I had been putting off talking to Stephen every since Art came up with a plan to get everyone to their correct bodies. Every time I did a little online research about how my old life was doing, I found “Jake” was doing incredibly well. It made me nervous—would Stephen want to give up his new life? I was afraid of the answer.
I gave up the idea of traveling down to Dallas. If he turned me down it would be a huge waste of money—and the weather has been really bad down there lately, whole highways have been closed because of ice and snow.
So it came down to a phone call. I called “Jake” on Sunday.
Art’s post covered the basics of the conversation, so I won’t bother to post a repeat here.
What wasn’t in Art’s post was how abusive “Jake” was on the phone. No, Stephen made it very clear to me he had no desire to give up my old life. That door was closed.
So I’ve decided that if I can’t be Jake Mathews, I’m going to stay as Ashlyn Shelley.
This wasn’t an easy decision for me. Art’s right, I could go back to the Inn and roll the dice and see if I could be male again—but that’s a bad idea on so many levels. Sure, I could wake up a man again, but I could also wake up a guy in his sixties—or a guy who has a bad heart—or has a drug addition—or a million other scenarios. What are the odds that I’ll get the life of a guy in his mid twenties to mid thirties, who is in great physical health, makes good money at a job I know how to do, and has no wife or children?
There’s also the 50% chance I would wake up as another woman—and I have to tell you, if I have to be a woman, I’m happy with the body and life I have right now.
And what if I did get lucky and got a life of the kind of guy I was talking about--male, young and healthy--would we not tell this person there was a way back? That there was a way to reverse the curse? Or would I pull a Stephen and tell that unlucky soul that they can’t have their life back? I can’t do it—not after going through it myself.
For reasons I don’t understand, Ashlyn wants to stay Jean-Michel. That allows me to stay as Ashlyn without displacing anyone else. As Ashlyn I’m barely into my adult years, I have my whole life ahead of me. I’m extraordinarily attractive which is a big plus. Lastly, I now have two loving parents that I really don’t know how “Jean-Michel” can do without.
I’ve been a woman for five months now—and I have changed as a person in that time. I no longer view living as a woman as a lifetime jail sentence. It’s not what I wanted—but it’s something I can live with.
One can't roll the dice on one's identity. Given the possibilities, you got lucky to be who you are now. Congratulations girl, welcome to your new life.
Thanks Scott. It's nice to see a supportive comment. I fully expected to see comments like "you must not been much of a man to decide to stay a woman". Seeing your comment brightened this girl's day.
This is ethically extremely complex. About the only thing you can say for certain is that Stephen is way out of order. It doesn't matter how much he's doing with your life, it's still yours. If he stole your wallet and then gave it to charity that wouldn't make it ok. Alright, he didn't actually steal anything. But even if he happened to find your wallet in the street it's still not acceptable to keep it, just on the excuse that he'd do more or better with it than you do. And anyway, what is he doing with your life? You know he's working hard and making lots, but there's more to life than that. I think you should at least, even if it's the last thing you ever say to him, tell him his action is outright immoral and that his conscience or whatever god he believes in should find him guilty for it.
As for you, I think your decision is probably the best one. It's real lucky for you that Jean-Michel doesn't want to go back. You'd be in a real bind otherwise. In that case becoming Stephen would have been the obvious option, with all the difficulties involved there, but as it is I'm sure you're glad you don't have to think about that.
As things are, if you really can't appeal to Stephen's conscience, you've the option of staying as Ashlyn, becoming Stephen, or taking pot luck and becoming someone else. From a utilitarian point of view you should do what brings the most happiness to the most people. Stephen's been a missing person for over three months now and his people (whoever they are) will, I would imagine, be close to giving up hope for him. Harsh as this may sound I think the relief they would feel getting him back could not outweigh the pain Ashlyn's friends and family would feel losing her, or losing you as her, or even just risking her changing into someone else less considerate than you are. (And of course I've just realised that someone else will probably become Stephen anyway, even if it's not you. It will sadly be their responsibility to deal with coming out of a four month missing period.) According to some versions of the theory you should not deliberately harm anyone, even if this could bring happiness to others. According to this, again, you should stay as Ashlyn rather than risk causing pain to Ashlyn's family and friends. Factoring your own happiness into the equation only confirms, it seems, that you should stay as you are.
An alternative tradition of ethics is a deontological one that focuses on duty and responsibility, irrespective of consequences. One of the proponents of this, Immanuel Kant, would come down very heavily against the whole lying/deception thing. He argued that lying was always wrong (even to an axe murderer wanting to know where you brother was!) Kant would tell you to tell the truth about who you are no matter what, even if you know nobody will believe you, even as they carry you off to the mental hospital. If you don't want to go to that extreme then I think you can instead existentially commit yourself to be Ashlyn with as much honesty and integrity as you can, but realising that, no matter how hard you try, the Ashlyn you become cannot be exactly the same Ashlyn that the original Ashlyn would/could have been.
If there's the faintest silver lining it is that you now no longer have to keep Ashlyn's life as Jean-Michel wants it, you don't have to second guess how he/she would deal with Josh or her career. You can now honestly relate to Ashlyn's world as you find it without worrying about dropping someone else in anything they haven't chosen.
Thanks for the input Donald. I really appreciate it. I did try to appeal to Stephen's conscience. I don't think he has one. He found my situation to be funny. He suggested I find a man, get married, and start "popping out some kids."
You are right about being able to make this life my own now. I'm kicking myself for procrastinating so long about talking to Stephen. If I had done it sooner, I could have enrolled into one of the local colleges. I'm pretty sure I'm too late now, and will have to wait for summer courses.
It's going to be interesting for whoever takes over being Marie. Imagine waking up one morning and finding out you are the mistress to a mob boss.
Maybe Liz/Marie can leave a warning all about that situation, tell the next Marie not to go home, to get away if she can.
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