Raised By Wolves
Part Two: Sometimes I'm Mistaken for a Man
Hollywood & Vine
April 2, 1990
I spent the last two days seeing if I could dredge up the old feelings. I really needed to know if that part of me was closed off and no longer accessible or merely unused and falling into disrepair. It seems to be the later.
If I try hard enough, I can regress my thoughts to the point that it seems as if nothing at all has happened. The last year vanishes and I am back to square one. And, surprisingly, I find some comfort there. It is a familiar ground and I find in it no fear (or perhaps I should say uneasiness) especially in my dealings with Mary and the kids. I suppose I am projecting inward my certainty that they would be much more comfortable if I stopped right now and returned to those thrilling days of yesteryear. What's scary is that this idea no longer frightens me.
At this juncture, neither lifestyle or mode of thought is significantly more appealing than the other. But let me break that down. My life as Melanie is incomplete. I must hide from Mary, the kids, and the neighbors. I have but a few short hours every morning to present myself in that manner. And comfortable access to the social world eludes me, due to my continuing self-consciousness brought on by fear of "ugly beard-shadow bleedthrough" (sounds like a detergent commercial?). Of course, as a male, none of that matters, and from both a relationship and physical perspective, the social grease is slicker.
So at this point, I cannot honestly say that I am wholly drawn to Yin or Yang. Now, question: will that change in the future? There is a lot in that question. A dual lifestyle is impossible to keep secret in a practical sense, but could be embarked upon if disregard for social acceptance is paramount. But at what cost to kids, marriage, career, self-esteem? But if a choice is made, losses could be incurred severely in either direction.
You know, the inner journey may be over (or maybe not) but the empirical solution races ahead of me at matching speed. The day or reckoning moves one day forward for every day lived, as if the moo were the Sword of Damocles, constantly hanging over my head yet never approachable. I guess I just have to back off. I have to wait. I have to settle in and let things run their course. The answers I seek will come to me of their own good time, and hunting after them merely scatters the little buggers into the bushes where they lay low until the coast is clear. Damn little buggers!
April 24, 1990
Well, it's been over three weeks since I last made an entry. Its not that things have slowed down or evened out (although to some extent that is true) but rather that each day brings a slight alteration in my emotional status and I have been waiting for the Big Picture to emerge. It still hasn't.
Take everything I have been mulling over these last few months, temper it down to a manageable level of stress and mix it all up together. It now can be rationally (more or less) considered, but is still in such a state of flux and disarray that no permanent conclusions can be drawn.
There are days, especially when I am very tired, that I feel particularly masculine. But these are few and far between. And there are days, especially when I like what I see in the mirror, that I feel particularly feminine. These also are the exception. Mostly these days I just feel like me.
It becomes increasingly difficult to determine how much I need this lifestyle as I entrench myself more fully into it day by day. As the pain of my earlier suffering becomes nearly forgotten, the need for this transition becomes more obscure. And since I am so content with living this life, the drive toward surgery is hard to justify.
Last Friday, two film friends of mine began their documentary of my transition. We met at Mark and Juni's who joined me in a discussion of our perspectives on my situation over wine and cheese and in front of the camera. I realize that this much public disclosure is bound to have repercussions for the rest of my life, but I feel the benefits to my career this notoriety will bestow warrant the downside risk. I am most concerned, however, that my responses to questions on my relationship with Mary might hinder our relationship by their candor. Time will tell.
Saturday last, Mary and I went to a home show at the L.A. Convention Center. As we wandered wide-eyed through the hundreds of displays, we began to actually feel like homeowners - the consummation of our marriage - long dream. Sharing, laughing, munching snacks: we melted through each other as a single unit.
And Sunday brought shopping for garden tools, yard work, and playing rented video games. Truly, these two days were our best in years. Mary told me that she felt guilty because she was so happy and (with regard to my situation) she shouldn't be. I told her that meant she was content to enjoy what worked for her without regard to anyone else's opinions or expectations. But our mutual fulfillment turned out to be simply lack of communication, as the next day would prove.
Monday, Mary called a bank about the loan we need to take on the house to clear the estate debts. She mentioned that she had told the clerk that the deed would be in both our names, in order that her income could help qualify us. Later, I reminded her that I would only add her name to the deed if she agreed that even if we separate, she will neither kick me out of the house, nor sell her half to anyone but me, to prevent another co-owner from deposing me. She did not want to make this commitment. Not because she planned on getting rid of me, but because she felt I should KNOW that she would never do such a thing.
In discussions of this with my friends, they have unanimously urged me to hold onto ownership completely to insure my protection. But, as usual, foolhardy me has decided to add her name and take my chances. After all, this home is not a bribe for loyalty to come, but a reward for loyalty already provided. In short, she has earned it.
This uncomfortable discussion blossomed into a truly painful near-argument. And here is where the misunderstandings of our new-found bliss emerged. Apparently, Mary had been feeling that we were so happy that I was content with the status quo and would not need to go for surgery. I, on the other hand, thought our happiness was due to Mary's final acceptance of my decision to have surgery and to enjoy life with me anyway.
This communication progressed through our mutual declaration that our marriage was over and permanently dissolved at the moment the knife grazed my wee-wee. I packed a laundry basket with a pillow, bedspread, tooth brush and paste and hauled it out asking Mary if she agreed |I should just move out right now.
Finally, the tension lowered (as it always seems to do) when we realized that the advent of that precipitous moment was some six months in the future at the earliest. We agreed to disagree, each earnestly pursuing a change of heart in the half year remaining.
Today, Mary and I are great friends again on the phone. We laugh and kid and when I say, "I love you.", she says, "I love you too!" I must admit here that I suppose if the choice was to have the operation and lose Mary, I would probably decline surgery. After all, life IS good as Melanie, but only with my loved ones near and dear. But my plan is to withhold this information from her unless backed into a corner. This way, she supposes that I would leave rather than accept a non-surgical alternative. And in this manner, I force her to try and reconcile her feelings and embrace tacit approval. Failing that, I guess for the near future, I would be doomed to the life of a push-me/pull-you as the price of an unbroken relationship.
P.S. Another quick note: As you have been made well aware, the one major area of self-consciousness about presenting myself as Melanie has been my beard. And with the cost of electrolysis out of the question for perhaps six months, and even then another two years of treatment... Well, I've been pretty depressed by the people who have lately jumped at a second glance at me as if struck by an electric cattle prod. That sort of encounter can ruin your whole day.
BUT! K-mart offers a home electrolysis kit for a mere thirty dollars. And once I got it home (to buy it was no choice at all!) I was pleased and amazed to discover that it actually works! Portable, with a nine volt battery (included) it has a comfort-level setting, computerized time, and feels just like the fifteen hours of "professional" service I have already endured. Albeit much less painful as well.
After a simple five-second treatment, the hair merely "slips" out, not tugging or pulling as with plucking: a simple indication that the root has been destroyed. I shan't know for sure for five weeks or so if this tiny marvel can save me thousands of dollars and hours of pain, but at the rate I am able to use it, I will have cleared the entire face in one week instead of two years. Let's keep our eyes crossed on this one!
(AUTHOR'S NOTE: At this point in my transition, I became very busy in my career, ultimately working as many as 24 straight 12 hour days without a day off. As a result, entries in my Diary became a more sporadic, hit and miss endeavor.)
Tuesday, June 5th, 1990
So much has happened since my last entry of six weeks ago that I have had no time in which to commit it to paper. But now, an hour (but a single hour!) has opened up and I am compelled to bring you up to date lest I lose continuity altogether.
As I pen these words I am sitting in my editing suite on the seventh floor of the Equitable Building" on the corner of Hollywood and Vine in downtown Hollywood. That's right! I'm actually editing a FEATURE film on Hollywood and Vine! I guess I've finally made it to the Big Time!
And as I drink in the reality of my situation, I stand amazed that life has been so good to me. Scant weeks ago, The Director finally pulled his legal matters together and called to say he was ready for me to start editing his feature. This was incredible! After years of disappointments and frustration, hundreds of carrots dangled in front of me always to be snatched away, after 22 years of longing to work in feature films, the moment had actually arrived!
But how unprepared I was for the speed at which I was to be thrust into my lifestyle as Melanie in the fullest trial by fire! The first order of business was to purchase a video editing system to work on. (Many features today, although shot and released on film, are edited in video). To this end, I put the Director in contact with a video equipment company I had dealt with before.
Almost immediately he set up an appointment for me and his Producer/wife to inspect the gear. Now remember that up to this point I had been avoiding one on one personal contact as Melanie for fear of voice, beard, body language - in short, for fear of being "read".
But here I was, thrust into the limelight and asked to evaluate the system and discuss it with the sales staff and engineers. Well, I just did it. I tried not to think about it, but concentrate on the task at hand. Now - I don't know if they read me or not. Surely I must have at least appeared a strange woman. But the marvelous thing was, no one said anything and no one freaked! I was utterly amazed!
In the days that followed, we ventured into a number of companies as we gathered parts and information. I found that even if they looked at me weirdly, that if I made eye contact and cheerfully conducted business, their look would evaporate in moments, and we would be laughing and exchanging tech-talk in no time. My confidence expanded exponentially.
And a good thing too! For as soon as I settled into the office, the Director had me out running errands in downtown Hollywood ALONE!!!! What fear rolled over me that first trip out to buy video tape! But again, NO REACTION! Was I changing? And if so, inside or out? I still do not know.
The system finally arrived and the technician who installed it treated me with protective condescension - "Don't you worry, I'll have it up and running in no time!" Wow! Did he REALLY not question my womanhood?
So far, so good. Then the NEWS: "We are having some interns interview for a position as your assistant." Oh, my God! But they came and they went and they didn't bat an eye! What the hell is going on here?!?
To date, I have worked for two weeks now with Julie, an intern from Cal State Northridge. We work in the same room and frequently converse shoulder to shoulder. And she has not yet caught on! This is a college girl, mind you - an intelligent and discerning young woman, who sees me only as Melanie, the editor.
Now I am truly flabbergasted! Have I really come that far that there is no farther? I guess so! Two other interns accept me without question as well. And the handsome mid-twenties male lead came in the other day to see "dailies". When he left, he gave my arm a squeeze and said, "Thanks for the extra effort." The Producer says he called her and mentioned, "By the way, that woman who is editing for you, what was her name again? She was really nice." No, Sir, YOU are nice!
These days I walk easily the two blocks down Hollywood Boulevard from the parking space. And I read the starts on the "Walk of Fame" wondering if someday one will read Melanie". Somehow, I think it just might!
P.S. Today is a primary election in California, and, for a lark, I showed up to vote dressed as Melanie with a Dave registration. The red, white, and blue fluttered proudly in the light breeze as I crossed the threshold of the polling place, feeling simultaneously that I was in some small way defiling the sanctity of the Altar of Democracy, even as I exercised the freedoms it secured.
I approached the inevitable little old lady and handed her my card, saying, "Don't freak, but this is me." She didn't get it. She just looked at the LAST name, found it on her list and said, "Mary?". I said, "No..." and pointed to "David". She said, "What?" I said, "That's my name." She said, "What's your name?" I said, "David". She said, "Huh?"
Her husband, hearing the commotion, stepped forward asking, "What's the problem?" I replied, "I'm in transition. I used to be this" (pointing to the name) "and I'm becoming this..." (pointing to myself). He still didn't get it.
Finally, a girl in her late twenties looked over at the card, my Dave driver's license and me. She said, "Remember me? I used to live across the street." Taken aback, I recovered with, "Oh, yes... How are you doing?" "Fine", she said, and, "My kids miss yours since we moved. Would it be okay if I brought them over to visit?" (This from a lady who up to this instant knew nothing of this side of my life?) "Sure!", said I, amazed at her composure.
Well, she vouched for me and ram-rodded the thing through, getting me a ballot. The old guy finally figured it out and stared at me on my way to the poll, as I deposited my ballot, and as I walked out the door. For all I know, he is staring still.
Mary (on the phone) asked, "Did you vote as your other self?" (She wouldn't say the name.) I told her. She said, "When they asked for my I.D. and I saw that you had voted, I figured that's what happened."
"Amazing," she mused, "that out of three poll attendants, one would be a neighbor! "How do you feel about that?", I ventured, anticipating the day my predilection becomes common knowledge on the block. "I find it hysterical!" She giggled and continued to laugh! This woman astounds me!
Wednesday, June 6, 1990
THOUGHTS ON THE JOB:
2:40 pm - Asked by the Director's Producer/wife to answer phones while she was tied up in meeting. Would nave resented as below my station as Editor. Now, no problem - enjoy helping out.
2:55 pm - Asked by the Director to make coffee for their guest. Felt honored to be the hostess. Made coffee, then asked how the guest wanted it, and served.
4:05 pm - told Sabina (another intern) that I had to rush home at five o'clock for my son's Cub Scout meeting. She said it was time to call in Super Mom. I guess I really am Passing!
4:45 pm - Wen I went out for track in my last semester of High School, just so I could say I did it, I was on the borderline by weight between "Varsity" & "B" squads. I had a choice between being the worst Varsity member or the best "B". I elected to join B squad. I just realized that as a man, I felt weak and helpless - the bottom of my squad. But now, I feel like one hell of a powerful woman. In fact, the intimidation I felt as a male (real or imagined) is gone. I have admitted all men are my superiors (apologies to women's lib) but on the women's team I'm at the top of the heap. So, not so oddly I suppose, my "masculine" self-confidence has increased tremendously, since becoming a woman.
(AUTHOR'S NOTE: I became so busy on the feature that I resorted briefly to jotting down a short note each day for several days, just to maintain a chronology. I include those here.)
WEDNESDAY: My feature film, that I directed in 1980 was screened nationally on Movie Greats Network on ABC at 3AM!!!
THURSDAY: Julie bubbled into work and greeted me with, "Hey, woman!"
FRIDAY: Mindi was home sick. Mary couldn't come home, so I had to. I stayed dressed in Melanie mode, though I had a jacket on, and she did not seem to notice a difference.
SATURDAY: I told the kids.
(AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'll fill in a bit of what happened when I told the kids. Mary had agreed we should not tell them until they asked, sparing them as long as possible. This also turned out to be a good plan, as it gave the kids a long time to get used to the subtle changes in me so when we did tell them, it was not so much of a shock. At this time, I was still living at home as Dave and at work as Melanie, which pretty much tore me apart. But Melanie was creeping more and more into my Dave life, both physically and emotionally. Apparently, Keith and Mindi had begun to talk among themselves about the changes in Daddy, for on this day, they came to me together and said they had something to ask me.
I knew instantly to what they were referring, but asked what they wanted to know. They said that they had noticed some different things about me and wondered why. What things? Some of my clothes, my voice, my chest. I told them to wait a moment, told Mary, who was washing dishes that the time had come and asked if she wanted to join me just have me do it. She said she would prefer if I did.
I had already rehearsed what I would say when the moment arrived, so I sat down the kids and said very straight out, that the reason they had seen these changes was that all my life, since I was a child, I had always wanted to be a woman. I did not know if this was really for me, but I needed to find out.
Then I paralleled my story to that of The Little Mermaid, which they had recently seen. I explained how I always lived in one world and wanted to be part of the other world. But just like Ariel, I could not join that other world in my present form. I needed to make physical changes and also learn how to live the way of the other world.
I told them it was not certain I would go all the way through with the change, but did not want to live out my life always wondering what it would have been like. Then I reassured them that I was still Daddy, and would always be their Daddy.
I encouraged them to ask questions if they wanted, now or at any time of me or Mary, and to talk with each other if they felt like it. I told them they could keep it secret from their friends or tell whoever they liked, including teachers.
Finally, I made certain they understood that this was not caused by anything they did, but by something within me. Nothing they did or did not do could have prevented it. I also wanted them to know that I was not doing it TO them, but FOR me, and that my greatest concern was that it should not interfere with their happiness.
Then I gave them each a big hug, and reminded them not to keep their feelings trapped inside, but to share them and keep communication open. They were both smiling and happy at the end of the conversation.
SUNDAY: Keith saw some stocking of mine I had left in the car and asked if they were mind. I said yes. He replied, "Oh, Daddy hose!"
MONDAY : I began leaving the house in the morning openly dressed as Melanie for the first time.
TUESDAY: Rather than working late as usual, until 10:00 pm, the Director decided we should take a break and go to USC for a retrospective screening of Kubrik's Clockwork Orange. I had not been to USC for years, still hurting from my self-consciousness when I attended. As soon as I stepped on the campus, I saw it for the first time: the trees, the building, the college experience I missed when there as Dave. After the screening, I cried with the joy of being freed of those hurtful ghosts all the way to the car. The Director took me out for Chinese food in China Town.
WEDNESDAY: Went on a location scouting trip to Watts and South Central L.A. Felt better because Don, the male intern was along with the Director and me. Got out on Broadway to take pictures, asked Don if he would stick close as I didn't like being out there alone. He cheerfully escorted me.
THURSDAY: Location trip with the Director and Julie to Palm Springs. Wore shorts and Tank top. Got read a lot all day. Why? Julie never noticed.
FRIDAY: Location hunting with the Director at Malibu beach. Not read at all. Spent some time on the sand as a Malibu beach bunny, hair blowing in the wind. Came home in daylight for first time as Melanie in view of several neighbors. Keith said, "You look good! Sexy, today!" Mindi asked if she could feel my breasts. I said okay. She squeezed them then said, "They feel good!"
Sunday, July 8, 1990
At this very moment, I am sitting on the back of one of the equipment trucks on the first day of production. I can't believe I am actually working on a feature film as a woman and getting away with it, stock free! No raised eyebrows, no sideways glances... I keep wondering: are these people blind, or what ?!?
Now, I KNOW they're going to catch on. They HAVE to! It's ridiculous to even imagine they won't. But so far, the conversations are girl to girl, and the men have second-classed me already. We are setting up in the scummiest part of downtown L.A., in a burned-out industrial section, next to a bridge where the homeless sleep. Toxic seepage stains the blackened sidewalk and smears beneath my feet. In contrast, I feel so comfortable, so fulfilled: this is how life was MEANT to be! Gone is the fear of discovery: my personality is being fully expressed and is so sincere and real, that even beard shadows cannot conjure up a male image. I feel that I am female with every fiber of my psyche, and if anyone DOES perceive the remaining maleness of my body, they will still think of me as a woman in the wrong body.
I am standing now under the bridge. Mattresses lay with surprising neatness and regularity, as if conforming to the master plan of a miniature city. The production cop speaks with the sole occupant at the moment of the village, who busies himself (by his own initiative) with sweeping his pavement floor, cleaning house for the movie crew.
The smell of fresh urine wafts from a nearby wall, but only from THAT wall. Again, crude, but organized by a code no less social and rigid than that mainstream mandate to which most of us adhere.
So we just got to this new location on Broadway, when I looked in the mirror and discovered that my make-up was melting off my face. Mortified, I realized I was starting to get a lot of stares, each a piercing tear in my female confidence. I rushed off to the car to fix what I could. And it worked! I'm back on the location, looking good and feeling even better. Lunch has just been called and none too soon! Did I mention that all the shots we have done today were designed by Yours Truly as visual consultant to the director?
Lunch is "et" and Mel is better! I only had 1 1/2 hours sleep last night because: The director had called me in unexpectedly to do design some final shots. Of course, the work ran over, so I was late in arriving at my support group meeting which just happened to be that night. This was to have been a special evening: my first time there in four months, now more feminine, voice better, hair longer, confidence high - my triumphant return! But, as it got later and later at the office, my hopes of my "reward meeting" began to vaporize. Then, the investors arrived, we showed the first scenes I had edited and I was on the road at 10:45pm.
I arrived at the meeting and as I opened the door, I could see the impressed faces look me over. I was just dressed in office fare: blue jeans and a light demi-blouse, and that casual style combined with the confidence of six months full-time was pretty damned impressive! (Boy, I just LOVE to gloat!)
Anyway, the meeting lasted until 3:00 am! And it was all I had hoped for. Suddenly the lost soul novice had become the practiced and successful elder-stateswoman. Here I was, still frightened to death at times about discovery, acting as a shining representation of "The Dream" incarnate! (Is this self-serving, or what !?!)
I met a lot of new friends, gave advice, hobnobbed with old friends, and reveled in the reality of the transition, on the eve of my rebirth into the real world on day one of production.
Interestingly, I was approached by someone I had seen at the meetings four months ago, who introduced themselves as being involved in a major position on the movie I am editing. Wow! What a coincidence! There are only 25 people in this group, and two members were both involved in a big way in the same production! And even more odd, the meeting is held only one block away from the home of the director of the movie! (Although he doesn't know it.) But, I finally had to leave and managed to grab some quick shut-eye before getting up for production. Back to now... Our final shots were taken with one of those big camera cars, towing the "picture" car as we tooled around the streets of downtown L.A. with the help of a police escort to stop traffic.
I came home and retired happy, confused, fulfilled, and full of anticipation for tomorrow!
Monday, July 9, 1990
Today we shot in Malibu. Most of the material was from the camera car, doing "tow shots" of the Corvette. I had been worried about how the make-up would hold out on that windy stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway, but needlessly. Everything worked just fine. It was a real kick to saunter around in Malibu as just another California Girl, hoping that I attracted at least a little of the right kind of attention.
I spent more time working with the Script Continuity Supervisor, Toby, today. She is very friendly and I enjoy our little side conversations about work, the film-biz and life in general. I had never even seen a camera car until yesterday, but had designed all the shots it was to be used for, and now we are spending all day shooting from one. Incredible how my personal and professional lives are growing so quickly at the same time. I wonder if it is cause and effect or merely coincidence?
We have to make a company move to Palm Springs tonight, and Toby and I agreed to car pool in her nifty little sports car. First, we both had to stop home for supplies and to freshen up. Unfortunately, my battery was dead, as a sign had told me on the way to Malibu to turn on my headlights on a winding stretch of road, and I forgot to turn them on again. I got some jumper cables from one of the guys and the two female interns helped me get the car started.
When I arrived home, the kids were all over me, and Mary had a list a mile long of questions about finances. But I wanted to hurry before Toby picked me up, as I truly think she accepts me as Melanie without question, and I cannot bear to suffer the potential consequences of her meeting my wife!
This has been of concern to me lately: Before, I worried about how my old friends would react to the news about me. Those fears never materialized. But now that I am being accepted as Melanie, I worry that my new friends will feel tricked or betrayed when they ultimately learn about my past. In all honesty, I would never lead someone on just to put him or her in a foolish position. I am just being me, in my new life, and hope that as my new friends discover the old me, they will not turn their backs on the new one.
Toby arrived, and I carried out my sack of clothes goodies for the Palm Springs shoot. The drive was 2 1/2 hours, with one stop-over for burgers at a drive-through. I cannot express how fulfilling it is to engage in plain and simple girl talk in the manner I always dreamed of. At last I can converse on subjects that truly interest me: not sports and women, but careers and guys. Things can be "cute" or "sweet", and my tendency to giggle is perfectly in vogue. Toby is a caring and sensitive person (don't blush, Toby) and I value the time we spent together as travelling companions.
We arrived at the hotel at 11:30 pm, each going to respective rooms to prepare for tomorrow's production.
Tuesday, July 10, 1990
The 5:30 alarm went off and jolted me directly from REM into Production Mode. I showered, shaved (barf!), and put on my make-up fourteen times. Then went outside to check the make-up in daylight, then put on my make-up fourteen MORE times!
Joined Toby and we drove to the location on North Palm Canyon Drive. Today was scheduled the most important scene from my perspective: I had co-written the scene with the Director from our joint concept, worked out most of the angles myself, and would be editing. All in all, this single two minute scene might stand alone as my sample reel, if things went well.
We were shooting in the window displays of an art gallery doubling as a tux and gown shop for our purposes. The scene involved the male lead playing both his character and his alter ego, as represented by a mannequin in the window that comes to life. To complicate matters, we were using a "double" for over-the-shoulder shots of our hero talking to himself. Plus, I had planned out dolly shots and angles utilizing reflections juxtaposed in the window.
Photography proceeded beautifully, but slowly, as the Director has a tendency to over-do retakes, trying to get the "perfect take" from every angle. This perfectionism weighs heavily on the crew. The temperature rose to about 110 degrees. This, combined with a lack of sleep from long production hours, drained the crew of energy. But to their credit, they hung in there, professionally, and without recrimination. And to their amazement and to the Director's credit, he was harder on himself than on them, spending more time in the heat, more energy with his enthusiasm, than any two of the rest of us, combined.
In any event, by the end of the day, we had completed almost all of the scene, and were forced to call an end to the day, due to drooping crew and loss of light. That night, the Director was still wired, and he had me over for a script conference about the shooting tomorrow. By the time I finished, the crew had gathered in and around the hotel swimming pool to drink beer - LOTS of beer!
There were about six or seven guys (mostly "grip" types - huge, rednecked, beer-guzzling good ol' boys: but you gotta love 'em!) and three of us girls. Now, I was the "old lady" of the group, all of 37, but Julie is in her early twenties and Dorit is only 19 (God! I'm almost TWICE as old as she! Damn!) So, of course, THEY were lusted after, but at least I was included in the ribald conversation. It was till about 85 degrees by the pool. And, since it was dark and I knew my hours old make-up could not be seen and the other girls were in swimsuits, I pulled off my tank top and lay on the lounge chair in bra and blue jeans. What a thrill THAT was! Just lazing by the pool, laughing and getting drunk, sharing private looks with the girls over the comments by the guys.
These days, on hormones, two beers make my lips numb. And by three, I start slurring and get tipsy when I walk. Well, I did three to the guys' seven and figured that was enough. So, tank top dangling in my hand, I sashayed off to my room, thoroughly enjoying my first appearance in public in such skimpy attire.
(NOTE: Right after the Palm Springs shoot, my work situation began to deteriorate. The director turned out to be a real perfectionist. Unfortunately, he did not have the funds truly needs to support that approach. So he maneuvered, cajoled and even threatened the people who were working for him in order to get more out of them for the same money. He would not let the production be completed at the level he could afford: he wanted greatness. He was very good at playing on those who do not like conflict. He would wheedle away, getting a bit more from me everyday until I found myself exhausted and near nervous breakdown. I was forbidden to go out to lunch or dinner and had to take my meals at the editing console and work while I ate, usually with him sitting by my side. My days expanded to six per week. My hours expanded to 10 per day. Eventually, I worked one stretch of 24 straight 12 hour days without a day off. At times, I fell asleep at the editing console. He would wake me up and we would continue. Since I was paid flat rate, I made nothing extra for this. And since the project was already longer than I had expected, my money was very low. I was $30,000 in debt on credit cards and expecting bankruptcy at any time. I was adjusting hormone doses and PMS along with sleep deprivation and the tension had completely destroyed my health. Still and all, I had never walked away from something I promised to do, and continued to honor my commitment, even though the terms had been changed, and not by me. On some days I felt wonderful, but they grew fewer and fewer between. This is the reason I wrote less and less frequently - there was no more motivation in me. I just plodded through the days like a P.O.W., hoping for it to end. This was a mood I seldom spoke of in my entries, but is was behind everything I did and thought.
(Expanded notes from July)
July 23, 1990
Embarrassing day as I had done electrolysis the night before, expecting to be working alone, and equipment problems required working closely with a technician while my face was bright red and swollen. He said nothing.
July 24, 1990
Work has gotten very hard with longer hours and great tension. The director today demands that I do more work that I contracted for at no additional pay since he was out of money. I am already working more house per day and more days per week for a longer term than our verbal agreement called for. Work has become very oppressive at times. The director seems only concerned with completing the job with the best quality at the lowest cost no matter how much the rest of us suffer. The number of hours worked for a flat rate bring my hourly rate down to $2.50 per hour, but I need the credit and it is my ticket to make transition into society. Still, I am so worn down by the effort I can hardly go on. I refuse to do even more for the same money. He threatens me with a lawsuit, saying he would put a freeze on Mary's wages and I wouldn't have enough money to buy food for my kids. Eventually, we compromise.
July 26, 1990
Mary's Birthday. No money to buy her a present because I am paid so little. My assistant, Don, takes a phone call from a friend who asks for "Dave... I mean Melanie" After the call, Don asks if Dave is my husband. I tell him the truth. He goes to the director to verify because he thinks I am putting him on. When he returns, I am in tears, never having told anyone about my past before. He is understanding and puts his arm around me. I laugh through the tears - we are still friends. Later that night, as we leave, he discovers his car is stolen. He cannot continue to work with us. I worry for a moment that it is just a lie to get away from me, but then accept it is just one of those things.
July 27, 1990
A distant relative shows up at the house looking for a place to stay and $10 for gas. I have to introduce myself as the new me. He seems okay with it, but I wonder if it is just because he needs ten bucks. Either way, word is now going to be spread to all the relatives in the clan.
Wednesday, August 1, 1990
An anniversary: one year ago today I started hormone therapy in the Hollywood doctor's office. One YEAR! My God! As cliche as it be: "It seems like yesterday." Can it truly be that nearly 3% of my life has now been spent under the influence of female hormones?
I leaf through the previous entries to this journal and pause, amazed that so much has happened in so little time. And, of course, anniversaries offer the irresistible invitation to speculate on the year to come.
From where I stand, the view is much less cloudy than a year before. My life is stable now: emotionally at peace, creatively fulfilled, monetarily improving. My marriage is secure. Perhaps is always was, but NOW I am confident in its strength. My children and I are as close as parents and offspring can become. In short: if I were to die tomorrow, it would be with a sense of satisfaction at having achieved (at least to some degree) everything I ever dreamed of. From here on out, "it's all gravy", or, "the sky's the limit." Which conjures up an image of beef broth rain dripping from mashed potato clouds.
But what about this year past? What about that fateful decision one turn around the sun ago? My entry of that day, the first entry of this journal, is right on target: "I looked out over the universe, waiting for that fateful sting that would propel me into a life I'd only dreamed of."
And now, I lead that life, different than anything I had imagined and more satisfying than I could have conceived.
Many uncertainties await me in the future. That is true for all who have lived. But here and now, one year later, I'm really glad I came.
Saturday, August 4th, 1990
Don, my former assistant on the film, came by my other office where I run my own company to do some editing. Even after having learned of my past, he acts no different. Nothing has changed in his attitude. What a guy!
Sunday, August 5th, 1990
PMS severe on new medication (Estinyl). I tell off my step-dad who lives with us. Tell him he was responsible for my mother's death, that he is a bum for not helping around the house or with the finances by getting a job. No regrets, I really mean it. He is a born-again, so he just sits there until I am finished. Then says he is sorry I feel that way.
Tuesday, August 7th, 1990
I catch the director screening my calls unless it is an emergency without telling me, so that I will have more time to work. Over the last couple of days I have been playing with the new way to pitch my voice. Late this night at work I try it. It gets stuck there. When I come home I cannot bring it down. Mary gets mad as she does not want me to be Melanie around the house. Finally, after an hour, my voice relaxes back to its normal range. Neat trick, if I can master it.
Thursday, August 23rd, 1990
ALIVE! I'm Alive again! My first real day off in almost three months and the dead veil that clouded my life and smothered my thoughts has lifted like an ugly fog in the morning sun. And the words... my God, the WORDS! They're back! I feel as if I've snuck up behind the muses and goosed them!
I had no idea I had fallen so far. Pushed by the director to one extreme after another, I slowly descended into a sort of freeze-dried hell, where the shape of things remains the same, but the substance is gone. Ask me if I believe in Zombies!
It is five minutes to eleven pm. And THAT, my dears, is the self-ordained cut-off point for this noble day. So my refound words must needs be brief.
Can you imagine the simple joy of reading a chapter in a book? Doing a load of laundry? Going to the restroom TWICE IN ONE HOUR? Today, I did ALL THAT and MORE!!! No, I really did!! Mundane to you, perhaps, but rare and glorious moments to me: deeply felt sensual experiences to be carefully preserved and savored again on rainy days in front of the fireplace.
Summer wanes, and fall prowls restlessly outside, but in a small house in California, Spring began today...
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