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My favorite character in A Chorus Line was Sheila. I’m talking about the movie here. Sheila was a snobby, narcissistic bitch. I was sad when she didn’t get the dancing job at the end. I thought Cassie should have been run over in the street. She was annoying, and it was sickening how Michael Douglas just let her stomp through his audition. She also couldn’t sing for shit.

When I was eleven, I watched that movie every day of my summer vacation. It was on in the background while I did other, more important things, such as upholster my mother’s old pumps with purple finger paint and create makeshift bandanas from her old pantyhose. I looked like a bandit trying to tap dance with shoes three times too large.

My favorite song was “Surprise, Surprise.” You know, one of the songs about sex. These things are interesting to an eleven-year-old virgin. I had no pubic hair of my own. It was an educational song as far as I was concerned. My mother caught me during one of those songs once. I wasn’t exactly “watching” the movie. I couldn’t help myself. It was Sheila. It should be illegal to be so hot.

She told my uncle she found me in her high heels “slapping my sausage” and she was going to take away “that damn movie.”

I hid the videotape under my bed every night, fearing she would make good on her word. But she didn’t. I started to borrow her Playgirl magazines after that summer because I didn’t have time to watch the movie every day. Those men had penises larger than I had ever seen. And muscles. And, because I knew my mother would be pissed to know I was looking at those photos, I jerked off. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t like looking at the muscular Adonises in her magazines. I just pictured them with Sheila’s face.

In middle school, the teachers kept harping on us to pick a profession.

“You have to figure out what you want to be when you grow up,” they said.

I always knew what I wanted to be. It wasn’t so easy to tell teachers, though. I made the mistake of telling my social studies teacher in eighth grade that my goal was to be cast as Mike (the young, hot stud) in a traveling production of A Chorus Line. I told her I really wanted to be Sheila, but it wasn’t likely I’d get the part because I don’t have breasts and I wouldn’t make a pretty woman.

She looked at me incredulously and took a long pause, then a deep breath.

“Jason, don’t you think you’re narrowing your options a bit?”

So I elaborated and said I wouldn’t mind being Paul, except that Paul is Hispanic and gets injured like a dumbass near the end of the script.

“I mean, don’t you think you should consider something a little less specific, perhaps broadening your options to a career in dancing or theater or something normal like stock broking?”

After that conversation, I told all my teachers I was going to study business in college to become a stockbroker. It was easier that way, but I never forgot my dream to wear tights and stand in the spotlight. At least once a week, usually in the middle of the night, I would slip the tape into my VCR and watch it at low volume. Sheila wearing her black leotard and looking snazzy made my heart jump. I wanted her so badly.

Then, it happened. I saw the sign for auditions my senior year in high school. A community theater was seeking young men for their production of A Chorus Line. To prepare, I enlisted the help of my friends and my mother’s makeup supply.

“Your mom’s gonna shit her pants!” Lisa yelled as she piled the Lancôme foundation on my skin.

“Red is so not a good color for you,” Marianne noted after smearing rose blush on my cheeks.

I told them to shut up and finish making me over before I was late to my audition. Marianne talked me into plucking my eyebrows and trimming my nasal hair. It was humiliating, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t aroused by the transformation. With my wig in place, I looked exactly like Sheila (save the lack of breasts and presence of the Adam’s apple).

Lisa stuffed a bra with toilet paper and helped me slip into the female lingerie. I used my own judgment to adjust my new breasts. On second thought, I added more toilet paper. Sheila was stacked. I would be stacked.

My tights revealed too much of a bulge in the nether region. Luckily, I had thought of this beforehand and had purchased a small, white tutu. It hid my manhood perfectly. Lisa and Marianne stepped back to look at their creation. Then, they clapped.

“You’re so gonna get the part!” Marianne said. She was obviously proud of herself.

At the audition, I sang “Dance: Ten, Looks: Three.” Sheila doesn’t sing the song in the movie, but it was in my range so I could belt it out.

“Tits and ass/bought myself a fancy pair/tightened up the derriere/did the nose with it/all that goes with it.” I sang it like a true Broadway diva, dancing at the same time and using my hands to illustrate my new assets. I had to admit I looked good with tits. I think the director might have been fooled by my costume. The fact that I changed my name from Jason Russell to Sheila Russell on my application probably didn’t hurt. Subliminal messages never hurt.

After my final note resonated, I took a bow. I thought that was what Sheila would do if she were me. That’s when I noticed I had an erection. The tutu was so thin the material draped around my sexuality like a tent. I froze. I contemplated smoothing out the tutu (and hopefully my erection) or turning around and tucking it between my legs. But I couldn’t move.

“Thank you, Sheila. The cast list will be posted tomorrow.”

That night, I relived that terrifying moment over and over. I worried I would not get the part, that my aching libido gave away my identity. If I were Batman, I would be unmasked. I didn’t wash off my makeup. My mother didn’t try to enter my bedroom that night. She must have been too outraged by the blatant abuse of her beauty products to talk to me. I didn’t sleep. 

I left the house and walked to the studio. I sat in the bushes so no one would see me. I waited until the sun came up. Then, I waited a few more hours. It became apparent no one was going to post the list until the afternoon. Still, I waited until some lackey ran toward the building with a sheet of paper in his hand at about 2:30.

He tacked it to the bulletin board inside the front doors.

I raced inside, my tutu stained by grass, eye makeup smeared and wig disheveled. My shaky finger traced down to my pseudonym.

“Sheila Russell—Sheila.”

My erection returned.


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