My friend Danna Zeller, an aspiring writer lately of Brooklyn, wrote this. I think it's a work of art and genius.
Yesterday I went to Marshall's, a discount department store right on the border of Danville and San Ramon, because my coworker Alice said they had a great sale on ceramic bakeware. Department stores have always depressed me partly because of the lighting, partly because of the blistering motion of careless mass production, partly because of the chemicals they put on the clothing. Nevertheless, there was an entire clearance rack of men's pants and i found some exciting lemon yellow Tommy Hilfiger golf pants for 8 dollars and a really nice dark reddish-brown pair of thick dress corduroy slacks-- a style which I've never understood conceptually, but which would be perfect for work--, and for only 11 dollars some bright orange cargo three-quarter length shorts which i thought would be a great addition to my wardrobe if i ever got top surgery and then decided to go back to Waikiki. Anyway, on my way into the ladies dressing room something happened which had never happened to me before. Usually if someone thinks I'm going into the wrong room they say "um, this is the LADIES room" or "are you SURE you're in the right place?" or they look around panicked wondering if perhaps they're in the wrong place, as if they are on a ship that's just hit a wicked jerk of waves and they're wincing for the storm. But yesterday, as i was heading into the ladies dressing room with my ridiculous pants the apparently female employee who chatted with me for a minute and gave me my plastic thingy with the grand total number of my pants not to exceed 6, stopped me and said accusingly: "Are you a MAN?!" Well, I was stumped. No one had ever asked me this before and it sounded like a rhetorical question. Am I a man? What separates the boys from the men? For once it didn't seem to be a question about gender or how far i can throw a football, but about the direction of my life. Have I learned anything in the last decade or do i keep making the same mistakes over and over again? If I am finally a man, am I a mensch? And am I never to be a boy again? Does being a man mean I will suddenly start to do things right for a change, or that I will handle my ongoing bushels of fuck-ups with more grace and less vanity? Rites of passage as an inquiring, slightly paranoid, and often remorseful butch are vague and troubling and here I was being faced with a question I'd only toyed with in those joking with myself moments. But surely it's about time I take myself seriously. I stood still for a minute holding on to my pants. Stammered a little. Said "no." Walked right on into the Ladies Changing Room feeling strange and proud. I will have to add the term butchlekeit to my yiddishkeit slangishkeit. I am a man and I'm not a man and this knowledge is rich and complex in ways which i hope the intellectual butter of life will always be churning-- and yet is that because I'm an emotional masochist or because in my heart of hearts I feel we should all be confounding the most difficult questions with simple answers, and asking ourselves the most simple questions and making the answers harder than the pecs I get to imagine flexing above the hot waistline of my new orange shorts.