Misplaced Masculinity

By Sarah Inouye, TIWP student

“What’s catcalling?”  He asks me.

“Being gross.” I reply. “Like really gross. Don’t ever do it, Anthony.”

He looks at me with his big eyes and for a minute I think he’s going to be okay. For a minute I think everything is going to be alright. I think that maybe my brother is going to be one of the good ones. I think that maybe his partner is going to feel safe and loved in his arms one day. I think that maybe he will see me, a young women, comfortable in her own life and her own situation and he won’t ever feel like he has to steal that from anyone. He won’t even feel like he has to breath in toxic air made of misplaced comments and misplaced masculinity. But I’m wrong.  

He grows up. I move away and he starts at high school. He likes girls. He likes the way they move, he likes how they smell, he likes how their faces break out into riots of color whenever they smile. He likes girls. Girls like him, too. They would probably like to date my brother. After all, he is conventional. He’s on the football team, he’s successful and he’s a good kid.  He doesn’t do very much wrong. But then he meets boys. And he likes boys, or maybe he doesn’t. It’s confusing if you really think about it.  He feels like he has to perform for them. He feels like he has to talk to girls in a certain way. He feels like he has to comment on their bodies and their insecurities. He feels like he has to tear them down for the other boys on the football team. His best friend is an asshole. He’s running with the wrong crowd and he knows it.  

A year or so passes and he doesn’t even see himself in the mirror anymore. He doesn’t see himself standing next to me, his sister who couldn’t bare to see him this way.  I wonder maybe if I had been there, if he wouldn’t have done what he had done. I wonder if maybe he would have fallen in love and not just fallen for sex. I wonder if he would have made someone really happy. I wonder if his friends would have been kids who saw girls as something precious instead of something that you can tie down. But I wasn’t there. He didn’t remember what I said and his head was filled with the voices of his friends.

There was a boy that took my place beside my brother. His best friend. A boy who had more girls under his finger tips then there were girls that loved themselves in the entire world. A boy who painted the shutters of his bedroom window the same color as the last girl’s panties who he’d sexually assaulted.  Everything had gone too far. He was starting to realize that whenever he stood on the curbs of cities and whistled at us that something was wrong, that we weren’t little play things.  That was the time in his life when he realized that the girls who he seduced and abandoned were girls. They were the girls that he had originally loved to talk to, loved to make laugh, the same girls that he wanted to hold hands with when he was younger. He panicked the first time he saw his friends picking on a girl. She was pretty heavily drugged. No one came to save her. He was a coward and he ran away, terrified by how far it had gone.  

He had called me. Told me about everything he had done.

“What do I do?” he asked, “to redeem myself?” I thought about it. What price do you have to pay to reverse making someone unhappy, making someone scared, making someone feel like they are only there body?  

“You love.”  I told him “And you care. And you hold someone. You make them feel loved for them. You just have to love.” And that’s what he did.  

If you look for him now you can find my brother with his wife and his children. You can find him receiving the attention he always craved from his family instead of getting attention by objectifying someone mindlessly. You can find him loving as hard as he can.

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