Book Three:

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Skinned Alive
by Melanie Anne

Part One: Innocence Lost

Chapter 52

Under the Knife

September 10, 1995

Obviously, it has been quite a while since my last entry. Historically, I have seldom gone to silence for so long a time since this diary began some six years ago. Six years! I had better stop thinking about THAT aspect of this endeavor right now!

The reason for this respite is because I so much has happened. Just as it works that you can't sleep when you are the most tired, I cannot write when I have the most to say. But now, things have locked into place a bit (although the bulk of what I have set in motion remains to occur) and I find my course charted and the journey begun. What better time to document the intended destination.

First off, I must tell you that I have truly rid myself of my angst. Of this I am not only ecstatic, but also surprised, and a little humbled as well. Me, humbled? Stagnates the imagination, doesn't it! The truth is, my peace comes not from some mental exercise (not directly) but from a physical change I am about to undergo.

Now, isn't that strange? I did this whole sex-change thing and it had little impact on my angst, simply redirecting it, and then another physical change which is much less traumatic, almost by definition, wipes out my angst in one key-stroke.

I'll not keep you in suspense any longer: I have scheduled to have my breasts enlarged and my nose straightened.

October 3rd is the day. I will have both procedures done at the same time, thus avoiding the need to go under general anesthetic again for cosmetic purposes. In a few moments, I'll tell you more about the procedure itself, but first I'd like to explain not only what precipitated this decision, but also why it has so great an impact on my emotional state, and also why I am so affected by it more that three weeks before it actually happens.

Here's how it came about...

The Monday after my previous entry, at about 5 AM in the dark of the morning, I awoke with severe pains in my lower intestines. I raced to the rest room, and just in the nick of time, for my entire system drained out. That was just the beginning! For the next half hour I remained there as every last thing worked its way through. But the hell of it was that there was something sharp cutting its way from the top of my intestines to the bottom. I could feel it making those hairpin turns. Each time made me cry out in pain.

I couldn't get back to sleep, but since I began to feel better, I showered and got dressed for work. Just before I left, around 10 AM, I had to use the rest room again, and this time was distressed to find I had passed nearly half a cup of bright red blood laced with tissue!

This had happened to me to a lesser degree some 15 years ago. At that time, I had passed only a little blood and tissue after intestinal pain. I had felt that was worth a trip to the doctor, so I went in and they scheduled an appointment to have that snake-like scope shoved up my.... and also to do a Barium X-ray. In the end (so to speak) they found nothing and determined it was likely just an intestinal spasm that caused the sides of the intestine to grate against each other and slough off some tissue. This current situation, however, was clearly more serious than that. So, I decided not to go to the doctor. There's logic for you!

I'll tell you why I chose to keep it to myself... After that hormone scare of just a few months ago, this incident served as a second wake-up call: "Melanie... are you listening, Melanie... You are going to die!"

I went to work anyway. Just two hours later, another half cup of blood and tissue made its way in the the Burbank City Sewer System. Still, I held my ground. Every hour I needed to go again, but now, slowly, the amount of blood and tissue began to diminish. As previously scheduled, I taught a class in advanced story theory that afternoon. I only lasted half the intended three hours before I became so weak that I was unable to continue. I went home early and went to bed, stayed home the next day and slept. The next day, I returned to work with sufficient energy and less blood that before.

It took almost a week for all the bleeding to stop. It took almost three weeks for the last of the pain to go away. Clearly, something had done a fairly efficient job of tearing up my intestines. (As point of fact, I came to the realization at the movie theater a couple weeks ago that the offending culprit was nothing more that a sharp piece of popcorn kernel I had not sufficiently chewed: I had found myself wolfing down a handful before it occurred to me that this is what had caused my problem. Needless to say, I chew my popcorn VERY carefully now, just like mom always said to do.)

Less that one week after this incident, I simply understood, one day, that I completely wanted to get the boob job. I know I have considered it for years. But there it was: "You are going to die!" Therefore, I want the boob job, and I want it NOW!!!

Its funny, well it is to me anyway, that all of my life I have defined women as "those who have breasts". I suppose that's why there were no fireworks for me when I woke up from the SRS. That was just removing something that got in my way. But a boob job... now THAT was adding something, and THAT was serious business.

I've mentioned before how I used to come home from school in first grade and build little "ranchos" by making unbroken circles of stone to represent the stone walls that surrounded my plantation. When I wanted to enlarge my "holdings", I built a little aneurysm or bump of rocks on the outside of my closed circle. When the bump was completed, I could tear down the wall between the two and make one "bubble" merge into the other to form a larger rancho.

That methodology became the basis for my approach to life: never open yourself to the outside, and you are what you enclose. Removing things was simply not even considered one way or the other: the process simply did not exist. (Which is why I have always been a pack rat, and didn't feel much emotionally different after sex change.

But breasts... ah, now THAT meant you were a woman! And, that was ADDING something. So, in a sense, I really didn't FEEL I had changed anything, and no matter how I tried, I didn't really feel like a woman. Oh, I know, I've said I did many a time. I could conjure up that feeling fairly often, but I just couldn't sustain it. No, women and breasts and I just had little lumps.

So what had I done to myself? I was clearly no longer a man by anyone's definition and clearly not a woman by my own. I had settled into a nowhere land 'twixt heaven and earth with no momentum to carry me free. In fact, I was quite content to stay there, though obviously not happy.

In truth, I didn't really know that was the situation. I just found myself still feeling uncomfortable around women after all these years, different than men, not like the mannish TS wannabes: in short, I felt like one of a kind. God, I was lonely!!!

I struggled to understand, and all I got was angst. "Why don't I feel like I fit in?" I asked myself. "What is wrong with me?" I cried, much as any teenager might while trying to find herself. Through it all, I simply felt like some odd creature that didn't belong anywhere. And this was the nature of my angst.

As a result of this pain, I grappled with every decision that revolved around my transsexualism, for I had no clear angle on it from which to reason. Should I tell others? Should I make it known on the World Wide Web? Would I be happier if everyone knew or no one knew? How can I decide what is best for me when I cannot look to anyone else for examples, since I am unique?

Then, comes this two-fisted wake up call: first the hormone scare and then the blood. Wow, hit me from the female side and the male side right after. But out of it, this certainty just showed up one day: I wanted to get the boob job, and I wanted it now.

I went right to the liberal rag, the L.A. Weekly, and checked out the ads, just as I had done some years ago when I really couldn't have afforded the surgery. There was a new doctor, one who sounded really good. So, I called up his office manager, made an appointment, and went in to see him.

This guy comes with a sterling reputation. He has two four year residencies behind him: one in reconstructive surgery, the other in cosmetic surgery. He is about sixty - right in his prime, and later I heard from my incredibly trusty female nurse, who handles all the prescriptions for my regular doctor, that her friend had worked for this surgeon for a year and a half and the man is wonderful!

As a minor tangent, the experience at the surgeon's consultation was interesting. They put in in a room in a paper gown and gave me a copy of "Playboy's Lingerie, 1991" and four "Post-it" note sheets. I had about ten minutes to look through all the pictures and place sheet on the four models who had the amount I wanted to have. What a funny concept, trying to pick the boobs I wanted to wear from off the rack! (You know how things always look different when you try them on.)

Well, I picked my boobs (and even one picture that was too big, and one that was too small, for reference). The doctor was quite wonderful to talk to - very reassuring. When I mentioned to him that I had seen in his literature that he did noses as well, he said both procedures could be done at the same time. I hadn't even considered this! But, in thinking about it, I scheduled both on the spot.

Now... as soon as I set the day I felt so "okay". I could clearly see that even though I had fantasies all my life of becoming a woman, what I really wanted was to not be male. I had no idea WHAT a woman was, but I knew what men were and I didn't want to be one of them. And you know, I got my wish! Here I was, stuck in the middle alone.

Just making the commitment to set the surgery date, however, cleared all that out. I knew then that I really wanted to be a woman. No more god/goddess of the great in-between, high priest/priestess of the objective mind-view. Three and a half years ago I had pulled the plug, now I was ready to take the plunge.

The feeling grew: I felt more and more the woman I was "meant" to be daily. And then I started getting pissed.

Things around the house were getting me down. The trash, the clutter, my lack of attachment to Mary - they all danced in spiked heels on my soul. That was the background against which Keith got his driver's license.

He had tried twice before and failed - once because one of my tail lights was out and they wouldn't let him take the test, the other time because he knocked over a cone in the parking test and never made it out to the driving test.

This time, we made it to the appointment, and though it was fraught with paperwork problems, we got him on the road. I spent the most tense twenty minutes I have experienced in quite a while as I waited for his return. And when he came back, he was approved!

Later, I should like to go into some more thoughts about the changes this has brought to all our lives, but to stay near the purpose of this entry, I must say that Keith's sudden independence made me realize the family was going to break up soon anyway as he moved out of the nest. That very night I went into a major tirade, complaining about the mess around the house. When my children came to hug me, I pushed them away and told them it was like being hugged by the Devil.

I yelled at Mary, blamed her for all sorts of things, and then went out to my room (the converted living room) and began to pack. Mindi cried, Keith got mad, Mary just silently hated what I was doing. As I grabbed my most prized possessions off of the shelves and stuffed them into bags, I began to smile, and then to laugh. I put some music on the radio and danced while I packed, feeling a great weight lift from my heart. I really wanted to be away from here.

Over the next few days, the mood did not leave as it always had before. I continued to pack. But the moving out did transmute into the commitment to get an apartment of my own as soon as financial feasible (probably in January when my next royalty comes in from the story software). I won't move out all at once. In fact, I may leave most of my stuff here. But I WILL get the place. Then, whenever I am bothered to distraction by anything here, I will retreat to my private asylum until my energies have recharged. If I meet a guy, I may not come back for a while, maybe not at all, but the door will probably always be open. I am fairly sure Mary will not bring a man in the house. And if she does, well, that's okay. I will be complete with my bustline - I will truly be a woman in my own mind, which is the only mind that matters, and I will find a man of my own or not as I choose, as the fates will have it.

Well, right after all that, I came down with a terrible headache, runny nose, congestion, and swollen glands. Fear of AIDS, which would preclude the surgery! Hope its just a virus, but the swollen glands and the sweating at night? Of course, its been almost 100 degrees here every day for weeks and my little window air conditioner can't keep up with it, even though it is on continuously.

I go to my doctor... actually to the nurse, Anna, who handles everything for me. I've actually never seen the doctor since I've been going there for a year. Anyway, she prescribes anti-biotics and a decongestant and tells me about her friend who worked for the surgeon.

I go on the regimen and feel a bit better when I am the guest speaker at a gender group meeting in San Diego just two days later. I had called my dad to see if he wanted to do lunch with Mindi and me, as he lives down there and Mindi had asked to come to the gender group meeting with me - first time.

(Can you tell I'm rushing because I want to go to bed?)

After lunch with my dad, I give me speech on "Mental Sex", which is to form the basis of the book of the same name that Chris wants to write with me next year. Attendees to the meeting as Mindi, "What's it like to be a girl?" How do you answer something like that?

The meeting ends late, and my dad has invited me to spend the night for the first time in perhaps fifteen years. I am a little scared to take him up on the offer since there was trouble with him with my transition and I have always felt a bit uneasy in the house, especially because I know his wife really does not like what I have done with my life. But, I am too sick from the virus, too woosey from the anti-biotics, to drive the 2 1/2 hours back to L.A., so I call him and stay the night.

We have a wonderful time chatting and having breakfast together, and I give his wife, Roxanne, a big hug. She gives me an original watercolor I had admired in their house. Perhaps we can grow closer. She is quite a woman and I would love to count her as a friend.

Mindi and I had a wonderful trip back, stopping at In N Out Burger where Mindi buys me lunch as a treat. We kid and joke in the car, but as we approach Burbank, I get bitchy. I start complaining about her mother and the housekeeping, and the mood is somewhat undercut.

I am a bit allergic to anti-biotics. After a few days, I am feeling very poorly. I have trouble sleeping. I get sick to my stomach. I get hot and cold flashes. I wake up to find my fingers and toes tingling. There is an evil taste in my mouth, "Like copper pennies", which is how my mother described her diabetes when it was out of control. The tingling toes make me fear I have begun to picked up that disease. My joints get stiff and I can't stand up straight.

I finally go off the medication when it runs out after 10 days. I up my dose of Estrogen slightly, realizing I may have lowered it too far after surgery and am perhaps having "hot flashes". Almost immediately I start eating like a pig. For four days I consume massive quantities of starch and fat. I put on five pounds in four days. Then, I buy health food, I turn off the air conditioner. I get my first good night's sleep in weeks. My health slowly starts to come back.

This is where I am now.

I had a late dinner with my friend Tom last night. It may be the best time I've ever had with him. I told him about my upcoming surgery and we talked so heart to heart. We've talked like that before, but I felt so much closer to him - so much more... human. I almost felt as if I had those breasts already. I felt like a young girl - not a child, but that ageless woman who is a spark of energy even when she is eighty.

I wore a classy hat with my blue jeans and tank top. What fun!

So, that's it. The symptoms are either all gone or almost gone. As I type now, my fingers tingle, but that may just be arthritis setting in, the great quantity of words I have quickly pounded out in so short a time, or perhaps it is diabetes. Who knows?

Death comes to us all. There are four conditions of life that might make death worth forestalling, and some of these may be worth risking death for.

Success/Failure, Satisfied/Dissatisfied, Fulfilled/Unfulfilled, and Good/Bad, these are the evaluations of our condition. I've had success and seen failure - the objective ratings of how things are. Satisfaction is a logical determination of where things are headed. Fulfillment is an emotional determination of how hard the wind is blowing. Good/Bad is the personal rating of what direction we are facing. For me, I want Good above all else. And we can always have at least one of the four - it's the combinations that are difficult to achieve.

Take the four ratings and see how they match with Fate, Destiny, Prediction, and Interdiction - one of the quads in the story theory. Fate is Success/Failure, Prediction is Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction. Interdiction is Fulfillment/Unfulfillment (the relationships we have that moderate the wind), and Destiny is our sense of where we are pointing.

Life can twist us around and uproot us from our plans. But if we simply turn and face our destination, we can feel good by direction no matter what the distance, even if it is insurmountable. I choose Good above all else. My sense of destiny is not divine; it is simply listening to my own heart line - knowing where I want to go irregardless of other concerns or forces - irregardless of reality and practicality.

Being a woman by my definition is the direction I want to go. When I get there I have many other destinations in mind. Collectively they will describe the course of my life. If I skip steps I will be moving away from the most immediate destination. To keep my life good, I must go where my heart points most strongly at the moment. I must have the flexibility to shift with the wind if my heart seeks another path.

Perhaps the first destination I seek will lead to death, to failure. But what can that matter if it is Good? So, I have scheduled surgery. And, yes, I am afraid just a bit. And yes, I am worried that I will turn out to have AIDS through some quirk of a failed condom in my post-surgical experience days. But whatever happens, I will follow my heart - to an apartment of my own, back here again or not. Whatever, wherever. And each of my days will be Good.

My angst is gone. It has been gone for some time. I can't imagine it's return.

October 11, 1995

Ouch! Surgery was eight days ago, and this is the first time I have recovered enough to write. Everything turned out wonderfully. My nose is now bumpless, and even though swollen, looks better to me than the old nose.

As for the new bustline, well, that is something of a surprise. As I mentioned earlier, I picked out the size and shape I wanted from the lingerie magazine provided. I expected to end up about a "C" cup, and went out of my way to tell the doctor not to go overboard. After seeing the results, I can only assume his definition of "overboard" is a bit different than mine. Even taking into account remaining swelling, I'm sure to end up a "D" cup plus! Quite unexpected, unrequested, but interesting...

I'll write more tomorrow about the experience as a whole, but for now let me simply note that I was correct in my feeling that this surgery was the final step I needed to take to get rid of my angst once and for all. Since surgery, life has been physically painful, but emotionally... well, I guess emotionally "neutral", would be the best word. I don't wake up every morning at a deficeipt. I don't sit around pondering what it would take to make life worthwhile. I don't speculate as to what I might have done or should have done or can or would or will.

It seems that the lack of these things is what I was seeking. This was not a "start" story where I was waiting for something to begin, but a "stop" story where I was waiting for something to end. Taking this final physical step has ended my angst and left the playing field clear and neutral for the staging of the game.

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