Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Reveal

I knew then that the time was right to tell Vergil the truth about me.
"Vergil," I said trepidatiously "I've got a confession to make."
"Okay," he said with complete composure. "What is it?"
"There's something about me that I haven't told you."
"Yeah. Something important." [...] "Do you have any idea what it is?" I asked.
He thought for a minute, then ventured something he'd obviously been thinking for a while.
"You're not Catholic," he said.
"Guess again," I said.
"Hmm. Let's see. You're an escapee from a mental institution."
"Nope. Not technically, though being a New Yorker surely counts."
The monks had all been tickled by the fact that I made my home in a neighborhood called Hell's Kitchen. To them, the freak show of New York City was about as far from their home as you could get. To me it was and it wasn't.
At this point, I stopped Vergil on the path, stood facing him and said, "Look at me. It's right in front of you. Can't you see it?"
"What?" He looked into my face. "I see a guy with graying hair."
"No, that's not it," I said. "Look closer." I took off my glasses.
"I don't know," he siad, perusing me again. "What is it?"
He was blank. Puzzled.
We both turned and kept walking. I tried one last thing.
"I'm not what I appear to be."
This sank in as we rounded the corner of the footpath by the carpentry shop and began the last stretch back to the cloister. Suddenly he turned to me, the moment of revelation having come at last with full force.
"You're a woman."
"Yes," I said with relief.

Norah Vincent's Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man has been on my reading list for a while, and an expiring 30% coupon at Borders motivated me to pick it up. It's not a complex read by any means, but I still got great satisfaction from it. In fact, I'll have to re-read it a couple times.

A trap, I think, in each section, is that it tends to build towards the moment of revelation, which isn't always satisfying. Much better are the observations that Vincent makes about male character and interaction that I was unconscious of. Also interesting are the insights she makes about the contrast between male and female friendship dynamics, physical contact, showing of emotion, communication, and attitudes towards work.

As I said, it's worth reading more than once, and is going to be insightful for both men and women, though the chapter on sex is biased towards the specific experiences she has (I thought some of her conclusions were a little skewed).

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