09 Retold Stories

“Should we start with heel-walking lessons, Marsh?” Tina suggested.

“Not just yet, Teen,” I told her. “I need to collapse. I don’t think you realize how stressful all of this is for me, and without a guitar, I don’t have my normal way of coping. I’m just going to toss on a pair of jeans and veg out for a while.”

“A pair of what?”

“Um, jeans? You know, pants made of denim?” The look on her face told me I’d said something wrong again. “No jeans? Marsha doesn’t wear jeans?”

She shook her head, so I threw open my closet door and looked. There were plenty of skirts and dresses, but as far as I could tell, not a single pair of jeans or slacks, or anything else. Not even a pantsuit, which at that point I would have considered a reasonable compromise. In hindsight, I probably should have expected that. I couldn’t remember my mother or sister wearing pants, and as Chad had reminded me, Marsha was noted for consistently wearing skirts. We’re kind of a traditional family, and it had just never occurred to me how that guided female clothing in our household. At least it meant no miniskirts. Looking back, it occurred to me that Mom and Tina had always worn their skirts long, and that’s what I found in my closet as well. If I had to wear them, at least I didn’t have to worry about immodesty.

Tina seemed to sense my mood. “What’s wrong, Marsh?”

“This is already a lot harder than I was expecting, Teen. I don’t know, I guess I was thinking that it was just going to be like my old life, only with boobs.” I stopped myself and looked at her. “Is ‘boobs’ alright for me to say?”

She shrugged, so I continued. “Now, it’s like I’m being hit all at once, with girly clothing and different friends, and my bedroom looks like it belongs to a stranger. And that’s just in the first few hours. I need a break, a timeout. I just want to catch my breath and do something familiar for a bit. I thought that I could get into familiar clothes, and read a familiar book. Anything that would make me not have to think about being Marsha. I mean it’s been nonstop. I feel as though I’ve been through the wringer, and it’s only been an hour or so since I found out. I’d take a nap, but I’m not really tired. Everywhere I go, everywhere I look, I’m reminded that I’m in a stranger’s room, a stranger’s life. My body doesn’t feel right, not when I walk, not when I sit down. These clothes…” I sighed. I was whining, and that felt inappropriate and girly, too. “I want to drop out of character, to be myself again. Only that doesn’t seem possible.”

“What can I do to help?” Tina asked.

“I don’t really know. This isn’t like a play, where we can sit backstage and take off our costumes during intermission. We don’t even get an intermission in real life. I said that I was going to keep it up until after Christmas break, but I’m going to need some way to cope, some way to be ‘off-stage’ from time to time.”

“I know. Why don’t you come into my room, so you won’t be reminded of this one?”

It was a terrific idea, and I said so. Her room would reflect her personality and needs, and should be at least somewhat familiar to me.

“And you can tell me about what it was like for you to be a boy,” she added.

“You really want to hear about that?”

“Sure! You are my… well, I hope my sister, but sort of also my brother, even though I don’t really have one. It could be interesting.”

“I think that would be a great idea, Teen.”

I hadn’t paid attention when we had been there a few minutes earlier, but her room was pretty much the way I remembered it. Whatever the changes in me, whatever the influence of Marsha instead of me, Tina seemed largely the same, even if her memories weren’t. That surprised me, and bothered me just a little. I’d like to think that I had a lot of influence on my little sister, but maybe I’ve always overrated my own importance. At any rate, I was grateful for that now.

“So what’s it like?” she asked, as she settled on to her bed and offered me her chair.

“That’s kind of hard to answer, Teen. After all, it’s all I’ve ever known – until this morning.”

“OK, what would be useful to tell me?”

So I told her about my guitar, about how elated I had been to receive it, and how I’d sort of taught myself to play from instruction books and DVDs until Dad had realized that I needed more. I told her about my guitar teachers, how the first one was into really wild stuff that would have horrified Mom and Dad. You might have thought my family straight-laced, but we knew about some really seedy things. I told Tina about my third teacher, who had actually made it for a few years as a rock musician, and how he’d warned me not to try it as a career. Fortunately, I’d never planned on it – grandpa had given me the same speech. He’d had a lot of fun touring when he was younger, but had had a job in his own father’s business to fall back on.

Tina was particularly interested when I told her about my girlfriends; apparently, Marsha had only dated two other boys besides Dirk, and neither for any length of time. Tina had always liked hearing about my dating adventures, and now I got to tell her the same stories for the first time. I had the uncomfortable feeling that I was on the verge of corrupting the innocent. With Marsha’s own example before her, Tina hadn’t really thought too much about sex, except as a theoretical possibility. In fact, while she was very attracted to boys – something I hadn’t realized before – she found the whole idea of the sex act a bit disgusting, an attitude I had no intention of changing. But she could live vicariously through my experiences. Doubly vicariously, since I was currently in no position to repeat them, even if I’d had the opportunity. I hesitated telling her too much detail. Marsha was clearly a virgin (which was very much a relief to me), and I wasn’t sure Tina could handle hearing about a brother who had slept with more than half a dozen different girls.

It hadn’t occurred to me until now, but by accepting being Marsha until the end of the year, I had just given up on Lee Ann. I didn’t know how that would play out when I changed back – would I find myself already dating her, without knowing what kind of history we had together? Or would some other guy have swept down in the meantime and stolen her heart? If she had dated the same guy for three years, maybe she would decide to take a bit of breather and not commit to any one guy, and I’d have a chance for the second half of the year.

And… I was used to having girlfriends. In fact, I don’t think I’d gone more than about a month since freshman year in high school without a date. Marsha didn’t seem to be as much of a love addict as I was, but really, how comfortable was it going to be for me not even to approach a girl for two-and-a-half months? Trying a lesbian relationship seemed more than a little extreme, and it would probably have been way out of character for Marsha, even if I had had any idea how to go about it. These were thoughts really better not shared with my sister – not yet, at any rate.

Mom came in while we were talking. Fortunately, it was easy to hear her coming upstairs, so there was no danger of her overhearing something I wouldn’t have wanted her to know about. But she poked her head in and said, “I’m going grocery shopping, girls. Do you want anything?”

“I’m almost out of nail polish remover,” Tina answered. “I can’t think of anything else.”

“Nail polish remover. Got it. Anything for you, Marsh?”

I had absolutely no idea, not having checked my room since I woke up. If she’d offered last night, I might have asked her to pick me up some shaving cream, but that didn’t seem appropriate this morning. I could well be out of all kinds of things, but I doubt that I’d be able to tell without my sister’s help anyway. At any rate, I had a week, and if Tina spotted something missing, I could always go shopping myself later.

So I just said, “Nothing for me, thanks.”

“OK, I’ll be back in a bit. Marsh, would you like to cook dinner with me when I get back?”

“Sure, Mom.”

The invitation usually meant that she wanted to talk with me, not surprising given that I had been away at school for the past couple of months. And of course, I was a reasonably competent cook, having learned when Dad left and Mom had needed us to help pick up the slack. Presumably, she expected Marsha to be as well. Again, it would probably be more or less familiar to me – or at least as much as anything was going to be, now.


  1. dark_fanboy says:

    I think the best part about this piece is seeing Marsh’s reaction yet again to something in his life disappearing and losing another part of who he was. Its always the loss of the little things that we overlook in our day to day that catches us off guard when its gone. I also would like to say I like how Teen is shaping up, she’s still a little stiff and her dialog feels a bit forced at times but she’s finally starting to open up as a character.

  2. Maiden Anne says:

    So far Marsh seems to be handling the situation really well. True, he is tired, but he has successfully gone through the challenge of telling his sister and his best friend his problem, and acting his part in front of his mother.
    His relationship with Tina Seems to be continuing excellently. Neither of them have taken out their worry on each other, they are both being very considerate.

    Marsh: Marsh at this point is behaving mostly like Marshall, with a determination to go through with a very hard part.

    Marshall: Marshall is seeming more and more inconsistent with the rest of his family, here. As ‘Marsh’ just pointed out, Marsha was a virgin, whereas Marshall has slept around quite a bit and doesn’t seem a bit disturbed by it. How can Marsha and Marshall both have grown up in the same family, and yet ended up with such different morals?

    Marsha: I find it interesting that the same girl who keeps herself a virgin is yet willing to develop quite a friendship with Chad, who has slept around (at least we assume he has, go to admit it is never specifically stated), uses porn, etc., but perhaps that is the reason Marsha wasn’t as close to him as Marshall was.

    Tina : It is interesting that Tina, according to what Marsh thinks, has turned out the same as she did with Marshall as a brother. His thought doesn’t quite seem to fit the picture, though. Note that he is uncomfortable telling this Tina the same stories that he told Marshall’s Tina, and is constantly having to watch his language, because she objects to it. Does the Tina that is sister to Marshall object to girls using strong language?

    Chad: Chad doesn’t come into this chapter at all, which is alright. Since he was Marshall’s best friend, I would have thought that Marshall would have wanted to talk to him more, but perhaps Marsh is trying to fit into the role of Marsha, or perhaps Marsh finds trying to talk to Chad as Marsha rather than Marshall awkward.

    M’s Mom: We get promise of more from Marsh’s mom. Will be interesting to see how their relationship holds up, whether Marsh is going to tell his mom, or not.

    Lee Ann: Not sure whether she is going to be a major or a minor, but she certainly seems to be a concern of Marsh’s. I wonder if he is really interested in her, or if she is just another of his long line of girlfriends.

    I am confused as to why Marsh is worried about having to be immodest. Is it because he isn’t comfortable being a girl and doesn’t want to advertise the fact that he is? Or was he really as I guy used to being ‘modestly’? Or, does he hold modest dress as a value?

    I like the chapter overall, I think it is very natural. I am looking forward to reading on!

  3. Russ says:

    The Marsha vs Marshall behavior is not necessarily a question of morals – it has not been discussed just exactly why Marsha wouldn’t sleep with Dirk. And of course, Marsha is not here to explain. It could simply be the old double standard, in which boys were expected to “sow their wild oats” while girls were expected to remain pure. Or it could be something else. Not gonna say…

  4. von says:

    Societal expectations are one way that morals are expressed. And a double standard is a double *standard*. Certainly I take the same thing away as Anne does. But then, she is my daughter 🙂

    In our area a girl remaining a virgin till Sophomore in college would be a rare thing, calling for comment.

  5. DS says:

    So, I find it kind of hard to believe Marsh owns no pairs of pants. This story sounds fairly modern, and modern girls tend to wear pants. While she could prefer skirts and dresses, and her family might emphasize the wearing of them (which it sounds like they do), it just feels like this aspect was thrown in to emphasize poor Marsh’s descent into womanhood.

    Also, while we know that she likes skirts and dresses, we don’t get any descriptions of them. The kind of clothes Marsha wears would help to define what kind of person Marsha is, and I would think Marsh would be closely examining them. From most of the other descriptions, Marsha sounds extremely feminine, and I would assume that seeing this reflected in the clothes in the closet would really drive the point home.

  6. Russ says:

    >> So, I find it kind of hard to believe Marsh owns no pairs of pants. This story sounds fairly modern, and modern girls tend to wear pants.

    I actually know quite a few families in which the girls and women never wear pants and do indeed only own skirts and dresses. Not everybody considers “modern” to be a good idea in all things.

  7. von says:

    I agree with both posts above. The total lack of pants puts Marsha out of the ‘modern’ category. We do get some description of them elsewhere. The lack here strikes me as very boy-ish.

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