The Boy is Mine
by Casie Brown
Three years had passed since I’d looked into his wet brows, perched above an overgrown bush he tugged on, pretending it was his moustache. A spilt circle of merlot triumphantly absorbed just below where he licked me; we usually drank white. We weren’t exclusive, but I was competitive. Each fuck spread my legs and territory.
For an entire summer, my pussy was poised in an attack position for the moment my wetness would expand over her merlot territory and claim victory. I bought him new sheets. He bought her a ring.
This time, his face was wet with a minimal amount of tears. It happened just the day before. It was cold for July, but I wore a bathing suit under a netted 1930s dress and sweatshirt. “Look at this,” he gestured to my lower half, sounding half-impressed. A thin veil of black shadowed the same bare thighs. He sat on a curb across from 7/11 and I stood above him for a while. I let fluorescent lights that lit rotating hot dogs and girls who had forgotten about their thin summer bodies highlight the tears around the hem of my dress. They split in jagged directions, fault lines fracturing from my deeply manipulative core with every drunken step. I hoped he noticed them. I hadn’t seen him match my drunkenness in a while. I sat down to see what might happen.
The night he told me he’d proposed, I got everything I’d wanted, but I lost the war. I’d lusted after the fact that there was an “us” somewhere between her moving into his place and him getting down on one knee. That all the times I’d gotten down on my knees in our emotionally accelerated fling weren’t lost, but loved, and ready to spit themselves into my lap after one too many drinks and one fiancée too few. They weren’t, and he did, and for weeks I sat smug, the pussy that got the cream and licked herself, or whatever.
I was sitting on air — cruising at 36,000 feet on way to a layover in Chicago months later — when I realized this story wasn’t about the ‘us’ I assumed it to be. That ‘us’ lived in memories of his head crying on my hips; fucking to Revolver; and his inexplicable but definitive feeling that something “was missing.” Out of the shattered self-esteem of a 24-year-old girl rose a 27-year-old woman whose desire to be the ‘other’ in their relationship had unintentionally motivated every pair of panties bought and every street she walked down for years. The ‘us’ that was lost spawned another. I’d been waging an unacknowledged cold war against their relationship; my breasts silent bombs visible through orange and gold lace, striking at the war zones of art openings and after-hours bars.
I wanted to be Her. Not her as in the fiancée, but a different her. The other her. A (shitty) level of female perfection solidified by exposing her opponent’s lack. I rooted for the other woman. Silk robes waiting sporadically to be donned and lipstick-stained glasses of gin appealed more to me than paired toothbrushes and the comforts of a reliable, long-term partner. Having never had a long-term partner, I vilified the girlfriend. How boring THEY ALL must be, I thought.
I studied the pop culture of ‘other women.’ I watched the other women in movies, heard about them in songs. I sang along to “Jolene” half-heartedly, knowing I’d much rather be the one he talks about in his sleep, the one that Dolly cannot compete with, Jolene. Sorry Dolly baby, no hard feelings. I obsessively re-read Annie Ernaux’s Simple Passion, a memoir detailing her equally obsessive span as a mistress of an anonymous married man, more times than I went on actual dates (with actual available men) for three years. Women became polarized, opposing types, cast against one another to exhibit each other’s lack. To possess something she didn’t and could never. A negative and positive space of femininity, split like an avocado, one side winning the pit. But somewhere in the drawing of lines, the man between them slinks out the back door and the pit disappears into the compost. Two halves left behind, one a bit riper, one a smoother, deeper hole. Are you a Brandy or a Monica?
In secret I scrolled her Instagram, criticizing and comparing everything from selfies to sunglasses. I strived to be everything she wasn’t with only a surface understanding of what she was. She’s a classic beauty: reserved and mature elegance. If she were a Jackie, I’d be a giggling Marilyn, tits out and breathing sexuality. I treated male desire like an equation in need of balance. On television and in films, I watched sympathetic characterizations of adulterous men, those missing a variable in their relationships, who found their missing (A) between an addition of multiple (B)(reasts) and (C)(unts).
I’d played the temptress before. I (thought) I knew how it went. Give them something she was missing. Identify her faults, her lacks. It’s easier to pinpoint difference than to see the similarities and criticize yourself for falling short. It’s ‘apples and oranges,’ not ‘perfect shiny Macintosh and bruised crab apple.’ I needed to see us on opposing sides of the bedroom wall, for her and I to be distinguishable, divisible. An apple a day may keep a relationship healthy, but soon enough he’ll crave citrus on his tongue.
My faults stayed hidden under the covers of depressive and hungover Mcdonald’s breakfasts and Keeping Up With The Kardashian binges mornings after I had run into them. Perfect, inspired sexual desire was something that only existed within the graces of 1–3 a.m., between two too many glasses of wine and a couple of joints. I knew it was a flat understanding of my sexuality. Still I willingly played the Whore to her Madonna.
And it made me feel better. For years I took comfort existing within this archetype and mentally confining her to another. I’d never been in a romantic/sexual relationship long enough to understand that a partner can (and probably should) be seen as both. I wanted him to notice this difference. Something almost unquantifiable, but could mysteriously burrow and grow in his most untouchable recesses. A tapeworm of desire he wasn’t even aware of, but with a subtle pinching that could cause him to question the decision he made years ago.
But more importantly, I wanted her to notice it. That jealous and insecure 24-year-old lived inside me for years, often at odds with the other woman I’d become. I knew it went against mostly everything I believed in, but I wanted her to feel a lack. That, like her, I had something she didn’t.
A few months after the tears at 7/11, I went to a small market for local designers and artists. Her name was on the vendor list, and it took me over an hour to get dressed, apply makeup, and drink three glasses of preparatory wine. My white wide-legged jumpsuit waded through deep slush on my way there. The hems were heavy and stained grey by the time I arrived to meet my best friend outside.
We looked at her table last on the way out. I’d avoided looking at work I’d seen of hers online with anything other than a quick scoff at her emoji use. But there I was, touching the corners of her work, legs soaked up to my thighs, this time without him.
We said hello to each other, and she left the table. My friend, oblivious to the fact that this was the woman I had measured myself against for years, picked up one of her cards. “I really love this print,” she told me, not knowing that this artist was the woman, the woman whose graceful and easy beauty had become a self-inflicted battle.
I looked at her work. Really looked at it. Opposing figures expanded out of themselves, overlapping into a deep black. Their frequencies left the confined shapes and vibrated out of their bodies in graduations of each other’s colors. There were no divisions. There were no walls. It was like the end of the video, Brandy and Monica opened the door together.
I ended up buying that print and giving it to my best friend. Not because I didn’t want to keep it myself; that would’ve made a better end to the story.
In the past few years, I’ve realized the importance of female networks and artistic support. It’s something I took for granted in the years leading up to my relationship with him and carried into my interactions with her. I can faintly trace the transition from men being my main source of self-worth and creative satisfaction to women. From waiting around for Mekhi Phifer to knock on my door and tell me all the wonderful things about me, to calling up Monica and being like ‘Hey girl, do you want to collaborate on something?’
We now follow each other on Instagram. I get little pangs of excitement and relief each time she likes or comments on a post of mine. We still have our differences, naturally. But the negative self-pity that was once fuel polluting my own ideals of femininity now inspire me. Smoke varies. It dissipates and widens. It can leave you choking to death or high as fuck and breathing. For a long time, the ‘her’ in this piece really could have been any woman. I’ve been simultaneously in awe and in debilitating envy of the beautiful, smart things you all do, and until I realized that I could be, or maybe even already was, one of you. I wasn’t the other woman. None of us were.
Casie Brown is a writer, stylist and vintage clothing picker from Toronto. Her favorite things that start with the letter P are Pizza, Paul McCartney and Pussy Power. You can find all three on her Twitter and Instagram accounts, @casieleeanne.