Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Max/Elaine: Third wheel, on my own, or set up

I'm trying not to be too judgmental, or jealous, or, you know, worried about Jordan having a boyfriend, that boyfriend being here, and the enthusiastic sex they've been having.  I don't like to think about the possibility of still being a woman three years from now, but I guess if it works out that way, I'd rather be content and getting laid than angry and frustrated.  At least, I think I think that.  When I think about that as a hypothetical situation in my head, I know that's the healthy way to look at it, even though I also think it's kind of healthy to recoil from things that are a big part of your identity - like being a Chinese-American guy who likes girls - being taken from you.

Heck, I've even gone through this post and corrected every spot where I referred to Jordan as "he", even if I can't quite bring myself to call her "Missy" or "Yuan-wei".  I've read all up on "misgendering" and "deadnaming", and I'm trying to apply it right here; my brother is a woman now, but she still counts "Jordan Chang" as her identity, not a way of denying who she really was,  and says she likes me thinking of her that way.  I'll probably slip up on occasion, but this seems right.

Unfortunately, I haven't had the chance to call her "Jordan" very often of late because her boyfriend Jacky has been around 24/7, so we've got to pretend I'm just a normal 30-year-old African-American woman staying with her 21-year-old Chinese friend, as if that's not kind of unusual in and of itself.  I guess we're lucky that, having met "Yuan-wei" in Tokyo and then later having had a vacation with her mid-twenties gay friends from Montreal, Jacky just thinks that his girlfriend is a woman of the world who actually likes getting to know the people she meets online in person.  If he could have seen her back in her message-board-trolling days...!  It's too bad I haven't yet been able to think of a way to tell him one of those stories and make it sound like it applies to the girl he knows.

I do feel jealous and annoyed, though, and not so much because I see a little less of the Jordan I know in Yuan-wei when Jacky's around but because of what we're doing; it's no longer all friend or sibling stuff, but the last week has been like one long date, with me the third wheel, trying not to bring things down.  It's mostly been what seem like little things - if Jordan is putting on make-up, I kind of have to as well, and that means she has to help, because a side-issue with Jacky being here is that she doesn't have a lot of time to teach me how to do this stuff for after when she changes into someone else, and it makes me feel stupid for not being able to do it on my own.  And then there's the dressing thing - before, if Jordan dressed kind of nice, and I just mean like a skirt and a silk top, while I just wore loose-fitting jeans and a-shirt, we kind of looked like an odd pairing, but so what?  Now, I'd be bringing the average down, making Jordan and Jacky look bad, especially since I look like the oldest member of the group who should look more sophisticated.  I shouldn't care, but there's something really annoying about Jordan, who lived in sweaty t-shirts and holey sweatpants (or jorts, weather permitting), getting complimented on her outfit while people just slip into awkward silence when they look from her to me, especially when you can just hear them thinking "no wonder she's alone".

So I've been making a little bit of an effort, and it's not all bad - aside from the tension from remembering to cross your legs, a skirt and sandals are a lot more comfortable than what a guy can get away with wearing in a semi-nice place on a warm day, although when you add a tank-top to it, it feels like there's this line where you send the wrong message to avoid.  I don't like makeup, though, and the hair was driving me nuts!

That's why I told Jordo and Jacky to have fun Thursday and took Elaine's advice to find a hairdresser that specializes in handling black women's hair to get something more manageable.  It was kind of uncomfortable at first - by avoiding looking directly down, I can spend a lot of the day not really noticing the racial aspect of things, but this place was just full of voluptuous African-American women with elaborate nails and hairdos, talking loud and making me feel really out of place even though they all assume I belong.  As if that wasn't intimidating enough, there were a bunch of magazines and stuff to look through, because just saying "shorter" is not enough.

That was, in some ways, the most brain-twisty part about it - I'd look at those pictures and try to mentally replace the face with Elaine's, think "that looks nice", then ask if I wanted to deal with looking that nice.  I eventually settled on something that looked simple enough, but turned out to require an hour of sitting around with smelly chemicals in my head and then being told I'll probably want to keep some hairspray on hand like this is totally normal.  Apparently it is - my hair is going to be high-maintenance until I'm myself again - which is why so many people were chatting and hanging out at the beauty shop like it's a bar rather than someplace you go every once in a while and encounter random folks.  This hair takes work.

Jordan appreciated it, at least, half-whispering that a the boost a nice new haircut gives a woman's self-esteem is triple what it is for a guy.  I said I didn't really feel that, although having everything cleaned up and not past my shoulders was better.  The ladies at the salon at least knew their stuff - on Elaine's advice, I'd asked for something I could shower or swim with without much issue.  I'm not sure I felt more confident while waiting for my food at the movie theater that night, though - Jordan and Jacky has already headed in, but stupid me wanted some chicken tenders, and a woman standing alone is something guys just zero in on.  After being honest with the first one that I was going to see Wolf Warrior II only to find that a Coco into kung fu movies was cool, I took to saying I was there for Girls' Trip.

BTW:  Wolf Warrior II is really damn weird to watch as a Chinese-American man in the body of an African-American woman.  As much as I like Wu Jing as a martial-arts star, the regular digs at the U.S. rankle, and maybe I wouldn't have given much thought to how everybody in Africa is either violent or needs to be rescued by Chinese saviors, but now that my own skin is black...  Well, it's weird.

At least the ballgame was informal as can be, and kind of fun once I was able to find that place where I wasn't thinking about what had happened to me but had taken Jordan being Yuan-wei for granted.  Then, I could not only enjoy a pretty exciting game - not quite so much as Jordan, who denies that two years in Boston had made him a Red Sox fan as opposed to just a Yankee-hating Mets fan - but got to enjoy the sight of her trying to explain baseball to someone who did not grow up on it as the game was going on.  I still headed under the stands quickly when it started raining - not only did I not want to test how waterproof my new hairdo was, but t-shirts get clingy awful fast.

So Friday was good, but then Saturday, Jordan knocked on my door and asked for a favor.  The new Benny, who had stayed at the Inn after Annette, was coming down to look for a place to live, and she was just as freaked out about being a man as I had been in the first few days after changing, so if I could hang around with her, point out anything she hasn't thought of or was worrying about too much, that would be great.

Oh, and also, she had booked dinner at a really nice restaurant that night, a table for four, so if "Benny" and I could dress appropriately...

So that weighed on me day, especially since "Ben" was a weird experience from the start.  Part of why she wants to move back to Boston is that she's from the area, but though she won't talk about herself much, I gather she was pretty well-off before.  She admitted to going to an English boarding school when I asked because of her weird accent, and the way she looked at places that were in her price range implied she wasn't impressed.  She didn't seem to have taken the subway too often for a local, although maybe being from New York makes me wonder how you can be confused by Boston's pretty simple public transportation system.

It actually took us a while to get back to Jordan's place for how far from Boston proper we got, although that was easy enough for her - not only did she only have to put on a suit, she knew how to tie a tie better than I do!  I'm putting on my first dress, and the one Jordan put out on my bed maybe doesn't quite fit like a glove, but it certainly shows my figure and an inch or so of cleavage.  Even though I know Ben's really a girl, her helping we with the underwire thing is really embarrassing, and panty hose inside of high heels just made me feel extra rickety, like my foot couldn't grip my shoe, much less the ground.

It did feel kind of good to have Ben tell me I looked good and could handle this as we got out of the cab in the North End, though.  She would know, right?  I've been changed longer than her, but she knows what a woman with poise and comfort in her own skin looks like better than me.

I must admit to being kind of stunned seeing Jordan when we're escorted to the table.  She's gorgeous - she's curled her hair, put on a dress that makes me feel weird about thinking mine shows off my chest, but somehow looks both excited to show off and classy.  For a minute I remember how I first felt seeing Yuan-wei without knowing who she was, and while I get over that soon enough, it's amazing how natural she and Jacky look as she giggles walking him through eating his lobster, which he'd never tried before.  I was spending enough time watching them that it didn't really dawn on me that Been was acting like a guy on a date until the third time her hand found its way to my knee, always trying to use whatever Jordan and Jacky were talking about to make herself sound good and try and get something out of me. 

I kind of figured it was just kind of play-acting, at least until we were sharing a cab back to her hotel before I took it back to Jordan's place, and after she got out, she turned around and asked if I'd like to come up.  I'm like, uh, why?, and she says I must have felt it, and I'm saying no and telling the driver to go to the next stop.

I didn't have time to say anything to Jordan or even text Ben before he showed up with donuts on Sunday to apologize and start the next round of house-hunting.  She's sorry, but I looked good the night before, she's not used to being alone, and Annette said I would probably be in the same boat in her letter.  I told her I was really not looking for that, especially since this was temporary for both of us (right?).

She said she understood that, but I think I may have just friend-zoned my first guy.  I'm so glad that Jordan is dropping Jacky off at the airport right now so we can get back to "normal", at least for the next week and a half.

-Max/Elaine

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