Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Tyler/Valerie: How rumors start

Two nights ago I was doing dishes for the umpteenth time since moving in while the guys (specifically Denny and Trent) were playing Xbox and I decided I'd had it.

"You guys mind helping out?"

"Well there's only one sink," Trent said without pausing the game.

"It's called taking turns," I said.

"Ehh," Denny said, "I cook a lot so it's not exactly fair if I have to do dishes too."

I point out that I don't eat much of the food he makes but I still find myself cleaning it, and when I cook (I'm much better than him anyway) I still do the dishes.. His smartass reply is that that's my choice. Ryan, my one ally around here, was of course out with his girlfriend Alexa.

Trent adds that he "doesn't really know how to clean" and that I'd do a much better job so there was no point in him pitching in. I told him he could figure it out, and if this was my choice then it was time to choose not to. I dropped everything in the sink and walked off.

I was so pissed I went to my room and started texting around to see if I could hang out with - and maybe stay with anyone I knew. Pete was busy of course, (one day I'm going to have to ask exactly what s/he gets up to) and Marie had family over, and with the baby and all there's not usually a good time. That kind of left only one person to answer, and he was all too happy to do so.

"Chickpea!" Rafe opened the door with that big stupid grin on his face  right away when I knocked.

"I regret this already," I sighed.

"I honestly didn't think you were gonna honor that rain check," he said.

"Well, I figured what the hell," I said, "You've toned it down a bit this week."

"Thanks for noticing," He snorted, "I'm not so bad am I?"

I entered and looked around. It was a sty but a one-man sty unlike my place.

"You've got to be aware of your rep. It seems pretty well earned."

An open bag of chips was on the kitchen table. "This dinner?" I took a fee.

"Just the appetizer. Dinner was by Swansons."

"Ew," I rolled my eyes, "Learn to cook. Women love it, as long as you don't make them do the dishes."

"I'll bet you do," he said back, and I wasn't sure if he meant 'you women' or me in particular. I didn't ask.

"Place is pretty nice. You afford it by yourself?"

"My parents help," he said, he said nonchalantly.

"Translation... They pay, while you spend your twenties 'Figuring it out.' I should have smelled the money on you."

He didn't acknowledge that. "Well, come on in. I've even got your favorite ice cream."

"Creepy," I smirked. "So what are we up to tonight?"

"I can think of a few things," he said.

"This should go without saying, but all clothes will remain on for the duration."

"Sure, sure," he said, pretending to be indignant (at least I hope he was pretending.)

I noticed something paused on the TV screen. "What's this?"

"Oh, uh, Riverdale. Kind of a guilty pleasure." He seemed embarrassed.

"That's that show with the sexy Archie and Betty and Veronica?" I wondered whether people Val's age even knew Archie comics before this show came on. (And then I thought, I'm not that much older, am I?)

"Yeah, and there's a murder mystery," he said, I guess trying to make it sound more manly (and failing.)

"Sounds cheesy. I'm in."

"Really? You came all the way over just to watch a show we both agree is probably pretty bad?"

"Why not," I said, "One of the best dates I ever had was staying up on a hotel room watching I, Frankenstein, which was the worst."

"Lucky guy," Rafe said.

"Yeah... He was," I sighed, referring to myself.

"So... Is this a date then?" He asked.

I twisted my mouth, "Let's not go nuts..."

He gave me a beer and flipped the Netflix back to the beginning and we wanted like six or seven weirdly gripping episodes before I started to drift off. He let me lie down with my feet up on his lap - a perk of shortness is that I can do this on any couch and basically stretch all the way out.

He must have crept away sometime and left a wooly blanket on me. I was more tired than I thought I would be. I woke up on the middle of the night to pee - as I do pretty much every night - and was momentarily spooked to find myself still there. When I tried to fall back asleep I got a little paranoid about how I was sleeping on a near-stranger's couch and that he might think I'm leading him on and try to do something to me... But nothing did happen of course. Then my mind started racing in all these other directions about the various stressful, painful aspects of my life, and I felt sad sleeping on this chilly, lumpy sofa alone.

Then before I knew it, it was daylight and he woke me up by sitting down on the couch next to my feet. I must have fallen back asleep eventually.

After asking if I slept okay (and me lying and saying yes) he suggested we hit up his favorite breakfast spot. It was a twenty minute subway ride away and I hadn't showered, but he swore the bagels would be worth it.

"All this way just for bagels? You can get those anywhere."

"How long have you lived in Brooklyn? You should know all bagels are not created equal." Once I tasted the product, I had to admit he was right.

Over breakfast we got to talking. I asked what he wanted to be besides a barista and he said he was a writer. I asked what he wrote and he said he was working on "Something of a semi-autobiographical novel. Basically a memoir."

I teased him a bit. "Oh really! What have you done to warrant a memoir?"

"Hey, I've got plenty of material."

"I'm sure," I snickered.

"Oh and you've had such a fascinating life? What has ever happened to you?"
My face stiffened. "Well, I was recently dumped horribly on my wedding day. That's gotta be good for a few chapters."
He blushed, somewhat acknowledging his faux pas. "I'll give you that," he muttered, his voice mingling embarrassment and irritation. I actually felt a little weird saying it because for a moment it didn't even really feel like it had happened to me, even though it definitely did, and it definitely didn't feel good.
"What else you got?" he said, snapping back into his more obnoxious character.

For a moment I wanted to play the "man magically cursed into living as three different women" card... And hell, even before that I might've had a tale or two worth telling. But as Valerie, I don't think I had much of a case. "Not a lot, I'll admit."

"Well, it isn't the story, you know. It's how you tell it." I hope he noticed me rolling my eyes.

Still, it was nice speaking to him on those terms. I had been hanging out with him for several hours and my skin hadn't crawled once. And I had to admit the bagels were pretty great.

He had the day off but I had the afternoon shift so we went to the coffee shop together. It was almost gentlemanly, until he noticed a woman coming out of the shop who happened to have large pair of breasts. His head snapped in her direction so fast he must have gotten whiplash.

I'd like to think I would usually have taken it on myself to defend her as a new member of the sex, who has had to deal with a fair share of leers, but I guess we had bonded a bit. Still I couldn't let it slide so I let him know how obvious he was by ribbing him about it: "Come on, she was a seven."

He seemed surprised that I would say anything about it, let alone that, but after a beat he regained his composure and said "Yeah but her tits were ten each."

After that remark I felt a little gross for encouraging it. Trying to make locker room guy talk was like putting on clothes that no longer fit. I felt weird for trying so hard to make him think I'm, I dunno, some kind of "cool" girl who acts like a guy... Even though deep down I still think of myself as a guy! Just not, hopefully, a cliche horn dog like him.

I went into the bathroom to put on a fresh pair of underwear, tights and deoderant - a nice thing about femininity is that you can carry all these things in your purse and people won't think much of it. When I came out, one of my co-workers, Maddie, was waiting to tsk tsk me.

"What was that about, you strolling in here with Rafe? Scandal..."

I lied, "We ran into each other on the subway."

"Suuure," she said, rolling her eyes and kind of laughing but keeping some judgment in her voice. I felt pretty bad for the rest of the day. It's weird. I'm kind of making friends with the guy, but I feel like I shouldn't. But as much as he deserves his bad reputation, I hate to admit there's a decent guy in there. It's all part of me lately being very confused about my place in the world.

-Tyler, Valerie

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Monday, March 05, 2018

Tyler/Valerie: Alone time

I don't know what I was thinking moving in with four guys. Probably deep down that I was still a guy so it would just be like old times. Uh uh. Living with four guys as a woman ain't no picnic.

It doesn't help that I'm mentally older than these bozos by nearly a decade so I'm past the "eating Swansons and drinking Pabst in your jockeys" phase. I'm not saying you can't eat in front of the TV ever but I'm definitely "notices crumbs on the carpet" years old. I'm "Another random sock stuck in the couch cushions??" Years old. I'm "What does it take to get someone to scrub a dish??" Years old. Denny fancies himself a future MasterChef, loves to experiment, but leaves the evidence of his projects festering in the sink for days.

Even though my time as Judith may be influencing my need for cleanliness, I choose to frame this as an age thing, not a girl thing. These guys are years out of college, they should be up to speed by now. And yeah, I resent the implication that I need to be their live-in maid if I want it to be less filthy around here.

Ryan is the only one with a girlfriend, no surprise. So he's out most often. I don't have much of a relationship with the others and I guess I'm just not in a place to confront anyone about anything.

I'm already regretting moving in but there's no way I could find something comparable, in the neighborhood, affordable. I'll have to live with it. It won't be easy though.

This past weekend I found myself with the place to myself for the first time. I knew the guys were all planning on being out, potentially late, so I had no time to lose. I was going to treat myself right. I was going to put on something comfortable, take a nice hot bath, grab a bowl of my favorite hipster ice cream, and watch Die Hard in my robe.

So I was at the store getting the ice cream and... Fuck my life, it's on the top shelf. And there's only one left. I look around and there's no one to flag down to help a 5-foot-tall female out, so I try standing on my tiptoes, climbing awkwardly on the bottom shelf... I lasted a half a second before I could hear it buckling. Just when I was about to quit in frustration, I hear an annoyingly familiar voice: Rafe, from work.

"Chickpea!" He calls out. That's his "cute" nickname for me, ("Because you're a chick who's the size of a pea.") He gives little nicknames out to all the girls, at least the ones he would want to sleep with (ie, all of us.)

"Having a little trouble?" He asks smugly.

Flush with embarrassment, I groan, "Just trying to get some ice cream..."

He reaches up for the tub. "Choco Frenzy. Sounds good." I'm burning with rage that this guy gets to be 6'2.

Rafe... if I had a nickel for every time I came home from work irritated because of something that guy said or did. For instance, it gets very crowded behind the counter so when he has to pass behind any of us he puts his hands slightly on our hips as if to "guide" himself, playing dumb when we tell him not to. I see him eyeballing all the girls when they/we wear tights or yoga pants to work (sue me, they're comfortable and light.) I once heard him describe, at length, a scale "from tasty to wastey" to gauge how good a girl was in bed. Stupid crap like that.

He's the only straight guy working behind the counter anyway, so I don't know who he thinks enjoys his shit. I guess it's just him amusing himself, bugging the defenseless young ladies who work with us. He's decently behaved with the customers, which is why he doesn't get in trouble.

Something about his face bugs me, too. His scrawny neck, pointy jaw, the bags under his eyes, the way he wears his long hair in a man-bun. His whole deal annoys me, I'm just trying not to be shallow about it by bringing up all the other annoying crap about this guy... but that's part of it too.

He starts to walk away with the ice cream. "Excuse me!" I call out.

He turns back and flashes me that shit-eating grin, "What?"

"That's my--" I stop myself. "...Forget it."

"You want this?" he holds up the pint. "Must be good. I know you love ice cream."

"What makes you say that?" I sneer.

"You just look like a girl who enjoys her dessert."

I immediately glance down and, after seeing the familiar sights that have greeted me for the past several months bulging out of my sweater. My neck straightens back up. I'm a little choked up with anger that he called me fat, which I'm not, and just shocked at the gall he was showing by doing so in public.

After thinking on it, I'm more annoyed that I was so defensive anyway since it's not even really my body! And there's nothing wrong with being curvy or plus-sized or anything anyway! But still, I'm not fat! Just big-boobed and short. Just a way men can get under women's skin, and fuck, it was working.

So all of these various reasons to be angry were colliding in my head, and he looks at my obviously stunned face and starts to laugh. "Woah, don't have a cow!" he snickers.

At that point my annoyance and pseudo-rage turns to something else. "'Have a cow?' What, is 90's slang back? Because that... would be radical."

He doesn't laugh at my awesome joke but that's okay because it lets me go back to being annoyed. "Can I just have the ice cream?"

He smirks again, "Well it's mine, obviously. If you want, we can share..."

I huff, "Forget it, Rafe. Enjoy." I turn to go to the checkout.

"Aw, come on, Pea!" he calls out, following after me. "Come on, we never hang out outside of work."

"Wonder why," I say flatly.

"We could have fun," he says.

"I'm not looking for fun," I say as insistently as I can, hoping he'll back off.

"Val," he says, using my "real" name for maybe the first time in months, "If you're seriously going to go home and eat ice cream by yourself, I find that incredibly sad. I know you've just gone through a big break-up..."

"Broken engagement," I correct him.

"You're just going to wallow in sadness, and that's your idea of a fun night?"

"I'm not gonna wallow," I say, "I'm gonna... revel. I haven't had a night to myself in forever. Is it so wrong for a guy--er, girl, to want to be alone once in a while?"

"You swear this is what you want?" he says.

"Been dreaming about it all week."

He shrugs and hands over the ice cream. "Maybe next time."

I sigh. "Maybe." Doubt it, though. "Have a good one."

He leaves and I cash out and go home.

About an hour into Die Hard, Trent and Denny get home, drunk. "Shit, Die Hard's on!"

They were about to park themselves on the couch, but I improvised. "Oh, is that what this is? I was just channel hopping..." and switched it over to 27 Dresses on the Women's channel to scare 'em off.

They were on their way out again but I had to keep it on the Katherine Heigl movie for the entire time they were there, 45 minutes or so. Practically ruined my whole night.



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Friday, March 02, 2018

Simon/Joy: Done with All This

Maybe today would have gone different if I hadn't been so distracted by what's going on elsewhere.  Treena says that doesn't matter, and I shouldn't blame myself, and that I did what I had to in both cases, even if my male mind is going to second-guess part of it, saying I'm letting hormones make me overreact.  Which is nice of her to say, even if it's not practical.

It started a couple of days ago, when I got a phone call from Brian.  Things had taken a bad turn, he said.  The chemotherapy and radiation which had seemed to be working had suddenly become ineffective, and as a result, the cancer had completely consumed one of his/my testicles, and it would have to be removed.  On top of that, there were indications that it may have metastasized, so even after the operation, we might not be out of the woods.

Hearing that about someone you know is never easy, and hearing it from the person who assumed your life because of a cursed hotel is a punch in the gut outsiders really can't imagine.  But try, and then imagine that you picked up the phone while in your bra and panties, doing your makeup for a night out with a couple of your best girlfriends.

Your immediate first reaction is that it's your fault, and not because something in your diet or lifestyle or something you'd exposed your body to before the Trading Post Inn took a snapshot of its exact state to apply to the next guy had created the cancer and it just hasn't become noticeable until after the changes.  No, the fact that I've kind of enjoyed being a pretty young girl, taken advantage of what it gave me, to the point where a moment ago I had been wondering if the high heels I was pairing with my dress were sparkly enough, that set something adrift in the universe that attacked my true form's masculinity in response.  It makes a stupid amount of sense, especially if you've got a roommate who talks a lot about karma and energy and connectedness.  Like, you know there's magic in the world (or, as one guy I know suggests, aliens conducting a long-running social experiment), and maybe that's the sort of thing that actually affects it.  Sure, it hasn't really worked that way for anyone else, but who knows?

I text the girls that I can't make it and spend a couple hours talking to Brian.  It's not a great conversation, but, hey, he needs it and I suddenly feel like getting into some sweatpants and watching sports anyway.  I have my first night where is really hard to sleep afterward, but I get through a day of work feeling kind of grateful that I can do this whole Brian goes through the hard stuff.

Today is basically going the same way until I had out to the suburbs for a showing.  It's one of the best listings I've got, and the guy I'm showing the house to is some sort of tech millionaire.  I'm feeling really good about it, thinking about what I can get with the commission, pointing out the large walk-in closet in one of the bedrooms, asking if there's a Mrs. Tech Millionaire who might appreciate it.  Maybe I'm being kind of flirty - I sort of turn it on by instinct if I think someone might be partial to petite blonde girls by now - but even if I am, it seems like he's mostly showing interest in the property.  Or at least, it seems that way until I realize I've wound up in the corner of this windowless space with a decent-sized guy between me and the door, with one hand on the wall next to my head.

I don't think there's a lot of intent to it; I've done stuff like that in my real life and tend to think of it as saying "hey, stick around" if it's saying anything, and girls who see an "or else" are just reading too much into it 99% of the time.  So I'm not really thinking of "escape" as I slide along the wall in the other direction, just that I've got a fair amount more house to show him.  He moves the same direction, puts his other hand on the other side of my head, and asks if I could fill this space.  I say I'm not the one shopping around today and duck underneath his arm, getting out of that closet and into a more open area.  I'm starting down a couple of steps toward a recessed hot tub when I'm bumped from behind and I have to do that thing where you make really quick, small steps to get down the steps in your heels without really falling.  I turned around at the bottom and asked if he was okay, because that's what you do.  He smiled, said he was sorry, and then indicated the basin with his eyes and asked if I brought a bathing suit (there was a trap over it, but you could faintly smell chlorine indicating it was filled).

Even if you're a guy inside and out, that's going to set off alarm bells (and not necessarily just omg gay! ones), so I back off, still trying to be friendly but also like, whoa, not the time or place.  But somehow I'm up against another wall, and he's real close.  His hand reaches out and for a moment I think it's going to wind up around my neck, but instead he sort of nestles my chin between his thumb and forefinger, then tips my head back before starting to lean in for a kiss.

I knee him in the groin.

The ladies-who-have-always-been-ladies probably don't understand how freaked out I have to be for that; even when a man finds someone taking it in the junk funny, he winces, and we just wouldn't consider doing it to one another, even inn a nasty fight.  We know how much that hurts.  I'm actually kind of horrified when I see him let me go and then stagger backward.  But I'm also really angry, wondering how much letting little things slide had led to this, so I do it again, this time really connecting because I'm not back against the wall and can aim that skinny kneecap.  If I'm not going to have a full complement of testes, no need for this asshole to have one.

I've got my fist clenched, the image of a  uppercut sending him flopping into the hot tub very clear in my head, but he holds his hand up and backs off, all the way to the driveway.  Once I've heard him drive off, I sink down into the nearest couch, and just shake for a while.  Then I go to the nearest bathroom and look in the mirror, kind of surprised at what I see.  It was over so fast that my hair wasn't mussed and my makeup didn't really need any touching up - there was a bit of a smudge on one cheek, but I hadn't cried, so nothing was running.  It was almost like it didn't happen.

I almost convince myself it didn't on the road back to the office, but the looks on every face there tell a different story.  I'm called into the same office as before Christmas, only this time, instead of staring at me coolly from behind the desk, he's pacing behind the chair where I sit as he asks what the fuck is wrong with me.

"I--  I'm sorry.  I didn't feel safe, so I just reacted."

"Oh, you didn't feel safe!"  He leaned in, mauve trying to see if I'd covered some injury with concealer or something.  "You certainly don't look like you've been through any sort of wringer."

"Yeah, because I acted before it could get that far!  Son of a bitch had his hands on my face; should I have waited until they were on my tits or in my panties?"

"There's no call for that sort of language, missy!"

"Are you shitting me?  Folks use that language in this office all the time, about those same tits and panties.  I don't mind like some chicks do - I can take it as the compliment it's intended to be - but that asshole crossed a line I told myself I wouldn't let anyone cross.  And if you're going to blame me for that..."

I got up, walked out, and started cleaning out my desk.  Loudly.  You might think that in sunny liberal #MeToo California, someone might have interceded on my behalf, but nope.  They just let me walk out to my car.  I think I overheard a comment about how I was just being emotional, but I'd be back Monday.

And maybe I will.  I've got to admit, this doesn't really feel like me, and maybe when I've got a little less adrenaline and female hormones running through my body later, I'll be able to sit back, think about how this is just what a woman has to do if she wants to play in men's worlds.  Tonight, though, I'll be going with booze.


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