Category Archives: Memoir

Dad, It’s Nice To Meet You, From My Memoir, The Dichotomy Of Crazy

 

At nine years old I decided to start an environmental group inspired by a book I’d checked out of the library. I called the group, “the florescent fire-flies” because I was kind of ghetto amazing. I found other kids my age, and more-or-less told them that they had to be part of my group, otherwise they would burst into flames when the ozone finally deteriorated which could be any moment.

When the kids were on my side, from either fear or my offering of Kool-Aid parties, I moved on to harassing city and government officials. My mother was too pre-occupied with the daycare center that she ran in our living room to really pay much attention to the whole thing. Though, she voiced some minor irritation for the post-it notes I’d left all over the house instructing everyone on how many squares of toilet paper they were allowed to use after going to the bathroom, and how long they were allowed to run the water in the kitchen every day. My step-dad at the time, Jack, was pretty supportive. He would drive me to the city council meetings, where I’d stand in front of the seated members and ask the council to increase fines and jail time for littering. “I demand littering fines to increase to five-thousand dollars and at least one month in jail!” The council members and city mayor were kind enough to hear me out without discouraging me too much. “Well, five-thousand-dollars seems a little high but we’ll discuss it amongst ourselves and see what we can do.” They’d say. I’d nod, gather by graphs and charts and exit the premises. I did this every time there was a council meeting, at least once per month.

On one particular day after I gave one of my usual speeches to the town council I was interviewed by a local newspaper. The reporter, a young woman,  was completely convinced that the seeds of world-change had been planted by my democrat, tree-hugging parents. Little did she know. “My mother doesn’t like to read”, I told the reporter, “she likes cartoons”. The reporter dug deeper, “Maybe you got it from your father?” she asked. I shrugged. “I don’t really know him. I met him once when I was five. Haven’t seen him since.” The story of a ten year old activist ran in the newspaper a few days later. My mother, though uninterested in the environmental thing, was still proud that the newspaper had interviewed her fourth-grader. She called the entire family and cut the article out for my baby album. I was less interested in the newspaper article than I was in trying to understand why the reporter didn’t believe that I could think for myself.

Later in the week, as though summoned fourth by the reporter’s questions, my father resurfaced. My mother mentioned it in passing, the way someone might say, “brush your teeth,”  or “don’t forget to make your bed tomorrow.” She was walking around the house one evening picking up a little when she paused and said, by the way, your father is coming to get you this weekend so you should get some stuff together. He’ll be here Friday after school. I’d spent my whole life as her daughter so I was pretty good at adapting to things in one way or another. You had to be good at adapting because she still believed in that old world of thought that children were basically expensive plants and there was no need to explain, consult, or ask them about feelings or anything else for that matter. I took most things in stride with little or no visible reaction.

However, I didn’t want anything to do with my father. I had no interest in knowing him and frankly the idea of being alone with some man that I didn’t know for a weekend scared the crap out of me. The next day I moved out of my mother’s house and moved into the small wood shed in our backyard while she was out. I didn’t think anyone would mind since I’d put all of the stuff from the shed under a big plastic tarp to keep everything dry. I built a fireplace in the shed with cinderblocks and Indian clay that I dug from our own backyard which left a massive crater in the center of the lawn which I subsequently filled with water and tadpoles. I even cut the chimney hole in the shed wall with power tools. Surprisingly, the chimney mostly worked though it was a little smoky. I dusted off my hands and moved my stuff in. I threw a mattress on the floor, a rocking chair in the corner that I’d borrowed from my mom’s living room, and I propped a flashlight up in the corner. Then I stocked up on canned stew, cute little pasta in alphabet shapes, and powdered sugar, all from the grocery store just up the street. I “accidentally” dropped most of the cans to get them for half price because I needed to save money now that I was on my own. I believed I could live off canned food entirely because I clearly knew little about nutrition or scurvy.

I put my groceries away on a shelf that used to hold the gas cans, and laid on my mattress staring at the cobwebs that decorated the ceiling feeling proud of my new home. I lived alone. This was MY house and nobody could make me do anything that I didn’t want to do. Unfortunately, I was not aware that property ownership meant more than “finder’s keepers” and my independence lasted less than 24 hours. After she came home she made me move back into the house and put the lawnmower, gas cans, and all of the other shed things back into the shed. I was told that I would be going with my father for the weekend in two days time.

Meeting ones father is a strange concept for most people. One doesn’t meet ones father, one just knows him, don’t they? My father was introduced like a creepy neighbor. I was forced, uninterested and slightly weary. Thanks to my mom I knew that a kind face could easily mask a fervor for homicide, an obsession with quilting and scrapbooking could easily hide a whole world of sin as you quickly learn growing up in Utah. The night before my father was coming to pick me up my mom made me watch a film to “prepare me” and obviously scare me to death. She popped a tape into our VCR and told me to sit down. The film was “Not Without My Daughter,” a film supposedly based on a true story about an Iranian man who takes his American family to “visit” Iran and then essentially kidnaps them and holds them hostage after turning into a total lunatic. After the film was over I sat wide-eyed staring at the credits and wondering why I was being forced to see this man. While I sat on the carpet of the living room with PTSD, my mom casually walked in, “Oh, it’s over all-ready? Anyways, your dad is a really nice person but this is your father’s people, so, you know, just like don’t get on a plane with him or whatever, okay? ”

Since the movie was the only recent “interaction” I’d had with an Iranian person, I assumed that they were all short, ugly men with bi-polor disorder, and a peculiar abhorrence for women’s hair which they kept out of sight for reasons I couldn’t understand. I didn’t want to see him before I’d watched the film, and after watching the film I was willing to do almost anything to avoid it.  I was convinced that he would cover my hair with a cloth and kidnap me, then take me back to his country of origin and marry me off to one of my hairy teenage cousins.

The next day, Friday, I paced the length of the living room waiting for my father to arrive. My mother asked, “Why are you so nervous!?” I heard a car and peaked through the blinds to see a man behind the wheel of a black BMW. There was an intense panic percolating in my stomach that dissolved and disappeared as I went numb. The man stepped out of his car, and stood up straight and tall. He was a large man, tall, with broad shoulders and a muscular build. I vaguely recognized his dark olive skin and jet black hair as the man I’d met four years prior for one weekend. As he made his way to our front door his unibrow and chest hair came into view. He looked like a mix between an attractive count Dracula and a Silverback Gorilla. When he stepped inside the house after accepting my mother’s invitation it was difficult for me to greet him. His accent was strong and I couldn’t understand anything he said. At that time, I had a difficult time understanding anyone who didn’t speak Utah ghetto slang.

He hugged me and kissed my cheeks, as his culture and affectionate personality required. I didn’t like being touched by him, it felt invasive, and his stubble agitated my soft facial skin. The fact that I had his DNA meant nothing to me; he was just a strange man, from a strange place, who was overzealously attacking my cheeks with his big mauve lips. I scrunched up my face and  glared at him. He barely talked with my mother and said less than five words to me before I was led outside to his luxury car and probably to my death. “Vee air going to meet-a vith your sister Chan-ayelle now. Is dat ok?” He asked. I stared at him wide eyed, straining to understand him but he kept substituting consonants for the wrong consonants and adding vowels where they didn’t belong. Was he speaking English? Something about a sister? Ah, that’s right! I had forgotten that I had sisters. I’d met them once before but I was too young to remember what they looked like or their names. As he turned on the car he seemed jolly and in good spirits. I guess for him he had been reunited with his long lost child, I, however,  felt like I’d been sold out by my mother and carted off by some random, excessively hair man.

I sat in the front seat and tried to send SOS messages telepathically to my mom: please come outside and get me, please, which was completely useless because she was probably already downing her third margarita to celebrate her new freedom. I stared at the house as we backed out of the driveway. My nervousness was interrupted a moment later when my father began stadium level screaming in tongues into his brick size cell phone. Whatever he was speaking didn’t even seem real. He was possessed by demons or maybe he was in the mafia and this was the code language he used when trafficking herioin.  “Det vas yair grandma back home in Iran.” He said when he hung up the phone. Back home? What am I going to do in Iran? Where is Iran? I have a grandma? How am I going to be a wildlife ranger in Iran? I was a hillbilly kid who had just found out that she was half immigrant and half ethnic which is probably as shocking as finding out that you were adopted, only slightly better because I could now qualify for “minority” loans. My entire world started to change.

For a long forty minute drive south my “dad” rambled on speaking in tongues, while I watched the scenery. Frankly, it was easier than it should have been to tune him out. My mom never left the teeny tiny town where we lived and I was glued to the window amazed by all of the landscape I’d been missing. Everything was beautiful and new and we were passing real cities like the ones I’d seen on T.V. I felt a sudden elation of belonging. I’d never felt comfortable around T.V. dinners, Lazy Boy reclining chairs, living in a bubble, or life being “good enough.” I’ve always wanted more and it seemed that “more” was presenting itself to me in the forms of genetics and legal obligations.

We pulled up to a house after driving for a while and a little girl of about five years old ran out of the house like a bullet and bounced into the back seat. “Hi daddy!” she said enthusiastically. “Hello baby. How’s my gill?” he asked. “I’m good!” she smiled, and then started eyeing me. “Who’s that? She asked. “Chanayle baby, dis is yair sister Misty, say hello to hair”. Her eyes grew huge, “I have another sister?!” she beamed. “COOL! Hi misty! I’m your sister Chanelle” she said. I smiled. It was weird but she kind of looked like me. I thought of how weird it would have been to have seen her in a mall one day and have someone point out that she looked like me, unknowing that I was related to her. Strange. My father’s interaction with her were natural, he was nice with her and clearly he hadn’t stolen her and fled to Iran so maybe he wasn’t so bad.

Another young girl, about my age with blue eyes and pale skin slowly walked out of the same house and quietly sat in the seat next to Chanelle. She closed the door, “Hi dad,” then to me “I’m Ericka”. I smiled, “I’m Misty” I replied. “I know who you are.” She said accusingly. I was confused why this sister didn’t look like me. She was pale, pale white with light hair and big light eyes. Then she answered my question, “Dad adopted me. I’m Chanelle’s blood sister, not yours”. I nodded then I remembered meeting her once and I remembered that her mother hated me.  The car lurched forward and we were off. We sped along the freeway while Chanelle and Ericka argued in the back in true sisterly fashion. I watched the window, and my dad talked on his phone this time in broken English.

When we arrived to my father’s apartment my sisters took great interest in getting to know me, firing question upon question, while my father watched us over his cup of tea. “You look so-a Persian, just-a like your Ent” he said to me in his thick accent. Persian? What is Persian? Isn’t that a huge cat that looks like it ran it’s face into the side of a truck? I was something and I didn’t even know what it was. Apparently I was half cat. “You want to learn Farsi girl, I teach you da Farsi geyl” My father tried to explain all things Persian to me, that it was a huge empire, that stupid people messed up the country. That night my father cooked some “Persian stew” called Geymeh that smelled delicious but was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen. I’d never eaten anything ethnic other than Chinese and Mexican so I was a little slow to try it. While I pushed the brown food around in my bowl my new little sister, Chanelle, was scooping heaping spoons of it with greek yogurt into her mouth and smiling in between bites. Having them there, having “normal” people there, lubricated the transition, I felt more at ease. That night I had to grasp this massive concept that I didn’t have to just adapt to having a father and sisters, I also had to adapt to being someone else.

After dinner we watched movies together on the couch for the rest of the night, my father put his arms around us and kissed us on the cheeks every thirty minutes or so which kind of freaked me out. My mother is not the touchy affectionate type nor is she the “quality time” type. Suddenly on the couch it occurred to me that my life with my mother was the exact opposite of what life would be like with my father. I was a “free spirit” at home, I spent most of my time alone either collecting animals or coming up with some kind of get rich quick scheme. For the first time I felt different, strange, like I had been missing something. I remember sitting snuggled against my father, who I barely knew, while my little sister twirled my hair in her fingers, and my other sister whispered jokes to me under her breathe. I’d always felt loved by my mother but I didn’t necessarily feel close to her. She’d always been a great friend, I checked in with her, she gave me advice and told me I should probably do things but she wasn’t the type of mom I’d seen on T.V. She wasn’t the kind of person to take you to the movies or sit in the backyard with you examining insects, or to harp on you about your homework or brushing your teeth. Is this what things with my mother were supposed to be like?

The next day my father took us to breakfast before he dropped us off at the mall with his credit card. We were allowed to spend as much as we wanted, on whatever we wanted. I couldn’t grasp it. My mother was poor and we could only afford to go clothes shopping once per year right before the school year started,and even then there was a serious limit to what we could buy. But now, I could buy whatever I wanted. I kept thinking of that little girl Annie who went to live with that bald rich dude. The way I saw the situation was greatly exaggerated by the fact that I was a kid: I was a browner version of Annie, poor me, swept up from the white ghetto, from my broke mom, to this metropolitan apartment with my own brown version of daddy Warbucks. But this was genetic! It was so natural for Chanelle and Erika, who walked from store to store trying things on and trying to decide what to buy. I bought a pair of shoes. I couldn’t get myself to grab more than that, it seemed so incredibly wrong to be able to have stuff on a non-holiday. When my dad came back he said, “That’s all you got gerl?”

When I arrived back to my mom’s house after the weekend I walked inside and headed to my bedroom with my new shoes. My mother came into my room immediately, “He took you shopping?” She asked. I nodded. “Well, good, if he refuses to pay child support the least he can do is clothe you. Did you have fun?” I wasn’t sure how to respond. I didn’t want to admit that I enjoyed myself because I didn’t want to make her feel bad. My life had been completely flipped upside down. For the first time I was learning the other half of who I was which was both confusing and exciting but more than anything I was terrified. My mother, too impatient for my response, turned and walked away yelling behind her, “put your stuff away and come into the kitchen. I need to talk with you about Jack. We’re getting divorced.”

My step-father was gone almost immediately after and I hardly noticed. I was seeing my real dad on the occasional weekend and as it were my mind could only handle one father-figure at a time. It was enough to grasp a new identity, a new family, and the many trials and tribulations that came with it. There were new expectations, new places, broader horizons, and new standards and ways of conducting oneself. In a sense I wasn’t adapting necessarily, I was still the same me that I ever was when I was with my mother though I was developing a different self in response to my father. I was becoming two halves from two clashing worlds .

New Here? Start With These Posts.

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New here? I’ve compiled some of my most popular blog posts and short stories for you to give you somewhere to start. Please give me feedback or share if something sits well with you. Or if you’re drunk.

10 Reasons That I’m Surprised That Someone Married Me

A Story About My Little Brother’s Death

My Life With Animals

A Little About M.E. A Short Bio

A Girl Named Jimmy

My eyes adjust slowly to the evidence of a successful massacre, tiny bodies torn, tattered, mutilated, are triumphantly displayed across the dark hardwood in every direction of the room. The palette of artificial skin tones and polyurethane hair create a neutral rainbow of disheveled parts, limbs twisted into compromising positions. She must have pulled and ripped for a while, which explains her absence. I chuckle and smile.

The door makes a loud thud as I shove it all the way open to enter my baby sister’s room. An arm flies through the air then lands next to the tiny bed nestled against the left hand wall from where I stand. I step forward and something soft gives way under my weight. Flipping on the light illuminates an abdomen. I step to the right only to land on a head which rolls out from under the ball of my foot smashing the face into the ground. It makes a “pop” as the plastic eyes shoot out sending me off balance into the little wooden dresser against the right hand wall. The framed group soccer photo falls to the hardwood, along with a little league trophy that lands on top of a severed leg. I put everything back the best I can. Then, something giggles in the walls.

“Mitra?” I call out.

There is a stir in the closet, a loud boom before the double white doors fly open and a small mass bursts free growling, and baring baby canines. “Impressive” I wink at my little sister. She smiles, stands all the way upright tilts her head back to look at me. Her chest puffs like a rooster. It rises and falls as she catches her breathe, trying to hold back laughter. Her blue eyes look out from under her bangs, her blonde hair matted at the crown. She’s wearing her favorite long blue nylon soccer shorts, oversized light blue t-shirt, high socks, and of course cleats. She looks like a gym teacher.

“What are you doing?” I move her hair from her eyes, and she swats at my hand.

“Pwaying” She points to the baby holocaust.

“What did you do to your dolls?”

She smiles, pushes her hip out, twirls her hair between her tiny, chubby fingers, and gestures to the floor with her other hand to where all the dolls lie in their plastic cemetery. They’re all nude. Their clothes are strewn about the piles of doll heads which have been separated from the bodies. The faces are covered in what seems like black writing.

“What did you write kiddo? It looks like you’re worshipping Satan.” She tilts her head and furrows her brows.

“What staytan?”

“I don’t know, supposedly someone who is really rude”.

“Saman?”

“No, Saman is your older brother”.

I suppose that might be the equivalent to her.

Being the oldest I don’t understand the trials and tribulations of being a younger sibling. Her “rude” older brother is only eight years old, someone I regularly take on play dates, and send to his room when he says something inappropriate, like “penis”. God forbid a kid say the name of a body part.  The same part my father used to repopulate planet earth with his “strong Persian” genes.

I pick up a head by its stringy, blond ponytail. At closer inspection I realize the doll doesn’t have writing on her face, rather she has been “re-assigned” with facial hair via black sharpie marker. The facial hair was new, an addition to her usual undressing and dismembering. She takes the clothes off of them claiming they, like her, are more comfortable that way. Living vicariously through them: naked and hairy.

“Why facial hair Mitra?”

“They juss look betta dat way”

She frowns as she catches on that I am ever so slightly weirded out.

“Of course they do honey”

“Wanna prway leggos?”

She tilts her head waiting for my response with her hands on her hips like she has seen her mother do. In fact, she looks just like her mother, and nothing like the rest of us being the only one with light features. In my family, regardless of how pretty she might be to most of the world, she will never be told so.

My father regularly picks her up and inspects her like a rotten potato.

“Why is she so white”?

He’ll say with his whole face scrunched up, mouth pursed, and arms straight out in front of him with my sister dangling in his hands where he holds her under the armpits so they are eye to eye. He talks through her to my step mother on the other side.

“Shut up Abbas before I beat you to death.” She’s half joking.

My blond, Mormon step-mother will scream in her soccer mom voice then shoot death glances over one of her thousands of fashion magazines pulled from one of the many stacks neatly kept on our 15th century antique Italian coffee table in the living room. There are boxes of them, hundreds or thousands. She’s “a hoarder”, like a chipmunk, but a very clean and orderly version.

“You know”

My father will look at me after putting her down to scuttle away,

“She won’t chenge dat color, doesn’t she look dead dat color? You are a good colair, but you would be much better if you didn’t have half the stupid white in you. You would be smarter too; you only have half da brain”.

“Thanks dad”

“No really, I’m serious, Persians are the most beautiful, and most intelligent, not like stupid white, who are so stupid they have to get someone from Africa to run their country for them…stupid, stupid”.

“Abbas, so help me god, if you don’t shut up I am going to come kick your butt.”

My step-mother will yell again. My father, knowing he’s getting close to actually being in trouble, will chuckle nervously, and then continues. At this point I tune him out because I can only handle his Persian Empire speech for so long before I lose my mind, or my temper, which my father will then attribute to my bloodline of warriors.  All of his five mostly illegitimate children are half “white” as he calls it, though Persians are technically Caucasian so I don’t know what the hell that means. I have decided “white” actually means “fair skinned”.  My sisters and brother all look like me, dark hair, and greenish almond shaped eyes, olive skin. In me and my sister Chanelle’s case we are also gifted with huge hips that scream to all semen in a ten meter vicinity “impregnate me, I am a baby factory”.

This is not the case with Mitra. You wouldn’t know she was my sister because of her coloring, but even more so because she doesn’t look like a girl. She looks like a feminine little boy. This is part of the reason I agree to babysit her despite generally disliking children, she’s constantly entertaining.

In general children make me uncomfortable. I can’t, “cooo” and “caaaah” like women are “supposed” to do. Being around them is an awkward experience, even stressful because I constantly worry about breaking something I don’t own. What if I trip over it, or teach it to accidentally say “Fuck”? Being around children for me is like walking through a fine dining collector’s aisle of an upscale store; it’s a fear of breaking something I can’t replace. I might look feminine, but I’ve never felt it. I’ve always felt like a strange mix, too masculine for child rearing, too feminine for construction work, though I do enjoy automotive repair.

Mitra is still staring at me wondering if I can play Leggos or not.

“We can play after you eat”

She’s not listening. Instead she bends down to the floor to add a mustache to a doll with a beard. The doll now looked like Santa Clause and I’m reminded of last December when my step mother asked, “What do you want for Christmas?” and pointing to her crotch she said, “That thing I don’t have”. While other children are asking for dolls, video games, etc., my sister wants Santa to bring her a penis.

“You can fix her facial hair later, come on”

I turn and walk out of the newly painted, light blue, little girl’s room to check on my niece, Avah, who I am also watching, and who is downstairs alone doing god-knows-what. “Come with me Mitra”

I call her again after noticing she’s not behind me. No response and she have yet to step into the long hallway leading to the staircase, which leads to the tea room on the main floor. I wait another minute and she is still in her room, I roll my eyes, “Jimmy” I yell. She immediately turns the corner from her room pushing her hair from her face walking towards me. More and more she only responds to the little boys name she gave herself a few weeks ago.

“Why did you choose the name Jimmy?” We take the first step down, slowly because she has to take one baby step at a time, and the marble is slippery. I have always refused to help her so she no longer asks. Instead I wait patiently while she holds the rail, eyes on the step in front of her, stepping down, waiting to make sure she is steady before transferring her weight. The more she can do alone, the better off she will be when she gets older and realizes the more she can do for herself the better.

She makes it down two steps and pauses to answer,

“I like it”.

“But why not something like, King Edward, or George?”

“Those are stupid”

“But Jimmy isn’t?” I mumbled.

“No”

“Oh. Alright.”.

At the bottom of the stairs I tell her to go find Avah, and play with her. She nods, then sprints across the tea room into the living room. I linger long enough to take in the room, the gold, the Persian carpets, the painting depicting a man and his herem, a hand-dipped, gold and sapphire chandelier. My father’s décor reeks of tradition. His objects attest to the fact that he has physically left Iran but never really left Iran. I hear the little girls talking and cannot help but laugh. Mitra thinks she’s a boy, Avah is the out of wedlock child of my little sister, and me, well, I’m an impoverished, life-long student of useless degrees with a history of failed relationships, and no social skills. I smile because we, the fruit of his loins, are Karma personified. Every year that we grow older, we always do yet another thing that makes him regret not using a better contraceptive.

In the kitchen I pull out pasta and watch the little girls talking on the other side of the room where they interact like petite adults. They gesture with their tiny hands sloppily, exaggerating the movements, speaking back and forth with importance inappropriately close to each other’s faces still unaware that culturally we are obsessed with distance in a way that creates psychological space too. Their happiness is my happiness, and I’m thankful that their childhood is not my childhood. It took a few months to get used to the idea of having a little sister that is twenty years my junior, and some time get over the fact that it took twenty years for my father to become emotionally available, just in time for the new, younger kids to have the life I’d only ever seen in the movies.

The little girls, my sister, and our niece are only three months apart. The two are related, sharing subtle characteristics. The real difference is their hair and clothing. Avah’s white hair pulled up high in a ponytail on top of her head with a crown of pink berets, Mitra’s long, wavy, dirty blondish hair hangs in a mess over her little shoulders like a mop. Avah looks like a spray-can of pink paint exploded on her, Mitra looks like a mini David Beckham.

Pasta swirls in a strainer, the steam stings my face and I hope it opens my pores enough for me to sneak into the bathroom after and do a sugar scrub. I feel old. Through the window above the sink a deer nibbles the mint in our garden.

“I’m the dad you can be the mom, so now you get me food”.

Mitra’s voice bellows through the empty space, reverberating off of the high ceilings.

“Why do I have to make food?” Avah screams.

“Because you’re the girl!” Mitra retorts.

“You’re a girl too!”

“NO I’M NOT! GIRLS ARE STUPID!” Mitra screams.

I dry my hands and start towards them but before I arrive Avah takes a step forward and in what seems like slow-motion punches Mitra in the shoulder. Mitra cries, oozing liquid from every orifice. Avah starts to cry too. They scream, kick, and punch while I carry them to the couch like tiny bags of potatoes. On the couch they sit on my lap doing a strange breathing thing that sounds like gasp, gasp, gasp, sigh, gasp, gasp, gasp, sigh.

“Mitra, it looks like girls are tougher than you give them credit for, because she just landed a mean jab”. I’d like her to stop hating her own sex, enough women in the world hate themselves, she doesn’t need to be one of them. Avah, like a snow princess, sat on my right knee very proud of herself.

“It’s not nice to hit, Avah”.

She frowns, her pale white skin and bright greenish eyes make her seem angelic, clearly a facade.

“She called girls stupid!”

“I know, but hitting is not nice. Use your words next time, attack her self-esteem”. They both tilted their heads confused by this thing called “self-esteem”.

“Mitra, you don’t call girls stupid, you’re a girl, I’m a girl, Avah is a girl”.

“I’m not a girl!”

“Yes you are and you’re lucky too! Do you see daddy and mommy? Which one is in charge? Mommy right? Because a girl is better.”

She growls, fists balled up against her sides, head down, eyes blazing from under her messy locks. I watch her for a moment and wonder which of the many factors has her convinced it’s better to be a boy? Living in a house with two older brothers is probably part of it. I was a tom-boy when I was a child, anyone who is competitive and intelligent might see the tragedy in being female. The little ones calmed down quickly and soon enough they were making weird noises and playing again; I kissed them both leaving them on the couch.

“Look, both of you be nice while I finish your food. Play, or just sit and stare at the walls. No fighting!”

I bring their food into the living room where Avah is still sitting on the couch, but Mitra is gone.   “Avah, where is Mitra?”

“I don’t know”

“MITRA!? JIMMY!” I yell towards the ceiling in case she’s on the second floor. A noise comes from the bathroom off to the side of the living room. I enter to find Mitra standing over the toilet, holding her shirt up, peeing everywhere wiggling around trying to find the best angle to hit the bowl of the toilet.

“MITRA! What are you doing?! Sit down! You are peeing everywhere!” I’m trying not to laugh at how ridiculous she looks, but I’m not judging. I tried that once when I was a kid because I was jealous of my brother who could do it. I got into a lot of trouble, I didn’t want to be THAT asshole but, my empathy was fading as I realized that  I am the grown up and would have to clean up the pee.

“I can do it like this!”

She screams. I contemplate explaining that physiologically she really can’t but she’s too young, and already made a giant mess so what’s the point. She finishes peeing all over the toilet, backs off of it, wipes, then wiggles her little pants back up grinning from ear to ear. I help her wash her hands struggling not to burst into laughter. Who am I to crush dreams? I’m just here to make sure they remain alive until their parents return.

The girls eat their food at their little person table, talking among themselves, friendly, smiling, in between over-sized spoons of noodles that mostly fall out of their mouths onto the table. One wouldn’t know they were just trying to beat each other to death.

My cell phone rings.

“Hey” his voice is soft, too soft, as it always.

“Hi. How’s your day going?”

“Okay, thank you. How are the girls?”

“The girls are great, fighting a bit. Mitra is mad that she is a girl.”

“Isn’t she always mad about that? I would much rather be a girl” He laughs. I don’t laugh because he’s serious. Despite liking him as a human, the entertainment of dating a man that wants to be a woman is fading. There’s nothing wrong with liking women, I just don’t want to be dating one that has a penis.

“Oh, the girls are being nuts I have to go” I lie, “call me back later”.

Oddly, my sister decided she wanted to be a boy at almost the same time I was dating a boy who wanted to be a girl, not the “transsexual” kind of way, but in the “can I wear your dress” kind of way, all while writing my sociology thesis on “sexual fluidity and social influence”. When I met Tom I was working at a gay club and at the peak of my research for my thesis. Now, I didn’t date him for research reasons, but I was extremely fascinated by him. He was dressed in a tie, a button down, slacks, and high heels. From the feet up he was completely masculine, and model attractive. He was nice, interesting and extremely relaxed which is what I needed. I’d been going through a rough patch and needed companionship without any expectations. The fun of dating someone different was gone now as I took a step towards my future I needed someone who could take a step with me. That wasn’t him.

The little girls had abandoned their food to play Leggos on the floor.

In the dining room I take a seat at the over-sized, gold and dark-wood dining table. Every giant, gold adorned piece of furniture was generously topped with more gold. I pushed the gold- plated fruit bowl out of my way to put my head on the table. I’m tired. I’m confused about life, love, and children. Watching children is tiring; I can’t imagine why parents agree to do this for free. Good parents, the ones who stick around and actually try do a lot of work, what’s in it for them?

I walk back into the living room where the girls were still playing leggos. I plopped down on the big brown leather couch to watch them. Avah is aggressive like a little boy and Mitra thinks she is one. Maybe she thinks that because the way girls are ‘supposed’ to act is lame. I think that too. I played soccer, I enjoyed wrestling and getting dirty, I hated dolls and preferred He-man figurines. Gendering is too confining. Our culture is too defining, too restricting. I coughed and their attention turned to me. They both slowly lost interest in their creation and crawled onto the couch..

“Can we watch a movie?” Avah asks.

“Which movie?”

“Snow-white” she smiles her pageant smile, all of her teeth showing. Mitra bolted up glaring at Avah.

“NO! NOT THAT!” Mitra Screamed, “I hate princesses!”

Like a member of the swat team Avah had jumped off of my lap onto Mitra’s lap. I dragged Avah off of her. Watching babies brawl is like midget wrestling. I pulled them apart again. Enough was enough, my step-mother and sister would return to find their children missing chunks of hair and teeth if I didn’t separate them. I put them in separate bedrooms for a “time-out” session. Mitra was being punished for “verbal insensitivity”. She had no idea what that was. Avah was in trouble for being a small, white, female version of Mike Tyson. She didn’t know who that was.

Then he calls again.

“Have you killed the children yet?” he laughed.

“No, I’ve stopped them from trying to kill each other a few times though”.

I laugh uncomfortably,

“What are you doing tonight?”

“I don’t know. You?”

“Watching Dracula, because the guy who plays him is really handsome, and then…I don’t know. Ty wants to do some project where I dress in drag and flirt with people for fun.

“Interesting. You’re more comfortable in women’s clothes lately”.

“Yeah, cause it’s funny. And besides I make a hot woman. We still need to talk about you being bothered about me not being ‘manly enough’”.

“Excuse me?” I ask.

“I prefer being quiet” he continued. “I like observing more than being active in conversation. I know that it bothers you. I can tell. I’m not a super manly guy; I don’t know what to do about that exactly”.

“Well you were wearing yellow pumps when I met you. I know you’re not super “manly”.”

How annoying. That he’s trying to call me on my bullshit, and that I care about something so fake, appearances and society, as if I’m the most social butterfly. How many of us really care what another person is saying or doing? We nod, pretend to care, ask the right questions on cue, and try not to think about our laundry or homework enough to pick up on the next cue requiring our response. People usually become automated outside of their comfort zone. So why is it such a desired skill when there is nothing real about it?

“I understand that I have a lot of stuff to work through. You’re leaving for Italy though. You won’t be back for eight months and you already told me you don’t want to date anymore. Is it really an immediate problem now?”

“I’m not certain. And maybe it’s less of a social thing than it is a passive thing. Passive people worry me. I had better go check on the girls again. I want to make sure they’re not sharpening toothbrushes into knives and all that”.

“Good luck”. He said.

“Thanks”.

I hung up the phone, stood against the counter for a moment wondering what’s wrong with me. He’s perfectly nice, I would never have to worry about him lying or cheating (with a woman anyways), yet, I am not interested. There are much worse things than liking women’s clothing. He could be vile like most men, picking his nose, spitting, being generally misogynistic. Haven’t we gotten over the olden days of the “great protector” or the “delicate flower”? How many “male” traits are considered desirable these days?  Brute strength hasn’t been valuable for a few hundred years.

And my little sister, there is nothing wrong with her just because she likes “boy” things. She’s smart and determined, and more importantly she’s happy. Society has created such rigid standards; it’s only natural that everyone can’t follow them.

I went to check on the girls one more time. Both were fast asleep in their little beds. They were probably just tired, and therefore homicidal.

At the end of the day give or take a little hormones, an inny or an outy, we’re all just people, naked, vulnerable, and trying to do our best to stay sane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Misty Evans

“A Girl Named Jimmy”

 

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