Issue 0 cover

Cutting A Figure

by Charlie Anders

Issue 0 :: Spring 2007 (stories)

My father couldn’t hide his disappointment that four years of Women’s Studies had failed to make me a Real Woman. “Mary. If you’d majored in archeology, they’d have given you a pick-axe and a pith hat, right? If you’d studied music, you’d have an instrument. So how come you’re still so unwomanly?”

“So unwomanly,” 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 veal—to bait me—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 dad’s ebullience.

I tried to explain that Women’s Studies wasn’t about learning to embody stereotypes or archetypes, my body was my own, and maybe I’d choose a gender identity by the time I was my parents’ 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 he’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 ( is the author of "Choir Boy", which won a Lambda Literary Award and was a finalist for the Edmund White Award. She’s also the co-editor of "She’s Such A Geek: Women Write About Science, Technology And Other Nerdy Stuff". She publishes other magazine ( and organizes the award-winning Writers With Drinks reading series. Her writing has appeared in, Pindeldyboz,, San Francisco Chronicle, Paraspheres: New Wave Fabulist Fiction, Strange Horizons, ZYZZYVA, and Space & Time.