Book Three:

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Skinned Alive
by Melanie Anne

Part Two: Innocence Sought

Chapter 54

Mr. W. Squared

Skinned Alive

Book Two: Innocence Sought

From Journeys and Transitions

by Melanie

Chapter 54

Mr. W. Squared

November 14, 1995

Today I had lunch with a millionaire. That's not exactly true. Actually, he has thirty-five million dollars. Late thirties, medium tall, with slightly thinning hair and a boyish expression, he sat across the smallish table at the Bombay Bicycle club holding my hand. I smiled graciously as he called me "beautiful", and wondered how I'd gotten myself in THIS situation.

Mr. W. Squared, we'll call him, first contacted me some two months ago. He reached me directly at my office number - unusual for a call that didn't come through the switchboard operator. Speaking in a frenzied stream of sentence fragments, he juxtaposed his jumbled thoughts: a frantic onslaught I was later to learn had been born of fear that I would not speak with him.

Picking though the verbal carnage I was able to reconstruct what he was trying to tell me: He was a successful entrepreneur who had recently sold his business for huge sums, had heard about me both through my involvement with the story software and also through reading my diary. He struggled to express how I was something of an icon to him - a heroine. He went on to explain that he was transgendered himself, physically attracted to me, and (by the way) had a wife and six kids. Essentially, he asked me to be his mistress.

Well, that sort of thing doesn't happen every day, even to me! I considered it. I was just days away from my surgery, so I explained I could not meet until I had healed. He was planning a trip to California on business about that time and requested that I agree to join him then. In my typically cautious manner, I said, "sure"!

At the end of my first week of recovery at home, I called in to discover that a Federal Express package had arrived at the office marked, "Personal". I had my assistant open it and read it to me over the phone. Inside was a charming letter apologizing for his frenetic attitude over the phone. It included a poem he had told me during that conversation that he had written for me. In this letter, he recanted, saying it really wasn't written for me but himself: it just seemed to apply. Also enclosed was a simple get well card, which called me a "special and rare" person. Well, at least he was accurate!

I never responded to his note, nor to the call he left in my voice mail before I returned. When I finally did go back to work, he called again and asked to set up a lunch appointment. Which brings me back to where I found myself today, staring into his attentive eyes while he held my hand at the smallish table in the Bombay Bicycle Club.

We chatted about many things. Gender, mostly. Not MY favorite subject these days, but obviously his. He told me of his risky youth, his intense drive in business, his incredible good fortune ("last week my stock went up and my net worth increased 11.9 million...") Mostly, though, he wanted to ask about me. How did I feel now? How did I do it? What was going on in my head?

Then, the topic changed. He wanted to tell me about me. How beautiful I was, how feminine. How attractive I was (maybe we could be more than friends). To be truthful, he was the perfect gentleman, though it seemed he found every opportunity the punctuation of conversation would allow to grasp my arm, touch my hand, or put his arm, ever so briefly, around me.

What did I think? He was charming enough, but seemed sadly torn. On the one hand he had it all (by American standards): the hugely successful career, fame and financial freedom at an early age, a loving wife and family. All the time he could want and the wherewithal to do or be anything he desired - except one thing. He could not keep all of that and become a woman. I could see he was confused, uncertain. He was not sure if he was attracted to me because I had been down that path or because he wanted to follow in my footsteps. He simply did not know where he wanted to go. I tried to help him clarify his thoughts and zero in on where his feelings were really pointing. But, he is so very new to exploring this side of himself that he did not have enough mental roadsigns to follow.

From the number of times he mentioned it, I'm sure he expected me to be impressed with his money. I felt sad in disappointing him by not being. I already have all I need, since I could retire today on my story software royalties and never work again if I chose. I might not have thirty-five million, but how much more does one need that complete freedom from undesired labors?

As I think of it now, I have known one other person who struck me to be of the same dilemma. Oh, this other friend did not want to change genders, but wanted to change careers. He was making twice as much per year at the time as anyone else I knew, yet was attracted to anyone who seemed to be enjoying their job. He spent time with them to the point of becoming a barnacle. He noted their tools, their lifestyle and their clients, and then bout the tools, adopted the lifestyle and sought the clients.

He never took anything away from those he studied, but simply tried to emulate them, mistakenly believing that if he did what made them happy, it would make him happy to. Unfortunately, what he never did realize was the reason these people liked what they were doing is because of their character, not because of the job. It was not the work that made them glow, but their intrinsic attraction to that kind of work. What was right for them, was not right for him, but he never saw it. If only he had looked within instead of without, he might have found what brought him true joy and developed a career where he found his own brand of contentment. Alas, he ended up losing his good job to a union busting maneuver by the management, and now has to struggle like most everyone else, doing a job he doesn't like and no longer having the ability to choose to do anything else.

So here was Mr. W. Squared, so new to the gender community that he didn't know the buzz words, yet convinced that he wanted to be like me. Where have I seen this pattern before? I was reminded of the scene in the movie, "Chinatown", where Evelyn Mulray is slapped by Jake Gittes as he tries to find out what relationship she has to a young girl. On each alternate slap she cries, "I am her mother..." slap... "her sister..." slap... "her mother..." In this case, Mr. W. was effectively saying, "I want to BE you... DO you... BE you..."

What did he really want? I'm sure he didn't know. But he was such a pleasant fellow, so full of quest and angst, that I couldn't hurt him. And, of course, there was that movie, "Indecent Proposal:" in which Robert Redford offers Demi Moore and her husband (Woody Harrelson) one million dollars if she will sleep with him for one night only. Where have I seen THIS pattern before?

While I pondered this, he saw me back to the office, presented me with four bottles of fine wine from a vineyard he visited as research to buying one of his own ("I have a private cellar, by the way, with over 1,000 bottles"). Upstairs, he took several pictures of me with his Nikon, then gave me two extended breast to chest hugs, and left, promising to call.

So, I went back to thinking about it.... Do I have a price? If so, what IS my price. Oh, that's not hard. I can be had, but I'm not cheap! So, how cheap is cheap? Well, one hundred thousand dollars. Yes, I'd do it for that. Ten thousand? No way! Fifteen? No. Twenty five thousand? Yes. So, that's my price. At least today it is, and at least for Mr. W.

I recall a scene from "The Magnificent Seven" in which Charles Bronson is approached to work as a gunfighter for twenty dollars a day. He retorts that he has been hired before at two HUNDRED dollars a day. Those trying to hire him turn away saying they supposed his isn't interested for two hundred dollars is a lot of money. Bronson responds, "Right now, twenty dollars is a lot."

All of which means that there are those with whom I would go to be for free. For Mr. W. Squared, the price is twenty-five thousand dollars. Oh, there's nothing repulsive about him, it's just that I work on a sliding scale, based on ability to pay. It's my liberal upbringing.

November 15, 1995

My millionaire called back today. He made me an offer. Could I refuse? He said he would like to pick me up from the office on Friday, take me to a movie and dinner... and then to the Beverly Hills Hotel where we could spend some time together in a fine room with a private Jacuzzi, champagne, and a view over the city. Tempting... very tempting... but I wanted MONEY!!!

I determined the best approach was to give him a definite maybe. (Guys HATE that - they can't give up and they don't know if they'll get.) I told him to let me think about it, and to call back later in the day when I would tell him what I decided.

Now, secretly, I was hoping he would get the message and offer me cash. But, when he called back, he just repeated the offer. I think I sensed an opening he was leaving for me to tell him what I wanted that would close the deal. But, damned if I was going to go ASKING for money!!! It's one thing to be approached and quite another to go soliciting in my book. This girl wants to pick and choose from the requests.

So, I declined. Reasons? Well, it would have been romantic, and he is a tad attractive. Its just that a relationship with him can't go anywhere. He IS married, after all. I've taken care of my career, my finances, and my self. The only thing I still need is a real relationship. Anything that doesn't lead in that direction is not worth doing. (Of course twenty-five grand could go a long way toward making a slight detour rather appealing).

I told him he needed to sort things out. I explained that his family was a real negative to anything of that nature. I thanked him for the offer and then had to fend off his continued attempts to get me to at least join him for lunch over the weekend. I reiterated that I didn't want to become that wrapped up in gender talk again, but he could call me or drop by every now and then to keep in touch. I told him I knew he wanted more, but I didn't want that much. So, as long as we limited it to what I wanted, we could both enjoy what we did get, even though for him, he'd still want more.

I only slightly kicked myself while I was doing this. After all, wouldn't that little tryst have made a wonderful entry in my diary? But, as much as I think of y'all, some things are just too much to ask of your humble author.

Now if he had only been single... well.....

November 16, 1995

This morning while I lay in bed I wondered: why didn't I go with W.? I began to feel that I had been put off by all the potential entanglements. I didn't want to make an Emotional Investment for I suspected it would take too long to pay back because of all the complications in his life.

Then it struck me that this same issue also applies to my relationship with Mary - another Emotional Investment. Actually, in this case, although it feels like investment, I can see that it has really been a withdrawal on my part - just the opposite of my situation with W.

In my mind, I owe her. I am in emotional debt. All the support she has given me means I am obligated to repay. So THIS is what obligation is. I had trouble all along defining it in the story theory, probably because it was too close to home. Men get tied up in commitments, but we get tied up in Obligations.

In story theory terms, there are four levels of what we call "Justification" - this being the process whereby we put immediate benefits on hold in the expectation of greater rewards later. Each level of Justification consists of four areas of concern. The first level is the most "honest" or "immediate", pertaining to our Knowledge, Thought, Ability, and Desire. The second level strays away from that as we begin to consider what we Need, what we Should, what we Can and what we Want. Third level Justification focuses on our Situation, Circumstances, Sense of Self and State of Being. Eventually, we drift into the fourth level and find ourselves facing Responsibilities, Commitments, Obligations, and Rationalizations. By the time we get to the top, we are addressing items which are the most powerful motivators of all, yet the hardest to clearly see.

When we take emotional support, then, we become debtors, and cannot break the "contract" until we have paid back the debt. But just like those who over-spend, we continue to extend our line of credit. We see we have a certain amount available and run the debt up to the hilt to pay for immediate emotional gratification.

Then, one day, we run into our limit. We are cut off by those who have been supplying us. Many relationships fail at this point when the whole GIVE/TAKE dynamic that has formed the foundation of the relationship fails to function.. We are forced to go cold turkey, but have often found ourselves committed to a lifestyle or career or situation that still demands an emotional toll upon us. So, we now must not only pay the current bill, but pay back that which we borrowed. The total amount is not unlike paying back a debt with interest.

I can see now that this is really why I moved into the living room. I truly wanted to stay in the back room with Mary, but if I had, I would have continued to draw emotional sustenance, further running up my debt. If I continued that much longer, I'd NEVER get her paid back in emotional currency: I won't earn that much in the rest of my life. By moving out to the living room, I stopped running up my bill.

Lately, I've found myself comforting her. Why? I thought maybe I was growing closer again. It felt like that. But really, I am just making extra payments against the principal. That saves interest in the long run. Because the longer an emotional debt remains unpaid, the more interest it accrues.

Mr. W. sensed this when he kept repeating on the phone yesterday that he wanted to find a way to help me in return. Clearly, men realize this kind of transaction intuitively. For us, it must be learned.

I can see that I didn't want to get involved with W. because it would have been the reverse situation of the one I have with Mary. He would be running up a debt with me, and have no way to pay it off as he goes. If I had needed money, being his mistress would have been good for him and good financially for me. But I don't need money. If he was single, we might have established an emotional give and take, each drawing a little bit and returning a little bit so that neither of us ended up in emotional debt or emotionally bankrupt. But, his being married did not allow me to in good conscience make an emotional investment in him, for there is little potential he could ever pay back in kind.

I see that the reason I was beginning to invite people over for dinner this year was an attempt to continue to draw the amount of emotion I required each month, but rather than trying to take it from Mary, who I had tapped out, I was trying to take a little bit from a lot of different people, robbing a hundred Peters to pay one Paul, as it were.

This is why I never instigate phone calls or ask people if they want to go do something. It is not because I am afraid of rejection - not really, though it seems like that. I am simply a taker. I take emotional hand-outs from all who will give them to me and when that source runs dry, I find another. I am, and emotional beggar, a bag-lady of the heart, with no home, no resources of my own, a vagabond and thief of the intimate treasure.

In fairness to myself, I had a dream that required venture capital. I set out to solve the question of what we really are and how the universe really works. I interested others in the project with my sincerity and by exhibiting flashes of brilliance. They invested, some with loose change, some heavily. If I had not been able to deliver the dream by turning it into a reality, I would have lost every friend I ever had. But I did deliver. I created Mental Relativity and it is even more than I promised.

Now, however, I have no such magnificent scheme with which to interest others. So, they are not as willing to part with their emotional resources. As the project concluded, I found others less willing to listen to my whining and complaining. That's when I tried to expand my circle of investors by going to lunch with them and having them over for dinner. But it just didn't work the same.

Oh, I still had the same spark, but there was nothing to focus it on. And so, they came at first, attracted by the fireworks, but quickly tired and changed the channel to something of more substance. I found I could not cash in the old achievements for a meal ticket.

That is when a new plan began to form... I had paid back the investment, but not the interest. Everyone got back what they had put in, but by now, inflation had taken it's toll and they still did not feel they were any better off than when they first got involved with me.

Clearly, some charlatans or unlucky entrepreneurs promised as much as I did, took as much as I did, and failed. Sometimes they leave emotionally bankrupt investors in their wake. At least I was able to prevent that scenario by succeeding. I succeeded in my science, I succeeded in my personal evolution, I succeeded in my art. In each of these areas, I had attracted a different kind of investor, but all believing in the dream of truly knowing how one fits in.

Some wanted the scientific explanation, others wanted the empathic Truth. I delivered on all counts. But, there was much left to be paid off.

All the work I've done for the gender community, has been an attempt to keep from overdrawing my account in that institution. It was largely a pay as you go arrangement from the start. That is why yesterday I responded to a notice from the Transgender Community Forum on America On-line (the group I founded almost five years ago) and told them to take me off the mailing list. I have paid THEM back, and with interest. Any more would be charity.

My newly awakened interest in my kids is my way of paying back all the emotional support they have given me during the transition years. My new found interest in work at Screenplay Systems is my way of paying back Chris and Steve for all the emotional support they have given me over the years. I'm even in debt to my employees, all of whom have listened to my woes with patience. But most of all, I owe Mary, for YEARS of putting up with my emotional needs in the hope that someday, for her, it would all be worthwhile.

Chris once told me that sometimes you have to push something away to make it come toward you. Sometimes you have to pull something toward you to make it go away. Emotional currency works that way. The more you draw, the more you push away the investor. The more you give, the more you attract the recipient.

Which goes right back to Mr. W. I didn't want to attract him because I don't really believe he can ever pay back with anything I want or need. One night for $25,000 is not so much for the money, but would have been a way of making it all a single transaction. He got what he was looking for and I got an amount to make it worth my while. No future obligations, no future commitments.

Just spending the night with him would be an investment from me and a draw by him. How could he, a married man, ever hope to repay? Before he ever could, he would have to get divorced, and how much emotional investment would THAT require of me.

So, men and women see things differently. Men look at the history to see what baggage is attached. We look to the future to see where things are pointing. This leaves them more apt to go for the "quick kill" and avoid entanglements. It leads us to become emotional gamblers, throwing good money after bad in the hope of a single, sterling happy ending that makes it all alright.

We invest in those whom we believe will someday pay us back with interest, and this attracts them until we have nothing left. (As I did with Angel some years back, as Mary has done with me.) Just like a junkie, they (I, we) keep on coming back for our fix until our supplier has had enough and kicks us out onto the street, or until we are able to make something of our emotional selves and pay them back for their kindness. Do you notice the shift above? From investor to junkie, from supplier to entrepreneur. We play all these parts with different people in our lives, trying to balance the equation overall. But that is a game in constant upheaval, where the rules keep changing. The only way to soothe the seething soul is to take one person at a time. See each as a different account, and make sure the books always balance at the end of the month.

Don't get behind in your payments, don't over extend your credit. If one account is a constant draw, cut your losses. If you are going deeper in debt on another, pay it off! Go from the long term to the short term. Expect a give and take instead of a G-I-V-E and T-A-K-E. The whole transaction becomes a wave. The trick is to find the frequency that suits you so you don't go too long without a drink or expect constant refreshment.

Lately,. I have found myself losing my desire to buy new things. I have wanted to apply that money to my credit cards with the hope of getting out of fiscal debt in the next year and a half. I now find myself uninterested in drawing on others emotional reserves. I want to pay back what I have borrowed and get back to neutral. I believe I have subconsciously balanced my life so that both the monetary and the emotional can break even at the same exact time.

Just as I skip around a plate of food sampling a little of this, a bite of that, trying to end up with one last nibble of everything for a final go 'round that cleans the plate, so I have manipulated my life to hone down all the rough edges until one final round of polishing will make the whole thing shine.

Keith leaves home in 18 months, monetary debt will be paid off in 18 months, emotional investment will be returned in 18 months.

I have been very lucky. I had a dream for myself that attracted many others. I was surrounded by true friends and lovers who believed in me. I had the tenacity, skill, and luck to rough it out until I achieved that dream. Now all I have to do is get out of the hole and make myself whole.

This is the year I get out of debt.

*****************************

There's a big difference between accepting emotional investments and soliciting emotional investments. There is also a big difference between offering an emotional investment and honoring a request for emotional investment. In addition, the reasons for any of these may be altruistic, selfish, true or misguided, for purposes now or later, actual or perceived.

Clearly, the symphony of the human song is composed of instruments such as these.

When we look at a relationship as an interchange, rather than a condition, we find ourselves empowered. How rich is a man who cannot buy what he wants? Men look to the external economics of power and represent it in politics, money, influence, and control. Women look to the internal economics of the heart and represent it in what is offered, what is asked, what is taken, and what is forced.

When we see any of these things as transactions rather than instances, we can evaluate their continuing nature, rather that just the ultimate outcome. For men, these must be things that are either worth the investment or not. For us, they must be processes that are either positive or negative. No investment is worth supporting that has a negative return. No process is worth engaging in generates an ongoing negative. Investments that lose now, might win later. Processes that start negative may turn positive. Each of these is a gamble. Only by gambling can one excel in hand or heart, but only by playing it safe can one protect against external or internal bankruptcy.

Still, the expected fails, and the history is violated. Sometimes the only sure bet is to gamble.

And sometimes we start at a loss or deeply in the negative and must gamble to even break even, or must play it safe and let things heal themselves.

There are no guarantees. The waves of change wash against the crystallizing shore. Is the land rising or eroding? Does the sea expand or dry up? Every equilibrium is a counterbalance in another, larger, leverage, and is itself a by-product of the smaller tugs of war that populate its innards.

If this were so and all there was we could not hop to rise above. Yet, we do not see the world equally from reason's balance sheet and emotion's storehouse. Men see reason while emotion is trod beneath their feet. Women see emotion while the world falls apart around them. Any effort to balance the two is a lie, based in the belief we can truly see the other side and compensate. But we cannot.

When men go with the logic and let the feelings fall where they may, they will be most satisfied. When women follow their feelings and let the world go its own course, they will be most fulfilled. But the men will be saddened and the women bruised. This is why we pair. To allow us to let go a little bit of the other side, whichever that may be, and to rely on another who is comfortable in that world to pick up the slack. Each acts as the other's conscience, one for the head and one for the heart. And each is thereby able to move closer to that which his or her clear focus most strongly desires.

Beyond the male and female are partnerships based on being "more oriented" toward the external or the internal. In a world in which survival is a fractal level away from daily existence, we have bought ourselves the luxury of moving away from the binary while still maintaining security.

For in the early days, the survival society required a binary partnership to allow for any movement away from the center at all. Individuals in such a world could not relax for a minute, and needed to be ever vigilant on both sides to avoid disaster. Partnerships allowed each individual to play to individual and complementary strengths. Men had to be in ultimate control, for one can survive without being happy, but one cannot be happy without surviving.

But as our society insulated itself from the short wave chaos, we earned the right to expand toward neutral ground. Each year that our world becomes a safer place, the physical need for bonding with one's opposite becomes less and the issues of transactional relationships become based more strongly in dynamic flux than stead state dynamics.

Relationships become more disposable, but intimate and social, and lasting relationships spawn from resonant flux rather than ongoing compatibility.

November 18, 1995

An Email letter from Mr. W. Squared which arrived yesterday, and my reply of this morning:

Dear Melanie,

I hung up the phone with you, and floated out of my room to eat dinner with [friends] with a lightness of heart I haven't felt in a very long time. We shared a wonderful time, late into the evening, and I was right there with them, completely in present time. And this, after I had just been denied my goal to spend an evening with you. This is wild! Your clarity of purpose, communicated so compassionately and effectively had completely overcome any disappointment I felt in being denied my original purpose. Wow! Believe me, this is an extremely unusual occurrence for me (in fact, I don't recall it ever happening this lifetime). To interact with another human being capable of handling me the way you did - understanding my fundamental need, satisfying it while redirecting my attention, with my complete agreement, simply amazes and titillates me.

The more I talk with you, the more I am convinced that you and I share an extraordinary commonality so rare that I am unable to ascribe it and our encounter, at this exact point in our lives, to simple circumstance. It's eerie - when we're addressing our feelings, talking with you is like talking to myself. My own exact feelings, thoughts and experiences keep coming out of your mouth. Plug this one into your theories and science for an answer!

Damn, I was dead right about you from the start. Through the staggering mass of data and personalities on the WWW, you and your communication alone reached through and touched me with profound clearness. You called me home and I came. I like it a lot. And I like you a lot.

You've got a soul mate on your hands, Ms. . Helping you to realize your aspirations and be happy seems now as natural an impulse to me as helping myself. And I will help you in any way I can.

What were you thinking and how did you feel when we hung up the phone?

Love,

[Mr. W.]

*****************************

My reply....

Hiya, [Mr. W.] Glad you are feeling up! You ask what I was feeling when we hung up the other day. Well, better to tell you how I feel in general about our meeting and phone conversations. For me, the experience is not as special as it is for you. Oh, you are an interesting conversationalist, but there is no spark from my side.

Now, I know you feel you've found a "soul-mate", but I have to tell you, I get that response from half a dozen people a week. The writings I have done for the gender community and the manner in which I've organized my "self" has led me to a position which is not unlike a television celebrity that comes into your living room every week. You begin to think of them as part of the family, when in fact, it is really a one way transmission, not a communication. So, although I find nothing negative about you or what short relationship we've had, I find nothing positively compelling either.

Don't let this dampen your spirits. You have much to explore, much to experience, and your personal bud has yet to bloom. It may be that we keep in touch over the years, or it may be that your interest grows in another direction. Either way, you have to be true to yourself, as do I.

So, again, I'm more that pleased to meet with you occasionally for lunch, or over the phone. Just keep in mind that you have been seeing me through the eyes of infatuation, and as powerful as that is, it seldom lasts for long.

If it comes at a moment of personal insight and is a part of that, it can be a fond and special memory for the rest of one's life. It is not essential that those who cross paths in such a way alter their courses to run in parallel.

Thanks again for the lunch, the wine, and the offer for what would have been, I'm sure, a wonderful evening. Stop by from time to time and Email or phone me when there's something on your mind. Do, however, keep firmly in your mind that the very special feelings you are experiencing are from your side only. That doesn't invalidate nor tarnish them, it just places them in context where they can continue to be special to you.

Melanie

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