19 June 2009

Memory and Nervousness, Or Lack Thereof

Tonight I was talking with Aunt Nanette. Actually, she's my mother's aunt, but I have always referred to her as my own aunt. My father had no siblings and my mother had three brothers (one of whom, Joe, is still living), so I didn't have a lot of aunts to choose from. Uncle Joe is still married to Gen; Uncle Sonny divorced Aunt Pat (whom I still call "Aunt") when I was in high school and Uncle Nick split with his wife before I could develop any memory of her. And, as much as I love my uncles, being who I am, I always wanted more female relatives. Aunt Nanette does fine.

Anyway, she turned 85 yesterday. She'd called the other day to thank me for the card I sent her. "That was very thoughtful of you," she said. "I'm touched." I've never known her to be sarcastic, so I accept what she says at face value.

Although we've talked often, we still haven't sat face-to-face since I began my transition--or well before it. In fact, now that I think of it, I don't recall having seen her since Uncle Nick's funeral. That was almost twenty years ago. And my most vivid memories of her are a good bit earlier than that--from my Rutgers years and earlier. So the image I have of her is of a woman who wasn't much older than I am now. And the picture of me that's affixed inside her mind is most likely of a young man with a beard and a scowl.

Elizabeth used to refer to me as Homo Scowlien: Scowling Man. Other people had similar impressions of me. Maybe Aunt Nanette does, too--although she never fails to call me "Justine" or use feminine pronouns when referring to me. On the other hand, I think Elizabeth preferred Homo Scowlien. (OK, so her Latin wasn't so great in those days. Mine never was.)

Anyway...Enough about Elizabeth. Aunt Nanette is much more relevant and interesting than she'll ever be. Tonight Aunt Nanette was asking about my upcoming surgery. I talked about the doctor, the things I've been doing to prepare for it, and the things (like the course I'm teaching) I'm doing so that I don't think about it 24/7: After all, I think being so occupied with anything, no matter how good, is unhealthy. At least it's never been good for me.

She asked me a question other people have asked: Are you nervous about it? I replied, honestly, that I'm not. I've always had the feeling that the closer I came to the date of my surgery, the more uneasy I'd feel about it. Hmm, maybe eighteen days isn't near enough.

I explained that I've done a lot to prepare myself mentally for that day, between all the time (and money!) I've spent on therapists and such, and the exchanges, in person and on-line, I've had with other transgendered people. I've been in good hands, I've said, and I feel that I'll be in good with Dr. Bowers and her staff. And, of course, Mom and other people have been supportive.

She didn't express surprise over my explanation. However, I must confess that I'm surprised that I'm not nervous about this. I mean, I'm glad that I'm not. But does that make me well-prepared, or simply insane? Maybe both, and a bunch of other things.

It's really strange: I've been absolutely terrified of asking people for dates or help with anything. And of job interviews. And of starting new jobs. And, strangest of all, I was more scared as I embarked on the last bike tour I took in France than I was on my first. Then again, I had a premonition that I wouldn't come back from it. In a sense, I didn't--at least, I didn't come back as quite the same person who left, and I knew it that day when I hugged Tammy so desperately when she met me in the airport.

I know that, in some sense, I will be a different person after my operation. But somehow it doesn't scare me: I've been envisioning it for many, many years. I also know that there's still much that, no matter how much I've prepared, I can't anticipate. That's true of any change we make in our lives. The difference is, I know that now; when I made other major changes, I didn't understand that.

Still...I wonder why I was nervous about such things as job interviews or asking someone on a date. The potential outcomes were--at least, after I reached a certain age--more predictable than what I could experience. When you ask for a job or date, or almost anything else, the worst thing you can envision is that the person says "no." Most of the time, that's where it ends. And, even after having more rejection than I ever wanted to experience--although, most likely, about as much as most people encounter--the prospect of facing it again still struck fear in me.

Now I'm facing a future--both immediate and distant--that is potentially far more complex and complicated than the outcome of simply asking another person for something. And I am not nervous. At least, not yet: I still have eighteen more days to go.

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