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Dec 3, 1980

  1. Chris [ last name redacted ]
  2. New York, going to
  3. Atlantic City
  4. Baby
  5. Egypt
  6. Marriage last December

Dear M.P.W.W.S.T.O.B.P.O.P.A.P.T.I.P.L.,

Well I said I that I must get motivated and write. Here I am folks! And am I motivated!

Indeed, she seems quite cheerful and talkative. It's hard to describe how good this made me feel. Our mutual floodgates were starting to open...

The above list is basically the points...

[ Yeah!!! Excuse me I just got a letter from a certain person ]

...brought up in our lunchtime discussion.

What I remember is that J wove a fictionalized version of the family history she had given me in Egypt (see Note #9) and that J & C were both there, with C helping to fill in bits of narrative as needed.

All of them by themselves are true. I have been debating whether or not to spoon-feed you. That is, explain each of them and show you how we applied them to our story.

I always did need spoon-feeding; I couldn't keep track of names, places, and events long enough to reconnect the dots if a history wasn't told linearly or literally... and often couldn't keep track of them even if it was told in the most straightforward manner possible, if it was only told verbally. I remember the monologue in Egypt, and being aware that this was Family Secrets stuff she had been unable to talk about, but needed to... and I remember a few names... but I probably couldn't have recited, afterwards, a single fact she had told me.

The original question (asked by you) was "Who's Chris?" (may I shake your hand again!) Well. Christopher Andrew [ redacted ] is the fellow who I just got this letter from. (Actually me acting so dang superior because I know who he is is just because —) – I was always too embarrassed to mention it to you. Because of you being a boy, and our unique relationship of not being boyfriend-girlfriend. But you could say he is my boyfriend – am I his girlfriend? I don't know......

My feelings about Jenny having a "boyfriend" turn out to be rather complex, when examined.

  • I never could understand being "interested in boys" unless the boy in question was an interesting person in his own right, preferably someone who would "get" people like us – and Chris was only ever introduced as "long-distance boyfriend"; I don't think she ever told me anything much about his personality.
    • ...though it's also possible that she did, and I was just so much in a headspace of "I don't know how to handle this" (kind of like her wearing a dress) that I totally couldn't take any of it in.
  • On some level, I was convinced that there was this lurking "jealous male" response which I had to suppress, continuing my long tradition of believing that I had an inner male nature I had to ruthlessly suppress or else I'd be truly relegated to Normal Guy status and thrown back in the boy-cage with the other jerks to fend for myself – and the existence of this "boyfriend" served to activate those fears.
  • I could hardly blame Chris, however, for finding Jenny interesting/attractive, as I did myself.
  • She was also hardly the sort of girl that a typical/average guy would have focused on as someone to be attracted to (most guys seemed to like girls who perform femininity a lot more – see next block of writing), so that at least told me that maybe he wasn't totally conventional, and therefore might actually be interesting or sympathetic in some way.
  • I also envied that she was (in my estimation, and presumably Chris's) attractive. I wanted to be attractive, I wanted positive attention from others, just for being myself. I envied her that ability, to a degree that was painful to think about.

All in all, though, I think I did a pretty good job of neither letting her boyfriend (who I never met or interacted with) interfere with our relationship nor saying anything negative about his existence or her relationship with him. I may never know if she agreed, though.

Anyway there was this exchange program between the Atlantic City Friends and our Middle School. Guess who I met. It was kind of funny because I hadn't even noticed him while he was here and at the last minute he asked me for my address. At the time I wasn't flattered – just slightly amused. And to my surprise, he wrote. I still wish........ It's sort of a tradition or something to have a guy we liked in our group – and to sigh over. Yes we are girls, Nick, sorry to disappoint you – I read all the little house books, I wear dresses and I stare at myself in the mirror. That's getting a little personal but I want you to know that in some respects we are normal gals.

But they weren't. They so were not just like other girls. I'm finding it difficult to explain exactly how, but they just weren't.

Some relatively trivial things (and leaving aside C & E, as much as I'd like to talk about them too):

  • I only ever saw Jenny wear a dress at school once.
    • ...and I completely freaked out inside, which just underscored for me that there was something very messed-up going on in my head but didn't really help me figure it out any. I'm pretty sure there's a note which refers to this, so I'll discuss it more when that comes up.
    • I suddenly remember, now that I'm writing about it, that it was a long black thing somewhere between Wednesday and Morticia Addams, which I would have appreciated if it hadn't been for the dysphoria.
  • She never wore make-up at school (or in my presence anywhere else), as far as I know.
  • Her sole concession to then-standards of femininity while at school was that she wore earrings.
    • This also bothered the same part of me which freaked out about the dresses.
    • Boys hadn't yet started wearing earrings in both ears; single earrings were just starting to make an appearance in 1980, at least in our neck of the woods.
    • She apparently would dress up "properly" for church, with a dress and maybe even lipstick; there's a photo I somehow need to get hold of and scan...
    • She had long hair, but in 1980 this was no longer such a clear gender-marker, especially at CFS.
    • She probably wore hair-clips of some kind, but this never bothered me to the same extent, so I don't remember specifically.
      • I can now admit that I like hair-clips because they no longer represent a gender-barrier between us; I sometimes wear them myself.
      • I think the difference is that I would have liked to wear hair-clips myself back then (but couldn't admit it), whereas earrings didn't feel like "the kind of girl I wanted to be", so it felt like they distanced her from me; my resentment towards earrings and dresses are all part of what I later came to call my "frustrated self-expression".

More subtly, there was something in her attitude towards other people – specifically, toward boys and other girls – that wasn't typical. I can't remember her ever displaying even a hint of flirting with a guy, though I know of three men (two teachers and a parent) whom she found very attractive. My gut feeling about this is that it's a reflection of her latent non-heterosexuality, as I later encountered that same feeling around other girls/women who pretty much universally turned out to be non-hetero – so I figured she was at least bisexual, possibly leaning more towards women.

In this light, her insistence that they're "normal gals", specifically with reference to having token boyfriends (conveniently far off), strikes me as "thou dost protest too much". There's a later note where she talks about "my homosexual tendencies", so I'll go into this more then... but I thought it worth noting that there were clues even at this point.

...and yo, Jenny, I read all the Little House books as well... or at least had them read to me by my mother, and enjoyed them and saw nothing odd about that. It hadn't occurred to me to think of them as "girls' books" (not that I would have decided I shouldn't read them even if I had). I read Harriet the Spy and The Long Secret, too. Several times.

...and of course if I'd looked like she did, I would have stared at myself in the mirror too. (I sometimes did anyway, with my primary reaction being "WTF am I?") I was somehow imprinted on her body-type long before I became imprinted on her as a person, long before I knew her at all; I think it must be brain-wiring. (This whole area is a subject worth writing about on its own, which I'll try to do at some point.)

I'm pretty sure part of the reason I was drawn to the three of them was that they did reject a majority of social gender-norms. There was some unspoken back corner of my mind in which I equated this with helping to lower the barriers between me and girlhood – but of course this depended heavily on them specifically, because nobody else around me was doing it... and so that back corner of me was constantly pushing me to push them away from even the smalllest performances of femininity. They were my only avenue to something I craved but couldn't name.

I'm sure this came through, in various forms, in many of my notes to J. I don't know what I had said about it at this point, but she's probably at least in part reacting to my expressed attitudes on the subject.

Any-a-hay, we have these "long-distance boyfriends" Cindy her "bum" in Florida, Ralph [ last name redacted ], Erika (she'll kill me if she finds out I told you) her guy in New Orleans, Salih (pronounced "Solly") whom she gets broody over. Remember Cindy's party? "I don't want a pickle, I just want to ride on my motorsickle" He has a motorbike and she's always afraid he's going to kill himself, and my Chris in Atlantic City (actually Clermont) This was the sort of "girl talk" I was talking about in a previous note.

This was actually the first time I had heard the phrase "girl talk". I think it made me angry at the time (though of course I tried not to show it), for reasons I'm still teasing apart. It doesn't anymore, though it still... pushes gender-buttons.

Oh yes no. 2 on the list on page one: New York, going to. There was an exchange program with the Brooklyn Friends. I was never in the big apple and I would like to keep it that way.

No. 3 I have already explained (Atlantic City)

No. 4, baby and No. 5, Egypt are closely related. They are related in that where you heard about it was in Egypt. Me sister, Kathy, has a half-mexican child.

No 6, Marriage last December, was Sandy & Rick in Boone.

Do you see now how we twisted fact into fiction? You have imagination don't you? Or does everything that you say (concepts, ideas, theories) come from books? I am just being cruel – don't mind me.

/me gives Jenny a sideways squinty look...

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