My best friend said that if one is confused of his or her career vocation, one only needs to remember the games he or she played during childhood. For example, when she was a child, she remembers playing hotel and resort manager with her sister. Now, she still hopes to become one… at least for a day.
For me, this is very easy. Growing up, I pretended to be a teacher. At home, in Cebu, we have this big blackboard in our hallway and every night after school, I would be a teacher to ten imaginary students. The routine: I would have a notebook in hand and a wooden ruler. (In retrospect, teachers in our class bring wooden rulers or long sticks!) Then, from one side of the house towards the hallway, I would slowly walk and demurely move my head, side to side, imagining saying hello to grade 5 or grade 6 students (or when I was older to high school students). And before I enter the hallway, I would sign my initials to a posted paper on a wall as I pretend to check the attendance for the day. For a few seconds, I would wait. And, in my mind, my students scrambled to stand up. I imagined a student hurriedly hiding his book under the table and quickly fixing his polo as he moves. And another student, looking surprise that I am already in the doorway, discreetly hides among his classmates as he hastily moves from one side of the room to the opposite side where he is supposed to be standing right beside his seat!
I do not remember if I start the class with a prayer, but most probably I did. What I distinctly remember is how my students greet me. I would say out aloud (not minding if my brothers, yaya, or even my parents would hear), “Good morning class.” And in my mind, my students would answer, “Good morning (with the intonation), Miss Teban… (again with the intonation).” =)
My childhood play has translated into an adult career. To those people who know me (and read my blog), I have been teaching Psychology for seven years now. And I know, without any doubt, this is where I belong, this is what I want to do. (Of course, my college students never greet me with the intonation and definitely they never dared to call me Miss Teban.)
But, also growing up, there was another pretend play that I did. This was not as public as my previous play. It never happened in the hallway with my parents, brothers, or yayas to see. It happened in closed and locked room. From my drawer, I would get my green triangular bandana and just like a nun’s veil, I would place it over my head as I tie another handkerchief to serve as a headband. It might not be natural hair for you, but all I can remember is that I feel pretty with my shoulder length green hair. Then, undressing to my underwear, I would get my favorite yellow butterfly blanket and would tightly wrap it around my slim body and make a beautiful knot over my chest. I do not remember a name that I called myself. I was somehow comfortable with my name… Teban.
The routine? I would walk from one corner of the room to the other corner like a Ms. Universe candidate. I would stop just in front of the mirror and wave to my imaginary audience. For my talent portion, I would dance the Sinulog- two steps forward, one step backward - with the sound of the drums beating inside my head.
But the most memorable part was when I lip sync my favorite Broadway song. And I would sing, “Do you want one more tale of a Vietnam Girl… Want to know I was bound to the man that I don’t love… Want to be told how my village was burned…” Cliche, but yes, I have pretended to have won the crown.
Two weekends ago, I watched a drag show. They lip sync to classics’ “Dreamgirls” and “And I am Telling You” They danced to Chicago’s “All that Jazz” and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”. And I could just imagine the looked on my face that night. I was entertained, happy, and amazed - like a kid watching his first magic show! My right foot tapped, my fingers snapped and my head giggle and swayed. I think it could have been a beginning of what Billy Elliot describes as “Electricity”.
Somewhere, deep in my heart, something triggered. I was moved, ignited but also envious. I suddenly miss my childhood. I knew that I can do what they can do too. I think I will be a natural. Of course, I would have to practice, train, lose weight and think about my repertoire. I am thinking of doing musicals – Wicked’s “Defying Gravity”, Chicago’s “Roxie” – and maybe add some Lady Gaga’s “Poker face” and Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary”. Oh gosh, endless possibilities! (And of course, watching GLEE is adding to this fantasy.)
That night, I thought that maybe if being a psychologist will not work for me (I am getting tired of this part-time situation) then maybe I will have to consider exploring another career. Not ending what I have now, but more of an addition. I would like to be an entertainer, a diva, a drag queen.
That same night, I also felt nostalgic and sad. I feel that (currently) a big gay part of me is missing or maybe suppressed. I miss my out, proud, funny, irreverent, and loud self. Morag, gimingaw lang gyud ko sa akong pagkabayot. Ana lang. Kasabot mo sa akong gipasabot? Kita na mo nako na nagbinayot? Dili kanang miyat na Teban na bayot, kanang Teban na bayot na bayot? Gimingaw ko ana na Teban. (Interestingly, there must be a Psychology behind how I can only express my gayness in Cebuano and not in English or in Filipino!)
And that night, I wish I was transported back in 2004, when I was with my Edgework Theater Company (ETC) family -- with Butch, Sheng, Carmel, Mara, Azela, and my ex-boyfriend, B. I think they have seen that gay part of me. Better yet, I think they accept and love that gay part of me. I know they miss that part of me. I miss that part of me.
My secret childhood play did translate into a career for a few days in 2004. There was no singing and dancing though, only acting. I portrayed Jaymee, a Japayuki transgender, in ETC’s Bus Terminal. My ETC family, some of my students, friends, and my Mom were there to see me. I had real long hair that I can bun with a chopstick. My cheeks were blushed, lips were glossed red, eyes were lined, and eyelashes were extended.
I heard funny stories about me that night. A friend, who was in the audience, shared to me that she overheard one student saying, “He reminds me of my Psych teacher, Sir Teban.” My friend turns around and told her, “That is Teban.” I guessed they were shocked.
After the show, I thought that it was over, a role-fantasy fulfilled. That was also the last time I played drag. It was the last time I played. But now, I sense a calling. I sense a need. I sense me, outing, freeing, then flying!
My current life here is… very… “proper”. I do admit that I am scared - scared that M. might not accept that part of me, scared that the schools I worked for might not give me a teaching load for next semester, scared that people will laugh at me… scared of not being accepted.
But for tonight, as a short term solution, I will lock my door, find a bandana in my drawer, I will play. With my makeshift gown, I will look at myself in the mirror, I will turn the music on and lip sync to Effie White’s “I Am Changing”.
One day, I promise, after a long day of teaching and counseling work, I will be an entertainer, I will be a diva, I will be a queen.