Gender

I never really liked the street definitions of gender. I never wanted to be a tomboy, but I have masculine traits. I sometimes wish I were born male. I’ve always felt that way. I’m not a lesbian. How you would prefer to identify and which you’re attracted to are two different things.

In fact, I am not attracted to the female form. Could be why I’ve always been so modest. I have a hard time believing that others could find me attractive, even when I’m in good shape.

At some point l stopped suggesting that I be Batman or Superman in games we kids played. I hid it. I’m not transgender, I would not define myself that way, but it leans that way. It is like saying I am a gay man in a woman’s body, but it’s more like a tendency. I don’t want an operation, even if I had unlimited funds. I would say I often think I would have wanted to be born male, the real thing. But I am in many ways, a typical girl and that must come from my genetics. But in other ways I am untypical. I sometimes get confused for male when on the phone with customer service agents of my credit card company etc. And it pisses me off, just because I’m already quite possibly pissed off when I call them.

“I’m not a sir!”

“I’m very sorry ma’am.”

“Does Rye sound like a boy’s name?” (actually with Rye you probably can’t tell, but, Rye isn’t my real name).

I’ve wanted to be a guy anyway. But when I was very young I was sometimes teased because I looked or acted like a boy, and so I’m still a little sensitive about it. Now it’s not that I don’t want to be masculine, it’s that I don’t like the way the suggestion had made me hide a part of who I am. And now I’m trying to coax him back out. The guy I have treated badly, suppressing like there is something wrong with him.

So here’s the difference between me and someone who wants to have surgery. I presume that he would probably feel like a guy, stuck in the wrong body, so when he gets himself corrected, he can believe in it and feel normal. I don’t feel like I am a guy, just that I’d probably prefer it if I were. So it would still feel fake to me. And I wouldn’t be able to pull it off, and would end up clouding the whole authenticity thing. I would be neither. So in other words, nothing would change. Rather, I would prefer to be free to embrace my masculine side, and to admit that I have one. I can live with my body as it is, if I can just be honest. I honestly think it isn’t about the physical. Because I’m both, we’re all both. I have masculine traits for sure. But genetically, it’s not just my body that’s female. It’s my brain too. I have personality traits that are more typical of girls and if I were suddenly male, I would have feminine traits. Now,if I could switch back and forth, that would be the super power I would want, even over indestructibility and super strength. Selfish, I know.

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I Forget

I don’t want to pass away into the night without ever even realizing what I was doing here. I want to write autobiography and make sense of my life. I feel good when I remember something, anything. I don’t know why that makes me feel good. But I get depressed when I can’t seem to remember who I used to be and am not anymore.

I went to a college reunion recently. I didn’t graduate (I transferred), but I still went to the reunion. There was someone there who remembered me, and I had no idea who she was. She told me that she lived across the hall from me in the same dorm my second to last semester. Then half-way through dinner, she started seeming familiar, and then I suddenly remembered what her hair was like then and even some conversations we had and common interests.

I imagine there are other things I could remember that must define, to some degree, who I have become.

What I remember more easily, seems to be whatever made me angry.

Things that I enjoyed, but no longer enjoy, ended up being irrelevant and are lost to me. I can’t even help my son with his math homework.

“Did you ever take calculus, mom?” he asks.

“I was a math major.”

I took Calculus in high school, then again in college, then Calc II, and Calc III after I declared it as a major, but that was with a teacher who was probably the worst teacher I ever had in any subject. I still did well in it. I taught it to myself. But I didn’t do well in all of my other math courses that semester. The good teachers left (there were only two), just as I declared my major, though I don’t think I was the reason. Honestly,they liked me. And they were encouraging in their enthusiasm for teaching the subject. After one semester as a Math major I also left, feeling like I had no other choice, and ended up studying accounting. I was good at math, but I don’t remember any of it. I had a co-worker who went to his high school reunion and told someone he was an accountant now and that person said, “and you weren’t even good at math.” That’s because accounting isn’t math.

So this is all that I remember. I remember this girl, who studied math, because she was good at it, and may have even enjoyed it. It seems like she was not me, and wasted time on things that became irrelevant. Of course she was only a math major because she had given up, feeling discouraged, being a lit major. False starts were my specialty. I don’t even know who I’m angry at for that, but I am.

Pizza and Beer

I once got busted outside a pizza place for drinking beer. My sister was under age, so I was even less, 15 at the most, but I’m thinking 13 is more likely, maybe even 12. Me and my sister and a friend of ours, Maddy were picking up pizza for the family. Maddy was my age, actually a bit younger and had been one of my first friends, like at the age of 3, but by this time had become a better friend to my older sister, and they would let me hang with them. We were all sharing a quart of some cheap beer, pretty sure it was Ballantine Ale, while waiting for a pizza from Gino’s, our favorite of the many typical places back then that had great NY pizza. This was their idea, I didn’t even really care for the beer, but they were drinking it in a paper bag, and leaving it on the sidewalk outside, and we would take turns going out there and taking a sip. So of course I was the one that was out there when the police came up and asked, “What’s in the bag?”

“I’m just, it’s just a little bit of, um…”

“what’s in the bag?”

“It’s beer.”

They pulled us all out there and gave us a lecture.  I’ve always wondered if because it was a big bottle in a paper bag, they might have thought it was something stronger. They threatened to tell our parents, I’m pretty sure. or to “take us in” or some such thing, but back then police weren’t really up for all of that work. They were lazy, corrupt and so much more laid back. I miss that.

After they left, I was still holding the bag and Maddy asked me if she could have some. She was up for getting right back to drinking it.

“They made me pour it in the street,” I said.

Things That Don’t Exist Anymore

When I traveled cross country in 1985 with my best friend, Erin, we both left boyfriends behind. I left mine after dating only three weeks. I had fooled around with him, somewhat awkwardly. Then he went to Greece to spend the summer with his Dad. And I was on this six week trip. I told him that I didn’t know what three weeks meant for such a long break. I told him I understood if we just needed to see what the deal was when we got back. I was ok with that, but he promised me that he was interested in continuing this and I got all excited by that. We arranged that I would send him letters from the road, and he would respond to my Uncle’s house in CA, where we were planning on stopping later in the trip. So I did. I wrote, everyday. I assumed he was writing back. And then when I got to my Uncle’s there was one letter. It came from Egypt, where he stopped on his layover, on the way there.

I think these summers were always kind of wild for him. I take it he didn’t want to miss out and got into a relationship. And then maybe he wanted to believe that he had broken up with me already, so it wouldn’t be cheating, and so he didn’t write, and when we got back, it seemed like he was embarrassed to talk to me. When I called over after he had returned, his little brother answered the phone and she said to him, “it’s her.” We met up, and he played dumb about promises we had made. I thought my lack of experience disappointed him before we even left. That’s not what he told me explicitly, but I pieced that theory together from the fact the he played dumb about promises we made to pick this up again and other things he said.

It’s not like I was in love with him. Well, kind of but I didn’t have to be.

I wish I knew what I wrote him. That could be a record of the trip. There could be things I don’t even remember in those words. I could find him and ask him if he kept them, and if I can have copies. I’ve kept what people wrote me. I should have the letter he wrote me from his layover in Egypt, somewhere. I have a box of letters. Sometimes I read through them. I used to hand write people letters (I’m old enough) and if the handwriting was sloppy, or the first draft had corrections, I would copy it over and then I’d keep the original. So that way I had a copy of some of my correspondence too. But I don’t know where that is. I have letters and cards I’ve gotten from others, but I don’t recall finding any letters written by me. I sometimes wonder whether my husband ever found stuff like that and decided to throw some out.  He’s not the kind of person to do that. In fact, he hasn’t really expressed an interest in any of my stuff, or anything I write. I don’t think he would bother. It’s just strange that things I used to keep don’t seem to exist anymore.

Actress

I loved watching TV.  My mind was engaged. And it inspired me to dream. I would aspire to the careers people had on TV, magicians, paramedics, police officers, cowgirls, cruise directors, whatever, until I realized I wanted to be all of those things, one at a time. I was an introvert, but I wanted it badly enough I let my dad sign me up for acting classes. And it wasn’t because I was a ham, or liked showing off, or being in the spotlight.  I did not!  it was that I wanted to be someone else. I liked myself during that time, and I believe even now, that I would like myself more today, if I had kept pretending that I was someone else.

The first year I acted, I was in two plays, and it was the focus of my existence. It is the only time in my life that I can remember wanting only one thing. The effects of acting class, trust exercises, relaxation exercises, and role playing with other people bled over into my real life, and I became wilder, laughed harder, cut up, and was way more outgoing. I had more friends. I had more fun.

Whether or not I was to act I wanted to be that person. I should have stuck with it for that reason alone.  But I became interested in music. And I liked to write. I thought maybe I’d want to be a stand up comedian. And I also considered whether I should commit to public service, you know, to make the world a better place. Not be so selfish. Something like my mom did, working for non-profit. II had to decide what to focus on in high school. By the 10th grade I had a choice between focusing on music or acting. Can’t be good at both, can you? Let’s be truthful, cause I keep coming back to this, and I know that no one can know for sure, so I should say “probably,” but being true to what I know is true, and believe in my heart, I might as well admit that I chose wrong.

Now, that’s not to say if I could go back in time, I would fix it. No. I want too much of what I have now, and everything would be different.  That doesn’t mean that at the time, given who I was and what I wanted, that it wasn’t a mistake.  It’s important to understand that.  Because my life still goes forward, and making the best choices now depend on how well you know who you want to be.  Who you always wanted to be.

I wasn’t born last night, but I was born at night.

Whatever that means.  What I mean to say by that is that I’m old, but I’m not too old.  Not yet.  I ain’t taking an acting class though.  I feel too removed from that.  Maybe I should, I don’t know.  But I don’t think I can.  Let’s start with understanding shall we?  Can’t run before walking.

That first year I was in two plays.  The next year I did another.  Then I took a year off, because I thought I had made a different decision.  Then I came back to it in my senior year of high school, because I was already wondering if I had made a mistake.  But it was hard for me to enjoy it as much because I wasn’t as fully committed.  Consequently I wasn’t as good. And then I felt like I had lost something. I became so conscious of what I was doing.  I wasn’t living a role anymore, I wasn’t being someone else,  instead I was looking at my scene partner, and wondering why HE seemed so aware of the stage.  I felt like it was a drag that I had to rely on him, when he wasn’t in it for the same reasons as I was.  I thought I would prefer a solitary exercise, like writing.  And listening to music, even if playing it had the same pitfalls as acting did.

I remember one day.  We were in the classroom where we took acting class, and where we rehearsed our scenes.  It was on the 2nd floor of a cultural center of sorts, in NYC.  There were  a lot of community activities that took place there. There was a theatre too, that actually had an off broadway company in it but we also got to use that theatre when we performed. In our rehearsal room, there were big windows that would remain open and that let in a lot of light. Outside the windows was a park, and the breeze smelled of the outside. It was a great place to be.

But now, I was literally having trouble saying my lines, like I had turned mute. I refused to say them.  I just couldn’t lie and I couldn’t believe it.  Jerry, our acting teacher, was frustrated, had to be.  He tried an exercise to just get me screaming. Screaming the lines. Angry.  At the top of my lungs  It helped. He was great, and I felt like we had had so much in common.  We were both Virgos.  We shared the same enthusiasm for acting. People like me were the reason he did this.  At least that’s how it had been a couple years before. But now I felt like I had let him down.  I wasn’t that girl afterall.