For the second time at the same grocery store, I was “sir-ed” today. The first time I’d been in line picking up a few things after work. I was dressed for work, in my sort of neither here nor there dashiki slash punjabi moo-moo. The clerk had done a sideways cursory glance in my direction before asking, “paper or plastic sir?” I hesitated. So she looked directly at me and said, “sir? paper or plastic?” Though I often am read as sir by old people and children, I was stunned that this middle-aged woman was looking straight at me and calling me sir. I knew as soon as I spoke my preference for paper she was going to figure out that one of us was confused. She hesitated, looked away from my gaze and awkwardly apologized. Repeatedly. I think for the first time in my life I honestly didn’t feel shame about it. I leaned in conspiratorially and said, “no sweat. I’m ok with it.” In the end, after an awkward silence, she did smile.
I always say that I remember very little about my childhood. And generally that’s still true. But lately, snippets of remembrances have been surfacing. Interestingly, in small sweet ways. I think as I feel more comfortable with who I am, I am more able and open to remembering those times when my white-knuckle-grip on a self I couldn’t relate to suppressed my vision and memory of any other me. Even a me I knew was more real than the one I was pretending to be. I have recently been remembering times I spent, in my younger childhood (ages 5 to 9), attempting to perfect the art, science, physics and magic of peeing standing up. The trials and errors, contortions and saturation left me with no choice but to practice naked. And practice I did. I drank a lot of water back then. All in the name of honing function and form. And in the end I did accomplish the ability, if not the simplicity and ease, of peeing standing up. And, in case anyone is wondering, I can still do it.
In high school, on and off, I played around with packing. Not the fancy thermal-gel, pliable, soft, rubbery penis-like internet purchase available now. A simple pair of socks, or a single masterfully twisted and folded tube sock (hey, they were all the rage back then). There was a thrill and a rightness in having that secret in my pants. The titillation not unlike the one I got during my thong-wearing days in the 80s. The excitement I get. But the rightness, the harmony, that I still can’t explain or understand. But that rightness, that wholeness warred with what I can only explain as my laziness. The amount of effort in maintaining my sock penis got to be too much. I got tired of having it fall on the floor, or worse, in the toilet every time I had to go to the bathroom. I tired of the discomfort and pressure, the need to constantly adjust and readjust. It felt, in the end, like too much effort, like the effort of trying to be something I wasn’t. And I’m still searching for that effortless rightness, that rightness of being.
Today, dressed in sweats, work-boots and a baseball cap (St. Louis Cards cap, having semi-retired the red sox one), it was less surprising when the clerk called me sir. This time, as I spoke, I looked her in the eye, smiled and shrugged. She smiled back. No need to apologize.