Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Annette/Ravi: Diwali

God, I've been wanting to finish this for months now! Not leaving for New Year's Eve festivities until it's up!

I've been trying not to freak out about how native Ravi seems to have gone as Gary, telling Jordan that most people try to fit in a lot more than he does after visiting the Inn, but I've got to admit, him not giving me any sort of advice about Diwali is weird. I mean, sure, go right ahead and give a white girl born and raised in one of the most homogeneous parts of the country all the well-deserved crap you want about being ignorant of other cultures, but I'd like to think I'd let someone of a different culture in my body know that Christmas is kind of a big deal, and that I always get my mom fancy chocolates, which is the sort of oversight we're talking about here!

I found out about this whole thing when Kareena calledme up about fifteen minutes after I made that blog entry about her (which had me thinking it was about that and wouldn't that be a thing for a second!), saying my family had called to ask why I wasn't at the house - and we'd get into why I was screening my mother later - because it was Dhanteras and shit needed to be done. I quickly apologized, made some lame excuse, dug out my "how to get to Ravi's folks' house" cheat sheet, and headed in the general direction of Long Island, sending Ravi "hey, what the heck am I supposed to be doing?" emails and texts as well as also trying to swap shifts at work.

It turns out that I should have been helping finish a back deck attached to the Kapoors' house, as a big part of Dhanteras (the first day of Diwali) is finishing up home renovation projects, which is actually a great idea - I suspect a lot of places in the town where I grew up would be a lot nicer if finishing home improvement projects before the family arrives for Thanksgiving was not just a good idea but a cultural imperative! I arrived late enough to just wind up painting, which is good; although I sort of get the idea that Ravi is not necessarily much of a handyman and the curse makes it all but impossible to blow my cover, why deal with a bunch of "you hammer like a little girl?"

Hangin the diyas (lamps) was neat, though, and I loved the rangoli that kareen, Ravi's mother, and his older sister Rekha decorated the front walkway with. Being the only Hindu family in the neighborhood, the Kapoors get a lot of curious neighbors stopping by, but I missed the bulk of that. Which was good, because I had to spend the bulk of the night doing research.

That meant I was really dragging the next morning when they woke me up early for Naraka Chaturdashi, which involves scented oils applied to your head before a bath and a big, early breakfast. And then...

Well, you know how sometimes holidays or other get-togethers become this thing where you have more time than traditions to fill them? It was like that, exacerbated by how Kareena was the only person there I sort of knew. I think that there was some distancet here anyway - Ravi's parents are Hindu people living in America, while Ravi was an American of Hindu ancestry even before I had his skin. Rekha and her mother were talking pregnancy stuff all day, her hsuband Abhishek is not really comfortable in English, and I have not picked up a whole lot of Hindi. It was really a huge relief when Kareena set up the volleyball net - she kicked the butts of all comers, but sports trash-talk is something I can understand, even if I'm the one on the receiving end.

It did sort of force me to get to know Ravi's family a bit; I had been sort of avoiding them for the previous three months. It was weird in more ways than one - I never really knew my father, so I really had no idea what to do with Ravi's, even though I figure that as the two guys in the house they'd be kind of close. But, like I said, he's more of India than America, so he talks about cricket and Bollywood movies and the politics back home, while Ravi appeares to be a baseball and Game of Thrones guy. He's nice, and seems to have plenty of good advice, and Ravi should probably make more of an effort to listen to him when he gets back.

On the other hand, I've always been close to my mom - we weren't quite Gilmore Girls-type friends, but she gave me a lot of latitude, joked with me, invited me along to most anything she did. Maybe Ravi's mother has that sort of relationship with Rekha, but it's not like that with her son. In fact, I felt downright weird, as she would look at Kareena and talk about her like she just saw her as something to be added to her son's life, and that I really should do that faster, despite her being busy at school and Ravi not really being ready to support a family. That's not how my mom would talk about boys with me, and as traditional as she may be, it's not how I expect women to talk about each other. Rekha would intervene on my behalf, but that would turn into pregnancy talk within minutes.

Still, there was a nice meal and fireworks at the end of the day.

The third day was the big one - Lakshmi Puja. It was my first time dressing up in traditional Indian clothes - Kareena had made sure I had a new one - and a lot of friends of the family visited. Much Hindi was spoken, and I suspect some seventy-five percent was wondering why I wasn't married to Kareena yet. Eventually, though, it was just "the family" (including Kareena), and it was kind of amazing even when I didn't understand it. There were a lot more lamps and floor decorations, a ritual that I stumbled through phonetically, and more fireworks. Then, there was a big family dinner, and for all that I may not feel a great connection to Mrs. Kapoor, she made one hell of a spread. Remind me to find good Indian places when I'm myself again.

Sunday was kind of a respite. Padwa is meant to be celebrate marriage - it's kind of like everyone's anniversary - and while a much of the previous days were spent with people treating Kareena and I like we were already married, things got much more casual once we went off on our own and left Ravi's parents and Rekha & Abhishek to their own devices. I saw my first Bollywood movie that day - Happy New Year - and that was something else. Kareena seemed to really like Shah Rukh Khan, and I must admit that he's not terrible on the eyes (nor is Deepika Padkukone). We had a nice dinner, and then went back home after a pretty chaste kiss.

Monday was the last day, Bhai Duj, and that was kind of weird for me. It involved visiting Rekha and a couple of rituals - she did this "aarti" prayer for me, and put a red mark on my forehead - before she made me a really nice meal made up of Ravi's favorites and... Well, I didn't have to do anything but bring her a present. I probably wouldn't give it a second thought if I'd been born Hindu, or even if I was born a man, but it felt really unbalanced, especially since she was six months pregnant and doing all this stuff to bless "me".

Still, it was nice to have some "brother-sister" time. She's a little more into the traditions than Ravi is, but if she was still raised here, so her accent isn't "foreign" and she sort of gets Ravi's situation with Kareena. Marriages aren't really "arranged" in India any more - what looks that way to outsiders is actually much closer to a dating service - but Ravi's and Kareena's respective families have sort of been keeping them in mind for each other since they were very small children, and I gather it's been comfortable - they were pen pals, she came to New York to go to college - but maybe a little too comfortable in some ways. Rekha said that it's great that we were such good friends with our own things, but a good fuckbuddy is not necessarily a good spouse.

(I was a little bit too surprised by "fuckbuddy" suddenly appearing inside the rest of the talk to correct her.)

She was also worried about how her brother was still working retail despite graduating college a couple years earlier, even in a lousy economy, and I reassured her a bit by truthfully saying that I hadn't found an opportunity that really spoke to me in "my" chosen field. She understood, mostly. I kind of get the impression that having settled into her own grown-up life - professional job, marriage, kid on the way - she sees her brother lagging behind and wants to know what's up with it. Fair, I guess, but I kind of figure that my saying I wasn't quite ready for all that was when I best channeled Ravi over the whole festival.

And speaking of Ravi, I only heard from him sporadically during those five days, which makes me kind of sad. I suspect that I only absorbed some small percentage of what I could have (Hindu folks, please feel free to correct what I've misremembered and misinterpreted), but so much was amazing and beautiful that I couldn't see how he could apparently skip it so nonchalantly. Maybe he's similarly excited by his new experiences in Judaism, but, still, he's got a pretty nice family, even if I needed more than a few highly scheduled days to connect with them. Seems like it should have been a bigger deal, is all.

But speaking of big deal event, I've got one to run to now with Kareena - apparently some of her med school buddies throw one I'm not supposed to miss!


Thursday, December 04, 2014

Meg/Tasha: Black Fridayed

Against all logic, I went out shopping on the weekend of Black Friday. I thought the insanity would be completely over with by Sunday, and sure nobody was exactly getting trampled, but it was still an uncomfortably large crowd of holiday shoppers. Don't people know you can do all your shopping online? Sheesh.

Okay, look who's talking, since I admit to knowing this and still can't resist a chance to hit the mall anyway. But really it's because it provides a nice neutral territory to hang out with Tyler away from our respective home lives. While everyone else was starting to do Christmas shopping, I was mainly after essentials: some beauty products, some cozy sweaters, socks and underwear... a few new bras. Tasha only had a few that I found really comfy and I wore those out but good over the summer. The rest of her supply just hasn't been working for me, and these girls need some support.

So imagine my surprise when, at Victoria's Secret, Tyler starts browsing the racks with what appears to be more than idle curiosity.

"Boy, what do you think you're getting up to?" I ask playfully.

"I'm looking for a Christmas gift for Lauren," he said, studying the selection furtively.

"Right," I rolled my eyes, "Look, if you want to say it's for you, I won't judge."

"No, I'm serious," he insisted, striking this petulant teenage posture, "I've been wearing her body for months now and it's decidedly... fuller than it used to be. I don't want her to feel like I've outgrown all her favourite underthings, because that might trigger some... bad habits, you know?"

"Hm," I said, "There's a certain logic to that."

"Damn right," he said, holding up a red and black skimpy panty set and matching lacy bra. "Should I try this on? Is that... how it works?"

I laughed, "Yes, hon, go try it on over your own underwear."

I walked him over to the change room and called through the door. "Be careful though... I don't mean to sound insensitive, but it might not fit after Lauren gets her--" I caught myself, even though there's not much reason to censor, "After Lauren gets back."

"I've been steady for the last month," he called back, "No major gains or losses... I feel pretty good about this. All it takes now is some discipline."

A moment later, I heard his voice, "Wanna see?"

"What? No, no, that's fine."

"Come on, I need your opinion on this!"

"Fine," I said. He let me in, and there in the little cubicle was this teenage girl dressed in very sexy underwear over her plain white panties. You could see the impression of where she was becoming quite the little bombshell.

I didn't know what to say, so I tried to shift my focus away from how Tyler looked and said "Lauren will probably love it... can you afford it?"

"Sure," he shrugged, slipping the extra layer off, "I've got a fair bit of money squirreled away. The Blanchards won't let me get a job but Sue's not above slipping me a little spending money. I'm just not a spender, is all." He winked.

I tried to look away as he slipped his jeans and top back on: I have already seen just about everything, but I felt I should limit my view as a gesture. "I don't get you, man. Sometimes you're the King of Cool about this, and sometimes you're Little Miss Mopey."

"Hey," he said sharply, "That's Mr. Mopey." Hence, he made sure I kept referring to him by masculine pronouns in this blog.

The stop in at VS was successful for him, not so much for me. So hard to find cute things in this size. Sigh.

We continued as we left the store, "I owe a lot of it to you," he said, "You've been here for me this entire time, and now we're nearing the... well, not the end, but the halfway. Maybe I'm a little prematurely excited. Sue me."

As Tyler gave me the rundown on his Thanksgiving (pretty much the same story as you guys got, with a few extra details,) we went to the food court. Tyler's kidding himself less lately about how much he can eat, but not by much: burgers and fries, but just in smaller sizes. The single burger instead of he triple. He says he gets up at 6 AM and goes running to keep it off. "Beats Lauren's tactic of starving herself."

I tell  him I admire his drive. It took me three months of passing the flyer tacked to the bulletin board at work to decide to sign up for a Yoga class. He scoffed, saying "Yoga's for--" although he stopped himself. I think he was going to say "chicks" but I think he's a little less free with dismissing things in that way lately.

I say he may doubt it, but it's been helpful for me. I don't need to lose much weight, or get stronger, but my back kills me after night after night of standing and walking around that bar, carrying these two huge pieces of luggage in front.

He smiled, "I'm just glad I'm not the one always talking about your boobs."

"These things are so inconvenient," I sighed, "If they were mine, I'd get them reduced, no question." I halfway expected some crude remark about what a loss that would be - Tyler's still a man inside, remember - but he nodded and said he sympathized, that going from a flat pectoral set to even a B-cup overnight changed his perspective: as nice as they look, they're less nice to have attached to you 24/7.

"Well, I'm glad you learned something!" I snickered. He punched my arm. We passed a lotion kiosk and I sampled something.

"Hey, let me try that," he said, getting a dab of cream on his wrists. He gave it a smell and closed his eyes and for a second he looked like he was in heaven.

"You like that?" I asked.

"It's sexy," he said appreciatively, "Reminds me of someone."

I didn't ask for elaboration.

Anyway, I went on to say, the yoga had become a sticking point between me and Wade, because he's noticed certain aspects of my routine that I've set up to minimize our time together. I had this nice little tapdance worked out so that we only hung out about once or twice a week for more than a passing moment awake. So Wade finds out about my twice-a-week activity (sometimes three times) and he says "Oh, you're going to yoga now? Another thing you can do without me?"

And I say "Well, would you want to go to yoga?"

And he says "It would be nice to be asked."

In the end, of course, he didn't, which is a minor relief, because here's the problem. My yoga instructor, Mykal, is, um... really cute. And fun to be around. And generally the kind of guy I would want to date, if I, you know had my own say in the matter.

And I have this really big problem where I get kind of flirty around him. I've been texting him a lot lately, and it hasn't gone unnoticed. It's probably going to lead to a blow-up somewhere down the line if I don't knock it off.

God, I'm a creep. I want it to work with Wade, and we were going good for a while, but damn we are just not clicking that way. He's not my boyfriend, he's someone else's and I'm just filling in. "But don't say I should dump him," I told Ty, "Because we've been over that and you know it's not that simple."

"Fine, I won't," he sighed, probably exhausted with my problems. By this point we were at a boutique and Ty was distracting himself by combing through sale racks. "I have no idea if any of these are any good. I'm never gonna feel like a real woman."

"Is that a bad thing?" I asked.

"It's a thing," he shrugged. I reminded him that having a uterus doesn't automatically give one an interest in fashion and cosmetics. Hell, it's only recently that I started trying, since my messy grad student look wasn't going to get me tips at the bar.

He abruptly moved the conversation back, "You're not thinking of cheating on Wade though, are you?"

"No, no," I insisted. "But you know how hard it is to just keep a man as a friend."

"I guess I do," he sighed. There was a knowing silence between us and then he added, "Besides, if you do cheat, it should be with me."

I rolled my eyes, "Oh yeah, I'm sure you'd rock my world."

"You bet yer butt," he said, lightly snapping a belt at me. I can't believe how bold he is sometimes.

Is it a front? I wonder. All he ever writes about is the crappy times, when he gets hit on by guys or has to navigate school and family politics, when he's on the verge of a meltdown and wishing he could just punch life in the face. Is that the real Tyler, or is it the funny, outgoing guy-in-a-girl's-body that I know? He could be both, of course. But in any case I'm proud to call him my friend.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Tyler/Lauren: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was a long day. I wasn't looking forward to it, because Meg couldn't be there, and she's generally my saving grace at these big family functions: she and Wade decided to spend the holiday with his family, given they tend to spend more time with hers. We tend to cling to each other like live preservers in these situations, but I guess we're still here for a while yet, these situations are bound to come up. Besides, I figured, my life has such a high level of background awkwardness I didn't think it could get that intolerable.

It began the night before when Susan told me to lay out a nice outfit. Now, it's true early on in this gig I "girled up" pretty well, to the point of doing that pageant... I was following this impulse to "be" Lauren as best I could, but it exhausted me by the end of the summer and since the beginning of the semester I have been getting more and more accustomed to just not giving a shit about my appearance, from wearing clothes that clearly weren't meant to go together, looking frumpy and un-made-up, and generally not doing anything noteworthy with my hair besides a bun or a ponytail. It was easy and fine to get by with for the duration of the play, when I was working as a stagehand and functionality was a plus, and it had the side-bonus of acting as a shield against guys who might think, if I paid too much attention to my appearance, that it was for their benefit.

(The exception being Mark, who, bless his soul, was seemingly more attracted to my personality... poor kid.)

But okay. I'm making concessions to this family gathering thing, so I can slip on a pair of tights and a dress. Now granted, I don't really understand dresses where the zipper is in the back and you literally need someone else in the room to zip you up, but Kylie helped me out with that. As I mentioned a while ago, I think, Kylie and I have been sharing a room, because Sue and Paul realized that she and her twin brother were getting to the age where one would be menstruating and one would be masturbating and they had to put space between them. I suggested Paul could renovate the basement to the point where I could use it as a room, and it looks like he's been considering it.

We drove about 40 minutes out to an imposing house where we've had a few Sunday dinners since I've been here. I dunno if Paul comes from money or if it's just my upbringing that makes me think these people had quite a bit in the bank.

So I'm there, looking like a floral-clad loser, at the home of these relatives who not only do I barely know, but I don't think Lauren really knows, because again they're Paul's side of the family, where his parents and siblings were hosting the day. I shook a few hands and listened to a few anecdotes, then quietly slipped away. I found an unused bedroom to sit quietly and read the book I brought, Catch-22, which I'm reading for English class.

After about twenty minutes I see the door open and a familiar face poke in. Phil, the nephew of Paul's that I met back during our trip to Erie. And I should mention that at this point, I was so irritated by my clothes that I had actually stripped down and gotten under the covers, figuring - really stupidly - that I could just stay there for a little bit without anyone noticing, then quickly dress myself when it was time for dinner. You'll remember that this is a stupid plan, because I was wearing a dress I just explained that I needed help getting into.

So imagine a simultaneous high-pitched scream of terror, and a gruff male shout of "holy shit!" upon seeing a relatively pretty blonde girl (who is not biologically related) with the covers just pulled up to her armpits.

I threw my book at him and wrapped myself in blankets: "Get out, get out!"

"What the fuck are you doing?" He said, standing against the door with his eyes covered instead of leaving like I asked.

"Reading!" I said, reaching over for my bra. "What are you doing in here?"

"I left my phone in here," he said, gesturing over to a bag of luggage in the corner. "Jesus, what is seriously wrong with you?"

"I don't know!" I said, slipping my dress on, "I was uncomfortable in my dress, so I thought I'd... damnit, forget it. Okay, I need you to do me a favour right now. Keep your eyes closed, but... ugh... can you zip my dress up?"

He was confused, but he obliged, fumbling around my lower back for the zipper (shudder) for a moment. I could tell he was taking his sweet time, too. And then once I was satisfied that all un-seeable parts of me were covered, I let him open his eyes.

"Okay, I am really embarrassed, please tell nobody what you saw."

"Sure, sure," he said, "But the last time we met you were in a bikini, so I'm not sure how this is any different."

I gritted my teeth: there was a difference, but I wasn't really in any place to complain because the whole embarrassing situation was my own doing, and I was right beside myself. "I dunno what I was thinking," I said, trying to force a laugh about it, "I just wanted to get comfortable, y'know?"

"So that's how you get comfy? Get naked at family Thanksgiving?"

"Not usually," I said, "I kinda just wanted to forget people were out there? Like, I don't do well in these situations lately, and I got carried away. It made sense when I started."

"So you were hiding," he said, "And you figured as long as you were hiding, you'd strip down for a minute."

"Yeah, it's... ironically I was more comfortable, at least for the moment."

"Well, now I want to hide," he said.

"No way, man!" I said, "They're your family."

"Your family too!" he was quick to retort. "Your mom's been married to my uncle for what, ten years?"

"More," I scowled, although I couldn't in the moment remember how much more.

"Dinner's still an hour away, and I just can't have any more conversations about my first year at college," he said, "So we're either hiding together, or I'm telling everyone what I saw."

I stared him down. He didn't seem to be bluffing.

"All right," I said, "But I'm really trying to read here so don't distract me."

"Whatever," he said, putting some headphones on "Can I sit on the bed at least?"

I rolled my eyes. "Fine."

And then we just sat there for an hour, quietly, and it was... kinda nice. The first time I met Phil, I thought he was a loudmouth wannabe player who couldn't stop hitting on me. Here he had the upper hand and decided to play nice.

Don't get me wrong, I saw him shift his eyes over to me every so often so it wasn't hard to imagine what he was thinking (I'm literally the only person there not related to him, I'm in his age range, I'm technically "available" and he'd seen most of my body.) So there was still this unshakeable feeling of grossness... which kept flashing through my mind over dinner... I think we covered fine but there seemed to be some murmurs of "Oh Lauren and Phil seemed to be getting along." But hey, what's Thanksgiving without some family awkwardness?

I was lucky in the sense that, as an outsider to the family and a teenager, people are keen to give me space as compared to Kylie and Kevin or some of the other extended relations. I got to enjoy a fairly nice Thanksgiving meal in more or less peace, occasionally thinking back to the Thanksgivings of my youth which were nowhere near this done up and certainly didn't have this many in attendance. Besides all the chaos, it's actually kind of nice to be surrounded by people at times. They're not bad, I'm just within my rights to be bitter about it. The food was good, and I ate as much of it as I could (I'm still grappling with the fact that my eyes are bigger than Lauren's stomach, but we're slowly coming into sync on that.)

After dinner, Phil and I kind of rescued each other from having to put up with prying relatives. I had had enough of my book so we ended up having a talk. He mentioned college not being as exciting as he imagined - a lot of work and not much social life. But he was hoping to become a lawyer and maybe even a politician, so hard work was his lot. I didn't peg him as the ambitious type, but it made a certain kinda sense given his occasionally belligerent personality, especially when we first met.

He mentioned I seemed very distant compared to the outgoing girl everyone seemed to think I was. I gave my stock answer that I was "Finding myself," and mentioned doing the backstage work at the play. That made him scoff: "not a lot of money in that." I told him not everything was about money. He put his hand on my knee and told me I was being naive.

I froze.

His fucking hand. Was on. My fucking knee.

I could see him start to lean in. There was a moment where I could have moved, could have said something, but instead I froze and let it happen. He pressed his lips to mine.

I let them linger for a second and just as he started to increase the pressure from a peck to a full-on French or whatever, I moved away.

My heart was beating fast. My face was flushed with embarrassment. It's easy to imagine what it looked like, a 19-or-so year-old boy planting a harmless kiss on a 17-year-old girl, but remember in reality that boy was kissing a grown man of 30.

"No," I said after it was done. His hand was still on my knee. In fact it was moving up the hem of my dress. I wanted to snap that hand off at the wrist. Despite his size and strength advantage I think I might have been able to do it, too.

"Why not?" he asked, somehow offended, "I thought we were--"

"There's a lot of reasons," I said, "And I'm sorry you got the wrong idea."

I stood and made some distance between us. He stood too - I noticed the distinct bulge in his pants, not that I begrudge him that. He was between me and the door.

I shuffled around the bed.

"Phil," I said in the deepest, most intimidating voice I could muster (which was not very much) "What happens in the next 30 seconds is going to determine exactly what kind of guy you are."

I reached for the door knob. He rocked on his heel for a second as if he was seriously unsure if he was going to let me leave. But he did move away. He asked "Is it because of, like, the family?"

"No," I said with a heavy sigh, "There's more to it than that."

He shrugged like he didn't see my point but was letting me have it anyway. "I put my number in your phone," he said. I just said "Okay" in response because I really did not know what to think about that. As soon as I was out of the room, I marched down the hallway and looked myself in the mirror. A light trace of tears could be seen on my cheeks, I dabbed them away. "Don't," I tried to command myself. Don't what exactly, I am not sure.

The rest of the evening didn't last too long. On the car ride home I kept re-playing the scene in my mind. I wondered what part I played in that little moment. Yes, I had been getting along with him, and maybe there was an undertone of (ugh) flirtatiousness to it. Whatever part of me has been transformed, wherever my interests lie, I have the right to excuse myself from those situations. The logical part of my brain tried to settle me down: "I let it happen, then I stopped it as soon as I felt it was wrong." It should be a clean-cut issue. But there's more to it, isn't there... I just felt, and feel, so sick about it.

When I got home, I looked through my contacts and sure enough, there was Phil. I scrolled past that, though, to "Tasha," and typed in "Hey, how was your Turkey Day?" putting on as much of a chipper facade as I could.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tyler/Lauren: Wing-woman

I had an invite to hang out with the girls (and guys) tonight, but I don't have the energy. Usually I'm all too happy to go out in the evening, get away from the family, blow off some steam. Granted, even after months living among them, spending too much time around teenage girls makes my head spin: they talk fast, they emote big, they have very extreme opinions about things I know aren't important. It's hard to keep up, but I usually put myself through it because based on what I'm going through right now, that's the closest thing I have to friends, besides Meghan of course. It's important for me to be around these people so that I don't feel like such an outcast among people "my own age" ... as if that phrase means anything anymore.

No, I needed a break, and while they called me a party pooper (well, not in those words: actually they said "weak-ass bitch" but, you know, lovingly) they didn't bug me too long. Only Mark has been texting me updates, and I've been giving him courtesy responses.

Mark. Despite what I said about selfishly keeping him to myself, I had no intention. I thought maybe I would be unenthusiastic about talking him up to Dana, assuming she would think she was too good for him. I'd suggest she give him a chance, but didn't expect to get far with it. I just think he's a good enough dude that he deserves to have, you know, a girlfriend in high school. I know guys who don't date in high school sometimes get, like, complexes about it later in life. I wanted to give him a push.

He had told me I was the first girl he felt comfortable around, that he felt like he could be himself. I told him there was nothing special about me (strictly speaking this is maybe not true) and that girls - the right girls for him if not every girl ever - would appreciate his goofy personality and smarts. If I was going to wingwoman him, I needed to make sure he was up to the task.

I brought him around our lunchtable a little bit. Once the girls had met him a bit, and I had coaxed a bit of group conversation time, let him ease his way out of his shell, I took Dana aside and asked her what she would think if Mark asked her out. She was iffy on the subject, saying she wasn't really into relationships. Fair enough. I expected that, and prepared to adjust my plans.

Then a day later, she amended her statement: "You know, I don't wanna date your friend Mark, but I'd blow him."

I'll never get used to that. I ain't old-fashioned or anything, I know girls who openly discuss sex, but to hear a girl that age flatly say that she'd be all too happy to engage in sexual acts outside of a relationship, without having to be coaxed into it somehow, just didn't add up in the part of my male brain that has always thought women were relationships first, sex later. This little vacation of mine has shattered plenty of stereotypes I hold about women and girls. What's more, it activated the "responsible adult" part of my brain that made me ask what they hell she was thinking offering that to a guy she barely knows. Shoot, I was thinking they could go for ice cream or something (bad example, this weather is not ice cream appropriate! Brr, how do northerners live?) Not third base!

I was going to tell her "Oh if that's all you want maybe I'll find him someone else" but what kind of friend would I be if I made that decision for Mark? 17-year-old Tyler Blake would have high-fived so hard if one of his friends got a no-strings-attached blower from a girl who looks like Dana. I was stuck.

So I excused myself, told him to pursue Dana because "there's potential there" and opted to spend the night in my room wrapped in three layers of blankets. I'm not sick or anything... I've just been grappling with some personal issues stemming from my "double life," and... I don't know, a night off from being "Lauren" seemed inviting.

Hiding from my problems isn't my usual tactic though so I don't wanna make it a habit.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tyler/Lauren: A month off

Now where was I...

Some stuff has happened in the last month or so since I posted, and yet for a long time there was just nothing to talk about. The production of Oklahoma happened, along with some socializing, but nothing I think you'd be interested in hearing about. Mostly I'm trying to keep a low profile, be a "good girl..." no more picking fights with Lauren's parents, doing my best by her friends, and trying to treat myself when I can. The lack of drama this has caused is a pretty good thing, although it also means I don't bother checking in with you guys much.

There was the situation with Mark, for instance. I was pretty firm with him, telling him "no." I didn't even want to leave any doubt, any hope in his mind that things might change, so I've been very careful to keep a courteous, respectful, almost "professional" barrier between us as we worked toward the play.

It worked and didn't. I should know (and Meg is not shy about reminding me that this applies to me) you can't just switch feelings for somebody off. Mark can respect my feelings on the matter - he seems to - he's all too happy to keep in contact with me, to be my friend. Fine, great, I could use a male friend. But I know he's looking at me, I know he thinks I'm cute and I've got a good body. I know sometimes he's too nervous to say what's on his mind around me. I know that if I said the word - if I were really Lauren and somehow developed feelings for him - he wouldn't hesitate to say yes.

I've made my peace with that, with being wanted.

November 17 2014, the day Tyler Blake admitted he understands teenage boys are going to find him attractive. This, no matter how much I let my appearance go. I don't like it, but I've got to get over it because it's a fact of my life. Let him look me over, let him barely suppress his fawning, let his head turn to glance at my ass as I walk away. I don't mind, I can't mind - as long as he doesn't try to kiss me, we're fine.

I'd like to find him a girlfriend. I've actually had some success at that... I finally hooked Lauren's ex Seann up with Karlee. He made an impression on her back in the summer and then played it off, but she was obviously pretty taken with him. He wasn't exactly waiting for my blessing, he just wanted a bit of fun without any expectations, but Karlee would not shut up about how dreamy he was once she found out I had no problem with her crushing on him, so I convinced him that it would be good for him. She's a nice chick, if a bit dizzy.

Now that leaves me with a problem. Most of my social circle is becoming couples, and I don't want to become the odd person out. I would like to hook Mark up with Dana: they have some common ground, with Dana being the star actress and Mark being a theater techie. But I like having Dana as my single friend, and given Mark's status compared to hers, it would probably take some convincing anyway.

Then there's this really nagging thought in the back of my head, like... it's nice to keep Mark to myself. I'm never going to convince him he doesn't have a chance. If I push him away, I might lose his friendship. What's worse, and weirder, is that it's flattering: this guy I don't hate is interested in me. If I were into it - and I don't see this happening but in an absolutely desperate scenario if things changed and I suddenly became interested... it would be nice to have him around. I don't doubt I could find some other guy's attention... a bit of makeup, a little hair maintenance and the right outfit is all it takes to make me a knockout... but keeping him in my back pocket is tempting. Totally evil but tempting.

In the end, that's why it's better if I do push him away, so I don't take advantage of his friendship or give him false hope that that might happen.

Sometimes I wonder what kind of problems I'd be having if I wound up as a 17 year old guy. Would I hesitate to pursue teenage girls? Would I have as much trouble with my body? Or would I just sit back and enjoy the ride?

Wish I could, but it's a bumpy one.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Jordan/"Deirdre" - We're not a couple!

I just read Annette's last post, and, Christ, she leaves it looking like Benny and I are fucking or something. We're not. Period, end of story.

Still, it is kind of weird sharing a room with him whenever Kareena stays over. Part of it is because he doesn't exactly look like me any more. It's been two and a half months since he and Annette moved in, and he's actually stuck to the exercise regimen he set out, dropping something like thirty pounds. He doesn't look cut or ripped or anything, but his face has gotten a little narrower so that it looks a bit more like my brother's than my own at times. He doesn't have abs yet, but he also doesn't have man-boobs any more. His legs look totally different.

It's fucking unnerving, actually. It's been two and a half months. Figure another six or seven before we go back, and what will he - and then I - wind up looking like? I'll be myself again, but, not. I mean, I see him talking to girls in the park, and they aren't reacting the way they do to me. Annette says it's just sort of being in a transitional stage - that he looks non-threatening but there's a hint of something they like becoming visible. And while my first reaction to that was a pretty reasonable "screw you", I get really jealous seeing it sometimes.

Because, you know, I never really thought of myself as fat. I wasn't skinny, and tended to buy XXL t-shirts, but I always felt fucking normal. Those assholes who grunted when they stood up or overflowed into the next seat on the subway, they were fat, not me! But now I'm watching someone who looks like I should dropping the weight, and while on the one hand I tell myself that I could have done that if I did nothing with my day but run laps around Central Park, and I chose to do more important things, I want that body.

For myself. Not, like, on top of me or shit like that. I was kind of worried about that being the case at some point - I've read enough on this blog and talked to enough others who have switched sexes that I'm sort of bracing myself for my body betraying me on that subject, but I don't think it will be from looking at Benny. Just... Too fucking weird, right? No matter how much weight he loses, he's still going to look like me, and even if he or Annette or someone were to convince me that it wasn't gay, it would still be incestuous or something.

It's not just Kareena being around that has had us having to play house a little, though. Annette didn't mention it, but we might be watched.

The real Ravi doesn't post on here any more - he's right into being Gary - but he does email me, every once in a while, trying to get me to come down to Baltimore and join everyone in the "pretend I'm who I look like" thing. Not so much for a while - maybe he's started fucking that skanky ex and decided not to mess with it - but he emails me every once in a while to say what's up with Deirdre's family like I really care. If he's going to do that, he might think to include the private investigator!

For real. The four of us were coming out of a movie the other night and I had to piss because of Deirdre's tiny friggin' bladder (I'd already seen the bit at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy anyway), and some guy grabs my arm while I'm coming out of the restroom, saying that Deirdre's parents had hired him to track me down and bring me "home"!

Not an usher to be found as I started flailing and kicking at him, doing way less damage than I really should be able to, and saying something along the lines of how he couldn't do this. A few more people came toward the restrooms, but either turned away or decided to just mind their own business, at least until Benny showed up.

He didn't beat this guy up - even as himself, Benny may have worked out and gotten in shape, but this asshole did it like it was his job. Still, he managed to disentangle us and stand in between, and when the guy repeated that Mr. and Mrs. O'Connell had hired him to bring their daughter back, he pointed out that I was a "grown fucking woman" who hadn't been kidnapped or anything like that, and if I wanted to be here, that was my decision. The guy asked if he didn't think Deirdre's parents were owed an explanation, and he said, sure, but that didn't mean they could send someone to collect. He pulled me in toward him, and I kind of didn't fight it, and by that time Annette and Kareena had shown up, so the guy decided to back off and probably report his progress to his clients.

What the hell is with people thinking they can kidnap me just because I want to live my own life the way I want? I wrote an angry email back to Ravi when we got home, and he said I should be telling this to "my" parents, but what if they take that as me attempting to "reach out"? At any rate, I've got my eyes out to see if this guy is still watching me or Benny or anyone, and I really hope I don't have to rely on him coming to my aid again like that. It was weird. - Jordo

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Annette/Ravi: Kareena

I've got a huge crush on my girlfriend.

Weird thing to write, no? I laughed out loud when I said it to Benny, but I think that's good. The week when I don't find myself saying something that sounds ridiculous is the one where I get genuinely worried, because that means that being a 25-year-old Hindu-American man is in some way normal for me.

Getting back on point - Ravi mentioned Kareena Milothra once or twice in his posts, mostly to say that she was originally the one he was going to be at the Trading Post with, but for her grandmother falling ill back in Mumbai. She wound up staying there until her classes began anew - she's a helpful person and wanted to be with family after the funeral, as one does - and was so busy after she got back to New York that we initially didn't get a whole lot of time to see each other.

Still, she makes an impression. The first time she stopped in to say hi, both Benny and I stumbled a bit. She's tall, lean, a smidge or two lighter-skinned than I am, though not close to Jordan's current paleness, and she speaks English with this accent that is half Mumbai and half English boarding school and all to die for. If she ever wears makeup, then I kind of resent how good she is at making it invisible versus just envying her being gorgeous. Benny and I have come up with a new way to drive Jordan nuts, which is to have long, sexy talks about how an evening would have gone if she had stayed at the Inn, and differing positions or something meant I wound up turned into her and he into Ravi - almost a required condition of the game,as he tends not to give the idea that he could have become a girl much thought. It got a bit uncomfortable when I acted one out by kissing him on the lips, although he said Jordan's freak-out watching almost made it worth it.

I'm kind of glad it didn't work out that way, though, because then I likely wouldn't really have met her beyond just exchanging useful information via email. She finds my "new" interest in Doctor Who a bit surprising, but it's fun because she really likes Peter Capaldi - he reminds her more of the old-school version that her dad introduced her to - even though I don't think the old guy is a patch on Tennant & Smith. She's really sporty - apparently I have picked up right where Ravi left off in her ongoing quest to educate her fiancé on the greatness of soccer and cricket (i.e., nowhere), but she's also become a big Knicks fan. And since our busy schedules don't intersect much (side note: I would make a terrible med student, and I'm not sure whether "gross stuff" or "sixteen-hour days" would be what does me in), there hasn't really been that much time for her to notice I'm acting weird.

Or to do much in the way of fooling around.

Ravi assured me via email that I wouldn't have to do that much anyway; apparently she comes from a fairly conservative family, enough so that if an arranged wedding raises the hundred feminist flags in her head that it does in mine, she doesn't show much outward sign of it. It's still kind of weird, though - we'll wind up holding hands on the subway, and it doesn't feel quite right to have the larger one, or she'll give me a quick peck and I feel kind of awful about not being the guy who she means to kiss. It feels nice to cuddle on the couch, though.

Bedtime gets weird, on the other hand. As much as I've gotten used to being out in the city by myself and not being scared, she's been staying over a lot, and the first time she saw Benny's sleeping bag she wanted to know what was up. I think I stammered something about winning it in a contest at work, but even though she's apparently modern enough to share a bed with her husband-to-be when her family is thousands of miles away, she probably wouldn't have been cool with Benny being there too. After the first time he barged in and freaked Kareena out (I think some excuse was made about him being drunk), I started leaving the sleeping bag in the living room unless she wasn't in. That's the signal for him to bunk with Jordan, which made him kind of throw a fit. As you might expect, he doesn't give one good small damn about whether Kareena wonders why "Jordan" has the couch and "his girlfriend Deirdre" has the bedroom. That hasn't happened in the last couple of weeks, though, after the night that it just didn't make sense to put on an act after the four of us stayed up until two-thirty playing Yahtzee (we are exciting!). I'm not sure what their arrangement is those nights, but I guess they can live with it.

She's been a fun addition to everything going on here, at least, even if it does mean that we're spending way more time pretending to be who we look like than we used to. Here's hoping we don't get lost in it!


Monday, October 20, 2014

Meg/Tasha: Try the eggs.

I noticed a shift in Tyler's mood this past Sunday when we met for our usual brunch. He was drumming on the table as if he had some song in his head only he could hear. He seemed to have a bit more pep than usual. I'm not saying the guy's a sad sack, but he's got enough on his shoulders that I usually forgive him for being in an unenthusiastic mood.

"What can I say?" he said as our plates arrived, "I feel like I'm finally making it work."

"Uh huh?"

"School's going okay, the play's fun, I'm even getting along a bit better with Lauren's parents now that I'm out of the house more often. Things are just... clicking, lately, as much as they could be expected."

"And your little friend?" I asked.

"Hm?" he forked some eggs into his mouth, "Who would that be?"

"You know," I said, sipping my coffee, "That Mark kid."

"Oh, you know," he said, averting his eyes to the parking lot out the window, "I handled it. I was straight up with him and he, uh, seems to have gotten the message."

"You handled it," I repeated.

"Yeah," he insisted.

"Just like that, you explained yourself, and now he's over you. That simple. It's over."

"Sure," he said, "Why not."

I took a bite of my grapefruit, then said, "Just like how I told you I didn't want to date anyone when we first met, and your feelings for me evaporated."

The sound of cutlery dropping on the table. He sat back and folded his arms across his chest. His eyes were as angry as I've ever seen them. I felt like I had made a mistake, but it had to be said.

"Careful," he said sourly. I could tell he was trying to deepen his voice, to summon "Tyler" from deep within "Lauren."

"You know how guys are sometimes," I said, somewhat venting my own experiences, "You tell them no, and even if they respect it, it's not like it flips a switch and turns them off you. It takes time, and I'm just warning you here, it may take more than one 'handling.' This isn't like some jock who just wanders up, tries his luck, and mutters bitch under his breath when you turn him down. This guy feels like he knows you, he's working with you, he has a lot of face time with you. I don't think he likes Lauren, I think he likes you. You have a responsibility to act in a way that doesn't lead him on, doesn't make him feel like you're playing hard to get or that you might come around if he's patient."

"Why is that my responsibility?" he said indignantly, squirming in his seat.

I knew he knew the answer, but I said it anyway, "Because guys suck. They're kinda great sometimes, but they suck so much more than they're great. And until you get your old body back, they're not going to leave you alone."

"Don't mention my old body," he said bitterly.

"If I were in your position," I said, "I might have told Mark I was a lesbian. Or transgendered, even. I mean your exact position, not if I was personally trying to... yeah. That's basically the truth for you."

"Yeah," he sighed, "But it isn't the truth, is it? It doesn't feel like the truth."

I waited for him to elaborate on that, but he didn't. He pushed his half-eaten plate away, saying he was now too annoyed to eat. "Tell me something good," he said. "Tell me about things with Wade." I smile, now that we're at the part of the meal where he feigns interest in girl-talk.

"Things are... goooooooooood..." I start to say, drawing out the last word with uncertainty. I'm always wary of playing up the good times with Wade due to the imbalance in Ty's and my situations. But if I overcorrect and complain too much, he starts to wonder why I bother. I think it helps that, the more Ty has spent time with Wade, the more he seems to reluctantly approve of him. He might even like the guy more than I do.

Not hard to see why. Wade's a grown man with no romantic interest in Tyler, because he's got me. Ty is a little older, mature and a bit smarter than Wade, (certainly more worldly since he's been through this, not to mention various other experiences) but the two seem more or less equal and have even found a bit to bond over. Wade's in that sweet spot of being able to treat Ty basically how he wants to be treated, without the baggage of knowing who he really is.

For my own part, it's a good thing I don't like him more, because that could be trouble, but to be honest... things are going well. He's actually noticed how I've been kind of down about this waitressing thing and how I wish I could be doing something else with my life. He offers suggestions, he offers sympathy... it's sweet.

The bedroom stuff is... a business transaction we both benefit from. Sometimes Ty seems like he wants to know about it, but I know he really doesn't.

I changed the subject again to the weather, a favorite subject of his - he can't stop talking about how cold and dreary it's been around here, and sometimes he seems irritated by that - a quick glance at the weather app indicates it's about 80 in Alabama - and sometimes it seems like a fun novelty to have to wear overcoats. He has a particular bit of material about how excited he is to wear long sleeves and layers and have nobody second-guessing his motives. "Scarves!" he laughs, "Who the hell knew?" Um, every woman, sweetie.

I tell him dressing my body is proving problematic. I haven't been as "good" as he has, putting on a bit of booty-weight since we got here. I'm sorry, there's a little curvy girl in me and she wants cake sometimes. I half-thought it would just go to my breasts anyway (not that that would be preferable.) I tell him he's lucky to be so consistently thin, and he admits that's convenient, but we both know there's more to it than meets the eye. We're just not talking about it. Meanwhile between us, half a plate of eggs grows cold.

I asked if he wanted to go jeans-shopping with me and he consented... after all, what else does he have to do?

Sure, he rolls his eyes, but I see him getting nice and cozy with the sales racks. Having learned how to dress Lauren-ish, he's looking to expand, maybe even redefine. He just doesn't have the money to do so. At the very least, it's clear he looks at shopping as a "feminine" activity he is in some way obligated to try learning. He's not, but it's cute.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tori: Doubts

Some nights I look over at the Boyfriend and I wonder what I'm doing.

He's fine, I'm fine with him, but I'm not nuts about him like I'd like to be. He's good enough company, and the sex has gotten consistent, but there's always a catch. He doesn't love to go out, so we've settled into this really easy routine that appeals to the introvert in me, but makes me a little restless. When I was a guy, I was probably like him, but from this angle I can see why women might not have liked that... and I've changed so that I like being out with people. He says "Go ahead, I'll be here" when I broach the idea of hanging out with my friends, and I feel guilty. We're stuck in this "three dates a week" period, when in other relationships by now I've been eager to see a guy every night of the week.

I try to incorporate him into my life more... we bicker about stuff like that, and I tend to relent since we're both after the same thing. I think about breaking up with him sometimes and trying my luck again, but I just don't have the energy to get back out there... I'm getting some action, why mess with the system?

At the same time, how many times can I convince myself to try to make it work before I give in? Am I just going to settle?

A few weeks ago we had that little blow-up about me leaving some property at his place. Then the issue sort of came back up again the other night when he mentioned his lease was up in November. He's on the outs with his roommate - they work opposite hours so they're constantly tiptoeing around each other - and he doesn't love his neighborhood, and hey, I've got a two-bedroom to myself since Raine moved in with her boyfriend (my promotion allowed me to swing it but it's kind of tight.)

I didn't know what to say. A few weeks ago the guy didn't want me to leave tampons at his place, now he wants to move in with me? We haven't even known each other 6 months, and they haven't always been hot and heavy, you know? This is big.

My gut reaction was no... it's crazy, right? Too soon? But then I started going back and forth. Is this just me giving too much credit to my doubts? Just keeping him at arm's length, trying to preserve this awkward limbo of a relationship instead of going all in? Playing it safe instead of just facing facts that I'd rather be with some other hypothetical person?

I told him I'd think about it, but I was sure to mention it really felt too soon. He kinda sulked about that but tried to backpedal saying it was "just a thought."

What am I doing? I don't like him enough to move in with him, but I'm happy to keep sleeping with him? I let him wrap his arms around me and sometimes I just want to break free, and sometimes I want him to keep holding me forever.

I need a sign.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tyler/Lauren: Mark

So I was invited to this party on Friday night by my friend Mark, who I've gotten to know since signing up to do tech stuff for this theater production of Oklahoma. We've worked closely enough together that I feel like he's an alright guy, but at the same time, I'm not an idiot. I know he pushed for me to come along because he's probably nursing a bit of a crush on me. I've been in this life long enough to know that boys look at this body with desire.

I can't blame them. I don't encourage them - I dress modestly and act pretty neutrally toward them - but I know that guys at that age are capable of taking any remotely positive interaction and turning it into an infatuation. Now, I've been hit on casually, I've had my looks remarked on, and I've been called a bitch for turning guys down. It doesn't bother me. These guys are nothing to me, and the plan to keep them at arm's length was working.

Then Mark.

Mark is a good dude. He's not overly macho, he seems respectful. At first, I paid him little attention, the way I do all the guys around here, but I guess you can't have the barrier up 100% of the time, and he caught me on a good day and we got to talking about music, which led to a really nice conversation about Queen. The only reason I could tell he had a crush on me is because he went out of his way to hide the fact that he had a crush on me, making any threadbare excuse to make conversation with me that he could, and I got to feeling safe around him so I let him. Dang.

Eventually, I caught onto what he was thinking, and it wasn't hard. He started to seem pretty clearly nervous when we'd be one-on-one, and then there was his insistence that I go to this party. And I feel for the kid, so rather than no-show (and basically torpedo my chances of being "in" with these people,) I went. I guess I'm just a social guy at heart.

Friday night, I stressed over what to wear. I wanted something comfy and un-provocative, so I ended up with a black t-shirt under a grey cardigan and jeans. No make-up.

I went over to the girl whose house it was with Dana, my friend who's the female lead. I didn't feel comfortable arriving alone because not only do I not really know these people, I don't even know if Lauren really knew them much, they certainly don't seem to have thought much of her. There was various people from the cast and crew, a few beers and some liquor going around, but it wasn't some crazy drunken madhouse. It was just a lot of deflated kids playing video games and drinking games under the roof of a set of real permissive parents.

Mark noticed me as soon as I arrived - he had been playing Xbox and passed the controller to someone else to greet me. Yeah, subtle. He offered to get me a drink, and I said I wasn't sure if I was going to drink tonight.

I'll address the alcohol issue right now... for obvious reasons, I have indulged a fair bit since I've been here. I try not to get trashed, especially since Lauren's little body can't candle it the way my real one can. But that's on my private time, mostly, with Meg or "the girls." While I don't really have much problem with underage drinking, actually participating with them seems as inappropriate as dating. Still, it was a tough social situation, and maybe if I was feeling tense I could get a beer later.

Mark and I hung out near the fringes of the party, and we had a conversation that kind of danced around the topic. I gave him a chance to come clean by asking him what girls he was into, and he played it off like he didn't have anyone in particular in mind. I said there was plenty of girls at the party, and he said "Yeah... there sure is" kinda half-heartedly. Then he picked a loose hair off my sweater.

I officially needed a drink.

Once I had one beer's worth of confidence in me, I decided it was time to drop the hammer. I asked him if he wanted to take a walk, and of course he did. Once we were out of the house, he got real quiet, and I took my opportunity.

"Hey man, just so you know," I said, "I know you're into me."

He was flustered. "No, what? Um, I... yeah, a little, I guess?"

"I'm not gonna lie," I said, "I'm flattered as hell. You're the first guy I've met in a while who doesn't suck. I mean that. But I'm really, really not the girl for you. I'm just... not in dating shape right now, you know? It's not about you, it's just me."

He took a moment to process this. "Is this because of what happened last year?"

Now "what happened last year" is something I know about but haven't said much on this blog, but maybe later if I'm comfortable, I'll tell you some more of Lauren's backstory. But everyone at school know it.

"Partially," I said, "I mean, it's a complicated thing, there's a lot of reasons. But I want to be your friend. Hell, I want to help you find a girl. I just need you to know that between you and me, this isn't happening. Are you okay?"

Another long pause, "Yeah... I guess I'm okay."

We got back to the party, and Mark gave me some breathing room, although the mood was changed between us. He seemed to sulk, and I felt bad, but it was beyond me control. This was the first guy I've had to turn down that I felt guilty for, because I think if I was really the girl he thinks I am, he would've been in good shape. Then again, it's not like the real Lauren would have given him a shot either, so it's kind of a mercy.

I went home with Dana and slept in her bed, but I was up all night wishing I was still a man and that she was a grown woman. The events of the party haunted me for the rest of the long weekend.

The worst part for me is that I halfway considered it. Mark's a harmless enough guy, and we get along fine considering the age gap. He would probably worship me, and that would be my defense against other guys. And if I told him I couldn't do certain things, he'd probably respect that because he'd feel lucky to be with me... but he wouldn't be lucky, he'd be screwed. Because whatever I think of him is really the most non-sexual, platonic friendship I can imagine, and I know he's thinking of me on a whole other level. Whatever would happen between us would purely be using him, deceiving him, completely disregarding his feelings.

And look, I tease Meg sometimes for continuing Tasha's thing with Wade. He's a decent guy, and if she has no problem with it then I don't (or at least, I try not to.) She was put in that situation and she wants to do right by Tash. Me, I want to do right by Lauren and that means no. And I want to do right by Mark, and that really means no.

He should do fine. He's tall and thin, and he's... I dunno if I'd call him handsome but he's got okay features I guess? Look, I'm new at this, and I still don't know what I'm into. That's not a joke. All these kids look like, well, kids to me, so to even suggest I'm attracted to any of them is out of the question, and while that goes doubly for the guys I'd be lying if I said it didn't apply to the girls. As much as I enjoy the company of the girls, and can see how pretty they are, I'm not exactly tripping over my tongue around them either. I've been in the company of girls in gym class (and overnight stays) and all I see are these half-formed bodies that are close facsimiles of adult women, but not quite ready for the world. That includes my own appearance. There's urges... and a lot of loneliness... but that's fighting my rational side, which knows it's smarter to say no. It's hard to feel sexy, or to have sexy feelings for anyone else, when you're stuck in the middle of this.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tyler/Lauren: Theater

So, I haven't posted much lately... I don't want to say it's because life's gotten soooo busy, but there's definitely a little less room in my life to sit down with the computer and rattle it all off. I'm spending more and more time at school helping to work on the play (which opens November 6) and when I come home, I don't exactly have much personal time and space. I still share a room with Kylie, and if she's around... I don't know, I feel downright odd sitting here going on about how I'm a grown man in a teenage girl's body. It's the truth, but the moments where I face up to it, I kind of want to be alone.

Being involved in this play, even in sort of a tangential way, has been pretty good for me. It gets my mind off of things and puts it toward things I can put my hands on, although it was a bit of a rough start. When I first arrived for the meeting, everyone there looked at me like I was lost. "What's she doing here?" Lauren is known to be the type of person who would rather be on the stage than doing the heavy lifting. But I've decided for the time being that the limelight isn't for me... no singing lessons, no pageants, nothing that puts me in the position where a large group of people get to judge me.

I'm slowly starting to get into he theater culture around the school... wearing "show blacks," painting sets, helping to acquire props. I've become sort of an all-purpose "go-to" girl, since most of the six or so kids volunteering already had jobs they were good at, I've been going where needed, and doing my best to troubleshoot. I asked if I could help do the lighting but apparently that's a specialized job and obviously I'm not ready for it yet... although I think the girl who is doing the lighting is very protective of her position.

In fact, the "techies" are quite a very tight-knit bunch. I guess that's the thing in high school, you find out who is into the same thing as you and you don't let go of them. Most of them have been working on productions together for years, and I'm the interloper - again, I seem to have floated down from another part of the school, and while the cast and crew mostly get along, there's still an unevenness, like the techies make actor jokes, and the actors ignore them. Since one of my better friends is the female lead, I have to be careful.

One of the guys, Mark, asked me about that while we were painting a backdrop to look like a farm. "Why didn't you audition? You usually go out for these sorts of things. Hell, the way you've been doing a southern accent lately, it's like you were trying to get into character."

I wanted to answer that. I thought I was losing my accent, nobody seems to comment on it lately. But instead I moved on. "It... seemed less stressful this way," I stammered, "I've had kind of a hard year."

"Oh yeah? What happened?"

"It's personal," I said. "Really personal."

"If I bring you liquor for the party Friday night after rehearsal, would you tell me about it?"

I groaned. "I can get liquor from my big sister... and I wasn't planning on going to the party Friday night." I didn't even know they were having one.

"Oh come on," he said, "Everyone's going. You gotta."

I bit my lip. "I dunno, I'm trying to keep out of trouble."

"Come on," he said, pleading but in a nice way, "You'll have fun."

I doubted that. Parties are very stressful for me lately. I worry about my own behavior and everyone around me... I understand kids will be kids, yet as an adult with a good sense of what can go wrong, I'm never really comfortable. As much as I misbehaved in my teens and never worried much about the consequences, as an adult that'd kind of all I see.

But they're going to do it anyway, and my alternative is sitting at home watching TV with the parents. I'm in this situation, I have this social group, I should probably embrace it, or else I'll just go on moping about it. It's never as bad as you think.

"Maybe," I said.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tyler/Lauren: In need of a hobby

Despite the occasional unpleasant encounter with a male, things have gotten pretty simple for me. I get up, I go to school, I go home and slink out of sight until dinner time. It's not the most fulfilling existence, but it seems to be working. I have a lineup of classes that keeps me out of trouble, even if they ain't exactly the most mentally taxing courses. For a month or so I felt like I was flying under the radar nicely.

Now that I'm "basically surviving," I feel the need for more. I've always been a restless person, and honestly "doing nothing" just ain't my style. I'm not one to sit and spin his wheels. Course, this gets me in a bit of trouble now and again... has made me make some poor decisions in the past I would rather not discuss right now, and even in recent times has probably influenced a lot of the dumb crap I've done as Lauren, including but not limited to the pageant.

But I need to find a thing. Something to put my energy toward to keep me outta trouble. At first, it was all about girl-time, keeping up Lauren's social circle, but more and more that incorporates the girls' boyfriends, and I feel a little... outside that, you know what I mean? (Karlee and Dana don't currently have boyfriends, but Dana's a major flirt and Karlee is obsessed with Lauren's ex Seann, so romances still crop up when they're around.) Talking to these girls about their relationships, or even school or their other ambitions, just isn't doing it for me. I need something to do that's more my speed.

I think I found it when I saw a flyer posted in the halls looking for a tech crew for the drama dept's  production of Oklahoma.

Now, I think the faculty adviser, Mr. Foley, half expected Lauren to be going in to audition - it's a musical after all and Lauren was quite a singer and certainly no stranger to the spotlight - but I've decided that that glitzy crap isn't for me. I got up on that stage for the pageant and just about pissed myself when it came time to do anything more than answer questions. But lighting direction? Prop and set management? That's damn near real physical labor. And as opposed to autoshop or woodshop, I won't be dealing with a bunch of alpha male wannabe hoodlums, but sensitive, artsy drama kids. Hell, half the crew is women, let alone the cast. Hell, Dana got the lead. I may not have had the most glowing things to say about her a few paragraphs ago, but she's still a bud of mine, and she's cool and I'm glad I'll be spending a bit more time around her.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Jane/Wes: First Impressions

I'll leave it to "Bianca" to fill you in on what's going on with her... she's told me some and hinted she isn't done contributing to this blog, but being caught up in this "Agency" business, she feels like she should keep her mouth shut.

Me, on the other hand, I guess I've got freedom of speech. While she was basically assigned her new life, I was just the unlucky sucker who wound up filling the extra room nearby. I say "unlucky..." I mean, nobody would get excited about having their whole life upended this way, but if you have to do it, I recommend going this way.

So let's double back a while. When I arrived in Chicago, Wes Baker's life was waiting for me. He makes a good living as an exec for this conglomerate, drives a pretty sweet car, wears nice suits (which his body wears very well, I must say,) lives alone in a spacious apartment... like, I've basically become Neil Patrick Harris from How I Met Your Mother. This isn't a life I ever aspired to or saw myself living, but it has its perks.

When I arrived, I got the lay of the land, examining everything from my fashion options to what remained in the fridge and pantry, before deciding it was only right to inform the real Wes Baker that I had taken custody of his, well, life. "Bianca" told me that the real Bianca's whereabouts were not currently known to her, and she didn't even know if the change was consensual on her part. Wes was like me, I gathered... an unwilling participant in this situation. Wes' phone had lost its charge since it had been left to me, and in the craziness of my post-change days I hadn't thought to even look at it. When I plugged it in, I found numerous text messages from an number listed as Casey Duggan, declaring, "This is Wes Baker. Contact me immediately." "I am expecting a call from you - Wes." "I need you to tell me when you get this message." Et cetera.

When I dialed the number, which had an area code for back in Maine, a woman's voice answered tersely: "Hello?"

"Um, I'm looking for... Casey?"

A pause, and then, "Hold on."

I pondered for a second. He hadn't said so in his documents, but Casey is a gender-neutral name. I wondered if maybe this dashing man had gone the opposite direction. Maybe his distress was causing him to panic more than usual.

I didn't have much time with the thought before a voice returned to the phone. "Hello?"

The voice was a squeaky, crackling one... that if a pubescent teenage boy, if I wasn't mistaken

I cleared my throat and did my best to sound polite. "Is this... Wes?"

"Yes," he answered excitedly. "Who's this?"

"It's, well... you. Well, I'm the person who became you."

"I can tell that, idiot," he snapped back, "Who are you, though?"

I timidly explained my story, but he cut me off before I could get much further than "BA in Fine Arts." "Oh God," he sneered. "A chick in my body, and an artsy one at that." His broad Chicago accent made his disgust come across even more vividly.

I felt irritated by that. I'm a reasonable, capable person... I felt like maybe I had a chance at doing well enough in his shoes and giving his body back to him with minimal scuffing on his life. But the way he spat the word "Chick" reeked to me, let alone my choice of career... and was just the tip of the iceberg.

"Trust me," I said, "I didn't choose this. I'd rather not..." cause waves, I was probably going to say.

"Look, baby," he said, "No offense, I get that you didn't ask for this, but don't fuck with my shit. You sound like you're already in way over your head. I want weekly reports. I want you to get an audio recorder and send me every meeting you sit in on. I want you to tell me every interaction you have at the office, everything that gets said to you and everything you say in response, so I can grade you at how good a job you do at being me. You don't talk to anybody I don't approve of. After work, you go straight home and do nothing without my say-so. I swear, if you part my hair the wrong way, I'll find out about it. Get me?"

"Yeah," I huffed, unable to gather my thoughts to say anything else, "I get you."

Then I hung up.

I paced around the room angrily for a moment. The absurdity struck me of somebody with that voice issuing such vitriol. Maybe he was just insecure... feeling out of control for the first time, stuck in the body of a kid. I'd get antsy if I was in his position. But he struck me immediately as a nasty customer. No sooner had I put the phone down when it started to buzz again. I decided not to answer, so he left me message after message outlining in strict terms the finer points of being Wes Baker: dietary, recreational, professional conduct, finances...

I went to his bedroom. It was very much a man's space, with a solitary dresser and a closet full of those nice suits I was describing. Like the rest of the apartment it hardly looked lived in, but maybe that was because he was going on vacation. The bathroom was full of haircare and shaving products. It had a full length mirror on the back of the door.

I scowled at my reflection. This was a face that belonged to a total asshole. But it had piercing blue eyes and a strong jaw.

It figures, a guy who looks and lives like this would not cede control of his life very easily. It was clear he was used to grooming every bit of his life, obsessed with status symbols and superficial shit. I hated his attitude and resented his treatment of me, but I couldn't argue with the results. He took life a certain way, and it got him far.

There was even something of a thrill as that realization came over me, albeit a shameful one... if I was becoming infatuated with the man whose body I inhabit, he wouldn't be the first asshole who got my attention. Just the most successful.

I laid down on top of the covers, fully clothed and put my hands over my face. I looked like a million bucks, but felt like nothing at all.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Meg/Tasha: Ungrateful

Sometimes I forget what I look like. Not my literal appearance... it's hard to ignore 32Fs under my top, or the long blonde hair I would never have had in my real life... but the way people expect me to act because of how I look.

In my regular life I looked, well, pretty much exactly how I felt. I was short, a bit out of shape, with an unimpressive figure and short dark hair and a permanent scowl. In fact, it wasn't that unusual for people to think I was a lesbian... not that I cared what people thought (but I was, and am, pretty much just a boring straight gal.) Now with legs up to here and more breasts than I know what to do with, people look at me like, well, I've looked this way my entire life.

Simply put, I look approachable, and I'm really not.

Ever since we got here, I have been doing Tasha's job, waitressing at some dive bar. I showed up on "my" first day to find the girls all wearing cutoff shorts and low cut black tops and I felt a sting in my gut, like I had no business standing next to these women, dressing that way, showing off my "goods." But a glance in the mirror reminded me that I have those same assets, if not more. I was embarrassed about a body I no longer had. If I wanted to flaunt it, I could.

I didn't really want to, though - I still wanted to just wear cardigans and slacks and curl up with a book and a cup of tea. But my income since arriving in PA has pretty well depended on bending over, smiling, walking away slowly with a swivel in my hips. I've gotten the hang of acting the part of a bombshell, but when I'm by myself I'm still really a shy, clumsy, bookish girl.

I guess I haven't gotten that good at being Tasha though... I can tell that I'm the lowest tip-earner on the waitstaff, regulars bolt right for other girls' sections if they can. I think it's because I caught onto which ones were leches who wanted to bug me, offer to take me on trips and investigate whether they had a shot at taking me away from my "boyfriend." I developed a nasty habit of dawdling with their drinks, not checking up, not giving more than a cursory nod when they asked how I was doing. And before long they stopped.

I guess I'm not in the drink-serving business, I'm in the people pleasing business. Having a body like this gets you a lot of attention, but you have to know how to deal with it, stifle your own discomfort, and play the game. People feel entitled to my time, like if they pay me a compliment they deserve to be treated well. It makes me long for the days when it wasn't an issue, when I didn't have to worry about concealing myself because I was ready-made invisible. I still occasionally got harassment -- including the ever popular request from strangers on the street that I smile as if it was any of their business -- but it was the exception rather than the rule. Now, it feels like anytime I leave the house I'm under the microscope.

The weird thing is, self-consciousness hasn't gone away. I fret more than ever about how my clothes fit, whether I'm slouching, how my hair and makeup looks (as in, I almost never used to wear it beyond some light mascara) and my weight... I had basically decided not to care about a lot of this at all, and my life was fine, and then I was given this body and basically told "don't ruin it." Gah!

(If I can further twist this superficial little body obsession kick of mine, no matter what light I see it in, I'm convinced my old face was prettier... but that's just my opinion and I don't think the men seem to mind this face too much...)

Here's how insecure I am... I didn't want to talk about this. It's taken so much goading to open up about my life. Even though these are real problems for me (not only is it killing my self-esteem, it's actively hurting my bank account to make less tips) and I go to bed some nights crying, I felt too embarrassed to bring this to you, the only demographic in the world who might understand what I'm saying, because it seems so whiny. Oh, the poor girl gains a body that others would kill for overnight. My closest friend in the world right now is a grown man in a teenage girl's body, so anytime I even think I have problems, I think about Tyler, and what he's gone through.

And that just makes me feel worse, because holy crap, that guy can deal.

All things considered, he doesn't take as many opportunities to freak out as I think he could. Yes, he vents, he moans, but at the end of the day, the guy is taking this whole situation on the chin. We went out for lunch yesterday, and he was telling me about his experiences at school, going on and on as if it was the most normal thing, barely even "breaking character," as far as I could tell... like the Tyler I met in Maine and the "Lauren" I teased for prancing around in a Beauty Pageant weren't two separate people at all, or an act... like he's found a way to crack open Lauren's life and absorb it into his own, instead of fighting with it, like I have.

Look, this is all from the outside, I don't know the depths of his inner turmoil. Maybe he hides it well. I don't want to go so far as to insinuate he's enjoying any of this. Just that when he can run down embarrassing conversations between his classmates while gleefully chowing down on a fast food burger, punctuating every story with this haughty teenage hair flick that is part affectation and part parody... I envy the guy. At least he seems together.

So I go home and I sigh... "poor me." I have the company of Wade, who is starting to sense that something is bothering "his girl." And he's a nice enough guy, almost smart and artistic enough for me, but still very immature, contentious about the stupidest, most trivial stuff. I can't connect with him, not only because he doesn't understand, but the degree to which he does understand he is just desperate to write off my problems and tell me things are fine. Or imply that there are simple solutions, when there aren't.

"You don't like your job? Just quit."

Yeah right. It's not my job to quit... although, I may not have a choice soon. I'm already getting less shifts, down to Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays only. I need a hobby, or a second job, or some friends with my own interests.

I don't know... when I got dragged into this mess, I made it known to Tyler that I was not looking for a relationship, and yet here I am going through the motions of one, living each day in the scenario I was actively avoiding. I feel like Wade can sense I'm not giving my all.

Besides, if I take that attitude and quit, where does it end? Breakup with Wade, new apartment, haircut, breast reduction? Don't think I haven't considered it. I don't really feel sexier a lot of the time, just sore, objectified, and annoyed at the way my boobs fall into my armpits when I lie down. I want to be me again in the worst way and I feel so ungrateful. It feels like all this beauty is wasted on me, and I'm a jerk for complaining about a body that is supposedly "ideal," and in any case closer to what I started with than Tyler did.

I never asked to be a frigging Barbie doll.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tyler/Lauren: Arm's length

One of the first things I did when I arrived in Lauren's life was to end her relationship with her boyfriend of several months, Seann. It was a cold, logical decision that Lauren was really not thrilled I had to make, but she conceded that the idea of a grown man playing girlfriend to a teenage boy has way too many unseemly elements. When I called her to discuss it, there were tears on her end, and I think that was a moment that summed up, for her, how truly fucked up this situation is. Whereas she and the real Tasha have been playing house out in Texas for the past summer, I've been here keeping things moving in her life as best I can, in a way that is comfortable for me to deal with. I told her this may mean her social life takes a nosedive, and that whatever her plans for after high school were might have to get pushed back, because I'm not learning for her. But I'm trying to be a good person while wearing her face.

When I actually went through with the breakup, it was with a ruthless detachment that got a lot of names thrown my way, and some rumors that for all I know are completely accurate. But Lauren can rest assured that she has a few friends that seem really true to her, and who have been fairly kind to me.

One of those friends is Karlee. She's a sweet, bubbly girl, short and curvy, with a breathy voice and a bit of an... immature, shall we say, energy. She's actually quite sweet, as far as I've seen, but I would think she's just not emotionally ready for a boyfriend, which is why she hasn't had one. She's just too much of a kid.

Until the party I accidentally threw a month ago, where she and Seann went off on their own for a while, and... dot dot dot.

She came back, giddy as a squirrel with an acorn, and good for her I guess, but I'm worried she's developed a bit of an infatuation with this boy. He doesn't seem to have paid much attention to her for the rest of the summer, he just wanted a bit of a fling. And from my perspective, that's just boys being boys, but I never saw the way a girl might get attached afterward, making something serious out of nothing.

Days after that happened, Karlee and I had a talk where she confessed all, frantically apologizing to me for crossing the line with "my ex." I told her to go for it if it makes her happy, because "Seann and I" were far, far in the past, to put it mildly. Then she plied me for ways to win Seann over, and I had to fake my way through a sort of girly pep talk about "just be yourself, and if he likes you, he'll show it." In reality I think she should find someone who is interested in her, because I'm sure he's out there in the sea of hormones that is high school. Probably too shy to say anything.

Nothing appears to have developed yet, in that direction, and Karlee seems to be respecting my space and leaving me out of it, but I get regular updates from "our" friend Ginnifer. Karlee is privately obsessed with Seann, but way too shy to say or do anything about it. Meanwhile, Seann seems like he could hardly notice Karlee's existence.

Reading back those last three paragraphs, I feel like I've really gone deep cover on this one. Sorry, I don't know why I thought that all was important to say, but I guess it's all to say that thanks to that fairly public (even though I tried to be discreet) breakup, it's public knowledge since we got back to school that Lauren Sherman is "on the market," especially after a summer largely spent in seclusion.

I'm not, of course - I'm not sure how to get the word out about that, but it's become clear that male attention is not conditional on wearing makeup or having my roots properly dyed. I look roughly as ragged as Lauren has in her entire life, with a smattering in acne around my cheeks and forehead and unkempt hair, but boys still think it's a good idea to try.

So I was in the cafeteria yesterday, eating a chicken sandwich, minding my own business, when this guy I recognize but don't really know came and sat next to me, backwards on the bench so he could lean back on the table, propped back on his elbows. He made his leg touch mine.

"Hey Laur," he said, "You got any plans for the weekend?"

All the color drains right out of my face. I look up at this guy. He's leaning into me somewhat. He's got this cocky face on, staring directly down at my chest, discerning the curve of my breasts through my t-shirt.

I feel my face burning. My blood starts racing with this fight-or-flight reflex, like I'm cornered. I have to take a breath and remind myself that this kid is only doing what comes natural.

"No," I say honestly, "No plans."

So immediately, he says "We should do something."

"No thanks," I say, punctuating the statement with a mouthful of chicken. I didn't even have time to play like I wasn't sure what he was getting at, or soften the blow by making up some excuse. "I don't like you that way. No offense or anything."

"Oh," he said, deflated. He lingered a moment before backing away.

This is going to happen. I'm in the mix, in this crazy environment full of hormonal teenagers who all have to coexist. There's nothing I can say or do that will brand me as being as far off the table as I really am. I have to be on this constant defensive of "No, no thanks, not happening, not interested." No room for ambiguity.

I would be thrilled to be friends with these dudes. If I had landed in a 17-year-old boy's body, I'm sure they and I would be tight right now. As douchey as teenagers seem to a grown man, they would be basically my only option. But that's not the world I landed in. To them, I'm like a meal, a prize, an object to pursue. These guys don't have female friends except ones they're trying to date or who are dating their friends. I haven't had a meaningful conversation with a human male in, I can't remember how long... probably some exchange Wade and I had, like when we went away for the weekend. But that's the exception. Mostly they're just paying attention to me long enough for me to signify that, no, I'm not interested.

So I have no choice but to turn toward the girls. When I got back to school last month, anytime I entered a classroom, I immediately sat near a girl, even if it was one I didn't know, so that some guy didn't think I was giving him a signal just by electing to be near him. I need to put half the entire world's population at arm's length for the time being.

This has its own problems: after all these months I still don't totally relate to these girls and that's probably not such a bad thing (remember, grown man.) But, surrounded by teens, I'm definitely feeling the ways my outside doesn't match my inside. Sometimes I see some adult concerns when they start fretting over schools and planning their futures, even occasionally talking about politics, but then they go back to gabbing about who's hooking up and what happens on reality shows and what Taylor Swift wore to some red carpet and I just... glaze over.

It's going to be a long year.

Maybe even longer than that. But I don't really want to talk about it, because I still don't know.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tori: Too soon?

So, the other day, on my way over to the Boy's place, I stopped in at a store to bring over some food, beer, and other assorted things. When I got to his apartment, I started to unpack the bag, when I got to the last item: a pack of Tampax Pearl.

"Hey, um..." I said, nervously holding them at my side, "I don't know if this is a weird question, but... would you mind if I kept these here?"

He looked at the box, then at me, then at my breasts I think, then back at the box. The moment was getting uncomfortable, so I tried to joke my way out of it, "Um, not in the kitchen, I mean, in the bathroom."

"Oh, um," he stammered, "Why?"

"Um," I said, "Because I need them sometimes? And I'm here a lot."

We're not really in the casual fling phase of the relationship anymore. I spend entire weekends at his place, and I've had to run out to the pharmacy for a box of tampons while I was staying with him, and I was so embarrassed that I dumped the whole thing into my purse, and threw the box into a trashcan on the street. A glance at my purse looked like I was preparing for a menstrual hurricane of some kind.

But why should I be embarrassed? This is something about being female that everyone knows about, that I've long accepted, and that shouldn't be stigmatized. What harm would it do to keep a spare pack on hand in a place where I am frequently sleeping?

"Are you on your, um, thingy right now?"

"No," I said matter-of-factly, "But I could be tomorrow." My cycle has been really erratic lately. I think it has something to do with the stress at work.

"Can you keep them hidden somewhere? So my roommate doesn't see them?"

Ah, the mysterious roommate. He works nights, and spends a lot of time in his room. I've encountered him like twice.

"What does that matter?" I asked.

"Well, I just don't want him to think I'm whipped," he said.

I was steaming. "Whipped?"

I remember making jokes about my male friends being whipped, when they were getting into relationships. OF course, back then I wasn't in a relationship pretty much ever, so I had no business to be making fun of any of my guy friends making a few concessions for their girlfriends, implying that they were less of a man because God forbid they couldn't make it to Halo night.

My opinion on the matter has changed. Now I think that's a bunch of bullshit.

"I could take them and go home," I said, "Would that stop you from being whipped?"

"No, Tori, I just mean..." he stopped. He didn't have any way to finish that thought. I waited impatiently. Finally, he said, "It's a personal space thing. He might think..." again he was stumped.

I gritted my teeth. "Let's try this again. Your girlfriend wants to know if she can leave some personal items at your place, so that she feels comfortable staying here more."

"Sure," he said, still visibly exasperated, "Do whatever you want, I guess."

Not the answer I was looking for.

I was hoping we wouldn't be sniping at each other so soon. Honestly, 90% of the time he and I are a great match, but he's insecure about the weirdest things. Sometimes I can tell he doesn't believe he should be with me, because I look a certain way and he thinks of himself a certain way. Like I'm some goddess he tricked into being with him, when the truth is I just like him. Then sometimes he says something dumb, picks a fight, and I wonder how much of a future we have. Maybe it's self-sabotage or maybe he just shoots his mouth off, I don't know. I guess if I'm noticing this this early on, it's not a good sign.

There were times I would have bolted at the first sign of a problem... after the last serious relationship, I looked for any excuse not to see someone again. I guess I shouldn't have expected him to be flawless, and again, aside from ruining the occasional moment, he's the best guy I've met in a long time. So I'm trying not to let it bug me too much when he lets his immature, insecure side out.

My God, this really is womanhood, isn't it.

The night was salvageable after that tense moment, and I think he felt guilty, although he didn't say "sorry." And I doubted myself, too... maybe I was just being a bitch, indignant for no good reason. But I can't help how I felt in that moment... insulted that he thought I was somehow "whipping" him, when the subtext of that conversation is that I like having sex with him and staying the night! It's about give-and-take, you know?

It's been a few days, and I've cooled off, but still. It remains to be seen whether this problem gets worse or goes away.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Jane/Wes: I'm new here

Hello blogosphere. I guess you already know a bit about me, but I suppose I should fill you in on the details.

My name is Jane Li. I'm 24 years old, a second-generation Chinese-American, but I don't speak the language fluently (and love messing with jerks who don't think I speak English, although that's happening less as I get older.) I have a BA in Fine Arts (pottery is my passion.) I'm 5'4 (with a petite build,) and a native of Cherry Hill, NJ. I love the Pixies and Taylor Swift equally (don't judge me.) I spent the summer backpacking around Europe partly as a way to get over a bad breakup, and when I got back to the States, I decided to stay at the Trading Post Inn.

Since then, I resemble a 29-year-old office drone from Chicago named Wes Baker. He's 6' tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed, with broad shoulders, a movie star's jaw, and perfect teeth.

I sussed out what had happened pretty quickly. I mean, when you wake up and there's male anatomy in your tattered underwear, you can't help but draw conclusions. I stepped of of bed, nearly tipped over due to the higher center of gravity, and then caught my "junk" on the inseam of my panties, hobbling me. Such sensitive little things.

I stripped off my clothes and laid on the floor, staring down at my flat(ter) chest, rock-hard abs, and this hairy, veiny... appendage between my legs. I nearly hyperventilated. I laid back and closed my eyes, trying to wish it away, but I could feel it... shifting. "Oh, God, oh God," I whimpered in my newly baritone voice. If this was a dream, it was one I was embarrassed to be having.

I mean, sometimes we think it would be nice to have one of those things, but... actually getting one? Gag.

Once I was well, I tore the room apart looking for clues, and happened upon Wes' luggage. I probably should have put his clothes on then and there, but I couldn't imagine doing so, so I wrapped a towel around my waist and decided to go see what, if anything, had happened to anyone else, and if anyone needed serious help. I didn't even realize I was still wearing the remains of my top.

You don't realize your hands have changed size until you hold something familiar... like a doorknob. It felt like a little rubber ball did in my old hand - I clasped all the way around it. Walking down the hall, I felt like an ungainly, hairy monster.

I was clearly not the only one freaked, so I did as much traffic-direction as I could before I finally found "Bianca," in the room belonging to the girl I had known as "Sophie." She and "Angie" were the only other visitors I had gotten to know, besides the revolting Don Lazar. She seemed very collected, if spooked, and it help put me at ease. The person who had been a sweet-looking, sexily curvy girl about my own age had aged a decade. Her punkish side-swipe hair had become a more conventionally long cut, frizzed out by the heat and lack of care. She looked like she had been having a rough morning. I wanted to go over and comfort her, but I didn't want to make any sudden movements, so I stayed by the door as we talked about the details.

Once the chaos died down, I went back to the bathroom to examine the face that everyone had seen but me.

Like I said, Wes is a good-looking fella. I turned the corner, faced my reflection, and saw this model-like steely blue gaze. I felt my lip quiver when I saw "him." I removed what remained of my top, and found a pair of clean-shaven, well-defined pecs. I held my arms out to the side and flexed a little.

"Holy crap," I thought, "I'm hot."

In fact, all that posing was starting to make me feel a little... uncomfortable, if you catch my drift, and I had to step away from the mirror and take a walk around to get my head on straight. It brought up a lot of really complicated feelings... not to mention physiological responses... to see this really attractive man, someone I would feel fairly intimidated to talk to in person, but he was standing in the mirror.

Here I was, far from home, transformed into a man, expected to live his life. It was heavy, but I could see it would not be without perks.

Then the sadness set in as I realized it was my turn to hand off my life to someone else. As I thought about what I wrote in my version of the letter, about my lack of a steady job, lack of a relationship, lack of any direction, I felt almost ashamed. And I wonder if maybe I didn't argue as emphatically as I should have that they should be careful not to do anything to screw it up for me... that I didn't come across as wanting to go back.

It's not like I'm excited to be this person, but... I mean, it's something to do, right?

It was a little later that I found out it wasn't Bianca and James' first go-around. I don't think they meant to hide it from me... obviously they weren't going to explain it to me the first time we met, and even though I would have appreciated them laying it out for me right away after it happened (especially knowing they wrote me into this blog!) I understand why they didn't. It was a chaotic day, and from what I understand they had a lot of reason to be secretive. But it still felt weird... like, I instantly took a liking to these girls, and I didn't sense anything off about them, except for the fact that they were, well, seemingly Canadian.

But then, as we were preparing to depart for Chicago, I mentioned that if they ever needed help getting through this, I would be there for them. They kind of shared this look of embarrassment, and James nudged Bianca into saying something, and she kind of looked away and admitted "We've kind of done this before."

My jaw dropped. I thought they were just adapting well! It turns out they're a year ahead of me on the curve. My world was rocked, even though it shouldn't have been. This changed everything. I asked them to tell me everything, and they did... a lot of it is covered on this blog, and some of it they swore me to secrecy about, and some of it they just don't know, for instance about this organization they've hooked up with, which set them (and me, I suppose) up with jobs at this company... to what, move numbers around a spreadsheet? I wonder what they're really up to.