Flash Fiction


Note: this isn’t actually fiction.

Being a daughter of men and boys, I had no context from which to absorb the many details that coalesce into an understanding, nay a comfort, with the world of girlishness. But I did have one glimpse into its power and glory. It happened in a tent.

I had managed to acquire, for a short time, a few friends, and we had set up a tent in the back yard. Not my back yard, but another girl’s–I think her name was Celeste. She had thick blonde hair and her mother had 3 children with three different fathers. She was a midwife. I’m not sure if the midwifery and the multiple paternities went together, as if from witnessing the diversity of possible birthing opportunities she wanted a sampler of her own. I couldn’t think of a polite way to inquire.

I was just happy that her house contained ratty afghans and tired couches rather than a meth lab like the kids down the road in the other direction. Of course that relief wasn’t to be felt until much later when I realized what meth was, that it was made in labs, that many of our neighbors had such labs in their basements, and that is why their children smelt like pee.

Back to the tent. In a bold move of girlish intimacy it was decided that we would all take our shirts off. Somehow, sitting around in our bras seemed like the thing to do. I would never have suggested such a risky maneuver myself, of course, and I was naught but a follower on this occasion. If shirt removal was in order, I would not protest. I was soaking it in. My brain was taking notes: tent sleepovers were places in which girls might suggest the removal of clothing and the exposure of undergarments with impunity. These were the subtle rules of socialization with which I found myself sorely underfed. (And my nascent Sapphic tendencies pushed my brain into overdrive, scanning every nuance of every sentence that left my lips for signs that might reveal my questionable identity and provoke my expulsion from the Secret Society of Girls). I was very careful to not linger on any one girl’s exposed bralet o’ermuch.

Now we come to the makeover part. The only word that comes near to describing this event is pure magic. To this day, I do not know how such a feat of sorcery was accomplished, for I have had makeovers since that have not moved me one iota. But that night, when the girl to whom I had entrusted my face finished, and I was handed a mirror, the creature I saw staring back at me shone like a goddess. I was transfixed by my own reflection. My budding narcissism? No, this beauty was Divine.

Perhaps it was this girl’s hidden talent. Perhaps it was the lantern light, or the rush of freedom from defiantly choosing our own semi-clad state. Perhaps it was that I had never had makeup applied to me before, and the difference was so overwhelming as to seem miraculous. Whatever the cause, I was mesmerized by this transformation. How could that girl – yes, she looked like a real girl – be me?

I had to subjugate my enthusiasm to some degree, as it would not be fitting to be so completely bowled over by the application of some simple powders and creams; nay, that would betray my complete lack of credentials to be in the Secret Society of Girls in the first place. But inside, I was in awe, like a peasant who has finally journeyed to the Golden City and can’t believe such a sight exists. I switched from sneaking glances at the girls chests to sneaking glances at the mirror, trying to soak in this sublimity before it was erased forever.

I can’t remember much more about that night, except Celeste’s hirsute older brother, whose name began, I believe, with a J. We were, all but his sister of course, secretly in love with him, although from my current vantage point I cannot fathom why. Well, perhaps “in love” is too strong a word. Let us say this: we wanted him to notice and approve of our burgeoning womanhood. As a man (or nearly so, or more nearly so than anyone else around) he stood in for fathers, the carriers of approval. And yet, not our fathers; he would have an outside opinion. And he could speak to what our own fathers would never, in decency, speak of: the appeal of our sexuality to Men at Large.

I think he sensed this, and occasionally would say something mortifying to us. His sister had our number. “You like him, don’t you?” she asked me once. “Uh…um, what?” I stumbled. “It’s OK, all my friends have a crush on him.” I was then mildly repulsed and resolved to not be so obvious (or so average) in the future.

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