Thursday, July 08, 2021

Eddie/Theresa: Being Theresa

As impossible as my life has been for the last three weeks or so, I can't imagine what it must be like for the vast majority of people who go to that place and wind up tossed into a new position which is not only out of their experience, but which itself has been left in the lurch, with nobody to help them except maybe someone else who is equally confused.  As much as it's still a shock each morning to wake up as Theresa Moreau and reacquaint myself with all the female things that I'm not yet taking for granted, I at least grew up in her hometown, and was at least a passing acquaintance, if only because I was a little better in school than people expected and was on the same sports teams with the kids who had some money.  I was even kind of friends with Austin, at least during baseball season, so there's a part of me that wants to forgive him for doing this to me, although I mostly just want him to fix it and make this as painless as it can be.

On the other hand, the people who took the place of Austin and Theresa during the past two years?  They are the literal best.  I didn't mention it in the last post or two, but I get the impression that they were an older couple, and just fantastically organized.  It's not just the new underthings and stuff, but the bedrooms had slip cases containing three-ring binders which themselves had printouts slipped into plastic sleeves, filled with pictures, maps, and relevant information side-by-side.  Even though they must have expected the real Theresa back, the information that they would have found useful - that Theresa's friend Lana had twins named Gil and Phil, or that the frozen custard place had to run a fundraiser not to close permanently - is still helpful to me.  They also seemed to anticipate something possibly going awry, including some more basic information, or putting little tabs in the textbooks Theresa used to study for her realtor's exam so I know what's especially important (although I guess they could just be leftover from when the sub did the same).

(Speaking of subs - I've had emails from the new me.  He seems nice enough - or would "they" be more appropriate, since he or she is uncomfortable enough with sharing information about their real life to the point where they haven't even volunteered that much information? - but I try not to think too much about what they're doing on a daily basis)

All that preparation didn't mean that my first week "back from vacation" wasn't difficult, but I'm trying not to imagine how it would have gone if I didn't have Austin doing my makeup or if I didn't know where Cedar Woods was.  I still got seemingly good-natured jokes about my mind still being on the beach when I was a little slow to respond at times, and certain things about showing houses and condos still elude me, let alone the exact current zoning regulations for when somebody asks about putting a deck on the back of a place.  I've rented ever since graduation, so all of the talk about offers, escrow, and closing feels like a test I'm constantly studying for and having to pass.

That's at least something that can be studied, and I can apply myself.  I've had jobs where I was kind of learning on the fly before.  It's the moments in between, when the phones aren't ringing and the four of us in the office are just chatting that are often the hardest to navigate.  I expected the other young woman to have the strongest opinion on me staying with Theresa's natural hair color, but it's actually the other guy, a few years older than me, and it makes me really uncomfortable.  He's got a girlfriend, and I suspect Theresa turned him down some time ago, so what's it matter to him that my hair is "drab"?  Is he going to be checking out my ass constantly if I ever start wearing skirts and heels?

That's not happening any time soon, though, if only because I kind of feel lost with Theresa's clothes on the weekend, and Austin's helping is sometimes not helping.  The first Saturday, I figured it was the weekend, so I grabbed some shorts and a t-shirt, but it didn't quite look or feel right (beyond the question of how ladies' jeans fit, whether they go halfway to the knee or to the ankle).  I was expecting dressing for work to be tricky, but I suddenly realized that I had thought about women's casual clothes even less.  I just knew a girl looked good or real good, but never paid attention to why, or where the line was between what she wears to a club, a concert, or just hanging around.  We haven't been doing a lot of "hanging out" - needing to read up on this other life is a handy excuse - but Austin's parents have been known to drop in, there's occasional shopping to do, and the Fourth of July was last weekend.

And that's where it gets super-weird.  From the way he describes his last couple years, Austin spent a lot of time on looking good as a girl, but if you think it's kind of creepy when a guy tells his girlfriend to wear, triple that for when that "girlfriend" is actually a guy not totally sold on "sexy" and the plan is to hang out with Austin's family, including his big brother who likes to make jokes about how if they don't get married soon, he's going to steal Theresa from him.  I'm just glad the weekend of the holiday was rainy and unseasonably cool, so I could wear jeans and a long-sleeved tee rather than the U.S. flag crop-top and the tiny shorts that go with it.

I suppose that I'll find a way to be Theresa that also lets me be myself a bit over the coming months - most folks either seem to manage that or get completely swallowed by their new life, and I still can't imagine that.  It's still hard to imagine finding the right middle ground right now, though.

-Eddie/Theresa

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Harmon Keller/Alicia Polawski: Assets

The obvious puns that come with my trying to ascertain the value of Alicia's identity are crude, but fitting.  My current measurements are enviable, or desirable, depending upon one's perspective, but how does one properly value them?  I began asking this not hypothetically, but practically - I planned to use relinquishing this shape to one for whom it perhaps came more naturally in order to both start the next phase of my life in a more financially stable situation and to perhaps have more ability to select that next phase rather than have it happen randomly.  One might not believe that the Inn is a marketplace, but it is, much as any place where money is exchanged for a product is a marketplace.  It is simply a highly irrational one:  Most people who arrive at the Inn for the first time have no idea what they are actually purchasing, while the vast majority who return put such a high value on returning to their previous situations that they fail to weigh any other factors at all.

There are those who do treat the Inn as a marketplace, though getting in touch with them can be difficult and the data one gathers scant enough that it becomes difficult to build a model.  Youth, as one might imagine, is the primary variable; though few of the people I have surveyed admit to seeking immortality per se, they will when pressed say that they want as much time as possible should circumstances prevent them from later revisiting, aside from the physical robustness that correlates with youth.  Financial stability is high up there as well, although not so much as one might expect - those who are concerned with it can liquidate assets and place them in a numbered account, after all.  It is a far greater negative influence - nobody wishes to be poor - than positive one.

Sex complicates matters - by and large, there's a noteworthy bias toward male identities being more valuable, at least in this market.  It's not hard to understand why; the biological nuisances and reductions in social status on average can certainly be frustrating.  But appearance can cause great variance, as can things like relationships, real and parasocial alike, more so than men.

"Alicia" is rather well-equipped on those accounts, now.  Although this particular silhouette has never been the one I favored among female companions, I cannot deny that its rounded bosom and buttocks are certainly able to grab another person's attention, particularly when I made an effort to showcase them.  I was, admittedly, ashamed of having this form when I first started living Alicia's life, but over my time as her, it's become easier.  What's the harm of showing some cleavage or using some high heels to accentuate your gait, if it makes men (and women!) more attentive?  One must learn how to set boundaries without actually sounding like one is ruling anything out, but I feel I have done fairly well by that.  Indeed, there are days when I wonder if I have done so well in that area that becoming a man again would have a steep learning curve.

Aside from that, there is the "vlog", which had seemed to have plateaued last fall but which has been gaining audience steadily since then.  Perhaps it has become more useful as people start to seriously consider vacations (or, based upon what I see during the day job, actually travel more), rather than as just a way to experience such things vicariously.  I have also become a better hostess - as much as I have grown more comfortable using my physicality, I cannot deny that my interview skills have improved, and Barbie and I have become better at editing the pieces, on top of my existing skills as a researcher.  We have put together a reasonably popular "show" for the resources we have; it's not unheard of for a new video to get a hundred thousand views in a month.

This makes "_______ with Alicia" an asset that is growing in value, and I am not the only person who has noticed it - various "content networks" have made inquiries, both about the series as it exists and what they envision it to be.  On the other side, I have had others approach me with offers to "professionalize" the series.  Sometimes it is local camera operators, other times editors, other times "producers" whose imagined roles range from the nebulous to the specific and useful.

That is on top of the people representing themselves as "agents", many of whom I suspect are less than legitimate, and other "content producers" who have seen either my series or Jordan's short film and would like me to appear in their videos, generally for "exposure" (looking at the scripts they send, the double-meaning is obvious), but sometimes for money.  Indeed, some of them even appear to have ambitions beyond online videos - short films like Jordan's which they would submit to film festivals, and even a feature-length presentation or two, although I have my doubts those would ever play a theater.

What to do with these?  There seems to be little question that accepting the proper offers would make "Alicia Polawski" a more valuable commodity, but so many of them seem to be very risky, and also time consuming, enough so to make finding a time to actually transfer this life to another difficult.  Already, it seems impossible to do in 2021.  And it also sets up a possibility that I may find ironic should it come to pass - that I might build "Alicia" up into something so valuable that the next iteration would seem to be trading down.  I've occasionally been bemused by some of the younger victims of the Inn deciding to stay as they were after a mere year or two, because they could no longer imagine returning to their old lives - as someone older than most of them, I cannot say that being Alicia yet feels normal enough to make my previous life seem alien, just in terms of the weight of experience - but the idea that I could become attached in the process of building these assets up to their peak value sometimes seems both frightening and amusing.

-Harmon Keller

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Eddie/Theresa: Hair, Wardrobe, and Makeup

The second time waking up as Theresa was in some ways even stranger than the first, because not only was there an alarm jolting me awake, but I was in someone else's home and bed, completely disoriented.  I didn't even know how to silence the alarm on Theresa's iPhone right away, making me nervous that it would wake Austin up and he'd offer to help.

There would be no avoiding that, but, still, I wanted an hour or so before he was awake to myself.  He'd been either in the room or just out of sight for the past 24 hours, and I was already starting to feel a bit smothered, and though I wasn't really thinking in terms of it being a guy-and-girl thing, the fact that we were in his life and he had experience with both the Inn and being a woman had him tending to take charge.  I don't necessarily feel like I have to be the guy in charge, but between not seeing anyone for a while and the pandemic, I hadn't been spending more time with anyone than a thirty-minute rideshare, so it had felt like a lot.

I stood quietly in the bedroom after I'd silenced the phone, listening to hear if I'd woken Austin.  Apparently not.  I got some of the new underwear out of the drawer and a robe from the closet, and made my way as quietly as I could to the bathroom, quietly shutting the door behind me before looking in the mirror.

Either Theresa gets bedhead too, or there was still some part of me there.  I'd never seen her like that, but seeing half my hair kind of puffy and one side pressed flat made me feel a little more myself.  It inspired me to make a few faces in the mirror, which was kind of reassuring, because I thought maybe Theresa's face wouldn't make the right expressions or something and I'd just look blank instead of looking like I was thinking.

Then it was time; I pulled the t-shirt I'd worn to bed off and saw what I had in the way of breasts.

Given how many people on this site talk about being really big, I guess I am lucky or unlucky, depending on how you look at it.  I'm not quite flat, but I don't look like I've got something attached to my chest.  I had a pretty clear tanline, although my skin wasn't that dark.  I gave them a little poke and even pinched at a nipple a bit and was glad when I didn't just immediately melt into a puddle or anything.

I still avoided looking between my legs more than I had to before taking a shower, which wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.  Yeah, there's a weird moment or two at my chest being soft and I kind of forgot just how much water and shampoo hair can hold when it's this length, but mostly it felt nice to get a couple day's worth of sweat off, even if it meant I was touching things I had no business touching that way and a little unnerved as I felt my breasts squish and move as I scrubbed.

Drying took a little while, and my first time putting on a bra was a challenge, but I didn't want to ask Austin for help.  I'm don't know why the clasps aren't in the front in most cases - is it an engineering thing, or just a women's clothing traditionally having fasteners in the back?  Seems like that would make things a lot easier.

I brushed my hair into a shape that looked more or less okay, put the robe back on, and took a breath as I left the bathroom.

Austin was awake by then, and looked me over critically, said "Well, you look nice, but not work-nice," and then led me to the dining area, where all of Theresa's makeup products were laid out, and apparently the first lesson was mascara.  And it was weird.

Not just the makeup - although using semi-solid gunk to extend your eyelashes is really weird - but the way Austin seemed to change while putting it on me made me wonder what months of being Theresa would do to me.  He had said the day before that he'd enjoyed being a woman and had wanted to be the one to become Theresa, but it had just been a thing he said - he'd seemed to fall back into being more or less the guy I remembered from high school quickly enough, in terms of voice and mannerisms and stuff, but as he went on about doing this to me, his voice was a bit higher, and he seemed to light up a bit.  And it didn't really feel like envy - he really seemed to enjoy just doing this thing and seeing the results that made me look prettier.

I guess it could be worse.  He didn't really seem to be trying to recreate me as someone he'd be more interested in having sex with, and I guess a lot of people who go to the Inn find themselves on the receiving end of lessons in femininity from people who don't look like they should know anything about it, after all.  Just weird.

The whole morning was like that, and much of the week.  He's been pretty good about starting me slow with the clothing, in that I've managed to stay in pants and flat shoes for almost two weeks, although I think he's dropped by to take me out to lunch a couple of times less to ask me about how things were going than to see how the women in the office were dressing so he could suggest that maybe it's time for skirts, heels, and maybe a different color of lipstick, although he's also pointed out that some of them go with a lighter hair color, like the one in the box on the top shelf of the medicine cabinet.  He also seems to take his time figuring out which earrings and stuff go with which outfits.

I'm starting to get the hang of it, but I also get the impression that he's not terribly worried about that beyond my being able to touch it up in the afternoon - that aside from brushing my hair, he's pretty content to be in charge of getting me dressed and made-up in the morning.

That's handy.  But weird.

-Eddie/Theresa

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Jonah/Krystle: Not Exactly in the "Never Going Back" category, but...

 ... I've probably pretty close to waiting my last table for a while.

(You thought I meant the Inn, didn't you?  Well, that too, but...)

It's not that I had a bad experience at the Changeling - Moira is still my best friend and Ashlyn is sometimes the only person I can talk to when the feeling of being a huge phony comes over me - though I know that there are a lot of people who were pretty badly exploited in that business.  I'm lucky that Moira, having grown up in her parents' pub in Ireland, brought the idea that servers should be paid a living wage here with her and it's one of the conditions she had on partnering with Ashlyn to open the place.  Lord knows others haven't been so lucky.  Still, they could only pay an hourly wage and shifts were relatively scarce until very recently, especially if you don't have a car with which to do delivery, since it took a while to be at 100% capacity and that means both fewer people working and fewer people to tip per person.  On top of that, tipping has become a real all-or-nothing situation lately:  The folks who demanded that restaurants be open in the middle of a pandemic are lousy tippers, while the folks who are easing their way back into it to the point where they don't take their mask off until they're ready to take their first bite will regularly hit 25-30%.

I'd been picking up what I could when I got a call from the gym, mentioning that they were re-opening and if I'd like to renew my membership.  I wasn't facing the nagging sensation of getting out of shape that Jordan was - you can't slow down that much with an energetic four-year-old - but I wanted to get back to climbing pretty badly.  Sadly, I told them, I couldn't really afford it right now.

I got the feeling that they'd heard that a few times from the sigh on the other end, but then the lady on the other end surprised me by first asking if I was vaccinated and then if I'd like to apply for a job.  I kind of laughed, saying I'd only been climbing for a few months before the pandemic hit, but she said that was good enough for making sure people were strapped into their harnesses properly and, besides, they'd probably start me at the front desk anyway.

So I applied, and I've got an interview tomorrow.  In a week or two, I could be doing that on a regular schedule and even getting benefits.  And the regular schedule sounds pretty good, especially if I can work it around school hours in a couple of months.

That's right, school - Little Moira turned four years old in January, and in Cambridge that means that she is eligible for "junior kindergarten" starting this fall.  And that whole experience has been kind of crazy!  Just forget that I technically never finished high school and it kind of feels like I should have some sort of graduation behind me before having my kid start, but the fact is that I grew up in a fairly small town with one elementary school, so it was one-size fits all, but here there's a lottery and you're expected to make decisions about what direction a four-year-old's life is going to be set on.

It's nuts!  More nuts for me, because if faced with the same decisions, my parents certainly wouldn't have had any way to know that they should prepare their baby boy for being a single mother that everyone thinks used to be a stripper, and here I am, trying to figure out what I want for my little girl even though I know there's just no predicting where life will take her.  It feels so random at times that I can see why some people are tempted to just take care of now and put their kids in the most conveniently located school.

I'm trying not to do that, though.  I suspect that our applications were all kinds of a mess but that it really doesn't matter that much, since I intend to be involved and attentive and all that.  Still, there will be chances to switch things up when we get a better idea of her interests than "she really likes Legos so maybe she'll be an engineer someday."  I'm a little disappointed that she got wait-listed for the Mandarin-immersion program, and hope it's not some "why would a lower-income black girl need to know that?" thing.  Maybe it is a silly bit of ambition I'm putting on her, but Jordan says that languages like that are a lot easier to learn if you start young, and it seems like the sort of thing grown-up Moira could use in 2035.

Listen to me.  2035.  I'm trying to make decisions that will affect another person's life in 2035, when I got here by just falling into a situation randomly and then making one desperate decision that had the exact opposite effect that I intended.  But I guess that's why I'll probably never be going back to the Inn, at least not before 2040 or whenever she graduates college, because it's entirely possible that she may wind up with someone somehow even more ill-suited to all this than me!

-Jonah/Krystle

Monday, June 14, 2021

Eddie/Theresa: I can't say the face in the mirror is unfamiliar

I'm going to guess that most people writing on this blog don't say their shoulder is the first thing they notice as different, but that was the first thing that struck me when I woke up Sunday morning.  I've been doing a fair amount of rideshare driving, and some older gentleman had apparently opted to put a  cinder block in his carry-on, and I managed to strain something between getting it into and out of my trunk.  It wasn't so bad by the time vacation was over, but the first thing I noticed yesterday was "huh, all better".  I stretched a bit, half-noted that it felt kind of weird but not bad in the chest, and then got out of bed and headed for the shower.

That's when I encountered the bathroom mirror, saw Theresa Moreau wearing my t-shirt, and jumped back, making a clatter as I hit the stall's sliding door.  I was briefly embarrassed at the noise, then leaned into the mirror.  Taking a good look at my face.  I'd seen her briefly when I went to Pineland to put Mom's affairs in order - she was one of the agents at the real estate firm I had list the house - and my face looked more or less the same.  My hair was darker than hers had been, and she'd been wearing a mask then, but I'd liked her in high school and this was basically the same face.  I tentatively brought my hands up toward my chest, as the pull of gravity when I leaned in had kind of clarified that the odd sensation while stretching was breasts, but just let my hands hover a few inches out.  Belatedly not wanting to wake anybody, I whispered something like what sort of weird dream was this to myself, quietly enough that I couldn't really hear much difference in my voice.

My banging into the shower door had apparently awakened someone, though, as there was a knock on the other door in this connecting bathroom.  "Eddie?  Are you okay?  I know you've just had a shock, but I can explain!"  There was a pause.  "Can I come in?"

I did a quick inspection to make sure I wasn't showing anything someone else shouldn't see, and then answered okay.  The door opened, and I saw Theresa's fiance, Austin Greene, and not the person who had been there the last week.

"Austin--?  What's going on?  Where's, uh..."

"The cute co-ed you didn't even mention in your blog post?  That was me, and I've got to say, I was kind of used to making a bit more of an impression.  As you can see, the Inn is 'cursed'" - he made little air quotes - "and what with the Inn being closed for Covid last year, I got to spend a whole extra 12 months as her before getting back here, and a lot happened during that time, which is why Theresa isn't back yet and we needed to have a sub."

"And you decided that I'd make a good Theresa?"

"No, I figured you'd make a good me!  I've spent almost two years as a girl, and I really liked it, so I was going to be Theresa, but the folks who were living our lives must have slept on the wrong sides of the bed or something, and things got mixed up.  I'm really sorry, but try not to look at it as a bad thing, but that you've got a while to walk in someone else's shoes and see how the other half lives!"

"But," I sputtered, "you can't just do this to people!  I've got a life of my own!"

"But not much of one, right?  We looked at all the people we know and trust, and you were the one who seemed like he'd do well as me and didn't have much else going on.  And who knows, maybe someone else in your spot will build something you wouldn't have thought of!  This whole thing is usually random, but it's good for people to have their lives and perspectives shaken up every once in a while.  And it's totally reversible - the Inn gets booked pretty solid from people who have stayed here before and know how it works, but sometime next year you and the new you and hopefully Theresa will be able to line things up and get back to normal, if that's what you want."

"Next year?"

He shrugged.  "It's a curse, man, not a service!  We're just lucky that someone figured out the pattern.  Now, c'mon, let's get you dressed in something that fits."  He walked back to his room, wheeled in a suitcase, and stood there as he left it in front of me.  I said something about being able to do it myself and retreated back to my room, locking the door behind me.

The previous Theresa - and it was just starting to hit me that the one I talked to last year wasn't the real deal and I'd had no idea anything was off - was helpful.  Both dirty and clean clothes were rolled up tightly, the dirty ones in a plastic bag, with a little note apologizing for not doing laundry before leaving.  There were some items on the other side of the suitcase that I wasn't close to ready for, but most of it was casual.  Taking a deep breath, I let the sweatpants I'd been sleeping in drop, and then pulled my boxers after them.  The t-shirt I was wearing was big enough on Theresa's body that I didn't have to look at what was between my legs as I pulled a pair of still-in-the-package panties with no lace or anything like that up, and then a loose-fitting pair of slacks.  There were ankle socks and a pair of sneakers, too.

I pondered the bras for a second but couldn't bring myself to put one on yet.  There was a Paw Sox t-shirt in the bag, and I took my sweaty nightshirt off while looking at the ceiling, closing my eyes as I grabbed the other one and pulled it on, trying my best to ignore the hem touching my nipples on the way down.  I started to tuck it in, but that made the chest feel kind of tight, but it was loose enough to be kind of comfortable when I untucked.

There was a mirror in my room, and I looked in it.  My shoulder-length hair was a bit of a mess, but I'd worn in that long before.  I didn't look quite right, even as Theresa, but I'd had girlfriends who spent an hour in the bathroom before they felt ready to face the world, and it made me wonder how much of my image of her was either selective memory or her putting on makeup and coloring her hair.  I wondered whether me doing that would feel more like pretending to be her or someone else.

I unlocked the bathroom door, opened it, and saw Austin with a towel around his waist.  It was reassuring, I guess, that I didn't feel any sort of desire, even though fake-Austin had left him in pretty decent shape, and he didn't put a bulge in the towel on seeing me.  "Ah, the casual look.  I remember it well."  He gave a little wink.  "So, feeling good?  They leave Tee in good shape?"

"I guess.  I mean, I didn't look at anything."

"No?  I kind of went straight for the boobs, although, to be fair, they were bigger than Tee's.   Couldn't miss 'em.  Every guy in my group who turned into a girl did, but then, we just thought we'd turned into girls, not specific girls, until we read the letters.  I guess that's different for you."

Different was an understatement.

I just gave what I hoped was an angry look, and he continued.  "So, letters - you should probably write one to help the new you get oriented, and then we should hit the road; turns out they need you in the office tomorrow.  Let me get dressed, and you can start on that."

He closed the door, and I checked the suitcase for a letter to me.  There wasn't one - fake-Theresa must have figured she'd be handing the life back to someone who knew it - but there was a small purse with a wallet, including Theresa's driver's license, social security card, and credit cards.  There was also an iPhone, along with a charger and a note saying the PIN ("change it - better safe than sorry!", with a little smiley face on the letter I).  It had drained, so I plugged it in and started writing.  I was annoyed how quick it went, because that sort of meant Austin was right about my life.  I tried to pack up in a way that matched what the previous Theresa had done as closely as I could, but still found it strange to put my wallet, keys, and phone inside my gym bag and close it, trusting someone else with my whole identity.

Not wanting to go through the bathroom again, I grabbed the bags and walked out the door, knocking on Aaron's.  He saw I had both and said to put mine back, that finding strange bags in the room was a part of the whole Inn thing.  I did, and by now I was kind of numb as we walked through the parking area, by head turning a bit to track my car as we passed it.  After loading the trunk, we both approached the driver's side of Austin's car, and he chuckled.  "Sorry, my car.  Tee's got a cute little Mini.  But while you're here..."

He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a little box, and I immediately recognized the type.  "Oh, no.  No, no, no."

He didn't smirk, at least, actually getting a concerned look.  "What, you want me to get down on one knee?"

"Hell no!"  I snatched the box from him, opened it, and held my breath at the sight of the diamond ring inside.  I plucked it out and felt my hand shaking as I started to slide it on.

"Uh, other hand.  Now you're got it backwards..."  I righted it, feeling like fifty pounds was sitting on my finger.

"Good god."

He grabbed my fingers and pulled them up.  "Don't worry, it's a long way away and we can probably delay it again, long enough so I can wear the dress like Tee and I planned.  It's just folks would talk if we came back from vacation and you weren't wearing this."

We got in the car and didn't talk much.  I think I was kind of in shock and running what would happen if I bailed and went somewhere else through my head but not coming up with a better idea than seeing it through.  And though he smiled at me and tried to be reassuring, I sometimes got the vibe that he was angry at me for having the body he'd wanted for himself.

We arrived in Rhode Island sometime mid-afternoon, by which point I was kind of amazed I'd held the coffee we'd bought at the first Dunks we encountered in.  He pointed me to the bathroom and I sat, my body somehow knowing what to release.  I tried to stand as soon as I was done but didn't like the wet sensation, so I sat back down, pulled some paper off the roll, and said "I'm sorry Theresa" out loud before looking down and wiping/patting everything dry.

(I'm not going to describe it; I felt I was invading Theresa's privacy enough as it was!)

The rest of the day was kind of a blur, with Austin pointing out what was different and me silently noting that it was nicer that any place I'd ever lived.

We agreed I'd take the guest bedroom; less on the walls to remind me that the space specifically belonged to someone else.  I spent a couple hours moving clothes in there and arranging them, giving me a look at my new wardrobe.  Theresa doesn't seem terribly high-maintenance; about half is comfortable weekend wear, half blouses and skirts for the office, and a few fancier things but no necklines that go down to the belly button or anything.  She's got more shoes than I've ever had at once, but only a couple pairs have difficult-looking heels.

Just as with the bags at the Inn, the drawers were considerately organized, with a couple week's worth of bra and panty sets still in their plastic.  There was a new toothbrush, and hairbrush, deodorant, and a few other grooming/beauty products I didn't recognize right away.  It actually calmed me down a little.  Just think of it as checking into a really nice hotel.

That said, I still made sure not to look when I changed into a nightshirt for bed that night, although I knew from taking a little sniff of the armpit area that this particular courtesy couldn't last much past morning.

-Eddie/Theresa

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Daryl/Magda: Planning for futures

The virus closing the Inn for a year has been downright peculiar - this time last year, I was fretting over being stuck as Magda and losing myself, and I think I had a little bit of a breakdown not long after my last post.  It's the sort of thing I always figured I'd be more sure of, but instead it only became clear in reflection.  J.T. had taken a job shooting some small independent film, and while I'd planned to join him, I got kind of freaked about the virus, never got on my flight, and instead turned that week into a "staycation" where I spent a lot of time in bed eating ice cream and watching Netflix, barely got dressed, and spent a lot of time freaking out because new-Daryl took a while to get back to me when I asked how things were going and seldom had questions.  It seemed perfectly reasonable at the time, especially when the time off ended, my alarm rang, and I put on my uniform and went to work like the past week had just never happened.

And here's the weird thing:  I was more centered after.  Things didn't rattle me as much, and having my planned new life fall through got me to a point where I guess I accepted that I would live my live out as Magda Polawski and was less worried about the real me showing through.  I hadn't really been hiding, but I think I'd tried too hard to show I wasn't a boring middle-aged woman around J.T.'s friends and not to be weird around the people at work, and just doing what I wanted felt like a weight off my shoulders.  This wasn't the life I'd planned, but it was a pretty decent one.  I have someone I love, I have friends, I know that the world is a little more remarkable than most people understand.  Even under weird circumstances, my job was steady and I got to help people most of the time.

Apparently, it showed up in my performance.  I don't know much about the original Magda, but I kind of get the impression that she was dedicated enough to herself and Alicia to pick up extra shifts but that was the end of it, at least at work, and Lindsey was just killing time until she could be herself again.  That's not really me, though, so I'd help the new people, show up a bit early or stay a bit late if needed, and, I don't know, engage more?  So by the time I was working an extra shift on Thanksgiving weekend, a little freaked about how too many people were traveling but doing my best to make it work, I wasn't really worried about being laid off when I was called into an office.

It turns out, I was being offered a promotion.

It's weird for an Inn Person(tm)!  Like, I've known several that have quit jobs or changed paths to something more suited, and some weird relationship situations, but being told that I am actually better at some parts of being a middle-aged white lady than an actual middle-aged white lady?  It's mighty disconcerting, but not actually bad, once I considered that my priorities clearly aren't the same as Magda's were, and that some of it was probably because I'm not entirely a MAWL - ability to connect with multiple generations makes me a better leader.  Send your management candidates to the Trading Post, corporations - they'll get a ton of new insights!

Anyway, I'm not a spiritual person, but I do kind of wonder if finally settling in as Magda, accepting that I could see a life as someone other than myself, has made the universe more willing to smile upon me, because Pete found me another candidate for a new life.  Zee's in her early 30s, presumably mixed (clearly Black but lighter than either Elaine or I was), in nice shape, and pretty much a blank slate - her parents aren't in the picture, and she's between jobs but has some savings.  I initially said he should just settle down that way, but it's almost like having the same DNA for two years after spending so long living other people's lives has made him antsy, like he wants some guardrails even though he's unmistakably Pete no matter what face he wears.

I downloaded the pictures to my phone and showed them to J.T., asking if he'd break up with me for her, and bless him, he recognized what I meant right away, especially once I said there was no reason for "her" not to move to New York.  I made a joke about how maybe I could use my new position to recommend her to the airline, and he said he didn't necessarily want people to think he had a thing for airport workers, and, besides, it was a chance for me to get back to doing what I'm good at.

(And then he showed that he still found this shape attractive, thank you!)

I told Pete yes, and we've been exchanging emails.  She seems nice, and has a clean bill of health, but I don't know everything about the real her, though I don't need to.  I get the impression that she's white and younger than Zee from some of her emails, like she's always enjoyed being looked at but it's not necessarily the same when she goes to her favorite places as a Black woman, and from how she was kind of stunned that I'd basically accepted losing 20 years.  Still, from what I can tell, I could enjoy being her.

It does mean making plans not to leave Magda's life a mess, though.  I've put in vacation time for August, and I'm trying to figure out how to stay cordial with the folks I know (they're good friends, by and large) but not actually commit "myself" to anything that next-Magda wouldn't necessarily want to be part of.  I've also been looking at apartments, and holy shit, but New York rent is insane!  I thought the old place in Oakland was crazy for what it was, but New York City is a different level, and that's just basically pretending like much of Manhattan doesn't exist.  Staying in J.T.'s nice place for the past three years has kept me kind of isolated from that, but there's a good chance that next-Magda might find herself in Jersey, because even if I might be happy with a cozy one-bedroom, she may be bringing someone else along, and I don't want her to feel like this life is a prison with no room for the rest of her.

Because it's not, even if I am looking forward to having two shoulders with a full range of motion again.  Being Magda for three years has been a bit of a test, but it's not something one needs to get past.

-Magdaryl

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Eddie: Can't just have a vacation

Some holiday weekend, huh?  Hot and sunny during the week, and then you get to the beach and it's 60 and rainy.

I guess you get what you pay for; there's no way I could really afford a vacation right now, but this was an inheritance, I guess; I got a letter from Austin Greene saying Theresa had found the reservation in my mother's things, and figured I should have it.  I haven't seen Austin or Theresa Riggieri since high school, ten years ago, not even when I went back there a year ago to try and put my mom's stuff in order.  Everyone was locking down, of course, so it's not like we were going to bump into each other getting coffee or something, and there wasn't a real funeral.  Not that Austin and Theresa would attend; Austin and I had been on the baseball team together, but we didn't exactly move in the same circles otherwise, and I maybe had one class with Theresa.  And Mom, well, Mom was a mess way before the virus hit, part of why I hadn't been back there in so long, and was kind of just there long enough to see her cremated and have her house listed with a realtor.

Maybe I should have moved back there, but at the time, I thought I'd get my old job back once things blew over, but we all remember 2020, and nothing blew over, and a look at the job market in Pineland, Rhode Island didn't make it look that much better than Worcester, MA.  So I stayed, tried to stretch rideshare and delivery gigs as far as I could, and just waited for news that the house had sold so that I'd have a bit of money to start somewhere else.  Hasn't happened yet.  I suspect that Austin and Theresa must have found me on Facebook and seen I wasn't doing well, because the letter wasn't pitying but certainly didn't presume I had money to burn for a vacation.

I didn't have nothing to do, so that's why I'm here, in Old Orchard, watching the rain come down, wondering if I want to head to the drive-in tonight, even though the movie playing doesn't look that great.

I suppose that's not exactly what the folks who set this computer up in the front hallway as an online guestbook wanted to hear, in terms of who we were and how we were enjoying our stay here, but I've got to admit, it feels weirdly good to get that out.  I may send someone an email to get rid of it later, but I can't be the only one who's had the last year or so play out like this.

-Eddie

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Jordan/Yuan-Wei: Pandemic Pounds

Huh, it looks like everybody just sort of laid off at some point last year.  Can't blame them' the Inn apparently didn't open at all last summer, and at a certain point, when you're staying in and taking all the appropriate precautions - and I suspect that once you've been through the Trading Post Inn experience, it's really fucking hard to say that the odds are against anything bad happening to you - there's not much to talk about on this blog.  Oh, sure, there's your "regular" life, but to the extent you're talking about that online, you're doing it on Instagram or some other social media app or just a group text, and I'll be damned if I'm going to write about the same thing multiple times.

So why am I here?  Well, I gather the Inn is opening for Memorial Day, and that means there's going to be a new Chen-Ai soon, and I've got no idea what to expect from that.  They're not going to be a mother figure for me of any sort, of course, but the very fact that there will be someone in that spot means that all the people who may have thought something was suspicious a year and a half ago but either lost interest or couldn't spare resources to dig are going to get interested again.  I'm not looking forward to that, and I kind of wonder if anyone else is in the same situation.

Mostly, though, I'm sort of trying to figure out what it's like to be Yuan-Wei again.  Like I said back in October, working from home and not going out and being social got me back into a lot of pre-Inn habits, especially with food.  I know I'm not alone in this among people who have been able to work from home, but I had a lot of days where work wasn't necessarily holding all of my attention, but I didn't want to just walk away from my workstation, and the kitchen is the closest room to the home office, so I'd get myself a snack or a soda three or four times a day.  That didn't really happen when I was Dierdre - something about her body just rejected eating too much viscerally - and I think some of the memories of feeling like absolute shit when I tried to eat too much carried over into being Yuan-Wei.  Then I kind of liked the way I looked, and had the sort of metabolism I would have killed for back in my first life, but I guess it's been slowing down even as I started living that way again.

Not that I got fat the way the old me did - women's jeans will tell you that you've put on weight and the yoga isn't cutting it - but I guess I found myself accepting it more as the pandemic dragged on, since it would be weeks until I was with other people regularly and going up a size was no big deal.  I went up and down a bit over the winter, and wound up being "up" a bit when we started coming back to the office.  I wasn't going to wear a crop-top or anything, but I had enough of a muffin top going on that I made sure I wore a top that covered it, and when we went out for drinks afterward, I couldn't help but notice that there were certainly women my age who hadn't let themselves go at all.

It's frustrating, because I know it's stupid to feel this way.  I've been fat, and this isn't the same feeling, but I also know that even when I stood no fucking chance, I'd look past girls who just had a couple extra pounds like I do right now.  Plus, I like being hot; it's fucking gratifying to know you look great in a bikini or naked and that people will put out some effort to have sex with you.  I don't entirely mind that I'm going to have to put a little more effort into it for a while (as long as it doesn't involve that running bullshit), but I sort of feel like I should have learned a lesson or have some perspective after all of this that makes it all make sense, you know?

-Jordo