Wednesday, May 30, 2018

J.T.: Limbo

I mentioned it in my first post, and I think Jordan/Missy has written about the question of where our shapes go after we get changed by the Inn a bit - she may be trying to make movies now, but in some ways she's still kind of a computers and tech person at heart (at least, I don't know a lot of filmmakers that think like her), trying to figure out mechanisms and storage space - but it's not really the first thing on our minds most of the time.  We're so "oh my God, I've got to pretend to be this other person!", at least until most of us have to deal with someone else who has to pretend to be them, that is kind of a relief to not think of the other side.  The brain can only handle so much, right?

But when you're the last person who stays in a room for a summer season,  there's no other person who takes on your identity, no you out there in the world.  And I don't think it's too arrogant for me to say that I left a bigger hole than some; being famous (or once famous enough that you still have some fans) means that the discussion of your absence online isn't entirely localized to your family and friends.  Heck, it got mentioned on TMZ, although not in a way that really came across as concerned.

I talked with Elaine about that a few times in person, although she wasn't terribly sympathetic, saying that she figured that explaining the fact that you weren't around ultimately had to be easier than explaining why you did something, because it's ultimately something nobody can either prove or disprove - "you" just aren't there to leave a trail.  She's going to have a mess to put into some sort of coherent narrative later, to say nothing about figuring out how things are going to work with Daryl.

(That was a hard part of the letter to "the next Elaine" to write...  "I know you may be a guy, or older, or a teenager - and if you're a kid, just ignore this - but please keep things going with this guy you've never met, but don't fall in love because you've got to hand him off to someone else who hasn't met him but wants to!"  I feel weirdly possessive of him even though the sexual attraction is fading fast, and he'll definitely be in my mind the next time I'm playing a gay man.)

I'm back in New York, back as myself,  and it's surprisingly easy in some ways - my agent has dropped me, my reputation for being reliable has taken a big hit, and there's dust all over everything in my condo, but both the city and the business I'm in handle prolonged absences all right.

And yet, I'm kind of nervous about getting back out there.  Me and the rest of the band are getting together later this week to see what we want to do; we've got a lot of new perspectives we want to work with, and my band-mates are a couple now even though they weren't before.  It will be good, I think, helping to put my time as Elaine in the past, rather than something that lingers.

I probably won't rite or check here again.  I'll be close to Elaine forever, I hope, but thinking about all of this when I don't have to has had me paralyzed over the last week and a half, and I've got to focus on being me rather than my time as Elaine (or that of anyone else).

-J.T.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Tyler/Val: What does "casual" mean anyway?

It was a few days before I resolved to try and hash things out with Rafe. I didn't mean to leave him twisting in the wind but we weren't working together much that week, and then I got self-conscious. It felt strange to be thinking so much about it. Both in the sense of, it felt like I should be able to handle this maturely as an adult, and because woah, I was seriously having to negotiate my way around my feelings for a man, one who was born that way. I must have drafted and deleted a dozen texts. And don't think I didn't notice that he wasn't texting me. Just a game, I reminded myself... that's all it is to some guys.

I considered playing it off and letting it be a one-time thing but I kept getting this nagging feeling that this was something I would be better off leaning into.

Finally early the next week, we had a shift together and it was... weird. He could barely look at me, wasn't joking around or being crude the way he usually was. Finally, when he went for his lunch break, I cornered him.

"Hey," I said with a deep breath, "So I've been thinking."

"That's never good," he smirked.

"I think it wouldn't be the worst thing if you and I... did stuff together."

He stood up and nodded, "Cool, cool." Like I had just suggested we go get pizza.

"That's it?" Forgive me for thinking giving my body to him might have warranted more response than that. "All you have to say?"

"Well, what kind of stuff?" he asked, "Because if you're talking about what we did the other night, I'm down for that. But... if you mean like boyfriend-girlfriend relationshippy stuff, I'm not..."

"Oh, no, no," I said, perhaps too eagerly. "I'm talking about... casual stuff. I think it could be good between us."

"I know it would be good," he snickered. I rolled my eyes. "I dunno, though... you're kind of a commitment gal, I can tell. You almost got married. I'm really not the kinda guy you're looking for."

"Don't worry about it," I said, "I really need a break from all that stuff. I don't see you as boyfriend material either."

"Thanks a lot," he said, implying that hurt, even though he said it about himself. "You promise not to fall in love with me?"

"Yeah, I think I can manage," I said flatly, reconsidering the whole thing. But I didn't. We did agree, however, to keep it a secret from our co-workers.

By the end of the shift, I noticed a text on my phone: "So... how about tonight?" I knew he couldn't wait.

I went over to his place, which is very dingy, 25-year-old-bachelor-y, but more private than mine. When I showed up, he wanted to get right to it, but I objected - "You can't even offer me a drink first?"

He winced, "I thought we were just casual."

"Casual doesn't mean I'm your own personal sex slave, okay? A few weeks ago when I came over, you were a good host. Don't act like this is a done-deal and you don't have to..."

"What, romance you?"

"Do anything."

He grumbled as he went to the fridge. "Beer?"

"That'll do," I sighed. Admittedly, I downed it pretty quickly. Part of me did want it over with quickly, but I wanted to keep a little dignity to the proceedings.

I hate to admit it but it's clearly part of the reason I went along with it -- he's good at sex. That's the most annoying thing. If I'm giving in and just being a heterosexual girl playing the field, he is a good playmate. I just don't want to admit it because he's got a big enough ego as it is, and god forbid I pay him a compliment and make him think I'm in love with him or something. Still, I have to appreciate that it's some of the best times I've ever had as a woman, even if it's a little emotionally hollow.

It's not all "business," you know. As much as he talks about not wanting to lead me on, he's still his goofy, flirty, borderline-likeable self around me, before and after we've done our thing in the bedroom. He tries to drag compliments out of me and we talk about life and almost, dare I say it, get along like we are in a relationship.

Then he indicates it's time for me to go and shows me to the door unceremoniously and I feel bitter and lonely and a little dirty about it. But the next day I feel better, knowing some of my needs are met and if I have any emotional needs, now is not the time to pursue them because I'm only Valerie for a short while longer. That makes this arrangement tolerable... if I were long-term, I doubt I would let myself get wrapped up in this guy.

It just annoys me that we can't be "casual" by his definition and still do stuff we had been doing before, like getting drinks occasionally, or hang out watching movies. Strict boundaries, he says, and I feel like I'm selling myself short by buying into it. And the playful interactions at work have all disappeared, which I think is a bit more suspicious, since girls like Maddie notice these things  and then wonder why the resident perv isn't drooling over you as much as he used to.

Speaking of Maddie, she is quite industrious. In addition to working at the shop, she does catering gigs, housesitting, and canvassing. "Lots of time to work since I don't have a boyfriend," she says with a cute smile. I don't want to think this way, but if the odds are in my favor and somehow I wind up as an available male in her age group... I mean, I'm not saying I'd go for it right away (it's hard to picture at this point because I'm deeply invested in the narrative of myself as a functioning straight girl) but she deserves a good guy.

It also gets a little hard to nude up with a guy if you can't help picturing yourself with the roles reversed, so I try not to indulge that....

Anyway, she's offered to get me some jobs, since hours are low at the shop this summer (lots of old staff coming back who are tight with the manager) and it's probably best if I phase myself out of there anyway. The tips are supposed to be good.

-Ty/Valerie

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Monday, May 21, 2018

Lindsey/Magda: Age-Appropriate

The air-travel business can be weird, its own little culture that's kind of old-fashioned (to be polite) and sexist in ways that show up in strange ways even if you're not us.  For example, about a month ago, Harmon started wearing skirts to work at every opportunity, and minis at that, a couple inches above the knee.  I was kind of excited to see the change, because even my boyfriend finally accepting that he's got great legs is not exactly the best way a relationship can go, I figured that maybe him being more cool with the present shape of his body might mean we could be more at ease hanging out together, even if it's doing mother-daughter stuff.

Nope.  Apparently, short skirts are a privilege that flight attendants get after they've gone through a probationary period, and it's not just that Harmon can be more than a little status-conscious, but pilots and other airline/airport staff use it to identify who might be young and wide-eyed.  It's actually not unusual for some women to stick with lower hemlines to continue attracting that sort of interest, but that's not Harmon.  I was a bit surprised that this was the tradeoff he went for, but apparently it's gotten some persistent group of guys on his back, even if the cost is passengers giving him more of that sort of attention. 

Myself, I was getting Magda's annual physical, which was a couple hours filled with tricky questions.  Do I find myself getting tired more easily than I did a year ago?  Yeah, but I was in my twenties a year ago!

I kid, but I do kind of kick myself for not doing it when I first arrived in Oakland after the Inn and not dragging Harmon along.  It seems like an obvious, sensible first step to living someone else's life, although I guess a lot of the time people aren't ready to be poked and prodded and have all those changes made real in clinical terms.  Heck, I might have considered being off this one and leaving it for the real Magda if I'd realized that the doctor was going to advise scheduling a mammogram.

There's a part of me that's kind of upset that, paging through the blog, it doesn't seem like anyone who started out as a guy has been subjected to one of those (only Tyler seems to have hit the right window, but apparently "Judith" was spared).  I'm not sure whether it will be better or worse in twenty years when my real body has enough miles on it for one to be recommended, since I'm not so busty.

I wound up joking about this with some of the other middle-aged ladies at the airport while we were having lunch (well, not the "my real body" part), saying it was awful and we shouldn't put up with it.  Someone saw a guy with a vendor's badge stiffening and asked if women taking about they're bodies made him uncomfortable, and he just said no, but that a mammogram saved his sister's life, which changed the discussion a bit.  Didn't make it bad, though, especially when I informed him that the doctor didn't find any sort of lump.  He was pretty cool about not rising to the bait that the other ladies waved in front of him where my breasts were concerned.

I ran into him again the next day when I was grabbing a Diet Coke from his newsstand, and we had a few minutes to talk.  I felt a little strange when he complimented my English and accent, since he'd been in the country roughly the same length of time as the real Magda and still messed it up occasionally, but given that I've talked to her on the phone and can probably only tell that she's an immigrant because I already knew, it's okay, I guess. 

It got busy, he asked if I wanted to pick the conversation we were having up after work, and I said yes without realizing I'd just made a date.  I was about to try and find a way to ball or, but Harmon texted to say he'd been assigned to a flight, and I kind of figured, better than sitting home alone.  It's not like anything was going to happen.

I can't pretend that I didn't feel a little excited as I ditched my uniform and impulsively grabbed a skirt, camisole, and cardigan rather than the jeans and sweater that had been my first intention.  I want really trying to impress this guy, but it had kind of felt different from the others who hit on me/Magda, and I kind of didn't want to say he wasn't worth the effort while still not doing enough to make me feel bad about doing this for someone other than my boyfriend (or at least the guy who will be my boyfriend again in a couple of months).  I apologized when I returned to the living room - I'd offered him a drink, but he doesn't touch alcohol - and he said it was nothing.

We found a nice place to eat - vegetarian - and chatted.  His kids are in college and couldn't wait to get out of the house, so he thought it must be nice to have "Alicia" still around.  It didn't take a whole lot of fusing the details to say I appreciated it but it was certainly a different dynamic.  He bragged about his kids a lot, got on the subject of traffic and public transportation, and similar stuff.  He was a bit surprised at how easily I swiped notifications away and texted someone back on my phone, but left that behind when I mentioned that one was informing me that my mammogram was clear.  He seemed pretty relieved, and blushed like crazy when I suggested he wanted to get his hands on those breasts and didn't want to accidentally run across any gross cancer.

Mostly, though, it wasn't really sexual; he just seemed to like me.  He spent a lot of time listening, which was kind of a new experience.  A lot of guys my own real age just seem to have nothing to say to women and ones Harmon's age, when they're not even hornier than younger guys, tend to feel (rightly or wrongly) that they've got more to pass on to you than vice versa, whether they're actually teachers or not.  And, I admit, I've always kind of liked that, but having a guy really talk to me like a peer, someone with shared experiences and interests, that was kind of cool too.

We saw a movie afterward, and I've got to admit, as much as I liked this guy's company and respect, it was one of those "women past menopause want romance too" things, and it did kind of remind me that, despite current appearances, we didn't really have that much in common.  I let him drive me home, said it was nice making friends with him, and then started browsing Netflix until I feel asleep on the couch.  I told myself that I didn't really need to feel lousy about stepping out on Harmon, but by the time I woke up the next morning, I did wonder what "back to normal" is going to be like.

-Lindsey/Magda

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Tuesday, May 08, 2018

J.T./Elaine: No more excuses and no more time

Sorry for being so quiet the last couple months, but things at work have really had me wanting to keep things on the down-low, as they (we?) say.  The day after Valentine's was a complete nightmare, as one person in the office wound up going home with another after a night of drinking, only for her to find out that he had his entire apartment wired for video and sound, and when she told him that this was just going to be a one-time thing, he was able to email the entire office video from the night before.  She quit, he was fired, everybody got to do online sexual-harassment training courses, and there was no way Daryl and I were saying a word while everyone was walking on eggshells, despite everyone knowing why I'd left early that evening.

Which is a shame, because it was pretty great and those stories are better told fresh.

I was nervous, of course, because even though I've treated a lot of this like playing a part, I would probably have put out earlier if that's entirely how I was approaching it.  I held those feelings at bay for a while - buying sexy new underwear was like going to wardrobe, and chats with Elaine told me that, yes, this was in character.  I told myself that it would be fun to do a "sex scene" without weird blocking and simulation.  But then I spent all day bumping into Daryl, trading mild innuendo, and being reminded that he wasn't playing a part, but getting closer to the girl he liked.

I mostly put it out of my mind, and maybe drank a bit more than I've tended to do since figuring out Elaine's capacity.  I agreed that there was still plenty more to do after a delicious dinner, got in the Uber which took us to his apartment, and then let him kiss the heck out of me when we got in the door.

My body responded, and it was kind of intense.  Guys see nipples get stiff and we act like they're little erections because that's what we know, but it's the whole breast, and just to start; I swear there's not a single pay off my body that didn't feel some sort of arousal, and that was before my other girl parts started lubricating themselves.  I should probably be extremely happy that Daryl was enough of a gentleman to pause and put a condom on without me bringing it up, because that was kind of the last thing on my mind.

He was good at hitting the spot; I came two or three times that night.  I can't tell you that it was the best sex of my life, but as the end of a dry spell and as satisfaction of a lot of pent-up curiosity, it was sure as heck one of my most memorable sexual experiences!  I think he enjoyed it, too, even if it was mostly from my sounding pretty enthusiastic.

We did it again on the next few dates, and it was kind of fun discovering what I liked and what I was cool with doing.  Maybe it's just because I haven't been at it as long as some of the others, or something, but it kind of seems like less than most.  I'm not into being picked up and manhandled the way Missy apparently is, and I guess I'm kind of insistent about being on top.  Strong preference, anyway.  And if you're going to take my bra off, you'd better use your hands to support the girls - unless it's the morning after, the bouncing is just a little too much at the end of the day.

(This is the biggest thing I'm taking back to manhood - taking a bit of a load off the back during sexy times can really be appreciated, so long as he stops sort of squeezing too hard!)

It was kind of crazy for a lot of February - there was a solid week where our friends just didn't see us, and then every date had to end that way.  Then I had my period, and although I was nervous about ending the night early, he was cool with it.  Then there was a night when he said he had to get up early for an errand, and I kind of worried that maybe me being a man in my head was hurting things, but it was just that night, and eventually we just kind of got to being boyfriend and girlfriend, and sex is just one of the things we do.

And he turns out to be a pretty great boyfriend.  I'm not sure how good a girlfriend I am, but he's good at handling my weird man-in-a-woman's-body moods and occasionally being ignorant about stuff.  We have a fun time going out, and it's not just me being one of the guys.  It's been fun dates, I've been able to open up with him more than you'd think, considering that I'm always kind of giving him am alternate version of the truth.  He trusts me enough to do the same, which is more than I deserve, given the situation.

It's been kind of hard keeping things "secret" at work, enough so that it was a running joke at the wrap party on Friday (not what they called it, but what it felt like) that we'd finally be able to not put on a front.  Which is ironic, since the Inn opens on Thursday.

That's probably for the best, I suppose - as much as I did okay in Elaine's job, I'm not eager to take another contract, and I've felt a stronger itch to write and perform music in the last few weeks, and I've certainly got new sources of inspiration, although I suspect I'll have to disguise them somewhat once I'm presenting as a white male again.

I'm not sure whether I hope the real Elaine likes Daryl or not.  I've come to enjoy getting too know her via email and stuff the last few months, and I guess it's kind of good that she's developed a crush - she'll try to make it work and not break a good guy's heart.  It's just that this has been my thing for the past few months, and it's a weird thing to hand off, even if I don't want to actually be the one who breaks up with Daryl.

Good thing that won't be my problem in another couple weeks - not that explaining why we vanished from the face of the Earth for eight months will be any easier!

-J.T./Elaine

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