Forum — From the August 2015 issue

The Grand Shattering

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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.

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

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