Thursday, August 5, 2010

My Life in Pink - The End

By the time I enrolled in the Academy, I think I’d probably made love to 200 women, and there always seemed to be more right around the corner. If Joe Sixpack knew how irresistible effeminacy makes a straight man to women, he’d be parked as we speak outside the electrologist’s, impatient for her to open. As I began my studies in earnest, though, I found myself wanting to be solely around one particular woman, one with whom I hadn’t even become intimate. Ellen. from a wealthy family in Cranston, Rhode Island, was a fellow student at the Academy, studying marketing in hopes of becoming a buyer for a big retail chain. We hit it off from the first moment she sat down opposite me in the student commissary and said, “You know, I think pink really is your color.”

She wasn’t thrilled about my Sunday mornings with my best clients. It came out that she wished, at least when we were out in the world, that I were more traditionally masculine. She said she was tired of being the less pretty one, and of feeling always that we might be in danger at any moment; I’d long since learned to tune out the outraged looks I inspired among strangers, but she seemed to miss none of them. It wasn’t as though she was asking me to be Bruce Willis; she was asking only that I stop being prettier when we went out than Cameron Diaz.

I tried it. I went to the Gap and Uniqlo and bought myself some seriously boring men’s attire. I stopped shaping my eyebrows. I didn’t need to stop shaving my legs, as they’d always been hairless, except for some downy blond hairs too fine to see unless you were looking hard for them. The hardest thing to give up was makeup; I thought at first that I looked terribly washed-out without it. There was very little I could do about having a gamin’s body, except maybe spend every spare minute at the gym, but I couldn’t bear the way gyms smelled, the unpleasant mix of sweat, testosterone, and steroids. I slipped into my pretty things when Ellen wasn’t around.

A couple of weeks of being as butch as I’m capable of being, I asked when I would get to meet her family. She seemed surprised by the question, and then oppressed by it. Intent on changing the subject, she picked a fight about something so trivial I can’t even remember what it was. But I returned to it. She didn’t expect ever to feel confident to introduce me to her very conservative family, which had regarded George Bush’s vacating the presidency as one of the saddest days in American history. “I honestly can’t imagine your ever being someone I could introduce to them,” she said.

She told me through tears that she was grateful for all the ways in which I’d tried to accommodate her, but that it seemed futile. “Once a sissy,” she said, “always a sissy.” She moved into her own studio apartment. I got my makeup and pretty things back out, wore them with panache, and could have gotten laid five nights a week if I’d wanted. I longed for a stable monogamous relationship with just one woman, but not at the price of my identity.

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