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.


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