Summary: Chapter 19: Tiresias in Love

Tessie makes an appointment for Callie to see Dr. Bauer, a gynecologist.

While the family prepares to go to Turkey, Callie wants to stay in Grosse Pointe because she’s in love.The Object invites Callie to her family’s swim club. Callie wears an old swimsuit that has a skirt for coverage. The Object wants Callie to come with her family to their summer house in August, but Callie will be in Turkey. The Object’s brother, Jerome, comes over to bother the girls. He tells Callie about the monster movie he wants to make: Vampires in Prep School . It’s about a prep-school boy who discovers that his headmaster is a vampire, a metaphor for how the older generation turns the new one into the living dead.

Callie sleeps over at the Object’s house. They rub each other’s backs, and Callie asks the Object if she’s ever been to the gynecologist. The Object describes her experience with horror and warns that Dr. Bauer is the father of one of their classmates and a pervert. Another night that Callie sleeps over, the Object asks why Callie is never naked in front of her and promises that she would never judge her because they’re best friends. Callie is overjoyed.

Back at home, Callie dreads her upcoming gynecologist visit and starts attending church again to pray for her period to start. Tessie worries about Chapter Eleven, who has dropped out of college and isn’t taking care of himself.

Callie and the Object go to a party at a classmate’s house. They check each other’s breath for freshness before they go in. Jerome surprises Callie by asking if she wants to be in his vampire movie. Callie reminds him that she’s going to Turkey.The Object flirts with Jerome’s friend Rex, who got his previous girlfriend killed in a drunk driving accident. Callie pulls the Object away, and the Object gets upset. Callie claims the Object’s breath is onion-y and she was saving the Object from embarrassment. The Object rests her head on Callie’s shoulder and says that things between them are too weird, so it’s good Callie’s leaving.

The next day in church, Callie feigns getting cramps. Tessie thinks it’s her period and is excited and relieved.Turkey invades Cyprus, igniting war with Greece, and the family cancels their trip.

Summary: Chapter 20: Flesh and Blood

Callie starts regularly faking her period, and Tessie cancels the appointment with Dr. Bauer. Callie feels she’s taken control of her body. She accepts the Object’s invitation to go to her summer house.

The U.S. has sided with Turkey in their war with Greece. Milton, vocally siding with the U.S., alienates himself from his Greek friends. His friends stop coming to the house for Sunday dinner.

Callie goes to the Object’s family’s summer house in Petoskey. Jerome shows her around because the Object is talking with Rex, who is also in Petoskey with his family.Rex suggests they go to a hunter’s cabin in the woods and party. As they get ready, Callie teases the Object about her crush on Rex. The Object replies that Jerome has a crush on Callie. Callie complains that she doesn’t want to go into the woods.

Callie decides to ignore the Object and flirt with Jerome to get back at the Object. The four teens trudge through the cypress swamp only to find the cabin locked. While the boys try to find a window they can use to sneak in, Callie almost convinces the Object to join her in going back to the house. Soon Rex reappears in the doorway, and Callie loses sway.

Callie’s is tired of her revenge flirting scheme, but she has no choice but to go along with it. They all drink a lot, and Rex passes around a joint.Jerome and Callie start kissing. Callie looks over and sees the Object and Rex making out. Jerome pushes Callie onto one of the cots in the room. Callie focuses on the Object. She imagines being in Rex’s body as he kisses and touches the Object. Jerome pulls down Callie’s overalls and initiates sex while she is distracted. Callie panics and pushes him away.She realizes she was fully at home in Rex’s male body and believes that soon everyone will know her secret. However, Jerome didn’t actually notice anything different about her.

Analysis: Chapters 19 & 20

The Stephanides’ social conflict that arises from the United States siding with Turkey in the 1974 war highlights further crises of identity around being neither completely Greek nor completely American. Because of the binary nature of the conflict, it is impossible for Milton or his friends to side with both Greece and the United States; they will each have to choose. Although the starkness of the contrast is new, the war merely exposes choices they have already made. Milton has become more financially successful than the family friends who come to Sunday dinners, achieving the American dream by moving into a neighborhood like Grosse Pointe that discourages even assimilated second-generation families. In return, Milton has had to either downplay his Greek origins or commodify them, as does in the Hercules gimmick of his hot dog chain. His friends’ expectation that he side with Greece threatens his American identity. It also involves admitting that achieving the American dream has come at the cost of his Greekness. By not assimilating quite as much, the family friends are less successful than Milton, but they maintain a stronger Greek identity.

Jerome’s vampire movie demonstrates the slightly different way white Anglo-Saxon Protestant families conceive of inheritance as a form of brainwashing. Cal has extensively explored how the Stephanides family passes on lessons learned from trauma and cultural knowledge throughout the novel, describing it as a mixed gift but one given always with good intentions and out of a love of their Greek heritage. In Jerome’s vampire movie, the elders of white culture drain the creativity and new ideas from the young in order to force both sameness and monstrosity upon them. Instead of a gift, white cultural inheritance is to literally be drained of blood, left with an emptiness. This process is analogous to the Ford English School pageant in which the graduates sacrifice their ethnic heritage—metaphorically their blood—in order to all dress alike as newly created Protestant Americans. Jerome’s rebelliousness also brings to mind Chapter Eleven, who treats the Stephanides family as if they represent the dominant American culture, again showing the extent of the family’s assimilation.

The mixed signals the Object sends Callie again demonstrates that secrecy is the enemy of intimacy. Because lesbian desire isn’t socially acceptable in their community, the Object and Callie cannot discuss their growing feelings for each other and only communicate indirectly. The Object couches discussion of Callie’s naked body in the language of them being “best friends.” A best friendship implies emotional intimacy but doesn’t always mean two people see each other naked, and so we can assume that the Object has a curiosity about Callie’s body that isn’t entirely platonic. The closest the Object comes to admitting her feelings for Callie happens in the form of her saying that she’s glad Callie is leaving because their relationship is confusing. Although Callie recognizes the true meaning of the Object’s confession, the reality remains that the Object can only couch her intimate feelings in words of confusion and dismay. Just as the impossibility of Sourmelina explaining her sexuality to Zizmo once led to jealousy, so now does the silence around lesbianism lead to the Object trying to erase her desires and Callie feeling jealous of Rex.

Callie’s out of body experience in Chapter 20 demonstrates her first fully-realized instance of dysphoria, a disconnect with her body. Although Callie has expressed embarrassment, fear, and shame about her body, those stem from cultural forces and a lack of knowledge. Those feelings of discomfort differ from the way she imagines herself in Rex’s body because in the sex scene, she identifies more with Rex’s body than her own. In some ways, her dysphoria has less to do with her physicality and more with sexuality and attraction. She would like to be in Rex’s position because she’s attracted to girls, specifically to the Object. Her identification with Rex in this moment also signifies her realization that her body looks more like Rex’s than the Object’s, that is, her “crocus” appears more penis-like. The drug use in this scene creates a veil of unreality and literal smoke that emphasizes the way Callie cannot fully be in her body at this moment. If she were sober, she would have to directly acknowledge the disconnect between her feelings and actions, her desires and her body.