The little girl is five years old. Kindergarten, at most, I suppose. She’s wearing a blue dress with red motifs, if I remember correctly.
“Why are you wearing a dress? You’re a boy!”
“No, I’m a girl…”
“Of course not! You can’t wear a dress; you’re a little boy!”
“I’m a little girl!”
The little girl is eight years old. She takes swimming classes at the sports center of the nearest university. She’s wearing a strange swimsuit, a “girls” one officially (the sport equipment store says so), but it looks somehow hybrid, like those of the weightlifters; it’s a one-piece, with two shoulder straps and two legs that go all the way to mid-thigh. Thanks to the old lady. Or maybe it’s her early audacity, who knows. If I remember correctly, no specific fashion was ever imposed to her.
“What were you doing in the girls’ locker room? You’re a little boy!”
“No, I’m a little girl…!”
“Of course not! You’re wearing a boys’ swimsuit; you’re a little boy! Ha! You got in the wrong locker room!”
“Mom, I want a new swimsuit.”
She would always feel some kind of uneasiness whenever visiting the hairdresser. This might be the reason why she doesn’t go anymore. She remembers Aldo’s face, promising not to cut it too short, and her inevitable deception, once the black and humid apron came off. The deli counter across the street has even baptised a sandwich in Aldo’s honour: double ham, double cheese. Whatever.
The little girl is thirteen years old. Ungrateful. Private college, its uniform; her, preferring pants to the so said kilt. She never exactly felt at ease wearing a Scottish skirt. Even more so when her colleagues, way more conscious of the social game than she was, would voluntarily drop their pencil case in the middle of the hall to happily pick it up without bending their knees. Anyway, she had not been there for a while, but she had just stepped out of Aldo’s salon.
“Well, now you really look like a boy!”
She blushed: that was enough.
The little girl is twenty years old. It’s a typical Saturday night of debauchery in Montreal, at a time when she had not yet understood that Saint-Laurent Boulevard is completely distasteful on the weekend. She stopped counting the number of times she has set foot there, and the stories merrily overlap, but there is always a moment, around 3:30, when some guy asks,
“Hey, you know, I really have nothing against it, but… Are you a lesbian?”
And she doesn’t know what to answer anymore.
Except LINOLEUM FLOOR, LINOLEUM FLOOR.
And, always, a car passes by; the guys inside with baseball caps on yell at her and her blond accomplice, “LESBIANS!”
Or it might be the time when the car was parked beside them, and the guy who shouldn’t have opened his mouth as much as he shouldn’t have had a driver’s license, yells out the window, between two muffled laughs, “Are you guys lesbians?!”
The little girl approaches, drunk and passive-aggressive, trying to stop the car from taking off: “Do you ask because I have short hair? No, seriously, stop, I’m making a sociological study. Are you asking this because I have short hair? I’d really like to know.”
The little girl is twenty-four years old. Despite everything else, after all, and almost unwillingly, she maintains her immanent ambiguity. She’s camouflaging, sabotaging, mocking. She looks at people from top to bottom and then in the eyes, she takes pride in being able to change a flush mechanism, withstand impossible love affairs and read Derrida.
The little girl gets off the bus on an autumn night, when her blond accomplice collapses into tears, and in her arms. She holds her by the shoulder; she is just the right height.
An anonymous alcoholic passes by, grumbling out loud and to himself, staggering his way to their approximate walking pace.
“Hey girls, I found a ring on the sidewalk, is it yours?”
“Hum, no. Listen, you’re disturbing, we’re in the middle of something…”
“Doesn’t bother me at all! Just got out of prison, I killed people, you know. Lesbians don’t bother me at all. They don’t bother me, the lesbians. I killed people, I’m open-minded! Anyways, if it bothered me, I would beat the shit out of you.”
That time, she laughed a lot. After having turned the next corner.
She recently decided to go back to a hairdresser after a few years of boycotting. The kind of hipster-chic place where you pay for the coffee you didn’t drink. She gives carte blanche, something not too complicated that suits her. The hairdresser admits that she too is fed up with losing a whole hour ironing her hair every morning; the little girl then knows that her interlocutor doesn’t get it. She analyses the dyed locks on the one whose hands hold the future of her head, then makes a comment on her fake nails that apparently fell off both her index fingers. She gazes at the neighbouring client – thirty-two years old, with a condo in Nun’s Island and a sleeveless fake fur vest – who is here to have her four gray hairs dyed. The previous client was of the same kind (moreover, and by coincidence, they knew each other); she had the widest dyed eyebrows and a sixteen-month-old little boy.
The black apron falls, the little girl doubts. When Martine offers her a tube of hair wax for nineteen ninety-nine, she is then certain that people are deceiving.
Words by Lalou Rousseau (translated from French; original text in le nœud)
Photos by Clara Palardy