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I always feel masculine around my cousin Reva. Maybe it's because she's shorter andsmaller than I am, and I feel oversized moving around in a room that she slipsdaintily in and out of, but it's also because of our conversations about herwarped love life.
"I love him."
"You loved Adamlast summer, and now you say you love Billy."
"I never lovedAdam."
"Last summer you insisted you did. You told me you wereheartbroken when he broke up with you." She had woken up in the morning withher cheeks wet after dreaming of him.
"Well, we got back togetherand then I broke up with him. He's a jerk."
She tells me what Adamsaid and threatened, and I seethe. I imagine telling him off or punching hisstupid, surprised face. I feel so vengeful, so defensive of Reva, and wish Icould be her older brother for a day, just to seek out her ex. For a few momentsI feel very masculine, very angry.
And that is strange; it would seemmore likely that I'd feel maternal. I am very nurturing in other situations, butsomething about my instincts make me feel violent toward Adam and protective ofReva. Other times I feel cynical, or angry about her blindness.
"Billy is really sweet. He gave me this locket."
Younever had a strong male role model so you find the male support your father nevergave you in your boyfriends. Outloud, I ask what he looks like. She hands me apicture. I wonder if the same frame held Adam's picture.
Billy looks 13with a haircut like a prison inmate. The word "skinhead" comes to mind.I give the picture back, not mentioning that only watching a possum climb from agarbage can would duplicate my feeling of quiet disgust and general dislike forthe nasty, gray animal.
"He's so cute." Reva sighs.
"He's not my type." Love is blind.
Reva tells meabout Billy and I feel weary. She is older than me by a month, but I seem to havemore sense. She's an idiot to do this to herself! Next summer it will be anotherguy, another love, and a renewed feeling of false security.
Do onlystupid, gross, backward boys live in her town? Or are they just the ones thatReva dates? She always seems to pick the strong, physical type. I wouldn't mindif she was dating a guy who was kind, sincere and didn't take advantage of her.But Reva is attracted to guys like her father: strong, virile jocks.Unfortunately, she also finds guys with more in common with her father than theirphysique.
Reva's father met my aunt in high school; he was captain of thefootball team and she was homecoming queen and head of the cheerleaders. (How'sthat for a textbook couple?) They were engaged for a while but he broke it off togo out with other women. He was always a womanizer, and when they married heeasily slipped into alcoholism. He eventually left her and their five childrenfor a 19-year-old he got pregnant.
I wish Reva's father was a better man.I wish he had borne the responsibility of fatherhood instead of wrecking hisoldest daughter's confidence. Now she seeks in other men the father she doesn'thave. And these guys take advantage of her trust and vulnerability. She has their"love," and they have her body.
Reva is looking forstability, the refuge a father would give. But her boyfriends don't have thisresponsible caretaker quality. Their masculinity is muscle. Reva misinterpretstheir physical strength as love and security; she feels safe in their brawnyarms. Hateful world, drunken father, nasty boyfriends, victim girl. A nightmare.And I try to play hero.
A father's masculinity is sheltering,protective. As masculine as I may feel, I am still a teenage girl, and inadequatein that role. And so after talking to Reva, I instinctively find my dad, pour myheart out to him, and feel grateful for who he is.