The day had finally come—the second 18th birthday. Jina and Jamar sat on the couch in the living room, debriefing their past four years: the good, the bad, and the ugly. They’d learned a lot about themselves and each other and they weren’t the same siblings they’d been four years ago.
“What was the worst part about being a girl?” Mom asked Jamar.
Jamar laughed. “Everything.”
Mom and Jina laughed with him.
“I hate periods with a passion,” he went on. “Like, I can’t stand my uterus. Four years of this and I wanna rip that stupid thing out of me. I’ll never call cramps stomachaches again. And my hair. I can’t ever figure out what to do with it. And it’s so expensive to get it done. And the make-up? Nobody ever has my skin tone! It’s like they just don’t make foundation for black girls. What’s the deal with that?”
Mom and Jina just went on laughing.
“But in all seriousness, I think the worst part was just having so much to deal with all the time,” Jamar went on. “Like, all of those things I mentioned are everyday things on top of studying, getting a job, getting sick, friend drama, applying to colleges etc. But you have to just suck it up, deal with it, and keep moving like everybody else. Being a girl is like being black times ten.”
Mom nodded. “That’s one way to put it.”
“What about you, Jina?” Dad asked. “What was the worst part about being a guy?”
“Random erections,” Jina scoffed. “I was out here getting boners in English class. Can you believe that? Doesn’t this thing ever turn off?”
Jamar laughed. “That’s what you get. It’s not as easy, huh?”
“But that wasn’t the worst part,” Dad pressed her.
Jina was quiet for a second. “There was a lot of worst parts, actually. Nothing I do is ever enough. So I’m never strong enough. Big enough. Smart enough. Or good enough. No matter what I do, there’s always “no good men”. And then I didn’t realize until I became a guy that…” She took a moment before saying her next words. “Everything that makes being a girl so hard is because of guys. So everything is my fault and there’s nothing I can do about it. Girls get abused because guys abuse them. Girls get paid differently because guys run the world. And girls even have periods because a guy ate a stupid fruit!”
The family laughed.
“So if being a girl is like being black times ten, being a guy is like being white times ten—you have centuries of guilt on your back and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
There was a brief silence.
“But the worst part is that everyone knows how to be a guy, but no one knows how to be a man. So you have guys walking around with no idea how to be what they are.”
Dad nodded at her. “What was the best part?”
“Everything is so simple,” Jina answered. “Being a girl is so complicated and it’s so hard to even decide what to eat sometimes. But as a guy it doesn’t take that much to make me happy. I could legit grab a box of pizza, play some COD and I’m good to go. It’s that easy. Life is just simple.”
“What about you?” Dad nodded to Jamar.
“Honestly,” Jamar started. “My emotions. People always give emotions a bad rap and say how girls are “too emotional” and what have you. But honestly, it’s so cool being able to feel so many things. I can feel sad and happy and everything in between. And I could talk about it. When I was a guy, it was like I was blind. But when I became a girl, I saw colors for the first time.”
“Okay!” Jina shouted. “You betta spit them bars!”
“Don’t get me wrong, it was crappy sometimes too,” Jamar continued. “And it’s why I’m so moody and why life sucks so much harder—because sometimes it’s tough to juggle everything I feel. But it’s also what makes life so much sweeter. I can experience depression and joy, anger and forgiveness, fear and courage, hate and love—more than I ever did when I was a guy.”
Mom and Dad watched him and smiled and nodded.
“When I became a girl…” Jamar looked at Jina and grinned. “It felt like I became more human.”
Jina sucked her teeth. “Getting all sentimental. Get outta here.”
“It sounds like you learned a lot,” Dad said.
Jina and Jamar looked at each other and shrugged. “I guess.” Then they laughed.
“Hold onto that when you cross back over,” Dad encouraged them. Then he looked at the clock on the wall. “It’s almost midnight. Go to your rooms. We’ll be up there in a second.”
“Alright,” they both said.
“Your old rooms,” he reminded them.
Mom and Dad went to the kitchen and Jina and Jamar stayed on the couch looking at each other.
“You were right,” Jamar told his sister. “Being a girl is hard.”
Jina scoffed. “Well…being a guy isn’t as easy as I thought either.”
“But you were wrong too,” Jamar added.
“What do you mean?”
“Being a girl is a lot cooler than you made it out to be.”
There was a short silence and they looked at the clock on the wall: 11:55.
Jamar looked back at Jina. “I kinda like being a girl.”
Jina raised an eyebrow at him. But a sly smile slowly curled across her face.
“You ever wish…” Jamar started. “That maybe…”
But they both shook their heads and laughed. “NAHHH!”