Thursday, May 31, 2007

muscle memory

My sister has graduated from college and is coming to live with me (hurrah!) and this past weekend we spent a bit of time scurrying around starting to get things ready for our apartment. One of our endeavors was the acquisition of a bed for her, and luckily enough, she found one on Craigslist, being sold about a half a mile from our apartment.

Unfortunately, there's a rather sizable park (with a more than sizable cliff/towering set of stairs) between the two spots, so we undertook to load the full size bed (Ikea mattress and frame, so light, but still big) onto a handtruck and cart it an additional 7 blocks up and down and around the park, from door to door.

It was a pretty arduous task, given that our handtruck had a pretty flat left tire, and that the sidewalk was in a few places rather too narrow to accommodate us, etc, but great fun was had by all. The surprising part of the whole adventure was how much I ended up shouldering the load. Especially as we were coming back through the park, pulling the handtruck up the stairs- it was much easier for me to pull the cart than it was for Kate.

I know that my shoulders have gotten broader, that my muscle mass has been building, but this was one of the first real bits of tangible evidence of my increased strength that I've had. It felt normal to me to haul that cart up the stairs almost casually, until I saw that it was a heavy load for Kate. That was a definite moment of disconnect.

When we were younger, Kate was stronger than me. She was the one who could run faster, and farther. She could shimmy up poles and ropes, through some combination still unknown to me of arm strength and sneaker maneuvering. I would never agree to enter an arm wrestling contest against her, because I knew I'd lose. She used to be the buff twin!

In a slightly different context, my therapist said to me this morning "It's not like you don't know your own strength, Eli."

She meant that I am (or at least, I try hard to be) conscious of my size and space and presence, of the eddies I cause in the flow and exchange of power in the world. I take up more of it now, in my maleness, and I'm very aware of that, in contrast, as Amy was pointing out, to many other men, to whom manhood came more naturally. (Among that group I definitely include both trans and nontrans men, though I think there are far more nontrans men, numerically of course but also percentage wise, who fit the bill.)

So yes, of course I do know my own strength, and I know it physically, too- I've been proud as my push-up count has risen from single digits ending in noodle-armed exhaustion to my current sets of 15 that I try to remember to do every day. But this hauling of the handcart reminds me that, for all the work I try to put into my body, the payoffs are still sometimes a gentle surprise.

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