My life, in hindsight, is hilarious. Right from birth I have been involved in all manner of ridiculous hijinks, beginning with the erroneous entry by a clerk at the registrar’s office of my gender as “male” on my birth certificate. This simple mistake did not seem particularly funny when I stumbled across it as a sensitive and moody 16-year-old whilst gathering all of the necessary documents the night before I went for my Learner’s Permit.
On the floor of my parent’s study next to the open filing cabinet, I stared down at my lap, frantically searching my mind’s archives for the detailed drawings of female anatomy we’d been shown in Year 7 Health, which I had instinctively filed away as potentially life-saving information. Mentally tracing the images, I ascertained that all of the visible bits that define one as a female were indeed intact. But my brain had already started on an alarming course of inquiry with the rampant speed of a runaway train: Why do I have that weird pain in my groin when I push on my belly button? Is it connected to where my testicles used to be? Is that why I’m so tall? Is that why I don’t have boobs yet? Oh God, is that why I hate wearing skirts and dresses and always do hilarious impressions of dudes around my friends? And that weird scar just under my stomach, that’s got to be from something. Although it could be a stretch mark. No, it’s a scar. I didn’t even get my period until last year; maybe the lady hormones they’ve been secretly giving me hadn’t kicked in properly yet. That also explains the lack of boobs.What if I had both parts when I was born and they decided to make me a girl but they weren’t legally allowed to write female on the birth certificate because I still had a penis at that stage? OH GOD, WHAT IF IT GROWS BACK?!!!
As you can imagine, this train of thought lead me to a very distressing state. By the time I confronted my mother with the evidence of my hermaphroditism a mere five minutes after finding it, I was completely convinced that she had given birth to a little girl-boy combo. I burst into tears.
“Who else knows?” I whimpered, holding out the record of my freakdom.
Baffled though not surprised by my tears (like many teenagers, I was prone to melodramatic states of distress) she took the paper from my limp hand and shook her head slightly in total bewilderment. “What, darling?”
“That.” I pointed mournfully at the offending words. Gender: Male.
My mother stared at the page with fixed eyes. She mouthed the words. I watched her eyes flicker and scan as she read the entire document from start to end several times, trying to process what she was looking at. Then the penny dropped and I watched her eyes widen in surprise.
Wanting reassurance that her reaction was due to the newness of the information and not due to her years of careful subterfuge being brought to a sudden end, I began to ask. “Am…am I…?”
She began to smirk, trying desperately to hide her amusement at what was, in hindsight, a completely ridiculous situation. “It’s a mistake, you silly girl. I’ll call them in the morning and have it fixed. Go and show your father, he’s the one that entered your birth record.”
Instantly my fear dissipated and was quickly replaced by indignance and rage. “IT’S NOT FUNNY! I have to show this tomorrow to get my licence. People are going to think I’m a freak! You guys are the worst parents ever! How do you not even notice that your only daughter’s birth certificate says ‘male’? WHY DON’T I JUST GROW A PENIS AND THEN YOU’LL BOTH BE HAPPY.”
Yep. That’s how it went down. By the time I saw my friends on Monday it was kind of funny. By the time I had to use my new, anatomically-correct birth certificate to prove my identity when enrolling at university it was really funny. And by the time I started a new job and was sitting around in the staff room with my colleagues, looking for a way to break the ice, it was hilarious. (NB I have since discovered that while it is indeed an extremely amusing anecdote, it is not appropriate fodder for first date material. Needless to say, that one didn’t ever call me again. Lesson learned.)
My life is full of these sorts of ridiculous, there’s-no-way-that-actually-happened-to-you misadventures. In Year 12 I macked on hardcore with a totally hot dude who I assumed was 18 but turned out to be in my cousin’s Year 9 class (yep) at St Patrick’s. My nickname for remainder of year: Polanski. (We’d studied Macbeth the previous year and unfortunately this occurred before Demi Moore and the Desperate Housewives made the idea of cougars seem acceptable.) At the time this whole situation was completely mortifying. I now appreciate the humour in it. Last year I returned from my brother’s wedding to discover an extremely agitated bird in my kitchen due to my dip-shit housemates leaving the back door wide open. During my efforts to remove it, I stubbed my foot so badly that I fractured my little toe. It also managed to shit on me twice mid-flight, once in the eye as I was looking up and trying to herd it out with a broom at the time. Five years ago my dad tried to have an affair with my best friend by turning up at her house while in the city for a business trip and attempting to woo her with the presentation of thoughtful gifts and a totally gross ‘American Beauty’ style prepared speech about the beautiful woman she’d blossomed into. (For the record, he’s no Kevin Spacey either.) 18 months ago I had a wart burnt off my leg, the pain of which resulting in my optic nerve shutting down which caused me to faint dramatically, exposing my underwear to a room full of people and receiving a whiplash injury to my neck for which I was required to wear a foam collar. Last year I was caught in a traffic jam with the window down when a really cute guy in the car next to me started to chat me up; my panicked reaction was to stare straight ahead and inch my car forward until he was no longer in my peripheral vision. A few months after breaking up with my ex I ran into him in the waiting room of my doctor’s practice where I’d just received a new Implanon birth control implant and an STI test due to all the newly-single intercourse I’d been enjoying. One time as I was driving home from work I gave my nose a really good pick, only to look up and see one of my colleagues grinning at me in the rear-view mirror. Last year at a wildlife sanctuary I was bitten on the foot by a penguin. (Okay, so the last one isn’t true, but you’re getting an idea.)
There are several ways to react to this kind of life, one that seems to be built on one ludicrous incident after another. I could lament my ill luck at having a dubious confirmation of my gender, terrible ability to accurately judge other people’s ages, shitty housemates, a sleazy dad, an embarrassing physical overreaction to pain, no flirting ability and a lack of grace in any number of social situations. Or, I could simply shake it off, laugh and embrace these awkward and absurd experiences as being the very things that make up life as I know it.