Monday, March 18, 2019

Tyler/Valerie: Smile

I have I can't tell you how many interactions with people all day behind the counter of the coffee shop. They complain to me about the quality of our baked goods, about the weather, about it being Monday. They might make some remark they really think I'll like, or be bold enough to make a remark that could be construed as flirty. For the most part I try to keep a politely neutral expression on my face. One that says, I may not be thrilled to be here and I'm really not here to make friends, but I'm not going to bite your head off. Wecan talk for the five seconds it takes to foam a latte, whatever.

Some people are better at service than I am. Maddie is a perky burst of energy. Rafe can be chummy and bro-y at the drop of a hat. The new kid, Devin, is very upbeat. I'm personally not so good at hiding my real feelings.

You would think - being a transformed person, who has lived other peoples lives for years, faking things comes naturally. But maybe that's actually why I am so averse to it. I want my inner self to come through. And if she's a little blah most days, it's not without reason.

I at least know I am providing my best service whether I'm smiling or not. Me putting on a false face, I have to believe, doesn't improve my customer's lives for eve the 30 seconds we are face to face.

When I have something to smile about, I smile. Some days I come in in a good mood, some days Maddie and I have danceoffs (she wins - I just awkwardly shuffle my body like any rhythmless former-guy with ungainly boobs.) You know, whatever. I smile when I'm happy.

You know what I'm getting at here. The number of times I've had some guy say I should be smiling - and it's always a guy - I can't count. To this day I have no set response to it. Usually, if I think I can get away with it, I just don't react. If I'm lucky I can brush it off and go to the next customer. I've had one or two guys get indignant when I've taken this approach and hiss at me about what poor service I'm giving. Sometimes I play dumb, like I didn't hear them and see if I can get them to feel embarrassed. Sometimes I even will myself to flash a smile, but I always feel disgusted with myself afterward.

Universally, it makes me feel gross. I was a man, and I know not every many goes around saying stuff like that, but it doesn't really make me feel great about the totality of my former gender to see how widespread it is. Or to feel how small and powerless and objectified it makes me feel. Being leered at is one thing - I'm worth looking at, and it doesn't inconvenience me too badly. But to be latched onto by men who want to "see me smile" just feels so sinister and wrong and makes me feel like they see me as "less." It's a reminder that to a lot of them I am less - a target, a prize, than a human to be engaged with.

Yesterday, when it happened, I tried my usual brushoff. I wasn't having a good day. My hair was being uncooperative, I was feeling certain physical ailments I never dealt with before being a woman, I was just annoyed at the world. So when this guy drops his change into the tip jar - a whopping 15 cents - and I don't smile and say thank you, he gives me this glare, and says, "Hey, not even a smile? What's the matter with you?"

I could have gone into a whole thing, but instead I gave him the fake smile, and said, "Oh, thanks." He was big and bald and honestly looked like he would take a swing at me even thought I'm five-foot nothing and female. I was too scared to try anything but go along. It's one of the worst feelings that comes along with this life.

He reluctantly accepts this, muttering under his breath as he walks away with his coffee to go sit down.

So here's where it gets screwy. We have this regular - Kevin. We call him Silvertop because he's a  little older, prematurely grey, handsome like Anderson Cooper. Well, more salt-and-pepper but whatever. He comes in every day, reads for an hour or so, then leaves quietly. I like him, generally.

He gets up and he goes over to the guy. "Excuse me," he says, "Did you just tell her to smile?"

"None of your business, pal," says the guy, who looks like he would wreck silvertop in a fight.

"That's just incredibly rude," Kevin goes on to say, "You can't just say shit like that to random women. It's 2019, pal."

"Step off," growls the other guy.

Kevin won't relent. "I'm just saying, you don't know her story. Who's to say she's got anything to smile about, just because some stranger threw a quarter her way? Why don't you think about other people for a change?"

Big Guy stands up like he's going to start a fight, but to his credit, he just leaves the shop, staring daggers at Kevin the whole way. I'm watching this unfold and I'm feeling... angry.

"Hey," I say sharply.

"Yeah?" Kevin answers back.

"Don't do that."

He looks at me for a while, then asks, "I was just trying to..."

"Well, I didn't want you to, okay. I don't need you to swoop in and tongue-lash every asshole who comes in here. Have you seen this city? That's how you get stabbed."

He looked like he was going to defend himself a bit more, but then he caught himself. "My mistake, I'm sorry."

Then he sits back down and goes back to his book.

I spent the rest of the day in a huff. I told Maddie about it, but she didn't see the big deal - she'd love to have some guy defending her, especially someone like Silvertop.

"It just feels like two sides of the same coin," I said, "The first guy thought I owed him a smile. The second wanted to seem like a hero for rescuing me."

"He was just being nice!" Maddie protested.

Charli got it better, which I guess befits her background. Not that she's a manhater per se but she's even more wary of them than I am.

Still, I spent the rest of the night first wondering if I was too harsh, then getting re-annoyed with myself for thinking I could be too harsh. It's been a while since I've mentioned it but my "natural speaking voice" in this body is like an animated kitten. Even when I work to lower my register I still sound pretty cutesy. It's annoying.

I did wonder whether I should apologize. He has always seemed like a nice enough guy, quiet, keeps to himself, his intentions were good enough. Maybe I had a valid reason but there's also a ton of baggage I bring to situations like these.

The next day when he came in, he gave his order. I gave him a smile to try to convey... an apology? The idea I might have been wrong without fully admitting it?

"I'm sorry again about yesterday" he said unprompted. "It was presumptuous of me to step in. Way out of line."

"Yeah, well" I said steeling myself to give a rare apology, "I shouldn't have jumped down your throat. I was really just... misplaced anger and stuff. Really, it was a decent gesture."

"Well, I was chastened," he said, "And you spoke your mind. I respect the hell out of that, even if I'm on the other end of it."

I appreciated him saying that.

I have to admit, the unwanted attention this body beings frustrates the hell out of me, because I can't seem to turn it off. It's one thing to doll up and draw attention to yourself, but when you don't feel comfortsble standing around looking plain and average because guys think you should be happy and perky and perfectly groomed at all times, it wears on you, makes you resent life. Ironically, it doesn't make me want to go back to being a man - it makes me want to be a better woman.

--Val

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Jenn/Zack: Mope

When I left off, I had broken up with David and, immediately afterward, been told that I was not getting my body back. Not this year at least, but I might as well consider it a life sentence since nobody ever seems to get back to normal if they miss their first chance. The asshole in my body couldn't even go a year without turning my home into a meth lab, so I know I can't rely on them. I might as well consider that a lost cause.

I've been in mourning. It feels like every day I think of some new thing I'll never see again. My parents, my brother and sisters, my grandmother, my cousins, my family dog... my old job, my co-workers, the clothes I liked wearing, my hometown. Now I'm screwed, doomed to wander around through life, always pretending to be someone else. I feel like I have no purpose, except to keep Zack's life ready for him. Nothing matters anymore. Nothing feels like "me."

I'm mad at David for not telling me, as well as basically breaking off all communications. It's just as well since in this state I've been missing him and dying for something comfortable and safe, even though it would be a mistake to go back with him. The further I get from him the more the details of our relationship seem like a nightmare. As Lana, he had so much power over me but it wasn't enough.

Pete has been so helpful. She's been there and she seems to have a lot of patience for my mopiness. Pete has a gentle soul. Pete has "been there" in a lot of ways and can guide me through what I'm dealing with.

Which makes what happened next feel that much worse. That asshole David had the balls to fire Pete/April two weeks ago.

You can't tell me it wasn't personal. Pete has been above and beyond the call of duty for April's position, basically doing the job of an executive while officially only being an EA. There are other VP's but they are subject to Lena's directives, and those directives have been coming from Pete.

When Pete told me, she put a brave face on it. So much the better - April was officially overqualified, and with Pete's brain and her CV, there was a good chance this was a great opportunity. They've been collaborating, long-distance, over what kind of jobs April is interested in applying for, since she's the one who will end up doing it. We can't afford to make it through the spring unemployed until we go back to the Inn.

It just provides more reason to be livid at David, that he would pull a stunt like this. Somehow there are no laws to prevent this, since at-will employment is a thing and even though it's so nakedly personal there's no recourse Pete can take. It's just David screwing himself because he doesn't like Pete and doesn't like that he is helping me out.

I'm angry, and sad, and lonely all the time and I want this experience to end.

-Jenn

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Tyler/Valerie: Girly

During parts of my life where I've been physically a woman, I've had an annoying recurring dream where I'm walking down the main street of my hometown in just my underwear. I walk past people I grew up with while they catcall me, yelling out obscene shit like "Nice tits!" "Where'd you get the panties!" "Shake that ass!" and such. I wake up feeling ashamed and bitter. Just terrible that life worked out in such a way that I now live like this. It makes me not want to get out of bed in the morning, let alone do my hair and make-up and get dressed and face the world as this.

Let it be known - I've come to like doing my hair and make-up. I'm free to slack on them, of course, but engaging in girly shit makes me feel, well, girly, in a good way. Which is important, because this is a girly body.

Let's talk about how hard it is to dress myself. Pretty much my only options are to wear something form-fitting that shows off my body, or something frumpy and baggy that may be comfortable and warm but makes me look like I'm in a potato sack. I have no choice but to acknowledge to the world that I have big boobs, round hips, and a butt that is admittedly on the flat side but still feminine. And the shit I get from the world if I choose to downplay my looks is honestly not worth the savings in time and effort. So, you win, world. You've girled me up.

I like the girly stuff, not because I ever did before, but because I've come to see it as part of being me. And no matter who you are, no matter what it takes, you can't beat the feeling of looking in the mirror and knowing the person who is looking back is the real you. However far you are from the way you started.

All this estrogen has had a transformative effect on my brain, and I'm not just talking about being willing to do something like what I did on New Years. I'm a lot more conscientious of, well... everything. I see an ad for skin cream and I think "Hm, my skin has felt dry lately - must be the weather, maybe I'll pick some up." Something that wouldn't have occurred to me during my time as a man. I also think maybe it's made me more sensitive. Charlie was sick last month, and even though we still hadn't really broken the ice, I made her soup and tea and stuff.

As to why I would have dreams knocking me down a peg, it's probably because I go through a sustained period of feeling okay about my situation, and then suddenly my brain wants to correct itself and go "No, this isn't right, you should be a man, being a woman is wrong." Tight clothes, makeup, hairspray, all wrong. Lip balm, wrong. Period, very wrong. But there's nothing I can do about it, and on balance, nothing I want to do about it.

I think what spurred these bad dreams was actually... dating. After things didn't pan out with Erik - I ghosted him, but he also ghosted me, which left me feeling oddly annoyed (what, no "thank you"? Was I not good? Does he think he can do better?) I nearly texted him but I had to remind myself I didn't like him that much, so I went on the apps.

It sucks out there. My whole line, to Pete or Jenn or anyone who asks is, I'm not actively interested in dating women, but man I miss it. I have never met a guy I liked as much as the women I dated. I went out with three guys in January and February and they were all kind of boring. They were guys who work day jobs in offices who message every reasonably attractive person they see, and I just picked the least objectionable ones.

They were full of themselves, they prattled on and on about their work, and, because I, as Valerie, am not really in the same place in my life as them, seemed not to acknowledge my observations. I was beneath them, I was more of a pet, an object, an adorable little accessory to be talked down to. And that was when they bothered to let me into the conversation. They would go on and on and usually casually reveal their cockiness, their sexism, their obliviousness to other peoples' feelings or lives.

I got invited back to all three apartments and I declined all three times even though I would like to find someone to have sex with. I didn't feel particularly attracted to them - it's so crazy how I never know what's going to, uh shall we say, light my fire. I have a few regular customers I have openly referred to as cuties, so I know I'm at least into something, but one is tall and broad-shouldered, the other is short and thin and kind of boyish, and honestly I don't think he's conventionally attractive. And don't think I haven't thought about breaking the ice there, but when you work with the public there's something to be said for keeping your relationships professional.

I was venting about all this to Charlie, of all people. When she was sick, and I helped her with stuff, we started to bond. She loves "straight girl tea" and openly drips acid all over the idea of me having a lovelife. She says I fascinate her, because I seem like such a vanilla, nothing-happening straight girl on the outside, but there's "clearly" more going on. If she only knew.

"Sometimes I wonder about you," she said with a glint in her eye. "Are you sure you're completely straight?"

I smirk, this is oddly the conversation I've wanted to have with her for months, even though I'm about to say things to her I probably shouldn't. "Can you keep a secret?"

"Of course. I'm all about that," she grinned widely.

I take a deep breath, "I've dated women. Years ago. Waaay in the past."

Her jaw dropped and she leaned in closer. "Anything serious?"

"One or two, yeah," I said. I could feel myself getting oddly cold as I edged toward the truth. Maybe this was a mistake.

"Why did you stop?"

"I... it's very complicated. It's not who I am anymore."

"I see. You met the guy who left you at the altar. You straightened out for him, and now you're worried your gay card has expired."

"More like, I let it lapse," I said.

"Uh huh," she nodded skeptically, as if this was not possible (and maybe in her world, it isn't.) "Well, I've got to say over the past few months I've noticed some weird things about you. Like, sometimes this 'normal vanilla good girl' thing is just an outfit you're trying on and it doesn't quite fit."

That stung a little. Any reminder that I'm not totally passing feels the same as those dreams. Like salt in the wounds that even if I embrace womanhood, it doesn't always see me as one of its own. But people take so little notice of others that it never seems to come up. And what she was saying was theoretically admiring (from her standpoint) but it came across as a critique. I got quiet.

"Don't tell Maddie, okay? She doesn't need to know."

"Oh, of course not," Charlie nodded. "Because then she'll get all weird, worrying that you and I might hook up. Or worse, you'd try to hit on her."

"Right..." I said, a little saddened that that might be Maddie's take on the situation.

"She made me promise I wouldn't try to get with you. Well I guess you don't need my help. But I still promise not to knock on your door some drunken night."

"Thanks," I said, "Same here."

She laughed, then coughed and sneezed and snorted in an adorably disgusting way. "Let it lapse!" she hooted, bringing back my term from earlier "That's hilarious."

Later, when it was my turn to be sick, she looked after me, then when Maddie was sick, we let her boyfriend take care of it, although I'd be lying if I didn't say there was a part of me that thought I could be doing a better job.

-Tyler/Valerie

Monday, February 11, 2019

Jenn/Zack: What the HELL???

Breaking up with David was the hardest, most gut-wrenching process of my life. It took days of fighting and negotiating and going back and forth endlessly on text and e-mail and in person.

Before pulling the trigger, I had to make sure my bases were covered - since I have been cohabitating with him and basically using Lena's bank account as my sole means of support, I first contacted Pete and confirmed that he would be okay if I crashed on his couch until I got on my feet. Then I started lining up potential clients for "my" photography business, which was a little feeble but it was better than nothing.

I spent days mentally rehearsing my arguments, trying to figure out the most direct yet delicate way to bring it to him. The hardest part was figuring out when to initiate the breakup, since if I waited for a heated moment, an argument of some sort, I risked getting distracted. I wanted us both to be clear-headed. And I hoped that we could walk away with no hard feelings.

I don't know how well I have described David, but that really was wishful thinking.

The moment I got the first line out of my mouth ("David, we should talk...") he went on the defensive, disputing everything, insisting that if there was a problem it was me, and I was a mooch and making him do all these awful things like live as a woman and "enjoy getting f*cked like one" as if I'm in any way responsible for anything he did or chose during his time. He insinuated that we wouldn't be breaking up if I had been the woman and he the man (possible, but irrelevant) and that I really just wanted to go off and "enjoy my c*ck" with some other "b*tch" like "that tr*nny Pete." He told me to go, I was more trouble than I was worth, that he didn't love me either, that I'd regret leaving him, etc etc.

I grabbed my stuff and left for Jersey. I spent the night crying on Pete's couch while Pete - bless his heart, tried to console but really lacks the feminine touch she aspires to. David called the next day apologizing, saying it was the heat of the moment, he was blindsided, etc etc. I told him I wanted to end it on good terms so as to not jeopardize any of us getting our proper lives back, and he said not to worry about it. And I said "what do you mean" and he says... get this...

He tells me that the people in our bodies were arrested months ago for selling meth out of our apartment. They're forbidden from leaving the state of Colorado for eighteen months. Apparently he hadn't decided what he wanted to do about it, so he didn't tell me. What, was he just going to let us transform into two complete random strangers and pretend he had no idea it was coming? Or...

Weeks passed. I grieved, I screamed, I cried, I sleep-walked my way through a few photo sessions including a very concerned Alexa, who could tell I was upset about something ("Bad breakup" probably didn't cover it, but was all I could say.) David disappeared. Even PEte didn't know for a few days where he was, until he turned up on Instagram, back in Florida, laughing it up with Pina Coladas in a way-too-revealing bikini.

So now I'm like, what, does he like Lena's life? I mean, there's a lot to like about it... wealth, respect, and yet the freedom to go be a jerkoff on holiday whenever he wants. Is he planning on stealing that life? I don't know - I'd like to think the man I was dating isn't capable of that but honestly I'm starting to feel like I never knew the real David.

Meanwhile, poor Pete is caught in the middle. When David found out I was staying with him, he threatened to fire him outright, but Pete pointed out that this was a bad idea - that he was the one keeping the company together and the only one protecting the incompetent "Lena" from a very frustrated board that has seen the company's direction plummeting over the last three quarters. Pete is very eager to hand April's life back to her, and Dave needs his right-hand woman.

I reached out to April and Zack to give them a head's up that David might be planning something really scummy, but gave my assurances that Pete and I had no such ideas. It was really hard to read their response, which was a cold acceptance, that as far as David-Lena goes, things are out of their hands.

So... there's the drama I've been dealing with lately, sorry for not posting more! Honestly, it's gotten me so worked up just to recap it, I need to lie down. I don't know what's going to happen to me. I wake up every day nauseous as to what's coming. I'm not built for this, I just want my life back!!

-Jenn, "Zack"

Friday, February 08, 2019

Harmon Keller/Alicia Polawski: Social

At some point, I should have thrown the mobile phone that I inherited from Alicia into the Bay, or at the very least deleted all of her accounts and started new ones.  Perhaps not at the outset, when one might assume that Alicia would be seeking to return to her life without disruption, but certainly there was no need to preserve such continuity once she decided to remain in her new life.  By the time I decided to tolerate this existence for another year in order to find one more suitable that has not been damaged by another's stewardship the way my own had, it had become sadly convenient.  When I need to coordinate something with co-workers - and, later, flatmates - they tend to prefer using "WhatsApp" rather than a straightforward voice-mail or text message; on top of that, enough people at the airport remember one Magda or another and ask about her that it is worth regularly glancing at the Facebook page that Daryl continues to maintain to avoid questions of why I don't know what she's up to in New York.

This convenience has generally been worth the occasional moment when Alicia's phone buzzes because somebody has found her Instagram page and decided to leave some lewd comment on a picture of her not completely dressed.  At times, I find it amusing, for I am sure most of the men posting that message would be taken aback by the true identity of the person reading it.  Occasionally one is unctuous enough to merit blocking, and in a few cases people have reappeared with new accounts.  As a man, I admire their persistence, but they are a nuisance, though one that had been tapering off, as I had not added more photographs to keep it current.

Then came "Barbie".

Barbara Matheson was hired by the airline a few months ago, and as fate would have it not only wound up assigned to the same crew as I was in November, but also rented a spot in the same apartment.  It is, I suppose, natural that she would decide to look at me as a mentor and sort of older sibling, and I certainly did little to discourage it initially.  I have always appreciated the attention of young, attractive women, and though I now recognize that it will no longer lead to certain highly-pleasant experiences, I am nevertheless vulnerable to it.

Part of her being young is that she instinctively documents her entire life in real time, and tags her non-stop stream of "selfies", food photographs, and status updates with the names of everybody in the area, frequently including myself.  Every tag becomes a new, current way for people who followed a hash-tag to Barbie's page to find mine, follow me despite the year since the previous post, or decide to make some comment, creating more and more notifications.  On a number of occasions, people came to proposition us before we finished our meal because Barbie had tagged the location!  Thankfully, she has become more conscientious about waiting to post her silly food pictures until after she has finished eating.

Somewhat surprisingly, not all of the comments Barbie attracts are from men trying to get into her pants; or from family members who think that the travel involved with her job makes her life one to live vicariously, but a whole group of young women as well.  And many of them would be shrieking in capital letters not just about the obvious things, but my apparel, which I found strangely gratifying.

Contrary to what Lindsey or Daryl might have you believe, I do dress well.  It was initially emasculating the first time I donned brassieres and skirts, in large part because of the job they represented, but eventually one must work with the reality of the body one has.  Eventually, it became clear that what one wears allows one to choose who speaks to her, and if that means a black skirt, nylons, and matching heels, it is a small price to pay to converse with serious people rather than the people Alicia used to get involved with!  It can be frustratingly difficult at times - my current hips are not as conducive to a nice pencil skirt the way Lindsey's were and presumably are again, so finding the style that best creates the intend impression can require trial and error.  That means more time than I would like in changing rooms, and I've taken to traveling with a small iron in case there is not one at a city's "crash pad".

It is, in some ways, a circle of deception, with me pretending to be Alicia pretending to be a bit more high-class than her means.  The combination of all factors puts me in some strange situations on occasion, like last night, when I needed a new top and found my bank account light between paying rent last week and my pay not being deposited until today.  I took two into the changing room and had a difficult time deciding, and practically before the idea had formed, there were two new posts on Alicia's Instagram account, asking the ladies following her which I should choose.  Surprisingly, there was a flurry of responses saying that the white one with bate shoulders was "v. sophisticated" (and, yes, some would write out "sophisticated" while abbreviating "very"), so I went with that.

The Inn has made me a selfie-posting Millennial.  God help me.

- Harmon Keller

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Jonah/Krystle: You've got a boyfriend when...

... your 2-year-old daughter knows maybe a dozen people's names and "Calvin" is one of them.

This whole dating thing has been surprisingly easy so far, to the point where I sometimes find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop.  There's a part of me that wonders if Calvin has been to the Trading Post and knows I have, because he accepts me being weird so easily and doesn't push where it would freak me out, but what are the odds on that?

Like, back in October, he practically had a twinkle in his eye talking about second-date plans, and I'm like, dude, you don't know me and aren't that clever.  But I kind of enjoy that, waiting to see what he thinks I'd like.  A few days later, he texts asking if I'm free mid-week; I say yes, he says to bring workout clothes.  Interesting.

We meet at a subway station in Cambridge, and he leads me a couple blocks down the street to a rock-climbing gym.  "That's...  A choice.  You saying I'm fat or something?"

"My sister said you'd say that, and also said not to say I wanted to see you in spandex."

"You should listen to her more."

"She says that a lot.  But, honest, I just picked up on you liking sports but not really being into running.  You ever do this before?"

"Just, like, ropes in gym class."

"Trust me, you'll love it."

I don't, at first, as I go into the locker room and change.  I don't think about my butt much, especially after a couple of years - obnoxious guys tend to and grab it at work and on the subway, sure, but they to do that to everyone, and I've got more tempting targets up top - but put me in a pair of yoga pants in a room with other people, and, yeah, there's no denying that I've got a genuine black girl bottom.  It's nothing to be ashamed of, but I went to high-school with a bunch of white guys and serve a lot more in Ashlyn's, and they can get weird, like it's either gross or something exotic.  It's just my butt.

Still, getting into that and a sports bra, I couldn't help but think that this was a lot more skin than I was counting on for a second date.   I try to tell myself I'd be cool with it if I were still the guy, and you might as well rip the Band-Aid off rather than get ghosted because he finally sees your shape after a couple months, but I'm new at this and kind of nervous as I leave the locker room.

He smiles when he sees me without being creepy, though, and we go to one of the beginner walls, a trainer showing me how to work with the harnesses and all, which would probably be nothing if I'd just decided to do this on my own, but is also way more "guys I don't know touching me" than I expected on a date.

On the other hand, climbing is awesome.

I liked sports in school, but I just never got the hang of running since becoming Krystle, especially since getting pregnant.  I'll do it if Little Moira is about to get into something, but when you're as busy as I am and maybe don't have the right bra for it, it's something to be avoided.  It's probably worse if you became this top-heavy all at once, but who knows.  Yoga isn't a bad way to stay in shape in that case - it's actually really good for learning balance and stuff if the Inn changes you that much - but it's really boring.  "Hold that pose" is harder than it looks, but it's not like you're competing with the girl next to you or feeling like you're accomplishing anything.  Considering that I didn't really care if guys thought I was attractive and everything else kept me busy, I was ready to fall out of the habit.

This, though, was just fun - a lot of the stretching and feeling the burn as you balanced your weight and stretched like yoga, but you're getting closer to a goal, you can trash-talk or give your partner encouragement.  It's fun and it doesn't hurt in the wrong way, and I enjoyed it so much we wound up staying until closing.

After that, we started doing more conventional dates.  Movies, sports (I'm still not sold on hockey), skating (I am way better at that then he thought a working-class black girl would be).  I'm not sure when kissing became a thing that we just did rather than something I have into when circumstances had our lips close, or when it felt like it might hurt his feelings not to, but it did.  I admit, I nearly jumped out of my skin the first time there was tongue and the first time he touched my breasts while watching a movie, but I told myself I'd done that, and was more appreciative the next time.

Meeting each other's people was a big deal, too.  Momma Kamen has seen a lot of the original Krystle's questionable taste in men, and I had no idea if Calvin was going to fit into some pattern that had nothing to do with me from her point of view.  Plus, if my daughter didn't like him, it was game over, which admittedly wasn't really that scary - aside from the part of my brain still rebelling against dating a guy, there's one that feels like every evening I go out and leave Moira with her grandmother, on top of the ones where I'm working, is me being a bad mother.  She says I'm not nearly at the point where we have to worry about it.

I don't really think she trusts him, and I don't necessarily blame her for that; the least-involved of Karla's baby-daddies is the white guy with some money.  She grilled him pretty good, but he got out of it alive.  It was a little embarrassing, both because he's a good guy and because she doesn't really know who she's doing it for.  But I try to imagine my own parents trying to suss out his intentions and I just can't.

Little Moira likes him, though; he's a good tickler and she likes it when he lifts her up to the ceiling so she can put star stickers up.  He is also very easy to persuade that it's never too cold for ice cream, and what more does a two-year-old need?

I didn't meet many of his friends until New Year's Eve; it was our first party, I guess, and by then Momma Kamen had at least gotten to the point of accepting that Calvin was going to be a party of my life for a while, because she raised an eyebrow at me in my jeans, sweater, and Nikes.  "That's how you ring in the New Year now?"

I was trying to figure out how to say "uh, yeah" without sounding disrespectful, but then wondered about the other girls at the party - would they be dressing down?  I quickly texted Calvin, and he said not to worry about what anyone else was wearing.  I may not have been born a girl, but Moira the Elder had grumbled about something like this a few weeks earlier - "don't worry about the other girls" means "at least some of the other girls will be making an effort".

So I went to my closet, pushed my church dresses aside, and looked square at the ones I'd worn on two of the most miserable days of my life:  The day I let someone with my face have their way with me on the left, the day Joseph finished Lamont's jail term and I tried to give him a treat only to fight and find out I was pregnant on the right.  The second one looked less trashy, so I went with that and the heels and push-up bra that went with it.  Plus some black pantyhose, because it gets cold.

Then some makeup, because I look good in the mirror and it wouldn't seem right to not go that extra little way.  I don't dress up much and I've gotten used to myself naked, so it takes me a little by surprise every time I get reminded that people used to stick money in the original Krystle's panties for being hot.  I kind of feel ashamed most of the time, both because I know that me being like this is unnatural and because I took that hotness from its owner, but this time, I'm also thinking that Calvin is in for a treat.

Momma Kamen must see that I'm thinking that, too, because she says "there's my sexy little girl" and that she hasn't seen me wanting to make this effort in a while.  I blush, realizing that I do want to look nice for my boyfriend.

He appreciates it, and it doesn't suck that his friends all seem impressed with the "cute, responsible single mom" he's been telling them about.   I smile and laugh, say that when you've got a toddler, you save the time to get fancy for special occasions, and then kind of sick around Calvin for most of the night, trying not to feel too jealous of everyone talking about their recent college or had school experiences.  Could have been me, but I've got an awesome little girl, so that's not a bad trade.

I'm not really that good in heels, especially when there's a lot of dancing, so I wound up leaning on Calvin some, especially with the beer and champagne and all in my system.  There were a few times I could feel how much he was enjoying my touch, but he didn't press it when the night came to its close.

That was kind of neat, all told, although my legs felt it afterward!  Very glad that Little Moira's second birthday party could be an informal affair, and not the last bit alarmed that Calvin is trying to get in good with my daughter by spoiling her at all.

-Jonah/Krystle

Friday, January 25, 2019

Jenn/Zack: Reaching a conclusion

So, I ended up meeting with Alexa. It was nice. We had a lot in common, even though we're not supposed to. On the one hand back when I was female I'd probably have a lot of preconceptions based on her appearance that would cause us not to get along - that she was shallow, mean... dumb? Which sucks because I try to be about uplifting women. And maybe my male mindset really wants to see the best in someone who looks like she does because on some level - deep down, where I would never do anything about it - I think she's attractive.

All we did was have coffee and chat. I said I wasn't sure if I was right for her job. She pressed on about it, saying she loved my portfolio. I couldn't tell her it wasn't my portfolio. I said maybe I had some colleagues I could send her to. That was about it.

I haven't told David yet because I know he doesn't want me to do anything like that, and I know he'll react very badly when I tell him.

David came home that night, late and tired and complaining about everything as always. There's an added dimension now where he gets home and starts to undress, expecting sex. Now that we're sexually active he expects me to just be ready willing and able 24/7, at his beck and call every night, because that's what guys want, so that's what he expects from me. And it's not necessarily wrong - I do have desires and using his (Lena's) body is certainly one way to keep my attention focussed on him - and not like I don't enjoy it but... I've started feeling very bad afterwards.

I lie there and think, is this it? What do I have to look forward to? Did we ever have real conversations? Because we haven't lately. Did we enjoy each other's company? Because I don't think I do now. Was it really just about sex, and I pushed hard to keep the intimacy in our relationship because I knew we were doomed without it? Did we stay together because I felt obligated after we changed? If we were us, would I have walked away already?

I would have wanted to, I just know it. And it's scary to think I wouldn't have gone through with it because I was getting to an age where you just want to settle down with whoever you're with already. I already had m doubts before we got into this mess, but there was no way I was going to abandon him while we looked like this. But it was hardly any kind of fix for our problems. Resuming sexual activity really just emphasizes how little of a relationship there ever was.

And now - now that it's hard and inconvenient, I might need to do it (end the relationship) more than ever. It's more important now that I've done something he told me not to by meeting with Alexa, and that whenever I tell him I know it's going to touch off a huge fight, I know it's either now, or wait until we get our bodies back, and by then I will probably talk myself out of it.

I need to break up with him. I care a lot about his feelings and what happens, but I realize now that's different from love. I have my doubts because it seems wrong to break up while we're in the middle of this whole thing and I feel like I'd be leaving him high and dry, but I should follow my heart on this one.

Woo. I'm shaking, having written all of that. It's a good thing he vowed never to read this. I needed to put it out there, somewhere I hope he won't see.

-Jenn