Part Two: Innocence Sought
Chicken Schick Razor
December 15, 1995
My life has begun to improve in very tangible ways. Whole aspects of my outlook which had been so close to me as to never be noticed before are dropping out of the daily routine into my cognizant lap. This month seems to last forever, and in a very positive way. My days are casual, yet more productive than ever, and even better - productive in those areas that were dear to my heart yet seldom addressed.
What an odd stream of consciousness to be documenting. My words have always been full of angst (as all the great literary journeys which inspire me have been). But now, the angst dissolves, and joy congeals, slowly but continually, day by day. Can one write a great work of joy, or has my meaningful creative period at last drawn to a close?
I can see clearly now that the rejection I felt as a child from the first moment I began elementary school has formed the basis of the motivation for all I have ever done and find myself doing still:
Why did I get into Film? So that I could create risk free pseudo relationships by making my work available without having to face a live audience in case they didn't like it.
Why did I write this diary? So that I could express my inner self without having to relate it to another individual on a one on one basis. Again, rejection could only come second hand - much less powerful and more diffuse.
Why did I marry Mary? Because she had so many problems of her own that she wouldn't dare reject me.
Why did I find myself so driven to put my writings up on the World Wide Web? So that I could attract others without having to instigate a relationship.
Why did I not call my half-bothers and half-sisters in over seven years? So I could not be turned away.
Why do I never send Email to friends I have not heard from in a while? Because I might be rejected. I always wait until they write me and then respond: risk free.
Why do I never ask anyone to lunch at the office? So I can't be turned down. I sit in my office and yearn to be asked, and if not, I would rather go alone than ask anyone.
Jeez, I must've been hurt as a kid! Can you imagine what kind of daggers must have gone through my heart to create a motivation so strong, so all-pervasive as to control virtually all aspects of my life for well over a third of a century?
As I have written before, I was an incredibly happy little child - before school. My mother loved me deeply, involved me in everything, centered he life around me. Everything I did was wonderful to her. She marveled at the tiniest details of my self-expression and nurtured every perspective I evolved. I could do no wrong. That she might ever think I had done wrong became a fear.
And then I entered kindergarten, and suddenly, I could do no right. Oh, the teachers loved me: I always obeyed directions, was quiet and cooperative. But, my peers rejected me immediately. I got along just fine with the girls, but the boys were so rough and rude and cruel: I could hardly stand it.
Two things then happened. First, I actually made the conscious choice to watch the other boys and learn how to act. I was a smart little kid and a quick study, and though I always felt like I was hiding who I really was (which I really was!) I did learn to appear to be "just like" the others. (Is that not all tied up with my tears over my breast size? These huge knockers put me out of the norm and make me different. I had the surgery so I would fit in, and ended up being an outcast again, but this time in a way I can't hide. So on the one hand, I am more "female" in concept, but less "normal" in practice. Sugar and pain.)
The second trick I cooked up in my little mind was to only respond, never initiate. Now studying the other boys, that one came from my reason - I reasoned it out and put it into play. But the character trait I developed to not initiate was never arrived at by decision, but simply occurred from a scab on the heart. Gradually, I stopped initiating because EVERY time I did, I was rejected - I was hurt.. Pain makes one gun-shy, and so here I am today.
This is why I only went out on two dates before I met Mary. This is why I had such a small circle of friends. This is why I have never called up my friend, Tom, and asked him out for pie, though he has done the reverse for me scores of times.
Everywhere I look these days, every drive I have, is easily traced to this source.
When I was with Andy two years ago for that fourteen month "one-day-a-weekend" romance, I finally began to open up. For the first time in my life I initiated with another human being. At the time (and to this day) Andy lived behind his father's house in a detached one-room rectangle. When I stayed over at night, to use the restroom at 2:00 in the morning, I would have to cross the backyard, go into the big house through the back door, traverse a maze of darkened hallways, pass the open bedroom door where his eighty-year-old father slept in his underwear, use the restroom, and return the same way. This was but one of the indignities and inconveniences I faced each weekend.
But then, the earthquake struck. I knew Andy slept next to a fireplace, and I took my son and drove through the broken streets from Burbank to Northridge, fearing I had lost Andy the whole trip there. I arrived to find him unharmed and burst into tears of relief. Alas, he saw my reaction more as an annoyance than a sign of love.
As a result of the quake, Andy was forced to move inside the big house with his dad while repairs were made. I continued to come over one night each weekend. But now, we spent the night on a sleeper couch in the living room while his dad snored away in the next room.
In the mornings, his dad and I would wake up before Andy, share in making breakfast, and sit and chat about current events over coffee. I began to feel like part of the family - at least with his dad. But Andy, clever, humorous, and masculine as he was, always keep his emotional distance from me. (What kinds of rejection did HE experience as a child?)
On the final weekend before he dumped me, I was laying there with him on the sleeper couch after his dad had left the house on errands. I let go of my fear, again, not by decision but by osmosis. I had been with him long enough to feel emotionally safe. Suddenly, I found myself so attracted to him. I wanted him so much. I ran my hand across the crisp folds of his blue jeans as he lay next to me and could barely contain myself. I finally knew what unconditional love was. And then, the next week, he dumped me.
Ran right back into my shell, I did!!! It's DANGEROUS out there! What a bummer: here I was finally ready to leave the cocoon after all these years and BLAMY! Right between the eyes.
That will be two years ago this coming February. It has taken all that time to get back to where I was.
Doing the boob thing was really an excuse. As long as there was more to do with my transition, I didn't have to face the fact that becoming female didn't solve my problems. I didn't have to face the real issue, rip off the ol' scab and open the tender, pink flesh to the ways of the world. And that is also why the tears. If I had ended up with less, I could ALWAYS feel that there was more I could do. But the risks and the pain were legitimate reasons not to redo the surgery (as legitimate as they are now!) so I would never have to address the real problem. I could just wallow in my angst and cry for a life unfulfilled. But then, I got boobs do damned big, I COULDN'T go any further. And now I had to cry because I would have to deal with the real issues under that scab. What a complex web it was, so tightly wound that opposites moved in the same direction.
Now here I am. And what has happened? I got all wrapped up with closing off old issues in the past. I started putting my mother's unpublished manuscript on my Web pages. I began sorting all the old family papers from generations ago. I became motivated to add orchestration to Dave's old songs and release them as a CD (and bought $275 of computer equipment to do it!), I got hot to put the rest of my diary up on the web - all of these motivations were a last ditch effort to close off the past so tightly that I need never think of it again, and in so doing, bury the real hurt too deeply to be ever hurt again.
I can hardly remember my school years. My early days with my own children are a blur. All the trials and tribulations of my businesses, building a family, going through transition - all are faded and dark. My mind had begun the work of hiding my hurt many years ago, and now, in the light of imminent exposure, redoubled the effort in grand style. Shielding the memories was no longer enough. Physical means must be employed to cart off all that might remind me.
So, how did I get out of this? How did I find the way to the joy described at top? Mental Relativity. It sounds like a damned advertisement, but it's true. I keep mulling over the issues, never giving up, never letting go. The very process of considering the pain I was suffering in an un-justified Mental Relativity manner "tuned up" my sense of self until I actually grew. Oh, and it hurt like hell. Your skin splits like an over-cooked knockwurst (Boiled In Oil). Mental "Rolfing", if you know the term. Only when the perfect, seamless outside rips can you see what's really on the inside.
And what was there was that poor, rejected, little boy of 38 years ago, joy in heart, kindness in soul, looking to share and getting kicked in the teeth.
Life's a bitch, as they say.
But, that being the case, I cannot go back and comfort that boy. In my mind he still suffers and squirms. (That's what opening up the past can do.) That hurt is still raw because it's never been given the chance to heal. The scab was not a protection after all, but an enshrinement. That room in my soul was kept just as I'd left it - nothing was changed.
I'm going back there now. I'm the only one entitled. It is my right to rearrange that room. To do so is not a pleasant task. I'm returning to Auswitz, strolling through Hiroshima, picnicking at Kent State. I'm recalling my teachers, my schoolyard comrades, my shattered dreams and my swollen heart.
It is the past still that I seek - but not to package and seal: to open and re-live. I shall eat of the past until I can hold no more, and then I will return and eat some more until there is nothing left on the table. This meal will twist up my insides with bile and crap, but once digested I will have built up an immunity to my own immune response.
This is not going to happen overnight - not by a long shot. It may take all of next year. The positive notion is that I don't have to wait that long to begin seeing the benefits. The banquet sits on a seesaw. The more I eat, the more it tips, and as it rises, so do my joy.
I called my half-brothers and half-sisters last week. I wished them happy holidays and told them I would love to see them, and for them to keep in touch. Look, ma! I'm instigating... I'm instigating!
I told my millionaire I WOULD have dinner with him, which we did last night. The evening turned out to be three hours of wonderful chat in a garden cafe by the boulevard in the midst of busy holiday crowds shopping under the warm glow of friendly neon lights.
I carried on a conversation with another mother at the supermarket for nearly five minutes while we waited in line, found out her son and daughter also went to Mindi's school. I offered my name before I left.
No, I am not healed yet. But I am not looking to be. I'm just looking to get better. I don't need to think that either I must feel alone or I must find a man. I can have so many relationships such as above that range from the casual to the intimate. My life can be nearly full without any intimacy at all. And should I find that closeness in addition... well, my life would be complete.
So, I march off now like a brave little soldier, head held high as I cross the line into the territory of my worst enemy: myself - the poor, misguided little boy who did the best he could, but couldn't get out of the junkyard refrigerator when the door slammed shut behind him. Pulp tabloid headline: "Boy Trapped in Refrigerator Eats Own Foot". Wolves chew their legs off to get out of a trap. When I'm finished eating, I may have to learn to run on three legs, or maybe, like a chameleon, it will grow back, if that's the way it works.
December 17, 1995
Last evening was Chris' 8th Annual "White Elephant" Party. The idea is that everyone in his extended list of friends gets together to exchange gifts for Christmas. But these aren't ordinary gifts. No, indeed! Each gift is to be an item of the most quintessential poor taste as to be sensually, culturally, and/or aesthetically repugnant. In the past, previous gifts have been: a mug shaped like a breast (you drink out of the nipple), Godzilla slippers that roar when you walk, a Chia pet, an embalmed frog in a jar with a scalpel (I traded somebody for this last year and put it under the tree for my son... he loved it!), and a shellacked jock strap on a plaque (my contribution one year).
Each gift is finely wrapped, but left unlabelled. Around nine o'clock, numbers are drawn out of a hat. In turn, we each step up to the tree and select whichever present we wish to open. Or, if we saw another present previously opened that we actually liked, we can liberate it from its original recipient and force them to walk to the tree yet again. As each new gift is revealed, the crowd goes wild. By the end of the evening, everyone has had a rip-snorting good time filled with, fun, food, and the opportunity to see old friends who cross our paths but once a year.
I didn't go.
All this new found ability to deal with rejection has been waking me up to a lot of things I had been doing for no reason other than to avoid rejection.
I HATE Chris' party! I've always hated it. I just never realized it. First of all, it is a bit of a drive to get to. That's not too bad, but last year it was raining, and last night it was cold. If I ignore all else, what I really LIKE to do is have my household in order so when inclement whether strikes, I can batten the hatches and sit warm and cozy while the storm rages (or the California equivalent). It must go back to my genetic heritage ( a subject which I will be expounding upon at great length in the future!)
Then, the place is always crowded. It's hard to find a place to park, hard to find a place to sit. Even getting in the front door is something of feat. Since this is Chris' circle of friends, I don't know most of the people there. Chris doesn't have more that a moment to say a word to me. And besides, I'm really pissed at him for cutting me out of his social life anyway!
He's always going to this event or that event, travelling the world, catching a play in New York. (He's got the money to do this - his parents pay for him and his S.O. to go on these vacations, and the two of them, being gay, don't have two kids to bring up and have enjoyed two male salaries over the years). The only times I EVER see Chris out of the office is when someone in his season ticket group for the plays and events at the Cal Tech theatre is sick or out of town. Then (on two whole occasions, mind you!) I have been offered the extra ticket. What a laugh! Other than those two times and his birthday last year where we all coughed up forty bucks and the cost of dinner to join him at a high-tech virtual reality game palace, the White Elephant Party has been my only other social contact with the guy!
And you know, I've even talked with him about it. Me... the same me that never rocks the relationship boat. I was so distressed last year about being cut from his living will that spilled it all out to him. He simply said we see too much of each other at work to have a social life at the same time. Now, that may have been true, but these days, I go into the office and often don't even check to find out if he is in until lunch. And, when I come in each morning, should I venture into his office, more often than not he shoos me out (sometimes rather unceremoniously) because he is in the middle of an important project.
It's not just me, though. Chris has just become so project oriented (or was he always?) that relationships with others at work have to slip through the cracks or just stick to the floor. I suspect he's always been like that. It's probably me that's changing. But the more I change, the more he stops looking like my friend and starts looking like a man. Another one of them things.
I haven't lost my objectivity completely yet, but I'm working on it. The efficient, practical nature of this guy is beginning to bug me. Yes, I realize without that attitude there would be no software, no big royalties, and I wouldn't have the time to sit around an mope over lost social opportunities. But I still don't have to go to his damn party.
The last few years I went with Andy. Our off again, on again relationship (note the order here) always seemed to come on again at holiday time. Maybe he or I or both were just extra lonely that time of year. In any event, Andy has come with me since Chris moved out of the Valley and into the Ritz of Altadena. So, each year I had an excuse to get with my beau, snuggle in public ( I LOVE snuggling in public - it not only feels good but says to the world, "Look, somebody thinks Melanie is woman enough to treat like one in the ultimate way - and in public too!") and have someone to share the moment.
This year, Andy called me up to wish me a happy Thanksgiving. I knew it was the old holiday kick-off routine. So, I responded by sending him a cartoon from the newspaper with a note on the back inviting him to a special screening of Casablanca from a restored print. He called back after he got the mail, chuckled about the comic but didn't mention the note. I KNEW he was waiting for me to re-iterate my invitation over the phone so I would be the instigator (just like I have done all my life - that's how I recognized it). But, I don't need to play that game either. I don't want either side of that kind of relationship anymore. So, I didn't bring it up. The conversation petered out, which brings me to Chris' party with no date. If I had actually enjoyed the party for itself, I would have gone anyway, but without Andy, there was no reason at all to go.
So, I didn't.
I also didn't go to Pavo's birthday party at a high-rise in Century City. That was supposed to start a few hours before the Elephant stampeded. I don't know how much (if anything) I have mentioned about Pavo in these entries. He was an old army buddy of my step-dad's somewhere between bi and gay (though it took us years to figure that out). When my mom remarried in 1960, my dad was just out of the army. He had been stationed in Japan, and that is where he met Pavo. When Pavo came to L.A., he became a close family friend, always over for all the big dinners and events.
My mom liked to entertain. She often told me she would rather cook for an army that just a few people, and every Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Birthday offered proof of that boast. Pavo was there for all of it, as close a friend to my parents (and through them to me) as any family friend can be. More like a relative, I'd say.
At Christmas time in particular, Pavo shined. He always showed up with boxes and bags of presents. Sometimes my step-dad would pick him up, sometimes he would come by bus (what a sight that must've been!) Christmas doubled whenever he arrived.
After my mom died, my step-dad dropped out of the family thing. He went off to Israel, then came back and shacked up with his Christian friends. He still hasn't had a regular job since nineteen eighty something. It's embarrassing to hear him tell of others giving him the sweater off their backs (literally!) or slipping a twenty dollar bill into his hand at a breakfast meeting.
Anyway, once my mom was dead, the lynchpin of the whole get together was missing, and the whole damn thing fell apart. My dad didn't call Pavo; Pavo didn't call my dad. Pavo's visits to us became fewer and fewer, and we didn't really want to drive all the way out to the other side of L.A. to pick him up, only to have to drive him back again that night (especially on Sundays with work the next day).
He still came by and stayed overnight on the sleeper couch a few more times, but they became progressively less frequent until we hardly even hear from him by phone. He started missing birthdays, then the middle level holidays like Valentines Day, then Easter, Thanksgiving, and finally Christmas itself! His birthday was on December 11th, and a couple years back he held a party at the Bonaventure Hotel in Downtown L.A. We drove in, parked in that over-crowded hive (you see a common theme with me and crowds?) and went up to the umpteenth floor to visit his little shindig.
I had a terrible time. There was nothing to do. I didn't care about any of those other people I didn't know. It was kind of a pale, pathetic, "happy birthday to me" kind of affair.
Now, I have always put myself out for this kind of thing before, having the very real desire to bring a little sunshine into an otherwise drab life. But the years have taken their toll. And just as with Chris, this year I didn't want to do something I really didn't want to do, just to contribute to the general welfare.
So, I didn't go.
What a striking oddity that both parties should have occurred this year, my HONEST year, on the very same day!
Now, I began to think that maybe I was just embarrassed to be sporting these huge knockers around people who have known me in a previous life. (After all, a friend told me that at Chris' party last year he heard someone say to another, "Look that's Melanie, the transsexual!") Oh, yes, I have the mental fortitude to stand up to that stuff, but it does wear one down after a while. Man, am I glad I'm not Michael Jackson!
I suppose that might have an influence, but I think the truth is, I really hate my friends. The motivation to hang around with them was originally born of common interests. Over the last twenty years, though, our interests have diverged, and now all we share is a common history. Still I hung out, though (another "though"), because in history there is security, and if they have proven themselves not to reject me, then that is much safer than meeting anyone new, so why bother?
Well, that kinda thinkin' don't cut it wit me no mo', no Suh!
I'll tell you what I DID do yesterday. I went to an instructor training class at U.C.L.A. Chris and I are scheduled to teach four half-day classes on the story theory at U.C.L.A. Extension beginning in mid-February. Because Chris had taught there before, they waived the requirement that we take this instructor training class. But I began to realize that I really wanted to go. Not only did I think I might actually learn something to improve my technique, but I wanted to be around some new people - people who shared a current common interest, not a buried one.
And I had a wonderful time! The program lasted about four hours. There was quiche and coffee and juice, exciting speakers, interesting fellow attendees - in short, it was a gas. There weren't many people there I am likely to see ever again, as they are all instructors of different classes. But, as far as living for the moment, this was it. Finally, a new memory! Something I've not experienced quite that way before. And new faces! New opinions! New people!
Best of all, by teaching a class, you get the bonus of free registration in any other class you'd like to take. That opens up the whole Extension catalog to me. All of which means, I expect I'll be meeting a lot more interesting people with current common interests in settings where I can make some new friendships that reflect who I am now. People who never heard of Dave or Flat-Chested Melanie (she was known as in these parts here 'bout) but meet me as I am today - whoever that is!
Well, there you have it. After the class, I drove out to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and skulked around with the Channels and Cartiers. Then I came home, dumped out some boxes from the far back corner of the garage, right where my parents had left them, and sorted through old letters and greeting cards, that dated back before I was born. I found notes from a grandmother who died when I was not yet a teenager. I found cards my mother had given me for Christmas when I three or four. I found cards my mother had given my step-dad, glowing with her love and support, and those he had given her, all left there in the boxes he had packed even before she died, left there of no further concern or interest to him, the rotten bastard. (Oops, sorry.)
I also found a few notes from my natural father, written to me from Florida where he worked on the Polaris Missile development program in the fifties, after he and my mother were divorced and before she remarried.
The most precious of these documents of the personalities of those I recall with varying degrees of love, I kept. The bulk of it went in the trash heap growing in the middle of the back yard.
All in all, my trip down memory lane continues not only unabated, but picking up steam as animate and inanimate alike must come before judgment to be held to the heart or sentenced to the scrap heap.
December 19, 1995
I have a little case of old letters I discovered in the garage that my grandfather had kept. One that I read yesterday was written in 1948 to my grandfather from his sister. As a part of it, she described coming out here to California for a brief vacation and trying to locate my mother. (My grandfather and grandmother were out of town at the time, or so it seems). For two days, his sister, Kay, queried all the local relatives, but were unable to find a clue as to my mother's whereabouts. Then, the letter went on, she finally got a call from another relative who had heard from my mother. She had called to say she had eloped with my dad and gotten married! Now that's something I never knew!
Today I just finished reading a letter from my great aunt to my grandmother written in 1956. At the time of the letter, my grandfather, grandmother, mother and I (my mom was divorced by that time) were taking a car trip from California to the old family land in Chicago. My aunt was taking care of the yard and house while we were gone. The letter was an update of chit chat sent to reach us in Chicago. I enjoyed reading the four handwritten pages, for they carried my aunt's personality in every turn of a phrase. I had almost forgotten how interesting she had been.
The reason I even brought this up is that near the end of the letter, my aunt "Toots" shared a joke. She wrote: "I remembered a joke I heard. A woman cleaned the pin feathers off a chicken by using a Schick electric razor. It did such a good job she wrote to the Schick Co. and told them about the excellent work it did. She received a box of candy and a letter from the Co. They told her they made a test and were grateful for her discovery. They said that there soon would be 3 razors on the market: a man's Schick razor, a woman's Schick razor, and a chicken Schick razor."
Yep, that was my aunt, all right.
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