10 August 2009
Human nerves are possibly the strangest things ever evolved or created (depending on your beliefs) in the universe. At least, I feel like mine are.
Marci told my mother that on the day and in the moments before my surgery, I was "remarkably calm." Now, I know that last word, an adjective, applied to me: It's how I felt. Marci supplied the adverb that is the penultimate word of that sentence (Do I sound like an English teacher, or what?); given her experience, I trust her judgment.
Other people have faced much worse things. Still others have faced things that were more traumatic, if not more dramatic. Yet I was ready; I knew what I was doing and why I was doing it. There really didn't seem to be any reason for fear, or even a whole lot of drama, at that moment. I mean, really, at that point there were only two choices: to move ahead or turn back. And I know that the latter has never worked for me; it didn't even cross my mind at that time.
I wonder if I'd be so calm if I knew I were about to die. Not that I foresee that: I just wonder whether I'll kick and scream, or simply accept it. I don't think I cast Yeat's "cold eye" on life, so I'm not sure that I could cast it on death, either.
But that's neither here nor there at the moment. I mention it only because the prospect of something much less life-changing--at least, I would think it's less life-changing--has me a bit jittery.
At first glance, I "shouldn't" feel that way. Yes, I am going to see someone I haven't seen in about thirty years. And we were out of touch for probably about twenty of those years. It's not as if we didn't know of each other's whereabouts: She asked about me and I asked about her. And the same person answered both of us.
That person who kept each of us posted is my mother. And the person whom I didn't see, but whose whereabouts were always known to me, is Aunt Nanette. Actually, she's my mother's aunt, but I always spoke of and to her as if she were my own. That's how my mother's relatives always were.
For the past few years, Aunt Nanette and I have stayed in touch over the phone. My mother told her about my transition; she asked my mother to ask me to call her. Although I hadn't talked to her since I was at Rutgers, I dialed her number the first free moment I had.
I had no idea of what to expect, but with the way Mom said, "She wants to talk to you," I didn't think I would be condemned or even admonished. Still, I had no idea of what to expect.
Well, the conversations with her have been even more loving and supportive--mutually, if I do say so myself--than I ever would have dared to hope. She asked a lot of questions about what I was doing and what brought me to the point of doing it. Like my mother, she didn't seem really surprised at what I was doing. Perhaps neither of them foresaw a gender transiton: I mean, not many parents before Marilynne have seen such a thing in their kids' future. But, given my history (or lack thereof) in long-lasting intimate relationships, at least a gender-identity conflict made some sense as an explanation for my conflicts, and for any number of things I did and didn't do. I guess knowing about my "disorder," or whatever scientists and mental health professionals want to call it, was better than wondering what disastrous relationship I would get into next, or what dreams I wouldn't fulfill.
For them, knowing the secret I'd kept through all of those years--virtually all of the time either of them knew me--was, I suppose, like knowing that someone who had been suffering was now in a "better place." Perhaps I wouldn't fulfill some hopes or dreams they or others had for me, but at least my life would, hopefully, be no more desultory than it had been, and that I would no longer act out of desperation.
In every conversation I've had with Aunt Nanette, she has been loving and affirming. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. After all, she is my grandmother's sister. And the only person who has ever been closer to me than my grandmother has been my mother.
So why am I feeling nervous about going to see her tomorrow?
Even with all the misgivings and doubts I've expressed about teaching at the college, or about working in the academic world generally, I don't think that she's disappointed that it's my career, or part of it, at least for now. And I know she's not judging me for not having children or for not being more religious. (That was always important to her.) She's unequivocally said she wants to see me.
So what am I worried about?
Well, I guess the usual things one thinks about when meeting someone he or she hasn't seen in a long time. What will she think of me? Will she think I've become too....fill-in-the-blank? Have either or each of us changed so much that we cannot relate to each other as we once did?
People who haven't "changed" gender ask themselves those questions. And, of course, the fact that I've done that, and had my surgery, adds another layer of questioning and anxiety. Will she think I'm not enough--or too much--of a woman? Not feminine enough, or too girly? Will I come across as just a guy in a dress?
(I did plan on wearing one, or a nice skirt and blouse. I have a couple of outfits in mind: People always tell me I look good in them.)
Deep down, I don't think she'll make those judgments. Or if she does, she'll keep them to herself. Still, I hope that my visit to her will be a gift for both of us. After all, she turned 85 just before I had my surgery, and who knows when I'll get to see her again.
Maybe that's what's making me nervous. But I've gone through the surgery, dammit. What is there to fear now...especially from the sister of your grandmother who loved you to pieces.