Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Harmon Keller/Alicia Polawski: _______ with Alicia

Though I ultimately opted against adding more salacious content to the Instagram amount that I inherited from Alicia, I did find myself curious about what I could do with itbeyond simply treating it as a repository of photographs for future reference.  I may, after all, find my next set of circumstances one where an understanding of the market dynamics of social media could be quite valuable, and the best way to learn new things is through experimentation.

So, if the content was not going to change much, what other variables could I consider?  Engagement seemed the most obvious, so I started replying to comments, and occasionally following the accounts of one's that had something interesting to say.  I would occasionally make notes on what certain people liked or questioned, keeping it in mind when taking photographs.  Look a bit wanton when mostly undressed for the men, excited when trying new clothes on for the women, make sure there is both something familiar and obscure when sightseeing.  When following someone else, especially one with a larger audience than oneself, comment quickly and simply if she just wants validation; ask questions if she seems to be looking for people who share her interests.

It seems simple enough, but with the right raw materials and the discipline to post regularly enough that one's followers don't feel neglected, one can grow an audience fairly quickly; by the end of July I had gone from 20,000 followers to 75,000.

And my roommates treated this as some kind of accomplishment!  I had changed very little about how I lived my life, but having total strangers "like" what they saw apparently made that life noteworthy, rather than cause to roll their eyes and treat me as an antisocial snob.  They started asking questions about what I'd been up to, and recommendations for what to see in cities that they had visited more often than I had.

I did hit a plateau in August, and thought that might be the end of the experiment, which was something of a relief - the amount of time these "influencer" people must spend on targeted interaction and filtering the most grotesque things that people try top attach to their profiles while not coming off as heavy-handed or some such must be extensive, as I found that an account which posted roughly a picture or two a day might need an hour's maintenance every night.  I was quite ready to simply go back to using the site for my original propose and let those other people continue to pay attention or not as they would.

But then one of the comments caught my eye, saying that I should have a podcast or a YouTube channel.  I had given something along those lines some thought, of course, every time somebody said that a place I had visited and my description of it was interesting, but I was thinking more in terms of a book.  This suggestion seemed more in line with what somebody my apparent age would do.

I mentioned this idly to "Barbie" and her eyes practically lit up, and she quickly opened the locker at the foot of her bed to pull out a video camera, then scooted to the other side of the room to point it at me.  The lens moved and then the red light came on, and she asked me about my favorite place to fly.

"I'd rather not."

"No, you totally should!  Come on - what's the place you're always tempted to over-bid on?"

I roll my eyes and start talking about a sculpture garden in New Mexico which is far from my favorite destination, mentioning how the dry air preserves the work although the hippies who live in the area are nearly as amusing.  I expect her to turn it off, but she doesn't, instead waiting until I'm done and saying it was "awesome", and that I must have wanted to be a teacher before getting into this.  I told her I'd given it some thought.

She says this could be the basis for a channel, that there are men who go on for hours on YouTube about how new science-fiction films are evidence of a conspiracy against the male gender, and I am far more interesting and attractive than they are.  Not untrue, I admit, and we eventually start having out the idea of the channel/"show".  She comes up with the title, saying that even if I never actually do anything more risqué than wearing a short skirt, it will get attention, even if it really means I can do shows on whatever I want (and looks at me blankly when I say it's straight out of The Match Game).

The next day is a mutual day off for us, so we crisscrossed the city with her camera, me delivering "lectures" on the various pieces of WPA at in the area, something that one would think people her age would know about, what with their belief that everyone is an artist or a "maker" deserving of support and fondness for politicians who openly identify as socialist, though I suppose their not reading history is why they need videos like these to spoon-feed it to them.  And though I describe them as lectures, they are not much like standing in a classroom.  There s just Barbie and the camera, telling me to smile more, flirt, or "pretend [I am] telling [my] boyfriend about one of [my] favorite things". 

Ridiculous, even if it does apparently make for good Internet video.  We waited a bit to post it, making a few others at various stops and shooting some new footage as we got more familiar with the process, eventually deciding to bank a few before starting to upload them on Thursday mornings and regularly mention them on my social media accounts over the next few days.

We sent the first one out before working a round-trip to Dallas on September 5th, and she was disappointed to see it did not immediately get many views, and just almost forgot about it until my phone started buzzing while I was in the shower.  I didn't recognize the name of the daughter of s some celebrity who has not herself accomplished anything who re-tweeted our link, but Barbie did, her eyes going wide as she opened her laptop.  The counter on my new YouTube channel was incrementing quite rapidly.  "Is this unusual?"

She looked from it to me, eyes wide.  "Is this unusual?  It's huge!  You're huge!"  Or faces were close, and out of nowhere, she kissed me on the lips.

I did not see this coming, but I had not forgotten how to respond, kissing her back and pulling her closer.  For all that the sensation of our breasts together was surprising, it was not unpleasant, and she has a quite impressive bottom which was soon in my hands, being pulled from her seat.  I unzipped her uniform while she worked the buttons on my pajamas, and soon we were on my bed, her back to my chest, my hands spring her breasts while I kissed her neck.  Soon one found its way lower, and I found that I had not completely lost practice in pleasing a woman.

She seemed to come out of her trance when she turned around and kneeled on the floor, her face being level with my pelvis seeming to surprise her.  "I'm sorry, I can't...  I shouldn't have...  I've never..."  And then she started crying.

I was briefly annoyed, but tried to shrug it off.  "Not to worry," I said while replacing my pajama top, "we were excited, and this was something of a first for me as well.  Now, go take your turn in the shower and when you come back, it will be like it never happened."

"Yeah, that's probably for best."  She pulled a t-shirt and sweatpants from her dresser and headed for the bathroom.

We have been cordial since, continuing to work on the channel and mostly assigned to the same flights.  I do, on occasion, find myself curious about what would have happened had she not gotten cold feet - she is the sort of young woman that I have long favored, even if she does not have the same academic background - but this shape obviously makes circumstances different.  In the meantime, we work together both in the air and on the ground.

-Harmon Keller

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Jordan/Yuan-wei: Not Seeing a Master Plan Yet

Jacky kind of left his post-Inn visit to chance, but that is not how Chen-ai operates.  I may not know what her whole deal is about, but she had never sprung anything on me that hasn't taken some planning, even if I never see it coming.

Take last night.  My co-workers and I are rolling out of the building at around 9:30pm - something can't miss its Christmas release date, and, no, it's not Star Wars - and doing the usual when we've been hit with that much unpaid overtime:  Grabbing a snack at the taco truck a couple blocks away, because we've worked straight through dinner and who is going to want to fucking cook by the time we make our way home through traffic?  Add some beers from a nearby convenience store, and it makes for a fine end-of-week bitch session.

It's my turn to buy the beer, and I'm walking back to the truck when a bright green convertible slams on the brakes and turns into the lot.  The driver gets out, a blonde wearing a sparkly pink dress that shows pretty much all of her legs and has a plunging neckline that makes it clear she's got the sort of slender build to go braless, plus matching stiletto heels and dark sunglasses.  She makes a beeline in my direction.  "Missy?"

My colleagues raise their eyebrows, and I'm pretty confused too.  "Do I--?"

She takes off the glasses, and it's suddenly more obvious that the blonde hair is a dye job.  "It's me!  Bingbing!  Oh my god, the look on your face!"  She quickly pulls a phone out of a handbag, shoves herself against me, and takes a tongue-out selfie with one hand while extending the two fingers with the other.  "Can you believe this?  Missy and I grew up together in Hong Kong, and then I'm out here doing a scavenger hunt of all things, and I find her!  What are the odds?"

All my friends are smirking like seeing me uncomfortable is hilarious.  Rafik is the first to respond.  "If you want to catch up--"

"No way."

"Yes!  We're supposed to do this with partners, but since I'm between boyfriends...  Oh, you're still hung up on that!   But that was ages ago, and we were totally different people!"

I sighed.  "Fine.  Whatever you say."

Chen-ai/Bingbing squealed, and everyone made a point of calling me "Missy" as I got in the car, barely shutting the door before she hit the gas and tore out onto the highway, leaving me grabbing hold of the door while trying to buckle my seat belt, and soon work was out of sight (along my own car, I suddenly realized).  I looked over at Chen-ai, expecting her to drop the act, but she just switched to Cantonese.

"I should have done this years ago!  Is this what it felt like for you, seeing Yuan-wei's face in the mirror after choosing not to go back to being that fatty again?  So light and sexy and full of energy and free?"

"No!  What the fuck is wrong with you?"

She didn't say anything for a few minutes, and then seemed a little more serious and like the Chen-ai I remembered as we pulled into a gas station.  "You know, it's going to go a lot better between us if you just let some things go.   I promise."  She reached into what passed for a back seat and pulled out a garment bag, then nodded toward the restrooms.  "C'mon, go get changed."

I thought of refusing, but we were kind of out in the middle of nowhere and pissing her off was maybe not a great idea.  I snatched the bag and went to the back of the station, hoping this wasn't how I got left behind.

It was a really nice dress, as sparkly as hers but not quite so low-cut, even if there was no wearing a bra with it.  The cut (and underwire) pushed my tits up and in, anyway.  The matching handbag was just big enough for phone, wallet, lipstick, keys, and pepper spray; the matching shoes were also stilettos, and I felt a little wobbly from not having really gone out in a while (and folks were just going to have to deal with my unpainted toenails).

Chen-ai hadn't abandoned me, so I tried to play it cool.  "Pink and blue dresses?  Trying to say something?"

"Nah, it's just funny.  We've got a private joke."  She let me get secure in my seat before driving off this time.

We were in the city a half-hour later, able to walk past a round-the-block line at a club.  She asked what I was drinking, I said a 7-Up, and she said "Bicardi & 7, got it."  Before I could say no, it was in my hands.

We attracted attention, and though we weren't attached at the hip for the next three hours, I would always find her near me after a while.  I'm not going to lie, there were moments when I was a bit carried away by the great DJ, the cool light show, and the very hip crowd.  Some folks bought me really expensive drinks, and I do have the phone number of an actor who went from flattered that I recognized his face to curious when I said it was from putting it on a stuntman's body.

But Chen-ai seemed to being having an even better time, grinding on the biggest stars in the place, screaming that she loved that song, flirting and getting numbers from people half her age like it wasn't fucking weird at all.  Every once in a while, she'd make sure to introduce me to one, taking about how he might be a really good contact to have, or saying he'd been looking my way.

I guess she didn't quite know how much Bingbing could hold, because after a while she put her arm around my shoulders and said she needed me to drive her to the hotel.  I disentangled myself from the finance creep who was hitting on me, got her to the sidewalk, and took the key when the valet returned.

The car was annoyingly fun to drive, and the hotel was five-star.  I tried to drop her at the elevator, but she grabbed my hand, half-drunkenly saying we had to talk.  Her room was a suite, of course, and she had apparently already used the place's app to order room service, remembering how I liked my steak.

Hungry from not having my tacos hours ago, I attacked it right away, looking up to see her smiling.

"So what's this all about?  Making sure I can see how well you planned everything and prepared to fit in so that I don't try and push back?"

She gave a little "ugh!" gap, like the accusation was me being paranoid.  "Fitting in's not that hard, Jordo.  Like, all those eighties and nineties movies and TV shows you millennials watch, that's us.  Not that much has changed other than the phones!  And as for what it's about, like I said, it's easier for everyone if we get along.  Everyone thinks we're best friends anyway."

"Right, you want to be my friend."

"Why is that so hard to believe?  I told you that I'm impressed by how you handled all this, I stepped in when I saw Carlotta and Giorgia were trying to mess with your life, I've shared what I know about the Inn.  I know it's not great that I never really learned to play the part of a good mother because I resented Yuan-wei and that I like you better than her, but now I don't have to!"

"If you like me so much, why did you make me dump Jacky?"

"Did that turn out to be a bad thing?  Look, it's not your fault that you never developed the instinct for when guys are trouble the way other girls do, but were you going to listen to the woman you imagine is some sort of supervillain if I said he set off alarms?  Obviously not.  I figured maybe a little time as a woman would have made him appreciate you more, but from how receptive you seemed to be to other guys tonight, I'm guessing it didn't turn out that way."

I didn't concede the point, but I didn't say anything.

"Besides, you're going to want me by your side when they start asking about your mother."

That was what I was waiting for.  She said it in the same casual, fun-loving way as everything else, but a chill went up my spine and I carefully set my fork down.  "Chen-ai, what did you do?"

"Nothing, really, but my old identity is in limbo, so when nobody sees her for a few weeks, there will be some questions, especially if anybody finds out she's not at that place I checked myself into."  She gave me a look like I was the one making trouble.  "What?  It's not exactly easy to disappear for long enough to overstay a visa.  But I trust you to cover for me!"

"You expect me to cover for you?"

"I wouldn't have given you power of attorney otherwise, although I admit, I did figure you'd be coming to your friend Bingbing for advice."  She shrugged.

"What the fuck else?"

"What do you mean?"

"What sort of other fucking mess have you stuck me with?"

"There's no other mess, and the business runs itself."  I crossed my arms and stared bullets.  "Okay, fine, I put ten million dollars into a numbered amount.  Hong Kong dollars, not U.S., I'm not greedy or anything.  It's just kind of like start-up money."

"You did what?!!?"

"Hey, I earned that money, and I deserve to take some with me!  It shouldn't affect you at all - I didn't touch your trust fund, and barring any sort of emergency, nobody will have any reason to freak out and call the police about how your frugal, sensible mother hasn't been seen in weeks if you just stay in California and let our employees do their thing."

I pushed away from the table.  "There's the fucking threat."

She stood up and chased after me.  "It's not a threat, Jordan, it's precautions, just in case something went wrong or I got homesick.  I didn't even see the need to tell you before you started interrogating me because I could see you're so happy here and such a good person.  Trust me, we're going to be great friends by this time next year.  Maid of honor at my wedding."

I snorted, and she ignored it.  A big, genuine-seeming yawn escaped her.  "Wow, I haven't had a night like that in twenty years!  I've got to crash.  The hotel laid out a toiletries in the other bathroom and some really great pajamas in the other bedroom, so we can talk more in the morning if you want."  She hadn't taken her heels off, and giggled as she had to find her balance on the way to the bathroom.

I said hell no to that, calling to charge a cab to the room as soon as she had closed the door.  I'd been watching my drinks, but I still felt pretty drowsy when I got home, and feel asleep right away.

This morning, there were text messages from "Bingbing", saying she understood this was going to take some time, and since she had to go back to Hong Kong anyway, she'd give me my space.  Then the selfie she took at the start of the night.

The whole night almost doesn't even feel real, even with that stupidly nice dress hanging by the hamper.  There's got to be some sort of angle.  There's no fucking way that Chen-ai really thinks we're going to be besties after all she's done, unless she's crazier than I thought.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Jonah/Krystle: Job-Hunting

I like working at The Changeling compared to other jobs I could have - I've got a boss who understands my weird Inn-related quirks, I spend a lot of time with my best friend, and the hours work so that Momma Kamen can watch Little Moira rather than hiring a sitter most nights.  And, yeah, the tops have been better this summer, and not entirely because I'm less worried about Good smiting me down for wearing shorts and a scoop-necked t-shirt.  All the time at the gym had me able to carry trays easier, and having a boyfriend actually makes me less nervous dealing with people.  I don't flirt, but I'm less worried about being friendly, because I'm sure that there's not something else going on in my head.

But it's still waiting tables, and while Ashlyn and Moira don't pay the tipped minimum wage (in part because Moira says that tipping is, and I quote, house-shite), what you make is pretty dependent on how busy it is and what sort of mood the customers are in, and that's kind of scary.  I read something online about how one emergency can wipe most people's savings out, and that's kind of me.  Like, a couple weeks ago, Little Moira had a really bad night, wheezing instead of crying, and I might have wound up spending everything I've saved up on a trip to the emergency room if Dad hadn't texted back with something to try first.

Yeah,  Dad.  I'm not really back on speaking terms with my real patents, but when my baby girl gets sick, pride goes out the window, and apparently Dad feels the same way.  A situation like that does make you focus a little more on making sure that you can handle emergencies, and not just that; families come in with kids not much older than Moira in preschool.  On the one hand, I kind of don't know if she needs it - she's curious, can count to ten, likes being read to, and makes friends at the park, so what's something formal that costs more than I'd make working the hours she's there going to get us?  But it just seems so expected...

So I've started looking for other jobs, and, wow, there is not a whole lot out there for a woman with nothing more than a high-school diploma and the work history that Krystle and I have accumulated.  Not a lot guaranteeing that I'd work enough hours to get insurance at all.

The résumé is also kind of a problem.  Calvin wanted to help when I told him I was thinking of looking for something, but once you get back past my work history and into Krystle's, it's kind of a minefield.  I've mostly been saying that "I" was kind of a mess until getting pregnant served as a wake-up call and he hasn't pushed, and who wants to put something more specific down as bullet points?  Not like anyone I want to work for wants to see that, either, but it does leave a pretty noticeable hole between Krystle's high school graduation and my first stint at The Changeling.

Also kind of tricky:  Interview clothes.  I'm pretty comfortable with my body these days, but every professional-looking skirt I try on seems to be saying "look at my butt!", especially when I'm also wearing heels.  Like, they work when I'm sitting with my legs crossed, but not once I'm on my feet.  Tops are tricky too, if you're built like me and don't want your breasts getting all the attention.  Momma Kamen insisted on altering my jacket, grumbling about how trying to fit us into clothes made for white women without curves are part of how they keep the sisters down.

She got weirdly emotional seeing me dressed up once everything matched and I'd pulled my hair back into a bun and put on makeup, saying there were days she didn't think her daughters would get this far.  I told her not to count her chickens, but kind of got it when I looked in the mirror.  Obviously not nearly as strange as the first time I saw Krystle's face and body, or when I watched a baby grow in it, but my first impression was that I looked like I was wearing a Halloween costume.  Not quite "sexy businesswoman", but not church clothes, or the casual tomboy/busy single mom I think of myself as being, and not like any pictures I've seen of Krystle.  More grown-up, I guess, another version of us.

I didn't get the receptionist job I interviewed for in that outfit, maybe because of those doubts.  Maybe the next one, though.  It's another thing I do now that I didn't before.


Monday, September 16, 2019

Steven/Shona(!!): Seeing is believing

It was 3:30 in the morning on Sunday. I rolled over in bed barely awake. I want to say I felt different but in my mind I was just... groggy and tired. I raised a hand to scratch an itch on my chest,  and immediately discovered - to my great displeasure - that it was extremely sensitive.

And squishy.

I would say that I "bolted" upright, but that would be a misstatement because it takes a different amount of muscle necessary to bolt upright in my old body vs. my new one and I guess my brain hadn't caught the difference, so it was more like a failed crunch. I got very disoriented and fumbled around for the lamp, then tried to slowly ease myself upright. By that time it was impossible to ignore all my wobbly bits.

It was real. All real. And all me.

I look like Shona now. I didn't quite at 3:30 AM but I was getting there. More and more mass ballooned out of my body. By that point my clothes were restricting me very badly where they weren't outright ripped. I should have anticipated that what I was wearing would not feel good if I were to transform into Shona while wearing it. I guess that's a function of not really believing it was going to happen, and not really thinking that critically about what would happen if it did. Scratch one pair of boxers (the V-neck I was wearing survived in stretched-out form, but left marks on my upper arms.)

I should have slept naked, but it was chilly at night. As you know from Jenn's descriptions, Shona is an XXXL. I'm a pretty stocky guy, I wear larges or extra-larges depending on the brand. Nothing I own would have been appropriate for a woman with such wide hips, prominent behind, belly, breasts and arms. Now I have all of those.

I timidly made my way over to the mirror, but on the way over it's not like I could pretend I was ignorant of what was going on. The flesh of my thighs rubbed together and I only needed to look down very slightly to see my new figure. When I finally made it, it wassuch a weird creature - half my face, half hers, and not in a cute "What would our baby look like" way. Her nose and eyes with my jaw and brow... grotesque. My beard was fading into my face, my hairline was moving forward and her long locks were inching out.

I turned away for the remainder. My body continued to swell. I knew how big she is, but it's very different when you're feeling it from the inside.

Fear and panic mixed with elation. As terrifying as this experience was, it was on some level what I wanted - answers, or at least leads on them. Confirmation that the world isn't totally crazy and yet it is - magic is real! In some form at least! And it's happening to me! I suspected I would feel miserable about the exact outcome later, but for the time being... wow. Wow! I have boobs! And... well, you know the rest.

In the morning, I did another v-chat with "Paola." She practically squealed with delight when she saw Shona's face - tired and not made-up, but really there - over top of my mug. She asked if I believed everything now, and I said what choice did I have?

She asked if I had any regrets about my decision. It took me a moment but I said no. I needed to do this. Yeah, it's not the most convenient form to be in, but I have a lot of good memories with this face and I was nearly moved to tears when I finally did see it again in the light of day.

It's not like I want to be a woman, but I really badly didn't want to be myself anymore either. And there's a very specific reason why, if this was going to happen, I was okay with it. It has to do with what I have since read that Jenn wrote about her time in this body.

I've known Shona since we were teenagers, and we've been together for a while. Her being this size has been part of my life for years. Maybe I never could have understood what she went through on a day to day basis like this, but I have seen her through lots of situations, including times when I needed to reassure her or comfort her. She never let her size get in the way of living her life.

And honestly, she deserves better than someone who is going to look in the mirror and say to themselves "This person is flawed. She is broken because she's so big." Jenn seems like a  well-meaning person, but I don't want the person who winds up with Shona's life - if it's to be permanent or whatever - to look at it as a curse. I want them to be able to love who she is the way I always thought Shona did. That was in the back of my mind when Jenn told me about how she felt about being Shona, before I knew it was real - she was saying things I just never thought Shona would really say about herself, even in her darkest moments.

I'm not ignorant. I know her appearance doesn't meet certain societal standards, and it would habe been willfully ignorant of me to pretend a woman this size doesn't experience inconveniences and challenges than a skinnier woman.

Shona is beautiful. Jenn even agreed when she saw her Insta account that she was very pretty. And to me, it's not a "beautiful for a fat girl" kind of beauty. It's real beauty. And she exuded it inside and out. And all I want - for whatever the duration of my time as her - is to embody that. I think she deserves somebody wearing her body who can see that.

In the meantime... I guess I'll go back to Gainesville and rebuild her life for her, in case she ever does decide to come back. I hope that I can find her and speak with her and learn what she is feeling. What's become of her. Hopefully, now that I know what the Inn does, we can pick up where we left off.

More thoughts later

-Steven/Shona (Stona? Sheven?)

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Steven: Made it

I have been going over all the possibilities in my mind and none of it really adds up. So I have come to Maine in search of answers. I managed to avoid Dorian and have found a fairly nice spot to vacation. Since being here, I've seen sights, mingled, had some good craft beers, and played cards with the older ladies who checked in ahead of me. It's been days and I'm starting to doubt anything weird will be happening anytime soon.

I know Shona. She's a lot of things. A raconteur. A kidder. A biting wit. Incisive. Intuitive. Caring. Loyal. Friendly but guarded. A secret Trekkie. Sometimes she withholds information or her true feelings, but other times she is very outspoken. But I have never known her to lie, not to me. And if she did, it wouldn't be some crazy story about a body-swapping Inn.

Which would make it all the more diabolical if it was a lie. But to what end?

I say "Shona" told me this. I am halfway convinced that the person I was talking to - the person I made love to - was not my real girlfriend, but only after she insisted for days this was true and at the end of one of the worst days of my life.

At the beginning it was like "Okay Keet, if you want some space I can give it," And not point out how unnecessary her story was. (Keet - short for Parakeet - is my pet name for her.)

After I got canned, I was driving around wondering who to call, and I got to Shona in my contacts. My finger was over her name and I had this weird hesitation, and it kind of hit me - maybe her story is true. What a weird time to think about that. Maybe I was thinking it because in my own way in that moment I no longer wanted my own life

You have to understand. From the time she came back from Maine until the day she told me her story, and beyond, I really felt I was in the presence of my girlfriend. I didn't clue in that her laugh was different or her walk, or the light in her eyes. Yes, the hiking was out of character, but that's a woman's prerogative. Did she become distant? Sure, but if you knew Shona that might not be so unexpected.

There are things that make a lot more sense if the Inn is true, but I wouldn't call any of them nonsense. She expressed a lot more concern and self-consciousness over her physical appearance than the woman I know. She didn't laugh at things I swore she would find funny. And yeah maybe she seemed a little lost when discussing the past but who spends much time discussing the past with someone they've been seeing for years?

See there's always an explanation.

I have the following theories:

1) This is her kooky way of breaking up with me, and she has more capacity for Fantasy stuff than I thought

2) This is some crazy con, and the first part was to make me fall in love with her so I would be more susceptible to it.

3) It's all true, and my Shona is somewhere out there, and she left me without saying goodbye, and frankly I am owed an explanation.

4) Body-swapping is real, but this is still a con, and I am letting myself get taken for a ride. This is something I fear in the put of my stomach, but "Jenn" - if she is who she says - has put a lot of work into making herself seem genuine on this blog.

5) Shona has had a delusional break from reality, which is perhaps both the most  troubling and the most likely.

I need answers and the fact that I'm willing to entertain the idea that this Inn does what it's said to do shows I am desperate. Yes, it was my idea to come. I told Shona -- Jenn -- I guess out of hopes she would come clean and that the story I was rapidly coming to believe was in fact fake news. Instead she said "If you're going, you have to become me." In the moment it seemed like a sensible plan. It was like playing chicken.

I got here and there was an unlocked suitcase full of Shona's clothes. If this works, in a few days time they will be my clothes. Think about the implications of that - you don't have to, there appears to be a full decade of writing on the subject!

And I'm walking into this willingly? That probably shows how little stock I put in the story, despite all the evidence. But hey, I'm here aren't I?

Earlier I had a Skype convo with a young girl purporting to be "Jenn." Seeing her meant nothing to me and I could not put in my brain that this was the same person who I had bid Bon Voyage to days earlier. I thought about asking her to tell me something only Jenn would know,  but there are ways to prepare for that. And besides, I don't know Jenn all that well.

Maybe I didn't know Shona as well as I thought either?

Well depending how things break this weekend, I might have a year to find out.

For now,

Friday, September 13, 2019

Jordan/Yuan-wei: My (Ex) Boyfriend's Back (to Normal)

You know what's kind of fucking disturbing?  I know that Jacky's recent trip back to the Inn (I guess at the same time Jenn became Paola) is the first in a series of events that is probably going to play havoc with my life as Yuan-wei, but my biggest question is when I became such a goddamn feminist?

I don't think it was in just the past week or so, although I kind of shrugged off the naked text Jacky sent after the change.  He was naked and erect, but whatever; I imagine if I'd gotten my dick back after a year as Deirdre, I'd have been pretty excited.  Hell, I'd probably be pretty excited if it happened tomorrow.  Especially since whoever the last Jacky was, they kept him in good shape, maybe not quite like Benny did as me, but that a high bar.  It wasn't like a picture with just a dick, and good on him for still feeling good about his body after the other perspectives he's been getting.  I sent him a thumbs-up, meaning congratulations.  He asked what I was up to that weekend, I sent a shrug emoji ("I don't know"), and went back to whatever I was doing.

Fast-forward to the weekend, where I'm trying to clean my house and there's a knock on my door.  The camera shows its him, so I decide too be mature and talk to him, because all this shit can do a number on you and make you make bad decisions.  I buzz him in, not really thinking about what I'm wearing (crop-top, shorts, flip-flops) until he's looking me up and down.  I look back a bit - I haven't had many boyfriend's, but I've learned from real girls that there's no shame in trying to see how they've done without you, and also trying to see what some time thinking he'd be stuck as Bingbing has done to his taste in clothes, grooming, etc.  Tough to tell.

"So," I say after offering him a beer, "got any secret intel on why Chen-ai decided to pull up stakes and run now, besides the protests?"

"No, fake-me quit the job and deleted everything.  Hell, I'm going to have to buy a new laptop when I get home and already got a new phone because he went at them with a hammer.  Maybe there's some hardcopy back in Hong Kong, but he seems pretty thorough."

"Fuck.  Chen-ai is going to screw me over somehow, I just know it."

"Yeah, but look at the bright side - your new mother probably won't care if we're together or not!"

I stopped, right in the middle of reaching for a bottle in the back of the bottom shelf, then straightened up.  "Wait, what?  Are you serious?"

"Hey, I get that you broke up with me because of all this weird stuff, and Chen-ai being in the middle is scary.  I was mad for a while, but now that I see how it can mess with a person I won't hold it against you."

"You won't hold anything against me?  I'm sorry, when all of this went down, which of us told the other person what was going on, and which of us kept quiet about who they really were and fucked their ex's brother for a year?"

You'd think he would have anything to say, but he did.  "I was just thrown into all of this and he seemed--"

"Dude, you know what?  I don't care why you did it.  I'm just not gonna be with someone who did, especially when they're gonna be on the other side of the fucking planet getting into who knows what.  I'm sorry, maybe it was just an extreme situation, but we're not going to be like that again."

I put the bottle in my hand on the bar counter between us, not sure what else to do with it.  It gave him a reason to step forward.  "Well, how about one for the road, just to make sure it's all in working order?"

What. The. Fuck.  "Holy shit, are you serious?  No!  It wasn't my job to make sure you feel like a man when we were together, and it's definitely not now!"

"C'mon, you owe me that much!"

"Dude.  No."

"You want it - look at you, you're totally DTF."

"Are you serious?  I didn't really think you were coming - it's just a hot day and I had some sweaty work planned!  Plus, how did you spend two years as a girl and not figure out they don't ever owe someone pussy access?  Was Max just such an incredible, always-around boyfriend that things never got uncomfortable with anyone?"

His hand tightened on the bottle a little, and I worried that maybe I had pushed it too far, counted too much on him being able to see a woman's point of view and not enough on his brain not having been flooded with this much testosterone for two years, but he relaxed a bit and pulled it toward himself.  He took a drink and seemed to calm down a bit.

I exhaled.  "I think you should go."

"Yeah.  I, uh, just thought maybe things could go back to normal."

I spook my head.  "Sorry."

He nodded and went out the door.  There wasn't any calling me a bitch or some colorful Cantonese equivalent under his breath, but I still paid attention until he was in his Uber and driving away, and let out a breath I hadn't realized I was holding.

I brought Annette's contacts up on my phone and was starting a text, but decided I wanted to hear her voice, so I hit the call button.  She answered, probably figuring this was some sort of emergency, and I told her about Jacky's visit.

"Wow.  Are you okay?  I haven't had many scary boyfriends, but there's always a guy or two."

"Yeah, it's just...  I was l kind of attracted to him because he seemed like me, you know?  Same hobbies, told some of the same jokes without prompting, doing the same sort of work, and--"

"Jordo, I love you, but you do realize you were the same sort of asshole, right?  Like, I heard you yelling at people while gaming as Deirdre, and who was that girl at the beach you said you were going to hate-fuck if you became yourself or Benny instead of Yuan-wei?"

"Tina Chen.  Fuck, I haven't thought about that in years.  Shit, was Jacky always like that without me seeing it?"

"I dunno.  It's tough to guess how a guy's going to handle being told no.  He didn't seem the type."

"Okay, now tell me when I started being the chick that lectures guys on that consent and agency shit?  I thought I was the fun bitch!"

She laughed.  "Oh, you are, but I've been a good influence!"

"Thanks a lot!"

"You're welcome, and congratulations on reaching the point in the story where, having learned how women want to be treated, you wake up from this weird dream a better man, confusing everyone around you!"

"You're a weirdo, you know that?"

She said she did, and then we started talking about her new job, apartment, boyfriend, and all that.

It got me spending a little more time looking in the mirror after slowing and changing to go out, though.  I always say that's still me, just in a sexier package, and even when I'm putting on lipstick or a push-up bra or whatever because I want guys to look at me, I figure that's kind of just biology too, but, shit, how much of the guy inside has changed over the past few years, and what would I be if I was suddenly myself again?


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Valerie: Friends Without Benefits

Of all the people to talk to about my dating situation, the one I looked forward to the least was Rafe.

Rafe is back at the shop after an extended time away. Somehow he heard about my hanging around with Kevin, and somehow he got the idea it was any of his business.

"So Chickpea, I heard you got ghosted by Silvertop."

I told him he heard wrong, that Kevin and I were hanging out regularly as friends... with no benefits.

"And he's not trying to get laid? That's weird."

Now, part of me agrees but I would never let him know that. So I tell Rafe it's sad that he doesn't think men and women can be friends without sex, which I also happen to believe (moreso now that I'm a woman maybe than when I was a man.)

"I don't think it's impossible," Rafe shrugged, "I mean, I like to think you and I are friends. But then again, we've already had sex."

"Don't remind me," I grumbled.

"I never heard any complaints," he smirked. I felt a little queasy at that, not the least because it's true and he knows it. It especially stings that I've basically been with nobody since him. But I know he's just trying to push my butrons. Puts me in a no-win situation - either I lose my cool and seem like an uptight woman, or I play along and encourage it.

Understanding men doesn't always help you deal with them.

My girls are more understanding of the situation, to various degrees. Maddie thinks it's cool, but she has specifically said she "ships" me and Kevin, so she holds out hope. Charli is skeptical - I wouldn't say she's a manhater but she is definitely one to question everything that comes out of a man's mouth, so despite his apparent honesty, she sees the possibility of ulterior motives, or just, I don't know, some kind of desire to mess with my head.

Ariel, oddly enough, is the one I've talked about it the most with. She's the one who has most tried to get the sense of my feelings - am I really okay being just friends with Kevin? Teaching him to cook, going on outings to markets and stuff, playing out part of a relationship without ever truly fulfilling it? Am I setting myself up for pain? Am I settling for staying in orbit around a man who, by his own admission, can't love me back, as a way of avoiding trying to find something real?

Am I hoping for something, that I can "break through the shell" as a commentor put it?

I don't know.

I do know that, despite what he's told me about himself, I feel a connection. We've had long talks, had some really cute moments. I made a conscoous decision not to push him away after what he told me. I wanted to show we could get along and I could be in his life without expecting anything. But it hasn't  een wothout challenges.

You know, I think I'm still a little guarded around guys, which probably didn't help my case on the dating scene. I want reasons not to like them and I don't want to try to make them like me. But with Kevin the feeling is very natural. We "vibe." It just stings that being around him kind of gets me worked up and then, well... there's no payoff.

We took a weekend trip upstate. He had a  business meeting and I invited myself along because I wanted to get out of town and see the area. That obviously seems frought, especially since we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast - and you know my history with cute little Inns. But it was nice. We stayed in separate rooms of course.

I imagined we were in Maine. We wake up as different people and suddenly all his baggage melts away and we begin a new life together. That's a rotten fantasy. The man has kids. A life. And I have my own commitment, a commitment to myself to stay as Valerie for good. But I'm not doing much as her except fretting over boys and it's making me crazy.

And besides, I should know well enough that your baggage doesn't just disappear when you get a new body. As far as I'm concerned it only gets bigger.


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Daryl/Magda: Home Alone

I've always been a little wary of people who seem to define themselves in large part based on whatever relationship they're in, which sure must seem a little strange to people reading this, because I literally wouldn't be who I am now if not for being with J.T. and I talk about that a lot because this whole thing is a great but unexpected part of my life with a lot of unexpected details.

And having what I've got with J.T. makes it a lot easier to accept and be who I know myself to be.  It's just...

Well, nobody has a straight career path these days, especially for people like J.T. who know they're going to be jumping from project to project.  Even leaving the Inn out of it, he went from acting on TV to the stage, where people said he had more talent as a singer, so he did that, which led to him getting another job in a play, and now that that's closed, he's booked a four-episode arc on a show shooting in Toronto.  It's not quite back where he started, and his next thing could be anything, but it's a good job.

But it's in Toronto, and leaves me feeling weird and lonely.

He's been out of town three days, and as much as I don't want to be the woman that's all about her boyfriend, I find myself wondering if maybe I am and it makes everything else feel really unnatural.  I get home at the end of the day and clean off my makeup because there's not much reason to keep it on, and without J.T. around it doesn't feel like I'm getting enough layers off.  I look pretty good for a fifty-ish woman, but I've got to confess I've already skipped one trip to the gym.

We'd had an idea of maybe using this time to secure an upgrade so that the age difference isn't quite so striking to outsiders, but even if you know who to talk to, there's kind of a long list of people looking for "younger and prettier".  That whole side of the Inn subculture is kind of gross, when you come right down to it - I don't really think it's like buying and selling people, even if the language can sort of go in that direction, but it can sure feel like a really thorough form of identity theft, even if you verify that the people who originally led a life are giving it up willingly.  J.T. suggested I look at it as next-level plastic surgery, but even that seems creepy.

Anyway, nothing came up, so I've got another fall and winter as Magda, who has to be more than just J.T.'s girlfriend, especially since I don't have a lot of Inn crew nearby.  Pete's someone else in Massachusetts, Jenn hasn't sent new contact information, and Tylerie...  I don't know about her.  Sometimes she just seems like she wants to just act like she's always been Val, sometimes it seems like we just don't have anything to talk about, and sometimes she will say or do something that reminds me that there's a guy from the South who knows his way around a gun in there, and that I wasn't always Polish.  He's never actually done anything to make me fearful, but the stuff that burrows deep into your head when you're young doesn't leave just because you've got new skin.

On that note, I don't hang out with June/Jonah much anymore.  He seems to be acclimating pretty well, which I guess is what school will do for you - even if he was a year older than the other freshman, it was traveling to see the world, and between his own experience, reading the social media and diaries Krystle kept, and just having the confidence to bullshit a bit, he kind of made himself cool.  Too cool to have time for this middle-aged white lady.

So I guess it's time to start actually being one, every once in a while.  I've at least managed to be friendly with everyone at work, so it's not too weird when I finally say yes when someone brings up a girls' night.  Accepting the invitation feels weird - I've spent so much of the past year using J.T. to basically be myself despite looking like Magda, that actually hanging out with other Magdas is very unnerving.  But, I figure, it's not forever - I so plan to get some of these twenty years back next summer - so I might as well give it a try.


Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Jenn: The Easy Way Out

When I got to the Inn the first people I encountered were my next-rooms-over neighbors: two couples, about my normal age of mid-20's. Now, one thing I have been sure to do as Shona is to clock the reactions of every person I see as I hobble around. Some gawk. Some avert their eyes. Some, usually older folks, nod courteously. And some, like these four, save their comments for after they think you're out of earshot.

And usually, they underestimate how far "earshot" is.

I've definitely learned not to take these things seriously, especially now that I knew it was not going to be permanent. As RuPaul says, what people think of me is none of my business. Don't get me wrong, it pisses me off that people think they have the right to say shit, but I was going to just let it slide as a way of owning what I had become while I still was her. In fact, I even tried to flaunt what I have through the weekend with what I wore. It was not a blazing summer heat in Old Orchard Beach this weekend, but it was temperate enough for a revealing sundress. I was probably more confident in this setting than I have been all summer.

The whole time I've been at the Inn this week, I can't stop thinking about how selfish and shallow I've been. I can't help wondering if I was motivated by some part of me that just wanted the opportunity to dump Shona's body before next summer and move on already. But I stand by the logic - if Steven was intent on barging up to the Inn willy nilly it was best if he takes a body that is not spoken for and the only one at hand is Shona's. Since I'll probably never see my real face in the mirror again, it's no problem if I have to move on, but Steven? He still has a chance.

And hey, if you're going to put yourself through the trouble, why not do it to experience something very, very different from who you started out as?

If I say "he didn't need much convincing" that probably makes it sound like he was really into the idea, but I would categorize his reaction as just, he reluctantly saw my point. When he announced he was determined to go to the Inn and find the truth for himself, it didn't occur to him that he was playing a very dangerous game. And since I am mixed up in it on a permanent basis I decided I needed to help him. So I told him to get used to the idea of bras and periods, for a start.

So the plan is for Steven to become Shona. There are advantages there: it's a body and a life he knows. We know where the body has been and who it should go back to (or rather, that nobody is "expecting" it.) And yes, he is a man who will be spending some time as a woman. I asked him to take a beat and make sure he could wrap his head around that. I think he came up against a wall in his belief. I guess getting laid off was the "life-changing moment" that allowed his disbelief to crack, the way weddings and funerals are for others. But I think there's still that doubt there. Like maybe he wouldn't agree to it if he really thought it would come true.

I honestly don't know if he's ready for what he's gotten himself into, but who ever is?

Before I arrived, I nursed a hope that my new body would be more along the lines of Shona's than anything else, if only to try to prove to myself that I could live as this person, that I wasn't just taking the easy way out. Make me some fat sweatu trucker, I deserve it. The things I have thought, and written, about my brief time as Shona proves that I could stand to grow.

Well, it didn't work out that way. And I knew it from the second I got here, if the luggage I found was any indication...

Last night, I felt my flesh start to tingle, even more intensely than ever before, maybe because I was shrinking, shrinking down. Shona's clothes seemed to expand around me but in reality, all my extra fat and flab was condensing inward until it disappeared, leaving a tight, feminine frame.

For better or worse, I'm so skinny I can see my ribs. I have hips, and a waist again. I have petite breasts and a thin neck and skinny legs. I have what you might call an ideal female body. Except... it's only fourteen years old.

Meet Paola Vasquez, a Puerto Rican girl from Queens, who had come to Maine with her parents, younger sister and boyfriend. One couple from the next rooms over became "my parents" (they did not switch genders) and the other, well... the girl became "my" boyfriend, a high school football player, and her boyfriend is wearing pigtails and attending the fifth grade.

Obviously, after the change, there was a lot of talk about what to do next, and being that several of us are "dependent" now, there was a pressing need to get back to Queens and get established in these new lives.

It's... going to be an interesting year, I think, and if I remember the ninth grade well enough Paola won't be missing too much this year that she can't make up later. I might not blog about it too much just because I don't want to give too much info away about the teenage girl whose life I am living. I've already given a fake name here, so don't try Googling it.

Besides, I might be too busy with schoolwork.

Steven, I hope you find what you are looking for.



Monday, September 02, 2019

Jenn: Back to the Inn Part 3

Don't look at me, it wasn't my idea. I just went along with it.

It began about a month ago. Steven and I had been out a few times and I hadn't found any major flaws other than he just didn't inspire much passion in me. He was kind and thoughtful and caring and funny and I wanted to like him.

I decided to have sex with him after our third outing. As anyone who recalls my fling with Pete knows, sex is something of a big deal for me because I need it in my life and yet I have a lot of barriers. With David I had built trust with (which I had thought was strong.) With Pete I had someone I liked but due to knowing April's appearance was not his own I was hesitant and in the end it did not last.

I am obviously feeling very different since then - about myself  "my" body, my world. I let Steven in as much because it was simple and convenient for me, because, feeling as negatively as I do about being in Shona's body (and again, more on that later) I didn't feel like I had much choice. It was him or permanent celibacy.

Another factor, which also makes me sick to think of but is definitely part of it, was feeling like he "deserved" it. I try not to do it as a "reward" for men's (or anyone's) behavior but out of true mutual desire. That desire wasn't really burning for me, but I wanted him to be happy because I felt for the guy, being left with no answers as to why, undeservedly. I was in a position to make this man happy in a way few others could. He deserves better than me as Shona, and honestly better than the real Shona has treated him, but I'm all he had.

It didn't stop me from crying though.

It wasn't very romantic. On our third or fourth date I basically sat there thinking to myself "If this guy doesn't do anything to screw it up I might as well have sex with him tonight." And I tried to be excited for that (because yay sex!) But also stay out of my head and not look for minute reasons why not.

As usual he was good, inoffensive company so at the end of the evening I invited myself up and of course he was willing.

It was good. I want to stress that. It felt good to be kissed, to be touched, to be paid attention to. I liked it. I just found it hard to stop thinking about my physical appearance negatively and to feel sexy. It felt very detached for me by the end, which I didn't like.

And of course, he was making love to another woman.

I cried. We did it a half dozen times in two weeks and I cried almost every time, mostly quietly to myself. I wasn't even sure what I was crying over specifically, I just knew I had plenty of reasons.

Eventually he noticed and asked - because, you know, he's sensitive and concerned. I started by trying to lie and say I had no idea but the part of me that wants to be truthful blurted out between sobs, "I'm not who you think I am!"

He tried to reassure me and say of course I was, that he knew me inside and out and he knew me enough to know he truly loves me. I told him he wasn't getting it and he never would.

He said to try.

So I did. I blurted out about how I appeared to him to be Shona Nash but really I was a different person and my real name is Jenn. That when Shona took her trip to Maine she was transformed into a different person - I don't know who - and left me to be transformed into her, and I was trying to cope with "all of this" as best I could,  but it was "a big change" and I was still getting used to it, and I just wanted to feel normal (and sexy) again, but it wasn't working, and I feel so bad for being a fake and a liar. And I felt like he deserved better than a fake Shona.

He, um... I don't think he got it. He said whatever the problem really was we could work through it, but there was no need to push him away. I cried some more, having given it my best shot. I just told him to think about it, that someday soon I might say something the real Shona never would and to keep all of this in mind. He just kind of laughed it off but I hoped he would remember.

Then last week he came to me and said he wanted to talk.

He had just been let go from his job. He was working as a culinary scientist for a local ice cream company - I had to stifle a laugh at that, the Big Girl dating the Ice Cream man, but it wasn't funny. He felt he had helped build the company over five years and was frustrated that they had dropped him. He had spent a night just driving around town, wanting to call me... but something stopped him. And he thought back to what I had said about not being the real Shona, and he was giving it more and more thought.

"I don't know what to do," he said. "If you're really not Shona, and she left me, I want to know why. A hole has opened up in my heart that I need filled but I think I'm never going to understand fully, unless..."

My eyes widened. He couldn't possibly be saying it...

"Unless I do this. It's possible, right? If it's real, then I'll know for sure."

"Steven, you can't--" I said, "I can't let you do that to yourself! If you go to the Inn there is a *high probability* you never get to be yourself again. It's too risky and I would never deliberately put someone in that situation."

"Shona... Jenn... if I've lost you, and my job, I don't know what I have left. If everything you told me is true, I need to know, and the only way I can ever know is to do it myself. I can't stop thinking about it."

"It's too unpredictable," I said, "Too much can go wrong. Believe me, Murphy's Law lives at the Inn."

"I know where it is, I'm going with or without your blessing."

"Whatever you're looking for, it's not in Maine."

"It's not in Gainesville either," he huffed.

"Okay, okay, don't be hasty," I said, "Maybe there are some controls we can put on this."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, the Inn closes down in September. After the last block of reservations, I think the people who stayed there last, their bodies get left in some kind of limbo. So if you stay there last, there's a chance you can come back in the spring and reclaim your true body."

Steven looked at me again like I was nuts - like the details only made it sound more fake.

"And maybe it would be for the best if you knew exactly who you were becoming. The Inn can be very random and I wouldn't want you to get too messed up."

"What are you suggesting?" He asked suspiciously.

"Well," I said, my face turning beet red as I broached the topic, "There really only is one option..."

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Jordan/Yuan-wei: Half a World Away

Been a while since I checked in, but I guess that happens to everyone - at a certain point, you are Jordan Lee Yuan-wei, recent college graduate with a job in the visual effects industry, and the fact that you used to be Jordan Chang, male and five years older, is less important on a daily basis.  Especially with my parents doing their best to act like I was born this way.  It was weird to get earrings for Christmas from my mom, but I'm not complaining.  Even though becoming a girl hasn't made me really into jewelry, that's her accepting a lot.

Of course, I don't may have one mother now, and Yang Chen-ai has been anxious in recent weeks.

I know that not many Americans have been following the news out of Hong Kong (this country has its own issues to fill all your worrying about the world going to hell needs), but it's something I get asked about a fair amount because I'm from there as far as anybody who doesn't know about the Inn is concerned.  What's going on scares the shit out of me, to be honest, because there's not a lot of scenarios that don't have Lee Yuan-wei going back there for more than a visit at some point, and I'm scared that it's never going to be close to the place I know again.

On the one hand I don't know if Chen-ai really cares about that.  Maybe she does; even evil people can love their home, though I think she's mercenary enough to put up with anything so long as the business continued to bring money in.  On the other, well, she had had her husband killed with the intention of setting me or whoever else wound living Yuan-wei's life up for the fall, so who knows what else she's afraid of happening to her should China take more direct control over Hong Kong and start looking into things that had previously been ignored.  It's enough to spook her, enough to get in contact with Bingbing and hint that if she would like to go back to her real life, that could be arranged, if Chen-ai were to become her.

I'm almost angry that she said no, for a bunch of really fucking stupid reasons.

I suppose all of you that read this blog because you, not having been to the Inn, see it as a weird or kinky fantasy saw this coming, because it's the most dramatic way to fuck with me, but it turns out that the person who has been living the life of Chen Bingbing for the past couple years is, you guessed it, my ex-boyfriend Jacky.  The one I broke up with because Chen-ai promised to ruin our lives if I didn't.  Who then, apparently thinking that I wasn't upset enough by the whole state of affairs, proceeded to fuck and then get involved with my brother without telling either of us what was going on.

The whole finding out deal was weird - I guess Jacky found out that Chen-ai was sleeping with whoever was living his life (he was working as her personal assistant), figured that meant he was never going back, so came clean to Max.  They didn't immediately break up, but he told me, and...  Well, the whole thing felt gross, and for a while my brother and I weren't talking, but eventually he met another girl and decided he didn't want to be in a relationship that wasn't just about the two people involved.  Jacky/Bingbing graduated from college this May and went back home to HK, and we'd kind of figured that was it.  I wanted that to be it.

I asked him what he wanted, and while he said that he had come to accept the idea of being Bingbing for the foreseeable future, it wasn't like he'd put down roots, and I can testify that the call of "how things should be" is damn strong, even when everybody thinks they're probably better off.  So who am I to tell him that there's probably some major league catch?

It's got me stupidly distracted, though, to the point where people are noticing at work.  I can tell them that I'm worries about folks back "home", but the truth is, they really don't give a shit; they just can't have our team missing deadline on animating a swarm of monsters.  so there's been a lot of overtime and I probably haven't been doing my best work.

And I don't get it.  I've always had it in the back of my mind that Chen-ai might decide to leave her old life behind and become a generation younger, I always thought it would be to become Yuan-wei.  It's just so much fucking simpler!  Has she stayed liking me enough to not want to mess with my life, or does she see some other way to mess with me?

Who the fuck knows?  This shit doesn't matter as much as the rest of what's going on in Hong Kong, and I wish it wasn't my first concern about the whole thing.


Monday, August 19, 2019

Jenn/Shona: The Mystery of Shona

I have been Shona Nash for over two months 1now. I have cried as her, sweat as her, bled as her. Once or twice I've smiled, laughed, even danced as her. I still don't really know who she is, or was.

From the way people who know her act around me, she seems like she was fun, intelligent, and had a biting sense of humor they were borderline afraid of. On balance it seems like she had a good life, and she knew it. But I can only draw the conclusion that there's a reason she didn't want to live it anymore.

In my head it seems obvious. I mean hello. Take everything that's hard about being a woman and multiple it by 100 when you're this size. The world isn't built for you, people on the street look at you like a freak. I ballooned up literally overnight so of course I was not going to handle it well, not right at first. Did Shona ever get used to it?

I have become damn near obsessed with figuring this woman out. On her social media she seems more comfortable in her skin than I could ever hope to be, with lengthy rants on body positivity under her pics, mant of which do show considerable skin (rolls and all.) She seemed proud to be Shona. Why run from it? Deep down was it an act? Did something better come along? I'm dying to know but I may never.

In that spirit I decided to keep trying with Steven. If he was good enough for her perhaps there was something to that. But I wanted to try on my terms. Physical limitations be damned I wanted to hike some of the trails here. New York was fun but nothing compares to the true outdoors. I invited him alog.

Steven was a little confused but game. So we packed some backpacks with plenty of water and granola and took a hike. It was exhausting. My feet throbbed, my body was rashy with sweat and chafing. My god, next time, remind me to pick up some anto-chafe stick for my... everything.

Steven complained, probably just tryong to make a joke of it. Normally in that situation I'd tell him to man up but I was right there with him. But I didn't voice my own complaints since I was the one who spurred this. My role was to urge us on, to make sure it became an enjoyable day at all costs.

We settled in a secluded area to rest and est and got to talking, which for me meant very delicately feeling him out and trying not to sound like we just met. I know the "curse" is supposed to... well, I'm not even sure but I was counting on it to avoid raising suspicion but I didn't want to invite any questions either way.

I wonder, the longer I drag this out, if he'll find it weird that I forgot where he works, or how many siblings he has, or what his favorite band is.

He asked me why the sudden health kick. I said it wasn't a kick, this is what I'm interested in going forward. I haven't decided what to do, if it's disrespectful go start going hard in the gym and try to make Shona's body something it wasn't (and may not realistically ever be) or if I should just accept that this is me now and make do. In either case, the hiking isn't a weight loss thing, it's just something I enjoy. It's harder and more problematic for me now but I don't want the Inn to take that away from me.

I wasn't sure how to tell him that though. I guess when you're big, people think it defines you and everything must be in service to weight loss. I'm guilty of that too.

Did Shona leave her life because she hated being fat? Or was it something else? Maybe I'll never know. I thought of asking Steven, coyly if possible, if I ever mentioned anything like that  but... honestly, if I were her, that's the last person I would tell. She went to the Inn without him and as nice as he she doesn't seem to be missing him.

A shame. He's nice, he deserves better.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Valerie: The Art of Cooking

When I mused in my last post about not knowing what to wear for my date with Kevin, I wasn't kidding around. I was right puzzled by the situation and a girl like me really has to think hard about what kind of message she sends with her clothes. We were in uncharted territory. I had arranged a meeting that may or may not have been a date, with a guy I was maybe sorta getting to like, and who I thought kinda liked me. Getting the fine details right is crucial.

Luckily I have three roommates who are lifelong females, two of whom are quite femme and glad to help me play dressup.

In the years I've been a woman, I've reached a grudging acceptance that clothes make the woman. I was Judith after all, and Lauren before that. But as Valerie - as myself - I am free to dress how I see fit. I don't need to please clients or compare myself to other teenage girls. Mostly I work, and when I'm slinging coffee that means jeans (or yoga pants) and whatever top I see fit, usually a dark crew neck tee. I do have the occasional night out but it's not hard to fit the right mood: casual, fun or (more rarely) fancy. I don't mind being the most modest girl at the party. I don't usually want the attention.

Now I had to walk the line and I didn't even know where it was. In theory this was just a cooking lesson. I could go right from work and seem right in character. But I wanted it to look like I'd put some thought in. Maybe to suggest that I would be up for more, but not that I was planning on it. (See? For womwn fashion is practically a language. And they speak it to men without them even knowing.)

I've got this little black dress I've been itching to wear all summer. It falls just at the sweet spot midway up my thigh, and really showcases my chest in a tasteful way because it has a high neckline, uet managrs to a oid looking like a potsto sack. I bought it months ago but haven't had the courage, or a reason, to wear it out. If I wore that it would be clear what message I was sending: "Let's go straight to dessert."

Don't think I didn't consider it, but that's more of a third date outfit.

In the end I wore my "good-ass" jeans and a top that is a little more revealing than what I wear to work, with a deeper neckline. It reads casual, as if I might not know my tits are on display. Rest assured, with the bra I was wearing, I knew full well.

I also did my makeup more than usual and curled my hair. It kills me how men never notice these things, and we don't even expect them to. It's just to make ourselves feel like our version of sexy. I also wore nice underwear, on the off chance it came up. For the men's part, I remember sort of taking it for granted that women's looks just kind of fell together easily without so much dang work.

Arriving at his place, I felt more nervous than I have been for a very long time. I felt like I was crossing a threshold. All the dates I've been on since the beginning of the year felt more like something to do, with guys I could take or leave (and mostly left.) This was the first guy I was starting to really like, and my uncertainty about how he felt about me, my need to win him over, was really affecting me. He greeted me with an ambiguous hug. I leaned into him to try to put him - and myself - at ease.

His place was pretty nice, considering what I'm used to around here. I mean, having a place to yourself in Brooklyn is pretty much a sign you're doing well as far as I'm concerned. That was intimidating. I'm not as young as I look, but this guy had a whole "grown up" life that I guess I haven't experienced since being Judith, or even much before that.

It's oddly intimidating being around him, in a way. I'm so used to being in positions where I have more life experience than people. But this guy is older than me, and he's lived a life and matured in ways that even Kitty never seemed. Being around him makes me feel not just my age, but Valerie's, like I'm still a kid to him, even though I've lived five lives and seen and done incredible things.

He offered me a drink of wine. I thought okay, that's pretty datey, semi-romantic, right? Setting the mood.

I felt better once I started cooking. I didn't know his skill level so I thought I would focus on the basics - correctly cooking a chicken, with some seasoning and presentation. How to design an idiot-proof meal. Get him to where he can stop buying meals that come in a box, and just buy the ingredients for them instead.

We got to talking some. He noted my skill and comfort in the kitchen, and asked why I wasn't doing this for a living.

"Working in a restaurant? Eh, I've been there and done that. All kitchens are is just a bunch of douchey tattooed man-children sweating and swearing and pulling their cocks out for laughs. I kind of outgrew it."

He nearly choked on his wine from laughing when I said that. "I had no idea you had such a mouth on you!"

"Oh, sweetie I've been around!" I said, consciously more feminine language. "I may look pretty and delicate but I'm a tough cookie inside."

"Yeah? Are you secretly one of those tattooed sweaty guys inside?"

I grinned wide. "Oh, totally. That's me all over," I said in a tone that maybe sounded like a joke. I think I might have been blushing. Might have been the wine.

I switched the topic. We talked about his work, and his kids - why they live with their grandparents much of the time and not him. With some shame he admitted he didn't feel comfortable being a single parent, and wanted his kids to have a more stable upbringing.

I didn't ask, but he explained this much about his ex: "She got in some trouble a few years back, and the court had to... well, it's an ongoing issue."

We ate, and again he raved at the quality of this very basic meal. "You sure you don't want to get back into the food biz? Maybe open your own place?"

"I don't think so," I said, "Like, that just seems like another way to get me in a room with those guys I was describing earlier. The amount of work, money, sweat... hell, I don't even have the education necessary to be a chef."

"Don't you work for a catering company on the side? Why not start your own?"

"Yeah, that's more my speed, but I never thought about going into business for myself or anything."

"Why not? All you'd need is some investment money."

"Right, all those millions I have socked away under my mattress," I sighed.

"Well, I'm enjoying your work tonight," he said with a smile.

I told him this was nothing - wait until I make him some buttermilk friend chicken, with Hushpuppies.

"Oh, is this going to be a whole regular thing?" he said.

"If you want it to be," I said, trying to ease off the gas a little if that was what he was feeling.

"No, it's cool, very cool..." then he got a little distant. Like he was trying to work up the nerve to say something. It didn't feel impossible he was trying to work out a way to kiss me. I thought about lunging forward, but I... was very mindful of seeming to eager.

But he was being such a gentleman, really charming and warm, it only solidified the feelings I'd been having, and strengthened my resolve to pursue this.

He killed the bottle of wine between both out glasses. We moved over to the couch.

I decided to take a liberty and laid back and propped my feet on his lap. "Do you mind?" I asked, "I've been on my feet all day, and my back is killing."

"Really... back problems already? You're what, 25?"

"Oh, yeah," I said, "It's these things." I cupped my boobs. For a second he looked nervous like he didn't know where to put his eyes. I told him he could look - I know they're there.

"They're a pain in the ass," I said, really just venting off the cuff and barely realizing I was now openly discussing my boobs with this guy. "Ever since I got them. I've thought about getting them reduced but..."

"But what? Money again?"

"No," I said, thinking of the gift I got from the former Valerie back at Christmas. "I could swing that. It's just... they're a part of me. It's hard to explain. I hate them, but I... I'm not sure I'd still be who I am without them."

"That's ridiculous," he smirked. "You're more than a pair of..."

"I... really can't explain. I have a very complicated relationship with my body. The idea of doing something to change it like that is both... very easy, and very hard to contemplate."

What I as trying to say was, part of me wants to keep this body as close to how I found it as I can, and that includes the massive boobs, as much of a hindrance as they are. Objectively, it really only makes sense to go down several sizes. But I worry about losing touch with my conception of who I am as Valerie.

A weird silence hung in the air as we both tried to reckon with the fact that I had just stirred up a conversation about my breasts. I felt like maybe I was getting a bit drunk.

"Listen, I really appreciate this," he said tentatively. I could sort of read where he was going, but I stayed quiet in hopes I was wrong. "I should be up front. I didn't mean for things to go too far here, I didn't even realize... I mean, if you were expecting this to be something else, besides... well..."

He hesitated. I finished his thought for him. "This isn't a date."

He shook his head.

"You don't... feel that way toward me."

He stayed still.

"Val, you're really lovely, but I'm not in a place to pursue something like that right now."

"What does that mean?" I said flatly, trying real hard not to let my growing disappointment - and anger - show.

"I have some serious baggage. I'm not the man for you. I really need you to know that - it's me."

"I have baggage too," I insisted. "I have been through shit that, no disrespect, you couldn't even fathom. I mean that."

"Why, because your ex cheated on you? I don't mean to minimize that, but..."

"Bud, that's the least of it."

I was getting very upset that I couldn't play the 'I had my body stolen years ago ad had to learn to like being a woman - basically to get to this' card.

He took a breath.

"It's really not you. You're great. And you deserve a great guy. Ever since things went down with my wife, I... oh God, this is really hard to say, okay, so please, please bear with me...

"...I have completely lost interest in sex and relationships."

I looked at him probably very suspiciously. "You what?"

"I just don't want that anymore. None of it. I don't feel that way about anybody. I'm in therapy, and I don't know, maybe with some work I can learn to feel that way again, but... trust me, being with someone like me is the last thing a young person like you deserves."

I honestly didn't know how to take that.

I was still mad at the rejection even though it had nothing to do with me. I was hurt, confused. It was hard to process, and yet in the days since I have been able to understand it a bit better... after all, I've dealt with my own desires changing away from what I used to want, what I still wanted-to-want, to what my body, and my heart, really does seem to want. So why couldn't it go the same, in a different direction?

But in that moment I really didn't know what to say, so I finished my drink and shook his hand and offered an awkward hug, and called for a ride.

I was so upset. For days. And I couldn't even be mad at him without feeling guilty, because it's not his fault. But part of me did take it personally, did resent all of that, and was mad at him, and at myself for getting so invested in the possibility that someone so good would be interested in me. I've made my peace with it, but in that moment I sure felt like an idiot who worked too hard to make herself pretty.

Part of me still suspects it's a lie, even if the idea of a man lying to not have sex with a much younger woman seems absurd when you say it out loud.

In the end, I reached out to tell him it was fine, and I could be his friend and teach him to cook for his daughters and anything else he needed. And I felt like I meant it, but I'd be lying if I said my feelings for him completely dissipated.


Monday, August 12, 2019

Jonah/Krystle: Beach Body

Jordan's employers gave her enough time away from her workstation last week to get out and about, which meant a few pictures and videos on social media as she tried to learn to surf like a real California girl - she really seems to be having a ball!

After one which was just her kind of just lying on a surfboard in her bikini, leg dangling over the side, I DMed her saying I didn't know how she was able to do that with such confidence - Calvin had invited me to go with him to the beach for a few days and was a nervous wreck.  She says it's no big deal, especially if you've got something like surfing or whatever going on instead of just sitting there, and it's not like we didn't used to go shirtless.  Sure, I say, but it's different when you've got stuff hanging out rather than the bits that needed covering being safely in the middle of some baggy trunks.  She asks if I've been slacking off some we stopped going to yoga together, and since I got that message while changing for the climbing wall, I send her a selfie. See, she says, I've got nothing to be ashamed of.

Believe it out not, I'm inclined to agree.  It's taken me something like four years to really feel good about this body, but I'm really confident these days.  My boobs are finally back down to their pre-pregnancy size, which is not always easy to deal with, but I'm kind of forgetting what flat feels like.  I've also become kind of a gym rat, not just from climbing with Calvin, but also going with Momma Kamen - her doctor told her to make some changes, but because she's apparently been the type who prioritized looking after her family more than herself (and burned what calories she needed to by running after kids and grandkids), she won't think to hit the gym unless Klara or I go with her.  So we do - well, I do, mostly, with Auntie Klara watching little Moira - and now she's got a lot more stamina and I've got abs.

Not the sort of chiseled six-pack I wanted as a teenage boy, of course, but enough that I don't look scrawny.  My legs are really toned, too, and arms have some real definition.  I don't look masculine, and Calvin will attest that I don't feel that way (and, yeah, maybe getting a little better at the giving and receiving physical pleasure also has me feeling better about my body).  I've found a hairstylist who gives me a natural look that I like, and I've even started wearing the tops that show a bit of cleavage at work.  I guess feeling like I've made my body a certain way makes me a little more comfortable using it rather than hiding it.  I even got a kind of warm feeling when the original Krystle made a comment about my muscles being gross on Facebook; I'm never not going to feel guilty about taking this life from her, but it makes me feel more like myself and not an imitation.

So, like Jordan says, I've got nothing to be ashamed of, but I still get some anxiety around Calvin's successful white friends, and being more or less in my underwear didn't feel like it would make things easier.  But it has been a really hot summer, and the pictures he showed off the little cottage his family had on the Cape looked nice.  Completely un-cursed, too, although that didn't really enter my head until someone asked me when the last time I went to the beach was.  It looked like a good time, so why not?

It was a big surprise for Moira, who has never been to the beach before.  She wasn't thrilled with getting into her car seat - she's a city girl who expects to either be carried or in a stroller (or tries to run up and down the subway cars) and this thing where she gets strapped in and faces the back of the car while Mommy and Calvin are up front for an hour or more is some garbage as far as she's concerned, even if she does eventually fall asleep.  For as crazy as the terrible twos can make you, though, there are also the moments when you get her out of the car and take her around back of the house and her eyes go wide, and then she turns around and says "Mommy, it's a sandbox with no box!"  Then she runs to the water and giggles when it's cold on her feet.

In no time whatsoever, she's letting me change her into a bathing suit and excited about the bag of new plastic beach toys.  She's kind of impatient while I change, which gives me relatively little time to really fret about how even a pretty modest one-piece exposes half my butt cheeks.  Well, never I never complained about seeing that sort of thing before, and I could throw on some shorts if need be.

Moira loves the beach; she'll dig in the sand and splash and pick up the wet sand by the water and just throw it back at the ground for hours.  After a while we blew up a floatie and that, also, was the best.  Being part of that is amazing in a way that's hard to explain, and it made Calvin smile too.  My girl is amazing.

She crashed after a few hours, and I got a chance to stroll down the beach while Calvin tried to put the fire pit his father bought together.  The change from the city was something I didn't really know I'd needed, but the sound of the waves and them lapping at my feet was kind of beautiful.  Of course, during the summer, you're not really going to be alone, and a three-year-old crashed into me a few houses down.   His mom came over to apologize, but lot up when she heard my name.  "You're Cal's girlfriend!  He's said so much about you!  I'm Annalise; he's been my summer neighbor since we were nine."

We chatted for a while, until her husband came out and gave me a weird look, like I didn't belong in a place with summer neighbors.  I headed back "home".

Despite Annalise's skepticism Calvin did manage to get the fire pit together, and actually grilled some acceptable steaks and baked potatoes with it, though Moira was initially skeptical about his insistence that he burned the hot dogs he made for her on purpose.

After she went down for the night, we sat out on the porch, and I mentioned meeting Annalise, saying she seemed nice.  He said he had been looking forward to introducing all his friends the next day but Annalise was definitely the one to meet first.  I mentioned that, seeing as this was his parents' place, there seemed to be other people for me to meet, but didn't push too much.  He's meet Momma Kamen and Klara, but not my real family, so I can't really demand more.

I murat have looked a bit tense after that, because he asked me if something was bothering me as we went to bed, but that wasn't it.  This was the first time we were sharing a bed while Moira was in the next room.  He asked if that meant we should be quiet, but I pointed out that we'd tired her out pretty good.

When getting ready to go to the neighbor's the next day, I saw with a bit of dismay that I had spilled some wine on the swimsuit I'd worn the previous day, and with no time to wash it, that meant going with the bikini.  That one is bright green, tends to squish my breasts together, and has dangling ties that I was sure Moira would pull on in just the right way to get me in trouble given half a chance.  A pair of shorts and a loose t-shirt covered it up quick, and who knows, maybe I could just stay in that all day.

It was not to be; I made it a couple hours, but then Moira was like "come swim, mommy!", and you can only put up a fight so long, especially in front of other parents, so off comes the outer layer, and then it's time to ignore the jokes about "so that's why Cal's hooking up with a single mom!"

I try to smile like a good sport, making it about the work I've put in rather than what I've stolen in my head.  I say under my breath that people used to pay money to see this body naked so they're lucky to see this much for free, but not too loud, because there's no need for Calvin and his friends to think of me that way, especially when it wasn't me. 

It's just a couple people, though, and the kids make it easy to put that out of my head.  Annalise apologizes for the boys being idiots, and says she's jealous of Moira being so fond of the water - her boy is about a year older but still scared.  I say that's just Moira; she's generally fearless, probably from spending so much time around her cousins and trying hard to keep up.

It wasn't that much of a pep talk, but it's not like she knew I needed one or that I'd be watching her as we got out of the water and noticing that she walked around like wearing a bikini on a beach was no big deal.  I've got to admit, it felt kind of nice to actually feel the sun and breeze on my upper body, and I was able to eventually work my way up to running around or playing volleyball without worrying that stuff would fall out.

Without a nap, Moira crashed hard when we got back to the house, and so did I, which means we didn't have much time to talk.  Sunday wasn't really a big day for discussion either, as we went into town to eat at this clam shack that Calvin probably thinks is twice as good as it actually is because he associates it with summer vacation, along with some frozen custard that actually was pretty great.  Moira saw a kite in a shop window, so we got to discover that none of us know anything about flying kites before packing up the car and heading back to Boston.

Once Moira was napping, I turned to Cal and tried to give a playful smile that girls who don't have a bunch of impossible secrets wear.  "So, did you and Annalise ever hook up?  She was really nice to me but who you're dating seems kind of important to her."

"What?  No!  She's actually more my sister's friend, and that would have been weird."

"Uh-huh.  So, do they think you dating me is weird, or am I okay?"

"Like I care what a bunch of people I see one weekend a year thinks of who I date."

That was kind of nice to hear.  "Well, I'm sorry if I was weird.  I just feel like I don't know what to do most of the time.  Like, I want to be more fun, especially when we're out together, but don't know how."

He looked a bit uncomfortable.  "Is this because you and I, uh..."

"Because we're different?  Nah.  It's all me."  Am I bad for liking how flustered he gets when he has to stop and consider how being white and coming from a family who can afford a vacation home can put me on the spot?  Because I kind of do like it.  It makes me think he might do okay if he wound up at the Inn and had to live a different life for a while.

"Well, it just so happens that girls who love sports, don't know how sexy they are, and are great moms are just my type."

I smiled and laid my head on his shoulder, not sure when I really started liking the sound of stuff like that rather than playing along, and let him drive us home in warm silence.


Monday, August 05, 2019

Simon/Joy: Professional Girlfriend

The title of this post sounds kind of disreputable, but it's kind of what I feel like some of the time.  I don't have a job, and a fair amount of what I've been up to this spring and summer has been traveling with Iain, or just going out with him for events where you're kind of expected to bring a plus-one.  There's enough of this stuff to do that we're out a couple times a week and not always nearby - that condo in London is not just a place he has because it's annoying to rent a hotel room, although given how few neighbors we see when we're there, it is for some other people in the building.  We've been there, and to Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Copenhagen besides.  The travel and event schedule is just enough that even if I had the right sort of visa to get a job here, I'd be a terrible employee for all the scheduling leeway is be asking for because this can be the only way to see Iain for longer than it takes him to get up and go to work.

Which isn't too suggest he's keeping me around because I look nice in a dress, have excellent small-talk skills that he can't know have been home over a couple of decades in sales, and know what a man likes in bed on top of that.  No, more and more I feel like he genuinely likes me and doesn't think much about how "Joy" is different than she was a few years back.  We have fun going out together even if it's not a work thing.

Not that some people don't occasionally notice.  We were having a sort of low-key night out on Saturday with some of his old school friends, who had apparently met her but not me, and someone made a remark that I hadn't been a whiskey girl in the past.  I shrugged and said I'd developed a taste for it, but this woman was weirdly insistent and annoyed all evening.  I asked Iain what was up with that, and he said that even if she were not a professional party planner, she had sort of been groomed as a hostess from a very early age, and apparently knowing the favorite drinks of your guests was a big deal, both for looking like you cared about them personally and making sure you had the proper amounts of spirits on hand.  Eminently reasonable - I still remember what a lot of clients favored - but it kind of rubbed me the wrong way that night (maybe it wouldn't have if I'd been drinking white wine).

"Is that my future if we stick together a few more years?  A mental file of how to properly flatter everybody you do business with and everyone else in the UK besides?"

"Nah, I figure that'll be my job while you sell the horses."

He said it as a joke, but I am kind of getting better at all the house stuff.  I'm not really good at riding yet, but I'm finding that I really like it.  I've never really thought about how much girls liked horses, but they really can hit this sweet spot of being pretty, powerful, and (hopefully) not threatening.  Iain's family are breeders, so it's not like the horses in the stables were ever wild, but when you sit arop one, you don't feel small and weak and like prey.  Maybe that's not such a big deal to born women, but I definitely notice it.

I haven't quite reached the point where I ask Sir Robert if I can shadow him doing business; it would be really presumptuous with my not actually being part of the family, and as much as I'm okay with having that as a goal - women like Joy have been guaranteeing their futures like that forever and I would be a realist even if I didn't actually like Iain - it's not the sort of thing you can be too plain about.

Is that too "professional"?  I don't know.  Maybe.  Joy didn't really like this sort of thing based on her diaries, but those also make it seem like Iain wasn't too thrilled with them either, and maybe he's either learned to enjoy them more with a date who doesn't complain or he just grew up and realized this is how the world works, and maybe Joy would have too.  Or maybe she wouldn't have, but it doesn't matter, because I'm Joy now.