Cutting A Figure
by Charlie Anders
My father couldnâ€™t hide his disappointment that four years of Womenâ€™s Studies had failed to make me a Real Woman. â€œMary. If youâ€™d majored in archeology, theyâ€™d have given you a pick-axe and a pith hat, right? If youâ€™d studied music, youâ€™d have an instrument. So how come youâ€™re still so unwomanly?â€
â€œSo unwomanly,â€ my mother chimed.
We sat in the Silver Swine, the overpriced greasy-spoon all parents took their kids to from Pennington College. My dad ate vealâ€”to bait meâ€”and my mom had a single artichoke heart. She was the spindly vizier to his opulent caliph. In my smallness, I resembled mom, but I had the germs of dadâ€™s ebullience.
I tried to explain that Womenâ€™s Studies wasnâ€™t about learning to embody stereotypes or archetypes, my body was my own, and maybe Iâ€™d choose a gender identity by the time I was my parentsâ€™ age. Etc., etc., etc.
And meanwhile I had a goal. I dreamed of going to Africa and helping to fight the spread of AIDS and educate against female genital mutilation. I wanted to learn from African culture and do what I could to help the people there. I had no time to worry about my Hope Chest.
But none of my explanations swayed them. My dad unveiled a receipt from the clinic that heâ€™d already paid to give me breast implants as a graduation present. My mom nodded and repeated the tail ends of his rants, Gilbert-and-Sullivan style, as he insisted I needed Upper Substance.
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"Cutting A Figure" is roughly 3800 words.
Charlie Anders (charlieanders.com) is the author of "Choir Boy", which won a Lambda Literary Award and was a finalist for the Edmund White Award. Sheâ€™s also the co-editor of "Sheâ€™s Such A Geek: Women Write About Science, Technology And Other Nerdy Stuff". She publishes other magazine (othermag.org) and organizes the award-winning Writers With Drinks reading series. Her writing has appeared in McSweeneys.net, Pindeldyboz, Salon.com, San Francisco Chronicle, Paraspheres: New Wave Fabulist Fiction, Strange Horizons, ZYZZYVA, and Space & Time.