15 Mar 2011
“My boob is on the lawn.”
Alice is peering out the bedroom window, her expression obscured by a filmy pink curtain. Her tone suggests that she hasn’t yet decided whether to laugh or cry. I walk to the window and peek out like an inverse Peeping Tom.
Jay stands in the center of the yard, his arms crossed over his chest. Beside him, our landlord Jermaine mirrors his posture. They are facing away from us, and Jermaine’s children run in circles around them. Both dogs bounce and bound excitedly in a secondary orbit around the children, eliciting shrieks and giggles, which seep in through the glass separating us. The boob in question, a perky bit of pale pink silicone, rests nipple-to-the-sky in the center of the yard. No one seems to have noticed it. Yet.
“Wow,” I say.
“Yeah,” she says.
We stand silent, transfixed by the lone bra-buddy glistening in the sun.
“We’ve gotta go get it,” I say.
“That’s twenty-five bucks just lying in the grass.”
“I am so not going out there.”
“You’d go if it was cash, wouldn’t you?”
“Maybe Max’ll do it.” She brushes back the curtain and implores with pleading eyes, but her mouth is twisted up to one side in a tight little knot, like she’s fighting back a smile.
I go to the doorway and crook my head around the corner into Max’s room and find him lying on his bed with a sketchpad and charcoal pencils spilled out in front of him.
“Hey,” I say, “you wanna go rescue Alice’s falsie from the backyard before the kids and dogs start playing fetch with it?”
“What?” He comes up off his bed and lopes into the room, looking out over Alice’s shoulder. “Where?”
Alice is four months into her transition. At five ten, she’s the same height as her brother, though the recent growth spurt has thinned her to near-wafishness. Her hair has grown past the tips of her ears and is currently a brassy bottle blond in sharp contrast to Max’s shaggy blue-black locks and first attempt at scruffy sideburns. They are an oddly beautiful sight, these two with their heads together, noses pressed to the glass, and, not for the first time, I am awash with the selfish delight that they are mine.
I join them at the window and watch Fat Lola roll onto her back in front of the men, begging for a belly-scratch. Iggy has wandered off in search of things to pee on or dig up and is getting dangerously close to the hooter-at-large. It is only a matter of time before a game of keep-away breaks out.
The breast-forms were serious stuff during the spring. Like the makeup and girlie clothes and pointy shoes, they were an important part of the art of artifice. We ordered them from some dodgy website in early March and they arrived at my office in tidy cardboard box with an innocuous return label. Alice was beside herself with glee when I arrived home with the box. However, the excitement crashed into despair once she tore away the cardboard and bubble-wrap and held them up for inspection.
They were all wrong, right from the start. Instead of being a solid oval, they were concave on the underside, designed to enhance curves and cleavage rather than create them from scratch. And far from the advertised “one size fits all”, they were clearly full C-cups, much too much to seem natural on the slight frame of my 105 pound daughter. After an excruciating evening of trial and error, Alice and I figured out that we could back-fill the faulty faux-breasts with tissue, but the whole process of securing them in a proper bra with the right amount of cushion and a minimum of wiggle room was a painstaking chore.
When she came prancing out for dinner with the girls tucked into her eco-friendly THINK GREEN t-shirt, we all did our best to ignore them without ignoring her. It’s not like a haircut or a new dress, because as far as I can tell, there is actually no appropriate way to compliment your child or sibling’s newly acquired breasts without feeling, sounding, or just plain being creepy.
Days later, when Alice wasn’t home, Max blurted out, “I get it, but do they have to have nipples?”
“Yes honey, I’m afraid they do.”
Weeks of weeping and thrashing and a mounting mountain of Kleenex, what with all the stuffing and snotting and tears, followed the arrival of the falsies. Alice’s bedroom floor was littered with those balled-up bits of tissue for months. And then, at some point, and without explanation, she just kinda gave up on them. I say kinda, because they still made appearances at special occasions or with certain outfits, which begged for bodacious tatas. But by late May they’ve become more accessory than necessity. We were back, on most days, to the pretty little padded bras that required minimal engineering and no one was more relieved than I.
Back at the window, we are still weighing our options when Jay turns and catches sight of us. We duck behind the curtains and below the sill, then take turns peeking out again. Jay’s face squinches up with curiosity and he continues to stare at the window. Finally, I swipe away the curtain and wave.
“I’ll do it.” Max sighs. These days, he is equal parts angsty introvert and charming court jester, alternately channeling Kurt Cobain and Buster Keaton. Luckily, it’s his Keatonesque self that slips through the sliding glass door from the living room and out into the yard. He plucks his hat from a post on the porch, pops it atop his head and proceeds to dip, skip and twirl his way across the grass. Jay and Jermaine glance at him but continue their conversation. The children stand transfixed as he goes whirling past, now trailed by excited barking dogs.
Alice giggles. I cover my face with one hand, peering out from between my fingers just as Max pratfalls onto the precise spot where the escaped bosom had been previously abandoned. Immediately, he jumps up, dusts himself off dramatically and resumes his dance. And, like he’s some kind of magician in a black felt bowler, we realize that the deed has been done. The shiny bit of silicone has disappeared. The men and children are none the wiser, though Iggy seems to suspect that a great injustice has just been done, and he stands and glares right there on the spot as Max rewinds his way back up to the house. Jay turns towards us once more, sensing that something is up. This time Alice waves. We hear Max closing the slider and turn away from the window.
“Here’s your boob, dude,” he says, tossing it like a Frisbee through the doorway.
She catches it and grins.
Its okay to laugh.
Boobies are funny sometimes.
Author’s note: No one really prepares you for the challenges of parenting a transgender teen. Ok, maybe someone somewhere offers that service, but I have to tell you that their advertising department is sadly lacking and so no one really prepared ME. I tell these stories now for a variety of reasons, one of which is to reassure those who find themselves on this same path. You are not the first and you are not alone. [On The Loose is an excerpt from “The Complicated Geography of Alice“, a memoir currently in search of the perfect publisher. If you would like to read more, you can find Laurustina.com on Facebook and get notification when the blog is updated and the book is released.]