Thursday, August 15, 2013

Playing Dress Up

When I was around two years old, my older sister decided that she didn't want a brother, and that she was going to do something about it. Dragging me to her room, I was put in a dress. My nails were painted and my hair was pulled into a pigtail. I’m sure I fought the good fight, but she was my older and much wiser, not to mention bigger, sister.

We played a game.  She was Debbie and I was Gail, at least I think I was Gail, I can’t remember, the years of extensive therapy have blurred the details.  We’d sit at her play table, in her pink room, chatting about the day’s events over imaginary tea. I remember the tea being an awfully bland brew that required many additional imaginary sugars.  Not important, anyway, I quickly learned that Debbie was a major busy body, and we passed the afternoon gossiping about the haps in the neighborhood—Billy’s new big wheel. That brat Mary, with all her Barbies.  Old man Buster next door. We'd shoot the breeze and I'd forget that I was wearing floral patterns (this was the seventies). Imagine my poor dad’s surprise when he arrived home from work to find his only son dressed in drag.

Eventually my sister realized that I wasn’t girl. Perhaps it was the way I could chuck a teacup across the room, or that I actually ate mud pies.  Either way, after a while she lost interest and Debbie and Gail parted ways.  It was for the better, Debbie always was kind of a snob.

A few years later, my younger sister would pay the price for my older sister’s gender bending.  There was no tea, no dress, and no mercy. I dressed her up as a ninja warrior, putting my young understudy through rigorous training sessions that were eerily similar to the montages in Rocky III.  After deeming her fit for service, she was promoted to full-time ball getter, chasing down errant passes and runaway basketballs at full speed.  She took her job seriously, no lost balls on her watch.  She was the perfect sidekick.  At home my GI Joe's would saddle up My little Ponies and attack the village.  The Smurfs never knew what hit them.  Cabbage patch kids were subjected to grotesque mutilations while Pound Puppies were trained to attack and maul.  Her room became the sight of countless massacres. I may have been over compensating,luckily it seems that I didn’t do any permanent damage.

Today I feel that I am a sensitive guy, comfortable in manliness and without the need to be macho.  And I have only my older sister to blame thank. But there are some lingering effects of her little tea parties, as every once and a while I can hear the voice of my old  friend Gail in the back of my head.  (You’re not really going to wear that are you?   You should probably eat a salad today. Would you just look at that sunset?  Sometimes I'm flipping through the channels and linger just a little bit too long on The Princess Bride en route to the big game. Things started to add up: I don’t mind chick flicks, I’ve read Cosmopolitan magazine, (in my defense the Ask Cosmo section is inadvertently hilarious), I have Hall & Oates Greatest Hits in my Itunes library.  Today I said the word cute. 

I thought I had lost Gail with my baby teeth, but it seems she’s still rattling around in there, an old spinster buried deep in the depths of a belching, scratching, foot stinking, stained t-shirt wearing middle-aged football fan.  Two sugars please…

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