Thursday, February 21, 2019

Tyler/Valerie: Girly

During parts of my life where I've been physically a woman, I've had an annoying recurring dream where I'm walking down the main street of my hometown in just my underwear. I walk past people I grew up with while they catcall me, yelling out obscene shit like "Nice tits!" "Where'd you get the panties!" "Shake that ass!" and such. I wake up feeling ashamed and bitter. Just terrible that life worked out in such a way that I now live like this. It makes me not want to get out of bed in the morning, let alone do my hair and make-up and get dressed and face the world as this.

Let it be known - I've come to like doing my hair and make-up. I'm free to slack on them, of course, but engaging in girly shit makes me feel, well, girly, in a good way. Which is important, because this is a girly body.

Let's talk about how hard it is to dress myself. Pretty much my only options are to wear something form-fitting that shows off my body, or something frumpy and baggy that may be comfortable and warm but makes me look like I'm in a potato sack. I have no choice but to acknowledge to the world that I have big boobs, round hips, and a butt that is admittedly on the flat side but still feminine. And the shit I get from the world if I choose to downplay my looks is honestly not worth the savings in time and effort. So, you win, world. You've girled me up.

I like the girly stuff, not because I ever did before, but because I've come to see it as part of being me. And no matter who you are, no matter what it takes, you can't beat the feeling of looking in the mirror and knowing the person who is looking back is the real you. However far you are from the way you started.

All this estrogen has had a transformative effect on my brain, and I'm not just talking about being willing to do something like what I did on New Years. I'm a lot more conscientious of, well... everything. I see an ad for skin cream and I think "Hm, my skin has felt dry lately - must be the weather, maybe I'll pick some up." Something that wouldn't have occurred to me during my time as a man. I also think maybe it's made me more sensitive. Charlie was sick last month, and even though we still hadn't really broken the ice, I made her soup and tea and stuff.

As to why I would have dreams knocking me down a peg, it's probably because I go through a sustained period of feeling okay about my situation, and then suddenly my brain wants to correct itself and go "No, this isn't right, you should be a man, being a woman is wrong." Tight clothes, makeup, hairspray, all wrong. Lip balm, wrong. Period, very wrong. But there's nothing I can do about it, and on balance, nothing I want to do about it.

I think what spurred these bad dreams was actually... dating. After things didn't pan out with Erik - I ghosted him, but he also ghosted me, which left me feeling oddly annoyed (what, no "thank you"? Was I not good? Does he think he can do better?) I nearly texted him but I had to remind myself I didn't like him that much, so I went on the apps.

It sucks out there. My whole line, to Pete or Jenn or anyone who asks is, I'm not actively interested in dating women, but man I miss it. I have never met a guy I liked as much as the women I dated. I went out with three guys in January and February and they were all kind of boring. They were guys who work day jobs in offices who message every reasonably attractive person they see, and I just picked the least objectionable ones.

They were full of themselves, they prattled on and on about their work, and, because I, as Valerie, am not really in the same place in my life as them, seemed not to acknowledge my observations. I was beneath them, I was more of a pet, an object, an adorable little accessory to be talked down to. And that was when they bothered to let me into the conversation. They would go on and on and usually casually reveal their cockiness, their sexism, their obliviousness to other peoples' feelings or lives.

I got invited back to all three apartments and I declined all three times even though I would like to find someone to have sex with. I didn't feel particularly attracted to them - it's so crazy how I never know what's going to, uh shall we say, light my fire. I have a few regular customers I have openly referred to as cuties, so I know I'm at least into something, but one is tall and broad-shouldered, the other is short and thin and kind of boyish, and honestly I don't think he's conventionally attractive. And don't think I haven't thought about breaking the ice there, but when you work with the public there's something to be said for keeping your relationships professional.

I was venting about all this to Charlie, of all people. When she was sick, and I helped her with stuff, we started to bond. She loves "straight girl tea" and openly drips acid all over the idea of me having a lovelife. She says I fascinate her, because I seem like such a vanilla, nothing-happening straight girl on the outside, but there's "clearly" more going on. If she only knew.

"Sometimes I wonder about you," she said with a glint in her eye. "Are you sure you're completely straight?"

I smirk, this is oddly the conversation I've wanted to have with her for months, even though I'm about to say things to her I probably shouldn't. "Can you keep a secret?"

"Of course. I'm all about that," she grinned widely.

I take a deep breath, "I've dated women. Years ago. Waaay in the past."

Her jaw dropped and she leaned in closer. "Anything serious?"

"One or two, yeah," I said. I could feel myself getting oddly cold as I edged toward the truth. Maybe this was a mistake.

"Why did you stop?"

"I... it's very complicated. It's not who I am anymore."

"I see. You met the guy who left you at the altar. You straightened out for him, and now you're worried your gay card has expired."

"More like, I let it lapse," I said.

"Uh huh," she nodded skeptically, as if this was not possible (and maybe in her world, it isn't.) "Well, I've got to say over the past few months I've noticed some weird things about you. Like, sometimes this 'normal vanilla good girl' thing is just an outfit you're trying on and it doesn't quite fit."

That stung a little. Any reminder that I'm not totally passing feels the same as those dreams. Like salt in the wounds that even if I embrace womanhood, it doesn't always see me as one of its own. But people take so little notice of others that it never seems to come up. And what she was saying was theoretically admiring (from her standpoint) but it came across as a critique. I got quiet.

"Don't tell Maddie, okay? She doesn't need to know."

"Oh, of course not," Charlie nodded. "Because then she'll get all weird, worrying that you and I might hook up. Or worse, you'd try to hit on her."

"Right..." I said, a little saddened that that might be Maddie's take on the situation.

"She made me promise I wouldn't try to get with you. Well I guess you don't need my help. But I still promise not to knock on your door some drunken night."

"Thanks," I said, "Same here."

She laughed, then coughed and sneezed and snorted in an adorably disgusting way. "Let it lapse!" she hooted, bringing back my term from earlier "That's hilarious."

Later, when it was my turn to be sick, she looked after me, then when Maddie was sick, we let her boyfriend take care of it, although I'd be lying if I didn't say there was a part of me that thought I could be doing a better job.


Monday, February 11, 2019

Jenn/Zack: What the HELL???

Breaking up with David was the hardest, most gut-wrenching process of my life. It took days of fighting and negotiating and going back and forth endlessly on text and e-mail and in person.

Before pulling the trigger, I had to make sure my bases were covered - since I have been cohabitating with him and basically using Lena's bank account as my sole means of support, I first contacted Pete and confirmed that he would be okay if I crashed on his couch until I got on my feet. Then I started lining up potential clients for "my" photography business, which was a little feeble but it was better than nothing.

I spent days mentally rehearsing my arguments, trying to figure out the most direct yet delicate way to bring it to him. The hardest part was figuring out when to initiate the breakup, since if I waited for a heated moment, an argument of some sort, I risked getting distracted. I wanted us both to be clear-headed. And I hoped that we could walk away with no hard feelings.

I don't know how well I have described David, but that really was wishful thinking.

The moment I got the first line out of my mouth ("David, we should talk...") he went on the defensive, disputing everything, insisting that if there was a problem it was me, and I was a mooch and making him do all these awful things like live as a woman and "enjoy getting f*cked like one" as if I'm in any way responsible for anything he did or chose during his time. He insinuated that we wouldn't be breaking up if I had been the woman and he the man (possible, but irrelevant) and that I really just wanted to go off and "enjoy my c*ck" with some other "b*tch" like "that tr*nny Pete." He told me to go, I was more trouble than I was worth, that he didn't love me either, that I'd regret leaving him, etc etc.

I grabbed my stuff and left for Jersey. I spent the night crying on Pete's couch while Pete - bless his heart, tried to console but really lacks the feminine touch she aspires to. David called the next day apologizing, saying it was the heat of the moment, he was blindsided, etc etc. I told him I wanted to end it on good terms so as to not jeopardize any of us getting our proper lives back, and he said not to worry about it. And I said "what do you mean" and he says... get this...

He tells me that the people in our bodies were arrested months ago for selling meth out of our apartment. They're forbidden from leaving the state of Colorado for eighteen months. Apparently he hadn't decided what he wanted to do about it, so he didn't tell me. What, was he just going to let us transform into two complete random strangers and pretend he had no idea it was coming? Or...

Weeks passed. I grieved, I screamed, I cried, I sleep-walked my way through a few photo sessions including a very concerned Alexa, who could tell I was upset about something ("Bad breakup" probably didn't cover it, but was all I could say.) David disappeared. Even PEte didn't know for a few days where he was, until he turned up on Instagram, back in Florida, laughing it up with Pina Coladas in a way-too-revealing bikini.

So now I'm like, what, does he like Lena's life? I mean, there's a lot to like about it... wealth, respect, and yet the freedom to go be a jerkoff on holiday whenever he wants. Is he planning on stealing that life? I don't know - I'd like to think the man I was dating isn't capable of that but honestly I'm starting to feel like I never knew the real David.

Meanwhile, poor Pete is caught in the middle. When David found out I was staying with him, he threatened to fire him outright, but Pete pointed out that this was a bad idea - that he was the one keeping the company together and the only one protecting the incompetent "Lena" from a very frustrated board that has seen the company's direction plummeting over the last three quarters. Pete is very eager to hand April's life back to her, and Dave needs his right-hand woman.

I reached out to April and Zack to give them a head's up that David might be planning something really scummy, but gave my assurances that Pete and I had no such ideas. It was really hard to read their response, which was a cold acceptance, that as far as David-Lena goes, things are out of their hands.

So... there's the drama I've been dealing with lately, sorry for not posting more! Honestly, it's gotten me so worked up just to recap it, I need to lie down. I don't know what's going to happen to me. I wake up every day nauseous as to what's coming. I'm not built for this, I just want my life back!!

-Jenn, "Zack"

Friday, February 08, 2019

Harmon Keller/Alicia Polawski: Social

At some point, I should have thrown the mobile phone that I inherited from Alicia into the Bay, or at the very least deleted all of her accounts and started new ones.  Perhaps not at the outset, when one might assume that Alicia would be seeking to return to her life without disruption, but certainly there was no need to preserve such continuity once she decided to remain in her new life.  By the time I decided to tolerate this existence for another year in order to find one more suitable that has not been damaged by another's stewardship the way my own had, it had become sadly convenient.  When I need to coordinate something with co-workers - and, later, flatmates - they tend to prefer using "WhatsApp" rather than a straightforward voice-mail or text message; on top of that, enough people at the airport remember one Magda or another and ask about her that it is worth regularly glancing at the Facebook page that Daryl continues to maintain to avoid questions of why I don't know what she's up to in New York.

This convenience has generally been worth the occasional moment when Alicia's phone buzzes because somebody has found her Instagram page and decided to leave some lewd comment on a picture of her not completely dressed.  At times, I find it amusing, for I am sure most of the men posting that message would be taken aback by the true identity of the person reading it.  Occasionally one is unctuous enough to merit blocking, and in a few cases people have reappeared with new accounts.  As a man, I admire their persistence, but they are a nuisance, though one that had been tapering off, as I had not added more photographs to keep it current.

Then came "Barbie".

Barbara Matheson was hired by the airline a few months ago, and as fate would have it not only wound up assigned to the same crew as I was in November, but also rented a spot in the same apartment.  It is, I suppose, natural that she would decide to look at me as a mentor and sort of older sibling, and I certainly did little to discourage it initially.  I have always appreciated the attention of young, attractive women, and though I now recognize that it will no longer lead to certain highly-pleasant experiences, I am nevertheless vulnerable to it.

Part of her being young is that she instinctively documents her entire life in real time, and tags her non-stop stream of "selfies", food photographs, and status updates with the names of everybody in the area, frequently including myself.  Every tag becomes a new, current way for people who followed a hash-tag to Barbie's page to find mine, follow me despite the year since the previous post, or decide to make some comment, creating more and more notifications.  On a number of occasions, people came to proposition us before we finished our meal because Barbie had tagged the location!  Thankfully, she has become more conscientious about waiting to post her silly food pictures until after she has finished eating.

Somewhat surprisingly, not all of the comments Barbie attracts are from men trying to get into her pants; or from family members who think that the travel involved with her job makes her life one to live vicariously, but a whole group of young women as well.  And many of them would be shrieking in capital letters not just about the obvious things, but my apparel, which I found strangely gratifying.

Contrary to what Lindsey or Daryl might have you believe, I do dress well.  It was initially emasculating the first time I donned brassieres and skirts, in large part because of the job they represented, but eventually one must work with the reality of the body one has.  Eventually, it became clear that what one wears allows one to choose who speaks to her, and if that means a black skirt, nylons, and matching heels, it is a small price to pay to converse with serious people rather than the people Alicia used to get involved with!  It can be frustratingly difficult at times - my current hips are not as conducive to a nice pencil skirt the way Lindsey's were and presumably are again, so finding the style that best creates the intend impression can require trial and error.  That means more time than I would like in changing rooms, and I've taken to traveling with a small iron in case there is not one at a city's "crash pad".

It is, in some ways, a circle of deception, with me pretending to be Alicia pretending to be a bit more high-class than her means.  The combination of all factors puts me in some strange situations on occasion, like last night, when I needed a new top and found my bank account light between paying rent last week and my pay not being deposited until today.  I took two into the changing room and had a difficult time deciding, and practically before the idea had formed, there were two new posts on Alicia's Instagram account, asking the ladies following her which I should choose.  Surprisingly, there was a flurry of responses saying that the white one with bate shoulders was "v. sophisticated" (and, yes, some would write out "sophisticated" while abbreviating "very"), so I went with that.

The Inn has made me a selfie-posting Millennial.  God help me.

- Harmon Keller