1 – Pulp Fiction
Children are not rigid, they are viscous, made of blood and water, retaining the shape of whichever container they are placed in.
We are pulp fiction; soft, shapeless masses ready to be transformed into a story for consumption. Whether we are the author or not is up for debate.
See, the reader has their own ideas. Maybe you should be shaped into a paper mache replica of the reader, spilling all their preconceived notions into light by shaping your pulp into something they think is proper, that they think is beautiful.
No matter what they do with you, know this: pulp fiction is meant to be discarded. Don’t let them toss you aside. You know your story best. Now let’s begin.
2 – Gametes
We are all created from two separate parts: gametes colliding, trans-mutating from the codes of two to make one whole. That’s where the story starts. That’s where we begin to split. A genetic mish-mash of Mom and Dad, scrutinized for similarities in-utero and it only gets worse from there.
That is a girl, said Dr. So-and-So at the Hospital in Wherever-the-fuck. And so they put it on your official documents, announcing your genitals to whoever will listen with pink confetti and lacy summer dresses and hairbows that slide around your infant scalp.
They pack you up in a car seat, slap a sticker on the back windshield that reads Precious Cargo, and off you go. Hurtling towards a new life, a new consciousness. Maybe you’ll have Dad’s eyes and Mom’s nose, but that’s just a small detail. You are not Mom or Dad because of shared features. You are now and will always be in the process of becoming. Just watch. You’ll see.
3 – The Gift
It’s your sixth birthday party. Time to open presents, says mom. You rip the first one open; it is a sparkly book, littered with skinny misses with their pinkies up and their legs crossed, and their rosy mouths turned into a vacant grin. It claims to be about manners, but you can hear its sneering tone.
Shut up and smile princess, says the book. Look pretty and your prince will come.
You hate this book with all your guts. Nonetheless, the words thank you escape your mouth.
This is what you are:
You are smart,
You are quiet,
You are sweet,
You are straight,
You will do as you are told.
4 – A Self Portrait
You look into the mirror and what do you see?
You do not see a child, but a bloated, swollen belly. You see a round face, too round to be considered pretty. You see a big forehead and eyes that aren’t blue enough and lips that aren’t full enough.
The dysmorphia starts young for you. None of this information is true, but it is in your mind. The voices of your family only echo the sentiment that you need to shrink yourself to fit the mold, to be happy with the spectre in the mirror. You do not know why you have been cursed with a defective body.
You have never had a good relationship with the mirror. It molds you into something ugly, something imperfect. But no changes can be made. It is simply in your pulp, your inability to transcend your physical form.
5 – Reckoning
You met her in elementary school. You think about her constantly, want to be near her, hug her, hold her hand. This is how it is to love a friend.
The truth is, you are a homosexual, a faggot in love with another girl. The real you is trying to assert itself so desperately, but you simply don’t have the emotional literacy to understand. Queerness was in your pulp, but not yet in your story. Remove the pulp, you think, make yourself easier to swallow.
In the end, you drive her away with your overbearing, uncontrolled affection. She still hates you for it to this day.
See, being a faggot is hard. Kids always know when there’s an outlier in their mix. They single you out, make you feel incomplete and inferior. When there’s another poor guy having a worse time than you, an alliance would only paint another bold red target on your back. Your only option is to be on the side of your tormentors. Maybe then they won’t see you as you are. Maybe then they won’t figure it out.
You’re afraid of becoming a victim, so you mold yourself into someone that you are not.
How do you move on?
6 – The Changing Room
You hate gym class. You hate it with all your guts. It’s not just the torment of being the fat one, of running out of breath, of missing every basket or falling behind on the track. You would take all of it, again and again, instead of going into the changing room.
The girls in there are all so pretty, so thin, so feminine. Being in that room is embarrassing. You do not ever dare to look them in the eye, or look around the room as the girls slip out of their gym clothes and stand bare with their tiny undergarments. It feels wrong to look. You feel wrong wanting to look.
Every now and again, your eyes slip from their careful concentration on the floor and catch the gaze of the girl next to you undressing, only for blood to rush into your cheeks and burn the shame of yourself onto your face. It’s in your pulp, that shame. You don’t even know it yet, but it’s there, part of your Catholic make-up, searing into your mind with every accidental glance. The girls don’t ever seem to notice that the changing room is stifling. You need to escape.
7 – Vignette
Mom says you need to be happier.
Dad says you need to be tougher.
Grandma says you need to be thinner.
Grandpa says you need to be smarter.
What do you say?
You need to be:
Better in every way.
8 – Self Portrait
You look in the mirror and what do you see?
You do not see yourself as a teenager with a sad face and hollows under your eyes, but as a mass of bones that distort into rolls of fat and gristle, a mass of skin that sags and stretches with the length of your limbs.
The mirror is not your friend, not even an acquaintance. The mirror is mold that you cannot fit into. You want to pinch and slice yourself into perfection. So you stare, and you poke, and you maim.
It doesn’t matter how little you eat or how much it hurts you to consume a meal. It’s in your pulp, to suffer. Just like it’s not in your pulp to be beautiful.
That’s what runs through your mind every time you catch a glimpse of your withering form.
Mom says you look better every day. Dad asks you for weight-loss tips.
What do you say?
I need to be more.
I need to be less.
9 – Coming Clean
There’s something in your pulp. It’s been there all along. Now you see it. Now you know it. You are a queer. You tried avoiding it your whole life. You didn’t even have the words, but it started in the changing room. It started with your best friend. Hurried glances, averted eyes, and blushing cheeks. Fluttering heartbeats, shaky hands, parched lips. This is who you are. A person who likes men and women and all those who don’t fit within the binary.
But what does it mean for you to feel this way?
Are you a faggot?
Are you a dyke?
Are you a disappointment?
Maybe you are all of the above, and maybe you are none. Whatever it is, it is. That something is the queerness in your pulp, and you will not be easier to swallow. You aren’t proud yet, but you’ll try.
I am queer, you say. And you (I) are (am) terrified.
10 – Pride
You pride yourself on being friends with boys. You pride yourself on how you dress, how you act, on how you cut your hair. Not flamboyant. Not in everyone’s face. You’re not one of those gays, you’re subtle. Unsuspecting to the naked eye and every passerby. That’s just not who I am, you say. I’m not one of those.
Parades and rainbow vodka seem too much. You’ll never live in the Village or go to those bars or celebrate the wrongness inside of you. I’m just a homebody, you say. I like to be alone.
But you don’t. Everyday you smoke your cigarette at lunch and hope that somebody will stand beside you and occupy the same space. You’ve acknowledged the queerness in your pulp, but can you stand it? I’d rather be alone, you say. But thanks anyway.
You thought there was queerness in your pulp, but there’s shame in there too, floating around like dead flies in a pond. How long can you hide between your sentences? How long can you water yourself down?
I can take it.
It’s been too long already.
11 – Reflections
Reflections can deceive you. Like carnival mirrors, minds stretch and distort your body into funhouse proportions and outlandish figures. Take off the white paint. Undo the frills of your collar. Realize this: you do not have to fit this mirror. It is a reflection of who you are (who I am).
Wheels begin to turn. You decide to call a truce with your appearance. You don’t have to be happy, you don’t have to love the flap of your stomach or the red waves that course down your thighs, but you can manage them. Live with them. (I can live with them.)
Do you wave the white flag? Can you live with stretch marks and a stomach and a round face and little stick legs?
12 – Close Look
Look a little closer: what do you see?
You see hazel eyes with flecks of brown just like your mother’s.
You see rosy lips with two sharp peaks that curve into a smile.
You see blonde lashes that curl into the light.
You see the chicken pox scar on your torso that winks white against your skin.
You see a mole in the very centre of your left hand.
This is your reflection. It belongs to you.
(It belongs to me.)
13 – Spectator
I was told I was a girl, so I believed it. All my life, I sat back and watched as my life happened to me. Decisions weren’t my own, my body wasn’t my own. My story belonged to the expectations of others. And as hard as I tried, I simply could not meet them.
Difference is ingrained in me. My skin itches as I feel the length of my hair tickle my face. I sag with the weight of female anatomy. I falter at the heaviness of male gazes dissecting me from the inside out, dressing me down like prey to a predator.
There is shame in my difference. I thought I understood it, but no. It’s deeper, more personal than my queerness. It’s not just who I love, it’s my performance, the theatrics of my existence. I’m tired of playing the understudy in the production of my life.
Now, I do no harm and take no shit. Now, I reach out my hand and another one reaches back.
14 – Coming Clean
There’s still something in my pulp. It’s been there all along. It began with subtle twinges of unbelonging, a little wrongness with my long hair and soft breasts. It’s not that these parts were bad, it’s that they didn’t seem to belong to me. Like pulp, they float in me, unwanted and hard to swallow. I choke it 1back, but still my throat is scratched raw. My angles are all wrong. I want to be harder, want to be sharper.
What does it mean for me to feel this way?
Am I a boy?
Am I a girl?
Am I a disappointment?
The truth is, I am all and none of the above. My existence resides in the liminal space between one and the other. Still, it is not a mixture of man and woman, but it’s own realm of confusion. This is not a choice, but a realization. I have to come clean.
My existence is liminal. Some still see me as that little girl in the changing room. I see myself as an ever-changing, ever-expanding being. My body does not fit. My pulp does not fit. Yet here I am.
15 – Self Portrait
I look in the mirror. What do I see?
I see a twenty-two year old adult staring back at me. They have my mother’s eyes and smile, my father’s lips and cheeks.
I see a stomach full of stretch-marks, capable hands, legs that could use shaving.
I see broad shoulders, a long neck, and cropped hair.
I look in the mirror and I see my reflection. Nothing more, nothing less.
16 – Decisions
There will always be times in your life where you have to decide. Will I be what they want? Or will I be what I want?
What they want.
What I want.