Sunday, December 30, 2018

Tyler/Valerie: So this was Christmas...

Now that I have a couple of free minutes though I just want to let you know how I am... tired! Holy smokes y'all, I have had to work extra-hard to pay the rent on my new place, and it ain't even that great. I really appreciate what Ryan was doing for me with the last place even if the environment wasn't so healthy, and, well, all that other shit that went down between us. But I'll always know that the motivation for the breaks he was giving me was, well, what it was, no matter how much he denies it.

November was already busy enough. I moved in with Maddie and her sister Charlie, who I hadn't met or seen prior to moving day. She showed up with just a duffel bag, which made me already like her since she reminds me of me - someone who travels around without much of an agenda and is happy to float through life, and I mean that as a compliment. America's a great country to just drift through, and honestly I wish I was brave enough to get out on the road as a woman the way I was as a man.

Seeing them together, they're definitely two sides of the same coin... the disorganized, chaotic, sarcastic Charlie and the tidy, friendly Maddie. They bicker, but in real sisterly way where they have each other's back if someone else were to step on their toes. And then there's their appearances... they have the same genetic code, the same face, the same body essentially, but they do very different things with it - Maddie with her long ombre hair and makeup, Charlie with her short, boyish shag, piercings and tattoos. One favors dresses and tights, one wears jeans and men's tees with comic book characters on them.

Given all that... I mean, I'm not a total hayseed, I've been around. Based on everything about her, I wasn't all that surprised when my guess was confirmed abd found out Charli is a lesbian. It did make me feel oddly self-conscious about being around her - like, what does she think of me? Just some "straight girl"? I don't style myself as someone who was born a man and spent many years happily dating women... I can't even "come out" to her about that because it's not really part of my backstory as Valerie. Maybe I just want credibility for not being as "vanilla" as I seem, for all the things I've seen, and done... and been.

But there hasn't been a ton of time to dwell on that anyway. It's not like I've been home a lot.

Between 8 hour days at the coffee shop and sometimes 6-hour events with the caterer, I was on my feet for almost the whole month of December, and when I did get a day off the last thing I wanted to do was shop for Christmas presents. Having time to sit and think about the season just made me feel alone and awful because, well... look at where life has taken me. I never, ever felt bad about leaving my "real" family behind (except for Carrie, who I'm so lucky knows where and who I am, but it's not like we visit much, and we go weeks without texting) but the season really underscored some of the negative feels that go along with my situation.

I mean, I have Valerie's family, and they're nice "normal" Upstate New York people. They want me to know they love me and care about me and wish I would come "home" for Christmas, but I really wasn't feeling like intruding. When I started getting Christmas letters - forwarded from my old address because of course I forgot to let Valerie's mom know I moved - I began to feel guilty that I had taken this girl's place and was taking all the love and togetherness she was supposed to be having and flushing it away.

Of course, it's not really like that. I didn't take Valerie's life. I was perfectly willing to give it back, but she felt that Cynthia's suited her better. But I'll always feel like part of that was charity. I look at all the potential she had in her original life, which I'm doing jack-all with, and think, is there anything she could possibly be getting as Cynthia that was worth this arrangement?

That was the theme of a long, drunken, sobbing voicemail that I left her a few weeks before Christmas - I was at the end of my rope, wondering what the fuck is even going on in my life, and thinking about how it's not too late for us to switch back next year if she wants.

When she responded, she was, um... very understanding. She's had some thoughts of her own but somehow feels free of regrets. On the family question, her thinking is, yes, she misses them, and she tries not to feel bad that she will never see them again as herself, but she tries to look at it as if she decided to move to another country for work or something. As long as she can keep in touch with me, she'll never lose them.

From there, we organized a few meet-ups where she helped me do my Christmas shopping and prep me for the holidays. Last Christmas I was freshly jilted at the altar, so any weirdness in my behavior could be explained away. Now, I'm just... me. Me being Valerie. So I'm pretty well expected to give gifts and join in some holiday fun, and hey I've faked it before, as Lauren and Judith. I can do it, I just haven't been in a position where I'm setting up relationships with these people for the rest of my life. I wanted some guidance from her as to how to behave, and yet I know that part of me being Valerie permanently is, however I am, that's how "Val" is now, and everyone around me just has to get used to it. Still, knowing all the backstories helps: which topics to avoid, which relatives have drama with others, and of course being warned about the 15-year-old second-cousin who hasn't gotten the memo that you're not supposed to look at your relatives that way. 

"Cyn" is doing well, amazed at how her new life seems to fit her like a glove. Loves being around the kids, has freedom to do as she pleases... and even her "Man" and her have gotten pretty close.

"I mean, we haven't decided what the future holds just yet," she said, delicately choosing her words, "...But we discovered fairly quickly that we each seemed to be what the other was looking for. He's supportive and considerate and funny, and I've always seen myself as an "old soul" so the age difference - whatever it actually is - doesn't bug me. Plus, he's hot! A silver fox!" A man with the heart of a woman... isn't that what every gal wants?

She looked down at her ring - technically just a prop but obviously meaningful to her - "We've toyed with the idea of going all the way and having a kid of our own... is that weird?"

I said, in our world, nothing's weird anymore.

I did pretty well at the family visit, nodded along with the old memories, tried to come up with good excuses why I haven't been around much this year, and made promises (probably idle ones) to be more available in 2019. I tried my best to accept that this love was not for me, but that didn't mean it wasn't nice to receive. And to marvel a bit at the fact that I'm now the kind of person who appreciates a nice makeup kit as a Christmas Gift. (I don't wear a lot of makeup but I do enjoy mascara and eyeliner.)

There was one gift that really gave me pause, and it came from Valerie/Cynthia herself. At the end of our shopping and gabbing, she produced a small white envelope. I was a little dismayed because I hadn't thought to get her anything. She said not to worry about it, and asked me to open it in front of her.

Inside was a check.

I'm not going to tell you how much, but it was sizeable.

I raised an uncomfortable eyebrow. "Um... is this, like, payment for Cynthia's life? Because I really can't accept anything like that..."

"No, it's... well, it's a gift that I'd always wanted. Something I was never able to give myself. After Josh and I were, uh... settled, we had talked about getting me some... surgery."


She pointed at my chest and cleared her throat.

"It was just always in the back of my mind, but there was so much to consider, never a good time, and better uses for the money. And it would have had to be after we started our family. Well, now I have the money, and the family, but not the need, so I thought... this would be a good way to use my good fortune. Take the money. Don't use it for that if you don't want to, but know that it's on the table. The money is yours."

I was dumbstruck. I could hardly bring myself to accept it, but Cyn wouldn't take no for an answer. I'll admit the idea had occurred to me in moments of frustration, that it would be nice to reduce my size a little. Decrease my pains, maybe work out more as a result. Stop dipping my tits in every condiment on a table. I'd have to put myself through the stress of buying a new wardrobe. I don't know. It was a fantasy, and one I didn't indulge in much because I was only borrowing this body and now that I have the opportunity it feels wrong to do anything to reshape this body, even though it's mine. But I have the money and the suggestion that, if I don't want that, I can do as I please... just be aware this is a one time offer.(Believe me I would never dream of asking Val/Cyn for a handout. Not my style.)
Lots to think a out heading into this new year, that's for sure.


Friday, December 28, 2018

Simon/Joy: Save the Date

I guess the way a couple of things have been going, where I find myself today was kind of inevitable, but it still catches me kind of flat-footed.  It shouldn't - I didn't just have it dropped on me without warning - but I've kind of been in denial.

As you see, I haven't been back to the Inn this summer; Brian has been getting treatment as me back home, and though he lost one testicle, and has subjected the other to who knows what, he's been making progress since, and was declared cancer-free in October.

Obviously, you don't get there alone, and he told me about all the doctors and nurses and such, and, yeah, I did notice that one nurse came up a lot.  I even caught that they were getting kind of close, but didn't much worry; he figured it would drop off after he was well.  Brian's been doing a good enough job of keeping me in the loop that he'd tell me if this seemed to be getting serious.

Except he apparently didn't realize.  They were having dinner to celebrate a good check-up and he just blurts out "we should get married".  No having this thought earlier and checking with me, or realizing that he should back off, but just this instant, casual proposal that she accepts and that he easily talks himself into.

He calls me after, saying it just sort of happened, but now that it has, it feels right to him.  My first instinct is obviously to tell him no, try and sell him on the benefits of giving me my real life back, but I think - do I really want to go back to that life, my career stalled out and missing a testicle?  Maybe I don't want to be Joy forever, but getting life back to being my life sounds like something even worse than just spinning my wheels, and that's not me.  So I wish him well, shave my legs, put on a miniskirt, and go have some fun with my girlfriends - my happiness isn't tied to that old identity!

Of course, I can't be sure it's tied to my current one, either.  I had Thanksgiving with Joy's parents, and they're reminiscing about their first few, with a pre-school Joy irate that they didn't have a proper Thanksgiving dinner like her friends.  it was the first time, they said, that they truly realized that they were raising an American child as opposed to raising a child in America.  It was a cute story which would have been even cuter if I was responding about not remembering it because it happened when I was four rather than because the person involved was dead and I was pretending to be her.

That's not usually a huge deal for me, hanging around with Joy's friends or talking to her family in Facebook or whatever - it's a challenge to make sure they don't think there's something weird about me and keeps me sharp.  In a house where there a bunch of photographs of her and where I'm supposed to be relaxing, it gets under my skin a bit more.  Still, I felt like I'd shaken it off by the time I got back home to San Diego.  Got back into my life connecting people with apartments, finding a nice beach-side bar at the end of the day, letting myself be chatted up but not meeting anyone I wanted to see for the evening that week.  The usual.  Then I got home on Friday, and there it was in the mail.

The "Save the Date" card.  Because people getting married are so fucking excited that they can't just ask you once.  They've got to call you, stake out a date on your calendar, and then send you a formal invitation.  Now, I don't think I get particularly volatile or anything when I've had a couple cocktails, even with the low body weight, but somehow seeing that just destroyed what (safe to drive home) buzz I had left, and I needed it back and went for the vodka.

A lot of it.  It's been a while since I was as hungover as I was when my phone buzzed to wake me up the next morning so I could pick Iain up at the airport.  I kind of looked like shit, but I figured a shower would get me pretty close to human and telling him to take an Uber would have led to him asking questions I didn't feel like answering.

Truth be told, it kind of just put off the inevitable.  We spent that Saturday having a ton of fun, but then he mentioned some pre-me thing about Joy, and I held it together for a while but must have seemed kind of withdrawn afterward.  Fortunately for me not wanting to explain things, Iain is still basically a dude and presumed that my lousy mood was due to this being his last visit to California for a while.  Which, admittedly, does kind of suck, but maybe not as much as he thought.  I said, no, I was just going through some other stuff, that there was a lot of people who didn't want me for me, and then there was this stupid wedding save-the-date, which I shouldn't even care about but why is something just coming together for him?

He was sweet, of course, and probably figured that some other guy had gotten handsy because that was the last time something had really had me shaken.  That hasn't happened more than usual lately, but I didn't say anything; it was getting late, and I didn't want him feeling nervous about touching me if this was the last sex we were going to have.

But that did come up the next evening, as I was giving him a lift back, and some sort of estrogen surge had me tack "what are we even doing" onto "so, what comes next?"  Like, some stupid part of my female brain had to know whether he liked this version of Joy or if he was just having a nostalgic lay every few weeks.  Probably really wanted to hear something like "oh no, you're so much more confident and capable than ye were when I first knew ye, and it makes ye even sexier!", but I had to settle for "I really like ye, and these jaunts have been the highlight of my trips to the West Coast."

Which, hey, is still pretty good, although it still sounds like we're probably more or less done as a regular thing.  At least, for almost a minute.  Then he says "why don't we move in together?  The family estate is bloody enormous, and it doesn't really make sense with just me and Dad there.  And you know he's been eager to meet you."

"I don't know...  That's such a big--"  I had to hit the brakes, which dumped the purse I'd set on my lap after paying the last toll onto the floor, and after an obligatory "oh shit!", I started shaking my head.  There on the floor were five sets of keys, my birth control prescription, tampons, a bottle of red hair dye that I had been planning to surprise him with before I drank myself to sleep, and all sorts of ridiculous crap.

"What I saying?  I'm Joy Fucking Kershaw.  I do things I would never have thought of doing all the time!  It's my entire goddamn life, and now when a guy offers me a chance to leave all the garbage in my life behind to live in a fancy manor house because he likes me, I'm going to say no?  That's not me!"

Iain looked shocked that I said that, but as soon as we were stopped at a light he leaned over, turned my head to the side and kissed me.  I let him and returned the favor, long enough for us to get honked at when the light turned.  I giggled, dropped him off, and received another long kiss before he made his way to the gate.

When I got back home, what I had just agreed to hit me all over again, but I caught a look at myself in the mirror.  I looked cute, as usual, but there was a bit more to it; my hair was a mess, my wide-necked t-shirt was exposing a shoulder, and I took myself aback.  I didn't look like I was trying to be anyone else for once - not Simon, not the original Joy, not even the sort of person I thought I'd be if I'd been born this girl.

This, I thought, is what Joy should be:  Pretty.  Wanted.  Always on new adventures.  And easily able to find a man who will look out for her.

I guess it's not that feminist, but so what?  I'd always known that girls were naturally looking for what I'd just been offered, and they couldn't even see it as commendation for what is had taken away.

So, yeah, I'm moving to Scotland in the new year.  Big yard sale at the end of January - save the date!

-New Joy

Monday, December 10, 2018

Jenn/Zack: 180s

It has been such a hectic month, going all the way back to Pete's Halloween party. For my part I was 100% excited to meet more people like us, mingle, network, whatever you want to call it. I don't think we all wanted it to be a big therapy session or anything but it's nice to be able to share your experiences with someone who understands

Take Magdaryl for instance. Both he and my David had their manhood exchanged for a female model with somewhat more... mileage on them. But despite that commonality, it seemed like Darryl was the last person David wanted to talk to. The second last was Tyler, who has impressed me with his/her growth over the time I've read this book, adapting into their new role and getting out into the world as Valerie. David, of course, didn't want to talk to anybody who views the "Curse" of the Inn as anything but a true curse - something to complain about and sulk over.

Personally, I found Ty fascinating and after a few drinks he/she opened up about some of the details that got left out of the blog about him/herself, her love life, and some of the possible directions they'll be taking in the new year. Of course I also pressed for more details about Rafe and Ryan and whether there was any other romance on the horizon.

Beyond that, we also talked about out "gender" situation - Pete and Annette had issued those stickers allowing you to declare your name and preferred pronouns. I reveled in the fact that I got to be a "she" for the night, but Tyler had noticeably lacked one. He chalked it up to being "old fashioned," which is to say skittish about things like that. Not that Tyler doesn't "get" the gender-spectrum thing, but he had some really interesting insights into ways that we transformed-people might be outside of it - that when he is in a woman's body is feels like a woman, but calling him a "he" isn't wrong either... and I guess he's just too "old fashioned" to accept "they" as an alternative. So it's like... call her anything.

Take a guess who was least impressed with the length and energy of my conversation with Tyler - David, who stood pouting by the liquor half the night, looking fetching in an androgynous suit with his hair pulled back. I had tried to wave him over to join the conversation but of course he declined. Like I said, he clearly was not interested in talking to someone who had positive things to say about being female.

Of course there was more to it than that. On the car ride home (in Lena's beautiful Lexus!) he laid into me - "How could you spend so much time talking to her? Did you see how much she was flirting with you? Were you trying to fuck her? Because I could tell she was trying to fuck you."

Writing it out like that makes it seem a lot more confrontational and angry than it was, but it was really said in a sarcastic, light tone. Still, I did not enjoy hearing such accusations. Like, excuse me, it was just an innocent conversation between two people. Just because one happens to appear to be an attractive young woman doesn't mean there's a sexual undertone to all of it. And what does that say about how David thinks of me? I can't talk to guys at the gym because he's worried I'm attracted to them, and I can't talk to women because he's worried I'm attracted to them?

Newsflash, I said, I'm not out here trying to sleep with anything that moves. I can see the difference between a polite convo and a flirt, and there was really nothing flirty about my chat with Tyler. If there was, why would I have tried to get David involved? I just wanted some info and guidance from someone who's "been there" and yes, a little juicy gossip because I'm an old hen at heart. Big whup.

I have told him time and again that I am attracted to one person and that's the person he is inside, no matter his outside appearance and I wish he could see it the same way.

David was unimpressed and we had a chill between us for days.

Then one night he had a late conference at work. I should tell you that David doesn't exactly like Lena's work, but it more or less takes care of itself - or Pete takes care of it for him - and he just gets to be a figurehead and sit back and watch Lena's bank account grow.

But he's also indulged in some of the perks of the "high life." Going out to "business dinners" or cocktails to which I'm not invited -- not a good look for the 45-year-old company founder and president to be seen with her 20-something "boytoy." So I sit at home and occupy myself and try not to worry - and definitely not being jealous.

But on this night, it's different. He's texting me. He's obviously drinking. He's being affectionate, calling me his Jenny-Bear and saying he misses how we used to be. He tells me how right I am about only loving the person inside. I tell him we can still be that way and he says maybe, maybe.

Midnight, he comes in. I'm getting ready for bed. He swaggers in - like the man I know he is - and drops his purse on the couch next to me.

He leans down and kisses me.

This isn't the first time I have kissed "Lena Howard's" lips, but it's only happened a few times when one or the other of us kind of got caught up in a moment, and it's always been met with a recoiled "yuck" reaction from David, and me trying to suppress how much that hurts. So knowing this, I start to ask why, and he puts his fingers to my lips. "Shhh, don't talk. I want this, I want this now." I don't know if this means that later he won't want it or if he's permanently crossed some kind of threshold. I'm totally unprepared, and I think of saying I can't because I'm not ready. But he's running his hands over my body and "little Jenn" perks up, and before you know it I'm "ready for action."

I just keep saying "Are you sure, are you sure? You can say stop anytime--" because I want to be good, I want to do this right, and I really did not expect him to do a total 180 on the physical affection thing. Not this soon, if at all. I worry that alcohol is playing too much of a part, but I can tell he's at least cognizant of his actions. He keeps shutting down my reservations... looking back, it's like he was taking a "now or never" approach.

He paused only once, as we were making out, to note that my stubble was scratchy. I said that if I knew this was coming I would have been clean-shaven, but he says "No it's fine. You're a man. And I'm..."

He doesn't finish the thought. We get back to making out.

Clothes are stripped - a beautiful silk blouse on the floor. My boyfriend is in his bra - a fancy if somewhat matronly one. But it's sexy in its way. I'm surprised by my reaction to Lena's nude body. Of course it's far from a perfect, perky young thing. Far from the body I had. I'm conflicted as to how attracted I am to it, because on the surface I see its flaws, but they don't stop me at all. In a heartbeat, those "flaws" become attractive features.

Something about all of this - the newness, the reversal of roles, heightens the sexiness about everything. My boyfriend sitting on my lap, grinding against my... my stiff crotch. My hands find the bra clasp. I hesitate for a moment, but he whispers "Yes!" I flick the hooks away like a natural.

We permit each others' hands to roam each other, thirstily taking it all in. I play with his breasts and stroke his neck and shoulders and back and hips, encircling around where I know will be my final destination if it keeps going. And he does the same, and I wonder how ready he is, if he is trying to prepare himself, trying to see what he's "supposed" to be seeing in Zack's body. I wonder, and hope, that he's undergone the same mental flip I have, where those things that might have recoiled him months ago, are now things he yearns for. I hope it, and I fear it.

My belt is unbuckled. He can tell through my pants that I'm at full attention but he's never seen in in person. A moment of panic - what if he sees it and it's too "real"? Too much?

He reaches into my waistband and fondles me. His reaction is surprising... he lets out a low, Beavis and Butt-Head like chuckle, like "Huh huh huh," which sounds very strange coming from this "lady."

Before I know it, it's out in the open. My eyes bulge out at seeing what it looks like in his hand - how much more of it there is when his dainty fingers are clasped lightly around the shaft, than mine. I'm also surprised at how readily he took it in hand, how good he is at handling it. But of course, I never had my own to practice on - he's "done this" before, in a sense. Amazing how suddenly without warning he'd gone from literally "get that thing away from me" to all-in.

I'm fully disrobed first. He's still in his panties. We have a moment where we look at each other like "What do we do now?" At first I thought it was understood that he wanted to go "all the way" but there was this moment of hesitation, to be expected I guess but how do you overcome that.

I get halfway through asking, "Do you still?" and he gulps a quick yes, just... let's go to the bedroom already.

Maybe it's showing off a bit, but I left him up and carry him. Will this make him feel like "a woman" in a bad way, or a good one, I wonder?

In the bed, he's under me. Our momentum is stopped for a little bit when we encounter a little embarrassing issue... there was some, er... dryness. Lena is not exactly in the prime of her life, and this is nothing she nor David should be embarrassed about, it's just a reality of life for women over a certain age - an age much younger than Lena's in many cases.

In that moment, I had to think fast. If Lena happened to have anything on hand that would aid with this, I would have to take a break from what we were doing to tear up the condo to find it and risk ruining the moment. There are other ways to improvise but given the urgency I didn't want to ask David to provide any saliva. So I took matters into my own hands... or rather, my tongue.

Readers, I really never thought I would find myself in that position. I have to admit, if I had not been so aught up in the moment I would have balked, but I had found myself in a potentially once-in-a-lifetime position. David had already shown he could shed his inhibitions (alcohol would have helped me too) and I was very, very turned on, to where I would do virtually anything asked of me. Of course, he didn't ask - I really don't think he would have expected or even wanted it. But once I set myself face-first between his legs, I could see an instant change in demeanor... from tentative to "Oh God, yes!"

I had to spend a little more time than I wanted to down there, but it was certainly worth it in the end and had the effect i wanted. Again I had to ask a potentially mood-ruining question: "Are you... ready...? For my..."

He responded by throwing a condom at me.

I struggled to open the package, so he helped me, and rolled it on for me. By then, pretty much all the blood in my body was located between my legs. It was like there was a non-stop buzzer going off in my head screaming "TAKE CARE OF THIS NOW."

I pushed myself into him - perhaps less delicately than he or I would have liked, but again, it was a caught-up-in-the-moment thing.

It felt... incredible. Simply like two parts that were meant to couple. I've always wondered how it feels for guys... it was a lot less, erm, "pressure" than I thought it might be? Certainly less firm than my own hand... like a perfect delicate kiss.

It took me a moment of adjusting to figure out how to "move." I don't think David realized that he, too, could have moved if he wanted to, and probably would have found it pleasurable, but maybe he was a little lost. I would have liked to really take stock of the moment and appreciate where we were, and really take my time, but... there was that buzzing in my head, saying "Go! Go now!" Craving instant pleasure. The Man's folly.

All I had was the knowledge of how I liked it as a woman, not really taking into account what was most practical for me as a man, so after trying to pace myself gently I began to find my rhythm and thrust my hips faster and harder, overtaken by my own urges, as I heard David's soprano voice moaning in pleasure, egging me on, panting, losing control... I tried to stay quiet and focussed and not let out any unappealing grunts that might remind David exactly what was going on. But in that moment - dare I say it in this age of complicated genders - he was truly "female," enjoying a pleasure that he could not previously had imagined. And I think, loving that he had enjoyed it.

I tried - I really did try - to pace myself, but it was just not possible. Neither of us wanted it that way, but neither of us really realized how short the fuse was going to be. Suddenly, almost without warning, I erupted into the condom, while David was still moving with me. I let out a weak groan, and slowed my motions to a standstill, hoping he would understand what had happened and I wouldn't have to say it. I wanted to keep going - I wanted to be able to keep going. I wanted to show him exactly what was possible, but I fell short, and not long after, my body kind of... gave out from under me.

"I... I'm sorry..." I sputtered once it had become clear why the abrupt stop.

"It's, uh... it's okay..." he said, catching his breath.

I laid there for a second, experiencing a few aftershocks of orgasm, still inside, until he muttered, "You can, uh, get it out now" with a level of bitterness I recognized as the David of the last few months.

I sighed sadly and gingerly did as he asked, rolling over to the side of the bed.

"I think I could uh, go again soon."

"Don't worry about it," he snipped coldly. I felt worse than ever. It was like I had one chance to show him we could still be great this way and I blew it. I felt a fear in the pit of my stomach that the opportunity would never come again. And post-coitally, the last thing I wanted to think of was the pressure to perform again. I was drained.

Then, as if sensing how hurt I was, how guilty I felt, he tried to offer some comfort:

"It was... better than I thought it would be."

Meekly, I said, "I'll, um... I'll do better next time."

"Yeah," he sighed. "No worries."

I rolled over and held him in his arms. He didn't pull away but he didn't really embrace it either.

Since then, sex almost gone back to bei g the Forbidden Word it was before, and hes resisted any attempts I've made to ask about his experience, find out how he feels, what he liked or disliked. I'd live to discuss the xomplicated delights and contradictions of female sexuality with him and reassure him thatit can take time to adjust even after you've decided that's something you'd want to do. But anytime I bring it up, he waves it off - some other night, maybe, when he's "into it" again. That upsets me, because I feel like if I had done better the first time he would be more eager, but my disappointing performance is only reinforcing his resistance to pursuing this. And you can't really get better without practice. So I don't know. It stinks.

I tell myself I'm taking it too hard. The obsession with orgasms is more male than female and I could tell I was givig him pleasure. I just wish we were as connected as we once were. I still don't even know the reason for his one-time-only interest in sex to begin with!

-Baffled Jenn

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Daryl/Magda: Mismatches

If you're going to get changed into a different person, and it looks like there's a good chance you'll stay that way, there's a certain logic in moving away from both your real hometown and where your new identity lived, and to someplace like New York City.  Many large cities would probably do the trick, I suppose, but New York is so big and is such a hub that I can do things that might get noticed in other cities without much question.  It may be something as small as sitting down at a lunch counter in Harlem and having some fried chicken without much more than a little side-eye, or nobody at the movie theater caring about a weird double feature.  They'll let you be.

We were initially kind of worried about that when J.T. and I started going out, especially since he was kind of famous at one point, but there were some pictures taken, a couple websites that tried to frame a cougar narrative, but, eventually, it sort of became no big deal.  Older woman/younger guy is unusual, but seeing we dig each other makes it something of a non-story.

And we do like each other.  For a while we thought it might just be the thrill of the new or unusual, but I've been here for a couple months, and it hasn't always been complete fun, we've become really comfortable together, and good.  He was kind of nervous about me moving in at first, but it works, and we both look forward to how our weird schedules intersect.

Unfortunately, his rehearsal schedule didn't line up well with Pete's anti-Halloween dinner, which was aggressively come-as-you-are because folks like us don't need another level of make-up, costuming, and play-acting.  He isn't really sure he belongs at that sort of thing anyway, having just been someone else for one cycle and then dropped back into his life like it hasn't happened until I showed up.  Not that everyone who came is in my boat - Annette came, although to be fair, she's 22 and basically spent all he college years as someone else, so most of her friends from that period are Inn people.

She was one of the first to get to the function room Pete had rented, enthusiastically helping decorate; I imagine they love her attitude at whichever publishing company is exploiting her as an unpaid intern.  She taped Pete on the shoulder and broke off to say hi and asking if I wanted a name tag, which was more complicated than usual - between the standard "Hello, My Name Is ____" and the "My Pronouns Are ___/___" that has apparently started gaining use,  she customized them to include "Also Known As ____".  Hers said "Annette", "Ravi & Benjamin", "she/her"; Pete's said "Pete", "a bunch", "he/him".  I opted for "Daryl", "Magda", "they/their". I half expected them to tell me to choose a side, but Annette said anybody being a jerk about how someone else identified was getting kicked out.

Pete gave a little chuckle as she went back to decorating.  "Never thought Millennials and their political correctness would make a bit of sense, but in this case..."

"Dude, you do know that I'm not actually this old, and she's, like, whatever we're calling the generation after that, right?"  Not wanting to get into that, I looked down and raised an eyebrow.  "Wearing heels to your 'come as you are' party, huh?"

"Am I?  Holy shit, I am!  I swear, April's feet have been deformed by long hours in the Executive Assistant uniform to the point where I walk around my house on tiptoe and boots with a couple extra inches feel normal.  But I guess it beats being short.  I'm not quite Tylerie tiny, but every inch counts."  I was kind of surprised he picked up my play on Tyler's names, but apparently it tickled him.

He asked how I was enjoying Magda's job, and I shrugged.  "It's not really what I want to do with the rest of my life, but it's something I can do for now.  I kind of like punching a clock rather than working long hours to make an impossible deadline, too.  At least for now.  How about you?"

He shrugged.  "Young, old, man, woman, black, white, asian, I'm apparently the glue that holds an office together.  Speaking of which..."  A matching couple was filling in their name tags, and Pete brought me over to introduce us.  "Daryl, this is Jenn and David; guys, this is Daryl. Or Magda.  'Magdaryl'. It's up in the air right now."

That immediately clicked with the man in the skinny jeans and blow-dried hair.  "You're the one dating J.T.!  I had such a crush on him when I was in junior high!"  She suddenly realized how she must look.  "Not the usual person to say that, huh?"

"You'd be surprised."  I turned to her date, wearing a much looser pair of jeans and t-shirt, hair gathered into a ponytail at the base of the head rather than higher-up.  "Don't be jealous; J.T. is very much taken."  I extended a hand and David grabbed it kind of tentatively, maybe not sure how to process the flurry of names Pete had thrown at him along with the camisole under my White Sox Jersey.  I want wearing makeup but did have hairpins in, so I was sending some mixed signals.

I thought he and I might have something to talk about, given our similar age and sex changes, but he didn't seem to like he wanted to; honestly, even though I as talking sports and action movies and the like while complaining about bras and heels, I think he saw me as too close to the worst way he could see things going for him.

Jenn wasn't really negative, at least; as much as she clearly either hadn't stated thinking like a guy or was relishing the chance not to, she complained less and lived vicariously more.  She had plenty of questions about where Tyler got his shoes and apparently listened to a lot of the same podcasts as Annette. 

We all mingled a bit, but never really got far from one another - Pete has a pretty decent contact list of Inn people, but even in New York, there weren't enough for the size of the space he rented, at least that could do this kind of Halloween party (or were in the mood for it).  I'd kind of hoped to make some contacts that might give me a chance to maybe find a new career, but that didn't really happening.  Eventually I ran back into Jenn, who had had a few.  "This is the weirdest party I've ever been to.  So many girls and it's a complete sausage fest!  Shouldn't it be, like 50/50?  Or 25/25/25/25, cause some folks stay the same, generally speaking?"

"Well, I figure those guys just shrug and deal with it, right?  They know what they're doing and don't have to reach out.  I don't know why there's not more girls who became guys here or on the blog and stuff, though."

"Oh, trust me, most of us are not going to complain about bosses suddenly listening and shorter bathroom lines and clothes that have actual useful sizes."  I turned around and saw a cheerful-looking guy with a somewhat unruly Afro but a big smile; his name tag said "Juliet", "Jonah", "he/him".

"Well, when you put it like that..."  Jenn probably would have expanded on it, but David came over and was clearly ready to be done for the night, so they left.

Juliet waved and said they probably had the right idea.  "I bet your legs are staying to run down like my brain is."  She wasn't wrong, so we headed out to grab a snack (another great thing about New York is bakeries open until 3am).

It turns out we are kind of opposite sides of the same coin, me a young black man who became a middle-aged white woman, her a white woman in her early fifties who changed to a young black guy by choice.  Apparently she and her husband visited the Inn a few years back and made it back to their old life okay, only to have him go off on a "business trip" this May that left someone else in his body to explain he was leaving her for someone else, as someone else - apparently they'd been carrying on this affair for years and found the perfect new lives to claim.  She despaired, and then when she found out through another Inn person she knew that Krystle was putting this boy's body for sale--

"Please tell me you don't refer to black men as 'boy' or just casually talk about them being for sale."

"What?  Oh God, no...  At least I don't think...  I didn't mean that!"

"It doesn't matter what you mean, it matters what people hear.  You've gotta be real careful - just because you may still think like a white woman and talk about white woman things, coming out of that mouth, it's gonna sound like you're making fun to some people."

"I guess.  Hardly seems right."

"Welcome to being black in America.  I miss a lot about it, but..."  I suddenly felt pretty bad about finishing that sentence; as much as things in my real life can be unfair, I kind of feel like escaping them by becoming white is a cheat, and don't really feel grateful for it.

"Hm.  Well, I guess that's the karmic price for getting a chance to start again in college.  Not that being black is a price!  Ugh, I'm not so terrible at this when I don't have to think about it.  Or am I?"

"You probably are, but don't worry too much.  I was a giant nerd who didn't fit in either, and I turned out okay enough for J.T."

"But did you have to deal with this?"  She pointed at the mop of hair on her head.  "I let it grow out because all the cool black people when I was growing up in the 70s did this, but it just won't behave!"

"When did you last have a trim?"

"I don't know, two or three weeks ago?"

"Yeah, you're gonna want to find a barber you like and go every week.  It doesn't take that long, and if you just sit and listen while you wait, you'll get a pretty good education on being a black man."

"Sounds like this education could be more expensive than the college one!"

"Well, just think of what you're not spending on makeup, bras, pantyhose..."

"I guess.  Well, I did decide I wanted to do things differently.  But fair warning, I'm going to call you a lot."

I said that was okay, but she hasn't yet.

By the time I got home, J.T. was on the couch, watching TV.  "How was Curse Club?"

I say down and put my feet on his lap for him to massage.  "Kind of fun.  Weird having everyone treat me like I'm one of the ones who knows what he's doing."

"She's doing, based on last night."

I took the name tag I'd removed and folded in half out of my purse.  "They're doing, based on this."

"I'm not sure I approve of you going to parties where they don't think of you as a woman.  Does that make me a bad Inn Person?"

"Nah, I like that you know who you are and want me to feel as sure, although I kind of like not being sure.  Makes us special."

"Well, I guess opposites attract."

I thought about joking about "Junah" (portmanteau nickname a work in progress) then, but things were heading in a fun direction, so I just said "I guess so" and leaned in for a kiss.


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Cary: Bored Girl Makes for a Busy Dad

I knew back in August that Krystle was going to be a different sort of Mackenzie than Elaine was, and I probably shouldn't compare them much.  It wouldn't be fair or helpful to Krystle, it wouldn't do me much good, and it probably wouldn't help my friendship with Elaine to thinking of her as a pre-teen.  So I'm trying not to do it, especially since they've supposedly got different goals - Elaine was always looking to return to her real life, while Krystle, not seeing that as possible, is trying to start from scratch.

(And what of the original Mackenzie Mahoney?  I gather she gained a few years, and when her parents realized they would change back but she wouldn't, some sort of arrangement was made for new identities, which apparently involved a clean-enough break that we'll never hear from the Mahoney family again.  Makes me kind of paranoid sometimes, because it's sort of suspiciously convenient.)

Starting from scratch is a heck of a difficult thing if you don't have to, though, and Krystle can't help but be very aware that her old life is going on just a hundred miles away, and the magic hotel that can make her not a kid is only a few miles down the road.  And while being a kid again sounds like fun, the loss of freedom can be a tough pill to swallow, especially when you consider that just a few months ago, Krystle was traveling the world on her own, and while there were certainly parts where she was looked at with some suspicion for being a young black man, being 11 puts a lot of other bounds on her, from where she can ride her bike to what music she can have on her phone when she's around real kids, and that was before school started.

And that's where things got tricky, because it turns out Krystle is pretty bright.  As much as I received a first-person lesson in how people underestimate you when you're black, a woman, or both, I still let myself judge her a bit by my first impression, although I also think she doesn't necessarily know her own capabilities.  She didn't pay much attention at school her first time around, I guess, and she still doesn't seem to really like reading that much, although she doesn't have much trouble with anything she's given at school.  From what she tells me, the fact that she was pretty decent at math during Jonah's senior year of high school is what had her thinking that if she went through school again, she could get into college and maybe do something with numbers when she's an adult again.

But she's bored, which is not a good combination with being used to more freedom and not exactly being able to connect with her supposed peers.  She hasn't exactly gotten in trouble yet - no detentions or me being called to pick her up from school - but her teacher told me she was starting to be kind of disruptive.  Good marks, and often had an interesting perspective during discussions, although she can be kind of pushy with them, but one student with a lousy attitude can derail an entire class.

Folks, it is not easy to have a talk with a 26-year-old woman to encourage her to behave better in the sixth grade.  She wasn't expecting anything like it when I got back, in part because Elaine told her that I more or less just showed up to maintain cover, and just looking at her, I have to guard against the 11-year-old I see dictate how I speak, even after two-plus years of knowing there was an adult in there.  When I said her teachers were worried about her attitude, she kind of laughed at first.

"Don't do that, Krystle.  I've seen bad reputations hang onto people for a long time."

"I know, it's just, when does this get worth the time?  I'm tryna pay attention, but it's so boring!  How did Elaine manage it?"

I told her that Elaine found things easier to accept when she had plans in place to return to her old life and could treat the year as a sort of learning experience, and that she also made a project out of helping me with the hot dog truck.  "Maybe you should just not worry about beyond this year; growing up again is quite a commitment."

She grunted, saying she would try harder, but looked kind of defeated the next few days.  I racked my brains trying to figure some way to help out, until I saw something on the bulletin board at the supermarket and dropped a card in front of her during dinner.  "What do you think of this?"

She read it and gave me a look.  "Piano lessons?  Ain't I little-white-girl enough for you?"

I'd actually looked up Alicia Keys' name to drop, but it didn't seem to much impress her.  "I just figured it was something you could start now that didn't involve other kids, and maybe give you something to look forward to.  I dunno, I'm trying to figure out what I'd do in your position.  Maybe try it for a week and if you don't like it, we'll try and find something else. "

She was skeptical, but she was kind of sick of going straight home after school and not really doing much until it was time to catch the bus in the morning.  I don't want to say she loves it, but she's at least busier now, and has something to look forward to a couple times a week.

It costs a bit, though, not just in terms of money, but time - it's a little bit too far to ride her bike, especially now that the days are getting shorter, and there's no buses or trains here.  So I've got to build my day around getting her to and from, which I can do.  The money's a bit trickier - Elaine and J.T. had an arrangement about her dipping into her bank account when she needed some cash, but Krystle doesn't have that with Jonah.  She has a bit of a college fund from selling someone the chance to be the new Jonah, but we haven't really figured out rules about dipping into that.

So I'm paying for this, and the new keyboard, and maybe a nicer one if she sticks with this through Christmas, but if I don't find a way to earn more money than usual this off-season, things could get tight.

I guess, in some respects, I'm going to have to be more of a parent than I figured on.


Friday, October 26, 2018

Tyler/Valerie: On the Dotted Line

I don't exactly know how it happened, but somewhere along the way I started actually having a life.

Somewhere among all the 6 AM girltalks with Alexa, sassing Rafe at work, and hunting for apartments with Maddie, I started thinking to myself, I actually like things about this life. I'm starting to take a little bit more ownership of it, beyond just choosing a new place to live: I got my hair cut to a shoulder length wavy Kristen Bell look that I much prefer over the fairy tale princess halfway-down-my-back style I had maintained from Valerie. I started buying more clothes for myself, and not just for functional purposes but because I think they might look good on me. And I'm seeing less and less reasons not to give in to Maddie's insistence that we start some kind of business together.

It gives me a bit of pause because if we're living together and invested in a business, that could easily be too much of each other. But it's my best option to make something of myself right now. I just had to hope before I committed to anything that I didn't end up getting sick of her - I warned her I can be a bit of a house-mother and it's not a role I love.

So we went out and we found someplace that looks good, only we need a third roommate to cover costs. Nobody else we know seems to be looking. All seemed hopeless, until Maddie gave a wincing "Welllll, there is one option..."

Her sister, she explains, is looking to move back to New York after living in Asheville, NC for a while. Getting her to admit this was like pulling a tooth. "We're twins, but she's not really like me... she's a bit wild, impulsive."

"Listen, if you vouch for her, I'm sure she's fine."

Maddie nodded in a way that seemed to say "What choice do I have?"

Charli, Maddie's sister, agreed to the place sight unseen. It was all such a whirlwind because we need to move in on the 1st of November since I already gave Ryan my notice and time was running out when we found this place.

He played dumb as to why I might want to leave, and I generalized that this was no longer the right environment for me, as if it ever was. I thanked him and Alexa for the break they got me on the rent but I'm doing okay now. And I really don't know if I can spend another moment pretending he and I did not have sex behind Alexa's back while I thought they were breaking up, because I gave in to that little crush I had.

Alexa said she was sad to see me go and leave her as the only girl in the house. I said we could hang out anytime, and even though she should hate my guts (if she ever finds out, and doubly so  because I kept it from her) I hope she knows I meant it.

"One other thing," I said to Maddie as we were preparing to sign on the dotted line, "If worst comes to worst and I... give in to temptation and invite Rafe over now and again, you won't judge me, will you?"

She managed a sympathetic smirk. "I would never! Not out loud anyway."

I smiled. "Good friend."

"You said he was good, right?"

"I... very reluctantly admitted he has some talent, yes." Embarrassingly, I will admit to you here that "good" doesn't really cover it.

"Well, every girl has needs. But if you get too carried away - remember, he's totally not boyfriend material - I won't hesitate to smack some sense into you."

"By all means."

"I love you too much not to."

That last bit gave me pause. I'm still getting used to the way women throw around words of affection with each other. It's hard not to feel like my old heterosexual male self is being teased out a little bit hearing it even thought I know that's not what she means.

Off to pack!


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Jonah/Krystle: Not officially my first date, buuuuuut...

I've gone out on dates before.  Not really between my high school girlfriends and the man I met at church this summer (before Krystle blew that up), though I guess you could count the time I got knocked up and the time I met Joseph on the day he got out of jail, but to say that one of us wasn't really into it both times is selling those days short.  But last Tuesday felt different.  It was the first time in three years I've gone out with someone just because I liked them and wanted to get closer without some sort of ulterior motive.  I mean, yeah, I'm kind of looking to see if Calvin is husband material, probably more than most girls would be, but I guess it's less of an immediate priority.  Ashlyn and Moira have convinced me (for now) that is okay to just have a boyfriend.  Or, I guess, find one.

But, anyway, all those other times going out as Krystle never really felt like they were about me really enjoying myself.  They were about trying to make someone else happy - even the one Krystle crashed was kind of about making a sales pitch, like we could get along and be useful to each other, and my daughter needs a stepfather.  They were about being good instead of being happy, and though I think it's really important to be good, more so than being happy, I know you can be both.  Heck, I know I can be happy like this, if only because of Little Moira.

I'm still a little uncertain an hour before, standing in front of my bedroom mirror in my bra and panties, asking my 21-month-old daughter what I should put on.  She has no idea.

It probably doesn't help that I've shed a lot of Krystle's "date" outfits over the past couple years, either not seeing them as essential in a move or giving them away to Jordan as costumes because I'm not ever going to need them.  Or maybe it does; I'm not trying to make a night out a night in.  So I decide on sneakers right away, after I've squeezed myself into a pair of jeans.  They're pretty tight on my butt, but don't split when I lift a knee to my chest (don't ask how I learned to do that!), so I figure I'm probably okay.

Then I look at my chest in the mirror and say "what am I going to do with you?"  A couple years ago the answer was always "put on something baggy and hope people think I'm fat", but I'm kind of looking at my breasts different these days.  I used to think of them just in terms of how Krystle used to show them for money and how showing them off reflected on a girl in general, and I did try and change the way I was dressing back when I stopped nursing Moira, but it felt kind of silly - like, the instant they weren't useful, they're something to be ashamed of again?  Like, I know God doesn't want us to be prideful or lustful, but sometimes it's nice to wear something where raising your arm doesn't tug at your chest.  Which is something like half of what I was thinking when I put on a camisole that showed off a fair amount of cleavage; with a fair chunk of "guys like boobs" taking up the rest.  I also threw on a zip-up hoodie, unzipped to start the night, but ready for when the temperature dropped.

Then I headed to the North End; it's where he works and there's a lot of good food there.  We found a place that still had some tables outside and got a fancy-ish pizza.  He did a pretty good job of keeping eye contact, and an even better job of acting like my stories about waiting tables and how Moira has started copying my tendency to do free-throws into the garbage can are as interesting as Bobby Orr visiting the office.

Afterward, I kind of worked out part off why that paying attention meant so much to me.  It's not that I've had a lifetime of guys not listening because I'm a girl (although waiting tables does let me get caught up), but because he's a cool older guy who thinks I'm worth listening to.  Sure, I've had some life experiences since I was last in high school, but in some ways I kind of still think of myself as being a teenager because my family wouldn't let me forget it and a lot of people treat me like a screw-up, making me feel immature.  Anyway, I often still feel like a kid, and when an adult like Calvin feels like you've got something to offer, it doesn't matter if he thinks you're the same age, it makes you feel good (not that he's really robbing the cradle where 19-year-old me is concerned).

Still, he was generally cool, noticing that I kept glancing at the TV in a nearby bar every once in a while to see how the Celtics' season opener was going, and we eventually scrapped the plan to see a movie and just hung out watching the game with a couple of beers.

Which maybe made me a little chattier than might be wise about certain parts of my life story on the way back to the subway as he made a comment about my really liking basketball.

"Yeah, I used to play, back in high school.  Wasn't bad, but then all this happened..."  I had my arms crossed and used them to push my boobs up just a bit.  "...and suddenly running wasn't so much fun anymore."

"Well, you're still in pretty great shape anyway."

"My friend Jordan got me into yoga while I was pregnant, cause she was never into running.  It's worked out okay for us, but it's not the same."

A quick smile fled across his face.  "What?"

"Sorry, I just thought of a really fun idea for a second date."

"A second..."  I stopped in the middle of the road, not realizing there was a guy on a bike coming straight at me.  Calvin grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the way, and for a moment I looked down at my hand in his, kind of shocked... and then squeezed.  We continued walking that way, not really talking any more, until we got to the station.

"I know I'm picking up on this late, but I find it hard to believe you're surprised by a second date."

"Even before Moira, it had been a while, and it was different.  I've, well, I've never really gone out with anyone like you.  This is, like, a really new experience for me.  But a good one!  I--"

We were waiting for the Green Line by then, and a bunch of people getting out of a bar or something started crowding us, and though I wouldn't have fallen into the tracks, he caught me as I was shoved, the hand that wasn't holding mine resting on my butt and pulling me in closer.  We laughed, embarrassed, and he let go, but then when we got on the car, we were pushed together again.  I looked up at his face, he down at mine, our lips touched...

... and then the conductor hit the brakes and our heads named together.  He made a joke about maybe saving that for solid ground, and I agreed, although inside I kind of wished that we didn't need actual brakes being put on.

It was only a couple stops to Park Street where I changed to the Red Line and he didn't, so I stepped off, said goodbye, and walked off not quite in a daze.  I zipped up my sweatshirt as soon as I saw someone looking at me too hard, and gave the night some thought as I rode to the end of the line, then let myself into the apartment.  I wasn't sure, but I think that was the first time I really enjoyed being a woman, and as I got undressed I gave myself a good look in the mirror.  It still didn't seem right for me to see Krystle there, it felt a little less wrong.


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Harmon Keller/Alicia Polawski: Crash Pad

One of the pleasures of my previous life was being given membership to some select group, whether literally or implicitly, by some shared accolade.  A description to be listed as an appositive after one's name conferring authority and respect, or the chance to easily associate with one's peers.  I had attained a number of them before visiting the Trading Post Inn, and I missed them sorely as I acclimated to the life of Alicia Polawski.  The ability to bypass security at an airport does not make up for their loss, especially when one considers that it is the prelude to a menial shift as a stewardess.

However, for all that I bemoaned the loss of such associations, there are moments now when I most mourn the loss of one that I found to be a nuisance for my first year as a woman:  The immediate presence of another who knew my true identity.  Lindsey may have found my situation too amusing, and Daryl may have been indifferent to that situation, but I could at least expect them to have some understanding when my status as a victim of that cursed place.  It is something that I find utterly lacking in this dormitory where I now reside.

The apartment may not technically be a dormitory - it is neither subsidized by the airline nor in a building whose clientele is restricted - but the arrangement is similar.  It is what is known as a "crash pad", with ten beds in four bedrooms.  Three of the rooms sleep two apiece, with those of us slept there each passing a portion of the rent and utilities, while the fourth has two sets of bunk beds, used by other attendants who either have an overnight layover or are spending a few days visiting the area.  Reciprocal arrangements are available in most cities.

It has been decades some I lived in that sort of cramped quarters, but it could not be helped on such relatively short notice - because being a flight attendant is seen by many young people as a job that offers benefits beyond salary, the pay is unimpressive, making Alicia's decision to stay in her mother's apartment rent-free sensible rather than entirely a Millennial reluctance to cut the cord, and it leaves me with little insured means to place a security deposit on a place of my own here in the Bay Area.  Indeed, quitting this job entirely is not practical, as it is the only line on Alicia's résumé, and while I could almost certainly convince somebody that I have qualifications not listed should I start searching for other positions, I suspect that many would look at me and think I meant this metaphorically, and I am not interested in that sort of work.  Thus, the status quo at work, and the newly crowded house.

As might be imagined from the circumstances that brought Alicia to the Inn at the first place, Alicia had a certain reputation at work, enough that some co-workers have been able to come fairly close to guessing what got her put on "administrative leave" last summer, and while most have been willing to believe that I had something else going on since, they eventually lost interest.  Now that some of them are my flatmates, though, the curiosity about what scandalous affairs I get up to has returned, and the fact that I will often spend time in the library or one of San Francisco's fine museums after a return flight rather than subjecting myself to the cacophony at "home" has many certain that I am meeting with some man on the sly.  I suppose there is some truth to it, but I must say that I hope this interest will pass.

Instead, I spend many an afternoon or evening in those public spaces, changed into civilian clothes but still with the makeup and hair that I put on to emphasize how friendly and helpful we are to the passengers, trying to lose myself in something intellectual only to often be interrupted by those seeking to turn me toward more carnal pursuits.  If only I could come home to people who understood that I want nothing more than to quietly unwind with a book and a port, rather than whatever activity they have planned for the night.  To add insult to injury, I had lately been doing this in the bath before moving, a welcome excuse to remove my brassiere and let the water support my breasts, but that becomes impossible with as many as nine young women sharing one bathroom with me; though I may not relish the opportunity to see these women in various states of undress as I may once have as a younger man, and in doing so come across as over-eager, I am never certain how these interactions should go.  At least when a young man approaches me, I can remember similar conversations from the other side; this sort of everyday encounter has me constantly having to think of responses that my flatmates think should be second nature.

It is, I suppose, something I will have to get used to over the coming months, as the Inn will not be accepting guests this winter.  I must admit, though, that I rather hope I will never have an easy time answering when a girl sees me in the bath and suggests we make an appointment to get waxed together.

-Harmon Keller

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Jenn/Zack: "Little" Jenn

I guess I've been a little sheepish about sharing my experiences on this blog because I'm still waiting for... well, something. Something about this situation that I can get excited about. But it's been a few weeks and I feel like I'm learning.

I also feel like I'm becoming accustomed to being a layabout, a live-in housekeeper and a "kept man" - being that my boyfriend, who is living the jet-setting life of home decor mogul Lena Howard, pays for everything, and my "job," Zack's photography career, is really more of a glorified hobby for me.

I started going to the gym. I thought, whatever mysterious force caused that Inn to change my into Zack granted me a killer set of abs, so it would be a shame to lose them. I'm hardly a fitness freak in my regular life - I like low-impact, low-result workouts, I've dabbled in pilates and spin and every New Year I resolve to start running, but really there's not much incentive. Now, I have nothing but time, and a hot new body to flex.

Can I just tell you... it is amazing to be strong. I mean, Zack is not Mr. Muscles by any means but I am impressed with how much lifting I can do! I can just sit there pumping my guns until I get tired, watching that bicep go up and down. It's a bit of a turn on. Which brings me to my next point, of course...

I  have been working on developing a relationship with certain new body part of mine. I know, it's been months, and it's not like this is new-new since I didn't post for weeks, but it did take a little bit of time. When you wake up to this strange equipment situated between your legs, and it's not what you're used to or what you want... and it isn't performing the way you most often experience it... it's strange and off-putting. Gah, I'm getting flustered just trying to talk about it.

I'm a healthy straight girl. I have a love for this organ - in its natural habitat. Normally I only know what a penis was like in a sexual context. I know enough about shrinkage and everything, but in its flaccid form I find the whole thing so goofy that I'd rather not look or think about it. And when I first saw mine, er, Zack's, it was definitely in a relaxed state. And I was certainly not in a position to change that.

Then time goes by. You get comfortable. You've used it for its other purpose enough that putting your hands on it doesn't seem so weird anymore, but as much as you want to regain that sexual attachment it's just... equipment. I worked hard to mentally get over that hurdle and think how cool it should be that I now have access to something I have been curious about since I was old enough to have sex... or old enough to pretend I knew what sex was like! But the thrilling part didn't come because all the stresses and frustrations of our lives were swirling around me. Al my anxieties about my relationship and caring for my boyfriend in the body of this older woman... made me think about him first and me not at all. There were times I would actually forget I wasn't a woman anymore, if you can believe it.

The past six weeks have been sexually frustrating because neither of us had wanted to have sex. David was adamant that he was not interested in letting me explore that region of his new body, and I certainly didn't push the issue because as well-preserved and beautiful in a  "grand dame" kind of way as Lena is, I didn't feel attraction.

Until I did.

We were sitting on the couch - apart, to give him the space he desires now - really not doing anything, bingeing a really bad MTV show I had TiVo'd, when suddenly I became hyper-aware of the person next to me. Something clicked into place that made me think, this is not just an older woman, this is a beautiful woman, and she has the mind and soul of the man I love. When she would get up to get a beer, I would get a peek at her body - her hips, her bum, and think... wow. There's really something going on there.

And then "Little Jenn" woke up.

It was the craziest feeling, good and bad all at once. No wonder guys are so obsessed with their boners, it's impossible to think of anything else when you have one! I tried to adjust myself in my seat, I hoped to God that he wouldn't notice the bulge protruding from my pants, and of course he didn't.

When I could find a moment I excused myself to the restroom to get a look.

It looked huge. Huge and stiff, just like I had hoped. Almost instinctively, I wrapped my hand around it and found it a perfect fit - again, no wonder guys are always doing this, their bodies are designed for it!

Just the sight of it, the feel of it in my hand, the feel of my hand on it, I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. It was like a missing piece of me had returned - different from before but most welcome. It was exactly the fantasy of being the opposite sex that you would think, that I wasn't experiencing and didn't think I really would!

And to my dismay... it didn't take very long. I tried to make it last but just as I was getting off and running... I had a mess on my hands.

I felt drained, I felt ashamed... I felt like... the world must surely know what I had done and how wrong it was, and that David would be so disappointed (for some reason, even though it's obvious he doesn't care.) The unabashed, sexy thoughts I had had just moments earlier turned sour in my head and left me. Sex was the last thing I wanted to think about, as my little unit shrunk back up. It felt good, for the moment, and really great for a split second, and then just like that it was over. And in that moment, I really felt like I understood men a million times better than I ever thought I would. Why they are the way they are, how they can treat women the way they do. Just for a moment though, and that doesn't excuse it for them.

After feeling sour at the end of the experience, I thought that was it - I had tried it once, and liked it a bit and felt down afterwards so I probably wasn't going to want more of it. But lo and behold, the next day, the feeling came back. My mind started wandering and ideating all these scenarios, pushing this confusing but enticing narrative of myself as a sexy, sexual male and any person I could imagine as a potential partner (I'm trying to steer it at David, but knowing how unreceptive he is to this whole thing makes even the idea of fantasizing about him a little dicey somehow.... which is a whole other issue.) It's all this weird hormonal rush, on a schedule that's all new to me.

Up until all this, I was feeling the lack of intimacy, and the lack of desire to be intimate, but also understanding where I was at and where my partner was at. I accepted the new status quo that, sure maybe we won't be a couple that is intimate, at least for a while. But now I've moved into this new phase and I'm really hoping David can join me in this place and maybe we can explore that together. I love him as a person, as difficult as he can be and as hard as it has been to weather all this. And I want to show that love, and support him, and maybe - if he wants - reawaken this part of him, of "us."

Until then... I guess I'm, just on my own.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Tyler/Valerie: How did I let this happen?

So, I'm still living with Ryan and the guys while I wait for Maddie to get out of her lease. Life, on the whole, is miserable and unfulfilling, and every day I question the wisdom of staying here - especially if this is what I've let become of me.

There has been one unexpected bright spot, which is a little bittersweet. See, I've made a new friend.

One morning, I just couldn't sleep. The guys were being loud and I've gotten so tired of being the "bad guy," the "house mom" trying to keep them quiet and well-behaved that I just let them go and suffered. Surely this must be some kind of female rite of passage, minimizing your own needs because it's too much trouble and you worry about sounding like a nag.

Eventually, they quieted down, but I was stricken by insomnia for the rest of the night. I stayed up reading from probably 3 until 5 AM, at which point I realized I was working at 6:30 and it was time to start getting ready.

So I got up, got in the shower and went to the kitchen to make myself breakfast while I dried off. I was halfway dressed, standing in my jeans and bra when I got caught up reading about the Kavanaugh hearings.

Then all of a sudden, in walks Alexa, just coming in from a morning run.

"Hey," she says, noticing I'm transfixed on my tablet, "What are you reading about?"

For a half a second I felt embarrassed - I'm there in my bra, my tits virtually fully out there - but then I realize she doesn't care, and I don't care, and we start talking. I started to summarize the article for her. And before I know it, I'm really more weirded out that I'm having an adult conversation with Alexa, a girl I honestly didn't think I could stand.

From there, we started bumping into each other more and more and exchanging pleasantries and everything and even having running text conversations. And along the way I realized that maybe I only disliked her because I prejudged her based on her appearance, or because I saw her as competition for Ryan. Now I dislike Ryan (secretly) but Alexa has actually done nothing wrong to me. And I'm realizing she's pretty ok.

Then I realized... I've wronged her.

I mean, I slept with her boyfriend. I thought they were breaking up, but I seriously could have used more discretion. (It's also no excuse that I thought I was getting a new body soon after.) I'm content to lay that at the feet of Ryan since before, I had no personal relationship with Alexa and I was duped, and she is being duped. but now we're all buddy-buddy and every second I don't come clean to her I actually am doing something wrong.

We had this really great conversation the other day sort of clearing the air - at least as far as she knew - about her theory that of why I was really standoffish toward her, how "I" was Ryan's old friend and protective of him and she was the new girl. How she thought I was cool and wished we could become better friends, but it never seemed like a good time to strike up a one-on-one conversation. And now here we are, several mornings per week having coffee together at 6 AM!

It's nice - honestly at this point I really crave female friendship because I love that they don't stare at my chest while we talk (well, some do) - but it feels so tainted and wrong and honestly I deserve to be whupped over this one. This is the kind of shit that always makes me want to run away, only I can't this time.

Dang, y'all.


Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Jonah/Krystle: This Can Be... Nice?

Here's a fun fact:  In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you can't buy cold medicine without a state ID.  I discovered this by finding the medicine cabinet empty half an hour before I had to be at work with a runny nose, going to CVS to get some cough syrup, and discovering the license I inherited from Krystle expired sometime in the last couple months.  It says I'm 26, and the guy at the counter says I should take it as a compliment that he thinks I could pass for 18 (which sounds significantly less cool when you actually are 19), but it means that I'm going to have to make do with a roll of cough drops and bag of tissues.

Moira was sympathetic, sort of.  "That's not gonna be good for the tips, is it?  I can get you a smaller shirt from the office if you want something to counter it."

"Red, even if I was gonna try and make my living off my breasts, I'm kind of still lactating, so I'm really not into the squeezing."

"Really, after a month?  Is me namesake sneakin' in for midnight snacks while you're asleep or something?"

I shrugged, hoping this was the end of boob talk for the night, although it's better to hear it from Moira than a customer.  Moira, at least, will dash of to get me some DayQuil during her break.

Long story shorter, I wound up at the Registry of Motor Vehicles a couple mornings later, thankful that I didn't actually have to retake a driving test or anything, just get a new ID card that has a chip in it or something.  It was kind of nerve-wracking.

Ashlyn and Penny both say that's kind of natural, that your first time going to some government office and saying "I'm so-and-so, here's proof" after you've decided that's how things are going to be can't help but remind you that you are, really, a fake, and they both weren't getting resistance from the people they were saying they were.  Not that I was expecting the real Krystle to skip fifth grade and come down to mess things up, but it reminds you that this life is stolen, and you stole it.

But on the other hand, when going through all the "bring one from this list and one from this other list", I kind of feel like there isn't enough evidence that I am Krystle and here.  I'm loving with her mother, so I don't have any utility bills, and I don't have a credit card.  There's stuff from doctors, but in a lot of ways, this makes me feel like I'm still a kid rather than living a life of a woman in her mid-20s like the card's gonna say.  Sure, I'm really 19, but unless something even more surprising than getting knocked up happens, I'm not getting that time back.

Which is a thought you have in the RMV, let me tell you.  I got a lot of stuff filed online early, but you've still got to be there to get your picture taken and sign stuff.  Momma Kamen said she would look after Little Moira, which meant I was in a crowded waiting area alone, and that makes me nervous.  Having her to fuss over doesn't quite let me form a little bubble around myself, but she does make me a little less aware of how guys stare at girls who look like me and discourages some of them.  Wait long enough, look bored enough, and someone will decide that means you need them to make things interesting; Lord knows that I'd start thinking that way after I was in a room with a pretty girl for about thirty seconds before the Inn.

So I did what I could to pay rapt attention to Penny's new book on my Kindle, wishing I could put earbuds in as much to say "not looking for conversation" as to listen to the music, but that's a good way to miss your number being called.  I got a fair amount of lines anyway - my own fault for putting make-up on so that I might actually have a decent picture, I guess.  Still, it had been about ten minutes without one before someone jumped up when his number was called, his backpack not properly zipped up, and had a book fall out the back.  I waited a second to see if anybody else would do anything, them picked it up and caught up with him.  "Hey, you dropped this."

He was distracted but said thank you, replacing it and then making sure to zip his bag up properly, then scooted to his window.  I grabbed a new seat, and then five minutes later my number gets called, I hand over my three forms of identification, sign a couple things, and get my picture taken.  It reminded me that Momma Kamen's apartment is where I was registered to vote, which I'm kind of ashamed to admit that I hadn't given a lot of thought to.

I was leaving with my temporary card when I saw that guy waiting.  I took a few breaths and then tried to walk quickly past him.  It didn't work, though, since I hadn't checked for stairs on the way in, and he was able to keep pace anyway.

"Hey, I just wanted to say thanks for getting me my book, and was wondering if I could get you lunch by way of, uh, saying thank you.  Ugh, that doesn't sound right."

"Really, it's no big deal, and I've got to get back home to my baby."  No eye contact.

"That's cool, I get it, but I'm sure whoever is watching her would believe you were stuck here long enough for a sandwich.  Honest, I'd feel bad."

I looked up, ready to say no, but I got a good look at him.  He's white, mid-twenties, with something between five-o'clock shadow and an actual beard, and he's looking at my face rather than my chest with a smile that seemed pretty genuine, and I thought, hey, it's just a sandwich, maybe not blinking when I mentioned a baby means he isn't looking for a girl, and I kind of missed just talking with guys.  So I said yes, and we headed to a Subway.

As we sat down, I told him I didn't think he was coming out ahead on this, because you can pick a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance up just about anywhere.  "Not this one," he said, opening it up to show it filled with highlighter and notes.

"Your copy from high school?"

"My Dad's, actually, but it got, like, passed up.  After my Dad would finish a book, Grandpa would read it to practice his English and try and understand some of these building blocks of American culture.  He's the one who made all the notes, and it's been really interesting seeing these from a different perspective."

"Oh, that's cool.  Can I see?"  He handed it to me and I flipped through it a bit, kind of amazed by the handwriting in the margins that might have been even more regular than the pronged pages.  "I wish I could do something like this, but even if I had the books, family has been complicated lately."

"I hear that.  I decider not to take the bar exam a year ago, and I don't think they've liked any decision I've made since.  They say they want me to be happy, but 'this just isn't the life we imagined for you, son'."

"Tell me about it.  You should see most of my folks - they love Little Moira, but hate the whole idea of me being a single mother, and most act like I should... uh, just choose for things to be different."

"Well, that certainly puts me driving a ride-share to make up for how my internship pays almost nothing in perspective."

"Sorry!  I wasn't trying to do that - it's just always on my mind, you know?  Drives my old friends nuts.  But enough about me - where are you interning that's worth that?"

"Oh, just a business on Causeway Street, really no big deal."

My eyes narrowed.  "You trying to set up a humblebrag about working for the Celtics?"

"Or the Bruins!  That's cool too!"

"Yeah, I guess."  Truth be told, a lot of the guys I grew up with in New Hampshire would think it was even cooler, but I didn't skate.  "What's that about?"

"Research, mostly, and a lot of trying to boil executives' thoughts down to PowerPoint presentations.  But you learn a lot immersing yourself in that stuff that might help you work your way up to being an executive yourself."

"Neat.  I'm a waitress, so I guess I might try and work my way up to bartender."

"Hey, at least the restaurant eventually closes for the night.  Sometimes I've got to make calls to clear something up about a potential draft pick who grew up in Siberia..."

We talked for what couldn't really have been much more than fifteen minutes, until our sandwiches were gone, and we left the building, both heading to the T station.  He jogged in front of me and turned around, walking backwards for a bit.  "Okay, I want going to make this an asking-you-out thing, but I've got to say - I really want to ask you out."

I stopped dead at that.  "I, uh...  You know, I don't think I'd mind."

"Really?  Okay.  Awesome.  So, here's my card with my phone number and email and stuff, so you don't have to give me any contact info you don't want to.  I don't mean to put the pressure on you, but it sounds like working nights and with the baby, your schedule might be less predictable than mine--"

I took the card, thinking about how this might have never occurred to me when asking a girl out.  "That's really considerate..."  I looked down, realizing we'd never actually exchanged names.   "...Calvin."

"You think?  Some of the guys at work say it looks weak, but there was this thing with my sister..." I must have looked alarmed, because he shook his head to anticipate what I was going to ask.  "No, nothing happened to her, but I figure not everyone's going to build herself an app to create random email addresses the way she did."

"That's good.  Well, like you said, things do keep me pretty busy, but if you get an email where 'Crystal' is misspelled two separate ways..."

He chuckled, and then got on his Green Line train while I waited for an Orange.

I almost flipped his card away a couple times in the days since then.  He's nice, and I guess good-looking if your taste goes to skinny white boys, but he's also a barely-paid intern and not really looking to date so much as find a husband who can help provide for my family, which is what I told Moira when she asked what had me distracted and then proceeded to pull the whole story out.

"That's stupid."  Red is not one to mince words.  "Look, obviously I'm not in your situation, but he sounds like a good'un, who didn't freak out when you mentioned your kid, and have you considered that you might be worth settling down for?  Besides--" She grinned.  "It can't hurt to get some practice going out before you try and land the one who can look after ye, can it?"

"I, uh, just don't know if I can be that type of, uh, again."

Ashlyn had wandered over by then, so Moira rolled her eyes and told her cousin to talk to me.

Which she did.  "It's okay to have a crush on a guy, you know.  Even to act on it.  I know a lot of your experiences that relate directly to being a woman have been difficult and scary, but remember that it can be good enough that a lot of us choose to stay this way.  I can't speak to your beliefs, but I can't imagine that God would want your daughter to have a mother who thinks being a girl is a bad thing."

I've got to admit, she's right about that, and I thought about it while shopping with Little Moira a couple days later.  She's gotten to the point where she twirls and giggles when trying on a new dress in front of the mirror, and I certainly don't want to take that away from her because I look miserable.  When groups of college students get far enough off the beaten path to find The Changeling, I do kind of find myself a little more drawn to the all-girl ones than the all-guy ones, just for the attitude.  And I don't know if I realized it at the time, but I felt something while talking to Calvin.

So as soon as this posts, I'll send him a long-delayed email.  Who knows

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Jordan/Yuan-wei: Yes, It's Me, In the Sari

I dunno if Annette is going to make a post about the wedding on this blog, but I figure I'll leave all the really touristy, holy-shit-I'm-really-doing-this stuff to her, because as anybody who has seen her Facebook page over the last couple weeks can attest, she is really into doing that right now.  And who can blame her, really?  She's been an Indian-American dude, but only really did stuff that emphasized the "Indian" part of that a few times, plus it's all so foreign to everyone she knows in her "real" life that they more or less demand every second be documented, and she has happily complied.

We planned it so that our flights arrived in Mumbai at about the same time, and then Kareena was there to pick us up.  There was a lot of hugging before Kareena told us that we weren't just attending, but would be part of the bridal party.  "Mummydaddy didn't want that at first, since it's usually just family and closest friends, but I didn't think it was right that either of you should be off in the back, since me and Jor -- that is, Benny -- wouldn't be together without you two, I insisted."  She looked panicked for a second.  "It's that too much?  Maybe you wanted to be anonymous--"

Annette, at least, was down for it.  "Hell, no, just be warned - I am going to be the worst gawking American with her phone out all the time!  How 'bout you, Jordo?"

I have to admit, I had kind of figured it would be like René at my graduation, there but kind of just out of curiosity, but I also know I wasn't going to watch my own wedding without Annette there for moral support, so what the hell else could I do but say yes?  Which meant a quick drive into the city, where Kareena had some pretty specific ideas for what we needed in terms of outfits.

Also, that our plans to fight jet lag and be really fresh for the second days ceremonies were kind of dashed, because now we had to be at the ganesh pooja, and while it was a nice ceremony, it was kind of uncomfortable.  Benny was there, so they weren't conducting it entirely in Hindi, but I think that they would have otherwise just to spite us.  Kareena had been necessity vague about how we fit into her going from a not-quite-arranged marriage to what they see as rushing into things with Ravi's old roommate, so they think maybe one of us slept with him or was rejected and faked evidence of him being gay or something like that.  Since some of have probably been putting some way to get Kareena and Ravi back together for the last couple years, we're not exactly welcome guests to them.

The atmosphere was a little different the next morning as we all got our hands and feet painted at the mehndi ceremony; that was almost all Kareena's girlfriends and they just saw it as romantic, wanting details of how everything went down.  We kept to the story about how "Jordan" used to be a big gamer and "Yuan-wei" was one of the folks he regularly played with, that I met Annette at some college-night thing, we took a trip to New York, and one or the other of us noticed some sort of chemistry between him and Kareena, especially once he started getting into shape.  It's a cover story that sounds like one when Annette and I hear it, but I guess it sounds reasonable to everyone else.

It takes a while and I feel genuinely weird looking at my skin afterward.  The henna patterns look like tattoos and I don't know that I really like that.  I never got one back in my original life, didn't even consider my body my own as Deirdre, and just never saw how injecting ink into my skin was going to make me better-looking since becoming Yuan-wei, especially since I could still  remember Mom & Dad saying that there could come a time when I didn't want one,  and figured that went double for chicks.  I put on makeup and jewelry and sometimes do prosthetics for movies and Halloween and shit, but seeing my body as an artistic medium was weird, even if I'm probably more used to it as malleable than most.

The sangeet was that night, and I nearly had a heart attack when I saw Mom, Dad, Max, and Bingbing arrive and sit down away from me, with Benny.  When I didn't see them, I could kind of put the fact that the Inn cut me off from my family out of mind, but this hit me a lot fucking harder than expected, them traveling to the other side of the world for Benny.  It also removed me that I hadn't just come here out of obligation, and that Benny hadn't agreed to the big Indian wedding to make Kareena happy.  We were trying to get them into a state of mind where we could tell them the truth.

Annette grabbed my hand and was an awesome friend through this, but I didn't get much sleep after, and the next morning, as we all helped Kareena get ready, I really wondered about some stuff for the first time.  She looked so damn beautiful and happy, and I thought about how is always just fucking dismissed her back when she was sort of Ravi's girlfriend, I guess because of the whole arrangement that seemed to drop her in his lap, but I couldn't help going down the what-if path, like, if I'd been in shape, would she have been attracted to me the same way she was to Benny?  Then maybe I never go to the Inn, or I wind up taking Max or something, and, nope, just gross.  And maybe Annette has nobody who can help her out and gets in a real mess as Yuan-wei, or Benny steals Kareena from me...

It'll drive you nuts if you go down that rabbit hole, so I dug out and just got through the wedding.  I haven't really been to a lot, but, man, these Indian ones are colorful and festive compared to Western ones with churches and bland suits - there was horses drums, and fire!  It lasted a while, but it was good for gawking, and then there was the reception with food, music, and so much dancing.

I was a bit creeps out when the first Chinese guy asked me to dance, but he was like a second cousin, and even if we were still blood relations, well, that's not that close, and he was respectful enough when I removed his hand from my ass.  That I hadn't seen any of them for fifteen years made a lot of difference, as did the fact that, by and large, they were kind of a nice break between Kareena's male relatives and friends and neighbors and all.  Don't get me wrong, the Indian dudes are all cool and fun, and I've got no fucking problem with guys seeing me as hot in part because I'm different, but the confidence and directness was a bit much, especially the ones who pushed the conversation to marriage awful quick and then boasted about the size of their parents' house.

Still, I had a lot more fun than I'd ever had at one of these as a guy, to the point that I was still going strong when Annette tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to my parents, who were winding down and making their way to tell Benny and Kareena they were done for the night.  I made my way back to my seat to collect the shoes I had taken off earlier (we were well into the barefoot dancing stage of things) and Annette went to find Max.  We all meet up in the hallway and told them that we had something important to tell them, although Annette and Bingbing stayed behind in the hall when we got to Mom's and Dad's guest room.

Dad asked what this was about, and Benny looked at me.  "Should you start, or should I...?"

"Oh God, they're in some sort of weird poly thing."

I think we all looked a little shocked to hear my mom say that, but Kareena recovered first.  "No!  But, honey, I think you have to start."

Benny nodded, and turned to my parents.  "Okay.  Well, them, here goes.  I'm, uh, I'm not your son.  She is."

I looked at him.  "Oh, that's fucking eloquent.  Real sense of the moment you've got there."

My Dad looked at Benny, then me, then back to Benny.  "I'm afraid I don't get the joke, son, or why you'd do this tonight of all nights."

"It's not a joke, Da-- Mister Chang.  There's this cursed beach house in Maine, and it turns people into the last person to stay there.  I stayed there after Jordan, like, four years ago, and we were going to all change back, but that's how I met Kareena, so we didn't."

"Think back, Dad - didn't we think it was weird that Jordan suddenly started to become easy to get along with and care about his health when he came back from that trip to Maine with Ravi?"

I gave him a look.  "You know, you could have mentioned suddenly no longer speaking Chinese and changing jobs...

"Stop it!"  Mom looked at us.  "This isn't funny, and Kareena, I would not think you would be a part of the boys doing this."

"I wouldn't if it was a joke, Mama Chang, but we kind of have to.  Jordan, the new Jordan, he tried to tell me five times - he hates keeping anything from me - but the curse protects itself even beyond it being hard to believe.  I always thought it was just a metaphor for him trying to change his life until the night he proposed, and I realized he wouldn't risk that moment unless he really meant it.  That's the only time the truth can get into your mind, when your life is already changing.  We were just hoping this was going to be a big change for you, and not just us."

"That's--"  She looked at me.  "Tell me something only my Jordan would know."


Mom gave Dad a look, then turned back to me.  "Come on, make me believe this."

So I did, and if I made sure to do it in Cantonese so that Benny and Kareena didn't understand, I'm sure as fuck not putting it on the Internet for anyone to read.

They didn't quite seem to believe us, but Dad was getting angry anyway.  "This doesn't make sense!  You say you could turn back but didn't, and how do you know if this is supposed to be protected?" He looked hard at Max, who stammered that was a while other story.

"It's part of mine.  There are some bad people out there that use the Inn, and Max got caught up."

"So you say.  But even if this is true, why tell us?  Why make us feel like fools?"

"Don't you want to know, Mom?  I mean, okay, things are going to be weird, but the weird things have explanations now!"

"Do they?  Even if this is all true, you said you could have changed back, but you didn't, even after someone else hit the gym for you!  Why didn't you?"

"Benny and Kareena--"

"Bullshit!"  Dad moved his gaze between me and Benny.  "I love my son, but that's not like you.  You could be so selfish!"

That fucking hurt.  "Do you have any idea what it's like to see someone take your life and improve it?  To just watch someone make your body and then make friends and get a great girl and even find a job he doesn't hate and just absolutely know that you're going to fuck it up?  It's goddamn terrifying, and I thought I was going to get into a very different situation instead of this!"

This time Mom was the one looking between us, not sure exactly what she should believe our who she should address.  "I...  I hope you don't think we loved you more just because--"

She started to well up, and I grabbed her hands.  "No!  And even if you did, that would have just meant that you were proud of me.  You couldn't have known!"

Our faces were close, enough for her to see my makeup, or my cleavage if she looked down a little.  "You do understand that is hard to look at you and see my son."

"It's been four years, Mom.  More than enough time to figure out bras and heels and lipstick."

"But I saw you on the dance floor, and you seemed so... enthusiastic.  Does that mean that before, you were--"

"Trans?  I don't think so - I'm hardly the first guy to visit the Inn and eventually be okay with the change to female, like it makes the new you the real you somehow.  But I dunno.  I'm into my appearance more, but I don't know if that means this is more 'right' or I've learned some sort of lesson or I just still like looking at hot chicks and that includes the mirror in the morning.  But the important stuff hadn't changed.  I still love Halloween and Hong Kong movies and the Mets.  I'm good with computers and still like to draw, and now I get to use them together."

I think that's when Mom really started to believe, although Dad needed a little more convincing.  We went through a lot of the last four years, although we didn't fill them in on all the details - I don't know enough about Bingbing's deal to spill and Max won't, and we left out the part about Max getting fucked by Annette. 

I guess it's good that they wanted to know a lot about Jacky and Ernesto - if they still thought I was just some random girl, they wouldn't really care about my (ex) (not really) boyfriends.  Or maybe they would.  On the other hand, they didn't say I should be paying off the student loans that Benny inherited, which I kind of expected.

So, I don't know if I'll be invited to Thanksgiving, or if Benny will be, or what.  But, man, is it a fucking load off.