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A Queer and Pleasant Danger

A Queer and Pleasant Danger

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Add This - A Queer and Pleasant Danger

Written by Kate BornsteinAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Kate Bornstein

  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Publisher: Beacon Press
  • On Sale: May 7, 2013
  • Price: $16.00
  • ISBN: 978-0-8070-0183-7 (0-8070-0183-X)
Also available as an eBook and a hardcover.
EXCERPT

From Chapter 1, "Go"

Disney  will never  make  a movie about  my life story, and  that’s a shame—I’d  make  a really cute animated  creature.  But I was born and raised to play the role of young hero boy. I spent  my first four- teen years living in Interlaken, New Jersey. It’s an upper-middle-class island  in the middle  of Deal Lake, just  one town inland  from  the summer  seaside resort of Asbury Park in its glory days. My family was one of a handful  of Jews who lived there. I was four and a half years old when I realized I wasn’t a boy, and therefore must be a girl. I still lived the life of a boy. People still saw me as a boy, and later as a man—and I never had the courage to correct them. Instead, I lied to everyone, telling them I was a boy. Day and night, I lied. That’s a lot of pressure  on a little kid.

-----
 
The Saturday Evening Post arrived each week, by mail. Norman Rock- well, craftsman  of the American dream, painted most of the covers. I longed  to be each  and  every one  of those  corn-fed midwestern freckle-faced Rockwell girls—engaging,  grinning  in the face of adversity, defiant, weeping with the loss of love, dependent on the men in her  life. Rockwell girls are especially dependent on daddy. And they were blonde.  Oh, how I wanted  eyes the color of cornflowers and hair the color of fresh-picked corn.
   Well, here’s  a cover that  Norman  Rockwell would  never  have painted: my mother  on the delivery table, knocked out from not only
the anesthesia,  but also the pitcher of martinis  she’d drunk over the course of her six hours’ labor with me. I was born drunk and loving drugs. The first words I heard were, “Welcome to this world, honey. Welcome.” Twenty-four years later, the same doctor—Griff Grimm— would hold newborn  Jessica and  say those  same  words. Griff and my dad  were resident  physicians  at Fitkin  Memorial  in  Neptune, New Jersey—a small hospital serving a cluster of small seaside sum- mer towns.
   Living on the Jersey Shore, the Atlantic Ocean was our magic, and the boardwalk was our magic carpet. Summertime meant  sharing that with the tourists—we all had summer jobs that depended on the tourists.  In a summer  town, the father-son bonding  seasons are autumn, winter, and early spring.
   My dad and I bonded over old-school pro wrestling—we shared that fandom.  Dad had once been the Indiana  State College Middle- weight Wrestling Champion.  He took me to the pro matches  in As- bury Park’s Convention Hall.
   “Remember,  Albert,” he’d say to me, “it’s all an act. But there’s a lot of skill in making it look real.” I knew that already. I had a lot of skill in making myself look and act like a real boy.
   My father  was a doctor, so we could afford to sit ringside.  He rarely stayed seated. Dad was up on his feet most  of the time—as close to the ring as he could get—shaking  his fist and bellowing at the bad guys, or at the referee  for a bad call. That was his anger. He showed some of it at home, but ringside he really let go. My dad thought  he saw me, his son, caught up in the bloodlust of the sport. Nah. It was plain old lust for me. I watched those matches shivering in sexual turn-on. Pre-match, the wrestlers would strut  around  the ring. One for one, the good guys always gave me a wink. They gave everyone a wink, but I took it personally. When they winked at me, I was a beautiful  young girl and I longed to be caught  up in their arms. Any bonding  my dad and I did over wrestling, or fishing, or baseball was—like everything else in my life—based on the lie that
I was a boy.
 
-----
 
Paul Kenneth Bornstein, MD
 
 
That was the name,  hand-painted on the pebbled-green-glass office door to my father’s medical office on the second floor of the Medical Arts Building in Asbury Park. When I turned  thirteen  and became a man, I was told that one day my name would be painted right underneath  his, and we’d share a practice together. It never occurred to me to question that future, and besides, I never argued with my dad. My big brother  and I called him dad. Only girls called their fathers daddy. Dad’s patients  called him  Doc—so did most  of the  trades- people and store clerks up and down the shore. To them, I was Doc’s son, as in “Doc’s son is here for the prescription,”  or “You got those roast beef subs ready for Doc’s son?” or “Hey, Doc’s son is here delivering Christmas  presents.”  Yes, we were Jews but back then  we weren’t supposed  to shout  about  it. We celebrated  Christmas,  not Hanukkah. I was bar mitzvahed  but, as I’ve mentioned and as you may have noted . . . it didn’t work.
   My dad’s parents immigrated from Russia—or Poland—or what- ever they were calling that strip of land that drifted back and forth. I don’t know my family’s town of origin, but growing up, I heard vague references  to Minsk  and  Pinsk.  Minsk, Pinsk, someone  would say, and Uncle Davy would unconsciously rub the camp number tattooed on his forearm. He always wore long sleeves. Minsk, Pinsk, someone would say, and invariably someone  would recite “The Ballad of Max and Anna Come to America.”
   Max and Anna, my father’s parents, were age fourteen and twelve respectively. They were lovers who together  supported  the  radical Red Russian  forces seeking to overthrow the czar. Young Max was captured  by the White Russians—forces  of the czar, not unlike the Stormtroopers  in Star Wars. Max was banished  to a POW camp in Siberia.  Thousands of miles  west  of Siberia,  in  Minsk  or  Pinsk, Anna—twelve years old, remember—set off to rescue  her  radical lefty lover boy. She was dirt-poor, so she had to walk—but like a heroine in some Disney cartoon, Anna could sing, so that’s what she did.

Excerpted from A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate BornsteinCopyright © 2013 by Kate Bornstein. Excerpted by permission of Beacon Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.