a blog by J.M. Cottle
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Gender is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans

So I walk into Jamba Juice, accidentally wearing olive green with forest green and feeling kind of hideous, and the cashier says, “How’s it going, man?”

Inside, I’m flailing. Oh my god oh my god he called you “man” oh my god put on your deep voice.

I pitch my voice a little lower than usual and say, “Pretty good.”

“What can I get you?”

I’m looking at the menu, at the counter, at his apron, at everything except his face, because if I make eye contact I just know he’ll realize his mistake and this shining moment will collapse.

“Uhhhh Orange-a-Peel?”

“What size?”

“Uhhm. Small.”

“Okay, and what’s your name?”

Oh my god oh my god oh my god–

“Uh, Jake.”

I’m writing a vampire novel. I have Twilight on the brain. Yes, I just gave the name of the werewolf. It was the first masculine name that came to mind.

“All right, that’ll be $4.09.”

My hand is in my pocket, taking out my credit card, and then I freeze — Don’t give him your credit card it says your legal name he’ll know you’re a fraud! Do you have any cash? You have cash! Use cash!

I hand him a $5 bill. I get my change. I drift away. I don’t look at him. It’s about ten minutes until closing and I’m the only one in the shop, hands in my pockets so he can’t see the remnants of black polish on my fingernails, looking at a nutrition fact sheet as if I care, how’s it going, man? echoing in my head. What made him say it? Was it my clashing greens, my floppy Enjolras hair, my shoes, my khakis? I’m wearing my binder but you can’t tell under my coat.

“Jake?” he says, setting my smoothie on the counter, and I smile and I take it, not risking another word in my thin, soft, high little voice. We give each other the guy nod and I leave.

I’m walking away and I’m beaming, like I just won something, like I just succeeded. I taste my smoothie and realize it’s made with frozen yogurt and therefore not vegan. I don’t even care. I drink it anyway.

I put my smoothie in the car and stop at Barnes and Noble to go to the bathroom, flying so high that it doesn’t occur to me until I’m right in front of the doors that I have a choice to make: the stick figure that wears pants, or the stick figure that wears skirts?

Just be “Jake”, just go in the men’s room, it’s probably empty anyway, they say that men don’t look at each other in the bathroom, you’re not going to get yelled at in Barnes and Noble. You’ve been in single-person men’s rooms before, so what’s the big deal? Just go into a stall and no one will care.

But I can’t bring myself to do it. So I soften myself, I put on a non-threatening smile, I take my hands out of my pockets, and I push through the door of the women’s room.

2 Responses to Gender is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans

  1. Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Spending some time and actual effort to create a top notch article… but what can I say…
    I procrastinate a whole lot and never manage to get nearly anything done.

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