Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Plush

I never played with dolls. I never dressed as a girl when I was growing up either. I say this because people often ask me at what age I started dressing, or became CiCi. I think the answer to that, for me, is fairly complicated. (Then again, maybe it's much more simple.) I'll let you decide.

I didn't start dressing until I was 40, and as a teen, I never felt like a "woman trapped in the body of a man." I know a lot of other girls started dressing quite young...as children. That wasn't me. First of all, I never had a sister, so I didn't have a sister's closet to raid, and I didn't have access to dolls to play with. I also had a big family, so even if I had had a sister, I wouldn't have had much privacy in which to explore my fem side any way. I lived in a house full of boys and I lived the boy life. (I even subscribed to a magazine called, "Boy's Life.") I played sports, built tree forts, captured frogs in the pond, and I enjoyed it all immensely.

But, looking back now, I can see all the signs. Maybe I didn't dress at age 6 or 10 or 14, but I definitely had longings. Longings that I denied, or repressed, or simply ignored. So I didn't dress in panties or skirts or play with dolls, but I was always the "softest" of my brothers. Not as into fighting and roughhousing, quick to cry, painfully sentimental, and drawn to so many girlish things.

I particularly remember flipping through the Sears Catalog with my brothers at Christmas time. They would flip to pages filled with boy toys (guns, grenades and GI Joes) or model cars or even tools, but I liked plush. "Plush" is the toy industry's term for stuffed animals. Those cute, big (or sometimes small) plush-covered animals that I would arrange on my bed like brightly colored decorative pillows, and I had a lot of them. My brothers told me that it was girlie to have all those stuffed animals, or at the very least, childish. (I used to take the animals off my bed and hide them in the closet when company came.)

Now I was always an imaginative kid. I liked creating little worlds. Building towns in our sandbox or castles at the beach, and then devising stories about what went on in those little make-believe worlds. BTW...I really loved watching "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" and his daily trips into the town of Make Believe. Boy, did I take endless shit from my brothers and friends for watching that show! Once again, it was considered both girlie and childish. (And now, years later, I think perhaps there was a link between those two.)

My plush animals were their own little world. They all had names and personalities. They all talked to me, and I talked back. But somehow, while I considered this imaginative, others considered it girlie. There wasn't a lot of tension about this—as there might have been if I had been playing with actual dolls&mash;but I do remember it being a frequent topic of conversation. I do remember my parents telling me that I should put my animals away. That it was time I grew up.

But I didn't want to grow up. That was the last thing I wanted to do. I loved being a kid. As I entered junior high, I noticed that other kids (girls and boys) were becoming men and women, but I wanted no part of that. I wanted desperately to put on the brakes, to remain a child.

Now I wonder, did I not want to grow up? Or did I not want to become a man? This is a difficult question for me, because at that age, I don't think I really understood what becoming a man or becoming a woman really meant. Is it all instinctual? Did I somehow sense at 11 or 12 all that growing up would involve? The sex? The gender roles? Society's gender-specific expectations?

At that age I knew nothing of sex. Women were a total mystery. Men (and older boys) were just plain mean, and the dating/flirting that I saw going on in junior high was absolutely terrifying to me. Others were eager to dive in. I desperately wanted to stay on dock, high and dry.

That's what makes me wonder now. That connection between being confused about my gender and my desire to remain a child. To never grow up and become that thing I never wanted to be—a man.(They sometimes call it Peter Pan Syndrome, but I don't remember Peter being a sissy or a dresser. He was all boy. He fought pirates!)

For me, all those mixed feelings seemed to manifest themselves in my love of plush. My stuffed animals as I called them. One little boy's connection to two very different dreams...one (never admitted) of becoming a woman and one (very obvious) of not wanting to grow up, of not wanting to become a man.

Honestly, I still have problems with maturity. Taking on adult responsibilities. More than a few of my ex-girlfriends mentioned to me that I needed to grow up, and maybe it's time that I did. But not as a man, and not as a woman, as something different and separate and distinctly me. I'm called a transgender person, but I dislike that term. The prefix "trans" means moving, becoming, changing.

But I haven't changed!

I was born this way. A little bit boy, a little bit girl, and a whole lot of neither. Maybe now I dress differently or behave differently. I am now more willing to show my femme side. But to me, that's just a sign of me being more comfortable with who I am. The person I am, the person inside, the person I was born—hasn't changed a bit. In other words, I was always a dresser. I was always CiCi, and that's the simple answer to the complicated question.

I didn't start "this" at any certain age. I have always been "this." Whatever "this" is. I'm still soft. I'm still sentimental, and much too quick to cry, and I still love baseball and catching frogs.

I remember finding my plush animals years later in our attic. They were under a garbage bag covering. They were still arranged perfectly, sitting pretty on a child's rocking chair. But now, mice had burrowed into them to make their homes or to steal the stuffing for their nests.

I was struck by how happy that made me. You'd think I would have been horrified. But it all seemed strangely appropriate to me. Because isn't that what we all really want? All that I was longing for all those years before was nice soft warm place in this world in which to make a home. A place that isn't make-believe, but real, and yet still soft.

The mice had done it. Now it was my turn.

Take care out there.
Be safe. Be smart. Be sexy.
xoxo,
CiCi

9 comments:

. said...

O my. Thank you for that post. I can not say anything more than I realy am thanking you.

Tessa said...

you are so right Cici. this is such a great way of expressing ourselves in a great way. Plush is so right!

terrilee7721@yahoo,com said...

Hi cici, you're quite an inspiration.. I see myself in so much of what you wrote.. It make's me happy just thinking of what this new year will mean to me finally coming to my senses, I shaould have seen it all along.. Thank you sooo much kitten girl,,: )

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