I was one of the lucky ones who got to grow up at the Jersey Shore. My family lived a block from the bay in Wildwood. I was a 10-year-old tomboy, the second-youngest of five, whose favorite hobbies included fishing and crabbing. After school and on the weekends you would always find me down at the bulkhead with my pole and nets trying to reel in something brag-worthy.
But one day I met Mr. Davis, an elderly gentleman who had a house with a private dock where he invited me to fish and crab whenever I wanted. I started showing up in my usual tomboy attire: Converse high-tops, a Phillies jersey and denim shorts, topped with a raccoon hat. My parents never liked the get-up, but it was my favorite. And deep down I thought I was a boy and, ultimately, had no problem convincing Mr. Davis of that either.
The first time he saw me in the raccoon hat, he asked, “Where’s your sister Stacey?”
I wanted so much to be a boy back then that I lied and told Mr. Davis that I was Stacey’s twin brother Mickey.
As my friendship developed with this kind, grandfatherly neighbor, he would give me gifts, including Liberty silver dollars. As he handed one to Stacey he would say, “Give one to Mickey, too.” And whenever Mickey got a silver dollar, he would make sure he shared another with his twin sister.
I was making out like a bandit, but that would soon come to an end—along with my diabolical lie.
Mr. Davis ran into my mother at the store one day and asked how Stacey and Mickey were doing. Puzzled, she asked me what Mr. Davis could possibly be talking about. Who was Mickey?
Mom persisted—and persisted—and my 10-year-old self was forced to come clean. My mother was furious and told me to return all of the money to Mr. Davis and (worse!) tell him the truth. I couldn’t bring myself to give all that coin back, so I concocted an explanation to make Mickey disappear once and for all.
I told him Mickey had died. But by this time, Mr. Davis was on to me. He grinned and apologized for my “loss.”
Years later, I still have a few of those coins in an old trunk. But I have come a long way since my childhood days in Wildwood. I still dress like a tomboy today, but I am proud of who I am and only go by one name now: Stacey.
This essay appears in the summer issue of G Philly magazine. Pick up a copy at your favorite LGBT-friendly destination in the region, or subscribe online.