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Originally appeared in Dark Personalities Rants

Having to Pass as a Singlet

Anthony Temple, Astraea Household

I think I'm losing my edge. I haven't touched real coffee since Lent, when I along with my entire household ceased abruptly our huge caffeine intake because we thought it was contributing to the fibrocystitis that weighs down our body's already ample Endowments. (That's a rant for another time; living in the wrong damn body, forsooth. And you won't need the Internet to hear the cheering when we can finally afford our badly needed reduction surgery.)

Since then, I haven't noticed much change in the desired area. What I have noticed is that our collective memory seems to be going off. The names of musical groups, songs and albums, which are of deep necessity to this household's contact with the feelings of our true world, fly right out of our heads at the slightest pretext. Then we have to look them up on the damn web. What if the computer breaks and we can't remember who wrote the book of love? This is truly frightening.

The body's only forty-three years old, dammit.

I am twenty-two. This is ridiculous.

I've also noticed that I haven't felt much like writing anything. I've said all about I had to say regarding MPD/DID being a bogus label and lambasting the media for crumby portrayals of multiples over the years. But I haven't felt like writing anything else. I don't know if this is connected with the caffeine problem or not. However, I've heard that the brain needs exercise just as the body does, so ....

In addition to increasing my courseload at the voc-tech college where I'm leisurely pursuing an associate degree in paralegal studies, I am also going to increase my diligence with regard to my personal writings. Can't find something to write about, I'll pull something out of me old hat (actually jade's old hat, but who's counting).

This time, it's the noxious subject of having to pass as a singlet.

It starts when you're very small, and no matter who's out, you have to answer to the body name. If you call yourself by different names, your parents will respond with amused tolerance ("oh, she has a lively imagination") if you're fortunate. If you're not, they'll become Worried ("Oh my God, she has a lively imagination!") and drag you to a child psychiatrist instead.

And if you've got more than one front runner early on, you'd all better develop at about the same rate of speed. You can't know your ABC's and your colors perfectly one day and the next day not know them at all, or only some. If the parents catch on, they'll haul you off to a specialist who will diagnose you with a developmental phase disorder.

I shudder to think what happens in households containing one or more autistic frontrunners alongside one or more non-autistic ones. And male- body households with lots of little girl frontrunners. (Female-body households with male frontrunners are lucky in the early years: "Oh, what a cute little tomboy.")

You'd all better be about the same age. Older frontrunners in younger bodies look like child geniuses. Need I say more?

And it gets worse as you grow older physically. Inconsistent behaviour is tolerated through the toddler years, but once you're packed off to school you're expected to behave in a "normal" manner. No calling yourself by different names, no having different voices, imaginary friends, or any of the usual paraphernalia which accompany a multiple household. Five-year-olds are expected to have outgrown all such childish fantasies.

It was rough forty years ago when astraea were children; nowadays, it's worse. So many behaviors attributable to simple differences in the hardwiring of an individual's brain are assigned the "disorder" label that Special Education is becoming a huge booming industry. In twenty years, more children will be in Special Education than will be attending so-called normal classes. Maybe that's the point.

In this land where no one's allowed to mind their own business (1), it's more important than ever to be able to pass as a singlet. One voice, one name, one nation under God, or else. (2) Not that anyone would necessarily peg you as a multiple personality -- people still do not immediately think of multiple personality -- but that they'd peg you as unstable or unpredictable, therefore to be Watched.

The pressure to conform is enormous. It's a rare household indeed that makes it through intact (we certainly didn't). Because society allows no models for natural, non-pathological multiplicity, children and adolescents who are multiple have to find their own paths, to explain themselves to themselves one way or another (for example, through fantasy literature, AD&D or the pursuit of a stage career), and ultimately either to balance both worlds, or to put away your fairy tales, you're a big girl now -- and try to forget the whole thing.

You may spend the rest of your life as a well-adjusted singlet, provided you're strong enough to overcome the rest of them, a la Joanne Greenberg, or provided they get disgusted enough to take a permanent vacation (as was recently suggested by an online friend regarding Chris Costner-Sizemore).

If they don't, you might be in trouble.

How do you camouflage who you are, without stifling or discouraging anyone?

How do you conform, fit in, give the appearance? It can be anything from a bothersome annoyance (such as having to give the legal name in place of real ones) to a degrading lie (a female-body household full of strong male frontrunners, forced to wear female attire to school and family events... and worse, being told how cute and charming one looks, etc.)

Some households simply can't do it.

We couldn't. Jay, who controlled the front for years, worked in offices for bosses who were apparently under the delusion that he, a sturdy young Malimid male, was actually a female human, proving once again that it's not who, but what's up front that counts. They wanted him to present in a dress, with appropriately shaved legs, feminine voice and middle-class white American speech pattern. His boon companion frontrunner Melanthe, who usually took such girlish guff in stride, simply could not always be there. Female frontrunners have a difficult time staying in front in our household in any case, and stress makes it worse. The day would drag on, innumerable cups of coffee could not keep Mel at the front, and before she knew it she'd be asleep at the switch (ew!) and someone else would be answering the phone and taking-a- letter-Miss-Alexandrou. Chances were excellent that if it were not Jay himself it would be any one of a number of brisk young men with deep resonant voices that didn't sound at all like the warbly spicegirl the boss thought he'd hired.

On the day Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat was murdered, our household was so distressed that a secretary for the royal house of Asinar, in Central Dascia, ended up manning (literally) the phones for the remainder of the afternoon. He had never frontrun in his life before. His English vocabulary was absolutely faultless, and he spoke with the clipped correctness usual among Dascian officials. He made an astonishing attempt to focus, overcoming his own grief to maintain contact with the earth world on behalf of the stunned and mourning people of Laura'maah.

He sounded like a Bombay railway clerk.

Jay quit about a week later.

It has never been a question of someone stepping forward who didn't know the job; the tasks of the job were all in our common knowledge pool. It has never been a question of someone stepping forward who was inappropriate for a business setting; everyone who took the front in these situations was competent to handle the job. Even the occasional chen who absentmindedly left intricate doodles on the desk calendar got all the letters typed, papers filed, phones answered, etc.

It is a more subtle question of appropriate vs. inappropriate presentation in the context of an earth business office. We were never fired. We would quit before anything was said to us. We embarrassed ourselves right out of seven moderately well- paying jobs. The longest and most successful jobs we've had have all been telecommutes and self-employment.

Self-identifying as multiple, which we did in 1987, made absolutely no difference. The ability to identify people and communicate with them has little or no relation to "who's out", which in our household appears to be tied in with a number of factors including weather, season, air quality, urban vs. rural setting, number of fluorescent lights in our immediate vicinity, what's playing on the muzak, how much sleep we got last night (which, holding down an 8-5 job, wasn't much) and personal chemistry. All Jay and Mel could do was drink lots of coffee and, if that didn't work, hang on for the ride. Attempts to regulate this type of frontrunning usually leave us with a nasty headache.

We marvel at all these households who proudly announce on their web pages "Yes, we are multiple and no, we're not disordered, we hold a job." It's amazing. We could never do it! It's tough to pass in the earth world! Honour to you.

A. Temple
Astraea household

(1) William S Burroughs, "A Thanksgiving Prayer"

(2) Jello Biafra, "Pledge of Allegiance"

Thanks to Emijireh Oririn for October 6, 1981.

The original Monotones recorded the well-known version of "Who Wrote the Book of Love". It was written as a novelty song by Warren Davis, George Malone, and Charles Patrick. Before I looked this up, I kept thinking it was the Coasters. Okay, okay, I'll TAKE the damn ginkgo....

You can write to Pavilion at pavilion@ karitas . net. Back to the library
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