Deb is in the House
We've been seeing a lot of Deb lately, Zeb's girl persona (see "Dunst' in the November archives').
It climaxed last week when Lulu led him down the stairs proclaiming, "Introducing Deb!''
And there he was, tricked out proudly in a pink floral skirt from Target; Lulu's old Daisy uniform (really just a yellow tee-shirt); maryjanes and a tiarra. We oohed and ahhed over how stunning he looked and didn't think much of it.
Once again, for the next hour, we had to call him "Deb,'' and he'd get pissed if we referred to him as "he'' instead of "she.'' If I was out on an errand, Regis would warn me upon my return: "Deb's back. She's upstairs playing.''
In Lulu's room, we'd hear her begging him, "Don't you want to be Deb now?''
Sometimes, he'd protest and go off to play with his trucks. Sometimes, he'd say yes immediatly; and sometimes it was obvious he was giving into her because he was sick of being harrassed.
This is one of Lulu's greatest fantasies, to have an older sister, preferably one named Kelly Clarkson, and she knows this is the closest she'll ever come.
Zeb, on the other hand, never tries to coerce her into being his little brother "Louis,'' for instance, although sometimes he gets her to pretend she's his dog (named "Jenny'').
At first, we weren't worried about Deb since she isn't the only character in Zeb's repertoire. Many are quite butch. In his green mardi gras mask, he's "Superdude.'' As the "Fixin Guy'' or "Rescue Man'' he likes to talk in husky voice as he directs traffic or rummages through his tool box.
There's also "Johnny,'' a role created for him by Lulu. Johnny is a twenty-something diner-owner who, heedless of child labor laws, employs his younger sister "Chrystal,'' a ten-year-old waitress.
But when Deb kept reappearing, in ever more frou frou outfits, Regis and I wondered if this meant Zeb would turn out to be gay. We tried to tell ourselves that if he was, big deal.
"Life will be hard for him,'' I said. "But he'll probably be a much better dresser than either of us.'' Although, so far, his fashion sense wasn't anything to write home about.
What really bothered us was that we didn't want Zeb to feel like he had to be someone else to please Lulu.
One day, when we heard her say, "You know, you can be Deb all day at nursery school if you want,'' we stepped in to say he couldn't.
"Hey, Mister,'' we told him. "If you don't want to be Deb, that's okay. It's okay to just be Zeb. Deb is nice, but we love Zeb so much.''
"But I wanna be Deb,'' he replied.
Then we fell all over ouselves reassuring him that it was okay to be Deb, too.
Only, we wanted to add, perhaps not so much.