I remember I was at the park. I was eight or nine years old and some kid asked me if I was a boy or a girl.
“What are you?” asked the kid
I knew immediately that this was the kind of child I generally tried to avoid. Even at a young age I felt in some way cautious around those I found a little red around the neck.
“What do you mean?” I asked, trying not to sound defensive, or worse, scared.
“Are you a boy or a girl? He replied with twisted eight-year-old malice.
“I’m a boy you idiot” I snapped. I have never had patience for dumb questions. However, I was upset. I had been asked this question before, quite often. Even by my cousin Jodie who had a mullet, and wore a football jersey to Christmas dinner.
“Why did he ask me that?” I asked my mother later.
She said, “Probably because you are so handsome that you are almost as pretty as a girl.”
Well that takes care of that. The kid at the playground inquired about my gender because I was so good looking. The fact that I was pretending to be Olivia Newton-John while re-enacting Xanadu on the swing-set had nothing at all to do with it.
Ah Olivia. I love her. I had all of her records. The highlight of any second grader’s life has to be the day he got the 45 record of “Physical”. We had tons of records (yes that’s right, records!) in our house. In my early years, when not playing house with Alli, I could usually be found in our family room stacking 45’s on the turntable of our stereo. The kind of stereo that looks like some sort of liquor cabinet with a speaker, which I think was mandatory for every household in the 70’s. I listened to records all the time. I’m told that I was singing disco before I could put sentences together. In fact some of my first words I picked up from Leo Sayer’s You Make Me Feel Like Dancin. I would spend hours doing this. I would belt out each song and pretend that I was performing for hundreds of people. Apparently at my young age I couldn’t comprehend anything bigger than hundreds. I was particularly fond of Donna Summers’ Dim All the Lights. As I recall I had conceived a very intricate production number to that one, involving an over turned rocking chair and an afghan. As a child my imagination was a force beyond my control, I guess if I were being honest, it still is.
Being the youngest of four kids in the seventies I am truly a child of disco, I wonder if I was the only kindergartner in history who took ABBA’s Voulez Vouz album for show ‘n tell? I remember playing with my neurotic cousin Sean who is my age. He always wanted to play guns, or wrestling.
“No, Dance!” I’d insist.
I would insist that we listen to records and dance. Or play Wonder Woman. God love Sean, he always complied. I did enjoy playing with Star Wars figures and not just Princess Leia so that’s got to count for something, but I had a slight hunch I was different, always. I knew that “Bad Girls, Toot Toot Beep Beep” was not as familiar a phrase to my classmates as it was to me. I just had different interests than other little boys. However as I got older I did try, in my own way, to conform.