Forum — From the August 2015 issue

The Grand Shattering

Download Pdf
Read Online

I never wanted to be a mother. I wanted to be a person. My identity crisis began at age three, when I wanted to be Popeye but realized that I had to be Olive Oyl instead. I remember throwing myself down on my bed, wondering how I’d ever figure it out. I remember exactly how I felt because I feel that way still.

Bombarded by inviolable stereotypes that distinguished between Mommy and all other roles, I decided that I would be a boy in the shape of a girl, a man in the shape of a woman. My early fantasies were of fighting with the boys in my second-grade class and then making out with them. I wore boys’ clothes well into middle school, and even after I caught on that girls were supposed to peg their jeans and wear sweaters with brightly colored triangles and squares, I wasn’t willing to begin that drag performance. Not yet.

“Untitled (Putting on Make-Up), Kitchen Table series II,” by Carrie Mae Weems, whose work was on view last year at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in New York City © The artist. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York City

“Untitled (Putting on Make-Up), Kitchen Table series II,” by Carrie Mae Weems, whose work was on view last year at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in New York City © The artist. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York City

I moved to New York when I was twenty-three. My friends were already getting married. My plan, which I didn’t mind telling anyone who brought up marriage, progeny, or real estate, was to wait until all my friends got married and left town. Then I’d move upstate, buy a little house, and seduce my neighbors’ teenage boys until I died of loneliness or old age.

A man who used to cuff and clamp me, and who once cut a hole in my tights with his coke razor and fucked me through it, became a close friend. One month I had an unusually heavy period. I think I might actually be having a miscarriage, I told him. At least you aren’t having a kid, he replied, shuddering. We both laughed.

Previous PageNext Page
1 of 6

You are currently viewing this article as a guest. If you are a subscriber, please sign in. If you aren't, please subscribe below and get access to the entire Harper's archive for only $45.99/year. Or purchase this issue on your iOS or Android devices for $6.99.

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Download Pdf
Share
is the author, most recently, of Ongoingness: The End of a Diary (Graywolf).

More from Sarah Manguso:

Forum From the August 2015 issue

How to Be a Parent

Readings From the December 2014 issue

Keeping Time

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

THE CURRENT ISSUE

April 2017

The March on Everywhere

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Defender of the Community

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Echt Deutsch

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Boy Without a Country

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Behind the Fig Leaf

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

You Can Run …

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content
Close

Please enjoy this free article from Harper’s Magazine.