Friday, September 30, 2016

Simon/Joy: How does she do it?

Life has gotten pretty routine around here... I get up in the morning (way too early but I need my eyelashes to be on point) and go to work. If I have a normal day at the office and don't have to show any clients around, I come home by 7 and make myself some dinner... usually just a quickie meal for one, although sometimes Treena offers me some of whatever she's having (she tends to make an entire week's worth of meals in the slow cooker, which... bleh!) I see her a little bit in the evening when she takes a break from work, and maybe we gab a little but since we settled in and I started working, her interest in my personal life - IE my experience in now having a vagina - has diminished. Which suits me fine because as soon as I get home, kick off my heels and unfasten my bra, I'd just prefer to pretend that I'm the same guy I always was.

But I'm not. I can't be. Because I've had some thoughts... you may know... that Simon would never have had.

I'm not in denial or anything but Treena did make a point to bring it up recently. Because I got up in the morning one day this week and the shower was running. And Treena is never up early. You don't have to be a detective to know what that means. No problem I think, I skip that part of my routine and go have breakfast.

Then he emerges. Shirtless, wet, towel around his waist. If I didn't know better I'd swear he wanted me to see him. And I guess I must have stared just a little too long because he gave me this stupid grin.

"You must be the roommate!" he says nonchalantly.

"Yes I am," I say, clearing my throat of awkwardness. "And you are?"

"Brent. I'm a, uh, friend of Treena's."

"Oh really?" I raise an eyebrow. "For how long?"

"Um," he says with a bit of a squeak, "Not long. Hope you don't mind I showered..."

"No, um, no problem! Our casa su casa..." I stammered like an awkward teenager getting a good glimpse of cleavage. Except it was a man's... like, that v-part that goes down the hips? What's that called anyway?

He went back to Treena's room and I spent the whole day distracted, pondering... how did I feel about that? And more importantly... what was he doing with her?

I've been asked not to discuss Treena's looks in this blog. She's actually very attractive, you just need to have certain tastes. I don't necessarily only like them skinny myself - or at least I don't when I'm a guy - so Treena, I can totally see the appeal. I think I'm pretty open. But this guy looks like he hits the gym three or four times a week. I guess I see her with more of an... intellectual, a skinny cultured guy. Someone who isn't conventionally good looking but has a certain charm.

Of course, when I asked her about Brent that night she got pretty offended at the implication that he was too hot for her. I tried to tell her, it's not about levels of hotness, it's about what kind of hot you are, but she just went back to saying I was Shallow Simon. Whatever.

She said she supposed I thought a guy like Brent would prefer someone who looks like me. I said that was neither here nor there since I'm not on the market.

She said "Sure. I see you covertly still texting Joey. You jump like a little bunny every time he buzzes you. You're just waiting to get the nerve up to admit you are into it. You know I've been with Joey already, and how he looks. You know why? Because I'm confident. I know what I'm worth and I work it. Like what you pretend to be."

I was flummoxed. She has this way of picking at my nerves. "Okay, where do you meet guys like Brent and Joey?"

"At the show," she said.

"What show?"

Then she rolled her eyes and picked a flyer off the fridge that's been on the fridge all month. She could hardly contain her exasperation at me as she explained, "You don't even think to ask where I go three nights a week. To rehearsal."

The flyer was for this weird... I dunno, cabaret, burlesque thing. It had a black and white photo of a woman who looked a lot like Treena, in a bustier.

"I thought this was just for, like... kitsch? A gag? You would never..."

"I have," she smiled, "Often and gladly. Gotten onstage and sung my heart out for strangers who get to see my tits afterward. Or done skits. Comedy."

"You're a stripper?"

"I'm a performer. Strippers get dollar bills stuffed in their G-strings. I make a cut of the house."

"That's insane, my mind is blown," I said.

"You never expected something like that from me, did you," she said with a wink. "It took guts, I did it on almost a dare in college, but I loved it so much it became a serious passion. I really missed it during my time as Nazim."

"Oh right," I said, remembering that when I met her she was in the body of a Muslim girl.

"What's this all got to do with me and my confidence?" I asked finally.

"Pfft, nothing," she scoffed. "Not everything is about you, Simon. I could hardly care if you fancy men or women or inanimate objects. Just don't spend too much time comparing yourself to others, and don't deny yourself something harmless if you really want it."

I took a deep breath and sighed. "What if I don't want to want it?"

"That's the dilemma of life, sweetie," she said. "You don't know if something's good for you until you try it, and my guess is there's still enough male pride in there thinking you're a failure of a person if you admit that maybe kissing boys is something you'd like."

That stung but I tried to ignore it. I asked her if it would be inappropriate to come see her show and she said sure, she had nothing to hide. The next one is next week, a tribute to Columbus day. Weird.

Now... I just need to find out where I can get one of those inanimate objects she was suggesting... ;)

-S/J

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Tyler/Judith: Doing our best

It was only about two weeks into the school year when we got called in to the principle's office.

Kitty was extremely miffed. She was embarrassed and suspected the worst - that the "older" kids were picking on "Olivia" because she was smaller and younger, and that somehow this reflected poorly on us as parents, and that skipping was a mistake. I told her I thought we were doing the best we could under the circumstances, and that I hadn't noticed anything dreadfully wrong with the kid: okay, he's not exactly happy go lucky, he comes home and goes to his room to play video games (which, we had to buy him a PlayStation, over Kitty's objections, but I consider it part of the compensation plan for getting two years and your gender taken away.) But he isn't crying himself to sleep every night or whining or acting miserable to us.

In fact, every night I tuck him in to bed and I ask how his day was and he tells me if it was good or not. And I have taken to telling him that we're two very lucky people, because we get to know things that the rest of the world doesn't, what it's like to be both. At first he said he didn't feel lucky and he wished he could go back, but... lately he's toned that down a bit.

So we got to the school and yes, we did get a bit of a talking to. Olivia is "temperamental" and has a habit of "talking back." Kitty immediately threw me under the bus because I "encourage" that sort of thing, and I wanted to respond but for the sake of decorum I didn't. I just said that I like having a child who speaks their mind.

The principle's point was that the kid was acting out to try to win friends - trying to be the class clown. I smiled at that and asked: was it working? The principle said that wasn't really her area of expertise. But maybe Olivia would benefit from some after school activities, and here, take some pamphlets.

And what a coincidence, all of these activities cost money, which is tight, and would go to the school. I feel like some kind of scam is being run here.

Kitty and I started looking elsewhere because we did buy into the notion that the Kid could use some of the structure and social interactions that come from after school activities. It helped me to find Theater Tech when I was Lauren. Plus I remember reading about the success Lane had in helping get Kari's daughter in order by encouraging her to do track.

Of course this was the stage for another tug of war between me and Kitty about how exactly we're going to raise this kid. She's still of the mind that putting on the appearance of being a normal girl will make him feel more normal: hence, her pitches were for things like gymnastics and ballet/dance. Me, I still remember enduring some of Lauren's extra-curriculars with a lot of frustration. If the kid wants to dance, I'll let him dance his heart out, but why push him that way?

My pitches were a little more boyish. I first pitched girls' softball, but wasn't season, and plus it sounded dirty to Kitty. She turned down the Saturday Morning Youth Bowling league for the same reason (come on, what kid doesn't wanna get up at 8 on a Saturday to throw heavy, oily objects? in an underground alley that hasn't been updated since the 70's? "Bad for the skin," Kitty scoffed.)

I made a bit of a push for martial arts: I get the sense it would really appeal to Dylan to learn some self-defense techniques, and maybe - on the off chance we never get Dylan back in his rightful place - it will come in handy. Kitty, predictably, dismissed it as "learning to run around beating people up."

Then Kitty came back and made a case for Trailblazers, a local Girl Scouts-like organization (minus the cookies) that teaches life skills, does community events and yes, the occasional camping trip.

I gave it a "hmm." I didn't think Kitty would want our precious "daughter" getting dirty, skinned knees learning to start fires and forage for edible plants, but she said it could build character and socialize Dylan with "other girls." And as much as I don't want to push Dylan into adhering to anyone's pre-existing idea of what a girl is - especially not Kitty's - having her be around girls so she knows a bit more about how to behave in the skin the world sees her in is probably a good thing.

All right, I said. "But if she doesn't like it, we're back to jiu jitsu."

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Simon/Joy: Born for this

Call me crazy, but I am actually having a blast out here.

For starters, real estate is basically the perfect job for a workaholic like me. Okay, in my normal life I'm very "work hard play hard" but I've been skimping on the "play" part so I can focus on getting the bills paid and building up a bit of a financial safety net just in case. So I'm pretty much always available to my clients, and giving them the necessary amount of my brainpower to negotiate them as good of a deal as possible. I'm still a little shaky about buying, but selling, I've managed to rack up an impressive streak of sales above asking, sometimes by a lot. I had a hunch, if I could sell industrial components in the fading rust belt, California Real Estate ought to be a snap.

The trick is to get them in a room, not over the phone. They feel trapped and blindsided that a chick this small and unassuming could be a total shark.

Life is good, the money is great, the weather out here is gorgeous, I'm sexy as hell - I dedicate a few hours every weekend to keeping my tan up. When I started working Treena gave me the keys to the real Joy's Audi SUV, which rides like a dream (necessary for showing clients around.) What could be missing? I mean, besides what's between my legs.

I'm looking at the big picture here. Have an awesome year, soak up the sun and the cash, while Treena keeps up her search for the real Joy. I'm saying, I think she abandoned her body, must have gotten a better deal. If so, good for her, I wish her the best. Maybe someone out there will want to relieve me of hers once the year is up, I bet there's a whole community out there willing to trade. And when that happens, I'll be me again, ready to take the licensing test under my real name and resume my career here.

I know that sounds optimistic, but the way things are going I think it's realistic. Am I willing to consider the possibility that shit goes sideways and I get stuck here? Sure. I've read the blog, I know that happens. But it's not like that would be a death sentence (or even a life sentence!) I'm totally crushing it here, so if I get "stuck," well... somehow I bet I'll manage.

Anyway, that's what's up with me, peeps. Hope I can keep checking in on the regular.
Peace! - S/J

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Jordan/"Missy" Yuan-wei: Telling folks

Back when Benjamin was living the life of my former roommate Ravi, he lost a bunch of sleep about the idea of outing himself (would it be "herself" because he still thought of himself as female at the time despite being biologically male? the Inn creates such fucking pronoun issues).  It was, he figured, not his place even though maintaining the premise that Ravi was straight sucked for everybody.  I went along because I was just trying to keep my head down and get through being Deirdre, but I suspect that govern other circumstances, like I'm still a guy and I just happen to find out that my roommate is gay, I'm not keeping quiet.  Maybe I'm not looking for places to announce it, but I'm not pretending and maybe, if I get drunk or he pisses me off, it comes out.

Most of the time, it's not like that with the Inn; you can't tell people and have them believe you - although, now that I think about it, I can't remember the last one of us who really tried; it's just something we take for granted because it makes sense.  If you could, more people would, and this cursed piece of Maine real estate would have been taken over by the government or people who didn't go to church would believe in magic and shit.  I mean, it makes sense, but I'm sure the real Yuan-wei and Bingbing probably thought that whole "you'll melt if you try to change twice" thing made a lot of sense too, and look where it got them.

That situation got me thinking about outing, sort of.  Like, I've got a good thing with Jackie right now, but there's a good chance that he'd flip the fuck out if he found out that I used to be a guy who grew up in Queens.  So would some of the other guys I've fucked.  I don't think Jackie would get violent or anything, but let's not kid ourselves; I've enjoyed being with guys who can pick me up and manhandle me a bit, and it would be stupid to assume that all of them would just be like "oh, hey, you've got a pussy now, so it's cool, there's no actual threat to my heterosexuality at all and I'm sure everyone will understand".  That people reflexively disbelieve is probably a life-saver in some cases.

And, hell, I'm not sure how those of us have been to the Inn find each other beyond this blog and friends of friends.  Should I start asking people if they've ever been to the Trading Post Inn as soon as a relationship looks like it might start getting serious, or at least sexy?  Or should I just let people be who they choose to present themselves as?  Most of us who aren't actively looking to get our old lives back are just trying to be the person we are now.

But then you get to folks like the current Bingbing and Sandra, who have been actively deceiving people for their own benefit.  One of them is fucking my kid brother, and the other one fucked my friend over.  Hell, given that I had another friendly session with Inspector Yee when I went back to Hong Kong for a couple of weeks after the film festival - turning 21 gives "Yuan-wei" monitored access to a trust fund, though the full amount coming from her father's will won't be available until I'm legally 25, so this guy has decided to sniff around me a little more - it's possible she fucked me over and I won't know it until Yee can prove that whoever was Yuan-wei at the time was responsible for her father's death.  Even if you accept they've got a right to privacy on this, something stinks.

I talked to Ronan first, making sure it was a voice call and asking if "Sandra" was there.  She wasn't, so I told him about meeting the original Yuan-wei and Bingbing in Montreal, how they had been made to think that there was no going back, and how the woman he was telling the whole world was his wife was keeping a couple of big fucking secrets from him.  He went through the rationalizations you'd expect - that her life before being Yuan-wei didn't really matter, that it just made things more romantic that she'd decided to stay with him after realizing that they were going to the Inn, all that stuff.  Could be true, I guess, but, on the other hand, as much as Ronan is a nice enough guy beyond the whole cheating on his wife thing, is he really so nice that is worth becoming fifteen years closer to death and not nearly as hot and rich to be with him?  I mean, true love, she could manage to get back with him without giving up all this, right?

Not what he wanted to hear, as you might imagine, even without mentioning that she might be running from something.

As for Bingbing, I was a little less sure what to do.  I mean, whoever she may have been, she seems to be genuine enough.  She and Max are still together, posting a lot of photos on their respective Facebook pages, and they seem to really like each other.  She and Kareena get along when Max and "Jordan" go on a double date, and even if I know there's something not right about her, it's not like I can tell Max without looking like I'm trying to steal my bestie's boyfriend, and how gross would I feel if he actually took it that way? 

I can talk to Benny, at least, and ask him to keep an eye on them, and maybe if he wants to act like he doesn't like her...  Being Benny, he's not exactly cool with that idea.  However much our brains change from the curse, it's not enough for his first reaction to be anything but "chill", especially since he does think she's pretty cool, and have I considered that it might be good for Max to have a girlfriend who is probably more mature and experienced than she looks?  I guess I could kind of see that, and when Benny pointed out that the one who had been Yuan-wei was the one who had decided she needed to bail on her second life and leave her friend behind, maybe Bingbing was basically okay, especially since, while she was comfortable, she wasn't rich like Yuan-wei and thus motivated to make the originals think there was no going back.  Benny thinks she's making the best of a tough situation, and I've got no evidence to the contrary.

Aside from that, though, I get the impression that he was taking it personally, like I was implying that he and Kareena shouldn't be together because they're inherently doing so under false pretenses.  I said it wasn't like that at all, that I've got a boyfriend and that would be way more deceptive than the two of them getting together after he basically made my life his own, and I try not to be a complete fucking hypocrite, but that didn't make it better.

As to just outright talking to Bingbing or "Sandra"...  Well, I'm kind of being a pussy there.  I get nervous about leaving either of them messages on Facebook or other social media that someone else might see (heck, I still pretty much lurk on Sandra's rather than send an actual request to connect), and I get the feeling Bingbing is screening my calls.  Maybe she's trying to figure out what to say because it's weird and I'm just being paranoid.

Maybe I'm just being an asshole here, enjoying being a junior in college with good looks and money, learning how to make movies without worrying about all that acting crap I don't enjoy but acting like everyone else should hold back because they used to be someone else.  People tell me I've spent a lot of time being an asshole, after all.  I'm trying not to be a bitch as Yuan-wei, so maybe I should just let it drop.

-Jordo/Yuan-wei

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Cary (and Elaine): My new roommate

When I last posted, I was in the airport waiting for a flight to Chicago, to go insert myself into the life of Elaine Preston, the woman I had become without realizing it for the better part of two weeks.  Left to myself, I might have just stayed in Old Orchard, working my truck and living something close to my life, but the real Elaine makes something of a good point when she says that she's got obligations, and a few months just abandoning them doesn't work for her.

I don't like flying, enough that it's been almost twenty years since the last time I got on a plane, and now the airport experience gives the actual flight a run for its money in terms of being Hellish.  I suspect I'd look askance on being told to remove shoes, belt, and the like anyway, but having to do that while your ID is scrutinized and you step into a "body scanner" while not yourself...  Well, how is a person not supposed to be terrified of that?

I have to transfer in Atlanta, which is not exactly the most logical route to get from Portland to Chicago, and then I'm initially a little flummoxed on how to get to Elaine's apartment from Midway Airport.  She's given me instructions for trains and buses, but that's all confusing to me.  The trouble is, she also has her ATM cards and stuff with her in her apartment, and I'm a little worried about being able to pay a cab with what little cash I've got on me.  Maybe I shouldn't have had that drink to calm my nerves in the Atlanta airport bar.  Elaine's phone has all the ways to call one of those "ride-share" services, but she's still got that, having put a cheap pay-as-you-go phone in the bag with her clothing.

Fortunately, a cabbie is willing to say I can make it to her apartment on what's in my pocket.  He helps me with my luggage, and tries to talk on the way, but I'm not sure what to say.  I'm kind of returning home, kind of visiting, kind of moving, and not sure when he's being polite or complimenting me.  I hope I don't look too much like a damn fool when he drops me off at my address and I look around, trying to figure out which of the buildings on the corner is the one where I live now.

I figure it out and find Elaine's name on the intercom, press the button, and when I hear "who is it?", feel a bit uncertain what to say.  "It's Cary... or Elaine... not sure how we want to do this."  She buzzes me up.

The apartment's on the fourth floor, so I take the elevator.  The door is open when I get there, and I step in cautiously, calling Elaine's name.

"Over here."

The voice coming from the kitchen sounds different, and not just because I'm not hearing it come out of some machine.  For the last few days, I realize, she's been trying to sound different, imitating the voice I have now.  And I can't blame her - not only is she white, but she's still pale despite it being the end of summer, with the fiery red hair to match.  She's sitting on a barstool, giving me an intense look, probably trying not to look as unsettled as I was upon seeing someone else walk up with my face, trying not to look intimidated because the Inn has left her about four foot tall and...

"You're a little girl?"

Her eyes narrow a bit.  "No, I'm a 29-year-old woman who just looks like a 9-year-old white girl.  Just like you're an old man who temporarily looks like me.  Don't forget that, just because you got the better deal out of all this."

"I wouldn't call me an old man..."  She rolls her eyes.  "Anyway, don't you have, you know, parents...?"

"Yeah, two very hardworking ones in Detroit.  But I suppose you mean, 'doesn't Mackenzie Mahoney have parents?'  Yeah, she does, but my sister and her dumbass boyfriend are no more interested in tooling around the suburbs in a minivan than I am in going to elementary school again.  So they are spending the next few months traveling around the world without me crimping their style, while I make sure that you don't put a giant hole in my work history or reputation."

She sounds bitter, which I guess is only natural, and I wonder what she's most angry about.  I'm not sure how to respond, though - she looks and sounds like a sad little girl, but she's also just made it very clear that she does not want to be treated that way.

She jumps down from the stool and looks me over.  "Well, you must be hungry after your flight, so go have a shower and I'll let you use my credit card to take us out to eat."

It sounds weird coming out of her mouth, but accurate enough.  I have to admit, I'm a little self-conscious undressing and stepping into the shower with her right on the next room, but once the hot water starts beating on my skin, it's kind of relaxing, and I wonder if this is how she unwinds at the end of the day and her body just responds to it naturally.  I don't really notice that she's come in and picked up my dirty clothes until I get out, see the clean floor, and then walk into the bedroom wearing a towel to find some clothes laid out on the bed.  I grab them and walk into the living room, other hand grabbing at the towel on my chest.  "What the heck is this?"

She looks at me like I'm an idiot.  "What, you didn't think we'd be going out in the Wal-Mart brand stuff you wore on the plane, did you?  Folks could see us, and then judge me on what you're wearing!"

"But this is a skirt!"

"Trust me, you've got the legs for it now.  Besides, it's a warm night and it goes to the knee; you can even get away with not crossing your legs with it."

"These shoes have heels!"

"Like, an inch.  I'm starting you off easy; you won't even notice them after a minute or two.  I run in those all the time."

I start to look at her the way she's been looking at me, almost like an adversary.  "What do you mean, 'starting me off'?"

"What do you think I mean?  Cary, I don't have a job right now - my last contract was going to bring me on full-time after getting back from vacation with my sister, but when I couldn't be contacted because you were running around Maine selling hot dogs, they gave the job to someone else.  So I/you/we are going to have to go on interviews, and you're going to have to dress the part.  And while we can cover next month's rent, November or December might be a problem.  I don't have that much time to get you up to speed, so, yeah, I need you to get used to this stuff right away."

There's a certain logic to what she's saying, even if I had, in the back of my head, planned on staying in slacks and sneakers for however long I was stuck as Elaine.  I retreat to the bedroom and put what she chose on.  I don't want to admit it's comfortable, but the right sized bra turns out to make a difference.  It takes me a moment to recognize what the half-slip is for (the red skirt she laid out is simple, but starts clinging to my legs with static electricity as soon as I start walking).  She's right about the shoes, too; by the time I've walked back across the room to the door, those short heels aren't really an issue.

I'm a bit surprised to see her wearing basically the same outfit when I go back to the living room.  She shrugs her shoulders, saying fair's fair, before walking around me making sure I'm zipped and buttoned and not showing any panty line.  She says I really should be wearing stockings and makeup and that we're definitely making an appointment at the hairstylist, but eff it, she's hungry.

She leads me out of the apartment and down (or is it up? not sure yet) a few blocks to an Italian place she says she likes but where she doesn't go often enough that folks will notice her (or me, as the case may be) having a kid in tow. 

We are pretty funny to watch, I imagine - her making sure that I see how to properly shot in a skirt without it riding up and then looking at the wine list and letting out a large sigh before ordering a cranberry juice (and kind of scowling at me ordering a beer), me talking to her like an adult.  I'm sure the wait staff expects her to order "p'sketti" or cheese pizza only to hear her ask for "risotto ai funghi" without stumbling over pronunciation nearly as much as I did asking for a seafood dish.

And for all that she had spent most of the previous hours looking like she had swallowed a bug, her kid's face had a look of perfect joy after he first bite.  "God, I needed this.  My sister went grocery shopping before dripping me off, but it's hard to cook standing on a chair and delivery has been getting me too scared of someone finding out I'm alone in the apartment to really enjoy my food.  But this..."  She looks up at me.  "We're going to eat out a lot, okay?  I used to stay in relationships too long because I didn't think you could eat out alone, and if I'm already giving up work, wine, and sex..."

I look around to make sure nobody else is listening, but we seem pretty safe.  She insists on putting away her whole plate and a desert and a half (saying the one advantage she's got is that she's still growing while I have to watch my figure as she's stealing mine), and we haven't taken many steps out of the restaurant before she's clutching her stomach, saying this may have been a bad idea.  We're only halfway "home" before she's really moving slow.  I squat down and hold out my hands because it's hard not to see her as a kid at that moment.  She grumbles that this is so embarrassing but let's me pick her up, and by the time we get back to the building, she's asleep with her head on my shoulder.  I shake her shoulder, asking if she's got the keys, and she pulls them out of her pocket, mumbling that she should get a new set made before falling back asleep.

I carry her up the stairs and lie her down on the bed, thinking that even though it's only ten o'clock, she probably had a busy and stressful day.  Come to think of it, I did too, and I fall asleep on the couch watching The Tonight Show.

She's full of energy the next morning, though, running over when I start to stir at 8am.  "Finally, you're up!  We've got a lot to cover, but first up:  I'm pretty sure you didn't drink enough after I went to bed to sleep with your clothes on.  But never mind, I've got to show you make-up..."

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Cary Johnson: The Absolute Worst Luck

Before the last couple of weeks, I'd gotten out of the habit of saying I had the worst luck.  I hadn't exactly seem things turn around on a regular basis, but when you and the people around you get to a certain age you find your stories of breaking your leg right before the recruiters could see you play football in high school or how your new boss is your ex-wife's new boyfriend being met with "that sucks, but I just found out I have cancer".  Doesn't make you feel more fortunate, just like a jerk.

A friend falling ill plays a role in how I got sucked into all of this mess, but I should probably introduce myself first.  My name is Cary Johnson, I'm in my mid-fifties, and I've lived in southern Maine pretty much all my life.  I've been married and divorced twice, somehow escaped winding up with any kids (that I know of), worked on boats and on land, and mostly kept my head above water through all of it.  I've been living in Old Orchard for the past five years or so, working with my buddy Red.

Red, who spent most of his life wiring for a paper somewhere out west, gets one of those early-retirement buyout packages as they tried to cut costs and get younger, and he decides to take it and move back here to open a restaurant.  It doesn't do that well as a sit-down place, but it's along the beach and folks really like the fancy hotdogs that he added to the menu almost as a lark.  A smart guy, he soon has them taking up most of the menu, with toppings from mac-and-cheese to avocado, and chili to mushrooms, topped with apricot relishes and spicy ketchups.  It gets semi-famous and popular enough that he decides to add a food truck, and that's where I come in.  He didn't have to make me a partner in that venture, but he did.  I don't offer the full menu, but I do okay, and being in a new spot every day suits me.

Then Red's wife Becky gets cancer, and their plans change.  Hell, I don't know, I'd probably have gone for the "travel the world" plan as well, but funding that means selling the diner and getting me to buy him out of the truck.  I knew things were going to be lean for a while, but was kind of caught flat-footed when the place's new owners showed that all they really wanted was Red's liquor license, and when they shut down to convert to their microbrewery, people just thought the truck was done too.

I hadn't actually fallen behind on rent yet, but because it never rains but it pours, we wind up with an insect problem at the building where I live a couple weeks ago - some jackass decided to stock the cellar with wasps' nests as a final middle finger to the landlord upon moving out, leaving the place to be fumigated.  You begin to understand why they wanted to go out like that when the landlord refuses to pay for hotel rooms.

All of this is a long way of explaining why, after a day of selling franks on the boardwalk, I'm cruising around OOB at eleven o'clock, looking for vacancy signs, and, not finding any, just looking for a place I could park the truck, roll out a sleeping bag in the back, and hopefully not be awakened by someone banging on the side and demanding wieners at 6am, and eventually deciding on the parking lot by the Trading Post Inn.

I guess I park close enough to the building to be lucky thirteen, because when I wake up in the morning, I'm somehow not myself.  I'm in a sleeping bag in the back, so I can't really see the changes to my body, except for an arm that was outside it and seemed really thin and dark.  I lift it up and wiggle the fingers like I'm in a dream.  I can't see it too clearly - it's early, 6am or so, and there isn't much light coming through the windshield - but it's enough to see something is off.  I sit up, pushing myself up with my arms because that's what I usually do, not being as young as I once was, and that's when I feel my chest shift.  I don't recognize the sensation for what it is, but know something isn't right, and that's when I grab at my chest, feel what was there, and turn around so I can look at myself in the rear-view mirror.

It just isn't me.  It's a black woman with long-ish, straight hair.  I looked younger, though I really couldn't guess by how much.  I'd pulled my legs out of the bag to turn around and could see that they were long and smooth, and while I didn't actually stick my hand into my boxers, I sort of confirmed there was nothing there by flexing and twisting and not feeling my equipment in the way.  I  don't really strike myself as pretty at first, although I guess that's because I never really thought of black girls in terms of being attractive.  Growing up in Maine in the Sixties and Seventies, you don't really get much chance to develop a taste for dark meat, as my dad put it on a couple of occasions.

I'm sure some of the younger people are reading that with a sort of horror at what kind of racist the old fart is, but it's not like that.  Truth be told, I kind of felt the same way the second after realizing I'd recoiled from my reflection, kind of trying to make sure my reaction was to something changing me, not to what I'd become.  Maybe trying to convince myself that it's just not being me that had me shaken.

On the other hand, though, I'm trying to figure out if I had said something insulting the day before, or maybe sometime before that, which would lead to someone trying to teach me a lesson.  I can be politically incorrect at times, so I may have said something that someone took wrong.  But what, and to who, and was this revenge taken by someone else?

I don't even think that it might just be the place I parked.  You may think that as a local I'd heard stories or something, and maybe sometime in the years I lived in OOB, I have heard someone say they are someone else or looked at a photo of someone missing after their trip to the Trading Post, but it never formed a pattern in my head or anything. Maybe the whole thing where the brain rejects the idea of the place changing people is more effective here because we get used to it.  I dunno. Anyway, instead of sticking around to see if this had happened to anyone else, my instinct is to go find help, so I get into the driver's seat, have a moment of brain-lock at having to adjust it, and then pull out.  I have some trouble deciding where to go at first - if Red were still around, he would have been my first choice, but he wasn't.  I run through other friends, but as I felt myself moving around in clothes that didn't quite fit so well, I'm not sure it would be a good idea, since most of them are like me - guys, older, single, generally for good reason.  So I keep driving for the better part of an hour until I arrived at my ex-wife's house.

It doesn't go well.  Our divorce was civil enough, but that goes out the window when a strange younger woman shows up at your house knowing intimate details of your marriage.  Knowing stuff and driving the ex's food truck does not do much to convince someone, it just scares them and makes them angry enough for the new husband to come out and really drive home how much smaller you are.

By the time I get back in the truck I at least am alert and starting to figure out what I need to do practically.  My shoes are falling off every time I take a step, buckling up to the last notch on my belt still has me feeling like my pants are falling off, and I smell and feel as greasy as you might expect for sleeping in a kitchen that basically just makes hot dogs and fries.  I drive back to my apartment, switch to my beat-up mid-1990s Volvo, and then dr8ve out to the nearest Wal-Mart.

It seems too practical, like I should have spent the whole first day curled up in a ball crying or something, but you try getting your ex-wife to understand all this whole holding your pants up, and see if you don't want some clothes that fit.  I was glad I got there fairly early, because I had to do a lot of trying stuff on and just plain guessing with the underwear.  I think it's in the changing room that it really hits me that I have not only changed race and sex, but I look younger - nothing saggy like I'd expect of a woman my age, no grey in my hair, and my skin is pretty smooth.  I take a moment or two to flex and bend while looking in the mirror, my new found flexibility confusing me - it doesn't fit right in my head.  Eventually I get out of there with a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, some panties, socks, sneakers, and a bra.  The lady at the checkout counter comments about that being a weird way for a woman to spell "Carrie" when she sees my card, but she doesn't press too much about why I'm wearing a bunch of oversized male clothing.

Next stop is the Portland YMCA to grab a shower.  It makes me a little nervous, because of the "M" part, but there's no YWCA in the area.  I'm really scared in the shower stall, like I'm going to change back, naked, just as a whole bunch of women walk in, but that didn't happen.  I got most of the grease smell off, although I shied away from scrubbing the new bits all that much.  Didn't dry my hair enough, either; I would spend much of the day with a big wet spot on the back of my shirt.  But there's was a bit of relief in it - as strange as it wis to see a woman who looked half-normal in the mirror, I feel like I've met a challenge, shown whatever witch had cast a spell on me that I could handle what she was dishing out.

The walk back out to the car is a little disconcerting - not only had I come in looking like a homeless person to leave looking something like average, but I think I chose the wrong size bra, because I'm bouncing a little more than I would like and attracting attention that way.  I get in and just sit there for a second, looking down at my body and thinking "now what?",  then looking up, seeing the time-and-temperature sign, and remembering that the truck is supposed to be in York in a couple of hours.  At first, I thought I couldn't just act like nothing happened and go about my life, but I also have to admit that the new clothes have put more of a ding in my checking account than I'd like, simple as they are.  I'm going to have to sell some hot dogs.

So, I do.  I drive to Jordan's to pick up a day's worth of dogs, get my other supplies, drive home to switch to the truck and make sure I have everything in working order, and then head south.  It's a little more challenging physically to get all the certain things done, but I manage, and I'm selling snacks by 11am.

It was a tough day.  Things on a top shelf were a bit harder to reach, bins and other containers were heavier, and while there's not much room in the kitchen, three steps rather than two adds up after a while, even if you've got a little more stamina.  And that's just the physical; there are guys with an endless succession of wiener-related jokes.  There may be a little more in the tip jar at the end of the day, although not as much as first appeared when you take the slips of paper with phone numbers out.

Not really enough tips to justify a motel stay, but it was 9:30pm by the time I had closed everything up and I kind of didn't want to sleep in my truck again looking like this.  I was hoping that this was some sort of 24-hour bug, where you deal with what a young black woman does for a day and have a better perspective later, especially since I certainly felt like I had been underestimating the amount of crap women and minorities take.

I wake up still "Carrie", though, and there are no gloating notes in my email, on the truck, or at my home when I drive back theree.  So I go back to work. 

It's surprisingly easy to stay in the routine.  After my apartment was declared fit for human habitation on the fourth morning,  I didn't need to worry about needing a photo ID for motels (or how the place's that didn't check them were not ones where I wanted to stay like this).  A few regular customers ask where "Cary" is, and I tried to tell them, to either regular or magical disbelief, mostly winding up saying that "he" had hired "Carrie" to fill in in partly because he was amused "our" names were similar.  I stayed hopeful that this would be the night I turned back, buying no more than the next couple days' worth of clothes, keeping my eye out for anyone who seems to be paying too much attention to how I'm handling things.  No such luck.  After a week, I've amassed enough panties, bras, small tees, and jeans that didn't quite fit right to do a load of laundry, and I was starting to wonder just what the hell I was supposed to do to get my life back.

It was almost two weeks before I'm closing up and see something that freaks me out:  Myself, with a gorgeous young blonde, running toward the truck.  The guy who looks like me is panting and slows down for the last few steps, saying "whew, looks like you traded up."  The blonde pats his back and says "trust me, I'm sure he's having a hard time too."  Freaked out, I look at them and what they're up to, and why they did this to me.  The guy who looks at me starts to ask why they would be responsible for doing this to themselves, but the girl's pretty smart for looking like a dumb, busty blonde, figuring out that I must not know, right down to maybe just being parked outside when "it" happened.

That's when they start to explain about the Trading Post Inn, and despite what's happened to me and what's right in front of me, I don't believe it at first.  But they offer to show me, so I drive them to the Inn, feeling a little bit of tightness in my gut as I realize that, yes, this probably was where I parked that night.  They lead me to the room closest to where I parked, and show me a suitcase full of women's clothing my new size that didn't come from Wal-Mart.  And there's a purse, with a wallet, and that's when I learn that I wasn't just turned into a woman, but a specific one.

Her name is Elaine Preston, she's 29, lives in Chicago, and supervises computer programmers on a freelance basis for a living.  She's still a woman, and sounds a bit younger than 29 on the phone, but, man, is she not happy that I have not showed up at her apartment yet. 

I'm not really sure that's what I want to do, but she gives me a whole rant on how she's got rent and a student loan to pay off, and if I screw get life up for her w when she gets it back, her new mission will be making me suffer.  She doesn't exactly sound fun, but this talk of getting lives back eventually does get my attention, and I say I'll fly out in a couple of days, after I show "new Cary" the ropes.

He picks it up easy enough - despite the ingredients sometimes being crazy, it's just making hot dogs, and he's probably got more ideas for new ones than I do (coming up with the crazy variations was always Red's thing; I'm okay with mustard and relish, maybe chilli on occasion).  He's really sad that his girlfriend has to leave the same day I do, although for a different destination.

She and I didn't talk much on the way to the airport, and wound up in different terminals right away.  I'm really not interested in the book Elaine was reading, which is why I opened this thing up and started spilling my guts.  I I'm not sure what she'll be like, but I don't really get the impression of laid-back from her voice or her stuff.

--Cary Johnson

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Lane/Kari: Goals or "My Life To-do List"

It's been just over 2 months since I declared to the world my intentions to abandon the life I was born with and assume the one I was given. Choosing to stay where the inn puts you gives you an entirely new perspective on things. Last year my sole underlying focus was to get back to Maine intact and do whatever it took to survive in the interim. If it hadn't been for Ashley I might have been a little more reckless with Kari's life and done things like quit my job and dress like a slob. The whole experience felt like a very realistic VR game almost.

That attitude still lingered a bit when I got back to Michigan for good. There are some behaviors that have crept into my lifestyle that don't make sense for a grown woman who has to deal with the consequences of her actions. There are also things about my current situation that I'd like to improve but required too much effort to do before I saw any reward.

I never made lists like this when I was Lane. Life was simpler then and while work was complicated I had an assistant. Stacy. I hadn't thought about her in months before yesterday but I now have sympathy for just how difficult that kind of work can be. When I became Kari, I thought about using lists to keep all the new aspects of life in order, but when you're a working mom the world is just too random and chaotic to have any chance of keeping track of it with a list. Still, this new life requires a concentrated effort to make it truly mine, and effort requires organization. So these are some of these things:

1. Get My GED

My job is actually pretty well paying for a high school dropout, but I'm not a high school dropout. I kind of coasted through high school and college and got good enough grades and had a family that supported me throughout. I never realized how much I took my education for granted until I no longer had it. Or rather, I no longer can prove that I have it. I've got all the knowledge and skills that I developed but nobody believes that I do.

Adriana asked me the other day why I just didn't move up from the receptionist desk and move to a brokerage position, and while I'd never do that because the hours required would be overwhelming it was a reminder that the entire world sees me as someone who isn't as capable because I lack the requisite pieces of paper.

I had thought that I could just take a test and get the high school equivalency and move forward from there but that's not the case. I've got to take classes in the evening to make sure I'm ready.

2. Lose some weight

There are a lot of things I miss and don't miss about testosterone, but by far the biggest drawback of having so little now is my metabolism is shot. My body tells itself to store calories instead of burning them and while I don't even eat near the same stuff and amounts of it as I did when I was male, it still catches up with me.

I look at myself naked in the mirror a lot again. When I first became Kari I hesitated lingering because I was scared of my foreign body. When the fear subsided it gave way to curiosity and I found myself staring, poking, and even stroking in the mirror before getting in the shower. It was less than three months before I was over that and came to get used to this reflection being mine. Nowadays I stare because that reflection is in a different context. Before it was "this is some other person that you look like for the rest of the year" now it's "You look like this for the rest of your life...Kari"

That's my long winded way of admitting that I've gained some weight. Fitness hasn't been a priority because this body wasn't in exercising shape when I got it and having extra creme cheese on your bagel is something you say yes too when you won't be around to see the long term consequences of your actions. I'm up maybe 20 pounds...probably a little more. I didn't mind at first because it went straight to my hips and ass and made them look even

better. Now it's starting to go to my stomach and thighs and there's a bit of a cottage cheese effect that I'm not pleased with. It's not that I'm vain now that I'm female, but I'm also conscious of the fact that this is my forever body so keeping the heart and lungs in good shape is probably a good idea. Plus 20 pounds doesn't sound like much but in one year it is. At that rate in 5 years it would be 100 lbs and suddenly life is a lot less pleasant.

Ashley saw me looking at gym brochures and invited me to go running with her. I told her maybe but the answer to that is a hard no. I'm still a fairly competitive man on some level and having a teenage girl run both faster and farther than me isn't something the remnants of my ego is ready to deal with.

3. Learn Spanish

Something I haven't really talked about is suddenly becoming Mexican. I would be lying if I said it was no big deal, because I get treated differently than I did when I was white by both other races and other Latinos. I kind of just brushed the whole thing aside because in a way it felt disrespectful to participate too much in the culture. Almost like I would be wearing "brown face" and I didn't feel comfortable behaving in ways that would indicate I had actually had 30 years being raised in that environment.

I fully intend to live the next 30 years as a Latina, so I'm going to do everything I can to embrace it. So far that's meant listening to the Spanish music station in the car and trying to reproduce some of Pilar's (Another thing to get used to, calling her "Mama") authentic recipes.

Kari was raised in an bi-lingual environment and speaks fluent Spanish. I had a year of high school elective stuff so unless I want to know where the library is, I can't communicate with old friends and relatives. I feel I owe it to these people who brought their language with them to a new country and teach it to Kari to at least try to learn it so it doesn't seem like I'm rejecting my newfound heritage.

I'm thinking my best bet is secretly taking a community college class because I've heard mixed reviews of digital language learners. The best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself and communicate with native speakers. While I have no shortage of those in my life, including Ashley, it would arouse to much suspicion if the girl who was speaking Spanish since she was 2 now had the same vocabulary that she did when she was 2. Maybe I'll start watching Univision.

4. Make new friends

People go through different sets of friends through the different stages of their lives. You start with a set of friends that you play with during elementary school. I was best friends with Rich Van Horn because our names were close in the alphabet and we sat near each other. Then as you head into junior high and raging hormones cause you to create your own personality you start hanging out with a clique that shares your similar interests. Sometimes this clique lasts or sometimes it's traded in for a new set of friends in high school who are quickly abandoned once you make it to college. College friends last a lot longer and if you're lucky enough to stay in the same city as some of them after graduation they're your adult friends. When you're 30 you don't need or want to make new friends, which is good because it's really hard to do so.

I'm in the uniquely difficult situation of having inherited a set of friends that I didn't make and if I had spent my entirely life in this body, probably wouldn't have made. Kari's family is now my family because of genetics. Family usually comes from your body. Friends come from your mind and personality. Now that "Karina Cruz" has a different mind and personality, her friends no longer match.

Rosita noticed this. Rosita is Kari's best friend since forever and the two of them have been partying and being irresponsible since before Ashley was born. (Which is probably why Ashley was born to a 14 year old mother...) and I hung out with her when it made sense to maintain Kari's life. Now that this is my life, I really don't have any need to do those things with her.

We've had an argument about it recently. She didn't like that I kept blowing her off on weekends to stay in or spend time with Ashley. She told me I was turning into a boring house mother and I asked what was wrong with that. She said she didn't understand what had happened to me lately.

The curse prevents her from understanding that she and I are no longer compatible personalities and that sucks for both of us. Her because she lost a friend to the Inn, me because it means I need to find myself a new set of friends. I will say that meeting new people is easier when you're a woman. We're more social with each other and talking to strangers isn't awkward. The one disadvantage is that there are plenty of men who are super friendly with the intention of trying to be much more than friends.

The ladies at work have been catty and bitchy to me throughout my tenure at Latherman financial because they didn't like that I was sleeping with the boss. Even though that's over I'm not sure those are the types of people I want to be friends with on a daily basis. Maybe I'll meet new people in GED class.

Anyway, those are the things that I'm focusing on as I try and get more than comfortable in this body and life. It helps to write things like this down so I'll probably keep all of you updated on my transition from "man in a woman's body" to a "Woman who happened to have lived in a man's body before".

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Jonah/Krystle: People Who Have Seen This Body Naked

Given that Krystle used to be a stripper, I guess that's not a small group, but there's a somewhat smaller group for whom the current situation is personal.  Still, I sometimes have a hard time thinking of Krystle as having a life before me; Ashlyn says it's typical of being young, but I don't know about that.

Anyway, I'm past the halfway point of my pregnancy now. I'm not barfing so much, but I'm showing and I've got to pee all the time.  My cravings are weird - I've developed a real fondness for fried clams, for whatever reason, although the ice cream right after gets the taste out of my mouth.  I half-suspect that my breasts getting bigger and softer right now is half down to the ice cream, because I think that's not really supposed to happen until later.

Most of the time, it's so impossible that I almost float through it, like I'm dreaming because this can't possibly be real.  But the last few weeks keep reminding me that it's not just me involved in this.

First was when this pretty blonde came into The Changeling and sat in my area, was really nice, asked about my baby, and then dropped a $300 tip.  Which, don't get me wrong, I appreciate the heck out of, but which I also couldn't help but think must have been a mistake.  I told Moira that she'd left am earring and ran after her, finding her by the nearest bus stop.  I told her it was too much, but she said it wasn't because...  Well, because her boyfriend had put me in this situation.

I gasped, because it's really weird to talk to a stranger and realize you've met them with another face.  She'd been Joseph for about a year, having a ton of fun being a teenage boy, playing sports, and the like.  She says she didn't realize her boyfriend was going to extort me, and what he was going to take as payment.  She should have, she said because of just how uninterested in her he was once she wasn't a pretty girl, but by the time she figured it out, it was too late.

Forgive me for feeling okay with taking the money then.  I didn't find myself hating her, but kind of resenting her - like, this whole thing amounted to a fun vacation for her, and when it was over, she just came away with the knowledge that she should break up with her boyfriend and not date another one like him.  I mean, that's nice, but I'm pregnant here!  That's supposed to be a blessing, I know, but there are a lot of days when I don't feel entirely blessed.

Like the day I met Lamont.

I wonder how much the Inn giving you someone else's body includes giving you their brain, and how much it changes you.  I've met so many people who had who they are attracted to flipped that I can't really start to deny that part, although I don't really think it's happened to me (I didn't really respond that one time I did it).  But as much as I always assumed that Joseph got harsher just because of his environment whole in prison, I wonder how much of it was because the real Lamont was like that.  He scared me.

I didn't recognize him at first when he was waiting around outside the apartment building; Joseph had shaved his head and gave, but while Lamont was smooth up top, he had a beard, and he apparently celebrated getting his real body back by getting some new tattoos.  He'd kept the muscle that Joseph had put on, though, and it hurt when he grabbed my arm, saying something about me being the little freak that was keeping him and his Krystle apart.

I don't know too much about who Krystle and Lamont were while Joseph and I lived their lives; all I've gotten from Krystle was that though neither changed gender, being a couple was out of the question, and getting things back to "normal" with Lamont was not exactly her first priority afterward.  But sometimes it seems like guys don't really recognize this, and Lamont either didn't have any idea Krystle felt that way or couldn't accept it.  I'm no exception; I was furious when my first girlfriend dumped me, and I don't know that I ever really believed the things Mom and Dad said about how acting like some right of mine had been violated until this moment.

I was scared, not really knowing what to say to him, and I wouldn't actually realize until later that I was just as worried about him doing something to hurt the baby in my belly as I was of him hitting me anywhere else.  Is that another girl's-brain thing or does everyone have maternal instinct but not the opportunity for it to play out?  So I just said I was sorry, which I was, although looking back it seems kind of stupid.  Sorry for inconveniencing him?  That's stupid.

He's telling me I had better get back to the Inn the first chance I've got after squeezing that thing out so that he can be with his b---- without there being some sort of f----- in there, making me wonder if he really cares that Krystle specifically be the one with this T&A.  I tell him that nobody wants that more than me and Krystle.  I think he's about to slap me but he backs down.  Karla and her latest boyfriend have come out of the building behind me.

Karla starts screaming at him, asking what he's doing around here, because it's hard to find more concrete proof that I don't want to be tied to his black jailbird a-- than this, going on about how I'm clean and going to church and he needs to step off and find some b---- who isn't familiar with all his b.s.  On the one hand, I'm kind of embarrassed - it's the sort of outburst my real mother always said we can't have last the neighbors think the worst of us - but on the other, being an only child, I've never really seem the full force of "nobody gives my sibling a hard time but me!" before, and it's kind of amazing.

Plus, there's her new boyfriend.  Lamont is a big guy, but this one looks like he could play in the NFL.  He's really a giant teddy bear - he's really amazing with Karla's kids, and was a total gentleman the time he found out I needed a ride to a doctor's appointment - but I've seen him at work (he's a cop) able to be pleasant and funny with five people and treat one of them just different enough that is clear that, if he gets angry, his rage will be focused.

So Lamont lets go, tossing one last insult, and Karla yells two more.  We look at my arm, decide it's not going to bruise, and Karla once again tells me that I really should get my baby-daddy to do something for me, because it's hard enough as is.  I say it's complicated, she says it always is, and she's able to walk away back to thinking I'm a fool, like nothing has changed.

I'm off to work, and I don't want to being this up with Moira, so I don't get much of a chance to bring this up with the real Krystle before I get "home".  When I do, there's already an email waiting for me from her.  It starts out with stories that are half-complaining and half-funny about my friends and how they are trying to help her out even while dealing with what other people living their lives for a year has left them, and some bits about how my parents are crazy and there's nothing to do in our small town.

Then she puts down a whole bunch of links to adoption agencies.

It's another thing I shouldn't be surprised about, but I am, because I still think like a guy and I've just be assuming that when we change back, she'll just take care of the baby.  It's a stupid thing to assume - it may technically be her own flesh and blood (and mine, too, though I don't think of it that way, just that I should probably be some part of the kid's life without really imagining how), but it would be something just dropped on her that she had nothing to do with.  Why shouldn't she be looking for the best way to get her real life back?

It still seems kind of cold to me, like she should have said she had an idea, asked me, and then done the research, rather than just getting three quarters of the way there and pointing out that I'd have to go the rest of the way because I'm the actual pregnant one.

I've got to think on it, I guess.  My grandfather preached a lot about how men have a responsibility, which is certainly important, although I have to start thinking right now about how possible it is to make some of these decisions with such strong beliefs and desires motivating them, even if you're more sure about who you are and will be to a child.

-Jonah/Krystle

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Annette/Benjamin: Moving Up and In

As much as I understand why so many people move during the last week of August and first week of September in Boston, and I'm glad to lend a hand, it's kind of exhausting, and the really unfair part is that my own move was not that taxing - I felt pretty comfortable making Allston Christmas presents out of anything that dated to before I took over this life, and I could only buy so many books on my salary overt the past year, even with Marybeth using an employee discount.  They're heavy, but I'm a reasonably buff guy, so I could get them to Marybeth's place via the subway.

It's kind of a big step moving in together, I guess, but we spend most of our free time together anyway, and we each had enough roommates moving out that it just made sense to consolidate.  The rent is a little bit higher than she's comfortable with, as most of her job offers have been for unpaid internships, which is kind of crap - six years of school and racking up loans, and now places expect her to work for free?  She's trying to hold out for places that will pay her actual money, but the competition for even the internships is fierce in this area.

The upside is that we've got a little more time to be together now; applying for work and going on interviews is not quite a full-time job, and even since we're both mostly working evenings now, we get a lot more time to hang out in the daytime, which is pretty cool.  Dating is normally something you do "after", but doing it "before" is actually pretty cool if you can swing it.  Aside from the savings of matinee-priced movies and ordering lunch specials rather than dinners, you can make a day of walking and talking in museums, tag along with tourists on the sort of sightseeing outings that locals don't do much.  There's less dancing and it's harder to end a date with the sex, but we're pretty creative in finding watts to fit it in.

We probably won't need to be quite so budget-conscious when she lands a job, though.  Right now, we're doing okay; I've actually been promoted to assistant manager at work, which during the evening shift still involves clearing tables and filling in for anybody who is sick or late, signing for the occasional delivery, and counting the registers at the end of the night.  It's not that much more money or responsibility, but it's not nothing, and it will look good on the résumé when I do try to do something a little more ambitious.

There has been a little tension over me getting a promotion while Marybeth is still looking for work, though.  She didn't resent it, really, but she didn't expect to still be at the bookstore four months after graduation, and me inching forward woke she's staying in place is a bit rough on her.  It's those moments where I wish I was more experienced in certain ways, that I really was a 25-year-old guy who had been getting used to the roller-coaster ride that is dating women for the past ten years.  I feel like Benny would know the right thing to say, rather than have to think about it, and by the very process of pausing give Marybeth a moment to wonder if I'm the right guy for her.

Don't get me wrong, she's not resenting me most of the time or anything; we still have a lot of fun and I think that most of the time, I'm good at making her feel better.  If nothing else, I'm utterly sincere in giving her a thumbs-up when she presents the day's cute interview outfit (which she does even if she's just interviewing via Skype).  It's funny - after two years as a guy, I'd kind of stopped giving much thought to how specific a woman's wardrobe can be.  We're pretty causal with each other most of the time, but sometimes we'll go or someplace nice and she'll break out a skirt, stockings, and heels, but it's not really the same ensemble that she wears for an interview, or at least, the top she wears and the way she does her makeup wears her hair makes a big difference.  I feel little pangs of envy even as I feel incredibly lucky watching her; I know all this is kind of a nuisance or expensive, but I used to kind of look like Marybeth, and I could be doing that rather than just choosing between jeans and dress pants.

Still, I'm getting the benefit of being around it, and a number of guy friends have pointed out that this does not suck at all.  I'm really pulling for something to come together soon, because my girl deserves it.

-Benjamin/Annette (you end a post with "my girl deserves it", you're a guy first that day)

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Tyler/Judith: Back to school problems

The last time I had to deal with "back to school" stress, I was on the other side of it... sometimes it feels not that long ago that I was Lauren, facing a year of high school. Sometimes I really feel how it was "two lifetimes" ago. I've come so far. Which is scary, since it also means I'm that much further from the life I started out with. Don't think I haven't occasionally eyed that "Tyler" I keep putting in my subject line with dismay, wondering if it's time to put it away... even if I become male again, I will never be that person to the outside world. But if I delete it, that leaves me as merely "Judith," which I'm not ready to say I am, either.

This time the stress is an entirely different beast. Not only did I have to take the lead in getting "Olivia" ready to go back to school - started at her new school, that is - Kitty and I also had to have some uncomfortable conversations about what that even means.

Let's face it, the kid is a 12-year-old boy at heart. You can convince a man to behave like a woman if that's how he looks (it's shockingly easy, I've found) and you can convince a grownup to tap into their high school years and go along with their lot. But a 12-year-old kid being forced to pretend he's two years younger? When all he wants to do is grow up and get on with his life? That's downright painful. I wasn't excited about the idea of slotting him into the fifth grade. but Kitty made the argument that being around Olivia's friends would help "socialize" him, because instead of making new friends, he would have ready-made friends who already had a bond with "her." Now, I don't think I would have bought into that argument much if it weren't for the fact that Lauren's friends actually did sort of help me adapt to my time as her, but I don't think that was as big an advantage here.

Think of the alternative, though: skipping him ahead, maybe even two years? That feels like it would make him an outcast twice over. The boys would see him as a girl. The girls would see him as a 10-year-old pipsqueak. It's a no-win scenario.

Kitty suggested a compromise: put Olivia in the sixth grade. I told her that would be the worst of both worlds: he's still repeating, and separated from Olivia's friends. Plus there's a whole web to untangle if the real Olivia gets back to her life and isn't prepared for what she missed... although that's low on our list of priorities right now, I'm sorry to say.

Kitty is very much into "Olivia" carrying on the life she appears to have. If that means Dylan has to suffer through the fifth grade again, so be it as far as she's concerned. He wants her to be a perfect little daughter, playing with the hopscotch other girls or whatever else a fifty-year-old woman imagines kids do.

But when I look at Dylan, I still see a rough and tumble boy who wants to explore and get dirty. He's smarter than a ten-year-old would be, by a lot, and more self-aware. You can't just plug him into someone else's life and say "tough luck, kiddo." He's going to ask questions about why it has to be a certain way.

And I know that, because in our first week as these people, he took me aside and said "Judith, why do girls have to pee sitting down? Why can't they invent a thing that lets them pee standing up?"

I told him that those things did exist, and that we could get him one if he wanted it, but most girls don't see the point in carrying around such a device everywhere they go. He understood that. I don't think that was him complaining about having to be a girl, I think he was just more interested in the theory. That tells me he's willing to accept the situation, but he needs a bit of reasoning.

So we sat down with him - under Kitty's protests because of course she believes parents have dictatorial powers and kids don't know what's best for themselves - and asked: what makes the most sense to you? Stay in the fifth grade, with Olivia's friends, and risk being bored learning things you learned two years ago, or skip ahead and risk feeling like an outsider?

When he's faced with a tough question he gets this blank look on his face that tells me he might not actually be exceptionally bright for a 12-year-old, but he wants to understand, and he wants to decide.

Even though I was rooting for the opposite outcome, I did note that with everything going on, it could be tough, and I would understand if he wanted to take the safer option of fifth grade.

Dylan deflated that pretty quickly by saying "Why would I wanna be stuck with a bunch of babies all year?"

I tried to supress a smile - any time Dylan sides with me over Kitty is a bit of a victory but I have to make sure not to get too outwardly. excited about it.

Kitty bit her lip and ran her hands over her head. "Okay, okay, fine. But if you're having a hard time, you let us know and we will make it right."

Afterwards, Kitty expressed some annoyance that we could never seem to get on the same page with the Kid, that I was just giving him whatever he wanted and earning his favor.

I thought that was a bit paranoid, but in retrospect she may have had a point. Kitty took him back-to-school shopping and, over his protests that he didn't want to swear anything with flowers, anything pink, preferring shorts, jeans and t-shirts, Kitty bought a bunch of dresses and skirts, some with pink floral patterns.

"I am not permitting any child of mine to go to school looking like... Huckleberry Finn! Male or female! It reflects poorly on us and on her. She'll be taunted endlessly. Nobody ever makes fun of a girl for dressing like a girl."

"What's the point?" I asked. "Why turn every morning into a battle of wills? Let the kid dress how he wants and the kids at school will react how they're gonna react. If he has his own sense of style he might make friends quicker."

Kitty grabbed his temples, miming a headache - borderline offensive given my stated headache issues as Judith - and said in a hushed voice, "Olivia is a girl. Stop confusing things... Judith."

I was not in the mood to be called that name at that time, so I stormed off, locked myself in the can and drew a bath. Lit some scented candles that are supposed to be calming. If I'm gonna be treated like a woman, I might as well treat myself the way one does.

I was still mad the next day, when it was time to take the Kid to the hairdresser. Kitty just wanted the ends trimmed, and "maybe some bangs if they feel she has the face for it," but Dylan was pushing me to let them cut it all off, and I was miffed enough at "Adrian" to let them do it.

I immediately regretted it, figuring the potential fight was not worth it, that I should work at making peace instead of stoking the flames. I was all set to apologize when I brought the kid home, but he rushed ahead of me and Kitty saw her and...

"Oh my God... talk... about... adorable! Was this their idea? Because I love it! I would never have guessed she would look so cute with a pixie! I mean, it's not even in anymore but... wowza!"

I sighed in relief, unclenched a bit, and said it was a spur of the moment idea and that we thought she was going to be mad.

"I don't want us to hate each other," she said. "We're in this together, for better or worse... right?"

Well, that sounds suspiciously like... marriage vows. I mean, I know we're "married," but I still haven't decided how seriously to take it.

"Sure," I said with a smile. "We're in this together."

It almost feels like we're on the verge of making this work. But at the same time, if we don't figure out what "this" is, we might have some problems down the road.

-"J"

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Simon/Joy: Two weird moments

Maybe they're not weird weird, but for a guy in a girl's body what does that even mean, right?

First off, I've been busy lately. My little "project" from my last post has had to go on hold because I GOT A JOB!!!! I've been working as a newbie agent for Safmore and Penney Real Estate for about two weeks and I have to say, aside from the lack of leads to get myself on the map, I'm liking it. It's almost all guys, and I can tell they're at least a little charmed by me because they always make sure to smile and stand a little straighter when I'm around. Makes me feel good.

After work this past Thursday was when these events both happened. I felt like a coffee yesterday and I'm not really sure where to find one in the neighborhood around the office, so I went all the way to my usual destination from when I was out of work.

I get to the front of the line and, lo and behold, this guy who has served me a few times already has my order ready, and says with a suggestive smile, "I haven't seen you around lately!"

It's only been a couple weeks (and I've only been going there since July) so I was surprised that my absence was noted. I smiled, flattered, and told him I had found a job on the other side of town. He told me he was excited for me and hoped I would still stop by. I told him I'd do my best, then took a seat and started reading the news on my phone... checking back up every so often to see if he was glancing my way. (He didn't, but there were a lot of customers so he was probably just focused.) Still, I felt this tingle of pride that for once I wasn't just "noticed" but remembered, thought of, by someone that I've met here... someone whose life I've come into without even realizing I had. It was a good feeling. I liked it. And yet I realized afterward, that if I had been a man, that conversation never would have happened, let alone had such a... dare I say flirty tone.

I mean, I've flirted with Joey, but that was more a game to me, pushing his buttons for my own amusement. This was... like, going out of my way a little bit. Then I realized this wasn't exactly an isolated incident. It's feeling more and more like every conversation I have with a guy is carrying this extra twang of... friendliness, subtle testing of interest. From both sides.

And that's weird, weird that I like it... but that's kind of the female experience I was looking forward to, being treated good because of my looks. I was walking on air a little bit for the rest of the day.

Then later, something even stranger happened. I was walking back to the bus stop when I was a woman sitting on a bench, reading. She was very pretty... looked a lot like me, actually, with a skinny frame and long blonde hair. And she was wearing this eye-catching sundress with a low neckline. I almost didn't even take notice of her, but I got a few steps past her before I stopped and turned around and went back.

"Hey, sorry to interrupt..." I said, putting a similar lilt into my voice as when I was talking with Coffee Guy, "But I couldn't help notice your dress. Where did you get it?"

As soon as I said the words I could hardly believe they came out of my mouth. I spend a lot of time thinking about wardrobe, sure, but I haven't bought any new clothes for myself yet, just making do with Joy's old stuff... lack of money will do that. But now that I'm employed I thought maybe adding to the closet would be a fun way to treat myself. After all, I'm taking my appearance very seriously lately. I want to look good, and feel good and comfortable about it. Wearing someone else's hand-me-downs doesn't always allow that.

She smiled back and told me about this little boutique three blocks down, and I said oh, I've been by there but never inside (again, since I had no money, what's the point in actually shopping? I'm not that much of a chick... I thought.) I made a note to check it out later, though.

And there was another example of a conversation I would never have had as a man. First I would probably have spent more time admiring the girl than what she was wearing. And I never would have asked a random woman where she bought her clothes. Plus, in my experience when you try to talk to a woman on the street like that she's likely to tell you to buzz off. But instead we were gabbing like old friends. I didn't even get any contact info for her, we just parted ways once the conversation ended.

It was crazy to me. It's like my whole psyche has been flipped upside down. I was a little excited to be noticed by a guy... but somehow even more excited to bond with this girl over fashion? Maybe my last post was wrong, and I could do without sex as long as I have the thrill of playing dress-up. Does that make me a dress-sexual?

Just... wow. Who am I? Hah... crazy... yeah...

-Simon (I think.)

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Monday, September 05, 2016

Tyler/Judith: The reason mommy drinks

It's something to keep an eye on, I'll admit, but I find that in the evenings a second or even third glass of red wine calls to me. Under normal circumstances I'd say I'm more of a beer or whiskey guy, but as we all know (haw haw) I'm not really any kind of guy anymore.

Besides, other than a punishing headache (which I'm likely to get with or without booze) the wine agrees with me better than any other drink. Beer seems to make Judith queasy, and if I venture into clear liquors I risk becoming a total lush, which... has a certain appeal given how much free time I've got (except that I don't really.)

Consider it my quiet way of coping with the situation. I feel like it's inappropriate to go shooting my mouth off about how crummy our situation is, around Adrian and especially Dylan. For the latter I'm trying to set a good example, and the former I just want to avoid getting into a "who has it worst" contest. Anyway I'm too many years into this to complain about not being Tyler anymore, and it was my choice to stop being Alan, so while that doesn't mean I have to love that I've wound up as Judith, I ought to keep my trap shut about it. Out official line, especially around the kid, is that we're lucky to have wound up how we did. It's hard to keep that perspective, but I believe it's true. We're well off, decent everyday folks, close enough in age to who we're supposed to be, and yeah a little mixed up in terms of body parts, but I know that's not an insurmountable handicap to having a happy life.

Honestly, my complaints are less Inn-related and more just garden-variety "being a person" stuff. Since I've gotten here I've had to contend with Judith's headaches, sore feet from a lifetime of traipsing around in uncomfortable shoes, heartburn and random digestive issues, hot flashes, muscle aches in the morning and at night, Judith's PMS (which I didn't realize I was getting until Kitty "helpfully" pointed out it seemed like I was having mood swings... guess she really is a guy now...) and her period... which featured the harshest, most intense cramps I've experienced in my life. And remember, I do have a year as Lauren to compare it to. Amazing how women experience this process differently. The headaches usually come in the evening, when it's hot, or when it rains... basically half of the time I've been here.

On the plus side, cheese is back on the menu.

Being a mom with a part-time job is sorta like having two and a half jobs. The nature of it means I only have to be present in the office three days per week (remind me to tell you all about that sometime) but I'm constantly on call to deal with issues and make arrangements for clients. So that means my brain isn't really out of "work mode" while I'm also in charge of making sure the house is up to Kitty's cleanliness standards, and I until school starts I have the kid to watch. I know 10-year-old Olivia is really 12-year-old Dylan, and he's really feeling the loss of privilege that comes with losing even those two crucial years, but... letting a 10-year-old girl roam around the neighborhood playing Pokémon is bad optics no matter what. Especially since we're new in town, don't know the area or even who we're supposed to know. I made the mistake of giving him an afternoon to himself, and it was only after I hadn't seen him for over an hour that I had a panic attack and started driving around the neighborhood frantically searching while the phone in my purse is still going off every two minutes with responses from catering companies to my inquiry about rates. (Turns out he was at a park nearby, playing like it was no big deal.)

And all the while my brain is buzzing with maternal chemicals, like "Shit, I'm a total fuckup as a mom already!" I mean, that's not something I ever wanted to be good at, or be to begin with, but I'm in this role and I can't let this kid down.

I'm trying with him, for what that's worth. He's pretty smart, he grasped the implications of our situation pretty quickly (I think kids have a better imagination than adults so they're easier to convince about stuff like this.) And he has his days where he just seems like an average kid, but there are days where he's just shellshocked about the whole thing. I don't know what triggers that. Every night when I tuck him in I want to apologize for not being his real mom and try to tell him he's still loved and safe and all that but... there's only so much you can expect a kid to process.

I'm trying not to force him to be too girly, but Kitty isn't helping on that front. She's got some pretty old school ideas about how boys and girls behave, and as long as our kid appears to be a girl, she's getting that treatment.

Honestly, I feel like I get it a bit too. Kitty has a lot of opinions about my wardrobe, my hair, my accessories and make-up. How I should take care of my skin and go to bed earlier to reduce bags under my eyes. Personally, I don't mind if I look like a scary witch. I feel like it might be an advantage.

And then comes the drinking, when we reach the point where I just can't deal with it all anymore, after Dylivia is in bed and Kitty has settled in to watch the Bachelor or whatever cheesy reality show she's into and I just can't deal with the world telling me how to be anymore. I plot a little escape, and so far it seems to be working. We sleep in the same bed and I think we're just too exhausted to even think about rekindling that part of our relationship - it never officially ended but we didn't exactly push to renew it once we got these bodies. We're together but not together, and while I would love to fall asleep every night next to someone I love and care about, at least I don't outright hate Kitty yet. Our partnership seems to be working okay.

I'm sympathetic, honestly. She's been put in this role of husband, father and provider. Like me she had no kids, and no experience doing a desk job, and now she's working in HR for some big corporation and she's definitely clueless. She has already proposed quitting if I can somehow make up the financial gap, which I don't think is possible. We need Adrian's earning power right now, and to be honest I don't want to shoulder any more of this shit than I already do. I've taken it on the chin for this "family," she ought to figure out how to do the same.

Assuming she doesn't get fired.

-"Judith"

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