So I think I'll call this blog entry "Pot Luck" because there is a little bit of everything in it. I'm not entirely sure where to start to be honest.
|"Hand in Hand" - CarolLyn Simpson|
So a very good friend of mine, CarolLyn, is an artist, and a good one at that. I have absolutely no idea why, but I felt the overwhelming urge to come out to her a year or so ago and so I told her all about who and what I am. She was going through a tough time in her life and I probably couldn't have picked a worse or more selfish time in the world to put yet more on her plate, but I guess I just really wanted to be her friend as the real me. Does that make any sense?
I had very little doubt that she would be 100% fine with me and I was not at all disappointed. After all, artists don't tend to be narrow minded ya know? I've seriously admired her courage in life and would have to admit that I envy her in many ways. She has been doing a lot of work involving the space program lately, which I think is the coolest thing in the world. I've been a huge fan of the space program for as long as I can remember and would kill to play any part at all in it. I remember talking my mom into letting me go to school late when I was small, because I desperately wanted to watch one of the moon launches. In her personal life, Carolyn has also taken great strides as an artist and has had several exhibits of her work! How cool is that?! To top it all off, she is just an absolutely beautiful person. If I had a list of people I wish I could be just like, she would be pretty near the top I think. And now I notice that I am gushing again. . .
I did that with her once, when I'd had enough of adulting and got trashed one night while traveling for work. I probably spent an hour chatting with her on Facebook and telling her how awesome she was that night, and then got to feel like a complete ass the next morning when I realized that I had almost certainly made a fool out of myself. Important note to self - copious amounts of alcohol and Facebook should never be mixed.
Anyway, she recently was part of an artistic project where artists were given a color of the LGBT flag and a topic, and they were to combine the two. The artwork must be at least 80% of the required color and obviously have some connection to the topic that was given. The color and topic that she was given were pink and female/male sexuality and off to work she went! One of the things that really impressed me was just how much she cared about getting it right. Not just the nuts and bolts of the painting, but that she really wanted to make sure that it was appropriate and meaningful to the community. In other words, she really put her heart into it. Knowing how much she cared about it, and how much of herself she had put into it, I will not bullshit you - I teared up when she told me how she was dedicating it. Thank you Carolyn. Thank you on behalf of all of those like me, who live somewhat complicated lives that few are willing, let alone capable, of understanding. Thank you for caring. Thank you for your art. Most of all, thank you for your friendship.
I've hesitated to write about this for several reasons, the most significant being my daughters privacy I suppose, but she is very vocal about it herself and has assured me that she is fine with my writing about it. Anyway, my 14 year old daughter has informed anyone that would care to listen that she is pan sexual, but as a general rule prefers girls. To say that my feelings about this are a bit conflicted would be a huge understatement. The first thought to cross my mind was "holy shit, you're only 14 and have never even kissed anyone, so how the hell would you know what you prefer yet?!" Then I recall that I knew for absolute certain that I was different at only 5 or 6 years old, so maybe it's not so unreasonable to think that she has a clue at 14. Don't get me wrong, there was never a question about whether I'd support my daughter or not, but I would have to admit to a feeling of loss. From the moment I first held her in my arms, I've envisioned a life for her that involved first dates, a marriage, motherhood, and grandchildren for me to adore. Much of this now seems unlikely to ever take place and I do indeed feel some grief at the loss. Still, she is not responsible for the dreams that I had envisioned for her life. Having lived a somewhat unique and outside of the box life myself, I also do not envy her the complications that being different will bring to her life. Many times through the years I've wished like hell that I'd been normal, that I had either been fully male or fully female, without the confusion and complication of being so different that many people can't stand the very idea of who and what I am. I would have much preferred that my children not know such discomfort and complications in their lives.
By the time that she decided to tell my wife and I, she had long since already told all of her friends and school mates, so my advice that it might not be in her best interests to be too vocal about it while living in small town Texas were far too late. For better or worse, she is out and vocal about it. Out of sheer curiosity, I asked her the other day why she felt the need to throw caution to the wind and be so quick to let people know about her sexuality. She gave a small pause to consider the question before answering.
"I don't want to invest time and effort into getting to know someone just to have them back away after they find out." Hmm, fairly logical there I suppose.
Not that I can take credit for who she is, but I am terribly proud of her for her self-confidence and her willingness to be herself regardless of what others might think. She has always done her own thing and never been one to follow the crowd.
Do you remember being 14 at all? I have some memories of it, but of course they are getting a bit vague. I do recall that it was about this time when I really started to notice the opposite sex, and I don't mean that in a sexual way, but more of a longing for someone to love. It was around then that I might look at someone and daydream about walking with them, holding hands, staring into beautiful eyes, and just existing with someone else that just might adore me back. That was hard enough when considering someone of the opposite gender as society expects, but now imagine having those same wants and dreams, but preferring someone of your own gender, thus making it infinitely more difficult to find someone. In the year or so since my daughter shared this with me, she has hinted at some of her thoughts on this with me; how it is hard to know someone that she cares about in that way, but be unsure how or if she should approach them.
On the upside, while I can't do much about the complications this will bring to her life, she knows for absolute certain that she has love and support at home. While I already miss the grandchildren that it looks like you're not gonna give me, I got your back critter!
Of course all of this has me thinking a good deal about my own life style and the cost of it. The other night I had to get up at 2:30 AM to get ready for a flight, and so I went to bed quite early. When I told my wife good night, she was kind of short and terse with her reply. We've been married for thirty years now, so I know the signs. After all, I'm slow, but I aint that slow.
"Are you angry at me about something?" I asked her.
"Yeah, a little." She replied without looking up from her computer.
"What did I do?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Umm, we haven't hardly seen each other for days - what could I possibly have done to piss you off?" I asked her.
"I think you can probably guess," was the answer I received.
So, my best guess is that she was angry because after she had been gone for the weekend and we hadn't seen each other, instead of spending time with her, I was getting ready to take a trip as Kim. Getting clothes and makeup together, going to bed early because I'd have to get up early to get ready, etc. Of course I'm probably wrong and missing something obvious - I'm good at that.
Right or wrong, this has had me thinking this week, and I'm wondering why the hell I bother to do this? Years ago, I felt wonderful spending time in the world as Kim. I felt real, I felt right, I felt at peace, and yes, I even felt beautiful. Truth be told though, I haven't felt that sense of fulfillment in years. These days I feel almost entirely like an ugly old man desperately trying not to be perceived as such. As I’ve aged, I’ve gone from passing and being accepted as a woman probably 75% of the time, to being pegged as male the vast majority of the time. In addition to my own dissatisfaction with my appearance, I’m almost constantly a nervous wreck. Scared when I leave the house that my neighbors may just happen to walk out the door at 5AM as I am loading my suitcase into the truck, and then I’ll have to have “the talk” with them and then deal with my wife who would no doubt be angry and hurt at such a thing. Scared when I have to use the bathroom, because these days I put my physical and professional life at risk any time that I enter a bathroom. Scared that my wife may eventually just say “Piss on it, I’ve had it with you” and our family will crash and burn.
I am not ready to fall upon my own sword or anything, but it definitely depresses the hell out of me. I'm not looking for sympathy here, and would really prefer not to get a bunch of comments trying to bolster my confidence, I'm just continuing my long standing tradition of being honest and blunt about my life and feelings here on the blog. The point is, I cause my wife hurt and anger and I'm pretty much unhappy and miserable most of the time myself anyway, so why do I bother to still do it?
I don't know.
I don't understand it myself.
I can't bear not being me, but I can't bear being me either.
It's the proverbial unstoppable force meeting an immovable object with all of us caught right in the middle. Shit. . .
This week I headed for the Philadelphia area to help a customer that has been unable to use her spectrometer for about two weeks. I'd been trying to help her solve her problem by phone and email while I was home with the pneumonia, but ultimately had to throw in the towel and prepare to go fix it myself. Others at my company had reached the conclusion that it was a very complicated and expensive component at fault, while I insisted that I didn't think so. Since I had failed to prove my case remotely, I kind of had to go along with their recommendations though and so had to wait for the replacement part to be purchased, built, and setup for me. So, the customer was down and out for two weeks waiting for a part that the factory told her she needed, and that I had argued was probably not the faulty component - needless to say there was some anxiety going into this.
I had to laugh as a young couple got onto the airport shuttle bus behind me carrying two huge suite cases; one bright blue and one bright green.
"I'll bet y'all have no trouble what so ever spotting your suitcases!" I laughed. We ended up chatting the whole way to the airport. I told them of the time when I was traveling on a bad weather day and had arrived at the Austin airport several hours late to find easily a thousand bags from delayed travelers piled up on the baggage claim floor. Staring at that huge number of bags and trying to pick mine out of the mess, I had sworn then and there to never buy a black or dark blue suitcase again.
The shuttle bus at the other end of the trip was a bit more awkward. Here I am with a 50 pound suitcase, a 50 pound tool box, and a thirty pound backpack, trying to heft it all in and out the rental car shuttle bus. To make it a little harder, the bus driver refused to open the middle doors, and only opened the one up front by the driver, so I had to not only get these bags in through a crowd of people, but had to hook them around the corner. Being the graceful person that I am *cough* I ended up rolling my suitcase right into this poor woman's toes. She was most understanding about it though, and assured me that no harm was done, but I still felt about six inches tall. Having started my day at 2:30AM and still getting over the pneumonia, I was worn out when I arrived and pretty much got dinner, showered, and went straight to bed.
The next morning I felt almost human, but suffered from a major case of the nerves. A large customer of ours, I'd already failed to identify the source of this customers problem by phone, and I'd already argued with experts at my factory over what was wrong with it. More or less, they weren't seeing any infrared and our experts were insisting that it was the IR detector itself. I argued that it looked like the detector was fine, but there was just no IR to be detected. There was just a bit or pressure here if you know what I mean. When I examined their instrument, I couldn't help literally laughing out loud, much to the non-amusement of my customer. Over the phone, they had insisted that they had never touched a special set of mirrors used to align the IR, but someone had fibbed. Not only had they touched them, but someone had completely removed them and they were now entirely missing! The best analogy of this whole mess that I can think of works with cars:
Customer says engine won't run.
Factory says engine needs to be replaced.
I insist I think engine is fine, but it sounds like a carburetor problem.
I ask customer "Did y'all adjust the carburetor?" and I'm assured that no one would dream of touching it.
I arrive to find that the carburetor is completely missing.
So, an hour later they finally find the missing adjustment mirrors, and a mere three hours after I arrived I've got the thing aligned, tested, and done. All of that anxiety over something so silly.
"Yes, they're cute on you!" I said with a grin. She quickly looked up with an expression that implied she was relieved to get an honest appraisal.
"Yeah, but which color?"
"Definitely the blue one!"
"Yay! That's two votes for blue then!" She said with a laugh.
In all three locations I found only two things that I really liked - two skirts at Nordstrom's Rack. The catch is that they were well out of my budget, so cute or not, they stayed right where they were. Ultimately I laughed and told Sophie and Linda that we could leave any time that they were ready because I clearly didn't make enough money to be shopping there, and so off we went for an early dinner.
|Linda Lewis, Myself, and Sophie in the King of Prussia Mall|
My flight home left at the miserable hour of 6AM. It doesn't sound so bad until you put it all together. The hotel was an hour from the airport and you have to get there two hours early. Do that math and that means my happy ass was up at 2:30 AM again and leaving for the airport at 3. I could have got flights that left at a more reasonable hour, but it would have almost tripled the cost. The flight leaving at 6 was $300, and the flight leaving at 8 was $800. I'm ok with spending a little of my company's money for a reasonable schedule, but that significant a cost difference would be a hard sell to the boss.
So there I am, a tired old man pumping gas into a rental car at a small deserted convenience store in Philly at about 3:30 AM, when up drives this beautiful woman with long braided hair down to her bottom. Gotta be honest, even as an old soldier, I wasn't entirely comfortable in this location at this time of day, and I couldn't help wondering how she must feel. If I was nervous, I couldn't help wondering what it would be like to be her; a small and attractive woman pumping gas in a relatively dark station at such an awful time in the morning. Funny thing is, she didn't seem half as nervous as I felt. Maybe I'm just a coward that over thinks things. . .
Next week it's off to Denver!