My cousin Nicole is my best friend. As we enter our thirties we get closer and have a better understanding of each other. We are two months apart in age and were raised like twins but I’ll get into that later. To paint a picture Nicole is tall, curvy and has light delicate voice that makes you want to sip chardonnay while riding a yacht through the Mediterranean. Even though our family pretends not to know, she is covered in beautiful, artistic tattoos that makes her like a walking art gallery of love and a complete contradiction to anything Jewish. She’s an ex-punk rocker girl finding her way. Ironically her signifier since our teen years has always been her rack. “Nicole with the boobies” is what they called her. At the end of the day that’s her, just a cute, artistic Jewish girl who has more than her looks to offer the world that happens to have the biggest titties you have ever seen.
There was a time when Nicole and I looked like twin boys. Yes twin boys. It was around the time “Encino Man” came out that we got matching bowl-haircuts just like the one Brendon Fraser gets in the movie. It was the time. Everyone was doing it. Being the little boys people thought we were. She collected baseball cards, wore baseball hats that made her have an odd resemblance to John Goodman in “King Ralph” and had plans to be a marine biologist. I on the other hand, was the type of 7-year old that loved to cook, read Tiger Beat and lived to watch reruns of “Mary Tyler Moore.” This was YEARS before I realized that I was so gay that someone could get diabetes sitting next to me. It was a different time.
Nicole and I were Latchkey kids. We spent most of our free time together mostly because our parents worked, couldn’t afford a sitter and it was before we knew better. We also spent our youth going to YMCA day camp. Where every day we spent hanging out at a local park making macramé friendship bracelets and the nights getting yelled at by our parents for getting sunburned and not using enough sunscreen. Our family was straight from Russia. Nicole and I were first-generation, pale children. Some people went in the sun and tanned, we would ignite. Camp was also the place where Nicole would unknowingly become the youngest fag-hag the world had ever known. Years later we would find out that nearly every one in our inner camp circle of friends (4 people) would become the best hairdressers and drag queens the world had ever seen.
At camp Nicole and I dressed the same for the most part. She often wore an old black Paul McCartney concert shirt that her sister gave her. It was her favorite shirt. The shirt had been worn so much it was just a black shirt with a half of a wilted rose on it. Neon shorts often entered the seen and a baseball cap covered in white lace that she thought made her look like a fly-girl from In Living Color. Oh yeah and there was always a fanny-pack and did I mention we were fat? Not like “Gilbert Grape” fat. No. We were pleasantly plump. When looking at us from behind, all one could see was love handles and side-boob. We were often confused for brothers. Did I mention that Nicole always wore these little diamond earrings? Even so, we still would get confused for brothers. We were also the type of fat kids that would be near last when hiking because we would were too busy playing with chapstick. We had this cookie-dough flavored stuff that we would smear all over our hands and lick like a Popsicle just to curve our hungers. It would be years before we learned that hunger would never go away no matter how we tried to squash it. It would take an entire adolescent of dieting and learning to tune out Susan Powers infomercials, Oprah, Dr. Phil, Dr. Atkins and everyone else for us to learn that.
At camp when headed to the water fountain we, as kids needed to have a buddy with us. I was Nicole’s. She turned her fanny pack to the side, leaned down to sip some water as she had done millions of times before. I stood off by a few feet. Behind Nicole was a small boy no older than 4 trying to rush her and behind him his mother. As Nicole sipped the water, the little boy complained about her taking too long. The mother then said, “Let the little boy finish.” Nicole said nothing. Made no eye contact to the little shit and his mother. A few seconds passed of pure silence. Nicole started to cry and said, “I’m a girl. I’m wearing earrings. I’m a girl.” While I grew up intellectually knowing Nicole was in fact a little girl, this was the first time I realized that we weren’t both boys. It hadn’t really dawned on me until that moment. It would be another 4 years before the boobs grew in. She left school nearly flat as a wall and returned from summer brake a woman. This was made clear not only by her appearance but by the amount of fifth grade boys who would ask me what happened to her. It would be another 8 years before Nicole came to terms with them; stopped trying to hide her lady bits them from herself and the world. It would be another 10 before she realized their magical powers.