17 December 2008

Is Karma a Practical Joke?

Today is Mike's birthday. He's second in the esteemed line of Valinotti siblings. So I exercise certain prerogatives as the first in that notable lineage. Just so he knows I haven't turned into a perfect lady quite yet, I called him up and pretended to represent a delivery service. "There's a cake waiting for you on your front stoop."

"It's raining. So I'm not going out to get it."

"There's a woman inside it who's just aching to burst out. She's been waiting out there all day, just to greet you for your birthday."

"Well, she's just going to have to wait longer!"

"You are a heartless bastard."

"Yeah, I know. I am a heartless bastard."

"But it's not my fault. I didn't raise you that way."

"What can I tell ya'?"

To tell you the truth, I don't know what practical jokes, if any, women play on each other, or play on men. As you can tell, this one didn't work particularly well because Mike knew who I was. Damn caller ID!

Maybe it's because I lived as a man for so long, but it seems to me that most practical jokes are played by males on other males. I've never known sisters to play them on each other, or to brothers. If they do, I'd like to know about those jokes.

Anyway, I'm glad Mike and I can have such an exchange. Time was, not so long ago, when we weren't so friendly. In fact, we went for a couple of years with no contact at all, at one point. I don't know whether he's forgotten, or whether he thinks it's just vodka under the bridge. Wait a minute-- He couldn't think that: Neither of us drinks! (though for completely different reasons).

For now...Well, what can I say? We still haven't seen each other since my transition began. But, to be fair, we hadn't seen each other for several years before that, either. Once, we came close. He'd come to the East Coast for a combination of business and family visits. One day, near the end of my first year of living full-time as Justine, he came into New York with his wife Mary and son Matthew. We had plans to meet that didn't come to pass. I didn't have a cell phone at the time, and when I went to meet them in a coffee shop at the base of the Empire State Building, Mary was looking for Nick, not Justine. Still, how could she have missed a big, tall blonde in a bright blue top and skirt with red sandals and a bag to match. How could anyone not have known it was me. I mean, just because the last time she saw me, I was wearing a beard, does that excuse her or anyone else from knowing who I am.

All right. I'll lay off her. Actually, I like Mary, and always have. But I guess it has to be hard for her, realizing she has another sister-in-law. Yes, I actually do pity her, kinda sorta. I mean, after all, she ends up with another one, and she's me. Oh, dear!

Other people have gotten over more. Me, for instance.

OK, so you think I'm creeping over the line from giddy to catatonic. I could blame the hormones, and maybe I have reason to do so. Actually, I probably do: It's been a few weeks since I've felt this perky. I think my emotions are cyclical, at least to some degree.

Actually, today was a rather good day overall. The college had its holiday party. I wore a knee-length scarlet dress that buttons from the collar to about halfway down my belly, and has a nice leather sash around the middle. I wasn't looking for compliments, but I got them from everybody, it seemed. And the food was good and everyone was in a good mood.

After we had returned to "real life" at the college, I saw my department chair. We exchanged greetings and, impromptu, said, "It's been a good semester, hasn't it."

"Yes. It's been hectic, but good things are happening here."

"And it's been a really good semester for you, Justine."

"Well...Thank you."

Later, I told Cady Ann, the secretary about our exchange. She was surprised only that my department chair surprised me. "You see, everyone knows you're smart, talented and work hard. She was telling you what a lot of people think."


"You're your own worst critic, you know."

"You're not the first person to say that."

She nodded. "So, tell me...When are you going to start on your Ph.D.?"

Funny that she should ask: Just before I bumped into my department chair, I'd called the Graduate Center to ask about taking a course there next semester. For one thing, the college will pay for it. I always tell my students to take whatever's free, and I firmly believe in practicing what I preach. Also, I realize that it's fifteen years since I completed my master's degree. And, of course, I got that degree--and all of my formal education, in fact--as Nick, mostly under duress.

Hmm...Is this some sort of Karmic joke? The school-basher, the one who sees every moment she has spent in school as failure wrought by other failures--going to school again? What's getting into me.

Then again, before I admitted that I am a woman, I denied that anyone--or I--could possibly feel as I did. I actually expressed the belief that transsexuals (the word I knew at the time) were simply people who wouldn't do what was necessary to be men. And, it almost goes without saying that I was quite the homophobe, or that I was at least trying to seem like one.

And here I am. Is that a karmic practical joke, or what?