Nancy Roman

Not Quite Right, Dr. Freud

I was reminded the other day of Freud’s theory that by age six or so, a young girl is devastated by the realization that she doesn’t have a penis. She experiences this as a great loss that affects her for the rest of her life.

I think I read about Freud’s claims when I was about fifteen. I laughed my ass off.

ALL the girls I grew up with thought boys were stupid, and penises were especially stupid. As far as envy goes, I didn’t even think peeing in the snow was worthwhile.

If anything, I felt a little sorry for boys. I figured they must be very jealous of our nice hair and pretty clothes.  And what boring toys. Lincoln Logs?  Really? When you could have a gorgeous Revlon doll with curly hair and real eyelashes?

As a kid, my favorite past-time was acting out scenes from movies and TV. My friend Doris and I would recreate movies in her backyard. Our biggest problem was that most stories were about boys. Yuck.

We’d stage Shirley Temple movies–Big Three Theatre (Hartford’s Channel 3 at 4:30) had a Shirley Temple movie at least once a week – “Heidi”, “The Little Princess”, “Captain January”. And of course we played Annette and Darlene from the Mickey Mouse Club. Then around 1959, there was “Tammy and the Bachelor” and “Gidget”.  I’d sit through two showings at the Cameo Theater, and I was good to go, with near-perfect recall for all the best scenes and lines. Doris never dared to challenge my recollection.

When I was nine we hit the drama jackpot: “Pollyanna.”

For me, “Pollyanna” was the perfect movie. Hayley Mills was so adorable. She had a great accent, and clothes that were supposed to be ugly but were really fabulous. She had long blond hair. She lived in a big gorgeous house but she was an orphan too. And best of all – she had TRAGEDY.

We used Doris’ swing set as the tree that Pollyanna fell out of. We learned to jump off the crossbar of the swing and land in the most delicately terrible (but harmless) way. I must have jumped off that bar two hundred times that summer.

The tricky part about “Pollyanna” was sharing the role with Doris. Pollyanna was really the only girl in the movie. Pollyanna’s sidekick was a BOY. Jimmy Bean was played by Kevin Corcoran, and he was a cute little kid, but I never ever wanted to be the boy. So we took turns. Grudgingly.

But I had a secret. When it was my turn to be Jimmy, I changed it around in my head. I was actually Jenny, who was just pretending to be a boy because the evil orphanage police were looking for me. I was a runaway. I had cut off my hair as part of my disguise. This explained quite well the fact that in actuality I had hardly any hair. This little subplot became for me just as sweet as playing Pollyanna. I think it was the beginning of my fiction career.

I never shared my private storyline with Doris. When I was Pollyanna, she was Jimmy. Period.

Me, as Pollyanna. I tied a yellow sweater around my head to simulate long blond hair. My arms and legs were really that skinny.


  1. I have been on a few hikes, miles from a bathroom, and suffered momentary penis envy. Maybe Freud was an avid hiker.


  2. bigsheepcommunications

    I think Freud came up with that theory for the benefit of boys. I cannot think of a single girl I ever knew who wanted a penis (okay, except I read this week that Chaz Bono, formerly Chastity Bono, is saving up to buy one).


    • RVingGirl

      Lol love that one …….that pretty little girl Chastity……a shame in my opinion.


  3. Thanks for the memories! I, too, remember acting out movies and TV shows in the backyard and jumping from swing sets. We would act out Star Trek, Man From Uncle and Lost in Space scenarios but often made up our own story lines. And I have fond memories of Pollyanna, too.

    Lovely post!


  4. It’s no fun having a penis.


  5. RVingGirl

    Great post. And the sweater really worked. I could have sworn that was hair. Lol
    I think it would be great having a pee pee gadget like that at airports or other yucky places wherein we have to squat. (no I cannot say that P word here in public) I was brought up Catholic and we had 23,000 words for our private body parts. Ha ha


    • pee pee gadget is an interesting euphemnism.


  6. OMG, that picture (and that story!) could have been me as a little girl. Except I used a scarf, corner tucked into the rubber band of my ponytail, to stand in for long hair. Yup, I was that skinny, too.


  7. Doc

    OnceI got married I finally understood penis envy. I often wished I had one!


  8. Pollyanna was one of my favourite books and movies as a child…I think I read the book at least a gazillion times! And I pretended to be her, too–thought she was so brave throughout the tragedy in her life. As far as penis envy–nope–never had it–but I did write a humor piece once about having ‘beard envy’….because men without chins can hide that fact with a great beard but a woman with no proper chin (a.k.a. me) cannot do anything more than try not to wear turtlenecks!
    Great post.


    • I often dream that I have a beard…. what would Sigmund say about that???


  9. No penis envy here. And ahhh, Pollyanna. Loved that movie. Just gave the book to my granddaughter for Christmas. Hilarious as usual.


  10. This is a cute story. Growing up in a family with no brothers (& my dad died when I was an infant), I knew nothing about the male anatomy when I was 6. So there, Dr. Freud!


  11. Ha! I always love when you include drawings! I was such a tomboy so I think Freud was right about me, but I’ve made up for it with extreme girliness in adulthood!

    I was OBSESSED with Pollyanna, though – I used to go around saying “You’re NUTTY” and “Don’t be impertinent!” (I think I’ve still got those right…)


  12. I can remember an early bath with my brother (so yes, VERY early) where he demonstrated into the tub. Then I tried. His went farther. We sat back down. My mother would have died.

    I’m sure it’s washed off by now.


  13. Hilarious! Having seven brothers, I was a bit of a Tomboy, but I never wanted to BE a boy!

    As Elaine, from Seinfeld said, “I don’t know how you can walk around with those things.”


  14. I always have a little bit of penis envy when the wait for the women’s room is really long and there is no line for the men’s room.


    • I’ve been known to use the men’s room. The men clear out pretty fast.


  15. I’m with Becoming Cliche. The only times I’ve had penis envy have been when I was a little girl and the grownups let my cousin pee outside and not me, and when I was in Japan and had to use the lovely squat toilets they provide for women at some of their finer facilities.


  16. When I was about 4 years old my mom used to babysit the boy across the street who was my same age. After watching him use the bathroom a couple times (hey, I was only 4!) I decided to try to pee standing up. Epic fail. I was pretty disappointed, yet never once did I want the “parts” that he had! Just wanted to “do whatever he could do”! Lol


  17. Totally with yo here. Who wants more dangly bits?


  18. Did you have the board game ‘Pollyanna’? It was pretty old but our neighbor had it and would let us play with it when we went to her house. Still love the movie, even if it is a bit cheesy. Thanks for the memories.


    • PS – didn’t even know what a penis was at age six. Freud was wrong.


    • Never saw that game. But I did see the movie a few years ago, and I still thought it was sweet.



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