rayvanfox

Peter Panek

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2013 at 4:30 pm

[written as a monologue for a solo performance piece in 2007]

Have you read Rilke’s letters yet? Do it soon. He understands why this growing up thing is so hard. Here, listen.

“Sex is difficult; yes. But they are difficult things with which we have been charged; almost everything serious is difficult, and everything is serious. If you only recognize this and manage, out of yourself, out of your own nature and ways, out of your own experience and childhood and strength to achieve a relation to sex wholly your own (not influenced by convention and custom), then you need no longer be afraid of losing yourself and becoming unworthy of your best possession.”

For me, it’s all about the boy. The boy haunts me. Maybe he haunts everyone, I dunno. He’s the one who doesn’t grow up. He’s my favorite. He is Timmy, he is Peter Pan, he is whatever boy I’m all about, He is me when I’m feeling most myself and then he is completely the other. God, He is flight. He is freedom and spontaneity and escape and possibility and success and height. To Get High. Literally. He is a drug, he is a lover, he’s a shadow, he is an ideal, he is a fucking fury. He is everything to me and yet he is nothing. He’s who I want to see in the mirror, and then he’s you half the time.

He started as a feeling about myself. As a kid I was an all out tomboy. Okay, so not much has changed, but still…even back then I had short hair. Boy short. I loved it cuz it helped me fit in. Cuz I was always one of the rough and tumbles, my gruff little husky voice mingling, my soccer playing on par, my tree climbing skills competing with the best of the boys on my block. And I only wore blue boy clothes, if I could help it. So the hair just completed the image. I can’t tell you how many times some kid would come up to me on the playground and say, “are you a boy or a girl?” and I would want to hit them or run away or sometimes I would feel like crying, but always I would say, “what do you think?” like they were so stupid that they had to ask. Cuz I was always so angry that they needed to know so bad. I always felt that it was the height of rudeness, not that they couldn’t tell, but that it mattered. That my private body parts were allowed to be part of blacktop conversation. I wanted to say “it’s none of your business” but that wouldn’t really make sense to a 7 year old. Not that it made sense to me at the time either, it’s just what I wanted to say. Sometimes I’d say, “why does it matter?” and they would look at me like I was an alien or something, which I wished I was so I didn’t have to feel like I was caught in between two polar opposites—I didn’t discover the gender spectrum till college—”cuz it DOES,” they would say. It does matter. People need to know what side of the coin you are on so they know how to treat you. Cuz all interaction is gendered. Nobody knows what to do with you if you don’t fit into either/or.

Then this feeling was given an image with Timmy. He was my favorite cousin. He was a mischievous little imp, a total instigator, but he also was the one who looked out for us younger kids. He was the golden child, always making everyone smile, becoming the favorite of our entire hot-blooded Italian clan. My adoration of Timmy bordered on worship. He knew it and was gentleman enough not to mention it or let it affect how we played together. God I remember his face– the barely contained laugh in his smirky smile–when he had thought of some great game to embark upon and he was about to let me in on the fun. His eyes would really shine like stars. (second to the right and straight on till morning) I followed him around like a puppy dog. Loyal to the end. Which came in the form of an inoperable brain tumor, causing a gut-dropping descent into death when he was nine years old. Nine years. He never got to live beyond that. He’d be almost 30 now. I can’t imagine him at that age. I don’t want to. He will always be a little boy. And I’m so jealous of that. Both the ‘always’ part and the ‘boy’ part. Cuz my way of grieving him has been to keep his image of eternal boyness very real inside of me—make it my ideal and my shadow. And still I catch myself believing I can keep alive that time when we were both young and invincible, by finding someone who fits his role, or by acting out his part myself. The boy who would not grow up.

And then this image became a reality with Peter Pan. When I was a senior in college, my dorm mates and I declared war on our friends who had an off-campus house named “Pirate House”. We pronounced ourselves the lost boys and had a crowing contest to see who would play Peter. I won. We each played a part and stole their jolly roger flag which started us pranking our way thru our last months in neverland before graduation. it was fun, but I realize now I wasn’t just playing. That year I was learning to navigate the world Peter Pan inhabits of being a ‘betwixt and between’ not a human boy, not a bird either, but an eternal youth who can fly—who is capable of anything. Cuz here’s the trick—this is why Peter Pan is such a fascinating dramatic character–cuz he is a young boy, but is traditionally played on stage by a grown woman. So there is this gender fuck going on where this actress, like her character, will never grow up to be a man only because she is not male and she will continue to look like a boy specifically because she chooses to not look like a girl. So you’re refusing to play by the rules of society not by refusing to physically grow up, but refusing to act out your gender role, which in a lot of minds is how you show that you are grown-up. Such a refusal puts you betwixt and between where anything is possible. And when I say you, I mean me, but I also mean you.

Cuz now there is this potential with you. What kind? I don’t know. Cuz if asked “are you a boy or a girl?” I would answer one way and you the other, yet in practice we go back and forth. And neither of us knows how to navigate between where you begin and where I end mostly because the shapes we have don’t keep still long enough to fit together—like Tink never standing still long enough for you to see her. But if I’m not playing woman and you aren’t playing man are we both playing boy? Is that okay? Are we playing for keeps? what roles aren’t possible at this point? Cuz there is a lot of ground to cover in the betwixt and between. And tho I have no idea where we might land, all I really know how to do is take your hand and try to fly.

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