29 August 2009
Tonight I had dinner with someone I haven't seen in about 35, or maybe even 40, years.
Rocky is the son of Aunt Madeline, with whom my parents and I had lunch two weeks ago. I hadn't seen her in about thirty years. So, I spent more years not seeing her and Gene than I've been on this planet.
When he invited me to dinner, I accepted even though I had absolutely no idea of what to make of it. Maybe he's curious about me, I thought. Even though I couldn't honestly say that I knew anything about him, I sensed that his curiosity wasn't malicious or conspiratorial. I also didn't think he would mentally compare me to whatever he saw on the Jerry Springer show or what guests on Oprah's show said about trans people. For that matter, I didn't think he watched either show.
Turns out, I was right on all counts, or so it seemed. I never had the sense, as we talked, that he was sizing me up, or looking for juicy gossip. He did say that, as a Jehovah's Witness, he didn't "agree with" what I've done, but, "If that's what you feel you need to do, so be it. They only ones you have to answer to are yourself and God."
If he was proseltysing or trying to "convert" me, I didn't feel it. Perhaps the notion was in back of his mind; I'm sure that he had at least some wish that he could have spent time with me during the past years and, perhaps, convinced me not to undergo my gender transition and instead to become a Witness. But, during those years, other people have tried to turn me into a Witness, or into an adherent to any number of other religions. And you can see how successful they were!
I must say, though, that our dinner--at Uncle George's, where else?--and coffee and dessert (at Omonia, the bakery/cafe that made the cake in My Big Fat Greek Wedding), was unlike any other time I've spent with anyone else.
When he picked me up, of course, I didn't recognize him immediately. The last time I saw him, he was young and thin, and had a full head of thick black hair. Now he is bald, his facial structure has broadened and, while not fat, he's not skinny, either. (As if I should talk!) I could just barely recall that young man, and, as he talked about his jobs, marriage, divorce and kids and told some funny and moving stories about some of the things he's done, the boy whom he once knew seemed almost unreal.
Now I find it really odd that our past--which includes our relationship, however long it lapsed--was not at all a factor in our conversation. He never brought up anything he recalls about me as a child, as a young adolescent. His stories, as entertaining as they sometimes were, did not include any reminisces about the time we spent together, or about me. Except for this: He said that when he saw me in my childhood and teen years, he thought that I might possibly "go gay." He said I had "certain mannerisms" and that I talked and acted "feminine." But, he said, he never mentioned anything to anybody.
It probably wouldn't have made any difference, anyway. Actually, it's probably better for me that he didn't say anything. If he had, who knows how I might have ended up. I might've been shipped off to doctors and psychiatrists who couldn't help or who would have simply made things worse, as most of them thought that "butching up" a sissy boy would make him normal.
For much of my life, I had the same notions as those doctors. I thought the "right" woman, sports or any number of other things could shock, prod or otherwise exorcise the knowledge that I am a woman out of me. I did not talk about those things with Gene, not because I didn't feel comfortable with him--to the contrary!--but rather because they simply weren't a factor.
Even when he talked about his days as a bagel baker or his marriage, I never felt as if I we were reminiscing. How can you reminisce about someone you never knew, or someone of whom you have memories that are so distant that they seem to have almost no relation to the person you now know, or to what you yourself now are?
The thin, strong young man with the thick black hair is more like an image in a gallery than an actual memory. So, for that matter, is the boy I was when I last saw him. So having dinner with him was more like spending time with some cousin I never knew I had than it was like a reunion. Perhaps we will be friends. I would like that.