Author Andy Hall examines his life compared to stereotypes of the man box and finds peace with his androgyny.
I WOULDN’T CALL myself a metrosexual. I am too slovenly for such a designation. But I definitely don’t fit the alpha male stereotype. I am heterosexual, so far as I know, but I don’t hunt, don’t drink much, am terrible at sports, poorly coordinated, and I vote Democrat. That would seem to mean I am a girl. Morton Downy Jr. once called me a girl when I stood up to ask him a question at a debate.
What is it that would make me fear being a girl? At kindergarten, the teacher tried to get me to eat my disgusting lunch by assuring me that God was not a girl. Why would I care if God is a girl or not? I just don’t want to eat this fish covered in cheese that smells like the heart of a goat. I didn’t say that… but I should have. It would have been odd saying that at five years old.
I have never been a cross-dresser either … I tried on my mom’s nightgown once and didn’t find it appealing. Granted, at age five, the nightgown didn’t fit properly over me, but had it, I might have taken up the occupation of a cross-dresser.
My mom once told me that had I been a girl, I would have been named Wendy.
My mother was rather progressive, but in the 1970’s, child psychology remained, by and large, outdated and pastel. She had not read Doctor Spock. I was usually well behaved, but not always. When I was bratty and threw a tantrum, my mother threatened to take me into the ladies room and spank me. I don’t know what I feared most: the spanking or the shame of going into the ladies’ room, or the odors of bathroom business?
My best friend was Jenny. Jenny lived up the street, had a famous dad, and was six months older than me. This was like six years to a six-year-old, so I looked up to her. She was mature. I was in love with her, but she was in love with Robin. It turned out, she was only a lipstick lesbian, as she married Mike twenty years later.
My childhood was not idyllic by any means, and gender identity itself was not a tremendous influence on me, at least overtly. My family was the alcoholic family. My dad drank, beat me. My mother slept, unaware. Those were my formative years.
Men were quite a turnoff for me. Women, elusive. But my father sobered up and grew docile and loving, and my mother grew into the breadwinner of the family. My father also became, more and more, the recluse, the curmudgeon, the old man withering away, writing the great American novel, getting rejected constantly. Instead of hitting the bottle or my backside, he hit the keyboards for long hours, writing words that have gone largely unread, except by a few friends and people grateful for the mention of their names. He always put in a kind word for some, and could bite ferociously at those who crossed or irritated him.
As he withdrew, defeated in his career aspirations, long past his prime, he became addicted to westerns, and White basketball stars. John Wayne on one hand, and Larry Bird on the other. He was the great White hopelessness. The whale attacking the Pequod, the monster fading in the distance, carrying his soul down the canyon. The end of masculinity.
I, on the other hand, became my mother’s chosen date. My teens were spent going to the theater and to hundreds of movies with my ma… Fanny and Alexander, My Life as a Dog, Stop Making Sense, Space Balls, Broadcast News, Kiss of the Spider-Woman, Star Trek IV.
When I did go out with my dad, it was Rambo, Missing In Action, Missing In Action II, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, you name it. It may surprise you to know this, but my dad is a Democrat.
My Wendyness seems apparent now. I drive by Wendy’s and notice her red curls. Her cheeseburgers, her baked potatoes seem appropriate and homey. I should have been Wendy. Wendy Hall would have been a big buxom woman, but I ended up with just a bit more testosterone. It is strange being this useless vessel. A biology of destruction.
The phallus down there hanging off me like a branch on an old tree. Don’t get me wrong. I like my penis, but it would be much nicer to not have a bulging erection that lasts for eight hours. It makes it difficult to sit on airplanes. Nor is my penis that large. It is a tiny fraction of the size of the universe. It resembles a fish stick.
Once in my teens, I spent the night at the Circus Circus with friends. It was the birthday party of some girl who was having sex with my best friend. Her friend, June, was a virgin and had never before seen a penis, except in anatomy books. She wanted desperately to see mine. Not out of attraction or any sense of horniness on her part. Rather, she was curious to know how ugly a penis was. Was it as bad as her friends told her? I didn’t ask.
This essay was originally published on RedFez.net and is republished with permission from the author.
—Photo credit: Flickr/Marilyn Roxie