- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
What do you call a woman who falls in love with another woman? The current approach may be to avoid labels altogether, but some obvious answers spring to mind -- she's a lesbian, a bisexual or just experimenting. In her deeply odd new memoir, Kim Chernin offers another explanation: She's a boy. Not a testosterone-fueled, voice-changing, whisker-growing kind of boy. She means, instead, a woman who's undergone a kind of metamorphosis, replacing feminine wiles with masculine prerogatives.
It all happened -- as so many things did -- in Berkeley in the '70s. Having just sent her daughter off to college and noticing a deficit in the marital bliss department, Chernin was primed for change. It came when she met Hadamar. Separated from her overbearing European husband, Hadamar was sensitive, elegant, reserved. The two began an intense friendship that soon, for Chernin at least, included sexual desire. So far, nothing earth-shattering. What makes the story different is the author's insistence on (and dogged overworking of) the "boy" theme. Chernin is best known for her books on anorexia, and here again she ponders body image when she describes how, during her pursuit of Hadamar, she wore nothing but tight pants and a thrift-store sailor's shirt: her boy outfit, short hair and legs-apart stance mirroring her interior gender-switch.
Being a boy, she says, allowed her to indulge in a "playful, courtly air" that traditional femininity denies. More importantly, it brought her freedom to finally "care more for my own desire than for any other obligations." Chernin sketches some important ideas in this slim book, especially when she delineates womanly vs. boyish styles of love. But these wispy hints of wisdom are drowned in ponderous self-analysis and overshadowed by Chernin's somewhat outdated sense of awe at having fallen in love with another woman.
Finally, Chernin rests her case. "The boy," she says, "is a transitional figure. One who acted before he thought" and "had certain rights that came from being a boy," including the -- tragically unexercised in this case -- "right to women." You got it: All that psychodrama leads to zero sex. Which makes goofing on Chernin's final pronouncement irresistible: "What a rogue I had become, what a ridiculous scoundrel of a hard boy. And how I loved myself!" Well, honey, at least someone did. -- Salon