Femininity

by Raquel Wasserman

     Jung says we all have a feminine half and until you share it, you’re not really you.  Toby liked girls. He had a line-up of chicks over the phone, on afternoons at the pizza shop, and in class.  He would poke around his mother's closet for high heels from the 70’s, sinking into them with sensual ecstasy. Then he’d flip through her beaten up Cosmo's, tracing the sexed up pages of Janice Dickinson gingerly.
      This tranny nonsense just wasn't done in Clark, his small Nevada town amid the grand arid desert of America. Maybe it was a dryness that extended to the simple people who lived there. The boys he knew were brawny and virile animals. They beat him up, and often. He was the Pretty Boy.


      He knew he was not gay -- not at all. He loved girls. Their world, after all, was the world he wanted to be a part of. When they gossiped at the bus, he felt a longing in his deep heart. Maybe the problem was his connection with girls was too tight, too personal. He knew their souls like the back of his hands.
      He knew what they wanted: to be pretty, to be popular, to make varsity, to date the cool guys. And he had even chosen a girl to date: Stephanie Koupos, who sat in front of him in Biology class.
      Stephanie was an upper-middle-class girl who smelled of patchouli, and wanted to go to school at Brandeis. He had a hopeless crush on her and her gorgeous kinks of Greek hair. She had a big bosom under her creamy sweaters, which to him exemplified all that was feminine.
      She was a very smart, competent girl. But he was a young man, and he loved dresses, and Nevada didn't cut it. He had a big poster on his wall of the only place he knew he could survive. New York.


And from the minute he went there, it was his town.


     At eighteen he ran away from his violent stepfather, who would not deal with his rebellion. He had his whole trashy/ classy vamp look down by now. A long black satin dress with red Jimmy Choos. Powdered face, china white, with a smoky Bardot eye and nude lip gloss. And he bought a stunning wig from an Orthodox store in Williamsburg.

      He tried a dozen shades, from blonde to red or nut brown. But his favorite was a black wig by Fosse. It cost over 200 dollars. Straight across his shoulder with bangs. He loved black.
It opened every door. It was so beautiful that the bus drivers would ask him out on dates. Then he would open his mouth, and they would hear his low voice and grow pale with Republican fury. He got kicked out of a lot of places for his real voice.


     He changed his last name to Fatone. He liked the sound of Fatone. It sounded like a wonderful gangster with a dame in the back room. All the other drag queens thought he looked like Ava Gardner, when she did that cult movie The Killers. He was eighteen and new, and they showed him all the stores and clubs.


     He met a blonde model, named Vega. She was his new dearest friend. She was lovely, from Missouri. He would brush the knots out of her hair as they discussed makeup. She was climbing to the top of fashion, no sweat, until she met him. He destroyed her career. Her addiction to drugs took her down. He had taught her this. He felt a little guilty.

     He had another bad habit. He liked to tease straight guys. He would get them to buy him a drink. He would get presents, rings, dresses, lingerie, whatever. And then he would unceremoniously drop the guy. It worked out perfectly.
     He realized that city life was changing him.
     He was becoming evil.


     He was becoming hard and tough and unsentimental. There was a Frank O'Hara poem, about the wonderful aspect of cruelty. He got that now. The coldness as comfort.

      One night, he came home late from a club at three AM and his makeup was dripping off. A man on the street had tried to punch his lights out. He wasn't in the best mood.
      “Queer!” the punk had screamed and grabbed onto Toby's Fosse wig and ripped, “Go back home!”
      Did he have a home, he wondered? Where was his soul really going to? If he couldn't blend in New York, where could he blend? This feminine half, this masculine half, where were they going to?
      He’d staggered into a deli for a bagel. His expensive wig was off, and two teenage girls from Brooklyn fawned over him at the counter.


     He went before his mirror. Removed his base, his false eyelashes, the Chanel gloss. And with his face bare, it struck him that he was a very handsome man. He looked like the kind of guy to be a lawyer or doctor or something. He looked very staid. He should have a wife and kids by now. But he didn't. He was in transit. He was like New York itself, the beautiful secret that looks like a Swarovski necklace but which is actually a snake.

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