armrest. Do her laundry without shrinking anything. Leave the room to pass wind. Buy her her very own cordless drill.

23. Learn how to knit: women appreciate a man who isn’t afraid of his feminine side.

Ivan E. Coyote is the author of three books of short fiction, a columnist for Xtra West, and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight and CBC Radio. Born and raised in the Yukon, she now inhabits an attic in East Vancouver along with a husky and a Pomeranian. Ivan’s next collection of short stories is due out in the fall of 2005, and her first novel will hit the shelves in the spring of next year. In her spare time she plays street hockey and knits.

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