Part Three: Innocence Reborn
Art and Soul
April 28, 1996
Obviously, that was not my last entry. Go figger.
May 3, 1996
One must put the art before the artist. But what if the art is the artist? I have grieved over my close association with my work, sometimes being told that I am only interested in aggrandizing myself, and sometimes believing it. Then others tell me that my story has moved them in ways no other had or could, yet it is nothing but me.
Of all things, Oliver Stone's "The Doors" has just started on television. I have seen the scene. "When he quit film school." To believe in one's vision enough to walk away from criticism rather than trying to learn from it... is that heroic or egocentric?
Torn, I am, between toning down my presence on the web or blowing it all out of proportion. And the middle ground huddles and gives way as the two extremes collapse.
I've taken my picture off my home page. I've removed the word "my" everywhere it appeared. And then I sat and moped and pondered and wept. I actually wept - in the car - on the way home from dropping my daughter off at the bowling alley for "sweeps night". A man by the side of the road, watering his lawn, saw my tears in the moment I slipped by. I checked the review mirror through swollen eyes to see him turn and follow my car down the road with a distraught expression.
I want so much to have the full fiber of my being envelope all that I am in my art. Yet the pain of being told I am simply craving attention undercuts my resolve, my spirit, my muse. What could I accomplish if I let myself go?
One would think I would be egotistic if everything I did I did for glory. But what if the response from all those for whom I care is negative? Then is not continuing to tout my artself a sacrifice almost, rather than a narcissism?
What of Van Gogh's self portraits, or Escher's? What of Franklin's autobiography or the theory that the Mona Lisa is Leonardo himself in drag? Did these creators receive such criticism in their times as being self-centered? I suppose they must have. Rodin did. And who else?
Not all artists work with their own clay. Many turn an outward look or prance vicariously through their fictional characters. But what of those of us whose feelings run so deep that we become mired in the compulsion to create, but are only capable of communication in the form of our own images?
I must expand.
I see it all clearly now. My whole life is a work of art. Everything I have done I have done to mold and shave it into the form I beheld in the beginning. Mine is not a life of learning, exploring, growing, or transcending, but a process of purifying, sharpening, and unmasking.
My infatuation with self is the all-encompassing empathy of the artist with her great work. Gender is not the issue; it is only the means. From the outside I have been pushing the limits. From the inside I have been fulfilling the destiny.
All that I do is all that I am is all that I do.
Morrison is still on TV, winding up his life and popping pills with whiskey and beers. I'm finally reaching into the depths of the sculpture of my life and popping buttered popcorn flavored jelly bellies with diet Sunkist soda and hot chocolate.
I have not lived to discover Mental Relativity save as a tool to further define myself. All that I experience is "awl" that I am.
My purpose is to refine the essence of self to the sum totality of being. With every song, every story, each scientific insight or synthesis the "who I am" grows firmer. How firmly does something exist? As firmly as it is perceived. Perception is the cusp of reality.
So now, I am unafraid. I need not think of what others will say. I need not hold back part of who I am for fear of being seen as other than I am by those who only see that part. The work is not in its perception, but its reality.
The time has come to unbar the hold and let loose the shackled me I have withheld. Time to unleash the power. Time to make the master stroke. Time to make space.
May 28, 1996
Well, here it is almost the end of May, and everything continues to fall into place. Two weekends ago, Chris and I taught another class in story theory at U.C.L.A. This was a full two-day affair, but even with all that time it was a VERY tight squeeze to even scratch the surface of an overview of the theory. Be that as it may, the real news is that Chris and I had a wonderful time together. At least I think we did. Of course, with all that has happened, its very easy to assume that my interpretation of the whole thing was quite different than his. Still, we drove there and back together each day and had very pleasant conversation, peppered with the usual jokes, and sprinkled (God, this is getting lame!) with many of the social chits and chats that were noticeably absent from our interchange of recent years. Anyway, I had a good time.
Now, I want to tell you that I don't think about anybody sexually when I'm just conversing with them. Oh, I know, this comes out of nowhere not unlike the time President Jimmy Carter blurted out in an interview with Playboy magazine that, "I commit adultery in my mind." or some such nonsense. Everyone was amazed at this untimely admission, and no satisfactory explanation of it was ever offered as far as I know. Maybe he felt guilty, or maybe he perceived that he had a public image as something of a puss, and simply wanted to go on record as being just as lascivious as the next man.
Well, my purpose here is something of the reverse. I've been so busy documenting my little journey that I haven't really given a lot of thought to what kind of image I was projecting. Now ain't that a rat's ass! Hard to believe, I know. But I have been so busy trying to create an image, I never stopped to think about how it might be received. (See above about being myself artistically and also see the story theory regarding Reception theory.)
The danger in carefully crafting a icon of yourself is that you are so intent on making sure everything you want is in there and in the right place that you never stop to look for what else crept in there while you weren't' looking. After all, as we say in Mental Relativity, "You can't become like someone just by being like they are but only by also NOT being like they aren't!" Words to live by, if you have such a hankerin'.
Anyway, now that I've stopped worrying about creating an image and have decided to simply express myself as I feel, I've looked back over my previous writings and lo and behold, there are all KINDS of messages creeping around in there that I never intended and fully intend now to root out.
Which brings us back to not thinking sexually about anyone with whom I am conversing. My diary reads like the recollections of a sordid trollop! Well, that part is probably true... But the point is, although I get going pretty good when someone makes a move on me (if they aren't the Elephant Man or whatever) I never really think proactively about doing anything until I am approached.
Oh, Man! Now it's going to seem like I want people to come on to me. I see it now: this entry hits publication and suddenly my mail box is full of invitations to vacation on the Caribbean! Please, folks, I get enough of that already!
My point here is that I don't want anyone scared off (men or women) because they think I'm constantly planning how to jump their bones. (Can you tell I'm in the middle of reading Howard Stern's "Miss America" right now?)
I just wanna be friends. Really!!! If I never hit the hay with another human being but had a gaggle of buddies, that would be fine with me. But still, if one of those buddies got a little friendlier... Forget that! I didn't mean it. Honest. Yeah, right!
Well, what I do mean is that I hardly ever think about sex when I'm doing the laundry, cleaning out the shed, teaching class or any other damn fool occupation with which I've saddled myself. So, go ahead, be a friend without fear. And if you want anything more than that from me, work your way up to it. I'm tired of fencing matches and deleting gratuitous email.
Now, on another subject... You know, Mary came up with a new nickname for me yesterday. She calls me "B.M." - for Big Mel. Well, I had to stop THAT in the bud! Last night it was B.M this and B.M. that. Enough with the toilet humor already! What's worse is that all through school as David, I was constantly being called to as, "Hey, P." Well that's just dandy, isn't it? From school to adulthood I graduate from Number One to Number Two!
Jumping around again... .
One nice thing is that I make enough extra cash from my voice tape sales (you know, the video about how to develop a female voice?) that I can afford to hire an assistant for ten hours a week or so. With this extra help, I can continue to expand my Web presence on the internet and also pursue more traditional forms of distribution for my work.
I went to a writer's group meeting two weeks ago at the company - not as a teacher, but just another writer. I have a screenplay I wrote a decade before there was a story theory, and it needs a little help. I'd really like to see it sold and made because I think the story would be an exciting little romp.
Going to the writer's group was also part of my effort to step off that pedestal and join in as one of the gang. I've NEVER been one of the gang. Why? Who knows! Maybe they rejected me because I was different. Then, maybe I decided it was better to be a leader than an outcaste and subconsciously always maneuvered my way to the top. Perhaps the rejection would have ended on its own in short order. (See the story theory about change and steadfast characters). But, I never gave it a chance. So, for thirty-five of my forty-three years I took up the reigns and led the charge. Now, I just want to be part of the crowd.
Also, going to the writer's group counters a perceived lack of credibility for any story guru who teaches but doesn't publish. I'd really like to get a good screenplay out there so the lack of fiction output by Chris and myself will not weigh against acceptance of our notions regarding what makes a good story.
In addition, I'm still not satisfied that people know who actually wrote the theory book, the StoryGuide, all those clever articles in the newsletter we published, and even all the theory explanations and backgrounds in the software. Guess who! Chris did write the section in the theory book on propaganda (I know I've talked about this in my diary earlier) but I rewrote it to polish it up. He also wrote a couple of the shorter articles in our newsletter ("Storyforming") like "Speed Bumps" and "The Audience Who Came In From the Cold". But "Building A Better Dinosaur" about "Jurassic Park", "Fried Rice", "Guilty as Charged", and virtually ALL the rest is all my stuff.
So, I'm a bit miffed at everything being "by Melanie and Chris". Of course, that was MY idea to be Lennon and McCartney on everything borne from the days in which I was afraid to stand up as myself and needed a partner as a crutch and shield.
I must note that Chris always felt uncomfortable in having his name attached to things he didn't write. He just allowed it because I wanted it. So, I hope he won't be offended now by my setting the record straight. Still, this is beginning to sound awfully vindictive and self-serving. Do you think it sounds self-serving? Well, what do YOU know, anyway!!!
I'm sorry. I'm sorry.... There just doesn't seem to be any way out when you work in a collaborative effort yet want to be recognized for your personal achievements. I keep hearing about who was the "creative force" behind The Beach Boys or The Who. But all those guys had such a high profile. We watched them in real time as they stretched and grew. They became old friends we came to know over the years. We can now look back an analyze who did what and add recognition to individuals without demeaning the accomplishments of the others.
But nobody knows Chris and me. Oh, well, they know our work. The story development software sold over 10,000 copies in its first two years. It's gotten a lot of press, and there's hardly a writer in the world who hasn't at least heard of it. But only a handful know who was behind it. It's not like Chris and I are up on stage. Our work takes the limelight, and the occasional individual does a little digging to find out who we are.
So nobody is growing up with us. Nobody is joining our journey. And we get lost in the dust, and buried in the lime behind the limelight, where our bones will dissolve and disperse. I don't really mean this. I just liked the sound of it.
On the other hand, I do want a little recognition, which is another reason why I'm going to the writer's group. Last week everyone got a copy of my script. Tonight, they get to tear it apart! This is a very good thing, because I'm fairly confident it is a nifty little story but needs more work on the characters so it can have a bigger heart. If I'm not completely off base, I'll get a wealth of constructive criticism tonight and be able to do one final draft that pulls it all together (it's currently in draft three). Then, I believe I will get one shot at opening doors to high-powered producers because of the notoriety of the theory and software. If I can peddle a commercial script, more doors will open. If I blow it, the door will be padlocked forever, also because of the notoriety. Also, I'll be more up front, and on my own, so people will begin to discover the human being behind the work which will make progress toward my other goals as well.
Just a note to close on why I don't feel my readership in the gender community brings me out into the public eye. After all, my gender pages had over thirty-five thousand visits in the first twelve months! One must keep in mind that those who visit my gender pages are usually good, decent folks who are embarrassed or ashamed of their natural gender feelings. They don't want anyone to know, and therefore do not talk about or share what I have written, and don't put links to their own web pages that go to my site. What an odd sort of fame! A whole community knows who I am, but none of them would dare tell anybody! So, my fifteen meg of fame remains just that, closeted in the community and hidden from the rest of the world by a glass wall.
To counter this, I have begun changing the nature of The Subversive cyberzine which I publish, as of the last issue (#29). I'm trying to expand its scope into more mainstream issues without sweeping my past under the carpet. You KNOW I don't sit around thinking gender all day. I'm thinking about what's for lunch, or how my favorite sports team is doing (well, maybe not that - I don't really follow sports but you get the idea). I've got two kids, one near graduation, the other in seventh grade, but going to college for three weeks over the summer because she scored high in a special program put on by Johns Hopkins University.
I'm going through old family photos I've discovered in cleaning the shed. I'm petting my dog, decorating my room, buying a Steve Perry CD, watching "Dead Man's Walk" (the sequel to "Lonesome Dove") on TV, planting Jasmine in the front yard, watering my peach tree, trying to get up the motivation to take the kids camping, and on and on.
That's life! And gender is a small part of it that started out big and has shrunk. So, the ol' Subversive needs to keep up if it is to be of interest to me to keep churning it out. I hope that as it evolves, some of you gender folks will start linking up to it publicly and even share some copies with "civilians". Then I can break through that glass wall, which is good for me, and gender issues can be exposed to the world at large in an appropriate balance with life over all.
Okay... 'nuf said fer now. Time to move on to other things, because even this durn diary ain't worth all the attention I give it!
I'm sitting here thinking about what I want to wear tonight to the writer's group, and it suddenly occurred to me I can wear anything I want! So what? So, what it really means is that with all this money I'm getting from the software royalties, I can do anything I want - or, more to the point, I don't have to do anything I don't want.
I've been out of the company for coming up on three months now, and it's only beginning to sink in that I don't have to do anything any more. I've been pushing this whole World Wide Web thing a lot harder than I can enjoy it, and all so I can establish another source of income so I will be financially secure. Who am I kidding? I've hit the lottery and I'm killing myself looking for work.
What if you won a million dollars in the lottery? Wouldn't you feel secure? Well, a million bucks pays off over twenty years at fifty thousand per year. I get more than that from my royalties and it's increasing every day. I've spent my life tackling impossible schemes to get rich and buy that security. Why impossible schemes? Probably so I wouldn't ever achieve success. That way I could avoid dealing with lots of personal issues. But I've dealt with so many of them now that working all the time doesn't even have that saving grace. It's simply become a really bad habit that I intend to break.
So here it is, three in the afternoon. And I had planned to run around and get all kinds of business supplies and do chores, but not for fun, because it would lead me toward expanding my new business. Hell with that! I'm still going to do the stuff, but in my own time and because I want to. I'm going to use some of this wonderful money and hire that assistant, and I may hardly ever create any web pages myself again.
For a year I've slaved in all my free time to expand my web site. A friggin year!!! And what have I got for it? A few letters in my email telling me what a nice job I've done. Who cares! Nice to hear it, but is is worth all the effort? No way! And another thing. What's all this about writing so prolifically and being driven to get it all out where people can read it? Who needs it! I'll write, sure, and I'll publish, but just because I want to, and that's it.
"But," says the naysayer, "what if the royalties run out and you have to work again?" Well, then, I'll work again. But think of all the wonderful times I can have between now and then without working - something most people never get to taste. Besides, it's much more likely that I'll pay off my bills and pay down my debt and even if the royalties begin to trickle off I'll need less and less. Better yet, if things just continue as they are, I'll not only pay off the debt, but also begin to invest in other things like stocks, buy some small businesses, and so on until I really don't have to worry about losing the royalties because most of my income comes from elsewhere.
What all of this means is that there is still lots of motivation to do exactly the same things I've been doing, but just not as fast because there is no drive. I'm taking a vacation, and then I think I'll take another one. Wouldn't I be stupid to be handed this wonderful opportunity, not unlike being young, and then to waste it away by working, just like being young and wearing conservative clothes and never doing anything physical?
No, I think I'll just party on and write and do my music, but as I've learned recently, everything is fun if you find the right speed at which to do it. It's all in the timing, and the only time we get out of phase is when we feel driven to go too quickly (or conversely to drag our feet) because of some non-immediate goal we seek or disaster we hope to avoid.
Of course, it's easy for me to sit here on this little nest egg and say, "Stop paying so much attention to your indirect needs and focus on your immediate desires," but what the heck, it's easy.
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