In the early days of December, one bright afternoon with barely a crisp in the air, my neighbors rolled up my driveway in their golf cart, loaded with three little children.
I had not met these neighbors, but I’d seen them many times driving up and down the cul-de-sac in the tiny golf cart with their children hanging on the back as the cart coasted down the steep hills. I could never tell if the children were afraid or loving it. A Sunday drive on a golf cart meant for two. No helmets. Coasting down the steep hills.
There was a part of me that imagined standing by the side of the road, at the bottom of the hill, waiting for the golf cart stacked with children to pass, while I gave it the gentlest of kicks. I imagined seeing it topple, seeing those kids flung into pine trees, just to prove a point.
But I never did that, which is why I am a good person.
In the early days of December, on a Sunday afternoon, this family rolled up my driveway. The three children approached my door. I scrambled. What did I need to hide? The hanukkiah in the window? No, it’s not lit and they probably don’t know what it is. If they ask, I’ll tell them it’s a bong. What am I wearing? Not a dress. No makeup. I pass as a man. Holster my tropical pink nails deep in my pockets and keep them there. Open the door.
Each of the three children, like wise men with a gun pointed at their backs, presented me with a small gift and a “Merry Christmas”. I wanted to say “Happy Hanukkah”. I really did, but for their sad, tiny faces — unable to look at me, unable to smile. These children were miserable. Given a task by their parents to meet each neighbor when instead they could have been watching TV, playing games, or risking their lives in an unstable golf cart. I was not going to fuck with these children. I was not going to do anything to prolong their misery by forcing ham-fisted lessons of Hanukkah, the Trans, or Sin.
I smiled and said, “Happy holidays.”
Which is why I am a good person.
My gifts were some pieces of chocolate which did not last long and a candy cane with a note attached. The note informed me the red in the candy cane represents the blood of Jesus and I immediately stopped reading and threw everything in the garbage.
Candy canes really are awful. They taste bad and they’re hard to eat. Most candy canes are used as decoration, and then thrown away on January 2nd. No one decorates their house with tacos and then throws them away uneaten a month later, because tacos are delicious.
Any candy that needs to describe itself as candy is going to be terrible. Candy canes. Candy corn. Candy cigarettes. All the worst candies. No one has to say candy Reeses, candy Twizzlers, or candy Snickers. When we look at a tiny yellow and orange triangle, we have to be told it’s candy. When we look at a wrinkled, brown log, we know it’s candy.
Candy cigarettes might as well advertise they are neither cigarettes nor candy. Nobody wants to eat that chalky, expired gum. If you’re a kid who wants to feel like an adult, you get yourself some Big League Chew. You stick your hand in that giant pouch of fresh, shredded gum and then you shove it all in your mouth. Yeah, this is what chaw feels like! A mouth full of chewing gum! And then you hack a giant ball of pink spit on the sidewalk, because you’re a man!
Circus peanuts are, potentially, a step up. A terrible candy, for sure, but at least you know it’s candy. What you don’t know is that it’s fun. So they tell you that it’s fun, like the circus. But one bite reveals the truth. This peanut is assuredly neither fun nor candy.
I constantly worry how others perceive me, and thus I worry how others perceive everything else in the world. We are pattern seekers, and we create patterns where there are none — except in our perception filters.
Candy canes are probably not red for Jesus’s blood, but some people believe that because everything is Jesus to them. Candy canes are also not candy, but people seem to believe that as well because someone wrote it on the label.
I worry how people will perceive me when I say “Happy Hanukkah” or wear a dress. A Jew. A queer. But if I want people to think I’m delicious candy, I can say “Happy holidays” and wear pants. These are labels I can assign to myself, by choice, depending on my safety — and whether I want people licking me.
I can also choose which labels to not use. I don’t like the label man or woman for myself. I’m non-binary. I’m both man and woman, but also neither. Like the circus peanut.
“She is a woman, but, just so you know, she is the candy corn of women.”
“I will tell you this is a woman, but you must understand she will be hard, tacky, and expired. Certainly you might prefer a Twix?”
“Allow me to introduce my friend, who is a man, but not a very good one.”
I am a person. I like candy, fear what y’all think of me, and imagine pushing little children out of golf carts.
Which is why I’m a good person.