I've been in Chantelle's body for weeks now, but this was the first week I was in her life. Getting up at six AM, making a tentative stab at makeup, dressing myself, going to the office, walking around in her (uncomfortable) shoes...
...watching everyone's eyes on me as I pass, afraid to make eye contact, wondering what they think of this person they see before them, not wanting to be here in any sense of the word... trying not to stumble in my heels and trying to walk tall with my chest out without looking like I'm, I don't know, trying to put the "girls" on display...
I nearly tumbled down the stairs to my apartment when the toe of my shoe missed the step altogether. Only a reflexive grab for the railing prevented me from doing worse than a slightly sore ankle and a momentarily pinched back. I walked around the block -- click-clack-click-clack -- to try to walk it off. Wound up with sore toes. I get why women wear runners up until they get to the office.
I haven't worked in an office in a few years, and my memories were very not fond, as you can imagine based on the fact that I left a field I had spent a lot of time and money getting into (and was comparatively quite lucrative.) By the time I quit my job I was utterly disillusioned with the idea of the 9-5 grind, especially because it was more like the 8-8, bordering on 7-9. In the days leading up to my return, I was dreading it, and guess what that got me. Chantelle's hives. Evolutionarily speaking, I don't understand these things... being stressed or nervous makes me itchy and irritated, and then the itchy irritation proceeds to make me more nervous and stressed and the whole thing creates a feedback loop of discomfort and dread.
I wonder if there's some kind of medical treatment -- a cream or a pill I can acquire -- but if the root is psychological, I may be suffering them for a long time because my already fractured psyche has gotten a lot worse since waking up on the wrong side of the uterus. (More on that later.)
On the weekend, I sorted all my clothes according to whether I thought I would actually wear them, in an attempt to determine my "outfits" for the week. The problem was, once I got down to it, my original selections had left me with very few options. It isn't that Chantelle's fashion sense is somehow outrageous, it's just that it's, well, decidedly feminine, and that was not something I was prepared to process. I had to recalibrate my standards and accept that showing my arms, or a lower neckline top, was not going to kill me, nor were shorts with ruffly accents, sheer parts, colorful patterns, or other things that I would not conceive of myself as wearing as a man recently transformed into a woman. Also early on in my adventure here I placed an order for about 18 pairs of underwear replicating what Chantelle already had (after checking labels and seeing where she bought from and what her size is) so that I can at least feel clean and fresh and not like I'm wearing someone's hand-me-downs. The order arrived within a week or so, thankfully, right ahead of my "return" to the office. Thank God, clean undies. (For now -- see below.)
For the first two days of the week I wore a pantsuit, figuring it would be the most familiar thing to wear, but the truth is, the pants not fitting like menswear, on my decidedly not menswear-ready body, made the feeling even stranger. I made note of how some of the other women in the office wore pencil skirts and decided, with some reluctance and a little bit of curiosity, to join them. Others wear full-on dresses but that just seems like a bridge I am not ready to cross.
When I first put on the skirt, I rued it. Here I was squeezing myself into a sausage casing, which leaves nothing to the imagination and only goes down to my knees, leaving my now-smooth womanly legs bare, and showing the world every curve on Chantelle's body -- back, sides and front (I've got that little... belly thing women get right at the waist?) It's the kind of thing where I would never wear something so tight as a man because I would be bulging out of it in the wrong way, and I had to mentally get over that hump because I don't remember ever judging women for wearing clothes this tight. It's very strange to keep reminding yourself that when people look at you, they emphatically do not see a man and as strange as it feels, to the outside world it looks "normal."
On the other hand... it's been warm, and being able to wear what amounts to an even breezier version of shorts while I work has been an unexpected pleasure, as long as I can stop worrying that if I cross my legs the wrong way I'll give the world a glimpse of what's beneath. Then there's struggling with accommodating the office's temperature, which is brisk compared to the outside (probably because of all the men in here wearing slacks -- something I never thought of when I was one of them!) I am almost ready to join the league of blanket-wearing office ladies.
The tops can be pretty snug too, straining against the breasts, I feel like if I exhale too hard I'm going to pop a button, not that there are many of them... on some of these tops the neckline goes way down. I'm not judging Chantelle or anything, it's all within bounds of professional attire, but as a man in this body I feel very exposed. Also the buttons are on the wrong side just as a fun little reminder of who wrong this body is.
I mentioned the shoes. At the end of the week I screwed up the courage to wear a pair of open-toed strappy sandals with only a little bit of a heel, which gave my feet a bit of breathing room, but having my toes out there for the world to see seemed perverse -- on top of, you know, the boobs, the underwear, the hair, the everything. But I guess I'm supposed to have my toenails painted if I'm going to do that, to add some sort of visual interest. I've thought about whether I want to try to do that myself (I painted Laura's nails once or twice) or pay $65 for some other woman to do it for me.
Something that's not totally unexpected... the difference between doing corporate law in Boston versus real estate law in Albany. It's not exactly a challenge -- here's the boilerplate contract, here are one or two provisions that the clients made -- but not having to kill myself at all hours is very liberating. I go home at 5:30, kick off my shoes, open a beer, and... just forget about it. Dinner for one, Wheel, Jeopardy, Netflix documentary, bed at 10. Even rideshare driving didn't leave me feeling this mellow.
The office is a decent place too. Not a huge operation, maybe a dozen or 15 folks. People welcomed me back with a mixture of empathy and curiosity because I was supposedly sick for so long. Weirdly they seemed to indicate that Chantelle has spent a lot of time sick, and I can't figure out if they meant it in a suspicious way or a sympathetic one. I didn't speak much because I really don't know how Chantelle would be in these situations. And besides, one or two of the conversations took a very strange turn.
"You and... Damon Schmidt, right? You were both stuck there?"
Damon -- aka my wife Laura -- doesn't work in my office, which is something of a relief, as much as I wouldn't mind having an ally here. He's a real estate broker affiliated with the firm, which is a job Laura doesn't know much about having never even bought a house, so I'm not sure what it means for her. I suppose if she wanted to talk about it she would post here but she is keeping her distance, much to me frustration. He's also married. And yes, he disappeared while on a getaway that also included Chantelle.
People will talk.
I'm being tactful. I honestly don't know whether Chantelle and Damon had a fling going on. It might very well be none of my business. I'm simply going to deny and play it down, and when Damon and Chantelle aren't seen in public going forward, the rumors will drop off.
That said, I really do feel like I'm walking on eggshells. I don't want anyone to look too closely at me or what I'm doing. I want to get through this and find a way back to...
Hm... what am I supposed to be going back to?
Lastly, in the middle of the day yesterday this body visited me with my very first period. I had a sense it was coming because from the weekend I was feeling a severe pain that I had never experienced before and I put two and two together. Of course I couldn't be in the bodies of one of those women who get mild menstrual symptoms, these were damn near debilitating. I wanted to post about it but I didn't want to be called wimpy for not being able to handle what might be the "normal" amount of pain for a woman but I really think this was abnormal. The bleeding itself wasn't overly traumatic, it was just "Oh, there goes a decent pair of underwear, and now I have to figure out how to... take care of it." And once that started the painful symptoms trailed off to a dull throb.
There was a tampon dispenser in the washroom, as well as a few spare ones rattling around the bottom of my purse but I never thought to bring it to the washroom, and anyway I wasn't mentally ready for that. I dashed over to Walgreen's for pads, but uh, I don't think I'm a "pads gal." Feels weird. I've got to figure out a solution that works for me.
This is my life.