Monday, June 14, 2004
And yet, I feel bad
I got home from work tonight to find Carter moping on the couch, looking in the direction whatever baseball game was on ESPN but not really watching it. What's up, I say. You wouldn't get it, he says. No-one more likely to get it, I bet.
And it is one of those things. Carter was assigned to the deli section today, and one of the teenagers working there kept making jokes along the lines of "you get to spend the whole day working with meat, must be a dream come true." And it was one of those situations where you just can't find your way out of it; the right sarcastic remark never comes, and even when one feels almost-right, the guy's like eight inches taller than you, twice your weight, and looks like one of the guys from the old neighborhood Carter studied hard and joined the military to leave. "I just... Ever since I got out of high school, I was never physically intimidated. I wasn't really big--"
"You were all right."
A pale, blonde-haired body like the one Carter's can blush really red. "You know what I mean. It's just, I can handle the outside world okay now, most of the time. I don't like it, but I can deal. But when I'm in that kind of situation, it's like I'm back in the self-storage thing again, and..."
He stops, and I feel like I should say something. "God, Carter, what did Dmitri do to you?"
He asks if it isn't enough that they tied and locked him up, and I suppose it is. I also tell him he needs a real shrink, and maybe we can talk to Doug or Maggie or the Feds to find one who can be trusted and will believe him, but he just shakes his head. He can handle it, he says.
"And, I mean, I should be able to handle the rest, too. You handle it. Real girls handle it. I just don't know how."
Well, there is the knowledge that a quick knee to the groin will get most men bawling like babies. He winces, and I say, yeah, I can't really consider that either. I still reach to cover my phantom testicles whenever I see a blow like that on TV, even if I've got my legs crossed.
"It's just about projecting confidence. You're one of the smartest folks I know, and you know you've endured stuff that other folks would have no idea about to look at you. Don't ever, ever forget that."
"But when they start with the sexual stuff..."
"Then you've got to be confident sexually. Come on." I lead him to the bathroom, in front of the mirror. "Now take off your shirt and jeans."
"I just want to show you something. Trust me." He warily does it, and stands in front of the mirror. "Now, look at you. Your shoulders are hunched, and you're kind of bent over, like you're trying to make yourself smaller. That's not going to make you disappear, and it just sort of cedes personal space. You've got to claim that space, okay? So stand up straight, airman!"
He does, and is a little surprised at what a difference a little body language makes. Before he can speak, I start in again.
"Now, I didn't just tell you to get down to your bra and panties just so you could see what you look like embarassed. Now, look at that girl. Forget you're looking in a mirror; imagine you're an 18-year-old man and tell me what you like." He can't bring himself to say anything, so I start to list things off. "Come on, look at her legs. And her ass. You know they'd catch your eye."
"They didn't when we were in our original bodies."
"Let me tell you something: They look better now. Sam was into the whole goth thing, remember, and they sort of tend toward the more extreme body types - bony or needing the black to be slimming. You, though, you've been keeping in great shape - you run two or three miles a day, right?"
Yeah, he says, but not to look good or anything - it just clears his head. Running has always done that, but ever since the switch, it's like it does it more. I remind him he's thinking with a different brain, and he says he's not sure what to think of that. Then he says he supposes the breasts are okay, if you don't mind 'em small.
"No, they're not bad. So, look, this is the part of the movie where the really girly member of the group would give you a makeover, but all you've got is me. So let's see what we can do." There's not a whole lot, given the uniformity of his wardrobe. I fold the legs of his jeans up a little to expose some more leg, saying it's a shame he doesn't have anything a little tighter to show off the butt. I give his T-shirt a little rip, saying it makes him look a little more active and hints at something sexy by stopping just above the cleavage.
Carter stands up and looks in the mirror. "Wow, I can't believe that's the same girl."
"Looks more like you, doesn't it?"
"Yeah, I guess, in a way."
See, it's not just being confident sexually, it's being confident physically. Carter and I, we're at a disadvantage; we don't have this lifetime relationship with our bodies most people have. He talks about how guys never have to think of this stuff, and I say, no, they do, but we've learned it all our lives, so we don't consciously think of what impression we're creating, but just create it.
Still... As much as it's good to see Carter a little more comfortable, a little more able to handle his current body (even pushing his breasts up a little and eying that critically), I feel kind of like Eve giving Adam the apple here. Part of who Carter's been since the incident has been predicated on stubbornly continuing to be all man despite outward appearances. While I feel I've imparted some useful knowledge, I wonder if it will change him at all.
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