Monday, June 27, 2022

Marc/Chantelle: It's one thing after another

So I haven't posted in a while. I was feeling pretty sidetracked by the period thing already, worried about being whiney and stuff, but then last weekend got unexpectedly busy.

My whole plan for the weekend of the 18th-19th was to crawl in bed and not get out. Maybe find a good takeout place and order in. Finally watch the latest season of Stanger Things on Netflix (Laura never wanted to watch it while we were "together.") But then something happened on Sunday that completely disturbed me.

It was Father's Day.

I have... a complicated relationship with my father. Both of my parents, to be precise. Maybe if I had my head screwed on right and been in my own life/body I would have realized what day it was and shot him a phone call and sent a card. He's a big lawyer in Manhattan and he never really had much time for me (part of the reason why I stayed in Boston after law school was that it was not New York). I don't hate him but there's a lot of insecurity there and maybe I don't appreciate him as much as other people do their fathers.

This does not apply to the "Carey Babes" who I met in person for the first time quite abruptly. Sunday morning I awoke at 8:30 AM to some insistent knocking and a muffled female voice calling me to "Get up, get up already!"

I take a few breaths to mull over what I'm going to do about this situation but apparently that was too long as I hear a key slide into the lock. Of course she has a spare key, and is not shy about using it. It's becoming clear these girls have no boundaries.

Suddenly this skinny young blonde is in my bedroom ready to rip the sheets off my body and kick me out of the bed. "What are you even doing, come on, let's go!" Serves me right for not paying close enough attention to the group text. This was my introduction to Chantelle's younger sister Emma. 

We're due at "our parents'" house for lunch. I'm thinking, it's not even 9 AM yet, who's thinking about lunch?

As it turns out there's a method to the madness. Emma needs to use my kitchen to make potato salad. I tell her find, go nuts, I put on the coffee and sluggishly make my way through reviving myself. All the while she's prattling on and on at about a mile a minute with seemingly no filter, constantly going on tangents about things I wouldn't even know even if I could parse it out. I run myself a shower, wash the last sticky red-brown trails of blood off the inside of my leg and try to wake up. And by that I mean, from the nightmare I've been having all week.

Back in the kitchen, I'm drinking my coffee and putting off getting dressed while she's peeling potatoes. I tell her she can leave the skin on, and she calls me a maniac.

"No offense, but what's with you today?"

"I'm going through some stuff," I sigh. "I might be... a little different... for a while."

"New meds?" she guesses. I say, something like that.

Did I mention these girls have no boundaries?

I get myself dressed, in a casual black top and jeans, and she nixes it saying I need to go back and try again, even though that's how she's dressed. (Maybe because that's how she's dressed?) I say fine, it's a special day or whatever, I put on this green and white polka dog summer dress I see hanging in the closet. Let me feel feminine and female and flouncy and fancy. Thankfully, it's long enough to disguise the fact that I haven't shaved Chantelle's legs.

I do some basic makeup, which Emma critiques, and I can feel myself breaking out in hives again.

We got to the parents' house around 11. Meeting Chantelle's mom and dad was very strange, as you can imagine. "Dad" was this laid back, potbellied guy who stood around the BBQ with the uncles telling dad jokes all afternoon, and "Mom" was... like, this quintessential hostess lady. I felt obligated to kiss hug them both and kiss them on the cheek even though, as a man, certainly as the man I was (I mean am), that's not something that was ever expected in my family. All this closeness and physical expression is not compatible with my upbringing.

I tried to hang back because I didn't know who to talk to and this family is very intense and it was clear I am not tuned into their frequency, and I may never be. I'm an only child, I don't know what it's like to have siblings and I'm not that close with my cousins either. There were way too many people that I was already supposed to know. I actually had a good time with Keisha, who is Chantelle's sister Amanda's 13-year-old daughter. There were younger kids that she was kind of in charge of entertaining, so I went along to be the "adult" support so she wouldn't feel like she was stuck with people half her age. Keisha still had that expectation that I would know about her and everything but it's easier to adapt to a child/young adult. 

It's a very female-heavy family, incidentally. There was so much estrogen flying around it was disorienting (metaphorically -- I am aware that my body now produces estrogen, and I can even sort of sense it influencing me, but I'm not, you know, born to it.) I despaired trying to think of how "I" was supposed to fit with these people.

I actually felt a little bad because I kept the most distance from the man we were ostensibly there to celebrate. It's clear Chantelle, and her sisters are all "Daddy's Girls" but I feel very weird about that dynamic. I'll try to make it up to him at Thanksgiving or something.

This is when it really dawned on me that I'm not just in a body, I'm in a life with all these connections and interactions that mean things I can't possibly understand and have no context for. Part of me wishes they would just leave me alone, but I see how much strength they draw from each other and it's nice... it makes me feel like an impostor and left out in the cold, but there's still something heartwarming to see it.

It put me in a weird headspace to start my week, but at least my period cleared up. Don't have to worry about that for another... 21 days.

Oh brother.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Andi/Andy: I Don't Believe This!

I'm trying not to be too mad at Andy, because it's not really his fault, but I can't help it.  It's just so frustrating!

We decided to spend the weekend hanging out with Krys and her friends (who call her Mac because Inn), having a beach day while we both had the bodies for it.  Krys's friends are a grade or two behind us, but whatever; it would be a lot weirder when Andy looked like some guy in his thirties.  It wound up being a little chillier than expected - New England basically decided to remind folks that it's not officially spring for another few days - so it wasn't really great weather for walking about shirtless, which I'd been weirdly excited about and scared of.  Like, yeah, I haven't had breasts for months, but even doing track & field, I've kind of had the tendency to change quickly and not take my t-shirt off during practice even when I'm getting really sweaty, because who knows, forces I don't understand are involved, and I could just suddenly change back, or I don't want to get into the habit for when we turn back.

Anyway, Andy was happy, because I guess he associates Len slipping him some tongue during prom with wearing a dress that showed a bit of cleavage, and he wasn't really looking forward to wearing a swimsuit, even a one-piece.  He was pretty glad to be able to have shorts and a t-shirt over it the whole time.  He kind of wasn't in the mood for much Saturday, and then yesterday he kind of waved us off and went back to the hotel room early in the afternoon, leaving me alone with Krys.

Which was fun, but weird - she was flirting with me pretty hard, and I kind of didn't know whether she was teasing or if she was trying to make something happen before I turned back.  And there's part of me that would kind of like that - like, what's the point of being a guy for the better part of a year if I don't get to try at least making out with someone, especially someone like Krys who has some experience.  A lot of experience, to hear folks tell it.  As both a girl and a guy.  I mean, I could learn some stuff.  But then I also get freaked out by just how Krys has been able to get all that experience and still look younger than me.

So I said good night after we got some pizza at Lisa's and headed back to the hotel room.  There was no answer when I knocked on Andy's door, so I figured he had already left so he could be at the Inn if the change happened overnight.

He wasn't, though - I heard groaning from the bathroom when I woke up this morning, and then a thunk as he fell.  I rushed in and saw him him struggling to sit up.  I helped him to the next room and got him on a chair - yay for being bigger, I guess - and asked if he'd been drinking or something and didn't realize how it would affect him at my size.  He said no, he just felt like he got hit with a truck the afternoon before, came back to the hotel suite to have a nap before heading to the Inn, and didn't wake up until morning.

A light went on in my head, and I said to stay right there while I ran to the nearest drug store and bought a couple of Covid tests.  We both took one, and I tested negative while he was positive.  Crazy; we've been together most of the past week or so, and it's not like I was that much better about wearing a mask than he was.  I got him back into his room right away, opened all the windows, and then headed out to the sidewalk myself.

I was about to call home when Krys rode up on her bike and asked how Andy was.  I asked how she knew and she shrugged, saying that ever since Cary started leaving coupons, a lot of people would come to the hot dog stand for explanations and such after they changed, and I looked at her in horror.  "Andy wasn't there - Covid knocked him flat yesterday afternoon!"

She looked at me wide-eyed and moved back a step.  "Are you...?"

I shook my head.  "Negative, for now, but you should probably get a test, too."

"Yeah, of course, but what about the curse?  You've lost a window!"

I hadn't even thought of that, really - seeing Andy with my face looking so sick didn't leave room for much else in my head.  I said I'd have to figure out what to do about that, and then called Dad and told him what had happened.

He gasped but managed to get me calmed down a little when I started talking fast and frantic.  He wanted to know first and foremost whether Andy was all right, and I said he seemed really tired and weak, and shouldn't it all be more mild because we're vaccinated?  He said nothing was 100%, which is why they still told us to wear masks and get outside as much as we could, but that Mom would call him right away to see how he was doing first-hand.

That's when I brought up that the Inn had done its thing without him, so what were we going to do?  I said I figured maybe I could head over there starting tonight, and then he would probably be well enough to take over after I changed, and that would gave us plenty of time to arrange to stay an extra couple weeks or hope that maybe we could squeeze another change in - it's not unheard of for enough people to hang around the Inn during peak vacation time long even after they change so that they change back before the next two-week block - but he said to stop and slow down and think about it a little more.  I wouldn't know who I was turning into, and if we couldn't finagle that extra change somehow, it would be a whole year in a life I knew nothing about.  That as much as me and Andy switching places was weird and uncomfortable, it was sort of a best-case scenario for us.

Then he said to hold on, that Mom just got off the phone with Andy, and that we were to isolate in separate rooms, wear masks indoors, all that, and not to mess with the Inn until we were sure we could extend stays a couple of weeks.

I don't have a good feeling about this, and the fact that I may have more chances to go shirtless doesn't exactly help.

-Andi-with-an-i

Friday, June 17, 2022

Marc/Chantelle: Getting a little help

"Happy" Friday!

This morning a special delivery came to my house: Always pads, a bottle of Midol, a hot water bottle, chocolate and a few other items.

"This should help a little, but if it's as bad as it sounds you should consider seeing a doctor. - Love, Laura"

I'm a little too proud to go running to a doc over every little thing, although there's a voice in the back of my head saying that I don't really know what's going on with this body and it couldn't hurt to check it out. Being estranged from your own body really is a wild ride because we all take our baseline health and wellbeing for granted and I'm now spinning out about: what do I not know? It's not like Chantelle could have provided me detailed medical records from day one, and so far she has been incommunicado. I feel strangely anxious about reaching out to say "Hey, are your periods always this much of a nightmare??"

It makes me wonder. I don't exactly feel like I have been set up for success in this body, but then again there's something so suspicious about me being a former lawyer and being in the body of a lawyer -- two entirely different facets of law, but still transferrable skills. Things easily could have been worse.

The pills helped, the hot water bottle helped, the chocolate wound up feeling like the best chocolate I had ever had in my life. I texted "Damon" to say thanks and got no reply. My wife is ghosting me. How do you like that. Talk about mixed messages.

I can't believe women walk around feeling like this though.

Andi/Andy: Back!

Well, back in Old Orchard, at least, although we should be back to ourselves soon enough.  Since the luggage we found in the room belongs to a guy, the plan is for Andy to stay at the Inn first, and then when he turns into this "Arnold" person, I take over the room, turning back into myself as soon as there are 13 guests (which seems to be how it works), then having him take the room, and become himself again when the curse hits again.  Kind of sucks for Arnold, who's going to have like two months of his life being out of circulation and a lot to explain when he eventually gets it back, but you can only plan so much where there's a cursed inn involved.

While one of us is at the inn, the other is staying at a place a mile or so down the road.  It's a suite, but most of the time, only one room will be occupied for the most part, because Mom and Dad can't get enough time off between them to have one of them there all the time.  Mom flew out with us to check us in, but both she and Dad have in-person commitments for their work today, so we've been on our own since she got into the Lyft for the airport this morning.

Are we excited?  Hell, yes!  Mom and Dad aren't exactly over-protective, at least not when we're ourselves, although they've been keeping a closer eye on us this year than they might have otherwise, although once they saw that we didn't need help or excuses and weren't going to screw up each other's lives just because we got mad about something, they stepped back a bit.  Still, when we got back to the hotel room after dinner, she sat us down and pointed out that she and Dad were putting a lot of trust in us, even though they knew how important this was to us.  She said they were going to be checking the activity on our debit cards and to call immediately if there was any problem.  But when she left, we seemed to be in a different world.

We spent the morning sort of looking for stuff to do on our phones - there's an amusement park and the beach, but what were we going to do here for six weeks?

Our first stop on our own was the hot dog truck, and we waited until the line was finished before we walked up.  Krys was working, and she looked at us for a few seconds before her eyes lit up.  "Andy and Andi!  You made it back!"  Before we could even consider ordering, she was out the back door and hooking her elbows around our necks, even if it meant pulling my head down.  Then she looked back and forth.  "Your folks?"

Andy said they had to work so we were on our own.  She was like "really?", then whipped out her phone, took a selfie with the three of us, and sent it off to Cary, saying some people have guardians who trust them, although she also said he wasn't really that bad.

We all looked each other over.  She'd gotten taller than Andy was/I should be, especially with her shorts cut off about as high as they could be.  She still had the freckles, and had a red ponytail coming out the back of her baseball cap.  And then there was the way her t-shirt hung.

She caught me looking and laughed.  "Hey, I'm not gonna be mad - a spent a while with a dick, too, ya know!"  Andy and I blushed, which just seemed to encourage her, clasping her hands and twisting them so that her arms pushed her breasts out.  "I don't think they're done growing yet, but even if this is as big as they get, it's such a relief!  So many redhead white girls wind up 'petite' and 'slender', by which they mean 'flat', and that wasn't me!"

Someone walked up to get a hot dog, so she ran back into the truck, served the customer, and came back out.  I had to admit, I was kind of amazed at how loose she seemed.  We'd met her last year, while we were stuck in Old Orchard while waiting to get our bodies back, and while Mom and Dad weren't entirely comfortable with us hanging out with someone who was really in her late 20s, she was also the only person we could hang around with who would believe who we are.  It was kind of weird spending time with her - it must have been like sitting at the kiddie table and being expected to have something in common with the pre-teens for her, except that when she forgot she should look at us as kids, she and I had actually did a lot of the same things in school.  Andy, not so much, but he found her super-cute, even if she scared him.

We lost touch after the Inn screwed us up and we went home; most of what we wanted to text each other about was weirdo transformation stuff and neither of us were really good at explaining the messages when the phone notified us - and, again, Mom and Dad thought me having a friend twice my age was weird.  So I hadn't really seen any pictures or talked much until we got there, and was kind of surprised at how everything seemed to be coming so natural to her now.

I told her that and she laughed.  "Well, Cary says I never really grew up the first time, which pisses me off sometimes, but I dunno, I did go through a bunch of men and never lasted at a job and spent a lot of time drinking and smoking weed and never settled down.  Maybe he's right, and I just needed my body to get to where my head is at.  I dunno.  It's funny, though - I decided to become Mackenzie after Jonah stole my life so I could have a sort of second chance, but it really feels like I'm just getting that second chance now, y'know?"

I didn't, really, but I was glad things were starting to work out well for her.  It got busy for her again soon, but she gave us some tips for what to do with the afternoon and said we should hang out with her and her friends tomorrow.

I really hadn't realized how badly I'd wanted someone I could talk to about this that wasn't Mom and Dad.  I've gotta remember not to fall out of touch with her when we're just two girls who had some weird experiences.

-Andi-with-an-I

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Marc/Chantelle: If the shoe fits (and all the other stuff too)

I've been in Chantelle's body for weeks now, but this was the first week I was in her life. Getting up at six AM, making a tentative stab at makeup, dressing myself, going to the office, walking around in her (uncomfortable) shoes...

...watching everyone's eyes on me as I pass, afraid to make eye contact, wondering what they think of this person they see before them, not wanting to be here in any sense of the word... trying not to stumble in my heels and trying to walk tall with my chest out without looking like I'm, I don't know, trying to put the "girls" on display...

I nearly tumbled down the stairs to my apartment when the toe of my shoe missed the step altogether. Only a reflexive grab for the railing prevented me from doing worse than a slightly sore ankle and a momentarily pinched back. I walked around the block -- click-clack-click-clack -- to try to walk it off. Wound up with sore toes. I get why women wear runners up until they get to the office.

I haven't worked in an office in a few years, and my memories were very not fond, as you can imagine based on the fact that I left a field I had spent a lot of time and money getting into (and was comparatively quite lucrative.) By the time I quit my job I was utterly disillusioned with the idea of  the 9-5 grind, especially because it was more like the 8-8, bordering on 7-9. In the days leading up to my return, I was dreading it, and guess what that got me. Chantelle's hives. Evolutionarily speaking, I don't understand these things... being stressed or nervous makes me itchy and irritated, and then the itchy irritation proceeds to make me more nervous and stressed and the whole thing creates a feedback loop of discomfort and dread.

I wonder if there's some kind of medical treatment -- a cream or a pill I can acquire -- but if the root is psychological, I may be suffering them for a long time because my already fractured psyche has gotten a lot worse since waking up on the wrong side of the uterus. (More on that later.)

On the weekend, I sorted all my clothes according to whether I thought I would actually wear them, in an attempt to determine my "outfits" for the week. The problem was, once I got down to it, my original selections had left me with very few options. It isn't that Chantelle's fashion sense is somehow outrageous, it's just that it's, well, decidedly feminine, and that was not something I was prepared to process. I had to recalibrate my standards and accept that showing my arms, or a lower neckline top, was not going to kill me, nor were shorts with ruffly accents, sheer parts, colorful patterns, or other things that I would not conceive of myself as wearing as a man recently transformed into a woman. Also early on in my adventure here I placed an order for about 18 pairs of underwear replicating what Chantelle already had (after checking labels and seeing where she bought from and what her size is) so that I can at least feel clean and fresh and not like I'm wearing someone's hand-me-downs. The order arrived within a week or so, thankfully, right ahead of my "return" to the office. Thank God, clean undies. (For now -- see below.)

For the first two days of the week I wore a pantsuit, figuring it would be the most familiar thing to wear, but the truth is, the pants not fitting like menswear, on my decidedly not menswear-ready body, made the feeling even stranger. I made note of how some of the other women in the office wore pencil skirts and decided, with some reluctance and a little bit of curiosity, to join them. Others wear full-on dresses but that just seems like a bridge I am not ready to cross.

When I first put on the skirt, I rued it. Here I was squeezing myself into a sausage casing, which leaves nothing to the imagination and only goes down to my knees, leaving my now-smooth womanly legs bare, and showing the world every curve on Chantelle's body -- back, sides and front (I've got that little... belly thing women get right at the waist?) It's the kind of thing where I would never wear something so tight as a man because I would be bulging out of it in the wrong way, and I had to mentally get over that hump because I don't remember ever judging women for wearing clothes this tight. It's very strange to keep reminding yourself that when people look at you, they emphatically do not see a man and as strange as it feels, to the outside world it looks "normal."

On the other hand... it's been warm, and being able to wear what amounts to an even breezier version of shorts while I work has been an unexpected pleasure, as long as I can stop worrying that if I cross my legs the wrong way I'll give the world a glimpse of what's beneath. Then there's struggling with accommodating the office's temperature, which is brisk compared to the outside (probably because of all the men in here wearing slacks -- something I never thought of when I was one of them!) I am almost ready to join the league of blanket-wearing office ladies.

The tops can be pretty snug too, straining against the breasts, I feel like if I exhale too hard I'm going to pop a button, not that there are many of them... on some of these tops the neckline goes way down. I'm not judging Chantelle or anything, it's all within bounds of professional attire, but as a man in this body I feel very exposed. Also the buttons are on the wrong side just as a fun little reminder of who wrong this body is.

I mentioned the shoes. At the end of the week I screwed up the courage to wear a pair of open-toed strappy sandals with only a little bit of a heel, which gave my feet a bit of breathing room, but having my toes out there for the world to see seemed perverse -- on top of, you know, the boobs, the underwear, the hair, the everything. But I guess I'm supposed to have my toenails painted if I'm going to do that, to add some sort of visual interest. I've thought about whether I want to try to do that myself (I painted Laura's nails once or twice) or pay $65 for some other woman to do it for me.

Something that's not totally unexpected... the difference between doing corporate law in Boston versus real estate law in Albany. It's not exactly a challenge -- here's the boilerplate contract, here are one or two provisions that the clients made -- but not having to kill myself at all hours is very liberating. I go home at 5:30, kick off my shoes, open a beer, and... just forget about it. Dinner for one, Wheel, Jeopardy, Netflix documentary, bed at 10. Even rideshare driving didn't leave me feeling this mellow.

The office is a decent place too. Not a huge operation, maybe a dozen or 15 folks. People welcomed me back with a mixture of empathy and curiosity because I was supposedly sick for so long. Weirdly they seemed to indicate that Chantelle has spent a lot of time sick, and I can't figure out if they meant it in a suspicious way or a sympathetic one. I didn't speak much because I really don't know how Chantelle would be in these situations. And besides, one or two of the conversations took a very strange turn.

"You and... Damon Schmidt, right? You were both stuck there?"

Damon -- aka my wife Laura -- doesn't work in my office, which is something of a relief, as much as I wouldn't mind having an ally here. He's a real estate broker affiliated with the firm, which is a job Laura doesn't know much about having never even bought a house, so I'm not sure what it means for her. I suppose if she wanted to talk about it she would post here but she is keeping her distance, much to me frustration. He's also married. And yes, he disappeared while on a getaway that also included Chantelle.

People will talk.

I'm being tactful. I honestly don't know whether Chantelle and Damon had a fling going on. It might very well be none of my business. I'm simply going to deny and play it down, and when Damon and Chantelle aren't seen in public going forward, the rumors will drop off.

That said, I really do feel like I'm walking on eggshells. I don't want anyone to look too closely at me or what I'm doing. I want to get through this and find a way back to...

To...

Hm... what am I supposed to be going back to?

Lastly, in the middle of the day yesterday this body visited me with my very first period. I had a sense it was coming because from the weekend I was feeling a severe pain that I had never experienced before and I put two and two together. Of course I couldn't be in the bodies of one of those women who get mild menstrual symptoms, these were damn near debilitating. I wanted to post about it but I didn't want to be called wimpy for not being able to handle what might be the "normal" amount of pain for a woman but I really think this was abnormal. The bleeding itself wasn't overly traumatic, it was just "Oh, there goes a decent pair of underwear, and now I have to figure out how to... take care of it." And once that started the painful symptoms trailed off to a dull throb.

There was a tampon dispenser in the washroom, as well as a few spare ones rattling around the bottom of my purse but I never thought to bring it to the washroom, and anyway I wasn't mentally ready for that. I dashed over to Walgreen's for pads, but uh, I don't think I'm a "pads gal." Feels weird. I've got to figure out a solution that works for me.

This is my life.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Andi/Andy: Made it past prom to summer!

Okay, actual summer is a week away or something, but "my" last final is on Thursday and then it's off to Maine and less than a month before I'm myself again, and then we start to put stuff back in order.

It could have gone a lot worse.  For the most part, my circle of friends and Andy's kind of merged, so it wasn't really weird for me to be around my actual friends, or for Andy to be around his, and it's kind of a weird thrill to not have them know who we are for real.  Not in a mean way, but whenever Shawna says "hey, tell Andi such and such", I kind of tingle a bit.  Same as when we switch phones in the evening and text for each other.  And Mom & Dad have never made a mistake or shown any signs that they don't trust us, even though we've got a lot more chances to mess things up now that we're driving ourselves.  They don't try to push Andy to act more girly or me to be more of a guy and redirect any comments someone else makes in their hearing off in another direction.

Still, some parts have been really frustrating.  I kept waiting for the thing with Andy and Len to fall apart and occasionally freaking out when they were out, because what if tonight's the night where they fuck, and Andy likes it?  Or he doesn't, and it's a huge rift and somehow all my fault?  Or Len decides that "Andi" is some sort of cock-tease and I've got to live with that reputation next year?  Nothing seems to have happened yet - I mean, I'm not checking to make sure my brother's still a virgin or anything, but I don't think he'd lie to me about this, and Len hasn't told "his friend Andy" anything about feeling like he's not getting anything he should.  I almost wonder if he's gay and is somehow sensing that it's really Andy in there, but I don't know.

It was still kind of a kick in the guy to see them go to prom, though.  As much as Andy had more or less avoided wearing any sort of really girly clothes for the whole school year, he didn't want to let Len down, so he sucked it up, had Mom and me teach him how to walk and dance in heel, spent time with Shawna shopping for a prom dress, and asked me to do his makeup.  He looked kind of great, and I did feel kind of weirdly proud.  We were both past freaking when Len kissed him by that point - Andy had kind of justified it as being like a high-five with the lips - although he did give me a signal to keep Len busy while he ran to the bathroom to regroup for a few minutes after Len gave him a deeper kiss on the dance floor.  Which annoyed my date, but big deal.

My date, unfortunately, wasn't Shawna - I awkwardly tried to ask her out sometime in January, but even if it wouldn't have been weird before, dating her best friend's brother while her best friend was dating her best friend's brother's best friend would have been more than she was in for.  She had a new boyfriend by prom, so I would have been out anyway.

Meanwhile, I somehow attracted Cindi Adams's attention.  I don't know why - both Andy and I are pretty average, and she's, like, blonde and gorgeous, with perfect skin and a pretty face and somehow at the top of the track team despite having the sort of boobs that should be messing with her aerodynamics.  We got stuck doing a project together in chemistry, though, and she decided that I was really funny, or maybe she'd just never not had a male classmate who didn't try to cop a feel and didn't make a big deal out of something like the time a tampon fell out of her bag and I got it back to her without trying to embarrass her.  Heck, that was pretty automatic; it happened as we were leaving class on a Friday I didn't even remember doing it when she thanked me on Monday.  She apparently decided I was going to be her new boyfriend a couple weeks later.

The thing is, she was a real bitch to me in junior high.  Made all sorts of jokes about me being the flattest girl in the locker room when we changed for gym class, joined drama the semester there was a part I really wanted to play and just walked off with it, always shoved me aside into the lockers when she was in a hurry.  I couldn't think of anything I'd done to her, and while it didn't really pick up after we got to high school, we mostly just didn't have our paths cross until she started finding reasons to be where I was as Andy.  I was civil - no need for Andy to wind up with her and her friends as enemies next year - but soon a bunch of Andy's friends were saying that their girlfriends had mentioned that Cindi liked me and wanted me to ask her out.  I figured we'd go out a couple times, I'd be a gentleman, it'd be a feather in Andy's cap next year, all that.  Prom just happened to be our third date.

And, okay, it did feel kind of good when I stopped by her place to pick her up and she was wearing a dress to die for with a great wave in her hair.  I admit, I kind of felt weird about the whole thing - was I thinking with Andy's dick or did I just appreciate the effort?  And she wasn't really awful; she didn't remember being mean to me specifically, acknowledged that she was probably kind of a general nightmare a couple years ago, but didn't really feel the need to single anybody (like me) out for an apology.  And she's not a bad date - she's secretly excited to try new foods, afraid that her friends will think she's some sort of nerd for it, for instance.  She can dance.  She likes karaoke as much as I do.  And, like as much as I have spent the past year not feeling like myself at all, she's both confident about everything related to her body and able to make jokes about it.  It's weirdly relaxing to be with her when we're just going to see a movie or something.

Which means that prom kind of had to be a disaster by design, because both Andy and I didn't want to get into a situation where circumstances just led to our first times because we got caught up in the moment.  So while in the bathroom after that kiss, he swallowed some laxative and something else that would make throw up.  I figured that insisting I bring him home rather than let Len do it would push Cindi away, because it would be clear "sis" was more important.

We got home without getting laid, and as we played Wii that night, we wondered if we were the first people to ever engineer that sort of escape from prom.  And Cindi was, admittedly, kind of cold to me for the next week, but she forgave me, although she didn't exactly push for us to sleep together since (not that she had, or seemed upset that I wasn't trying to get her into bed; maybe I'm a good boyfriend for not putting pressure on her, which is funny).

At any rate, we got through our classes with okay grades and he enjoyed helping build sets for drama while I didn't hate being on the tennis team in the spring (I might actually be better than he was).  Still, I am awful glad that we're heading up to Maine just as soon as Andy and I finish each other's last finals so that we can get this all sorted out.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Marc/Chantelle: Don't pretend you didn't look

I decided today was the day to leave the apartment. I haven't been seen in public since I got to Albany, basically settling in and coping with the situation but this morning the sun was shining and I desperately felt the need for a coffee other than the stale Maxwell House in the pantry (in my house we always kept coffee in the fridge but I guess Chantelle and I differ in that way.)

As compared to my last outing, I've had time to get accustomed to this body. I know well that I have boobs and a butt and that most of the weather-appropriate (gorgeous spring we're having) clothes don't obscure that fact, although loose-fitting jeans appear to be "in" for young single ladies. I think they're ugly but if I can get away with them then I am on board. Finally, fashion designers are thinking of the much-overlooked "women who are secretly men with odd relationships to their new bodies" market. 

The trade-off is that these jeans have gaudy big holes all down the leg. I guess I'm old enough to say "who would buy jeans like that?" while still young enough to look at women ("other" women?) wearing them and feel satisfied that I am fitting in. I topped that off with a light top and a cute little jean jacket, because why not?

Of course nothing could make me forget that under those jeans, and the light top, were ladies' underthings. I still can't get over the fact that I have this body and am wearing these clothes, it is so wrong and yet, it just makes me laugh. Little old me, with girl parts.

Being out in the world was a very strange experience. I suddenly became very aware of myself, how I walked, stood, carried myself... do I stand with my shoulders back or slouch? What do I do with my hands when I talk, or when I'm idle... fold them under my boobs, stick them in my (shallow, un-usable) pockets? When drinking my coffee do I sit up straight or lean back? When I walk down the sidewalk, what does my butt do? These are not things I ever gave a thought to before. I sat in the cafe and watched everyone, men and women, and made mental notes on what I saw, just for comparison. Is there a natural "feminine" way to stand, hold your arms, walk? And do I want to aim for it or somehow defy it and just "man" it up?

The downside of all this people watching was... it's a two-way street. I think I'm used to being more or less invisible out in public as a very vanilla, very forgettable-looking guy. If anyone ever noticed me on the T or in a bar, I sure didn't notice them noticing me, and I had Laura as deflection anyway. I had that was located near the exit of the shop, so after three or four guys noticeably angled their heads to look at me -- including guys who had come in with girls -- it became impossible to ignore the pattern. After about a half hour, I mentally calculated the odds of some guy asking to sit across from me -- or worse, not even asking but just doing -- and decided I had had enough of being out in the world, and left.

I'm not totally ignorant, I know what it's like for women out in the world, they get all sorts of attention they don't want. I'm not special, I probably wasn't even the prettiest girl in the place. But imagine never having that in your life and not wanting it, and one day you wake up and it's your reality, like it or not? I'll have to get used to this idea very fast.

What worse, I was guilty of it too. I was people-watching all morning, paying special attention to the women. I had so many weird thoughts about that... comparing myself to them, their bodies, their fashion, their energy, and usually feeling like I was coming up short. Then I would notice the guys they were with, and think, "Really, him? He looks like a gorilla..." or at best have very neutral feelings about them.

As I walked home, I kept my head tilted down, and put my earbuds in, not making eye contact with anyone. I had had enough looking and being looked at for the day. I spent a lot of the afternoon on my phone. I've noticed that if Chantelle's sisters don't hear from her often they razz her pretty badly, but I still don't know what to say as her so I respond to a lot of their texts with reaction gifs and hope I've captured her essence well. Seems to be working.

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Jonah/Krystle: Reconnecting

Hey, how's everyone?

Gotta admit, I thought I was done with this blog, that I was just Krystle Kamen, single mom, climbing enthusiast, more tomboyish and church-going than anyone who knew her in high school would ever expect, and I was kind of okay with that.  It's not a bad life, and I figured it would become more and more mine.  After all, I talk to a whole lot of people in their twenties who seem to have basically left their before-college life behind, especially those from abroad - you meet a fair number of them in this city when Covid doesn't have everything shut down - and other single moms whose pregnancies didn't necessarily meet with their parents' approval.  I'll never really think of my life as normal, I don't think, but it kind of is if you choose your starting point from after I got pregnant and ignore that there's a pandemic in the middle of it.

So what's up with today?  Well, it's been a heck of a weekend, with a lot of stuff that involves me having started out as Jonah Glass, and I don't know where else to get it out.

As longtime readers know, I've been estranged from my parents, and while the pandemic has at times at least had us texting and calling a bit more, since it hit people of color in customer-facing jobs fairly hard and that's me/Momma Kamen/Karla, on top of how Little Moira couldn't get vaxxed until just a few months ago.  The original Krystle wants no part of me, and I don't blame her, and after some initial reaching out, communication with June petered out as he lived his/my life.  It's been kind of lonely, but it's helped me focus on giving my baby as normal a life as I could, and that's a silver lining, I guess.

June - "Junah", as some folks call him - reached out to me a couple weeks ago.  He was graduating from college as Jonah Glass and thought that I might want to be part of that.  He'd checked with my parents, and wanted to invite me to the barbecue they were having, if that wasn't too weird.  I wasn't sure what to say at first, but really wanted to go.  My parents and I may disagree about a lot of decisions I made, and there's nothing in this world that can mess with you like the idea of someone being better at your life than you were, but these are all really important pepole to me.  

Still, I was nervous when I said yes.  My dad came down to pick us up that morning, and we had about an hour to drive, and I tried to ask him about a few things quietly as Moira played with a doll in the back.  He looked a bit hurt that I'd ask, but he seemed to understand, and basically said that he hoped we'd be able to put things behind us.  It was good to hear him say that, and we talked about basketball the rest of the way.

I could kind of hide how nervous I was when I arrived by introducing the suddenly-shy Moira to Gramma Glass, who she hadn't seen since she was a baby.  Still, facing Mom was nerve-wracking.  I get my hair straightened these days - it looks "more professional" at the climbing center with the mostly-white customers - and I'm in pretty damn good shape, but I'd spent a lot of the previous two days worrying about how masculine or feminine to present myself.  Like, the boobs can't be hidden, and it's not like I wear summer dresses with a lot of cleavage regularly, but I kind of also didn't want to look like this being my life was something I hated.  I wound up in capris and a camisole, praying that I wouldn't wind up changing into a swimsuit because Moira wanted to go in the pool.

It went okay.  We hugged, she mostly said she was sorry for how things went down (Moira's namesake views "I wish we could have handled it better" as not really an apology, but I'll take it), and she was delighted by how Moira was already carrying favorite books around and how much she looks like both her parents.

We didn't have long to ourselves; another car pulled into the driveway while we were still talking, a hybrid model that kind of looked nice but still had a few miles on it.  From where I was standing, I initially just saw Junah in the passenger seat as it passed and then noted the Black Lives Matter bumper sticker, though I was half-surprised when the driver got out and was white as heck, a 22-year-old redhead in booty shorts without any booty and a crop top that made it clear she'd never had a baby between her tiny waist or the bee stings on her chest.  She gave me a couple furtive glances before going over to Mom, leaning down with an "and you must be Moira!".

I raised an eyebrow at June.  I kind of knew what he looked like from social media, but it was odd looking at him.  I could recognize my old face, but it was a man's face now, and not just because he'd grown a beard and settled into a sensible half-inch of hair on his head.  I don't know that anyone who didn't know about the inn would peg him as, I dunno, conservative if not in a Republican sense, but he to me he really looked like someone more settled down by time than a black man in his early twenties would.  "So...  Who's she?"

He chuckled.  "Oh, that's Alana.  She's great.  We've been seeing each other a year and, well, you know how dating for folks like us is, right?  Am I attracted to her because she reminds me of myself, or because she doesn't, am I trying push too hard on what I figure comes naturally for this body, does she sense who I am underneath or just like what she sees on the surface, all that, but it never felt like there were questions with her."

I shrugged.  "She's cute, I guess."  I felt like I should maybe feel some attraction or something, but didn't; she did less for me than the average girl in the locker room.  "Seems really young for you, but I guess she's my real age and how old people thought I was when..."  I let it trail off.

"Yeah, but it works."

I shrugged and went to collect Moira, asking if she wanted to help make lemonade.

Folks from around town arrived.  Some I recognized, though I had to be told who others were.  Four of the other members of the youth group I went to the inn with were there.  One had a baby of his own and another was pregnant.  She didn't bring a husband and had a lot of questions, and I honestly couldn't remember how she'd treated me when I said I was staying as Krystle, but watching me play with Moira seemed to reassure her, that if a former guy like me could handle this, so could she.

Dad grilled, we all ate, and it was really nice.  It was most awkward with Alana, who saw me as old - nearly thirty! - and probably kind of a creep for how old Jonah must have been when Moira was conceived.  Technically true - I was way too young and the guy who knocked me up was a monster - but really misdirected.  Having an adorable kid shields you from a fair amount, though, and Moira is super-adorable, at least until it gets to be around two or three and she's dragging but insisting she's too big a girl for naptime.

We both wound up staying the night, and it turned out we were both early risers.  I was making Moira some pancakes when June came into the kitchen and sat at the bar.

"I thought you ought to know - I'm going to ask Alana to marry me."

I froze.  "Okay."

"She's already got a job waiting for her with her family's business, so we're moving to Colorado, and if I'm going to that, I might as well really tie myself to her, right?"

I shrugged.  "I guess?  I mean, you've got way more of that sort of experience than me."

He chuckled.  "That's true.  For example, right now, she knows I'm going to propose, because she's no fool, but she sort of convinces herself that she doesn't, because even ladies of your generation don't want to be pushy or have the moment when I do ask be underwhelming.  But she thinks about the possibility.  And since she only found out about 'Krystle' and Moira a few weeks ago, it's heavy on her mind."

"I don't see what it's got to do with her."

"Look at it from her perspective.  We're about to move across the country from where we've been, and it sure looks like I've got something major tying me back here.  So she wants to know what the arrangement will be."

I groaned.  This conversation was the one I'd worried about and asked Dad about when he picked me up.  When I told my friends about this invitation, they all warned me that it wasn't exactly me who was being invited, but Moira, and that maybe I should be kind of wary because for as much as I've been able to get away with having no formal custody arrangement while my babydaddy was in school, this could be and attempt for him and his parents to get some control over Moira's life.  I told most of them that I didn't think it was like that, but I couldn't really argue with Karla's personal experience.  I figured I'd escaped the whole conversation, though.

"There's not going to be any arrangement.  You're, like, technically Moira's uncle or something.  The twin brother of the man who, you know, did the deed."

He chuckled.  "I guess that's one way to look at it, but Alana doesn't know that, and she wants to be the good stepmom, even if she doesn't want to be that full-time.  She wants me to be able to see my daughter, and she doesn't want to make an enemy of you, but she absolutely will take it personally if you say that the two of us can't be part of Moira's life.  And I'll be honest, I don't want to be seen as the bad biological father who ignores his daughter, especially since...  Well, you've probably got some idea of what folks like her parents think about broken Black families."

I laughed nervously, expecting him to join in, but he didn't.  "This is stupid."

"It is, but here we are."  He took a sip of coffee as he heard stirring in another part of the house.  "So, anyway, when she brings the subject up at some point, and she will, don't totally shoot her down."

At that point, Alana came into the kitchen, asked if she could help, said hi to Moira, and then Mom and Dad, so there was more breakfast to make, and we all kept busy enough that the subject didn't come up before they left to get back to backing up their apartment in New York and Moira and I hugged Mom goodbye so that Dad could drive me back.

I gave him a slimmed-down version of the conversation, and he said something about how much simpler it would have been if Krystle and I had just gotten back to our right lives.  I asked if it would be better for Moira, and he said "God only knows", not in the offhand way a lot of people do, but as someone who would really like Him to share that information.  He said he really hoped that it didn't come to a situation where he and Mom didn't have to choose between supporting their actual son or the person everyone saw as their son.

Not exactly the complete support I would have liked to hear, and though I didn't say that, I asked him if maybe I should have declined the invitation.  He admitted that might have been the smart play, but that he was very glad to see us.  Maybe, he joked, we should have waited for a different occasion.

Maybe.  Still, given that we haven't found the right occasion at any point in the past few years, it was probably better to not wait for the perfect one.  Even if this one did end on a reminder of what a tangled mess the Inn can make of your life.

- Jonah/Krystle