Strawberry Shortcake: Lesbian Icon, Laundry Ruiner, & Ultimate Beard

One sister is Strawberry Shortcake, another a bride. It’s Halloween Eve, 1987 and my dad, bless him, is doing the laundry. We are four girls in six years and we are all laundry. Cloth diapers and skinned knees and my mom’s insistence that no good day ends with everyone clean and we are, when you get right down to it, much more in the business of making laundry than anything else. Tonight Dad’s washing costumes with his mind on something else. Tonight he does not at all consider the tendency for red dyes to bleed and for that, we will all have to pay. Tonight, he’ll fess up perched on the bottom of the bunks across from mine, try to sell my sister on the idea that some brides wear pink. We will all go to bed unsold.

I have no idea what I wore for Halloween that year. Or any other, if it matters. I only remember thinking, I’ll wear the pink dress and you can have mine. I can’t for the life of me imagine why it matters. Even then, it’s not so much that I don’t like Halloween and more that I don’t like dressing up explicitly to make myself seen. I cosplay human begrudgingly. What is it about this one day that matters so much? Every morning I get up and rifle the drawers to find a version of girlboydon’tlookatme that feels livable before dragging these bones out into the world. Why the hell would I want to put that on display? I have, even at this early age, the sense that there’s something not quite normal about that, but don’t have the words. I still don’t have the words.

Years later, I’ll be in the bedroom of a girl I’m messing around with and see a Strawberry Shortcake figurine on her desk. “She’s a lesbian icon,” she’ll tell me. “There’s no way that woman is trying to get noticed by men, and anyway. The hat. Come on.” But I hate the hat. And I never settle into lesbian because I never settle into girl because I never settle. And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe when you don’t believe in the white-ness of brides from the get go it’s hard to find the contours of what you do believe. Maybe bouncing off every iteration of ‘not that’ will have to do. Maybe you just have to keep bouncing.

A bat notgirl echolocating a self.

What I’m saying is, give me the pink

dress. I’ll be a mangled bride as easily as anything

else. Hide in this crinoline, tattoo flesh beyond skin

tone, hope this all black graciously helps turn me void.

You be the big sister and I’ll be the nothing that hides

in your wake. You be you and I’ll be the bride.

Let me finally put this discomfort to use.

Katharine Blair (she/her) is a queer Canadian writer, editor, and poet living in California. When she’s not overthinking the words she sends and is sent, you’ll mostly likely find her wrestling her own writing or elevating the works of others in her role as co-EIC of Corporeal and Chapbook Editor for Lupercalia. Katharine tweets as @katharine_blair and fumbles the rest on Instagram @kat_harineblair.

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