Ken and Barbie Throw a Party
Maybe you’ll give him shoes. He’s got a lot of shoes for a lot of occasions, but you suppose he has no shoes for the coming occasions. Not that they, the coming occasions, would be much different from the prior occasions. But he would be. Different, that is.
Speaking of, is he really even a he? Is it fair to call him he? Should you go with size 8, or 10? Rhinestones or leather? Both? You could always go with Crocs, and maybe some of those little rubber decorations (another headache, those things) that seem so popular now. You hold a pair in your hands, slime green, and figure they would make poor gifts. Besides, something so explicitly un-gendered is probably not the best gift for the recently re-gendered.
Re-gendered probably isn’t a word. Nope. But it is appropriate, isn’t it? He’s got his own gender. She’s got his own gender. She’s her own gender. You think about this flipping through belts – that maybe made-up words are the only words that’ll work. They show creativity, thinking outside of the boxes in a way that would let him know that you care. You spent a lot of time thinking about this; the decision wasn’t made lightly. You like it? Black was always your color, and you’re going to need something to keep those pants up after the operation! Right? That’s funny.
“Need any help looking for something?”
“I’m shopping for it.”
“What is it?”
Goddammit. You wonder if this mall has an Orange Julius. Ya’ll (the plural! so much easier!) sucked them down on summer trips to the mall, licking the condensation off of the Styrofoam sides like the goofballs you were. You’d take trips into the small boutiques, with the cheap jewelry and middle school punk rock clothes, and try things on, strutting scandalously out of the changing rooms to show off. It wasn’t with some sort of goal in mind. It was just a way to pass the time in air conditioning. Sometimes ya’ll stole stuff. Whatever.
You aren’t even going to touch the tie rack. You know some enterprising young lesbians who wore ties pretty well, and maybe it would show how current you are, how very passé gender was, by giving ties to an it. You mean a her. A post-him. You should call your aforementioned lesbian friends (friend) and ask them about this later. But you also don’t want to seem insensitive. You believe that charging ahead without regard to sensitivity is the most sensitive you can be.
From here on out it is going to be an it, you decides. It’s probably the most accurate term anyway, right? He’s been under for an hour already, he must at least be an it by now. If that’s how they do a surgery like this, which you imagines is exactly how they do a surgery like this. You only brushed through the pre-op literature you were handed, having asked for it mostly out of courtesy. It’s not really too difficult of a concept for you to grasp. It’s been saying she for months now; maybe even a year. He came over one night, crying, hurt in some way, and asked to live with you. That was fine – you wanted a roommate anyway, someone to pass the time with beside the moldy orange in the fridge drawer.
You’ve found “my friend” works as well as anything in social situations. You find yourself wishing your best friend away without knowing why. Deep down, you know it’s your fault.
But what is more important than pronouns is the post-op party, you think, walking through the big gray metal detectors back into the mall, hoping they wouldn’t go crazy. They don’t. This party is the only reason you came back into the shitty mall anyway, picking up streamers, hats, and the obnoxious tubes people blow on festive occasions. The idea of a gift came later, as you walked back into the hospital to set up and saw the carnage of wrapping paper underneath the curtain next to his (then acceptable, anatomically at least) bed. So you rushed back out the door like any good friend would and left the nurses to set up the streamers. It wasn’t going to be up for a few hours, it wouldn’t miss you. It’d be happy you showed up at all. Purple was a good choice of streamers.
You walk into the sport collector’s shop by the Orange Julius (later you’ll get two, like he did for you when you got your tonsils out, when you used to say words like “faggy” ‘cause you didn’t understand why not), remembering how much he’d loved “dude stuff.” He also liked table settings; placemats and the like. He never hosted dinner parties; but she might host dinner parties. These placemats have Derek Jeter on them – compromise! Get it, you switch hit – you’d say to old him, then it, now her – and you’ve retired your bat! So glad we still know how to joke together.
You remember the placemats you brought back from Jamaica for him, thick things woven from palm fronds and splattered with red, green, and yellow paint. You picked them up in the airport on the way back, and used them one night in y’all’s apartment, and he had used words like “acceptance” and “transition” over a bottle of wine while you stared at a fucking placemat like you were supposed to know what to say. Maybe you’ll get him a table cloth, or sew one out of the one he was on now, exposed. Like a before and after picture, but a quirky one. This is your transition, woven with your acceptance. You head into another store.
Y’all had gotten the pills for the first stage here, together, and then picked up some Ramen. You used to come here with your grandfather to get his medicine too, and he’d get you a candy bar afterwards, or maybe a pretzel. So it wasn’t so different this time, you told yourself. Just picking up medicine, and then an Orange Julius for everyone! You recognize how little has changed in those years as you walk in double doors, past the check-out isles and greeting card stacks. The produce section is in front of you, in the distance.
You’ll get him tampons. Welcome to club, buddy, pal, girlfriend! Punch your ticket on one of those and join the club— I know you don’t really need them, do you think I didn’t do the research? It’s a joke, get it?! I also got you some goat cheese. Everyone loves goat cheese – have it on a cracker. Of course it tastes sour, cheese is supposed to taste sour. It’s mold for Christsakes! We’re eating mold!
You shouldn’t have left your watch at the hospital, but you did and it’s too late now to get it back. You’re sure everything is fine. You’ll be there when he wakes up either way. Besides, it’ll just be happy to see you, right? You’re friends, best friends, and all that matters is that you are there for them no matter what they – Maybe the tampons are a little much. Maybe she’ll just be happy to see you...
Shampoo! Everyone loves shampoo! And really, do we need gendered shampoo? Do we really need gendered anything, are you right? Honestly, hair is dirty, and then it’s clean. No hormones involved. Now racially marketed shampoo, you could make a killing on that. That’s a difference you can get behind. Not like segregation – like finding a meaningful difference in people. It’s not really about race at all, it’s about owning up to yourself, about knowing your limitations and strengths and body. Race is beyond the point here. You’re talking about hair! So don’t you get all up in arms.
Besides, even its need shampoo! Especially its! Remember when we used to watch the Adams Family together? Back at your mom’s house after school. Cousin It, with the hair that covered his entire body? I’m not calling you a freak! Just, like, you’re an it, and he’s the It, and so you both need shampoo! Don’t make this about me – I’m not calling you a freak, you just said the word “freak.”
‘You’. That’s it! YOU! That’s what you are, a you!
But really – they’re just pronouns right? I threw you a party. Isn’t that enough?