In chapter 9 of I Am J , Melissa strips in front of J. She takes off her clothes and, in the process, reveals the cuts on her arm. Seeing Melissa naked is nothing new to J. As Melissa acknowledges in the chapter, J has probably seen her naked “hundreds...
In chapter 9 of I Am J, Melissa strips in front of J. She takes off her clothes and, in the process, reveals the cuts on her arm. Seeing Melissa naked is nothing new to J. As Melissa acknowledges in the chapter, J has probably seen her naked “hundreds of times.” This time is different. This moment carries particular weight.
Melissa and J are best friends, but their close relationship has been fracturing. At the start of the narrative, during one of their sleepovers, J kissed Melissa while she was asleep. The kiss is problematic. As Melissa was sleeping, she could not consent to the kiss. More so, Melissa’s response—“I’m not a lesbian”—sows further confusion in J because J doesn’t think of himself as a girl.
The issues with Melissa relate to the difficulties that J experiences throughout the story. Lacking acceptance, he runs away and comes out to his mom. To protect J from his dad, J’s mom brings him to Melissa’s apartment. Shortly after this, Melissa strips in front of him.
It’s as if Melissa’s trying to restart their relationship. Taking off her clothes is a way to remind J that she’s his best friend and that he’s seen her naked numerous times without it being a big deal.
By revealing her body, Melissa also hopes that J will take off his clothes and show her his body. In doing so, Melissa wants J to articulate why he feels his body is different from hers.
Stripping doesn’t get J to talk expansively about his gender expression. J doesn’t say much besides that it has to do with his brain, not his body. But taking off her clothes does lead to Melissa platonically cuddling and comforting J, which is “precisely what he needed.”