Boiled in Oil
Part One: The Promised Land
Babe in Toyland
March 6, 1992
I've been all tied up at work (lotsa late hours) so I just haven't felt up to writing at the end of a long day. But, here I am again!
Things are going pretty well here. I am struggling to keep from going into job burnout at work. I have never worked at the same activity for more than 14 months in my life, and here it is 8 months and climbing! I'm already getting the heebee jeebees.
It's a frustrating thing for me. On every other "pie in the sky" project I have ever worked on, I've gotten terribly burned. I put in superhuman effort, worked myself sick for dirt wages on the promise of the Big Payoff, only to see the project lay fallow, dormant, or turn to ashes as soon as it ignited.
I honestly don't believe I can put that kind of effort into anything again. SO THIS TIME BETTER DAMN WELL WORK OUT!!!!!!
The word is out about our impending software. FILM AND VIDEO magazine has already heard about it and wants to do an article. Fame is just around the corner. And yet, I find myself depressed: partly by the lack of spending money and the long lead time to get some. Also, I feel lonely.
Mary is taking an interest in men, not like I do for intimacy only, but rather for male companionship. Not that I blame her, but it tears me apart anyway.
I had two needs in my life: to be female and to have an emotional commitment to someone for ever and ever, a la fairy tale ending. I worked hard to have both. It seemed like I did. But when I come home depressed by the tough day at work and Mary comes home late, puts her arms around me in a warm hug and says, "I'm sorry I'm late, David G. wanted to talk", I get teary-eyed.
Then, later, when she decides to cheer me up, she plays a little chasing game around the house, and we laugh and I'm just feeling good - we sit down on the back steps - I still look depressed, she starts to put her arms around me and just as I am about to release my hurt to her warm embrace she says, "You're not going to cry are you? It's embarrassing." I couldn't even bear to have her touch me. I came to the computer and cried there.
Sure, it's part hormones, and job stress, and too long without a vacation. But it is also the need to let loose and be comforted, and to have someone who will love me enough to let me cry in their arms.
I'm feeling a bit down today, because Mary is indicating that she needs the company of a man in emotional ways. This hurt because I have been trying to keep my outside relationships only as physical sex, and having my heart at home. But although Mary and I are still cheerful and playful, at least from my perspective, there is a growing hollow quality to it.
Can I live like this? I try to. But the hurt grows. God, I love her so much! WE have grown in the same garden for so long. But I fear I have pealed the death knell for our future. The relationship may already be dead, but too full of inertia to fall over.
And yet, this is all based on conjecture and circumstance and hormones and "feelings" and may be just the rumblings of an unbalanced endocrine system.
March 3, 1992
The way we feel is not because we are being treated like women, but because we are thinking like women. You and I keep neglecting the effect on our very thought processes brought on by the long-term use of hormones. And after surgery, the effect is logarithmically greater.
We are trying to measure ourselves from the very platform we are standing on to take the measurement - never considering that the platform itself is moving. So we leave that part out of the equation, not because we're stupid, because we're human.
When guys to that, they do it logically and turn into insensitive bastards. When we do it, we do it with feelings and turn into emotional bitches. The key is to be aware that your standard of measurement has changed as well as what you are measuring.
In Mental Relativity, Chris and I have two terms we use a lot: "Evaluation" and "Re-evaluation". There is a very important difference. In Evaluation, you look at all the factors involved in a consideration and come to a decision based upon all you know at the moment. In Re-evaluation, you have some aspect of the situation that you had established earlier, and now do not consider when weighing the current situation. In other words, you hold some part of the equation constant.
For example, if someone asks you to go shopping, you might Evaluate by looking at your bank account, the weather report, the type of store she suggested, if there is a sale on, and so on. You would decide on the potentials of the current situation. But if you considered that the last time you went, her conversation bored you, that you always spend more than you want to, that she will then expect a return invitation next week and you don't want to obligate yourself, then you are Re-Evaluating. Evaluation deals with the decision at hand, Re-evaluation deals with the ramifications.
Re-evaluation has its place. It allows us to take into consideration our past experiences and future desires, but CONSTANT Re-evaluation leads to the typical female moodiness - the tendency toward constant Re-evaluation is hormonally based.
Re-evaluation is important, however, because it allows one to consider the effects of working toward a goal, and keeps one from being like a lot of the men we know. But it also needs to be tempered. For women, we have to force ourselves not to Re-evaluate constantly on the big issues. Rather, whenever we feel things are going wrong or worse, we should train ourselves to have that feeling trigger a response. The response would be to make our conscious mind put on the brakes and say, "Whoa!" We stop, we look at how we feel and determine not to continue examining our feelings about that subject until after dinner.
Since feelings are largely a biochemical event, if you feel bad about one thing, that filter will affect everything else you look at, even if it is not pertinent to the issue at hand. So, by not considering the offensive issue until a set time later, we avoid the depression while still, eventually, addressing the problem.
That is the first step: delaying consideration of emotional issues until a later time. But the real key to immediate ability to handle the problem is to learn to Evaluate, rather than Re-evaluate.
That means that if your boss comes in and says, "I want you to do X." And if "X" is some degrading, junior level thing, you might normally let it eat at you all day. Even though you do it, you snap at your co-workers, serve your mate a frozen dinner, and go to bed without reading a chapter in your favorite new book. All these things because of one little event.
But if you Evaluate instead, you say to yourself, "Okay, I REALLY don't like being asked to do this. Now, right NOW, what am I going to do about it?" You might decide to tell your boss you think it is degrading and junior-level and see what he says. You might decide to do it without comment, since it is the first time in six months he has come up with a winner like this. You might decide to draft a letter this weekend to explain your feelings. Or, your might find a co-worker friend who will do it for you, especially if you explain how it makes YOU feel. That might even strengthen the bonds of a friendship.
Whatever you decide, you have based your decision on the potentials of the moment, not on how this moment fits into an ongoing pattern. In one sense it is the difference between making a decision based on most recent data or on a weighted average over time.
Guys need to learn to do just the reverse, but that is THEIR problem, not ours, so I won't even bother with it here.
Evaluation and Re-evaluation: both are necessary to a complete view of our situation. So we, who are biased toward feeling at the sub-conscious level, must balance that view by thinking logically at the conscious. This gives us the most accurate base for decisions available to the female of the species.
March 15, 1995
My response to a letter from Ben, a cyber friend who was hurt by his inability to fully empathize with the emotional subtext in my letters to him. In fact, he completely misread my intent several times as a result of the differences in male and female thinking. He wrote me a long note explaining his pain and trying to define and describe the errors in our communication. The following is how I responded.
It is difficult to decide on the format of my reply. Your letter was so deep and lengthy, and you covered so many points, that my initial inclination was to keep it before me and respond to your comments and topics one by one. But that would lead not only to a very formal and stilted approach, but would also simply Xerox the content you had spoken to me.
What you had to say was and is very important, and I hate to think of missing or ignoring any of these thoughts that elicit such a definitive response in me. So, I considered responding to the subjects you addressed in more general terms. But that, again, would not break new ground.
In fact, any of these (including this rather austere preface) is more a business-like or sterilely antiseptic treatise than a note from a friend. But to me, it is important that you know your comments are deeply considered and your subjects well appreciated.
That having been said, I have chosen to write a letter of my own: influenced by what you have written, but not tied to it. I won't be editing what I write here: you will get it as I thought it. And I won't be quoting directly from your letter, which I so far have only read once and have folded before me. So I guess this will be sort of "off the cuff" and straight from the heart.
Now, the only problem is: what do I want to say? Well, let's see... Okay. Once a month I get PMS. Up until I switched my hormone cycle after surgery, it was REALLY intense for 2 to 3 days each month. 8 out of 10 times, I would find myself falling into a deep depression, hair-trigger tears, and the inability to see things as they are.
As a male, I always wondered how women could be so stupid. All they had to do was realize that they were having PMS and then they could compensate, right? Not! I can tell you for a fact, that you don't realize at the time that your thinking is a little wanky or even way off base. It's only a couple hours later (usually after a nap) that you look back and say, "How could I be so stupid!" And this type of hormonal effect is not confined to 3 days a month. It is around all the time in varying degrees.
I was out around the roses today, and I was thinking about how I came home the other night and saw Keith's (my son) bike in the middle of the yard. I called him out and told him to lock it up, as I just had a feeling it might get stolen that night.
AS I stood by the roses today, I wondered what triggered that memory at that time. And then I wondered what made me feel the bike would be stolen. I looked around at the street and the trees and the sky, and the hills, and understood. When I saw the bike, it was dark, and there was a quiet in the air like when all the animals in the forest go still because something is coming. Also, the way the porchlight hit the bike, it highlighted the edges against the dark house. And, there were no people out on the street. Also the weather was shirt sleeve, and the dog had been lethargic all day.
So, as I stood by the roses, I realized that all these observations, most of which did not directly relate to Keith's bike being possibly stolen, each of them had a small element that could affect the likelihood of it being stolen.
This made me reflect on the conversations I have had with my new girlfriends of late. I tried desperately to remember how I used to relate to other men as a male. And I called back the logical progression of my interactions and conversations. As a male, I tried to make each point lead to the next until the subject was covered. Now it was different. Now it was like if I started a conversation about a black dress, then mentioned my black dog, then the cat down the street, the street sweeping schedule, the city budget... well, you get the idea. Each element was connotatively connected, but not the next logical step.
This is the difference I have felt in conversations with my girlfriends: we ALL talk that way among ourselves. But each and every one of us makes an attempt to "stay logical" when we talk to men. We even joke about it. In fact, the way men "just don't get it" comes up at some time in almost any conversation of length between women.
Guys talk about the same things when with other guys or with women. They just clean up the act a little. But women talk about completely different things when with each other than when with men.
Now I am just beginning to understand that men "just don't get it." My girlfriends learned THAT one at an early age.
For me, I never expected my mind to change as a result of transition. Stupid oversight perhaps, but one I truly made. I always knew I thought differently than the other boys, but never realized that the hormones would enhance that. So, now I know. And I also know that I think female. I empath with my girlfriends in ways unimaginable to a man. I certainly never imagined it.
In fact, I honestly (and I'm not saying this for effect) truly don't believe a man can ever learn to communicate that way. What it is that men can see that women cannot, I do not know. How could I? And yet, I've been spoiled a lot. My writing partner of 15 years, Chris, has spent the last two years working with me every day on our exploration of the psychology of story structure. And in so doing, we have learned much of each other. He and I have found some kind of "middle ground" where we can "almost" see eye to eye. So when I express myself to him about the deepest feelings I have, he finds some degree of value and understanding in it, although not quite as I mean it. But he is an exception in a unique situation. He has been by my side during every moment of my transition, and knew me for 12 years before that.
The point of all this being that as I look (right at this moment) back across the times I have tried to share my feelings with men, he is the only one with a clue. The rest "just don't get it." and yet, I can meet a woman for the first time and connect with her at the deepest emotional level almost instantly, and find a true two-way understanding there.
And this is why I don't address the point in your letter. Because I could talk till my tongue fell out and never convey my feelings. Because no matter how sensitive a man is, he does not, CANNOT share those feelings. I am learning that I have lived a rare life, seeing things and learning manners of thought that will forever set me apart from being like men or like other women. Part is biology, part biochemistry, part experience, and part is simply the things that I know and can compare from personal experiences on both sides of the fence.
I have been looking to men for the kind of empathy I can only get from other women. And since we, as you have said, both communicate verbally so well, I have focused much of my attempt to share feelings with you. And what has happened is that the "white knight" thing got all snarled up with it until the whole thing was just one big jumbled mess.
I want to start fresh now. I want to save my feelings for my girlfriends, even Mary, since we all "tune in" so easily. And for us, you and me, and me an other men, I want to share the "things" that happen in my life. Events of interest and meaning AND feelings, but without trying to empath the feeling. It is enough to say, "I was so exited!" to you, rather than saying it as I would with my girlfriends, exploring the nuance of the feeling.
I hope this all makes some sense to you. If it does, then we can just talk about what's going on and share the basic joys and sorrows, and be the best of friends. And I think we can be the best friends that men and women can be.
March 28, 1992
I have been really busy this past week. Our classes on story theory have been getting to be a major drain of time and energy. The class sizes are up to ten people at a time. Chris and I speak in "tag team" for about 4 to 5 hours, then ANOTHER couple of hours with all the chit chat and questions from those who remained after the classes. Each class is a learning experience for us in how to convey a concept so revolutionary that it is completely foreign to any of the familiar ways of approaching story.
Both Chris and I are learning much about our own deep hurts and feelings as a result of our story theory work, as it is based on Mental Relativity. Yesterday I cried at work when something we learned had a special meaning for me. Today, he called up to say HE had cried at home in a major catharsis because MY scene yesterday showed him where HIS similar problem lay. Powerful stuff. Tough and dangerous work. Nifty program.
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