Multitude Ways: A Triptych
Sorry I left you buried for so long, with your overalls, electric toughness, scabbed knees. Sorry I reviled you, watched those makeover shows where the straight woman and gay man giggle at unfortunate butches, adult tomboys. I laughed along, burying you further.
I never wanted to be a child, and I equated your way of being with that: an assigned-female person biking fast, torn hand-me-down overalls, beating boys at foursquare—I thought you were unformed. Polymorphous perverse.
Cisgender womanhood appeared as the only way out, so I resolved to win at it. Like how I aspired to be a multi-hyphenate creative tour-de-force, my femininity (its own cyclone) would bowl people over.
From 11 years old on, I went full femme, verging on drag: heels, makeup, push-up bras, tutus. For some, this may have bloomed into peak gender euphoria, but I wilted. I wasn’t doing it for us. I was doing it for an emptiness.
I missed you. In college, I considered joining the rugby team, despite the disaster it could’ve spelled for my dance major. Instead, I dated a rugby player, who one day dressed me in her butch clothes. I thought it wouldn’t work but she, a fancy snob, said, “You can totally pull it off.” In the mirror I saw she was right, saw the glimmer. I ran to the backyard with a shovel, ready to dig you out.
When asked where I’m from, I hesitate because of my gantse megillah answer: I’ve moved twentyish times: born in one place, moved to two more before college, several after. None of the formative towns felt like hometowns. But here’s a start:
I come from a place where heroin mills replaced textile mills, toadstools grew under toilets, Armenian old maids broom-banged ceilings as I ran back and forth in my tap shoes.
I come from the freshwater surfing capital of the world. Instead of an aquarium, the town built a bratwurst museum. The library spanned three floors—I read books from them all, but because that Midwestern “O” punched a hole in my accent, kids in the next town I moved to, provincial East Coast with a shoebox library, smirked. I hesitate to say I come from that place. But … I come from that place, whose distinguishing feature is being in the middle. Not where that distinguished university lives, nothing distinguished about it. A place of smallness, meanness—contagious if you’re not careful.
I come from Frida Kahlo biographies, Edith Hamilton mythology, Saturday Torah studies, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Smelts drying acrid on sand, concrete stink of nighttime reservoir walks, pine of the neighborhood “mountain” we pretended was wild but was IBM property.
Sidewalks, sidewalks, no sidewalks. Touch football with boys, dress-up with girls, singing along to boombox songs with everyone as music transcended gender and all other bounds.
These days I feel pulled into the earth, not in a scary quicksand way, but a cute, vintage children’s book way. A Peter Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh way, supported in a soft little hollow.
I was looking up the definition of cozy mystery when a friend sent me a 35-minute video about Cottagecore. Cottagecore, cozy mystery, childhood tales. These coalesced in my mind: anthropomorphized woodland creatures solving the case of who stole the honey, why that cuddly critter was sad, how to make them happy again.
This appealed to my nostalgic toddler memories: listening to storybook cassettes while sprawled on a creaky porch; the reservoir, which I fantasized was an enchanted grove; the crisp-aired promise of the woods.
But even as a baby, I rejected the rougher edges of that town—rusted out cars; desperately teased, fried hair; poisoned sorrow brought by heroin, crack; acid rain, acid wash jeans.
I speculate that in my previous life, I died by suicide there. I can’t get a read on this act’s intentionality, but regardless I sense despair—bad teen angst, at least. An aspiring artist, cramped, alive with friends but subject to lonesome death wishes. This is why, when I returned in 1985, I wanted out of my baby body. I cried and cried. I reached to open the refrigerator door, couldn’t believe I didn’t have the motor skills.
Throughout childhood I sped towards adolescence, from adolescence clawed towards adulthood. I often thought I wouldn’t make it. Now I’ve proved myself wrong. I’ve found equilibrium: earth-pulled, soft-hollow-supported. Little angsty striving remains, because the next step after this is death … then another life, then another death … and so on.
When I dug you out, I thought I’d killed you. You were still, stunted. I accidentally hit you with the shovel as I freed you of dirt, and you woke up, sputtered, swore. At first you wouldn’t talk to me, and I couldn’t blame you. After I washed you off, though, bandaged your wounds, fed you, showed you yourself in the mirror, and waited patiently, you warmed back up, tried to dress me in your overalls, which were too small. I bought us new ones. You haven’t stopped talking since.
Goldie Peacock spent over a decade bouncing between frenetic movement and absolute stillness as a performer and art model before chilling out and becoming a writer. Their work is featured in HuffPost, Wild Roof Journal and DRAGS, a book showcasing NYC’s drag superstars. They live in Lenapehoking/Brooklyn