A WOMAN ARRIVES IN THE NIGHT
I didn’t get the body of a woman until I was 35. It seemed like everyone else had traded in their boy-bodies long ago, and even though I really thought I’d have mine forever, I’d taken him for granted for so long I hardly noticed he was missing until the body of a woman arrived in the night, headed straight for the closet, and tried to squeeze herself into his clothing.
She selected a pair of stretchy slim fit trousers first and with some violent tugging when they reached the widest part of her muscular thighs, she was able to slide them up over her hips, suck in her belly, and fasten the button while popping only a few threads on the outer seam of the right leg. Of course, she cooed over her own curves in the mirror. She turned around, bent over so her butt nearly touched the glass and swiveled her neck to look—like a fattened goose admiring her own apple-like buttocks up close. She was in love with herself. And quite honestly, I was lusting after her myself. She: this body of a woman dancing around my bedroom, an uninvited guest, reminding me of my ex-girlfriend with her tiny waist and soft breasts, who had always made me feel masculine and immature in comparison, what with my boy-body’s straight trunk and muscular hands and back.
It wasn’t odd to see my woman-body in the nude; they so often are. But, for a moment I was nostalgic for my boy-body’s modesty, after all, gender has so little to do with the naked body, and my boy-body made me take my physical being completely for granted so I didn’t even think about the experience of existing in my own flesh as a component of gender. This woman-body demanded my attention just by being, or I was trained to dwell in the lopsided desire for the female body as an object, and I just happened to have one now, to own one, to experience the titillating side to proprioception, which my boy-body had never provided.
Masculinity: that rose, (that thorn!), that feeling of power, of being untouchable; that far end of the gender spectrum I’d always been so lucky to shimmy up to as I was, me and my boy-body that is, that particular type of cis woman so unmistakably a boyish cis woman that I could subway spread and go without makeup and float between gender-segregated groups at cook-outs, and still circumvent many of the denigrations faced by the undeniably feminine of this world. Privileged. I’ll be the first to admit it. Maybe even a little androgynous in the sense of the word that implies the gender equivalent of a class-climber. Would this new body enable me to face that privilege, to do my part in taking less and making space for others by settling into my femininity and sharing the burden that goes along with it? Not just the burden though, the positive side, too, the identity, the in-group feeling of being a woman among women.
I felt all I’d been hearing lately was femme femme femme, femme-this, femme-that, like I love to say things that are so smart but like in a valley girl accent, you knoooow, I like trad-femme, I’m more high-femme, I love maximalism and my butt is as big as my brain, and I’d felt increasingly out of the loop, hopelessly stuck dragging around my boy-body—I may as well have carried around a sign that said I WAS RAISED BY A SECOND WAVE FEMINIST or THE THIRD WAVE OBSESSION WITH RECLAIMING CHILDHOOD DIDN’T PREPARE ME FOR THIS, instead of the pink duffle bag I’d forced into my boy-body’s strong hands—a misguided attempt to acclimate him to the attention I knew he would get while following around an unmistakable she? No, more of an attempt to claim pride, another word du jour I wanted so badly, despite believing in my heart of hearts that it was a virtue of fascists, or at the very least just gauche, or a part of my queer identity co-opted by assimilationists who I did not want to identify with—did I mention I was raised by a second wave feminist? Upbringing is always hard to wash off.
But now I had it, this biological trophy, and I was ready to parade her out, about, and all over, with pride.
The next day was the day: I looked at my woman-body, lounging around my house in a bathrobe, and thought, I should take her out, show her off. I mentioned her impending debut and she leapt to the closet and pulled out a little present I’d picked up for her: a pair of red, stretch jersey pants, sure to slide over her bum, in at her waist, and accentuate her child bearing potential. The pants were clearly too small—I really couldn’t have anticipated what type of woman-body I would have after so long being boyish—but she seemed desperate to make them work. She assumed the bent over pose and traced a finger over her panty line, straightened up and smiled at me, do they look alright? I really wanted them to, just as much as I wanted her question to be an adorable display of female grooming rituals and not the body-insecurity radiating from her crossed arms and slumped shoulders.
I wanted to tell her yes, we will go out and with you draped around me we will fit right into this rising femme trend, and we will flaunt our body and garner stares with our ass and pirouette to the chorus of “hey pretty! Smile!”, and she laughed nervously. Then whimpered.
I collapsed on the bed and hid her body from my view. I could hear her begin to sob and the crrrrrrrrr of ripping fabric as she tore off the red pants. I wiped tears from my eyes and confessed. I can’t go out with you like this. They’ll stare. I don’t actually want anyone to consider your child bearing potential, like, ever. Unless in a co-parenting situation where we’re deciding who will be the surrogate. She sat down beside me, a round, paunchy, goddess, I hate stares, too, but we can’t stay in here forever, she said. And we laid in bed together, me and my woman-body, and I told her all about how easy it had been to dress the boy-body, how I could conceal it with a distinctly European minimalism to avoid the attention of men while basking in the praise of women who equated thin with pretty and European with money. And I wondered how long it would be before I could stand to take her out in public, and I realized I hated her, had always hated her, and there we sat: a woman with a brain as big as her bum, and the thing holding her back from sharing it.