One My Belly Button and the Territory Around It I was in sixth grade when the Girl Box began to wedge its way over my body and spirit. Sixth grade was a tough year. I had started a new schoolforced to leave the comfort of familiar friends to attend a private school in Charlotte, North Carolina. I barely got in. I was on the waiting list for a while and didn't know I'd been accepted until a few weeks before school started. Eleanor Jones was my best friend then. She was new, too. We were the two new girls at a school where most kids had started kindergarten together. The thing that distinguished us from each other, however, was that Eleanor was getting breasts and I wasn't. We were new, and all of the boys were noticing Eleanor. That's when I started to want to be somebody else. Anybody but me. My charming personality just wasn't hacking it. Neither was my intelligence, my humor, or even my athleticism. None of that was working. The boys still wanted to pop Eleanor's bra strap, chase her, and be in her company. I happened to be in their company because I was friends with Eleanor. That was the only reason. I felt like the third wheel all the timeeven when I wasn't with Eleanor. Contrast that with the summer before sixth grade. I was ten years old. The Hortons had a huge holly bush in their front yard. That darn bush stood about five feet high and was right next to their wraparound porch. Jamie, a boy in my neighborhood, stood a good two inches shorter than me and weighed five to ten pounds less. He challenged me to fly over that bushto jump from the porch to the soft grass five feet below. "I'll bet you can't do it, Molly, because after all, you're just a girl." I could do it. Being a girl had nothing to do with it. I could do anything. I was a natural athletelittle knobby knees, muscle on bone, ribs showing. I preferred shorts, no shirt, and bare feet over my Sunday best, even on Sunday. That same summer I went to my first overnight camp. I didn't shower all week. My hair, short and boyish, was strawlike from endless hours in the pool. "Eau de chlorine" suited me quite well, thank you. My hair was usually tucked under a baseball cap. By week's end, when my counselor pulled the cap off, my hair just stayed put. "You'd better wash that hair before your parents get here," she said. I did wash my hair, with soap. A small swarm of insects that had set up shop in that tangled mess of dirt and chlorine flew off my head. I screamed bloody murder as a family of buzzing insects circled out of the shower spray. My friend Susan screamed, too. I fled from the shower buck naked to my counselor's cabin barefoot, over rocks and sticks, bugs buzzing all around my wet, soapy head. She helped scrub them out. Bugs in my hair. How gross. Bugs in my hair. How cool. So being a girl had nothing to do with it. I prepared myself for the flight over the holly bush. I marched right up to that porch, concentrated really hard for a minuteeyes closed tight, nose scrunched, and arms held out at a 90-degree angle while all the neighborhood kids stood there, the suspense building. (I was such a drama queen.) Then, with no warning at all, I began flapping my arms like a huge pterodactyl and started running. I took as many steps as I could and then with wild abandon I leaped off that front porch and clear over that bush. I crash-landed on the other side. Jamie said I didn't do it right because I didn't land on my feet. It hurt to land on my girl chest. That was the first time I'd ever had the wind totally knocked from me, and I was truly scared. I couldn't breathe. I lay there oBarker, Molly is the author of 'Girls on Track A Parent's Guide to Inspiring Our Daughters to Achieve a Lifetime of Self-Esteem and Respect' with ISBN 9780345456861 and ISBN 0345456866.