I don’t know what letters I had typed.
I meant to type “middle” and my auto-correct insisted that it should be “muddle.”
I’ve tried to recreate the keystrokes that took me from middle to muddle. I haven’t been able to figure it out. Maybe it was all in my head.
I had been writing a piece on “the middle.” If you identify as butch, you know this place all too well. Like the back of your hand, the bottom of your Dr. Marten’s or the pattern on your favorite tie.
Frankly, I was angry at auto-correct for suggesting that this middle place is all a muddle, or maybe just plain old mud. “Curse you, auto-correct!” I screamed, my meaty fists pounding the air.
But then I got to thinking, and it was all downhill from there. Maybe auto-correct knew what it was talking about. Maybe it was just mud. When you mix red and green and blue and orange, you get brown. Ask any first-grader who has ever experimented with paint. So, maybe when you mix boy and girl you get mud.
When I was a kid, I loved water parks. I was like Tarzan on the rope swings. Fearless on the kamikaze body slide. Like a bobbing apple in the wave pool. I don’t ever remember feeling self-conscious of my body, even though I was walking around in a one-piece bathing suit in the bright summer sun all day.
A few weeks ago, we took the kids to a water park. I was extremely self-conscious. I was very aware of the boys, bare chested with their board shorts. And the girls in brightly colored bikinis or one-piece suits.
I didn’t know where I fit in.
I wore a pair of black swim trunks with a black tankini on top, which I covered up with a 30 Rock T-shirt. It seemed a better choice than swim trunks over top of a standard issue black one-piece. But really, there are few choices when it comes to swimsuits for those of us who dwell in the middle place.
I guess my ideal is a pair of cool swim trunks partnered with a plain sports-bra looking top. I’d have to lose some weight for that combo, though. I imagine my torso lean and trim and owning those trunks.
As I sat at the water park while everyone else was swimming, I felt lost. For the first time, the phrase “body dysphoria” ran through my mind. This must be what it feels like, I thought. It wasn’t so much a pang but an overwhelming feeling of being an outsider inside my own body.
After we got home, I wrote about the middle place.
I told W that I want to lean more toward the masculine side of things. That I feel most comfortable there. That I’m not sure exactly what that means but that I want to explore my options.
Of course, she was supportive. Not “of course” like who wouldn’t be. But “of course” because she always is.
I’ve never felt like I was born in the wrong body. That I am really a boy who has been swallowed up whole by this girls’ body.
I’ve always felt more boy than girl, more masculine than feminine. Always.
In my piece on the middle, I wrote about good days, which are when I’m riding what I call “the razor-sharp edge of boy-girl.” The edge is electric blue, and I can feel it buzzing with life and excitement and possibility when I’m there. I ride it when I’m wearing a tie when I’m taking W out to dinner. Or when I’m wearing jeans and a T-shirt and a baseball cap. Or when I’ve just gotten a haircut, No. 4 on the sides.
It’s not just the clothes. It’s the way I feel inside the clothes. Inside the boots or the sneakers, the wide leather wrist cuff or the metal bicycle chain bracelet. It’s all of it together.
I guess it’s not mud after all.
If you mix boy and girl just right, you get something that’s pure magic.