TRANSPARENT recap: “Best New Girl”

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This episode was mostly an exploration of and search for gender identity and sexual activity for the entire Pfefferman family.  The problems between Shelly and Mort became more strained.  Ali, Josh, and Sarah all went off on sexual adventures and considered the opportunities, while both mom and dad played with their own flirtations.  More importantly for transgender history, there was a very revealing scene on what was (and for some still is) a great wall of total separation between cross dressing males and transsexual people, who are often now grouped together underneath the transgender umbrella. In the past, these males routinely denied any and all connections to transsexual people.  Lastly, the theme music was changed to a song by Bob Dylan about forgiveness, “Oh, sister, when I come to lie in your arms….”

 

It is what it is.

It was 1994 and Mort was loading the station wagon to go to a conference that had a surprise speaker, a scholar who had had access to the pre-1952 Soviet archives and had access to the Rosenberg files.  Historical aside, the Rosenbergs were accused of being Soviet spies in the U.S. during the 1950s Red Scare and were eventually executed by the U.S. for espionage.  There was a prolonged argument over their guilt or innocence that was quite divisive between the political left and the right.  Shelly was clearly unhappy about Mort’s sudden announcement of his departure for the weekend.  As he said, “I am going to make the best of a bad situation.  Just relax and enjoy yourself,” in what was more than a little white lie.  Shelly replied, “Thanks to Ali I cannot go into the village.  I’ll have to explain and explain.”  Mort closed off discussion, “it is what it is.”  Ali’s Bat Mitzvah had been cancelled and Mort was off to Camp Camellia on his maiden voyage to cross dresser land.

 

He left me to pick-up the pieces per usual

Shelly went in and got on the phone.  She had called aunt Judy.  Now she was going for white wine and a talk and she might even stay over night.  She told the kids, ‘I have to check with aunt Judy.  She threw her back out.”   Another parental lie.  To Ali she added, “Ali you cancelled.  You are terrible child.”  Shelly left Sarah in charge and gave her money to order a pizza.

 

You don’t treat yourself as well as he treats himself

Shelly complained to Judy that people would think a 13 year old was making the decisions in the Pfefferman family.  Plus, Mort went to a conference last year with his T.A., “what’s her bucket?”  Judy suggested couples counseling.  Shelly bluntly stated, that she “was not throwing away good money to have a PhD tell me I need to give my husband more oral.”  Judy continued, “You are having sex?”

“I think he is trying to get kinky,” was Shelley’s answer.

Judy: “What?”

Shelley described the kinkiness, “He puts on my underpants when we are doing it…he stuffed himself into my underpants and it was the biggest camel toe I’ve ever seen.”  She could barely get her words out because of her own laughing.   Then continued, “Eddie Paskowitz keeps inviting me over.”  Judy closed the scene with, “you don’t treat yourself as well as he treats himself.”

 

The cat’s away, the mice will play

Sarah had been left in charge, but promptly appeared with a backpack and announced that she was leaving to join some people from UCSB protesting the abuse of migrant agricultural workers.  Rita suddenly appeared and Josh got a backpack and left, but not before Ali told him that they were disgusting, to which he replied, “You are pathetic.”  Josh was last seen holding hands in the car with Rita.

 

Aren’t you going to try anything?

Ali was now depressed and alone, when suddenly a catering employee showed up with a cart for the Bat Mitzvah only to be told by Ali that it was cancelled.  “How did you get out of the Bat Mitzvah?” asked the server.  Ali replied that she had memorized the chants and then told her parents that she did not believe in God.   To the server that was astonishing; because nobody cancelled.  They did it for the cash, if nothing else.  Ali then performed her role in the Bat Mitzvah by chanting.  Later the server dropped her off at the beach, where she saw a model airplane in the air.  She found a guy in coveralls flying it and started to flirt.  She told him she was 17.  He told her she could not fly the plane, but she could have a beer and watch.   Ali’s next effort at seduction moved to a tunnel on the beach where she clearly wanted the guy to make a move.  The next scene they were speeding down the coastal highway in his pick-up with her lying in the back.  Later she woke up in the truck and asked if that had spent the night there.  “Aren’t you going to try anything,” she pleaded.  He answered that he did not think she was 17, which reduced her to finally admitting she was 13.

 

I’m Sunday

Sarah was on the bus with the UCSB students on the way to protest.  She was seated next to a guy who was sleeping and kept laying his head on her shoulder.  Across the aisle and up one row, a rather butch someone noticed Sarah’s dilemma.  She moved over so that Sarah could change seats.  Smiles were everywhere for both of them as they introduced themselves to each other.

 

Oh my god! Look at this!

Mort and Mark arrived at Camp Camellia and were driving down a dirt road lined with strolling cross dressers.  They checked in and arrived at their cabin, which was very western campy.  Soon Maura and Marcy were attending a social gathering and meeting some other campers.  There was joy that the camp had finally hired professional servers instead of the girls from the local Lutheran school because “girls can be such mean little twats,” as one of the women explained.  Then that woman named Jackie, said, “Ladies, this is my wife Connie.”  A somewhat innocent Maura responded she “didn’t know wives were welcome.” Laura volunteered that, “they’re tolerated here.  They cannot borrow our clothes without asking us first. “  Disco-ish dancing broke out as the bass pumped and the ladies boogied to “Afternoon delight,” while disco balls reflected the lights.  That was all reminiscent of an organization named Tri-Ess that I heard about years ago.  It clearly stated that it was an organization for heterosexual male cross dressers and their wives.   What they regarded as Queer folk need not apply; as much to her distress, Maura was soon to find out.

 

I’ll do it tomorrow

The next day Maura and Marcy rode bikes to a pay phone.  Time they covered themselves by calling home.  Marcy went first.  In full male voice, she explained on the phone that he was working hard and had found some prospective new clients.  Then he talked to his son about a sports team that the boy was on.  From Mark’s end we heard, “the coach is a douche bag.  You just got to man up!  You can’t take that crap!”  After he hung up, she turned to Maura and said, “your turn little girl.”  Maura with a disturbed look on her face declined to phone home until the next day.  She seem disturbed by the hyper male behavior of Mark while dressed in Marcy’s wig, short blue dress and sandals.  Maura was thoroughly enjoying being Maura and disliked the male intrusion.

 

We are men!

Jackie was holding forth at a table full of male cross dressers, plus Maura and Connie.  He announced in his booming voice that last year Ramona had been discovered to be a transsexual.  Oh the horror.  Someone said, “but we are not judging.”  To which Jackie proudly announced,  “I am judging.  Maria, the accountant from Dallas, walked in on her with the needle in her ass.”  (That would be a hormone injection for the uninitiated.  Ramona had to have been one amazingly flexible girl to do that.)  Jackie’s wife Connie chimed in, “she had the nerve to bring hormones to cross dresser camp.  Can you believe it?”  Another cross dresser added, “that’s crossing over.”  Followed by “amen, sisters.”  Jackie closed by adding that Ramona had even offered hormones to Maria.  Maura spoke hesitantly, “she, she was thrown out?”  Jackie replied, “we don’t know for sure, but either way she hasn’t been back.”  That was followed by a couple of “good riddance” judgments.  Jackie then stated proudly, “we are cross dressers, but we are men.”  Soon the table was echoing with cross dressers who chanted, “we are men!”  Maura was crest fallen, as Marcy closed out with, “we are men in skirts.”

 

What is this place for?

Marcy and Maura sat outside the cabin when Connie walked up.  Maura longingly moaned, “I could never get Shelly to come here.”  Becoming chummy, she then asked Connie if she knew the person from “last year that was banned for hormones?”  Connie said yes and that Ramona had been a hoot and she missed her.  Maura then mumbled something followed by “just makes we never want to be heard from again.”  Marcy responded, “That is not what this place is for.  It is to express your femininity.  Transvestites are not transsexuals.  Never the twain shall meet.  They should be in a different place.”  A roused Maura threw back, “ I don’t agree.”  Marcy observed that they agreed to disagree.  The historical male heterosexual cross dresser wall against transsexuals and all things queer had been thrown in the face of a transsexual Maura, who had still not found her identity and place.  Clearly, Maura agreed with Ramona and hormones sounded like a good idea for some people, even  something that should not only be permitted, but also perhaps encouraged.  Yet, the cross dressers just said “NO.”  Connie declared that Maura looked sad and it made her sad and the solution was as many drinks as they could down in the hour before the pageant. After Marcy left for the pageant, Maura and Connie downed vodka martinis, danced and made seductive and suggestive moves toward each other.  Connie did explain that she had a nervous breakdown when Jackie came out to me as a cross dresser.  The background music reminded me of an Italian movie scene, though I cannot remember if it was in Fellini’s “8 ½” or his “La dolce vita.”  Was it the actual soundtrack , plus the scene direction, that made me think that rightly or wrongly?  At any rate it seemed as if I was back in college watching the movies at the “two stick” theatre.  One to sit on and one to beat the rats off with.

 

Mark, it makes me happy

The following morning they left Camp Camellia.  As Mark and Maura loaded into the car, plans to return next year were expressed.  Mark noticed that Maura was still dressed as Maura.  He warned Maura that it was not safe to drive dressed like that.  Maura explained she wanted to drive that way, but she would change before Ventura.  She then added, “Mark, it makes me happy.  I want to be happy for four more hours.”  Maura then added, “you know Mark, you’re a cunt.”  Then a war of each calling the other a cunt began, as they bade farewell to Camp Camillia in 1994.

 

 

 

See also:

TRANSPARENT recap: "Symbolic Exemplar" (season 1 episode 7)

TRANSPARENT recap: "Best New Girl" (season 1 episode 8)

TRANSPARENT recap: "Looking Up" (season 1 episode 9)