Ella, Part 1

John Pachis was a Greek-American young man, raised by his hyper-masculine dad and grandfather while his mother rarely left the kitchen. Everything about his upbringing was defined by masculinity and patriarchal values. He was star of the football team at his high school outside of Atlanta, he got all the girls, his defined jaw, cleft chin, and straight thick nose sat strongly beneath his blond hair that was always just-too-long.

Everything was always so easy for John – he never really had to try too hard at anything. He pursued the things that came easily and ignored those which didn’t. This applied to hobbies, jobs, school and women. The people around him who worked hard were mysterious to him. Why ever try hard, he thought, when you can just do the easy things instead.

At the age of 18, he went abroad for his first time to a small town in France to live in a monastery with twenty other college students. This was his chance to see the world, learn a language, discover himself, and pop over to Greece to explore the homeland of his dear grandfather.

While there, he skipped all his classes, smoked a pack of cigarettes and drank bottles of wine every day, learned no more than twelve words in French, missed his flight to Greece and skipped it, and fell deeply in love with a young man from Texas named Buddy. Suddenly nothing was easy, everything was new, the world was spinning around him in a truly frightening way, and he dreaded his trip home. Europe ruined everything that had been simple for his entire life.

He spent the entire third month of the semester playing house with Buddy, sharing a room, preparing breakfast together, sharing stories and memories and plans, dropping acid and sitting for hours and hours giggling in the monk’s garden, wandering through the grounds labyrinth every evening together with a doobie, and relishing his new friendships with the female students around him. This was literally the first time he’d maintained friendships with females that didn’t include sex.

Buddy had opened an entirely new chapter in his life, his mind was bigger, the world was bigger, happiness was bigger, his heart was bigger. He was terrified to go home and return to the smallness of real life.

During a discussion with a female classmate about the pros and cons of casual sex he delivered his dad’s favorite metaphor about why men can be promiscuous and women couldn’t: the same shovel can dig thousands of holes, never changing, while every hole changes. In his mind, this meant that women are changed by sex, men are not, and this is why it’s socially acceptable for men to have casual sex but it’s taboo behavior for women.

The female classmate gently reminded him that women are not dirt. This part of the metaphor had never dawned on him before and something started brewing within him – a kind of femininity that he had never realized could exist within a man.

The eight hour flight home was one of sheer internal terror for our young John.

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