It was about two weeks into my sophomore year in college. I was settling in, feeling (as) happy (as I got during those years) and a little bit cocky in my dorm situation. Having hit the mother lode and pulled a ridiculously low number in the housing lottery (I mean really low: as in #18 which is phenomenal given that the sophomores got last dibs on rooms) I was digging my single-on-a-co-ed-floor-in-a-great-dorm-overlooking-the-quad room. The dorms were suite-style: a single and a double on either side of the bathroom which, incidentally, was cleaned by campus staff weekly. I was pretty cool in my set up and relishing the comfort that came with being a sophomore and not a freshman.
In the middle of each floor in the dorm was a common area which was nothing more than an open space with some sofas and a few chairs. (I suspect those common areas have grown up a lot since my day, but at the time it was commons heaven.) A fairly good-sized group of kids, representing all classes, were hanging out enjoying the first few weeks of school before all those pesky papers and exams started piling up. I had gotten up to grab something from my room when it happened: I was walking away and (of course) there was a natural lull in the conversation (having nothing to do with my departure) during which I sneezed. Oh, and farted at the same time. Yes, I snarted right there, in front of everybody that I was going to be living with for the next eight months. I vividly recall praying that the sneeze had been explosive enough to muffle (I dared not wish for a full mute) the accompanying fart, but, alas, it had not been. Utter humiliation for me. Peals of laughter for everyone (and I do mean everyone) else. Yeah, it was pretty much the definition of embarrassment.
I wish I could recall how I reacted, but I suspect it was not with the grace or aplomb that I would hope to display at my current, far more advanced age should the same situation occur. At the time, I was horrified, embarrassed, nauseous and quite sure I was the only person in the entire universe who had ever sustained such humiliation. The joy of my single-on-a-co-ed-floor-in-a-great-dorm-overlooking-the-quad was immediately eviscerated despite resolving to never leave said room ever again. Sure, I was 18 or 19 at the time, but I might just as well have been ten. It was brutal.
Fast forward to now. I am pleased to say that I have never suffered at the hands of the snart since that fateful day, but I have grappled with other awkward, embarrassing and horrifying situations. You probably think that I am going to lump Jessie’s transition into this category. If so, you’d be wrong. It amazes me, actually. Sure, I have felt anxious and concerned and, well, nauseous over some of the changes that have come down the pike, but never, not once, was I embarrassed. I never wanted to hole up in my room and not face people. I never contemplated transferring out, credits be damned. I worried and fretted and feared each new wave of the transition but I was never embarrassed.
As I was driving Jessie home today she shared with me a story of having snarted at recess today. Until she told me, I had resolved any residual fallout from my incident in college (or had I?) but it immediately came rushing back, clear as day. I can almost envision the acid washed jeans I had acquired over the summer along with the heavy black eyeliner that I favored in those days. I shared the story with her, complete with the degree of devastation I suffered. She looked at me quizzically, unsure what my problem had been. She was not even remotely upset about her snarting. In fact, she was, at the tender age of eleven, able to see the humor in it. In fact, I believe I even detected a degree of pride at having accomplished a snart.
I cannot help but associate her total lack of discomfort with this potentially humiliating incident with her comfort in her current gender affirmation. It is all about perspective, is it not? What is a snart to a kid who, in fourth grade, started the week at school a boy, and closed it out as a girl?
I have often marveled at Jessie’s courage. I have never, however, really thought about how I would manage should I be in her position. As we had this conversation in the car (aside: why do these things always happen in the car??) I realized that she is a way cooler cat than I. Her sense of self and lack of inhibition, while often exasperating, is going to serve her well as she continues through life. She will snart without inhibition, opine without hesitation and succeed without compunction. As a mother, that makes me proud. That said, now that the whole snart incident is fresh in my mind, I am sure to begin fretting over it happening again. Oh, to be more like Jess.