01 January 2010

Reflections At The Beginning of The Year

Most new years have begun with a day that seemed eerily quiet to me. This New Year's Day has been no exception. The weather was neither unusually cold nor mild for this time of year, and it did not begin to rain until well into the evening. And, when I ventured out this afternoon, there were few people on the streets. And those I saw were uncommonly serene; I exchanged wishes for a happy new year with several of them, all of whom are strangers.

I guess everyone else was sleeping off a hangover, watching football, cooking or eating.

Later in the afternoon, I became one of the latter category, going once again to--you guessed it!--Millie's house. Her younger daughter, who will turn one of those round-number ages (I won't say which one!) in a couple of months, seemed happier than I've seen her in a while. And her other daughter, who came with her two kids, also was in an uncommonly good mood. And John, Millie's husband was exhibiting his usual (and sometimes wonderfully charming) combination of thoughtfulness to his guests and cluelessness about some of our conversations. It's not that he's stupid--far from it. It's just that there are some things he really knows nothing about. In that sense, I guess he's no different from the rest of us.

Also present was Catherine, whom I like very much. She and Millie are childhood friends who, somehow or another, have managed to live no more than a neighborhood or two apart from each other through more than half a century.

Sometimes I find myself envying that: Even before I began my gender transition, I had to uproot myself a couple of times. I have not been in contact with anyone I knew during elementary or junior high school for thirty years or so; I am in tenuous, sporadic contact with a few people I knew in high school and in college via Facebook and other online means. However, I have a hard time of keeping such relationships up. Or, more precisely, I am a bit reluctant to commit to them, as I know that each of us has changed during the decades we haven't seen each other.

I know it's very difficult to relate to someone who, in essence, is a different person from the one you knew when you and that person weren't present for each others' changes. I learned that when I tried to resume a friendship with Elizabeth after we hadn't seen each other for a decade or more: Even if Nick hadn't become Justine, it might not have been possible to be friends. On the other hand, Bruce and I have been in nearly constant contact for close to thirty years; we have seen each other go through crises and triumphs. I can only imagine what Millie and Catherine have experienced in all of the time they've known each other!

Yet, as we shared chips and salsa, antipasti, baked ziti with sausage, salad, roast pork, rice with peas and corn, I realized that I, too, have a friendship with a history with Millie, with John--with their family, in fact, and Catherine. I've known them for about seven and a half years: not as long as they've known each other, but, in essence for my entire life as I now know it. All of them, except for Catherine, met me during the last days I was living at least part of my life as a male. None of them ever mention that, even though I never asked them not to.

Plus, in my very earliest days of living full-time, I watched Millie's grandkids--who were then nine and six years old--when she had to go somewhere, and John and their daughters were at work. Now the grandkids are fifteen and twelve years old.

Now I'll admit that I have a self-indulgent, self-reflexive reason for talking about them and the friendships that have developed between us: In thinking about what I've experienced, I realize how far I've come, if I do say so myself. When I say "how far I've come," I am talking about what I've left behind me--whether by choice or other means--as well as what I've gained or simply come into.

Of course I have left various relationships; others have fallen by the wayside. That, I suppose happens in everyone's lives. In addition, I have abandoned--whether by choice or otherwise--various material possessions and a place I had, not only in a larger world, but in the lives of various people who were in my life.

What have I gained? Relationships, possessions and a place in the world and in certain people's lives. Naturally, the ones I've gained are, for the most part, very different from the ones I've left behind. And the people who've remained with me have changed in various ways, while remaining true to themselves.

And what have I come into? The pleasures gleaned from what I've gained, and a sense of my self that I never could have anticipated, much less pursued or seized, prior to my transition.

I must admit, what I've gained and come into have some ironic--and some purely and simply funny--consequences at times. (Yes, Ed McGon, God does have a wicked sense of humor!) To wit: Catherine, Millie and Stephanie, her elder daughter, were talking about something and somehow the subject of menopause came up. (The grandkids were, at that moment, in the living room and too engrossed in their video games to hear us.) They were talking about how a woman knows it's coming on (hot flashes, etc.) and I said, "Well, first, you miss your period."

Not one of them blinked. And one of them--Millie, I think--said, "Yeah, and after that you start having the other symptoms."

And the conversation continued as if nobody had said anything unusual or out of line. I wasn't trying to impress anyone or "fit in;" I merely stated, with confidence, a fact and was part of a women's conversation. John, who sat at the other end of the table from me, gave me a brief but knowing smile.

If that, and the rest of the time I spent with him and everyone else is a harbinger of what this year will be like, things ought to be good, or at least interesting--ironically, by becoming routine. At least I know I'm starting this year in the life in which I belong.