Winnie-the-Pooh

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For a month, twice a week, I smeared brown grease-paint over my entire head, neck, and arms, to become Winnie-the-Pooh. Three hours later I would remove it with gobs of cold cream. Jesus, I thought, women do this every night? I was fourteen, the star of a junior high play that had become a city-wide hit. We toured! I learned to project emotion, to feign emotion, to give from my inner storehouse of feeling in sweaty auditoriums, where fans creaked in the back and the air was so thick I could bite it.

And I held little Suzy, who played Piglet and was my secret crush, held her in my arms so often that I could not imagine not kissing her. I dreamed about it. But in the corners of the backstage, she drew back, and after the last performance I found myself walking in the woods behind the school with Steph, who played Eeyore — Steph, whose broad Slavonic features led the other boys to call her ‘Pancake Face’. But I found her attractive in a smart, aggressive way — she was ten months older, which made her an Older Woman. And she was confident in a calm, hungry way, and the space between us seemed to be shrinking, until I turned and held her — but I couldn’t, I couldn’t kiss her. I was paralyzed — fourteen and still unkissed!

— from BOY WONDER,

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