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i am a woman
or a brainwashed metrosexual
by henry william murphy
pop culture

I can't pinpoint the moment precisely, but I think I finally had it with society when I heard a guy complaining about men drinking malt beverages--in this case, the offending libation was Smirnoff Ice.

Despite Smirnoff's typically hetero-populated ads, rife with strobe lights and the swaying, bare midriffs inexorably drawn to malt beverages, the complainer found any man who chose such a drink of questionable sexuality. Possibilities of hyperbole on his part aside, I wonder how he reacted to a more recent ad campaign that suggestively asked if the captain was in him.

Or maybe it was the time I was buying pain medication at the grocery store and I ended up choosing Premsyn, mainly because it was cheaper than Midol. The checkout clerk approved of my choice, but remarked that her husband would never try it. Why? 500 milligrams of acetamenophin too feminine for him?

All my life I've been noticing this warp in our culture. As a young boy I sported long blonde hair and a soprano murmur of a voice, which caused some confusion: "What's your name?" was often followed with "Are you a boy or a girl?"

(I know: how many girls do you know named Henry? And how many five year-olds don't sound like girls?)

This confusion on the part of society continues to this day. In college I figured out that perceptions of my femininity--a scruffy beard and dauntingly dirty fingernails notwithstanding--revolved around a few key features of my personality:

I was sensitive to the feelings of others, and my own. This was, admittedly, partly out of self-interest, since it made me much more appealing to girls. However, it was a slightly delusional self-interest, since the appeal went about as far as a painfully teasing hug. Sensitivity aside, I didn't have a lot of boyfriend appeal. This could have something to do with item number two...

A low pain threshold. This is interesting, since it's common sense that women are tougher than men (especially, I might add, when compared to adolescent males). After all, do men endure violently painful internal cramps once a month for 40-odd years of their lives (and I don't want to hear that they complain about it--I'd like to know who wouldn't)? Do men carry and birth babies, a process memorably compared on Murphy Brown to passing a bowling ball through, I believe it was, a toilet paper roll?

I used skin lotion, but you would too if your skin was so dry that it hurt to lie down. Furthermore, I am indifferent to the various additives in lotions: scents such as lavender, or fruits and exotic oils; you name it, I don't care. If it moisturizes my tortured winter skin, I smear it on.

Item #3, according to a friend of mine, was conclusive evidence, but the kicker came when I started using the women's bathroom while working on the college newspaper. It made sense, because it was much closer, but the list of advantages included a better smell, brighter colors and even a potted plant (which closer inspection revealed was plastic). More than once he caught me coming out the door. "Aha," he'd say, triumphantly smacking his fist into his palm. "Definitive proof that you're a girl." He actually did do this more than once...

Recently I had a chest cold that produced sporadic and brief fevers. To fellow employees this sounded suspiciously like hot flashes. It made sense to me that if I was actually a girl I'd even go through menopause. Disturbing sense, but sense nonetheless.

On occasion I have been accused of overstating my case, making a big deal out of some mundane cultural foibles, but my position is that I'm not making a big deal. In fact, it seems to me that our culture is the one with the hang-ups.

If an adult can't get a chest cold or take painkillers without people giving him a purposefully scrutinous glance, it sounds like our comfort zone could switch from briefs to boxers. Or maybe something silk, with a little lace for decoration.


A Southern boy without a Southern accent, Southern hospitality, Southern grace, Southern politics, Southern religion or a firm grasp of Southern literature.

more about henry william murphy


dan gonzalez
6.20.04 @ 10:56p

The acid test is what you fantasized about when you were young. If you fantasized about your wedding, you're a woman. If you fantasized about sex and the wedding was completely irrelevant, you're just a guy. It you fantasized about your wedding night, you're one of those weird 'nice' guys, and probably should be persecuted by the rest of us.

robert melos
6.21.04 @ 12:33a

Dan, I fantasized about getting married and fathering a bunch of kids. At least, I fantasized about this until I realized I was gay and really didn't like children. So explain my fantasies. Not my current ones, the ones I had as a child.

dan gonzalez
6.21.04 @ 12:31p

So explain my fantasies

I was crassly fooling about. I'd guess you didn't fantasize about marrying a guy and utilizing a surrogate mother?

If not, I'm out, I got nothing, sorry. ;-)

robert melos
6.21.04 @ 8:52p

Nope, didn't fantasize about marrying a guy until I was much older. Growing up I was conditioned as was the rest of society to think in terms of a man and a woman marrying, but the thoughts were a contradiction to my feelings and desires. Being gay is a lot more complicated than tab A fits into slot B. It really comes down to social conditioning.

kona gallagher
6.25.04 @ 4:01p

Okay, so I'm totally with you on all of these items; they don't seem terribly weird---except for the girls bathroom. I think that may be pushing it a bit. I'm as lazy as anyone else, but I still don't use the mens room.

tracey kelley
6.27.04 @ 9:31a

People thought your fevers were hot flashes? How old are you, anyway?

henry murphy
7.1.04 @ 12:00p

Tracey--I'm a mere 27 years old, but people will believe what they want to believe.

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