This is my fourth Christmas as a woman. This year, because there's not a ton going on in my life, I found myself thinking back to the first one.
I remember the stress of getting presents for a "family" that still felt largely like strangers, or at most recent acquaintances. I remember drilling the "real" Tori for ideas for mom and my brother Ken and my relief that I could relate somewhat to my new tech-loving dad and tomboyish sister Mae.
I remember having to feign excitement on Christmas morning as I opened boxes of cosmetics and fashions and jewellery that reminded me how uncomfortable I was in my new body, how the world wanted me to look, how much I didn't know. It was intimidating and scary and frustrating and annoying... and because I was "playing" Tori, I had to smile.
Then a little later I took it all out and laid all the clothes out on my bed and thought how it wasn't any different from what I was already wearing... clothes are clothes, after all, and even more, these would be clothes that the first Tori never wore, stuff that was all mine from the first go, picked out for me by someone with a better sense than I had. It was like how I went shopping with Karen when I visited her down in Louisville.
I'm still not exactly a fashionista, but I at least enjoy buying clothes, and I certainly don't mind dressing up now and again, if the situation calls for it. Most importantly, I enjoy, rather than resent, getting them as gifts. As a man I didn't need much in the way of new clothing, and it's still true that most of the year if I know I want something I buy it for myself... but the unexpected upside to the world of women is that there are always more clothes and accessories. Once I would have thought they were just for frivolous, style-obsessed girly girls, but even basic chicks like me can appreciate a nice-fitting top or a cool scarf.
It's taken a few years, but I've finally gotten the hang of these extended family gatherings... there were so many uncles and aunts and cousins I just never saw often enough to learn their names. It's been long enough that cousins who were just tweens when I met them are blossoming into wonderful gawky teens.
When Ken and Jana arrived with the baby, the family all congregated around to hear their tales of new parenthood. I'll admit, I love them as much as anything in this whole world but I've seen a lot of them lately, and I've heard all the stories, and they had a lot of people to catch up with, so I excused myself to the basement to idly putter around.
Surprisingly, I was followed by my sister Mae. One of my early great memories was from that first Christmas, bonding with Ken. Mae and I have gotten closer, but she remains elusive. I've been wrapped up in my own life too, so I don't blame her, that I don't really know what's going on with her.
I welcomed her into the rec room and cracked her a beer. "Don't tell anyone I gave you this."
"Everyone knows I drink," she said.
"Yeah, but I'm not supposed to approve."
"So how are you doing?" she asked, "With the breakup and all."
A few years ago she wouldn't have asked, except to bait me for snark, but she seemed genuinely interested. "Honestly? I don't know. Alex and I left things off on such a... weird note. But I miss him."
"Think you'd get back together?" she swigged.
"Out of the question. The reason we broke up... well, he wasn't who I thought he was. There were things between us that can't be undone. I have to move forward. But it's weird... none of that changes the way I feel about him, and somehow that's worse."
"You and your drama," she said. "If you like someone, just stay with them. Figure it out."
"Some things are more important than one guy or another," I told her with a smile, "And believe me, when it comes down to it, as much as I liked him... loved him... that's all he was. One guy. There was only so much... there was only so far I was willing to go to be with him. What he wanted, no guy is worth."
"And what was that?"
"Hm.... I don't know," I admitted. "Control, I think."
We talked a bit longer before finally being called back for dinner and other shenanigans. In my happy, drunken phase, I found myself wondering about the new - that is, the real - Alex, what he was doing with that life. It wouldn't be too hard for me to find him, I know he's still out there... but I convinced myself it would be selfish and perverse to assume I had any place in his life just because I dated someone who looked like him.
Then just as I was getting used to the idea of moving on, I found out one more thing. Sara and Thom bought a house in Delaware. These two people I've known almost as long as I've been this person, are headed out into the world to start their lives together. They're the same age as this body and considerably younger than my old one... but they're ready. And I'm nowhere near that. And that's just been nagging at me. I hope I haven't just been wasting my time, you know? The extra years I got from becoming Tori. I have to remember that I'm not really as old as I feel... I've still got time. There's a lot of fun I can have.