This is a little about me growing up. While I didn’t like dolls, and I was usually involved in a game of red rover or tag with the boys, I was definitely a girl. My favorite colors were “hot pink, hot orange, and hot yellow”. My favorite animals were penguins and unicorns. My favorite movie was Dirty Dancing. My own personal hero was Rainbow Brite.
I’m 6 at the beginning of this memory. My best friend was Natasha and everyone loved Natasha. I liked Jason and Natasha kissed him behind the giant tire that was stuck in the mud. I would climb on the monkey bars and watch everyone below like a bird, feeling majestic and all-knowing, but always alone.
In the afternoon, most of the kids would go home, but some of us had parents who worked late hours. My parents were separated at the time and my mom was still in the AIr Force, and wouldn’t be home till 7 or 8 in the evening so I’d go to an afternoon camp that usually meant trips to different playgrounds. Since it was Fortworth/Dallas there was a giant web of playgrounds. Some had monkey bars, and sandboxes, and some had the works- tether ball, four square, intricate ladders and bridges and ponds and trees.
I was a monkey. I climbed all the trees. In first grade I climbed a tree so high I refused to come down. “Help me I’m scared” I begged, and the teacher said “no, you got up there you can get yourself down”. I refused and spent the rest of the day in the tree. Lynn, my teacher, eventually helped me down. Mercedes, my other teacher who was also one of my many babysitters, and Natasha’s mom, and liked to play “The Wind Beneath Your Wings”, rolled her eyes at me. She was large and Colombian, and her hair was a massive fro of curls. She looked at me like I was a silly little white girl. I looked back at her like “fuck you my dad is tough and so am I”.
When Jason kissed Natasha all the girls were also kissing each other. I never talked about this because I’m embarrassed about it, even today. Megan, (Lynn’s daughter in the third grade) told us that we had to know what we were doing if we ever wanted a boyfriend, and she took all us younger girls to the bathroom and made us kiss and touch each other and make out.
And one day I was touching a girl whose name I can’t even remember and her mom saw and she spanked me with a wooden paddle she kept by her aquarium. When my dad came back from his town three hours away to scoop me up for the weekend I was crying, and I was confused, and he did something because I never saw that lady again. And that was probably a good thing because her house smelled like fish and white trash.
I had so many babysitters living as a military brat in Texas that I wouldn’t even want to begin to list them. But there were bike rides, and crystal exchanges, and lots of macaroni and cheese and Inspector Gadget.
My mom was working all the time. She was a Captain in the Air Force, with a higher rank than my dad even though he once jumped out of planes, and she was a nurse, but regardless they were both too busy being somewhere else, and I was always on a playground.
And if it wasn’t a playground I was in my room. My entire room was dedicated to Rainbow Brite. I had rainbow everything, unicorns everywhere, hot pink, hot orange, hot yellow. I was the quintessential eighties child, even though I never listened to New Kids on the Block or cared about Molly Ringwald.
But I had the instinct for slap bracelets and leg warmers. And Megan had the style I wanted. Third grade, lesbian in the making, she knew how to dress edgy. Every pair of shoes she bought I had to have. Mary Janes. Check. Reebok pumps. Check. “You’d look better with curly hair”. Ok. I let her handle me like a doll. Okay.
When I was in fourth grade I moved to Huntsville, known for its executions and its four story Sam Houston statue (he was the president of Texas when Texas was a country). I hated girls. Check. I wanted to never see a girl again. Okay.
I went to a private school with blue and white uniforms and bluebonnets draped around the entrance, and there was only one other girl I talked to in a class full of boys. Marty. We would get into trouble together, and we both hated other girls. But Marty’s dad drove drunkenly off a cliff and Marty did something that must have been worse then anything I did because she was expelled and I was alone again..
Fast forward to Portland. I moved to Portland when I was 25, and I had just been living in Korea and I was unemployed. I finally found a job at a mac computer store and I can tell you now that everyone working at a computer store is either a nerd or a lesbian. So I had this fear or this pent up anger of lesbians. I told my old boyfriend that I didn’t think there were real lesbians. I thought maybe it was anger at being fucked over by a guy and the self-loathing, stubborn response. But I later realized, when I was alone with my thoughts for along time, single and lonely and then not lonely but just alone, that there were things from my past I hadn’t dealt with, and there still are things. Childhood is blurry and we remember the neon colors while choosing to forget the confusion that causes our fear. But it all helps to begin with unicorns and rainbows, and eventually recognize what’s behind them.
Clou le Fou
In conjunction with my photography exploring negative space, I have also been writing in that silent time between midnight and 4am, and here I have gathered memories and words from that space between dreams and reality.