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Over the last year, squeezing onto my friend's couch to catch up on Steven Universe has become a potluck of feelings. The show's appeal is obvious: A half-alien, half-human boy tries to get a handle on his Crystal Gem (read: superhero) powers while stepping into a mantle left behind by his alien mother to defend and protect Earth. That's a call to adventure that's practically inescapable, but what called to me instead was watching Steven navigate the overwhelmingly masculine blueprint of heroism by remolding it into something softer, kinder, more Steven. The gentleness in Steven is a force in itself because he refuses to compromise even when battle is necessary, and it bruised me in places I thought long calloused over.
Looking back, I believe my father's words — "Somethin' wrong, you dressing a-feminint" — unraveled in me a need for a fierce secrecy starting in the early 2000s. My mother had been remarried for little more than a half decade, but in that time, my conceptions of manhood had more or less been formed by pastors in the Southern Baptist tradition, Sunday school teachers of the same ilk, Euro-American literature, and Japanese cartoons. All of them began with man as harbinger of strength, holding the whip in one hand and sacred texts in the other. Believe or be struck. Believe or be discarded. The first crime I committed was being dainty. The next was wanting to show myself anyway.
Stretch - Teenage - Years - Father - Socks
During the opening stretch of my teenage years, my father and I argued about socks almost every day. At that time, when every one of us at my overpacked public school wore the same clothes, part of the measure of your cool was not just the shoes you wore but how you wore them. You could have the flyest, most expensive kicks...
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