Part Three: Innocence Reborn
September 28, 1996
What an eye-opening week this is turning out to be! One of the new insights to surface is a growing realization that there are quite a number of things I miss about being male. Well, duh! You probably knew that LONG ago, and here I am just figuring it out.
For one thing, I really miss the built-in respect and authority. All the guys who may be reading this are going to go, "yeah, right..." but it's true! Part of the reason I have been pushing so hard and so long in the business/creativity world is that the moment I went out to sashay down the street, I gave up my right to the divine right to rule.
Oh, it's nothing you can put your finger on. I'm sure I can't point to any specific instances where I was treated with less respect than a guy (oh, maybe a few, but nothing to constitute a major shift in power). But, there is this prevailing feeling that I don't matter and my thoughts don't count.
Is is me, or is it real? Gawrsh, I dunno! But I don't care "why" in any event. The truth of the matter is it feels that way, and it didn't feel that way when I was a guy. Sure, I often felt self-conscious and unworthy as Dave, but that was my own outlook and I knew it. But as Melanie, I feel the whole male world sees me as unworthy, regardless of my own outlook. I can be confident as hell, and full of good ideas, but the more I share them - the more I talk about them - the more the guys don't want to have anything to do with me. All I have to do is have one original thought and express it, and this wall comes slamming down between me and the man.
Another thing... I've had this odd urge to do things that require strenuous physical effort. In Mental Relativity we clearly see that whether a person is a "do-er" or a "be-er" has nothing to do with being male or female. Intrinsically, that's true! So, statistically, we would expect to see just as many women do-ers as men. Culturally, on the other hand, there is a tremendous unspoken bias against women do-ers that tips the scale so far as to make it the rare occurrence indeed when a woman can be found out thrashing something around.
Don't be fooled by what you see on TV and in the movies. In that dimension women who buck the tide have become quite popular - as anomalies - which is why they prove attractive at the box office. It may even be true that such a woman would also be attractive in real life. But outside the realm of the entertainment industry (sports included) how many physical women do you see actually "doing" something strenuous in your average day in the neighborhood?
It's not that they can't or that they don't want to. It's more that there are subtle psychological costs a woman must pay if she is to live out of phase with intangible cultural imperatives. Puts a pressure on your heart and keeps you on your side of the fence (as if there really was a fence!)
So, I've been tearing up rugs to reveal the hardwood floors around my house. And, I've found myself increasingly drawn to the prospect of single-handedly dismantling the huge pile of junk we have been building in the backyard as we - I mean "as I" - cleaned out the garage and shed. Putting on them big ol' leather gloves and playing tug-of-war with two-by-fours, steel beams, and massive carcasses of wrecked furniture... yeah, that gets the ol' adrenaline racing!
Last night I put my hair up. All the way up on top of my head, fastened and clamped there as tightly as I could. It was about one A.M. and for some reason (or maybe not) I just got sick of feeling that mass of hot, unmanageable growth clinging to my neck. For a few minutes I even considered cutting it off. Ah, what would it be like to wake up every morning with really short hair? To simply run a comb through it, if that, and be done for the day?
Wouldn't it be great to forget about make-up before going out? To just splash some water on my face and face the world? And whiskers. I miss them too. Though I hated beards, there was something truly fun about shaving - getting every little spot, trimming the old mustache. I never used an electric razor. No, not me who was in love with the Victorian Era even then. I used a blade razor. My parents once gave me an old-style shaving mug with a cake of foamy soap. I used to like to dash some hot water in that cup and whip it up to a warm lather. Made me feel like one of the young lions of the late eighteenth century. And oh, the wonderful feeling of that warm mix on my face - especially on cold, winter mornings.... My folks even bought me an electric shaving cream heater one time, and until I ran out of the expensive cans of special formula that it required, each and every whisker morning was a sensual thrill, full of images from a simpler time.
Man, to be rough and tumble, or crude. To be disrespectful to women when they aren't around and share in that asinine, lecherous giggling with the other small boys who call themselves men. THOSE were the days!
Of course, when I was living those days, all I could think about was getting out and having the chance to be who I am now. There's a lesson in here somewhere.
Back to insights. Let's put this reverie aside for a moment, as there is something else I want to talk about. As you likely know from having read my most recent entries, I have been horribly dissatisfied of late with my inability to stop being a workaholic coupled with the lack of fulfillment the achievements accomplished by that approach engender. Now was that a sentence to be reckoned with or what? I bet you had to read it more than once! (It saves cyberspace when you can get people spending more time mulling over the same piece of data, rather than requesting more.)
Particularly, my web site is driving me crazy! It has grown to over two hundred pages, each of which needs to be updated from time to time, and I have also made a commitment on the web to add one new item to the site each and every weekday! Now THAT was a stupid thing to do!
Why in the world am I pushing this so hard? How can I leave the company, be making enough from the royalties to never have to work again, have the creative freedom to do or not do whatever I want, and then throw myself into yet another workaholic project with high personal costs and little if any emotional return? It's easy, that's how. I've had lots of practice.
I feel this tremendous need to understand WHY I do this. My heart tells me that if I could figure that out I could put an end to the whole hideous thing. Well, as it turns out, these recent longings for the male life are tied into the whole thing - part of the picture - another facet intimately entwined in the consideration, and perhaps a doorway to the truth. (Gotcha with another one of them sentences, didn't I?)
In this particular case, "what" seems a handy pathway to "why". Here's "what"... I had thought my purpose in doing all these improbable projects was to simply make a name for myself and get recognition. And, it occurred to me that perhaps the intensity of my efforts of the last few years was due primarily to the recognition I lost by becoming female, and therefore the workaholic approach was an effort to recapture my lost respect even while seeking a greater respect I never felt I had in the first place.
Makes sense. And that's the problem. Making sense is not what this is all about. It's about feeling good. As long as I was laboring under the mistaken belief that my purpose was recognition, I would build one little empire after another only to find each wanting. Which is why my web site has grown so sophisticated, yet I find no fulfillment in it at all.
Where did my efforts in cyberspace begin? (We've cleverly shifted from "what" to "where" now. Don't worry, we'll get back to what in a bit...) Now keep in mind I'm not talking about "when" here. I don't want to discuss the date it all started, I want to discuss the situation - hence, "where". I had played around with a few gender bulletin boards way back when, in the days of 300 baud modems. In fact, that's why I got a modem in the first place - so I could check out gender pages. I think I put it on a Christmas or birthday list, and Mary, quite innocently, got it for me as a gift, thinking I wanted it just because her husband felt like playing in this new high-tech world ("men, they're all just big boys").
You know, as a side thought, that really brings tears to my eyes. She believed in me. She trusted me with her heart and her future. She let me have everything I wanted, and I went off and ripped it all out from under her. God, I hate it when somebody innocently helps someone else who has ulterior motives. I just plain hate ulterior motives.
Okay, so I checked out a few boards. Once I knew what was going on protocol-wise, I started posting. Hey, I'm a writer after all. Now, that's WHERE it began. And I thought WHAT was that I could do some good for some people, contribute information and understanding, make a difference. That's what I thought, but it wasn't my real purpose. My real purpose wasn't even recognition (though I thought that was part of it at the time). No, my real purpose was to receive commiseration.
All I've ever wanted out of this was for others to know how I felt and to empathize. And that sounds so off the mark for me, because any time someone writes me via email and tells me how much the feel for me, it makes me jump back as if I'd suffered an electric shock. I just want to wail and moan, to complain if you will, about the the injustice, the unfairness, and the pain. Why? Well, I'm getting to that....
I asked myself that same question: why? Why do I do this? Why do I bare my soul to the world for the purpose of sympathy that revolts me? Because I'm angry, that's why.
I am so mad deep inside... I HATE, and I hate BIG!!! I feel cheated that I'm not rich. Cheated that I haven't led a happy life. Cheated that others have not given me everything they had. How DARE they - I deserve it!
And there is the real truth of the matter. I'm a spoiled, little, brat. I want everything and when I can't have it, I throw a temper tantrum. Out of fear, I avoided my real desire to rip things apart and to tear it all down. Instead of turning it outward and at least releasing my selfish fits, I turned it inward and became a passive/aggressive like my mother before me and her mother before her. And her father for that matter, and my step-father as well. A whole clan of passive-agressives feeding on each other. I've almost certainly trained my children to be the same way. Hey, it's a family tradition, handed down through the generations.
I want everyone to like me. I want more money than I can spend. I want everything to go my way. I want to do whatever I want. I want... I want... I want....
All this altruistic stuff is just a bloody smoke-screen. Oh, sure, I'd love to see people happier and better off - just as long as it's not at my expense! And did you ever wonder why I ended up hating every person I've ever worked for, and feeling they had figuratively raped me? Because I was entitled to everything, and they didn't give it to me. Spoiled, little brat!
So, here's the layout of this scheme:
I created the Transgender Community Forum on AOL to glorify myself so people would send gifts. But they didn't send gifts. They just respected me and wanted to be my friends. Well, I couldn't have cared less. Give me things! That's what I wanted! And when they didn't, I began to realize what a chore it was to run the whole thing so I quit. I was never thinking about them. I was just showing off and waiting for the goodies.
What a mistake! If I wanted stuff, I shouldn't have been trying to be elevated to god-hood. What a waste of time! I would have done better to charge for the honor of my presence and blessing of my nod. And when all I got was friendship, respect, and even a degree of awe, I walked out. Deny ME my right to absolute power, will you? Ask something in return??!!?? The hell with you, I'm outta here!
And the story software. I wanted money, power, glory. And you know, when I did get it, I just loved flaunting it in other's faces. Oh, nothing overt, mind you. I always put it under the guise of some altruistic scheme so that no one dares question my motives. I used to make a point of dropping a little hint here and there at Screenplay about how well off I was with my royalties - I'm lucky and you're not! Chris even called me aside for a meeting one time to tell me to stop it. That's why I've hated him in the past. He won't accept that I am more important than he is, and therefore entitled to first choice of everything.
That's why I got so mad about Chris doing a series of the story theory & software classes on his own, or going out to a prestigious speaking engagement without me, or Steve doing all the interviews with the press. (Now, you see how I do it? I just did it! In talking about how selfish I am, I have worded it in such a way that I've created a propaganda statement. Out of context, Chris doing classes and a speaking engagement without me, and Steve doing the press bit looks like THEY are being the selfish ones. So while the intellectual part of my little spiel here keeps the mind busy with the notion that I am the selfish one, the emotional undercurrent of the whole piece clarifies it to read that Chris and Steve are really the culprits.
Oh, if I had this all figured out and then employed it, that would truly be genius, but I cannot take credit for it. I've been doing it for so long that it happens quite by itself without any conscious effort from me. See, I did it again! "I'm awful for doing this, but it's not my fault because it happens by itself, which makes me guiltless, and also goes to show just how good I really am". You catching on?
Now, there's not hope for me in this entry, because I've flashed so many pretty feathers and been so damned open about my shortcomings, AND done it in such an entertaining way that no matter how hard you try, you won't be able to think of me as a jerk. Disagree? Hey, just look at Howard Stern! He does exactly the same thing.
Well, that's what I have to deal with now. I have no idea if my gender drive was a real one, or an outgrowth of wanting it all. I have no idea if underneath it all I really care for others or not. I haven't a clue as to whether I will be able to shed this egocentric, egotistic, selfishness, or even if I really want to. But, surely that exploration is the stuff of another compelling book, so I have little doubt you'll be reading all about it.
A FEW MINUTES LATER...
Hey, I'd turned off the computer and everything when a few other pesky thoughts made me power it all up again. Before I totally condemn myself here, it occurred to me that I've been trashing my own motivations as if everyone else is sterling. I think perhaps it may be a good idea to be a little more objective about the whole thing. Oh, sure, I'm selfish, but what about everybody else?
You know, the first thing that popped into my mind was the time Chris asked for half of my royalty from the story software. That one STILL irks me. And you know, no matter how I try to justify it on his behalf, it's still a damned selfish thing to have done! Oh sure, I can see all kinds of "reasons" why he might have felt justified in asking, but the bottom line is that he wouldn't have driven that kind of a wedge between us if it hadn't been powered by one incredible thrust of selfishness.
And I look back over my relationship with Chris of late. I've stopped by to see his puppies and I brought them treats and toys. I've called him up just to share a happy thought. When he asked me to lunch to see if it was okay with me if he taught a class alone, I graciously approved (even though my insides were turning to jelly). When he took that speaking engagement away from me, I accepted it with mannerly resignation.
You know, I may be a spoiled brat, but Chris is no saint either! And let's look at Steve. Sure, when the BBC came to do an interview with him, I strutted my stuff and took it away for myself! They decided to interview me instead, and he accepted for the good of the Product. Chris is more like me, trying to get more for himself, but I've never seen Steve INTENTIONALLY do anything to hurt anyone. UNINTENTIONALLY, however, he steps on them all the time.
For example, when he keep pressuring me to give up half the royalty to Chris, that had no real impact on what would be best for Steve. He stood little or nothing to gain. Yet he was so completely insensitive to my feelings about the issue that he drove me from the company as much as Chris did. Oh, and I was driven out to be sure. Perhaps they didn't intend me to react that strongly, but Chris wanted me out of management, and Steve had no sensitivity to my real needs. (And I'm not talking about selfish needs here, but just me content with the agreement Chris and I had, which was the source of my motivation for putting in all the hard work for six years, and Steve trying to leverage me to give half of it away!)
I never felt a lot of kindness from Steve. No animosity, but no kindness either. Chris shows kindness, when he wants to. He'll bring in donuts to the office every once and a while, or pick up a present he thinks you'll like. But he always uses it to his advantage. I can honestly and truly say that I've never seen Chris do anything for anyone if he didn't expect to benefit in some way himself.
Now that's where he and I differ. There are uncountable times I have done things for others just because I wanted to see them happy. That was my only reward. But, of course, if it didn't make them happy, then I got mad at them because they wasted my precious resources without giving me my reward! So, is that selfish? Yeah, I guess it is. But, there are also those times that I do things hoping they will make others happy, but not needing reaction nor getting irritated if I don't get it.
And Fred asking me to take less than my going rate, work longer hours, and withholding payment, that really WAS selfish. And Larry working me so hard, taking advantage of my lack of money and threatening to starve my family ("I'll have all of Mary's wages tied up in litigation, and your kids won't have enough to eat!") He actually said that! THAT was selfish.
Larry was more selfish that Fred. And Fred was more selfish than Chris. But I am too close to Chris to see which of us is more selfish, or if we are about on a par.
And what of the rest of the world? How do they stack up? End to end, that's how! At one end are the cold hearted, and at the other end the bleeding hearts. And between the two are the rest of us, feeling varying degrees of guilt at wanting more than our fair share, or varying degrees of egotism at shunning our fair share for the benefit of others. I wonder if there is really any one of us who self-lessly makes a sacrifice without thinking, "Damn, I'm good!" Or perhaps, that is part of what makes us human. Perhaps the species can't exist without either the drive to possess or the drive relinquish. Perhaps the species needs them both.
Now the upside to all of this is that any given individual can move along that scale toward the selfish or altruistic extreme. And the downside is that most of us don't stop to think about it, and may have burrowed into a life situation that requires a response from us which is inappropriate to our true place on in the spectrum.
"External justification" we call it in Mental Relativity. It means a situation in which a particular motivation would not come from inside in a neutral environment, but in the context of a biased environment, an organism will respond to the external pressure and act in a way that goes against internal desires, creating internal inequity. Of course, the internal person can't sustain total subjugation to external pressure, so we either strike a balance, cheating the needs of both inside and outside to some degree, or vacillate between the two at a particular frequency with a particular amplitude toward the needs of one vs. the other. What complex wave forms are created when a person continues to grow while a situation continues to change!
You want happiness? Be yourself in a situation that supports everything you do and all the experiences you want to have, AND allows you to change, AND adapts to the changed you to support you once again. Can't get that at the corner drug store? Then accept the fact you won't be happy all the time. Now, what to do about it? Get as much happiness as you can! Which means the killer must kill, the rapist must rape, the humanitarian must humanitary. But, there can be a price to pay in the long run for the immediate giving over of oneself to one's desires. There is not reality in the future - it is not here and cannot be predicted with certainty. Yet anticipations and expectations often come close to the mark. And other times are far from it.
How to balance immediate desires against long term needs? Whadaya think you're readin' here? The Answer, or sumpin'?
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