Who remembers “It’s Pat”?
If you never heard of “It’s Pat” here’s the Wiki definition: “Pat is an androgynous fictional character created and performed by Julia Sweeney for the American sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, and later featured in the film It’s Pat. The central aspect of sketches featuring Pat was the inability of others to determine the character’s sex. Pat (Pat O’Neil Riley) was a somewhat overweight character with short, curly black hair who wore glasses and a blue western-style shirt with tan slacks. The character spoke in a nasal voice that sometimes squeaked. Pat apparently suffered from very sweaty palms and constantly wiped them on his or her clothing while making a strange whimpering sound, further adding to the character’s unappealing quality. Sweeney wore no face makeup but colored her lips beige and overdid her eyebrows to hide any gender identity clues. Sweeney has said that Pat originated when she tried to play a male character in a sketch but looked unconvincing.”
Here is a link to one of my favorite “It’s Pat” sketches: pat-physical-evaluation. Around 3 minutes into the skit the trainer is trying to get a body fat percentage on Pat, and Pat exclaims “Please I just want to exercise!” We, as a society, feel the need to tailor every aspect of life, to one gender or another. We feel this so strongly, that Pat can’t be helped to do something as simple as exercise, without the trainers first knowing his or her gender (on a side note, does anyone know a word that refers to an individual person that isn’t gendered? It would make writing about Pat a lot easier). Pat’s struggles extend far beyond exercising, whether he or she is in social situations, shopping or just trying to do his or her job, Pat is constantly making the people around him or her uncomfortable. The people around Pat deal with their discomfort, by trying to come up with creative ways to try to get Pat to reveal some sort of clue to his or her gender. Because of this discomfort, no one knows how to interact with Pat, which leads me to ask, “Why must we let someone’s gender determine how we interact with people?”.
I once was a gymnastics coach. When I coached, my philosophy was “The gym is no place for makeup.” The guiding principle behind this was, in the gym you should only be concerned with your work, not your appearance. I personified this at practice by not wearing makeup myself (I would wear makeup to meets, because that was when one was supposed to be judged by their appearance). Since I was not wearing makeup, and a unisex collared shirt and athletic pants were my uniform, the only obvious clue to my gender identity someone had was my hair. When I was 22 years old I lost my hair, due to chemotherapy.
My hair was the last clue people had left to figure out my gender. As a direct result of it’s loss, I started wearing makeup to practice. I now felt the need to let people know, at a glance, which gender I was. It was such an uncomfortable feeling, to not be immediately gender identifiable, that I threw away my philosophy regarding training and makeup, to accommodate it. Which brings me back to Pat.
I do not know if Pat is truly clueless to the fact that he or she is hard to gender identify, or if he or she has the courage to live their life, without catering to the need, others have, to gender identify. Either way, I am envious of Pat.