I’ve been reading a lot about Wonder Woman lately, trying to avoid spoilers – I’m seeing it tomorrow friends, don’t worry. But I keep seeing this going around today, first as the tweet from Ava DuVernay and later from a bunch of other folk in different contexts and commentaries. It got me thinking about how I used to play as a kid in kinder-elementary, and some it it was pretty effed up (as it is) but in general fairly tame.
I specifically remembered two things that always made me uncomfortable but I didn’t feel comfortable commenting on or talking about. I didn’t know HOW to talk about it if I had felt comfortable. In 2nd-3rd grade, I used to play at recess with a best friend (in the heartbreaking way that you’re best friends with people and cry when you’re put in separate classes) who was a boy (I spoke to him via the fb this evening & he is now comfortable with me saying he is “gay af”).
One of our games was very fun – we were aliens who came to earth, we would draw maps of our two houses, sometimes our one house, designing our rooms and lives in the dirt and on paper, hiding from humans. We would similarly play TMNT this way, designing the sewer system, which was a dream. We would do ninja things and turtle things and generally make jokes. Being a turtle is fun. I also enjoyed when we would play pop star, and we would just sing songs together – usually by Selena Quintanilla Perez because yeah and Grease, which was one of his favorites.
But sometimes we would play other movies, based on our favorite scenes, and it always felt like they were divided by gender and the real plot of them was romance. We never played Titanic (THANK THE LORD) beyond “LET US GET OFF THIS SINKING SHIP IMMEDIATELY, FRIEND! CLIMB UP ON THESE MONKEY BARS!,” but the one we really played that bothered me was TWISTER. Y’all remember Twister? I freaking LOVE the movie Twister. It is perfect in every conceivable way, never disagree with me on this, I will pretend you never said that & go on with our relationship as if you didn’t.
But you know where this is going.
So we would play out these favorite scenes. The Shining drive-in theater falling apart, hiding in the garage, getting cut on the forehead. Finding Aunt Meg & figuring out how to make Dorothy fly. Nerds singing the Oklahoma soundtrack… but the scene that I dreaded was that scene wherein Jo wanted to run into the tornado, she HAD to do it, to get that data, to predict those tornadoes, to SAVE LIVES GALDARNIT. And I always played Jo (because “girl”) & he always played Bill (because “boy”). And it always got to that point wherein he said all the things I (JO!!!!!!!) had to live for & I (JO!!!!!!!) said, “Like what?” & he (BILL!!!!!!!!) said, “Me, Jo! Me!”
And really, I just identified with Jami Gertz….. trying to make it in the world, trying to do her career, trying to be a human, caring about people around her, open to new experiences, knowing what’s not in her wheelhouse, and being cool about people not wanting to be around her in the way that she wants, knowing that bodies and gender and humanity are not always aligned. #empath #hero #goodatlife #queerfriendly
And during all this I felt like, “Maybe he likes me. Maybe he is playing this because he likes me, and I am playing it because I’m supposed to want this, I like him best so eventually we will date. We’re literally 8.” & in the context of elementary school, a bunch of kids said he liked me and I liked him. And we didn’t. I can honestly say we didn’t. And also in the context of elementary school, a lot of people said he was effeminate and would “grow up to be gay.” This is a problematic statement, sexuality Can be fluid and kids can be queer, I was always queer! I moved away in 1998, people in my family said, “if you had stayed, you would have dated this boy. You would have grown up and dated because you liked each other as children.”
But I don’t think so. I really don’t think so. I don’t. That feels So Bad to me. Just like Being Jo felt bad to me. I think that all of this is wrong. I think that all of these things other children and my parents and everyone else put on me were bad. And I still love that human and think we would be friends if we hung out today, but we would have words and contexts for ourselves and support for that (both from each other and from other outlets, you have so much more Choice as you get older).
And anyway I love young girls playing Amazons on Themyscira valuing teamwork over protagonist status and also dudes. When you’re young you’re told roles are suitable for you, and maybe they’re not. That’s okay. Long live Dr. Melissa Reeves.