Transman’s last post mentioned the horrors of puberty and the way girls in his sixth-grade class worshiped at the altar of Judy Blume, trading her books and waiting for periods, boobs, and boyfriends. Transman wanted none of that and yet somehow got two out of the three way before the girls in his class.
Transman came of age in the 1970s in the Deep South. Old people told him very seriously that babies were either found under cabbage leaves or brought by storks. Transman vowed never to touch cabbage and to shoot any stork he saw heading his way; of course, he has since changed his tune; kids–at least, his kids–are pretty cool. Long story short: No one explained any of the facts of life to Transman. He lived in ignorance similar to what Loretta Lynn described in A Coal Miner’s Daughter.
Seriously, he had no idea what was going on the first time Aunt Flo made a visit. Transman had been playing catch with his next door neighbor, Robbie, when he went inside to get a drink of water and to pee. Imagine Transman’s horror when he saw that first brownish stain in his skivvies. “What the f$%k?!” Transman said to himself as he pulled up his pants and went to the living room to call his mother at work.
He dialed the phone with a shaky hand and explained the terrible thing he had just seen.
“You have your period,” his mother said bluntly. “Your sister might have some pads in the vanity. You just stick them in your underwear.”
What the hell kind of foreign language are you speaking, lady? Transman thought. What are you talking about periods and pads for? I’m not writing an essay; I’m bleeding to death or something.
Transman hung up the phone and stared out the window at the palm tree in the front yard. If his mother was correct and he had his period, then he was doomed. If he was correct and he really was bleeding to death, he was doomed. Either way, Transman felt like shit.
There was a banging on the door. Transman had forgotten about his friend.
“You comin’ back out?” Robbie yelled.
Transman opened the door and said, “I don’t feel so good. I think I’m gonna watch TV for a while.”
Robbie tucked the football under his arm, said, “Cool. It’s almost time for Ultraman anyway,” and started into the house.
“I really don’t feel good,” Transman said, standing in Robbie’s way. “I kind of want to be alone.”
Robbie’s brow furrowed.
“Oh,” he said and stepped back outside. “Okay.”
Neither boy spoke about it, but the dynamic between them changed that day. Transman had days every month where he felt like crap–like a badger and a wolverine were clawing at each other from opposite sides of his spinal column–and he didn’t want to play war or build forts or jump ramps with his bike. Transman started hanging out on the sidelines more and more.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Transman’s boobs appeared shortly after his period starting coming around uninvited once a month. Transman had spent most of his childhood shirtless. In second or third grade, his parents started encouraging him to wear shirts all day, not just at school or to go into 7-11 with his brothers. By fourth grade, his mother was demanding he wear a shirt “all damn day”–even if it was the same T-shirt every single day.
Transman tried to ignore the tingling feeling in his chest and the tenderness. He wore sweatshirts and jackets to hide the little lumps that were forming on his chest, but on picture day in the sixth grade, his mother made him wear one of those god-awful shiny polyester shirts that were so popular in the 70s. Transman put it on and his mother took one look at him and said the most awful thing she could have said, “You need a bra!”
The womenfolk of Transman’s family rejoiced in this news and made a communal shopping trip to Beall’s Department Store to buy Transman some bras. His grandmother was both proud and petrified as she took him to the lingerie department. Transman stared at the floor while his grandmother, mother, and a saleslady looked through bras and held them up to Transman. He silently prayed that no one, especially not his nemesis, Paul Wheeler, would see him.
“You want a little padding, so your nipples don’t show,” his grandmother whispered, mouthing the word “nipples.”
Transman went to school the next day wearing a bra. Because boys have a mental sensor installed for this sort of thing, every boy in school found reasons to walk behind Transman and snap his bra strap.
Around lunchtime, with his back blistered from constant “thwaps” of elastic, it dawned on Transman that no one would ever see him as a boy again. He was angry that his mother had made him wear the damn bra. He was angry that the universe had made him blossom into womanhood before everyone in the whole goddamn school.
Poor Eddie Foster had no idea this was going on in Transman’s head when he made the fateful mistake of doing like all the other boys had done that day and hooked a finger under Transman’s bra strap.
Transman spun around and punched Eddie. He pushed Eddie up against the beige concrete wall of the cafeteria and hissed, “Don’t ever touch me again.”
As is the code among boys, no one ratted on Transman for hitting Eddie, since to do that would have acknowledged a boy getting beaten by a girl. Transman knew this to be the truth, but he told himself Eddie kept his mouth shut because Transman was such a badass.