Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Mutant Abilities

I remember it was after X-Men came out, a bunch of friends and I were sitting around one night, discussing our own mutant abilities. One of them can learn a language well enough to fool a fluent speaker in a month, stuff like that. It went around the group, and it didn't take more than a couple of minutes for me to realise a) I was surrounded by freaks, and b) I had them all outfreaked. Most of them had one, and a couple had two, but I have three - count 'em - three mutant abilities.

As usually happens in these kinds of stories, all eyes came to rest on me, for I alone had yet to contribute. I'd hoped to let it pass, but this group was having none of that. I demurred that I wasn't sure that anything freaky about me was suitably mutant. I mean, I have perfect matching pitch, which apparently is quite rare. I could sing, right now, the opening verse of "Grapefruit Moon" on key and I haven't heard that song in months. It's freaky, just not Marvel Comics freaky.

I also repel gay men; I live in fear that the Vatican might catch wind of this and kidnap me to develop some sort of secret weapon. The nicest gay man you know could meet me for less than ten seconds and afterwards describe me using only the most hateful words imaginable. I've also tested this, but the straight woman whose nice gay friend was the guinea pig won't tell me what he said, so I guess it must have been pretty bad.

Then there's the trivia thing. You see, my brain seems to function as a trivia particle accelerator. I can identify who you're talking about usually with one oblique clue. I discovered it one day when my grandmother was having tea with one of her friends. In order to let them talk, I was reading on the terrace, when my grandmother called me into the house. She asked me, "We're trying to think of that woman, what's her name, she danced?"

Immediately I answered: "Dame Margot Fonteyn." The look on her friend's face was indescribable, but I'd seen the one on my grandmother's face hundreds of times. No doubt they'd been bragging about who had the better grandson and I'd just helped her win. My friend Peter later dubbed this: "What's Her Name, She Danced" and if I hadn't stopped him I'm sure he would have developed it into a game show or some such atrocity.

But neither of these skills-slash-super powers can even come close to my ability to conjure. This I also discovered by accident, since in those days there was no Sky High. I'd be wandering around somewhere talking with a friend about actors and singers we liked, when I would bemoan that such and such wasn't around much anymore. I mean, they could have been has-beens for years and suddenly there they are.

It was immediately prior to the release of "American Beauty" and I'd been going on about Annette Bening, and why hadn't I seen her for so long. Within a week there she was in all her glory on "Entertainment Tonight" just like she'd never gone anywhere. One time I was complaining that there were no more Doris Day types around anymore. The next night I watched "Pleasantville" and who should appear but Reese Witherspoon.

Understand, I try not to use any of these powers lightly. I certainly don't need to repel gay men, I need to attract them, but can't find a way to reverse the polarity. The trivia thing is fun at a party, until someone screams witch and then I have to outrun an angry mob, etc. etc.; it gets old. And as for conjuring, well, there are too many celebrities as it is. If anything, I should try to learn how to reverse the polarity of this ability, and send a few hangers-on packing (they know who they are).

All in all, I'd rather be a shape-shifter. Failing that, I'd like the ability to finish essays as well as I start them. Or that language thing: I always thought that was really cool.
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