Tag Archives: memoir

When I See Pink I See Red

why-i-hate-pinkI have an aversion to groups of girls. It is deep seated. The girls at P.S. 40 Manhattan were a mean bunch, a nasty clique. When I see a group of girls together, I flinch. I don’t see them as adorable or playful. I don’t trust them. I can’t remember back to when girls were just girls.

I went to school, from kindergarten through sixth grade, with the same twenty or so girls. Line up, recess, lunch, dismissal. Outside the classroom I was a target. Push, elbow, poke. Eww, keep away from me, you’ve got cooties. 

Teased and shunned. For being fat, for wearing ugly clothes, for being a misfit. Eww what’s that smell? Get away. There were two ringleaders who kept the other girls in line. They weren’t girly girls, they weren’t rich girls, they weren’t smart girls, but they were good at what they did. I had no friends at school. Wendy and Julie saw to it.

Don’t let her touch the ball, we’ll have to decontaminate it. I did not want to play their games. I did not want to sit at their table. I see London, I see France, What is in your underpants? I did not want them to police my behavior or my gender (if I’d only had the terms to describe it then).

Before I started kindergarten, before I knew the jargon, before some of the jargon existed, before I could formulate the words, I knew I was not like them. I was a boy and I was attracted to women. If I didn’t have the thoughts concurrently, I intertwined them quickly. Continue reading

Hiding from the Camera

girls_with_vintage_camerasThere are only a dozen family photographs of me as a child. There are a handful of elementary school portraits and class pictures. My high school yearbook. Then I disappear from sight.

There are no pictures of me between 17 and 24; between when I came out and when I met Donna. I hid from the camera. I felt fat, ugly, and awkward. I didn’t want to be reminded of how bad I looked.

Donna came with her camera. She loves to take photographs.

I hated my childhood pictures. They were proof that I was a girl. There are no candid photographs. No happy, relaxed shots. I am posing. Stand up straight, look up at the camera, smile, don’t move. Continue reading

I’d Like to Talk to My Dad

My 6th grade graduation in 1970. I might have been happier in a jacket and tie, but pointy collars were in style.

My elementary school graduation in 1970. I might have been happier in a jacket and tie, but pointy collars were in style.

It was a simple question, an ice-breaker at a meeting. If you could invite anyone over for dinner, dead or alive, who would you choose? We were going around the circle, and I wished I was more imaginative. My immediate reaction was “I’d like to talk to my dad.”

I could have said Emma Goldman or Magnus Hirschfeld. John Lennon or Rosa Parks. Would Mahatma Gandhi be looking at his watch, wondering if he had to stay for coffee and dessert? Would Audre Lorde have to feign interest in my writing? Would she wonder why she was brought back for this when there were so many more interesting things she could be doing?

My dad would be tickled that I choose him. He was forty-three when he died; I was thirteen. I wish I could talk to him. I’ve got questions. Continue reading

Some Enchanted Evening

Butch dreams

Seabees, from the 2013 revival in Chicago

Some of the worst moments of my mother’s life were the best moments of my life. I didn’t plan it that way.

My sixth grade class at P.S. 40 performed the musical South Pacific. I can still sing some of the songs. It is a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic.  Some Enchanted Evening, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair, You’ve Got to Be Taught, and There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame. The play was considered progressive by New York City public school standards. It touched on war, race, and privilege without referencing Vietnam, the civil rights movement, or white flight. Subjects we did not discuss much at home or in school.

Our class probably performed a sanitized and abridged version of it. When I listened to the original 1949 cast album some of the songs were unfamiliar. My memories of the play are sketchy. It was set on a island, there was a love story, one of the male characters had a scene where he wore a grass skirt and a coconut cup bikini top, and the play had a bittersweet ending. All I remember clearly is that I was a Seabee in the chorus. Continue reading

My Mother’s Obsession

I spend a lot of time thinking about how people see me and what I look like. Not because I am vain and stylish, but because my mother was obsessed with making me look like a girl. We were both unhappy with how I looked; we had different ideas on how to solve the problem.

no-clothes-for-butch-dress-upEvery day I struggled to get dressed and go to school. I hated wearing skirts and dresses. I hated wearing tights. I hated wearing Mary Janes. I hated wearing pastels, lace, bows, and anything that had elastic in the waist or a zipper in the back. I threw a lot of tantrums. I wanted to look like a boy not a girl. I could not understand why my mother insisted on putting me in clothes I hated.

By the third grade I had acquired a wardrobe of drab unadorned dresses, and dark Oxford shoes. While I despised these clothes, they were the least objectionable of what was available. I wore them like a prison uniform. The clothes were ugly. but innocuous enough that I could numb out in them. I refused to inhabit them. I daydreamed my way out of them. Continue reading