After Life

Book Two: Purgatory

From Journeys and Transitions

by Melanie

Chapter 96

You Are What You Ain't

December 1, 2005

Clock’s a’tickin’: in one hundred and twenty hours surgery will be over, I’ll be awake, and on my way home.

No major blow-ups or upheavals to report.  More, a kind of general malaise while it rains incessantly.  Normally, I like the rain – that’s one big reason I wanted to move up here to the Sierras.  But just now, at just this particular time, I unusually find it a bit depressing.

At least that was true until I started writing about it.  Now I find that I’m feeling more comforted by it, as is typically the case with me and rain.

As I’m writing, I’m thickening up some fresh turkey gravy.  There’s never enough turkey at Thanksgiving, and since Teresa and I couldn’t take home any leftovers, it was a bit in and out-ish.

So, the other day I bought a sixteen pound bird, thawed it for a few days and then roasted it up last night.  (If you don’t have a turkey recipe, try this:  Cover the bird with a tent of aluminum foil – the non-stick kind – so that the steam will be caught, self baste as it drips, and fall back into the pan to make gravy later.  Put it on at just 250 degrees, 45 minutes per pound of bird.  During the last 90 minutes, remove the tent and start basting every 10 to 15 minutes.  You’ll end up with the juiciest, most flavorful bird, and the most juice for gravy you’ve ever encountered!)

Now we have a plate full of really tasty turkey meat, and tonight I’m going to have a second Thanksgiving dinner, just for the two of us, complete with all the trimmings.

This morning, while fooling around in bed, I got a glimpse of how I’ll feel once the lip is done.  You know, I’ve talked about the reasons and ramifications endlessly, while I’ve chased my mental tail around here, trying to get a grip.  But some things, I keep coming back to, and after documenting them all, a few really pop up to the top.

So while laying in bed this morning, Teresa spoons up behind me and starts touching all the good parts – but not like usual, all squeezy and grabby.  Rather, she gently ran her fingers across me, barely touching, and made it more of a skin sensation than a feeding frenzy.  (No aspersions on Teresa here, we sort of fell into a mutual grab-fest at times in our relationship, and though we have been slipping away from that lately, today’s little session was the most feminine experience in which I’ve ever participated.

But getting back to that glimpse I mentioned, what happened was that I imagined myself with my new feminine upper lip and, in that context, focused on the sensations of touch.  I was startled to find that all the other parts of me felt more female, more real, when I imagined myself as already having a truly female face.

And then my mind wandered to recent time in which I have encountered both men and women in the real world, while shopping or running errands.  And I considered how I would feel when that lip is permanently made female in shape.  The images that came to mind were both visual and emotional.  I realized that I felt so complete, so genuine, so different from the men and similar to the women – feelings I had always expected to get from SRS, the boobs, the nose, but hadn’t.  Or more precisely, feelings I thought I had experienced, but really hadn’t – not like this.

And the true essence of the feeling trek bubbled up inside me, harkening back to my pale words of earlier entries: making the commitment to permanently alter my appearance so that it is so completely female that there is no going back, no return, no plan B, no bail out clause, no recourse but to live the rest of my life as a female.

Yeah, all that intellectual crap.

But it really isn’t the commitment to do it; it is the state you find yourself in once it is done.  Teresa, for example, actually believed that her reason for having FFS was so that she could go out in public without being read.  Then it became with the fear of being read.  Next she was sure she was doing it to not be read, not fear being read, and to be pretty.  (Sort of like that Monty Python routine, the Spanish Inquisition: “We have three weapons….”)

Every week that passed, other motivations were layered on like riders on a bill in congress.  And after FFS, it got even worse: “I needed to do this to fully express myself – no wait, to show the inner me – no, that’s not it…  to, uh, to discover the fullness of myself.  NO!  To grow into the woman I should have been – nyet! – to become a real woman – to change my very fucking nature and turn into a girl, doggammit!* (a swear word for dyslexics).

And so it is with me.  All those same reasons and more.  And since I’ve watched her go through every bloody stage of this, I’m actually jumping ahead to the post-surgical motivational revisionism already!

Near as I can figure, you can’t figure it.  This is an emotional choice, not a logical one.  And any attempt to catalog the drives behind it will surely come up with a hefty list, and just as surely fail to paint an accurate picture.  The Tao that can be spoken is not the Eternal Tao).

(I keep using that quote about the Tao in my writings, in the hope of someday proving by endless repetition that you one can, indeed, step into the same river twice, whether there’s a mountain or not.  Perhaps the key is to actually name a river, “Twice,” so it would become feasible by anyone’s definition.)

So back to the issue that used to be at hand, it is the state after the surgery that holds the emotional key.  I suppose everyone has their own definition of what would make them feel that they had so fully crossed over to the female side that they could never pull-off a return engagement on the male.

For Teresa, I think it was her forehead, even more than her jaw.  Sure, she complained about that ol’ honkin’ jaw, but it was the extended forehead and the overhanging brow in which her sense of self lay hiding.

When I wrote my diary entry of years ago about losing my mustache to electrolysis, and how my psyche had to run for cover and find itself a new home, well turns out it didn’t.  It just stayed in the neighborhood.

I guess I’ve always had an oral fixation – everything from talking to much to being addicted to food, to associating food with love, to singing, teaching, doing cartoon voices, creating a CD on developing a female voice – even back in my early teens when I had my wisdom teeth out.

Let me tell you about that one.  I was put under a local, and they removed the two upper wisdom teeth, then had to saw through the bone to remove the two lower impacted ones.  I came out feeling great!  Thought I was right as rain.  I was, in reality, woosie (“Woosie, you got some ‘splainin’ to do….”) and completely unclear of mind.  If not for my mother and my best friend Bill, I surely would have toppled into a heap.  But they got me bundled into the car and back home.

Since I had no pain due to the surgical pain killers that had been administered, I didn’t take my meds when I got home.  Rather, I waiting until the pain came.  But it happened so fast, by the time I knew I needed it, I couldn’t open my jaws wide enough to slip a pill in sideways.

So, I cried.  I sobbed and sobbed, not because it hurt, but because they had hurt my mouth – I felt violated, raped, betrayed (because my mom let them do this to me!)  Eventually, of course, I did manage to get a pulverized pill in my lips and let the powder dissolve until the pain was manageable.  But, it was just another clear sign that my sense of self is anchored in my mouth.

No surprise then, that of all the procedures I might fixate on with which to assuage my insecurities, one involving the mouth was chosen.  Now, is it really the most effective thing I could do to beat back the readability issues of advancing age?  How am I supposed to tell?!  I’m too close to the issue.

But is it the one that is the most meaningful to me personally?  You betcha!  And will it leave me feeling like I can’t go back, that I have totally become, that I am trapped on this side (bad word, “trapped” – more like “so solidly set in the physical aspects of being female that I must redefine the label I use for myself so that I no longer feel illegitimate or not entitled, but rather feel as ‘existent’ as a woman as any other, and also to the exclusion of any connection or similarity, expressed or implied, with the male of the species.”)  Yeah, more like that.

The legitimizing factor will be different for everyone.  But it will have something to do with the face – something that will make you, a unique individual, feel that when people look at you they think, “What a pretty woman,” or “Look at that woman,”  or “That woman is a real bitch.”

That’s the real issue – the be able to so wholly redefine oneself so that you can’t go back to who you used to think you were, even in your own head.

AH!  Finally I hit upon it…  It is not in some objective sense that you wish to know you have permanently crossed the line from male to female.  It is in the subjective sense of self.  And it isn’t that you just want to look at yourself in the mirror, not see the man, and see nothing but the woman.  No, it requires knowing that you have changed some aspect of yourself that is so central to how you personally define your gender identity that you absolutely and unquestionably know you will never be able to think of yourself as a man, ever again, as along as you live.  That whenever you see yourself in the mirror, YOU will see yourself as a woman, and you can’t find a mental way back to seeing or feeling about yourself as a man ever again, no matter how you might try.

One more try, for clarity…

Can you, in your mind, think of yourself as a man or even a transsexual?  Certainly, if you have transitioned, you can probably find at least some times you think of yourself as a woman.  That’s kind of one of the first steps.

Later steps include learning to stop thinking of yourself as man, and then to stop thinking of yourself as a transsexual.  But could you, if you wanted to?  Could you frame a state of mind where you felt like a transsexual again, even if you hadn’t in years?

If you can, then you haven’t transformed.  You’re still just playing a role – being a certain way, not really having become that way.  You are deep under cover, gone stealth, left no forwarding address.  But have you lost the way back to that sense of self?  Or are you simply refusing to look there, like pretending not to see a child who is playing hide and seek?

The FFS phenomenon is partly about being made unreadable to others, but the emotional component is to burn the bridge that lets you ever again think of yourself as anything but a woman.

I had thought I had done that a decade ago.  But the angst I still felt, the fear of being read, the inability to make close female friends, all of these belied my completion.  Still, I did not see it.  I thought I was just aging into a mannish look and not good at making friends.

And when Teresa showed me the fullness of my female soul at Cocoon House, I thought that was the end.  I thought I now had completely embraced the totality of my being, and become one with my female essence.

But if I had, could I ever have seen the man in the mirror?  No.  I might have seen myself as “mannish” but never as a man.  I would not have seen myself as a transsexual, but simply as an unpretty woman.  The fact that I could see both manners of man and mannishness should have told me that I had not truly reached my goal – to become a woman.

Yet I realized I was far more feminine of heart and comportment that most women I’ve encountered.  I must be, or why would I go to such lengths to change my body, lifestyle, and situation.

Nonetheless, to quote the Cowardly Lion, “What have they got that I haven’t got?”  And rather than the answer being “Courage,” the response to my inquiry would have been “Self Image.”

No REAL woman thinks of herself as a man.  So no matter how good I look, how feminine my manner, how complete my female soul, I still have not transformed until I cut the ties one and for all, the apron strings, the trail of bread crumbs, the lines of communication back to being able to think of myself as anything other than a woman.

For most of us that requires a physical crutch, a permanent physical change that remakes the seat of the psyche so that it views itself as something different.  For as Psyche goes, so goes the mind.

And that, dear children, is why this particular surgery, for me, has seemed so right since I first considered it in a pique of inspiration.  And that, also, is why I must go under the knife in 115 hours, and why any other surgeries, no matter how much they might change my real or perceived femininity, are superfluous to the completion and culmination of my life long desire to actually become.

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