“Identity’s the real problem here,” she told her wife, dragging another word processing file to the trash, “no one knows what to do with identity anymore.” Her wife could’ve well pointed out how that’s the problem everywhere for everyone but she knew it would’ve just distracted her from her work. “They can’t figure out if they want secret identities or not in superhero films these days. It makes it harder to write for.” She was drafting a play deconstructing the comic book boom but kept getting tripped up. “How do you comment on a form that doesn’t know what it is itself?”
Her wife knew a lot about Clark Kent-ing. She had a crush on her Earth Sciences teacher Mrs. Mills when she was thirteen but, then again, she’d also liked Harris, the boy who captained the chess club. A pragmatic farmer’s daughter, she reckoned if she dug both men and women but it was easier to date boys, why not just go with what didn’t complicate the other parts of her life?
When the two met years later, the mad woman was just so special it was worth the risk, was all.
“I mean, I have the lead,” her wife continued, “a Native American with weather-control powers called Apache Fog,” oh how her wife tried to not wince at the pun, “but I have no idea if I need to make her day job as a television meteorologist a big secret or not. If it’s narratively worth it.”
The playwright, it had been both easier and harder, identity. She’d always known she only liked women and was quite lucky to be born in an area of socially-progressive affluence. On the other hand, for the most part, she projected aesthetics that could only be labeled “aggressively femme” by American cultural standards. Avant-garde maybe, painfully artsy, but she loved dresses and make-up, loved making a gallery show of herself. “You can’t actually be gay” was a phrase she had heard since her teens, even now, even after she married a woman who mostly wore slacks.
“Maybe you make your comment,” she finally spoke up to the writer, “commenting on it as little as possible. Have them treat any character who worries about it either way as some out-of-touch jerk focusing on an idea that’s totally passe, wrapped up in the past and quickly dismissed for it.”
“Oh God, babe, that’s a great idea, thank you!” She had hoped she’d inspired her wife to have clarity on identity in the play but no, identity isn’t that easy to grapple with, even in our fiction. Instead, “wrapped” had inspired her to make the villain’s fatal weakness aluminum so that in his final defeat, wrapped up in Reynolds, he could yell “Curses! Foiled again!” The problem identity is a step-by-step thing, a day-by-day thing, a process we all have to deal with for all of our lives.
But the occasional bad pun can distract us and maybe that’s enough to get through to tomorrow.