She stood up to a chorus of sucked teeth and irritated sighs. The old heads seated behind her on the bus just weren’t having it. She made her way to the front of the bus with her boxers in full view, the entirety of her ass missed completely by a pair of basketball shorts positioned, as an afterthought, around her thick thighs. The grimace she wore was just as much a caricature as the way she had sat on the bus that afternoon, legs splayed open so comically far that nobody could even sit in the seat beside her. Their expressions of irritation and scorn menaced her back through bus windows as she sauntered across the street outside in a way that made them almost forget the double-d’s they’d noticed just as she stepped off the bus. Almost.
But how else do you be something in a world that tells you that you are not, not under any circumstances, strong enough, aggressive enough, tough enough, good enough, man enough? Her story has a familiarity to it. I’ve heard this one before. About the girl with one leg who was told she couldn’t race so she ran faster, or the poor boy who was told he would never get into college so he studied harder, why should this be any different? Is it because there is something we know about manhood, something intolerable and heavy and suffocating that almost smothers us when people are heavy-handed with it? Something that smothers us when people are not heavy-handed with it? Something that we smother ourselves with every time we tell our sons to “man up”, tell our daughters to “sit like a lady”, gawk at the bearded lady, laugh at the sissy, and loathe ourselves for each and every time we didn’t live up to the same ideals? How dare she live in her truth in such vehement defiance of the cages we have so painstakingly collectively built around ourselves?
So maybe she was doing too much that day. But I couldn’t help but feel like it was all of our faults.