Some say it’s pride that keeps me at your beck and call. Others might say it’s love.
For my part, I’d call what I feel “love”. As for you, “pride” might better suit. At least I know what it is to love. With you, I’ve never been sure.
What is it in you that wants to keep me around? Am I so convenient? Am I that devoted? Do I meet all your needs and make you feel safe? Am I the man you were always taught you wanted, dressed in the body of a woman you knew you desired? Is this why your attention to me seems both punishment and reward? Is that why you are so hard on us, so hard on me, so bitterly unremorseful in your teasing attacks on my clothing, my manners, my walk, my talk… so coy in your vague apologies, your excuses for your bad behavior… through it all, so determined to not let me go, even if it means you have to explain to your parents, year after year, that you haven’t yet met “Mr. Right”? Even if you have to explain to your girlfriends that you’re still with me?
What is it that you see in me? Why do you bother to stay? Do I look good on your arm, or do you think you look good on mine? Do you enjoy that I do the man-dance better than most males, and that I make you feel special, even if I do seem like a freak to you? I know what you think of me. I’ve overheard your conversations with your girlfriends. You’ll defend me only so much, then succumb to their mockery. I can almost hear them saying, “Why don’t you get with a real dyke, for once? What is it with this manly butch, anyway?” I make them nervous. They don’t know how to talk to me. They “dumb down” their political conversations when I’m around. And they speak to you in the French you all learned in college, thinking I won’t comprehend.
They don’t know I used to live in Paris. For five years. On my own.
You know. But you pretend to forget. You joke about me in French when I’m within earshot.
What suits you, is what you chase after. And it’s usually what you get. It’s how you got me, picking me out at the women’s bar one hot summer night, glancing over at your girlfriends as we danced, as though I were a bet you were winning, a dare you were willing to take. We looked good together, that night. Even your girlfriends conceded. And when I wrapped my arms around you tighter on the dance floor, you yielded into my embrace with a willingness that told me something different than your cold, set jaw thought it betrayed. You even came home with me, after entrusting your car keys to one of your girlfriends and blushing at the coarse remarks they shot after us as we left the bar.
What suits you, is what others think looks fine. Sometimes I wonder if I suit you at all, for we can’t feign the closeness that modern couples are required to exhibit. There’s a chapter in your past that won’t let you drop your guard around me, and my stiffness and reluctance to open up — I own and accept that part of me freely — seems to comfort you. I’ve never pressured you to play the open book with me, I’ve never leaned on you to be more expressive or more pliant. Your presence, the fact of you with me, the chances you give me to meet so many of your needs… they all suffice. I’m willing to let that be enough. I’m willing to live and let live without coming up with more complicated rules, and that suits you. It suits you just fine.
I suit you just fine, though people might not know from looking. And though they wouldn’t know from your telling. Walking into a room filled with academians, artists and activists, you pull away from my arm ever so slightly, then drift through the milling crowds till I can’t see the back of your head anymore. You drift through your milieu, looking over at me where I’ve made myself comfortable in a corner or on a couch, making sure I’m not too bored or too concerned about you, making sure you’re free to roam the intellectual landscape, without the challenge of explaining to hyper-vigilant feminist theorists how “antiquated butch-femme roles play into our dynamic”.
I let you go when we attend these parties. It’s my way. I live and let live and don’t belabor the situation with a lot of insistent expectations. I keep out of your way and don’t make myself a hindrance to you. I defer to your wishes and your satisfaction brings me pleasure. Even when it brings me pain. You get what you want and, in giving that to you, I receive what I want.
That suits you just fine.
What’s to become of us? I wonder, as the months and years tick by. We should have been broken up, long ago, by all accounts. Your girlfriends still can’t see what you see in me, but my buddies say they envy me. You’re fine, they say, so very fine. Your features, your feminine ways, your demands that can almost always be satisfied… The unending parade of wants and desires that springs full-armored from your head, sparks my interest, and keeps me coming back for more… To see if you still want me, to see if I can still please you, to see what new test you have for me, and to make sure I’m up to the challenge of you.
I never lack for chances to prove myself. And that suits me. It suits me just fine.