01 December 2008

Turning and Heading Straight for Womanhood

Another night at the college. Another weekend gone; another Thanksgiving passed.

And another season is just about gone. We've had some pretty wintry weather, but that season isn't quite here yet.

At least I had the holiday and spent it with fine people. Otherwise, it wasn't terribly eventful. Still, I get the feeling that the Thanksgiving weekend that just passed was a turning point of some sort, as other Thanksgiving weekends Awere.

I'm thinking of a few in particular. There was that day after Thanksgiving when I was about fifteen, which I've described in an earlier post. I guess what changed that weekend was that I understood--could articulate to myself--for the first time that I was, and would most likely always be, alone no matter who was present or who reached out to me. How else could I feeel when I knew that the only way I could, or at least knew how to, live was in complete alienation from my true self.

There was the holiday weekend of my freshman year in college. It was the first time since the semester started that I was able to spend more than part of a day with more than one member of my family. (I never imagined, though at times I thought I wanted, that I would go entire years without seeing anyone related to me.) The afternoon before Thanksgiving, I went back to my high school for the only time after my graduation. I could see that in those few months since we got our diplomas, we'd changed. I knew then that I would not be in contact with any of my classmates again, at least not for a very long time.

Then, a few years--a geological age, at that time in my life--later, I remember skinny-dipping with Toni, my girlfriend at the time, in the ocean at Sandy Hook. The day had been mild for that time of year, and the water had not yet turned cold. My grandmother had died not long before; my time living in Paris and my time in school were already fading into the past. Toni was ostensibly attending a hairdressing school, but we were spending most of our days drinking, smoking dope and fucking. Those things could not, at that moment, ameliorate the pain of knowing that I was alone and all I could do--or wanted to do--was more of the same: drink, drugs and sex with someone who probably wanted escape as badly as I did, if for different reasons. The future was not uncertain, I knew it was aimed at me at point-blank range. But I was still trying to dodge it.

Thanksgiving weekend of 1992 saw me near the end of the first semester of my second year of teaching, and a few months away from my master's degree. The previous June, I talked for the first time about the molestation I incurred as a child. One might think I was ready to take life head-on: Not only had I talked about, and sought help for, those childhood traumas, I was clean and sober. So what did I do? I went out with three different women that weekend. I knew that dealing with the molestation wouldn't be my only struggle.

And then there was 2002: my last "as" Nick, and the last I would spend with all of my immediate family, except Mike, and their in-laws. I was going to work as Nick but living the rest of my life as Justine. I knew that situation wouldn't continue for too much longer. Still, I resisted the temptation to "come out" to them then: If anyone had a negative reaction, the others might feed off it, I thought.

And now this year, when I am moving toward integrating myself as the woman I am. Somehow, this weekend, I started to realize that I wasn't leaving an old self or life behind me anymore. That phase has passed; I feel more strongly, somehow, that my life is no longer about having lived as a man, if it ever was. Somehow I had always suspected that being a woman is about not having one's past as a resource, and knowing that one couldn't always live today on yesterday's lessons, if they could be called that.

But at least it's not a descent into isolation: I do have, after all, people who know and love me as a woman, as I know and love them. And myself.

If winter isn't already here, it's coming and whatever the cold kills may be buried under snow. And the season will turn once again.