It’s 1999 and I’m on the verge of fifteen sitting on my aunt’s bathroom floor. Cool icy white tiles sticking like a solidly frozen ice cream pop to the back of my lean thighs. Baskets of hand-milled soap, bath bombs, and dried flowers. I can hear the tv’s muffled mumble from the other side of the door. I am in a trance fingering the pages of the July edition of W magazine with Brad Pitt on the cover. He is wearing a pleather jacket the color of dried blood and a blue shirt paneled with men on motorcycles. His pelvis peeking out just above the cut-off of the photo. I imagine glossy track pants below, a bulge creating a sharp peak at the zipper. The magazine in my lap feels as if it is radiating, inside I tingle and twinkle like pop rocks. I turn the page to the main spread: cigarette dangling from lips, a forest fire, and a cow color clueless baby bunny held sturdily, his hands wrapped around it’s back and belly. I flip to the next page and look over my shoulder like a fugitive. Brad in a writhing tableau, clutching at a cement brick wall cradling the back of his head and then face down as if in defeat, black sweatpants tugged down revealing taunt rounded cheeks. A Greek statue pushed over possibly broken but even if missing pieces still a masterpiece. My face, my heart and further below are Georgia summer heat and humidity. This moment would be a crime in my mom’s house. This magazine is contraband. In this moment, I encounter the first of these thoughts that color my future desires and sexual encounters. I wanted to be him and I wanted to fuck him. I envied his prideful boyishness. Wearing a mesh shirt that read “HUSTLER” in red letters and open mouth he dared. I imagined myself in that same picture, same outfit, same pose. You look like a whore. Or... “that girl is fast”, as my mom would say. Hair buzzed off with army fatigue cargo pants and a colorful print shirt. It would be a witch hunt. You look gay. Here this pretty white boy was playing dress-up in my fantasy of me. And it burned.
Erin Cantrell-Martine: “This essay explores the tension of what sexuality meant to me as a 14/15 year old black girl and the desire for the nonconformity and gender-fluidity allowed for attractive white male pop culture icons.”