Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Thirty Days of Short Reviews #20: Long Red Hair

Meags Fitzgerald's first quasi-memoir, Photobooth, was mostly about her interest in analog photo booths, but it also addressed her own life in some regards. Her newest memoir, Long Red Hair, (Conundrum Books) is a fascinating take on relationships, sexuality, attraction and individual boundaries. Flashing back to her childhood and teen years and then flashing forward to a close friendship, we see how Fitzgerald was always allowed by her parents to express her own individuality in many ways, but still felt and feels constrained by many of society's expectations.

One key early section involves Fitzgerald bursting in on her mom (on the toilet, no less) and expressing her anger over not having been told about menstruation. Fitzgerald considered this no less than a betrayal by her body and was angry that men didn't have to go through it as well. That leads to her horrible realization that "It's better to be a boy than a girl". That said, Fitzgerald eventually embraced being a girl, especially in how her friendships made her feel and how they were when they were together, like they "didn't have to behave".

There's a running theme of magic in this book. Dungeons and Dragons was a family tradition, and she became a magic-user, using her high score in intelligence rather than charisma (because she wanted her character to be pretty). That became a rather obvious metaphor in how Fitzgerald's life has played out, but magic became something slightly different. There's a fascinating scene where Fitzgerald has a pretty friend over for a sleepover, and she suggests to her friends that they pretend to be witches. There's a sexual undercurrent to all of this (though still perfectly innocent), which may have contributed to her friend's discomfort, along with the "satanic" overtones. For Fitzgerald, the concept of magic was a binding force, a secret language for girls to speak. Indeed, the last line spoken by her friend Elise is "You'll figure it out, Meags. You've got lots of magic in you".

What Fitzgerald is trying to figure out is not so much her sexuality, especially as her big announcement to her family that she was bisexual was met with no drama whatsoever. (Indeed, the humor of that scene was just how hard Fitzgerald was trying to shock her parents, to no avail.) Instead, the dilemma left at the end is just how to negotiate a successful relationship path without losing herself. Polyamory is mentioned as one model, but what's left unsaid is that the friendship between Fitzgerald and Elise is a kind of relationship. Not a sexual or romantic one, per se, but still an intimate friendship. This book is an interesting departure point of sorts, as what Fitzgerald ultimately does is reject easy binary distinctions in favor of something a little fuzzier and intersectional. This book is less about revelations and big moments than it is a number of smaller moments connected across time in unexpected ways. Fitzgerald's beautiful pencil art and use of color in her gently naturalistic drawings makes reading the book a real pleasure, even moreso than Photobooth. Ultimately, this book shows how identity can continue to evolve over time, even as circumstances and choices from the path still influence the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment