After Birth

Book One: Into the World

From Journeys and Transitions

by Melanie

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Chapter 106

A Fantasy Past for the Animated Corpse
~or~
The Double Bugaboo

December 13, 2005

Today we drove to South Lake Tahoe to have a buffet and do a little gambling at Caesar’s Palace casino.  Earlier on this fine Tuesday, Teresa and I were both nose to grindstone, finally getting down to business after all the surgeries and recuperations.

Made a lot of progress on plugging cash leaks and updating paperwork.  But after a while, being as how we have been cooped up here for a couple of months now, Teresa suggested we do something a bit different and drive into Tahoe for the afternoon.

The Nevada side is less than an hour from our home in the Sierras, so it isn’t too much of a jaunt to make that trip whenever we like.  That is one of the reasons we chose to live where we have for the last three and a half months – we’re almost equidistant from all of our favorite places: Tahoe, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Yosemite.  So, it was into the shower, throw on the clothes and hit the road for a little R & R.

We arrived at Caesar’s about 3:30 after a pleasant trip through the snow-capped peaks and dense pine forests.  One of Teresa’s motivations for making this trip was that the last time we came, it was to see a potential surgeon, and the trip back turned toward FFS, triggered the entire angstful journey I’ve documented in this diary, and led to the notion to sell our house to finance the FFS.  She wanted to return to the scene of the crime to replace any negative vibes associated with that earlier expedition with positive new ones.

And what a positive experience we had!  From the moment we set foot in the door it was a different mood than we have ever enjoyed before.  Used to be that in all public places, I was hiding my insecurities and simultaneously working to minimize Teresa’s.  But this time, she was secure with her new face, I was secure with my new look, and so we had no discordant background noise playing in our heads to undermine a full appreciation of life as it unfolded.  What a joy to just chat and walk and window shop, chattering away, exploring all the lights and sounds and interesting people!  Free at last!

Our first stop was to be the buffet, which is a durn fine one, but we had arrived about fifteen minutes before it opened for dinner, so it was off to the slots  until the feast was served.

Usually, I do pretty well at the bandits, but today I couldn’t hit even a small jackpot to save my life.  Teresa, on the other hand, kept hitting big on the quarter slots with lots of little payoffs, then $5, $18.75, and later one for $40!  In all, she made enough to pay for the food, the gas, and still have a bunch left over for the general till.

We returned to the buffet and dived right in.  Used to be, I’d eat like a hog.  I grew up in a lower middle-class family where we couldn’t often afford really fine food.  So, whenever the opportunity presented itself to partake of such a spread, we’d sink our faces into the trough and not come up for air.

Now, having spent almost a decade with Teresa, who springs from a more genteel upbringing, I’ve taken a more cultured approach, and don’t mind at all paying for an all-you-can-eat buffet and modestly selecting only what I really want at the moment.  She’s a darn good influence on me, that girl!

After the meal, we briefly went back to the slots, Teresa hit some more jackpots, and then we repaired to the car and returned home through the rugged forest in the light of the full moon.

Along the way, we spoke again of how wonderful it felt to be normal, finally.  But there was also the sense of loss at not having had experiences we might have enjoyed as girls and young women.  And also we compared notes on how we were each filling those holes and reworking what remained to fashion a replacement memory my in vogue to current incarnations.

It’s not like pretending or re-writing your past.  It is more like daydreaming: you know it is a fantasy, but you suspend your disbelief temporarily to believe, just for a short span, the reality of it.  And as with a daydream, it is not so much about believing it as it is about living it.

When a kid sits in a cardboard box and imagines he is the pilot of a star fighter or a girl pretends she is the princess, they imagine it as if it were actually happening that way.  It is not that they don’t see reality – it is that reality fades and they perceive the fantasy more clearly while they participate in the “make believe” world.

When you return to the actual world, you are under no illusion that this role playing truly happened.  But emotionally, you are almost as satisfied – maybe even more satisfied – than if it had, for things seldom go as well in the real world as they do in a fantasy in which you control all the variables.  It goes exactly how you would wish it would go.

So it is the combination of our actual and fantastical experiences that combine into our ultimate sense of our histories.  And I suppose those who grow out of daydreaming cannot help but ultimately become mundane.

This is mind, is it not a noble occupation of the mind, for people such as ourselves, to become fresh again by dreaming up a fantasy past that supplements and may even eclipse the actual one?

Teresa suggested that the truly real memories we have are not as poignant as those of adults non-troubled by gender considerations.  She offered that since we were not “allowed” by life to express our true selves, we had to engage in  key moments as automatons, mindless creatures portraying our pseudo personalities and never really connecting to the events that transpired.  She called this poor boob the “animated corpse” – an organic creature that was not really alive, but acted as if it were.

And so, to finally have a history worth remembering, we need to provide a fantasy past for the animated corpse.  And in so doing, we finally develop an emotional memory as full and rich and honest as anyone, with the simple exception that it never really happened.

Once we returned home, the conversation turned to whether or not one felt in younger years as a “woman trapped in a man’s body.”  I suggested that any real woman wouldn’t have thought of herself that way – she would just have thought of herself as “me” but not related to either the boys or girls.

But Teresa did not agree.  She related that she had indeed felt trapped in a man’s body since her early childhood.  And thus began a discussion on why she would feel that way and why I would not.

It boiled down to how social our families had been.  Teresa came from a well-off family that visited and was visited.  She also had an older sister.  And so, she developed social skills that allowed her to find at least a few interesting things about people, and to know how to focus on some of their areas without either becoming bored or stealing the show.

I, on the other hand, had grown up in a tight little family that seldom dealt with new people outside our little group.  It was just me, my parents, my grandparents, and the occasional aunt and uncle.  That was all, and it remained that way all my childhood.  And though I have half-brothers and half-sisters, I did not meet them until I was sixteen, and grew up as an only child.

Spending most of my early life alone, I never developed social skills.  And, hobbled by this deficit, I didn’t make friends in school.  I literally talked to no other kids at all.  I just went to class, kept to myself, and went home.

Before I have spoken about how in kindergarten, others shied away from me because I had a girl’s personality coming out of a boy’s body – the energy was wrong.  But this happened to Teresa too.  So how is it that she felt like one of the girl’s inside, but I just felt different than both boys and girls?

A big part of the reason has to do with my not having social skills to begin with.  I spent all my time playing alone.  So, I developed a very introspective personality – not an introvert, but introspective.  And, being blessed with a sharp mind, I naturally exercised that as much as my emotions in daydreaming and make-believe.

I would often wonder, even at age 4 or 5 about such things as, if nothing existed, would it be black because there was no light, or gray because there would be neither light nor dark?  I thought about that for days – not because I wanted to find the answer, but because I wanted to understand why it seemed there was no correct answer.

Well a kid who developed a mind like that is certainly going to be logical like a boy.  So I should have been able to relate to the boys.  But, my logic wasn’t applied to what boys try to figure out.  I wasn’t interested in cars or how airplanes worked.  I wanted to understand how emotions worked, how the mind worked – the same subject matter in which girls are interested.  But while girls explore these topics with their feelings, I explored them with my mind.

And so, you end up with a kid with no social skills who uses logic like a boy to explore subject matter only a girl would care about.  Now you tell me, is it any wonder that I would find girls all feelings with little thought, and boys to be all thought with little in the way of feelings?

Therefore, rather than feeling that I fit in with either group, I felt like I was just the odd child out, neither like the boys or the girls, which redoubled my insecurities of not having social skills and resulted in a kid who kept to a solitary life and never felt like a woman trapped in a man’s body.

In contrast, Teresa with her social skills, looked at logic logically, and at passion passionately.  So, she could speak with the other boy using her mind, and relate to the other girls with her heart.  But I, who looked logically at my passions, couldn’t relate to either.

That mystery solved, we laid the issue to rest, with me more certain than ever that as soon as this wonderful new lip heals, I should get involved in some of the volunteer organizations around town and develop some social skills so that I can finally leave behind the double bugaboo of growing up transgendered and over-intellectualized, and gain the social fulfillment of making new friends and sharing a portion of life with them.

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