"When I Was a Boy" as written by and Dar Williams....
I won't forget when Peter Pan came to my house, took my hand
I said I was a boy; I'm glad he didn't check.
I learned to fly, I learned to fight
I lived a whole life in one night
We saved each other's lives out on the pirate's deck.
And I remember that night
When I'm leaving a late night with some friends
And I hear somebody tell me it's not safe, someone should help me
I need to find a nice man to walk me home.
When I was a boy, I scared the pants off of my mom,
Climbed what I could climb upon
And I don't know how I survived,
I guess I knew the tricks that all boys knew.
And you can walk me home, but I was a boy, too.

I was a kid that you would like, just a small boy on her bike
Riding topless, yeah, I never cared who saw.
My neighbor come outside to say, "Get your shirt,"
I said "No way, it's the last time I'm not breaking any law."
And now I'm in a clothing store, and the sign says less is more
More that's tight means more to see, more for them, not more for me
That can't help me climb a tree in ten seconds flat

When I was a boy, see that picture? That was me
Grass-stained shirt and dusty knees
And I know things have gotta change,
They got pills to sell, they've got implants to put in, they've got implants to remove
But I am not forgetting
That I was a boy too

And like the woods where I would creep, it's a secret I can keep
Except when I'm tired, except when I'm being caught off guard
I've had a lonesome awful day, the conversation finds its way
To catching fire-flies out in the backyard.
And I tell the man I'm with about the other life I lived
And I say now you're top gun, I have lost and you have won
And he says, "Oh no, no, can't you see
When I was a girl, my mom and I we always talked
And I picked flowers everywhere that I walked.
And I could always cry, now even when I'm alone I seldom do
And I have lost some kindness
But I was a girl too.
And you were just like me, and I was just like you.


Lyrics submitted by aur0ra

"When I Was a Boy" as written by Dar Williams

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

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14 Comments

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  • +3
    General CommentThis is one of the saddest, truest songs I have ever heard anywhere. I like how it denounces the idea of rigid gender stereotypes without beating you over the head with its message.
    nightkite13on April 24, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"just a small boy on her bike, riding topless, yeah, I never cared who saw..." as my username states,that was me, I remember when my mom finally told me that I had to wear a shirt when I was in the front yard. I grew up in rural canada so it never really mattered too much, there were trees to climb and gardens to mess around in. I had mostly sisters, but I never cared about brushing my hair or keeping my clothes clean, and I was more interested in bugs than dolls. I love the way she shows how when you're little, you're just who you are, be it male or female, be it whatever you are. then in come stereotypes and all of a sudden you can't like bugs or run around without a shirt because puberty hits and people want to see you without one.
    may I echo empathy_junkie--- I miss the days when I was a little boy.
    smallboyonherbikeon February 20, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI can relate so so much to this song. I love how she can make so many references to who a woman, and a man, are expected to be. I like the reference about how a woman should always be on display (tight shirt) and always think she is not good enough (implants). As a kid she got to be topless and not care how people think she measures up.

    Mostly I love how she doesn't blame men for girls feeling the need to do these things, but society/marketing. She paints men as just as much victums of growing up as women are.
    verondaon April 02, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI saw her in concert last night, and this song made me cry. Ever since I was little (and i was another one of those girls who always said she was a boy and was dirty and wrestled...) this song has been like...my song. And my mom says that the first time she heard this song she thought about me.

    so everytime i listen to this song i get something new from it. When i was 8, all i saw was the being a boy and not wanting to be a girl, but when i listen now, i hear all of the body image things. It makes me think of how easy everything was when i could play in the sprinkler with swimming trunks on and now i have to worry about how i dress...

    this song is so moving, and she does it so beautifully.
    ixlikexmusicon May 31, 2008   Link
  • +1
    My OpinionI love this song. Nightkite13, you put it so well, "This is one of the saddest, truest songs I have ever heard anywhere."

    I love how this isn't only a feminist rejection of female gender roles, but a fully rounded realization of how social gender norms constrain all of us.

    My wife introduced me to Dar Williams' music, and I'm proud to say that this song makes me tear up a little every time especially in the last verse. I was a girl too :)
    aphoenicison October 02, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGender stereotypes and how they inhibit us
    Mvskokeon October 07, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love the whole Peter Pan analogy in this song, it rocks. And I think it's cute how she shows the stereotypical gender issues. Gotta love Dar!
    alnbk5on February 28, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think this song is absolutly beautiful.
    i also agree with the people above me. gender is so rigid when people become adults. if you dont fit your gender's stereotype, people think you're gay or transgeneder or "confused".
    its so much simpler with little kids. it's okay to climb trees when though you're a little girl (i climbed quite a few in skirts that my mom picked out). i grew up a little like this, surrounded by boys. but it's definately changed for me, which is sad.
    i miss the days when i was a little boy.
    empathy_junkieon May 04, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is an AMAZING song! I still do that stuff... Im a tomboy... Oh wait... It has changed for me... now... Im a tomboi... Im a lesbian but back in the day of liking guys... I used to want to be like them... to be fearless...because I thought only boys could. But then I got into the Spice Girls... and they said Girl Power... so... yeah... I didnt have to be a boy to be fearless.
    Frostieon July 29, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDar says:

    "The feminists are going to say, “Why couldn’t you be that way when you were a girl?” But I wasn’t like a boy, I was a boy. So there was grit to stick to that strong line. I was describing how I was a boy, and then I was trying to decide how to end the song. I thought the song was going to be a whole thing about women in the world, but I realized it’s just not a feminist song. It’s not a song about women, it’s a song about children. So that’s why the ending is “when I was a girl.” And that’s what made all the difference. Because if it was turning into a feminist manifesto, it would have been really heavy. It would have been like that rib that they put on the car in the Flintstones, and the whole car falls over! It would have been that rib.


    I think there is a lot of empathy between men and women, and they want to share, but they get polarized by these debates. I didn’t want to feel that I was arguing against men, especially since men get shafted so much by their roles. Actually a lot of women that I speak to who would have been the separatists, they feel sorry for men. They don’t feel like men are the enemy, they feel like men are the victims of these roles.
    pnkseashelon January 16, 2006   Link

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