Pride & Joy Day 26: The Spin

[Today’s donation was made to The Loveland FoundationClick here to see my Pride & Joy Project 2020 Daily Donations List.]

I’ve made my feelings for the incredibly sexist and sexualized Wonder Woman costume of the bygone eras of George Perez et al known. In case you haven’t noticed: I hate it.

Side note: I also hate the way they design the costume for Star Girl. And no, I’m not saying women should cover up their bodies. I’m saying if you’re going to make women show some skin, men should do the same. It’s only fair.

That’s why I try to avoid getting any Wonder Woman items where she wears, let’s be honest here, a swimsuit.

So what’s with this pullover?

Well, I got this in Jakarta when I last visited in December 2019. I was so happy. For the first time, I bought my own plane tickets, and I splurged and bought business class. They were worth every penny. Especially considering I probably won’t be flying anytime soon due to Covid-19.

It was Christmas eve 2019, the night I finally saw my best friend from school after at least four years. I’ve never told him this how much I love him and how much he means to me because I’m chicken shit. It’s not my awkwardness that I fear when I’m confessing my feelings to someone, it’s what they would say afterward.

But distance and yearning and the protection/barrier of the Internet has encouraged me to tell this story.

I went to an all-male Catholic school called Kolese Kanisius. I was a little fish from a little pond. The school jolted me and made me realize my life as an overachieving primary-school nerd was a lie. At the end of every school year I feared I’d fail and have to repeat the grade. Thankfully it never happened.

I was bullied but I don’t know if it was my naivete or resilience (or both) that protected me and helped me survive. The bullying was never physical, so at least there’s that. When I saw my junior-high and senior-high bullies a decade later, we became friends. Like nothing ever happened. And they didn’t have to apologize because we were kids and some kids were cruel. I just hope their children won’t experience bullying, whether as the giver or the receiver.

One of the brightest moments in junior and senior high years was my friend, Herlambang Pandudewanata. Or Pandu for short. “Pandu” also means “guide” in Indonesian. He was my gateway to gayness. I mean, I was already feminine, but he set me on flaming mode. He became my hero. I was so transfixed and charmed by this intelligent boy I attached myself to so mercilessly. I learned a lot from him and copied a lot of his mannerisms and flourishes.

We were classmates in junior high for two years, and then we were put in separate classes. We were never in the same class in senior high.

I mean sure, one time, one of my bullies forced Pandu to tell him who my secret crush was (it was a classmate of mine and I apologize for making him feel awkward. And to be honest, I didn’t really like him that much. I was actually smitten by another boy. This boy was the first person who extended his hand to me on my first day in junior high.)

So, yes. Pandu did betray me. But he apologized and I didn’t stay mad for long (I think it was only two days).

At school, Pandu excelled in arts, languages, and science. (See his art on his Instagram @bloodyruby). We were both not into sports and would rather spend the PE hour manicuring our nails. I’m a Leo and I’m very competitive, so my only advantage against Pandu was when I beat him in the school’s singing competition. Meanwhile, he’s a Cancer and so he’s all mysterious and by mysterious I mean he rarely showed emotions. This made me all the more determined to earn his respect.

Pandu and I would walk around the school singing songs from Spice Girls’ albums and Evita waiting for our parents to pick us up. Every Wednesday night after X-Files, I’d call him and we’d talk about the episode and especially that time David Duchovny wore that red Speedo.

Since we loved singing and our voices hadn’t changed yet (I was a year or two years younger than the rest of my classmates since I skipped two grades back in primary school), our music teacher wanted us to join the choir. So Pandu and I and two other kids were the featured quartet for our school’s 70th jubilee in 1997. We sang Panis Angelicus by St. Thomas Aquinas.

For our junior high graduation night, our music teacher also wanted us to sing. So we practiced and practiced and practiced. And then the night came and our slot was given to a surprise guest who turned out to be the Christian singer Natashia Nikita (she was nine at the time).

As I was waiting to go home, Pandu and I sat on a bench in front of the volleyball court and I started to cry. And he put his hand on my shoulder.

Pandu, if you’re reading this (and bitch, you’d better), I want to thank you for that gesture. It meant so much to me.

We graduated senior high in 2000 and went to the same university, Universitas Indonesia, but he majored in architecture and I in communications. It was a sprawling campus and our faculties were far apart. I’d sometimes pick him up when I started driving, but he had his own life.

In our first year of university, the two of us went to an annual classical music concert presented by Paragita, Universitas Indonesia’s prestigious choir.

Pandu joined Paragita in the first semester. Meanwhile, I was too busy with orientation slash hazing that I just didn’t bother. My faculty’s orientation lasted longer than his, so by the time we finished, almost the whole semester had ended.

A year later, I sat by myself in the audience, watching Pandu sing with Paragita at the annual concert. I was so proud of him.

That night when I bought this pullover at H&M Grand Indonesia, we’d been circling the mall for hours, and I didn’t want the night to end. It was the only time I got to see him during my last visit.

“You should get it,” he said when I saw the shirt and squealed. It’s pink (love!), but it has the bikini Wonder Woman (hate!).

In my book, Gentlemen Prefer Asians, I wrote about how memories attach themselves to objects and then just metastasize and merge with other memories.

My childhood memory of reading Wonder Woman comic books and seeing Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman on TV, collided with the memory of spending my junior high until university with Pandu. And now, I have this pink pullover from one of the most corrupt and unfair fast fashion companies to remind me of one of the happiest days in 2019 when I finally got to see my best friend of 25 years.

As for the title of today’s photograph, well, it’s the move Lynda Carter created for the iconic transformation of Wonder Woman in the TV series. It makes more sense when you see the entry for Pride & Joy Day 27.

Photography by Yuska Lutfi Tuanakotta.