One Christmas morning when I was a little girl, I opened the presents from my stocking and discovered that Father Christmas had left me some interesting treasure.
There were squadrons and squadrons of mini toy fighter aeroplanes in one parcel. Each plane in a squadron was the same colour and had the same symbols on the wings. I put them all in neat little groups according to team colour. They looked very boring just sitting on the carpet, so I decided to have a war with them. I pinched my nose and acted like I was talking on a crackly old radio and said: “War has been declared”. I hummed some war time songs I had heard on the TV as the fighter planes took to the skies of my bedroom. I made them have “dog fights” with each other ensuring that in each hand I held a different coloured plane.
“Neeaaaaw!” I said making them climb up slowly and steeply dive. I provided all of the cinematic sound effects including the bullets “putt putt putt!”, making sure to empathise the “peeaaaw!” when they “ricocheted” off of the other aeroplane. One male relative used to watch lots of old films about air battles, so I knew what exactly what sounds to provide.
“Enemy target in range! Open fire! Roger Juliet Peter 44 degrees west!” I said making up my nonsensical dialogue trying to mimic all the old war films my male relative watched.
“Mayday 999!” I shouted: “Pull up! Pull up! Pull up your trousers Alpha Bertie Caesar! Do you read me? I repeat…Do you read the newspaper? Wilco and out.”
I let go of the second plane and it plummeted onto the soft carpet. As I sang “The White Cliffs of Dover”, my mother entered my bedroom. She asked:
“Oh Merry Christmas. I heard noises coming from your room. What on earth are you doing?”
“Having a war,” I said matter of factly: “I haven’t decided which side will win yet. Father Christmas has given me fighter planes from four different countries, so he must have thought it was a good idea for me to have a war with them.”
With that, I continued to play air battles and make sound effects.
“Why are you making spitting sounds?” asked my mother in a very concerned tone: “It’s very rude to spit.”
“Because they’re spitfires spitting out bullets. Putt putt putt Neeaww kaboom!” I said.
My mother said:
“Please stop. Why can’t you play a nice game instead?”
“Because it’s a war. War isn’t always very nice,” I said: “But when it’s all over the victorious pilots will go home and have a big party to celebrate with a scratchy old record player. Everybody will dance. Then someday there will be bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover.”
“But what happens to the other pilots?” my Mum asked folding her arms with a displeased look.
“They escape by parachute, then they get captured by the enemy or they go splat and die when they crash,” I said very immaturely and very insensitively.
“That’s not very nice,” said Mum in a horrified tone: “This is a horrible game. Why don’t you play with your nice toys instead?”
What did she expect me to do exactly, dress the fighter planes up in dolly clothes?
“Father Christmas wanted me to have these war planes,” I said with conviction: “And I’m having fun with them. Thank you.”
“I am going to have to have a word with Father Christmas,” said my mother in a dark tone rolling her eyes: “I think he has made a terrible mistake.”
With that, she left the room and called out to my male relative. She did not sound happy at all. She sounded very angry and upset.
Later on, I got told off by my mother for playing with the toy aeroplanes and was told to never play with them again.
I wonder what would have happened if I had been born male instead of female?
My male cousin played war games all the time and no one ever complained. I always wished him luck in battle and brought him biscuits and orange squash while he sat in his muddy dug out trench in the garden with a plastic gun. If “little Johnny” plays with toy aeroplanes or toy guns, then he is the pride of the household. If “little Jenny” does this, then well she’s told to stop because people think that girls that play war are mentally disturbed. That’s been my experience anyway. Boys are allowed to play war.
It meant that I just played war in secret on my computer instead with video games my male relative bought me. I had pixelated fighter planes, bomber planes and even missiles. I had many tiring and expensive virtual wars. Many pixelated cities were lost. I felt weary and sad because the virtual people in my cities protested the fictional wars. I felt guilty for a while. When I grew bored of that, I even blew up some Martian tanks and space ships.
I never told my girl peers that I did this when I invited them round for tea parties. I never talked to any women about my gender atypical hobbies because I didn’t think they would understand. I felt lonely about playing war on my own. I knew it was “wrong”, but I still played.
FYI I never joined the Air Force because I am easily scared and get air sick: I just did fantasy wars.