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Monday, July 14, 2014

New Yorker: Love Transformed Me: Confessions of a Serially Monogamous Shape-Shifter Posted by Cirocco Dunlap

July 7, 2014

Love Transformed Me: Confessions of a Serially Monogamous Shape-Shifter





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When you don’t have a constant physical form, it can be tricky to have a strong sense of self. As a shape-shifter, I’m constantly looking to others for validation, wondering, Will he think I’m more attractive as a cephalopod? Does being an arachnid make my legs look too numerous?

The first guy I really loved was a water beast. You know the Loch Ness “monster”? Krink was like him, but obviously younger. He was three or four centuries old, at most. He was very handsome, with the face of an anglerfish and the body of a beluga whale. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but that’s how he looked to me—not that physical appearance matters when it comes to romance. You know what they say: love looks not with the eyes but with an array of sensors along the body called “neuromasts.”


Soon after meeting Krink, I shape-shifted into a water beast and I moved into his cozy underwater cavern, in Lake George. For a while, things were wonderful. Krink’s laughter lit up the room. He was bioluminescent, so this was annoying when we were trying to hide from a predator. But right before he laughed he always made the cutest gargle-choke, which appeased both my anger and my pragmatic fear for our survival. On a typical day, we would gather moss in the morning and spend the next twenty-three hours not moving at the bottom of the lake. It was a comfortable relationship, but I eventually left him. He wanted a life partner, and I just wasn’t ready to commit for the next six thousand years.

I had been single for a few months when I met Rog. I’d travelled to the Himalayas in the hopes of getting some alone time, but my plans changed when I fell in with the tribe of the man-bears.

After I shifted into one of them, I was struck by how welcoming they were. Almost immediately, they cornered me and batted at me with their sharp claws to draw blood, which was a typical way to show affection in the tribe. Rog was the most brutal of the man-bears. He killed ruthlessly and without reason, so he was the majority choice for leader. Because he and I never went head to head in a death battle, I became his man-wife and co-king of the man-bears. It was a clan that consisted only of males, so, although I am a female, for this period in my life I identified as a male. Gender identity is even more confusing if you’re a shape-shifter. I left Rog soon after he ate his mother-father. I couldn’t forgive him for not saving me any of the leg bones.

I moved back home and planned to be a homebody for a while. I couldn’t date someone if I wasn’t going out, right? But, of course, that’s how I met Cleve, a ghost from 1813 who lived in my pantry. He had died in the War of 1812. He was so excited to get to the fight that he tripped on his unfastened shoe buckle and ran himself through with his own musket. He helped with the war as a ghost for a while, by knocking around wind chimes to creep out the other side, which was surprisingly effective. When the war ended, he lost his purpose and mostly took to moping.

After we met, he started to open up. He’d do small things, like heat his ethereal mass if we were in the same room so I wouldn’t feel pure terror. It was sweet. I shifted into a ghost frequently so we could swish our misty genitals together, and sneak into the neighbors’ house to watch their HBO Go. It was fun until he suddenly crossed over during a particularly bloody battle on “Game of Thrones.”

So here I am. Thirty-five, single, and doing well. I’m lonely sometimes, but it’s by choice. I’m trying to avoid the advances of the cute wood gnome who recently grew into a tree down the block. I want to take this time to figure out who I am. Am I the Cyclops I woke up as, or am I the winged horse I went to sleep as? Maybe I’m neither, but maybe—just maybe—I’m both.
Illustration by Warwick Goble.