Thursday, July 28, 2022

Marc/Chantelle: Hugger

I want to thank those of you who reached out and weighed in on my little shitfit the other night... reading back over it I'm a little embarrassed to have spilled my guts and let it all out there for the world to see, but at the time I felt very strongly. I hesitate to say it's a side-effect of being a woman except insomuch as maybe I'm a little more in tune with what I want instead of repressing and refusing to vocalize things that I wanted anyway. Laura and I still have some work to do to figure out how we're going to navigate this situation.

Good vibes only for now though.

We won a game the other night, and win lose or draw the new tradition is to go out for drinks and/or wings afterward. At first I was a little bashful about it, wanting to return to my hidey hole and ice my burning thighs, but the camaraderie is really good for me, especially since Daisy, our cheerleader who refuses to take the field, was going to be there.

I'm trying to find my way as far as interacting with people socially as a woman. I'm very leery of talking to guys, like Djuro or others, because when they look at me I get a little spooked, like, "What are you seeing here, are you thinking this is a possible romantic thing?" Just because that's how I remember it being often when I would talk to single women before I was married, even if, on the surface I didn't want to push anything like that, I always felt like it was smart to "keep the door open" and put it out there in case they were receptive... and I kinda-sorta get that vibe from some of the guys. Or maybe I'm just projecting and that's really what an innocent conversation between a man and a woman is supposed to look and feel like.

I've also gotten into this weird habit of... hugging people when they leave the bar? Maybe because I'm a couple of beers deep and loosened up, and it definitely started with Daisy, because I couldn't resist the urge to hug her, but once that train left the station suddenly everyone was getting hugs goodbye from me.

In my normal body, I would definitely hug women socially if the situation permitted it without even thinking about it, so I guess I was just unconsciously mirroring that, but at the end of the night I was like "wow, I really hugged 18 people goodbye, men and women."

It was a bit of trip to realize that. I don't know what it means or implies. But to tell the truth, I am quite soft and squishy, very huggable, and it feels nice, even with the guys.

I don't know. I've been unpacking that all day, and now there it is. What will tomorrow bring?

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Marc/Chantelle: AITA?

I couldn't focus on work yesterday as I was still seething from my interaction with Laura. Frustration and disappointment turned to anger and I felt that I needed to do something, so I spent a lot of time between meetings composing a very long text:

Laura - 

I am 100% NOT OKAY with the way things ended between us on Saturday. Leaving on that note left me confused as to what, if any, is the future direction of this relationship. You say you are trying to be respectful to Damon's marriage, but is that appropriate? Even on the face of it, does what we have have anything to do with them? IMO you should be able to compartmentalize and think of me as your husband first and your FAKE WIFE as secondary to that. I'm not happy about the idea of you sharing a marital bed with a stranger but I understand it as part of the RUSE that you are a man named Damon who is married to this woman. Do what you need to do. But you not even being willing to explore anything with me tells me that you are already ready to close that chapter of our lives together. Where does this leave me? What about what I want for myself and for us? If I'm not married, am I free to explore other options? Don't answer that, only I can say for sure -- IF I don't have a wife who is willing to consider my feelings. I'm not saying I even want to but in this life things get lonely and upsetting when one is used to the comforts of a relationship and I could see myself trying to find that somewhere else, and by turning me down you are tacitly implying you DO NOT CARE. My first priority is to save us, but I can't do that if you're not willing to meet me half way and be with me to the fullest extent our situation allows. I am not ready for this to be done, the same as I was not ready before Maine. I want us to be together in the long run but I also want to make my feelings known.

Some hours later, I received the reply:

I understand your feelings to a degree. I had to go with what I was feeling in the moment, and at that time my thoughts were of Janessa [This is the first time I've heard her name and I don't care for it.] It was a tough decision but I stand by my call, and if we are going to succeed in these lives we have to commit to them and not "cheat" by falling into some twisted version of our old roles just because nobody is looking. People get hurt that way. I know you only think of yourself, but I'm trying to think of everybody -- you, me, Janessa, the real Damon and Chantelle. The fact that Damon and Chantelle were in an actual affair was not yet known to me, so I was playing the Damon character as a faithful husband and if I had gone upstairs with you -- and God knows what would have happened if I had but based on your reaction it could have been something major that neither of us is prepared to deal with -- I would have breached that. And frankly I still AM playing this role that way because I do not want to be a cheater. There's no "compartmentalizing" for me. But that doesn't mean our marriage is over either. I still love you and it is the height of immaturity that you think the only way to express that is by forcing ourselves to have a physical connection when there is so much more at risk than our own feelings. I would think you could at least grasp that there are more important things going on here. If you do love me, if this marriage is real and meant to survive, I would think you would be on my wavelength about this and swallow this bitter pill.

That just pissed me off further so without barely thinking I wrote back:

YOU ALREADY ARE A CHEATER!! You go to bed with a person who is NOT ME every night!

To which she said: 

I'm not going to dignify that with an answer, you have to know that's not how it is.

I was getting frustrated so I laid it out how I saw it:

It sounds like you want it both ways. You want to keep me on the hook but you want to be the "good husband" too. Not fair, not cool.

From there, silence, I'm sure she justified that because she didn't want Janessa to see her phone blowing up.

I was so mad. Her message was so condescending, the way it called me "immature" for wanting to maintain my relationship with my wife, get some confirmation that there's still something there. Is that wrong? I'm lonely, is it so bad I'm craving some touch and there's only one person on the planet I trust with that? And she-or-he doesn't want to provide it.

I just think there's some major double standards at play. Laura may or may not have sex with Janessa, but I'm just supposed to ice myself out for the duration? Does that seem right to anyone? Or am I somehow way off base here?

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Marc/Chantelle: Disconnected -- or, Brunch is Non-Optional

 I was in no mood to go to monthly brunch with the Carey Babes and "Mom" this morning, but it was made very clear after the last time I missed it -- shortly after my transformation when I was still hanging around in Maine getting my bearings -- that it was completely unacceptable. I went to last month's, the week after Father's Day, so you would think my onetime absence would be forgiven. I "had" COVID for crying out loud!

I'll admit, I've never had siblings before but they can be real pests, texting me all week to make sure I would show my face. That's annoying, but I guess it's also kind of sweet to have people who absolutely need my presence for some reason. I try to see the bright side even as it chafes against my usual nature. Without things like that I would be hunkered down in my apartment waiting to be able to go home.

They're good people. Emma is extremely bubbly and a ball of energy, very sarcastic but also kind of spacey. She tells stories where she thinks she's seeing some big wrong and the adults in the room -- me and Chantelle's older sister Amanda -- slyly look at each other and think "Girl, what are you talking about?" Amanda, I relate to because she's older and settled. She pushes the brunches because they're her one time of the week away from motherhood and responsibility. I asked, "In a couple of years, do you think you'll be dragging Keisha to these things?"

"Oh honey, she'll never be ready," Amanda laughs, "Unless she wants to pay her own way in!"

The conversations goes way too fast for me to keep up as Emma and Amanda talk a mile a minute about every minute thing that happens to them, with Mama Carey sipping her mimosa and weighing in when she sees fit (which is often.) The only thing I had to bring to the table was my softball outing, which they actively yawned at even though I thought it was a pretty interesting topic.

"Girl, what about the guy you were seeing, that Damon?"

I was shocked. In all this time I've never even had it confirmed that Chantelle and Damon were a thing, but to have her just shamelessly talk about it with her sisters? These girls really do share everything.

But I'm kind of fuming about it, so I say I don't want to talk about it, or him, and just leave it alone.

Flash back to the night before...

Damon's wife was out of town on business so Laura proposed a clandestine meeting. Honestly I was feeling really abandoned by her. Not that it was her fault, since she's got a "wife" to think about and having too much contact with some random woman he knows, who may be under the microscope as a prospective mistress, is suspicious. She had to lay low. But that doesn't mean it can't hurt, when I'm sitting at home alone with no idea what to do with myself, stewing about the fact that this is not how I wanted this marriage to end, if at all.

So this outing was a little ray of hope. I did myself up real pretty, wore a good bra, a clingy low-cut dress, and hell, sexy underwear just in case. Do I think I'm ready for that? On the one hand, no, but on the other, if that's what it takes to show Laura I'm still in this, I will, because how bad can it be?

My body knows I'm nervous. My chest, neck and cheeks are awash with hives. Damnit, these things.

SHe arrives at 6. Damon's got a shiny black Benz and he's dressed in a sharp suit and I'm thinking, "Okay, okay, female hormones activate." It's weird, but I'm trying to follow my body's lead because I know deep down, under that bald-headed, needle-nosed man's body is my wife and it's probably best for my mental health in the long run if I lean into it rather than fight it, but I was definitely not prepared for some of the effect that seeing Laura like this would have on me. 

I ask where we're going, and she says to trust her.

We start driving for a while and I'm not really paying attention but then I realize, we've left Albany. We have to truck all the way out to Schenectady -- a good half-hour out from Albany -- because Laura is worried about running into someone who knows Damon. I should understand but I honestly feel slighted and it gets the night off to a bad start. It's also a little weird for me to be the passenger between the two of us, but that was sort of the theme of the night.

I try to push my feelings down and engage him -- I've written about what things have been like for me, but I've heard little about her experience. She laments that being a man makes the world a little less colorful -- and I actually know what she's talking about because I feel like with Chantelle's eyes colors are a little clearer, so maybe that was true for Laura as well. She talks about it being kind of a trudge, muddling through office work during her days and trying to stay engaged at home at night.

She keeps the conversation focused on me. There's lots of eye-contact and intermittent hand-touching, which I try not to show much reaction to, good or bad, but every touch sets off a maelstrom of contradictory feelings in me: as Marc, the man who was nearly divorced from this person, and as the man-in-woman's-body out on a date with this person who appears male.

She notes when I just order some pasta, that things have changed from the days when I'd go right for the 12 oz steak. I kind of shrug at that. A few weeks in I've definitely learned my limits -- as tasty as a nice juicy steak sounds, half the thing would end up in a doggy bag and I just don't feel like it tonight.

We keep the conversation light. She muses that if I had to spend some time transformed into a woman, I sure picked an interesting one. That leads to some talk of politics, but then we pivot to what's different in a positive way for women day to day than in years past. Things that used to be compulsory for women -- pantyhose, make-up, jewelry -- are less strictly adhered in workplaces, making me less of an outlier if I want to do away with it. The last few years have seen a huge surge in woman-led businesses dealing in comfortable, non-underwire bras, comfortable shoes that are still in some way fashionable, and absorbent period-panties as an alternative for the traditional more invasive methods. So at least I'm getting the benefit of that -- or at least I could, if I wanted to drop hundreds of bucks on new Knix bras to replace the conventional underwires that Chantelle already owned. If this arrangement is not permanent I wonder if I should bother, or if I should treat myself.  

I take the opportunity to ask Laura is period pain is supposed to be as bad as I've experienced. She kind of smirks, saying it's different for everyone and notes that nobody ever knows what's supposed to be normal.

She says somewhat affectionately yet also a little condescendingly, "Part of me suspects you're just being a baby about it but I think you deserve a little more credit than that so if you think it's especially bad, you should absolutely go to a doctor and get checked out. Not that Doctors' visits as a woman are a fun, stress-free experience..."

I mention that it's not always a picnic for men, and she snickers again. "All that and more," she says. I gulp. The idea of maybe seeking medical advice falls to the back of my mind. I'd rather not worry about it...

I try to lighten up the conversation. One thing we have to tapdance around is her life as Damon with Damon's wife. That is something I absolutely do not want to hear about and would have the potential to completely ruin my night if we had to talk about it at length. I want to pretend that I'm just having a night out with my spouse, and I make that clear. Instead we talked about more comfortable things, like getting the hang of urinal conduct.

When the check comes I start to dig into my purse but she insists she's got it, flashing me this wry grin. I have to admit, it made me feel kind of good, even if she had to pay in cash to prevent a paper trail. Part of me wants to be The Man and take care of these things, and part of me feels like I've earned my shot at this kind of treat and I should enjoy it.

We drive home and the conversation gets more comfortable as we fall into our old rhythm, which includes criticizing every single other driver on the road. We get back to my building and she unfastens her belt, "Let me walk you to the front door."

"How gentlemanly," I say with a bit of a blush.

We walk up the walkway from the visitor parking to my building's front door.

"I had a good time tonight," she says. "I've missed this."

"Me too," I admit.

"It felt strangely natural, didn't it? You and me... like this?"

"At times," I say, shifting on my heels a little. Is that a compliment to 'us,' or a way of saying I make a good woman?

She leans down for a kiss and I let her. It's good, no matter what body we're in. I've been starved for attention these past weeks, alone and desperate. I feel at times I would do anything to get us put back together, so the staticky parts of the night fade from my mind as I grab his bicep and try to appreciate how rough and firm it is (not that Damon is muscular, it's just... a man's arm.)

I can feel my heart fluttering a little bit as I get caught up in the moment and when our lips part I ask, "Do you... want to come up?"

Her eyes flash between the door and the ground. "Um, I probably shouldn't. I want to keep things as far above board as I can for now, you know, there's a woman out there who thinks she's my wife."

Logically, I understand it, but it leaves me very cold, and it stings like hell. I thought we were making progress, getting to a good spot despite our disconnect, but now it just feels like we're on hold. What am I supposed to make of any of this? I feel unimportant.

I know in the grand scheme of things there are bigger things than "my feelings" but that completely discounts what was going on between us before all this happened. Am I wrong to still want to be in my wife's life when things haven't ended with us?

Is this her way of ending things without having to do the hard part?

I flopped into bed and, I will admit, shed a few tears over it. I let them come, I don't care, I'll be a big enough man to cry. So I was not feeling great in the morning when it was time to head out for Brunch. I had like... a feelings hangover.

And finding out that Chantelle's sisters even knew that she was having some kind of fling with Damon -- what she said exactly I don't know for sure yet, but of course she's an open book to them -- really bit my ass. It feels unfair that the real Damon and Chantelle are off doing who knows what while Laura tries to be a better husband than he was, while her own husband suffers.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Marc/Chantelle: Distractions

We had another softball game last night -- our first win, and I even managed to bat in a run with one of my patented grounders. I'm getting a bit of a groove, although my body is disagreeing -- I spend most of the week recovering from these two hours of physical activity. Maybe I should join a gym so that movement isn't quite so alien to me.

I'll admit, one benefit to that would be to get my mind off of........ everything. Presently, I work all day, then come home and flop down in front of the TV and it's all I can do not to think about my situation. Not just being female -- although there's still a ton of concern about that -- but being alone. Aside from the cat, the house is so quiet, and I'm finding myself becoming very restless and sad without Laura around. Being in a relationship is such a funnel for so much time and energy that when it's gone you don't even know how to expand and fill it yourself. Bad TV and junk food is all I've got, and that's no answer.

I have some contact with her, but it's extremely limited because Damon, of course, is a married man, and we wouldn't want to arouse suspicion. Which, I should say, I am finding extremely painful, probably moreso because of what this body is doing to me with hormones.

Today, Laura even stopped by the office. I almost had to look twice to know that it was "Damon" since I have hardly seen him since we got to Albany. I tried to keep my cool but then he stopped by my desk.

"So," he said, hands in the pockets of his slacks while he leaned on the doorframe, "I heard you're becoming quite the softball star."

"Yeah," I huffed, "They're calling me the Rafael Devers of the law office."

"I don't know who that is," Laura shrugged. "Anyway, I know we can't talk much here but... the wife is out of town this weekend, and I was hoping you'd be free for dinner on Saturday."

"The wife," I repeated bitterly, glaring at him under my eyebrows.

"Marc, come on," he said in a hushed voice. "I don't like this situation anymore than you do. We haven't had a chance to talk in a while, and we should."

I sigh. Damn, I was really hoping to go for tacos with Daisy on Saturday. "All right, let's do it."

She flashed me a smile and then dashed off, like nothing happened.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Marc/Chantelle: Call me Slugger

Or don't, haha.

So, despite my wariness, I went ahead with my commitment to the softball team, figuring it would be a fun way to put myself out there instead of holing up in my apartment with Netflix and junk food all summer. I squeezed my squishy bum into some black leggings and wore my loose-fitting team t-shirt tied in a knot around my abdomen in imitation of some of the other girls, pulling my hair back into a ponytail through a ballcap (which, the only one Chantelle had was from some corporate giveaway.) I envied the other girls who had their hair braided for the occasion but I haven't mastered that yet and it felt weird to ask someone to do it for me. It's the kind of feminine bonding that intrigues me but I still feel weird about.

The league is a typical self-pitch softball setup, with an extra "roving" fielder. Every third batter has to be a female and three females have to field. Since lineups aren't limited to 9 players, having 10 guys and 3 women meant I was up to the plate a lot...

I have to admit, I came into it with at least a little bit of confidence. What guy doesn't imagine himself jumping off the couch and onto the field and suddenly taking on the role of baseball superstar? But the reality is that Marc Green was no star athlete, and Chantelle Carey probably less so. Still, there's a unique kind of insult when the other team sees you coming up to the plate and collectively moves their outfield to the edge of the grass.

I mean, they weren't wrong... but it stung.

My first at bats were pretty wild. I struck out first (with a member of my own team pitching no less!) and hit a shallow pop fly that was easily caught on my second. My highlight was getting a grounder that managed to sneak by the fielders while I was running like hell to first. So I got on base once.

I was not really prepared for what it was going to feel like getting so physical in this body. running with these legs where the thighs rub together, my boobs bouncing forcefully even under my sports bra, which is just another layer to sweat under... it was different.

Fielding was... well, I was there. Initially they had me in deep right, but for the later innings I played catcher, which is a nice break since there's very little to do there in this form of the game. The guys were very serious and we had three or four really good players. I felt a little guilty not carrying my own, watching these guys who aren't too dissimilar to my original body cracking dingers into the outfield. Worse, I couldn't even be the best girl on the team. One of the guys, Tomas, brought his wife Michelle, who was apparently a serious ballplayer, commanded second base and took on a field general role.

Daisy was there to watch, too, and having something of a girlcrush on her I kind of wanted to impress her. I know I probably shouldn't since she doesn't "go that way" (as far as I know... and I'm not entirely sure what "way" I'd want to go myself, if any,) but I had to settle for some supportive "you go girl" type stuff when I actually did manage to do something right. Djuro was also pretty nice, telling me to keep my chin up when I missed my chance for a big catch while I was fielding.

All in all, playing as a girl is definitely a unique experience as far as what this body can do and what people expect from it, and what I expect from myself. I should loosen up. I'm there to have fun and fill a role, not be Barry Bonds.

I was sore for days afterwards, especially in my arms, legs/butt and boobs, from all that swinging, throwing and running. Then premenstrual pain kicked in and reminded me what pain really is. But I still showed up for this week's game. The results were pretty similar but my attitude is improving. It certainly won't be a dull summer...

Monday, July 11, 2022

Jonah/Krystle: Who Are You and What Have You Done with Jonah Glass?

I don't date much.  Pretty much everyone I know who has wound up staying or stuck where the Inn put them seems to put their old life behind them much more practically than I do, including the parts where they go decide their body has different needs or unlocks something they didn't realize was there.  Especially that - every once in a while I'll be talking with Jordan and she'll just casually mention the way the guy she was with picked her up and put her against a wall or had her wrap her legs around him and that it's super hot because of how much she used to weigh, and I don't really know how to respond to it.  Like, my history since the Inn is avoiding being around other people, getting pregnant from a one-night stand because the guy with my face wouldn't give it back otherwise, pregnancy/new motherhood as an excuse not to, half-assed husband hunting, one guy who dumped me when he found out about Krystle's history, and then a lot of things that didn't take.  Well, mostly.  I'll get to that.

There has been someone over the past month, though.  It started at work, a day where I've got the chance to do more than be eye-candy at the front desk because someone's out sick.  He's a guy who comes in alone, about forty or so, not in bad shape at all but probably starting to notice things are getting a little harder.  You work in a gym, you get kind of familiar with that sort of guy.  Some of them stick with it, a lot don't, either having trouble fitting it into an already busy life or just deciding that, shit, having a bit of a gut is a natural part of hitting middle age, and why pay this much money and that much time to fight nature?  Anyway, a thing a lot of them tend to do at first is either think that something is as easy as the people with some experience are making it look or figure they can start at medium difficulty and move down if they have to.  Anyway, this fellow is part of that last group, which means he gets halfway up a wall and freaks out.  I've got to help him down, and he just won't stay still and let me help, so my breasts are in his face at various points, I'm tightening his harness and pushing at his butt, and, believe me, it's not nearly so sexy as it sounds.  It's kind of embarrassing for us both, and he kind of dashes away afterward.

He shows back up a few days later, though, and starts on a beginner's wall, and does okay.  He comes by the front desk to apologize afterward, and I say it's no big deal, but he persists and asks if he can buy me dinner.  I'm not quite Krystle enough to make a wisecrack about if he always finds out whether or not a girl's breasts are real in advance, but I do say yes, maybe because I've got June already being engaged on my head.  Long story short, he's a good-seeming guy, doesn't freak over me having a kid or being more into sports than fashion, and I think I'm pretty level-headed about him being divorced.

We have sex on the third date and it's good.  It's been a while for both of us and I kind of know that I'm not nearly as good at this as folks would assume someone with my appearance would be, even if they don't know Krystle's life before me being in it.  We start seeing each other once or twice a week, although I don't take him up on his offer to watch the fireworks show on the Fourth from a boat in the river.  Moira had been really excited about that and I'm not quite up to including him in family stuff.

So that's all nice and normal, or at least feels that way, but then we zip ahead to this past Thursday.  I'm heading into work more dressed-up than usual - blazer, pencil skirt, pantyhose, heels - because I'm coming from a job interview.  I like my job, a lot, but this fall will be "my" thirtieth birthday, Moira's bright enough that I really should be saving for college in addition to trying to move out of Momma Kamen's apartment, and jobs that give you raises to keep up with your needs is just a myth boomers tell.  I'm not qualified for a lot, on paper maybe, but I've filled in for a lot of roles that aren't technically part of my job description over the past couple years, and while I don't really get what all the low-unemployment statistics mean, everyone tells me that it's a good time to find something that pays a little better and has better health insurance.

Anyway, I look pretty good, although maybe a little deflated because maybe I aimed too high looking at an assistant-manager gig, but the point is, as I'm walking toward the gym, I'm getting looks, and it's a little tougher for me to pick up the pace as someone gets up from the bench he'd been sitting on and walks to me because I'm in four-inch heels.  Fortunately, he's not a threat, although it takes me a minute to recognize Gabriel.

mentioned him once on here, but all we did after that was go to Flour the next day, chat a bit, and then follow each other on Instagram before he went back to New York.  We like and comment on each other's photos and stuff, and I consider him a friend in the way I do a lot of people I've only met online.  I seemed to recall he'd talked about being in Boston at some point in July, but it never got farther than that.  But, apparently, Momma Kamen really likes him and pointed him at where I work.

And I do get kind of excited when I see him - my voice goes up a bit, I talk about how I'm looking to see what's out there.  He asks me out for dinner after I get off work, I say sure, he comments that he'll make sure he gets into a suit by then, and I say there's no need, if we're just hanging out.  As soon as I get into the changing room, I sent Karla a text asking if she minds Moira staying a bit late, and she says it's fine - as much as we don't always see eye to eye, Moira and her cousins adore each other - and sends me a couple eggplant emojis after saying she expects to stay over.  I roll my eyes.

I roll them a little less when Gabriel texts me a shot of himself in a suit, although I kind of grumble about getting back into my interview clothes.  He looks even better in person, and he's booked a table at a fancy Korean place near the theater district, and I won't lie, I really enjoy being there and not feeling out of place.  We talk way past dessert, and then it turns out we're close to his hotel.  We get a drink at the bar, he invites me upstairs...

... and what we do next is motherfucking amazing!

I'm not going to describe it too much, because I still kind of think that's private, but sounds came out of me that I'd never made otherwise, and even after he'd gone limp, there were still waves passing through me.  He looks at me with this weird grin on his face, and we're both like "what?" a couple times, and then I start laughing, because he'd never believe me if I actually told him that this was the first time I'd actually had an orgasm.

He falls asleep with his arms around me and I just kind of think about what that means rather than try and get out.  I mean, I grew up pretty religious, and while most of my friends sort of got to "well, maybe getting laid won't immediately send you to Hell" at a certain point, that's when I became Krystle and was sure this was some sort of test, and then my first sexual experience was just awful and degrading - Ashlyn tells me I shouldn't even think of it as consensual! - and made it easy for me to think of the whole thing in pretty bad terms afterward.  Even when I started dating, I felt kind of weird about enjoying sex - it felt good, but it was something where I felt bad about it feeling that good, if it makes any sense.  I was supposed to be a guy, and even if I wasn't, good girls shouldn't be doing this, if only because what can happen (I love Moira more than anything, but I don't have any idea how Karla handles three kids; it would break me).

This feeling, though, was sent from God.  Or maybe the Devil, but God's the one who made women able to feel it, right?  I don't know; I just kind of felt like I understood something for a moment and felt like maybe living this life wasn't just some sort of responsibility I couldn't shirk because of Moira.  It felt pretty good to fall asleep with Gabe's hand cupping my breast.

I wasn't thinking such grandiose things when I woke up in the morning, but I felt a bit lighter than I usually did.  I answered one of Karla's texts with a smiley face and let Gabriel treat me to breakfast.  I kind of felt like I should feel awful - a terrible mother still wearing yesterday's clothes after leaving my little girl with someone else on short notice - but I didn't.  Heck, when my boyfriend saw me kissing Gabe goodbye as we went our separate ways on the T and tried to make me feel terrible for it, I just kind of shrugged it off.  I liked him, but this one night had been better than the past month (it was at least almost as good) and he didn't have any sort of claim on me.  I felt bad, but also kind of wondered whether I'd just been accepting that my future might be determined by whoever was interested enough to ask me out at a moment when I was single and didn't have any obvious warning signs.

(That's why I haven't bothered to include that guy's name in this post; what's the point?)

I don't think that's just about "wow, I came, and now I know a woman's life can be more!"  Still...  I dunno, between I feel like having willingly had sex with two guys in the past week and it not entirely being a step toward something else doesn't feel like me.


Friday, July 08, 2022

Andi/Andy: "Vacation" Cut Short

Getting back home after Andy's positive test was an odd experience.  We wound up staying in the same hotel suite but different rooms, me running errands as quickly as I could but not interacting directly,trying not to get me infected.  Mom and Dad did what they cold to try and see if we could add some more time at the Inn, but apparently our room was booked for the "block" after our stay.  Much as I hoped we might be able to fit another change into the time we had, it was dead quiet when Krys and I went to check it out Tuesday evening.  I guess it's usually that way - when people get changed, they're "behind" in their new lives by a couple of weeks, they're suddenly under pressure to jump into their new life rather than lose someone their job or whatever.  It strikes me that if all thirteen folks at the Inn got together and decided to stay for the rest of their booking, they'd be able to get back to their lives a fair chunk of the time, even if the curse needs a few days to "reset", but either it doesn't occur to them, or there's someone who was trying to game the system like us to get their real life back.

That pretty much clinches that we're going to be stuck like this until we can get three changes lined up at some point, which doesn't seem likely this summer.  That's when Mom and Dad start making plans and making a comment about how it would be a lot easier if we were both sick.  As it works out, Mom is the one who is able to get off work and drive up to Maine to pick Andy up.  It takes a day or two, and she gives me a big hug when she arrives, saying she knows I'm disappointed, but it's better not to take chances.  I try to say the right things - that I'm actually more worried about Andy, because none of the folks we know who have tested positive really got sick like he has - and I do mean them, but trying to be the good sister or brother just makes it worse.

Mom recognizes that, because I've apparently got a tendency to let my brain run away with things compared to Andy.  Like, I'm good at math because I can focus on an immediate problem, while Andy does a better job of stepping back and figuring out what he can and can't deal with.  That's why he's good in history class and enjoys sports even when he's not very good at it, while I really only get that sort of focus in Drama Club and stuff like that.  It's why I'm the one blogging even though he's actually a better writer and is dealing with way more crap as a girl than I am as a guy.  He's just better at taking a deep breath and dealing with things, and I've apparently still got enough of my brain to react like myself, for better or worse.

Anyway, the plan our parents hatched was that Mom would drive Andy back home, and so long as I was still testing negative, I could fly back on my own, to try and minimize exposure.  It probably sounds like we're being over-cautious, but Dad's a doctor and Mom manages a restaurant, so they both take Covid really seriously.  The timing was weird - I think Mom would have liked to wait until I got on the train for Boston to leave, but between flights and the reduced Amtrak schedule, that would have meant them staying an extra night, so they left me to check out on my own the next morning.

I didn't get too down that night, though - Krys's "dad" Cary took us out for dinner, which made Mom feel better, and even if he makes a living selling hot dogs, he knows a couple good restaurants in Portland, and I had some really good swordfish.  He could see I was down and did a pretty good job of saying it was going to be okay; he got his old life back, as did his friend Elaine, and they were better for the experience, and it would be like that for me and Andy, too.  They meet a lot of people who go through the Inn, and a lot more make their way back home than you'd think from the blog, and even those that don't eventually make peace with where they wind up.

He dropped me off at the hotel and told Krys to try and be home by midnight, leaving her bike there.  We walked over to the beach and sat there as it got dark.

"So...  Wanna try out that dick of yours?"

I recoiled, shocked.  "What?  No!  Wait - have you..."

She laughed.  "No, not as Mackenzie, but I figured we might as well.  I can reset my expectations and you can have your first time - or at least your first time as a guy - be without judgment.  I mean, you don't think you're going to get through senior year without losing Andy's virginity, do you?"

"Yeah, I mean, I made it through junior year, and, you know..."

She laughed, but it was a little off.  "Hey, your choice.  But, uh, you like me, don't you?  Like, I thought I felt something, but maybe I'm so out of practice.  I mean, I was really looking forward to being hot again, but it's weird, especially when I feel like I've still got a little girl's ass and all the guys I know will suddenly start talking about English class.  I mean, you do too, but we've got that other connection, so I at least don't entirely feel like I'm being a creep."  She hugged her legs.  "Do you see me as a creep?  A grown-up hitting on kids?  Because, when am I not going to be that?  Senior year?  College?  When I'm 30 and he's 50?"  From her face, that sounded pretty gross.

"No, I like you!  I feel that sort of connection, it's just...  I mean, you have no idea how long I'll hold it to put off using that thing to pee!"

She laughed, and laughed big, big enough that it was easy to believe there was a Black woman in there, if that's not too big a stereotype.  "Okay, that's fair.  I remember that feeling, although I got over it!"  She stuck out a pinky.  "But if we're both single when your senior prom rolls around, I get to be your date, okay?"

I twisted my finger around hers, suddenly kind of wary just how much taller and less streamlined I am even at that extreme.  "Deal.  Mark it on your calendar."

"I dunno, girl - that Cindi girl is hot and sounds like she doesn't give up easily!"

We laughed and got up.  Her phone buzzed and she gave it a quick look.  "Okay, I'm gonna head home - I'm not getting in trouble if you miss your train!" She hugged me and then stood on tiptoe to give me a quick peck on the cheek.  "You're a good dude, Andrea, and a great gal.  Remember that, and have fun with the next year."

I said I would, and then went back to the hotel room, set the alarm on my phone, and stared at the ceiling for a while, not realizing I'd fallen asleep when it woke me up.  Then I checked out, got to the train station, took the Downeaster to Boston, managed that subway which has way too many transfers before you get to the airport from North Station, and got on the plane for home.

Despite the nearly day-long head start, I got to the airport well before Mom and Andy arrived home, and Dad was waiting.  He gave me an awkward hug - they'd all been awkward since puberty and the last year had made it worse - and seemed a little surprised when I hugged him tight, patting me on the back.

"I'm so sorry, kid."

"Me too, Dad."  I paused.  "Andy's going to be okay, right?"

"I'm sure he will.  You guys are young and it sounds like he wasn't carrying enough of a load to spread it to you.  Besides, from what he tells me, it hit him the same time as, well, you know.  Just a double whammy, that's all."

I smiled a bit.  "Can't say I've missed the cramps."

He skipped the opportunity to make a joke about going through menopause last year.  "I bet you haven't."

I loaded my bag in the trunk of the car without asking him to help.  "So...  Mom and Andy aren't going to be back until late.  What do fathers and sons do?"

He chuckled.  "You want to go fishing?  Because I don't fish.  Or maybe play some golf?"

"Sure!"  I made a big grin.  "Then finish the day off by grilling a couple big ol' steaks."

He looked at me, not quite sure what to make of what I was suggesting, then shrugged.  "Okay by me; I've got the rest of the afternoon, and..."  He was about to say something but didn't, instead getting in the driver's seat and asking the phone for directions to the country club.

The golf - well, I kind of sucked.  The steaks were good, though, and when Mom and Andy got back, they looked tired, but there was color in Andy's face - my face - and he generally looked like Dad was right, and it was more my period than Covid that had him feeling awful.

I'm not really looking forward to another year as Andy.  But maybe it won't be as bad as I feared.


Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Jordan/Yuan-Wei: Finally Being Called "Home"

I'll get to the title I just entered, but first - do you ever think of how weird "Western Names" for Chinese people are?  Like, if I asked you what your favorite Chan Yuan-Lung movie was, you'd think you'd never heard of the guy, and that's kind of fucking crazy - you would think that after decades of having success on both sides of the Pacific, folks would at least absorb the name by which Jackie Chan is known in Hong Kong as a fun piece of trivia, or maybe try to use it more if they're good progressive folks, but nah - they (heck, I admit it, we) just keep using the name he chose because white people couldn't handle a Chinese name and he wanted to do business with them.  Even though people use the names of Japanese and Korean actors all the time, this weird and sort of racist tradition continues.

Although, heck, I'm named "Jordan" because my parents wanted to make things easy on me and Max at school and later on, and I went to using that after graduating college as Yuan-Wei because I'd rather go by that than "Missy".  Sometimes, growing up, I kind of wished I had a Chinese name; today I'm kind of grateful because it gives me a way to more easily reclaim a bit of who I am than other folks who have been to the Inn get.  Being Jordan Lee lets me more easily separate myself from Lee Yuan-Wei, even if it also means I'm also not Jordan Chang.

But it's apparently time to accept being Lee Yuan-Wei more.  The person who has been Wang Chen-Ai for the past couple of years is kind of stuck in Hong Kong despite not really knowing any Cantonese or Mandarin - just disappearing in the United States for a few months gets a flag put on your passport, apparently.  It's not as bad as it sounds - you can get by there just speaking English, and whatever magic the Inn has which keeps people from believing it exists must make her claim that some sort of stroke erased her first language but not her second sound less ridiculous.  She's hired "Bingbing" - the original Chen-Ai - as an "assistant" despite my warnings, but I can't exactly argue with someone on the other side of the world and a different culture from what is home that she shouldn't lean on the person who knows it best.

The family's lawyers feel a little differently, though, and have contacted me, saying that I really shouldn't leave my mother in this situation.  Romain and RenĂ© - the original Yuan-Wei and Bingbing - either don't have super-strong opinions or just sort of freeze trying to figure out what their interest should be at this point and I don't blame them.  Meanwhile, my employer is finally getting around to opening a department in Hong Kong; they'd planned to do it a couple years ago, but then there was a fucking pandemic.  Now, though, they really want a piece of the visual effects market in China, and to a lesser extent Korea, Japan, and India, and here I am, with a pretty good record, speaking the language, and technically only living in Southern California because they sponsor my visa.  As it turns out, the timing of this works out pretty good for "Lee Yuan-Wei" - because they couldn't open two years ago, I've got more experience, so if I transfer to the new location, I'll get a promotion to lead animator, probably a couple years ahead of when I would if I stayed in L.A.  It's a good opportunity, but I'd like it more if it felt like "spend a couple years overseas, come home with a promotion" rather than maybe the end of my life as an American.

I don't think my employer would fire me for not going, but I have joked about it being a shame I'm not in a relationship so that I could believably become a citizen through marriage.

As you can see, there's a huge part of me that hates all this and resents that it's going to push me into upending my whole life again, and I kind of want to do what i did when I woke up as Deirdre and just put my foot down and say fuck it, I'm going to keep living my life no matter what.  But I was talking to my folks, and they kind of pointed out that the Inn has been good to me.  Not that I should be grateful for the way it messed up my life, but I've got friends, I'm physically younger, healthier, and more attractive, if in a different way.  This life comes with resources and I've been able to redirect it into something that probably suits me better than both my original path and the one it was on.  I've got friends in Annette, Jonah, Ernesto, and a few others like I haven't had before.  If that means helping to look after some 75-year-old white woman who finds herself trapped in a Chinese life she doesn't understand, I guess it's not a bad price.

I'd just like to feel like I've got a little more control over it before something else sends it in a different direction!


Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Marc/Chantelle: Jarring Thoughts

I decided to fix myself some nachos last night.

It was the long weekend and I was all on my own, and I had the last few episodes of Stranger Things to get through. I should note for the record that I have been listening to "Running Up That Hill" on repeat for weeks now, because those lyrics resonate scarily with where I'm at. I'd love to make a deal with God to change places with someone, you know what I mean? Or maybe that relates to me as I used to be and I just didn't know it yet. I'm having some pretty complicated feelings that I may need to unpack sometime, but later for that.

What's important right now is the nachos.

Now, the thought did occur to me... all this cheese and salt and meat and grease... what's it going to do to this body? I've already noted down a few foods that don't hit quite the same as they used to, although it hasn't put me off anything. But...

Well, here's where I say some things that make me look bad, because it's all tied up in the breakup of my marriage. I don't think weight gain during the pandemic was an uncommon thing, and Laura and I both experienced it, but there was definitely a factor there. In retrospect, I think part of it was what was going on in the world and part of it was our relationship falling apart, so we did a lot of meals that were easy and maybe not healthy. I gained a potbelly, and she gained weight too. It feels so petty now, especially since I've now got a well-rounded butt and boobs going on, but at the time it was like a visual signifier of the collapse of our relationship. We were less attracted to each other, resentful of each other for the changes we were going through, maybe eating our feelings, who knows? She goes up several sizes, my old pants stop fitting, our feelings toward each other start to change. I feel like a heel just saying that that had anything to do with it, but here I am trying not to break this body somehow, fretting over every calorie as punishment for, I don't know, appreciating my wife less when she changed sizes.

So I think to myself, what am I doing to Charlotte's body with junk food? How will people look at her/me if I fatten her up a little? Am I okay with that or has society made me hate fat people? What kind of a complex am I giving myself if I starve myself out of fear of doing that? I don't know, truly, all I know is that in the moment I wanted a little bit of comfort food and I don't think anyone should begrudge me that.

So I make myself one plate, brown the meat, melt the cheese and prep the fixings and everything, and I get ready with some sour cream and salsa that I've bought from the market just for this, and...

I can't open the jar.

What a cliche! I'm a woman who can't open a jar for herself. I've always taken that for granted: grip and twist. I can't seem to hold it tight enough to get it unstuck. I'm straining my little bicep. I'm starving, I'm dying of frustration. My arms and hands simply will not do what my brain thinks they can from a lifetime of being a reasonably strong, hairy man.

Defeated. I have never felt more dejectedly like a woman, and I've already had a period.

I googled "tips to unstick jar" and of course the article is geared toward single gals, along with other "don't need a man" hacks. It turns out if you bang a knife around the edge of the lid it loosens it easily. I still found it a little tricky but bob's your uncle on that one.

So today, I was telling all this to Daisy. I get midway through the story and I realize... the story isn't funny if you don't know I'm a guy. I felt so embarrassed. The big punchline was "I looked it up online." But she didn't notice, she went into an enthusiastic discussion of her own diet woes (incidentally, she's a twig) and how there's this great taqueria that just opened up on her Lark Street that we "have to try." I mean my God, if only it was this easy to get a date when I was a man!

That's a bit of a sad thought... because obviously this isn't a date.

Later this afternoon, a guy named Djuro came over to my desk to ask if I was ready for tomorrow. What was tomorrow, I had to ask?

The first week of co-ed softball, which "I" agreed to sign up for back in April.

I got this really hesitant look in my eyes and tried to wriggle my way out of it, "Gosh, I don't know, you know, I haven't been feeling great, and..." but they need 3 women or they can't field the team and they're counting on me. It's not like they're expecting me to be good, right? He pressed me further and I relented.

I was never that athletic anyway, so it's kind of funny that I have more value to the team as a token person with a vagina.

Now I have to rifle through Chantelle's wardrobe and get some gym clothes out. I hope nobody is expecting these non-salsa-opening arms to produce much in the way of hits. Besides, I guess it's a good way to "work off" those nachos.