There was an awkwardness with which Peter swept his hair across his brow. Noticing it, I asked, “did you do something different with your hair today, Pete?”

“Yeah, I switched my parting,” he said, once the motion had completed its conspicuous path.

“Can you just…do that?” I asked.

“Well, guys usually have their parting on the left,” he said. “And girls on the right. But I thought I’d switch it up a little.”

My mouth curled into a smile at the thought of Pete, extending the switching up to his dressing habits, turning up at my flat, not as Peter Woods, sports fan and Dylan aficionado, but as Petra, wood strapped firmly to the thigh, bra stuffed with tissue and long black hair, parted from the right.

“Why do we bother with all these gender rules?” he asked, his sensible question interrupting my sordid thought. “Left or right, does it really matter?”

He’d had more profound thoughts, I’m sure, but his question was an interesting one. Watches, badges, earrings, depending on which side they’re worn, can indicate one’s gender or sexuality, in case it’s not already obvious (in which case, the ‘left or right’ dilemma is probably the least pressing).

“It makes me anxious,” he said, “these rules. I don’t know if I’m misrepresenting myself.” Throwing his hands dramatically in the air reminded me of Petra. “If I wear my watch on the right hand does that make me a girl?”

Wearing a bra does, I thought to myself.

“And if I wear an earring on my left ear, does that make me gay?”

“I think with the watch on your right hand it would make you a lesbian.” I said.
Pete thought about it for a second, long enough for the excitement to wear off, imagined himself as Petra, stuffed bra and long hair, and unceremoniously switched his parting back, sweeping his hair across his brow so that it started at the left. Like a man.

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