Who Cares?

Want to know what is great about kids?  They aren’t adults.  It is true that they can most definitely be little shits, but all in all, they are usually kinder, less judgmental and way, way, way more accepting than the older (particularly post-pubescent) versions of themselves.

When George transitioned to Jess in the middle of the week in the middle of 4th grade, how many kids cared?  Hmmm, let me think.  Still thinking.  Oh, right…not a one.  In fact, during one of my many, many, many conversations with the school principal (who, by the way, could not possibly have handled it better) I vividly recall her telling me that it wasn’t the kids she was worried about it was, yep, their parents.   And, truth be told; only one parent expressed concern.  Of note is that that parent is the same parent who sent her kid to my child’s 6th birthday party and told her that she could “watch the other kids” swim and have a blast, but they had plans afterward so she didn’t want her hair messed up…so, um, there you have it.

Perhaps you have caught wind of the national conversation regarding transgenders’ use of bathrooms in public places. Or, if you have not, perhaps you have been in a coma or had exactly zero access to tv, radio, internet or another human being.  And, it is possible that you think that the ban is appropriate, although given the fact that you read this blog, I suspect otherwise.  Either way, I view this as a great time for us judgie, fearful, mis- and uninformed grown-ups to take a page from kiddos’ playbooks and ask ourselves: who cares?

In all my bathroom experiences (of which there have beenmany: I am, after all, a woman of a certain age) I have never:

  • Been in one that did not have stalls. In “female” restrooms, trough peeing is generally frowned upon and, from my admittedly unscientific research, even men’s rooms with urinals have stalls for the urgent poop or the pee-er with stage fright.
  • Seen one single solitary vagina other than my own, and even that I don’t really see. I mean, really.
  • Felt uncomfortable for any reason other than having the bad luck of being the next visitor after a poor soul had their bowels explode. And trust me; it was no better for her having to make eye contact with me on her way out.
  • Lingered one moment longer than was necessary to empty my bladder, wash my hands and fiddle with my hair. Okay, there’s been the occasional lipstick application and chat with other bathroom goers, but it is generally a wham bam thank you ma’am experience.

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I have, however:

  • Emptied my bladder. And, in situations under which I had no control (Chipotle, anyone?) had to go #2.
  • Waited on line, often with adults who have children doing the I’m-going-to-cross-my-legs-and-jump-up-and-down-and-hold-my-crotch-while-whining-so-I-don’t-pee-in-my-pants dance, during which I have always given up my spot on the queue because, well, voiding and evacuating are done in private. Duh.
  • Waited until midstream to check for toilet paper only to discover none. One would think that would only happen once, but, well, whatever.

As for the rampant issue with molestation in the bathroom and everyone’s fear of such?  Well, here are my thoughts on that:

  • Implement a hard and fast rule: no one ever goes in the bathroom alone, anywhere, anytime, anyplace, no exceptions, Problem solved.

Listen, I am not so naïve as to not understand the trepidation.  I am not insensitive to anyone’s fear of the unknown.  In fact, I personally have so many fears of so many unknowns that one could, and maybe has, called it a full blown neurosis, but, but, but please consider focusing on something more important that could ever possibly effect you or your children.  I, for one, would be much more concerned about the person next to me with a handgun in her purse, or the drug addicted fellow who is so desperate for his next high that he will attack you for your wallet or the registered sex offender who is hanging out at the town playground.  Could any of them be transgender?  Sure.  But, and of this I can assure you, they are not packing heat, looking for their next hit or eyeing your little cherub because they are transgender.  No way. No how.

Kids don’t care if you have a penis or a vagina.  I am pretty confident they wouldn’t care if you peed out your nose.  They do care, however, if you are an asshole and, might I point out, their asshole radar is spectacular.

So, next time you have to pee in public, go in, do your business and stop worrying about other people and their parts.  Or, hold your bladder and bowel until you explode all over Home Depot which, for me, anyway, would be way worse than sharing a bathroom with someone who is transgender.

 

You’ve Got To Have Friends

Old friends are great.  I love my old friends.  In fact, some of my best friends are old friends.  It’s great: we have a shared history replete with awesome, gruesome, hysterical, heartbreaking, unforgettable and ridiculous experiences.  I met some when we were kids walking to elementary school (uphill both ways), or at Mass Ski Club when our parents dropped us off at the Howard Johnson’s at 5 a.m. and collected us at 7 at night.  Or in high school while we were hanging out in the smoking lounge (not all of us smoking…but it was the 80s) or in college somewhere on Caroline Street in Saratoga, most likely with a few LI Iced Teas and chili dogs on board. Others I formed an immediate kinship with as a young parent trying to navigate, negotiate and tolerate toddlers who would go on to spend the next twelve years going through school, complete with the myriad issues that arose on the daily. Or my work friends who, back in the day, I spent more time with than anyone.  Many of those people are now CVS/Marshall’s pals; you know, the folks you bump into after only having seen them on Facebook for months, maybe years, but wind up having a perfectly wonderful chat together in the store aisle – often for nearly an hour.  Time has passed, but your friendship has, albeit in a different incarnation, survived the test of time.

 

New friends, however, are pretty spectacular in their own right.  When you are a full-fledged adult and make a new acquaintance you are in an enviable position: you can pick and choose with whom you would like to embark on the friendship road.  Your meetings are more likely to be in  places you have chosen as opposed to the spots which you frequent out of necessity…soccer games in the pouring rain, anybody? And. It.Is.Awesome.

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Of note, and this is important: I cherish all of my old friends.  Without them, I would never have been able to grow from point A to point B.  I most assuredly would have crumbled under the pressure of attempting (sometimes in vain) to be a successful daughter, partner, mother, sister, friend and employee.  Had they not been old friends, just the time I would be forced to spend just to bring them up to speed and fill them in on all the players and backstories would  be too arduous for me.  My old friends have, and will continue to be, my most precious commodity.

 

I’m lucky in that lately I have made some truly wonderful friends.  Women I never would have met had my marital status, living and work situations remained intact and stable as they had been since the 90s.  I’ve met them at the gym, at synagogue, at the supermarket, through mutual friends and by Googling: “transgender” in my town.  They are married, divorced, parents, empty-nesters, widows, employed and unemployed.  Some have two living parents, others are not as fortunate.  There are locals, transplants and returning to their roots gals all mixed in.  So, too, are they tall, short, skinny (the bitch), dying their gray or letting it go. Women with kids in preschool, college and everything in between and beyond.  They are grandmothers (young, smoking hot grandmothers, but grandmothers nonetheless).  They have never married, are happily married, not so happily married, divorced.  One was even just starting to flex her, “I am woman hear me roar” strength in leaving her husband only to suddenly find herself a widow instead.  And they all rock.

 

Making new girlfriends at this age is to be celebrated.  The occasions under which you meet are different – they are more full of choice and less a matter of circumstance.  You each bring to the table your own history, expectations, learned-the-hard-way experiences and are better in tune to the “conditions” under which you are willing, at your advanced age, to engage in an open and honest relationship.  It’s kinda like dating without the fear, anticipation, horror and angst at potentially getting naked.

 

Admittedly, my repository for new blood (as it were) came easy.  I am in a new community, with a new partner, a new home and, hopefully sometime soon, a new job.  I arrived with my abundance of baggage (physical and emotional) and am, with open arms and an open heart, building a new circle of women.  These women have, in the few years that I have been migrating this way, made it clear that I’m going to be well taken care of.

 

I will never stop loving, appreciating and depending upon my old friends.  You know who you are. I am enormously grateful to my new bitches, too.  Julie, Becky, Nancy, Rachel, Jill and Sue, not to mention my beautiful, in every sense of the word, new mother- and sister-in law, Susy and Fannie, respectively.

 

We all need to enjoy and embrace the process of life.  One moment you can be sitting back thinking, “I got this” and the very next, all hell breaks loose.  It can and will happen on a dime.  There are friends for a reason, friends for a season and friends for a lifetime.  Enjoy every single one of them, every day, beautiful ladies.

Stayin’ Alive

I returned to my car, turned the key and jounced a little when the radio came to life with the euphonious “Stayin’ Alive”.  In and of itself, this was unremarkable.  After all, the dial was set to the classic hits station (read:  they play “oldies” which, ouch,  happen to be from the era during which I grew up) and that song is, by all accounts, a classic.  What was remarkable, however, was that it was playing after I had spontaneously (more on that in a moment) visited my father’s grave.  For the uninformed, my father freakin’ loved the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack.  In fact, he had been known to listen to it often, always loudly, proudly and while in his car.  It was not unusual for him to pull into the garage with “Night Fever” blasting so loud we could hear it in the house. He would then remain in the car until the very last note, when he would finally kill the engine and come in to join us.  It is not often that I catch The Bee Gees on the radio, but when I do it is as if my dad is right there in the car with me.

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Monday will be ten years since my father died.  Every year since, I’ve viewed January 11th as a day-to-get-through knowing that eleven days later is his birthday…also known as a-day-to get-through.  But this anniversary feels somehow more permanent than have the previous nine.  Ten years is a long time.  So much has happened.  My father knew my two little boys.  Now I have one young man and one teenage daughter.  I’m fifty.  I’ve gotten divorced.  I am gray! How could he have missed all that?

I have been feeling out of sorts, not known how to commemorate it, not known what to do with myself.  So, today, while making a return to a store that happens to be about five minutes from the cemetery, I headed over.  (Of note: the store is a chain.  There are others nearer to home.  So, um, perhaps it wasn’t quite so spontaneous after all…)

I thought I knew where to find him, although I am not sure why I thought that since every.single.time. I go there I get lost in the beautiful winding roads that seems to go on forever.  I was sure I knew which section, but once I got there (and saw that he wasn’t) I knew I’d taken a wrong turn.  (Of note: there are no headstones at this pristine cemetery, rather all identifying plates are on the ground…therefore, frankly, every section looks pretty much the same.)  Finally, as I began to feel my shoulders rise, anxiety and irritation percolating, I followed the signs to the “Welcome Center” (yeah, I thought it was a rather absurd choice of words for a cemetery, too) and approached the gentleman tending the front desk of the bright, yet somehow somber office.

“Are you able to tell me where I can find someone?” I asked.  He hesitated, and I knew that I needed to be a bit clearer.  “Oh, I’m not looking for a welcome center employee (of which there seemed to be many); rather, it is a permanent resident, if you will.”  He smiled. I smiled.  But I hated that I didn’t know where to find my father.  He looked up the name, confirmed his date of death (like I needed to hear that!) and told me where I could find him.  He used a bright pink highlighter to show me the route on a map of the grounds and then proceeded to tell me exactly where to find him at Mt. Nebo, Section 28A.  I flashed a smile, cut him off and assured him that I could handle it from here…mostly because I can read.  And then I left, map in hand, feeling the weight of the welcome center follow me out the door.

Well, I can read,  but, unlike my father, I am literally incapable of following a map.  It is source of embarassment, but one I can live with given the fact that I am never far from a navigation system. As such, once in the car I managed to get lost.  Again. This time was different though: this time I knew where I was ultimately headed and that whole ability to read thing was going to work in my favor.  I drove around in just a few circles before I spotted the austere sign telling me I was in the right place.  I got out of the car, pulled my sweater more tightly around me, found a rock that felt strong, meaningful and appropriate, and headed across the lawn, taking care to not step on any of the nameplates in the ground.  There was one new one, from just last year, while the rest had been there long before my father.  I placed the rock on his stone, told him the highlights of the year (“I’m engaged”, “Harrison got his EMT license!” “Jess is holding steady and still making me laugh every day!”),told him I love him and asked him to keep on showing up when I least expect it.  I was there for less than ten minutes.  The air got colder, the sky grew darker and my heart became fuller.

I seldom go to the cemetery.  The last time I went it was a stunningly beautiful day.  I took a long walk around the grounds, trying to ignore the fact that there was a burial happening several hundred yards away.  I cried like a baby.  I may have even lain down on the ground next to him begging him to help me through the day.  And I definitely stopped for an ice cream cone on the way home.

Today felt different.  I am strong. My kids are strong.  My mother is strong. My brothers are strong.  None of us has lost our sense of humor which we were taught was more important than just about anything.  My father’s legacy is apparent – like his father before him, all seven of his grandchildren will vehemently support the assertion that they were his favorite.   I have a wonderful partner whom my father would most definitely approve of.  My brothers and I remain the best of friends…just how my dad wanted it.  But we all still miss him every single day.

Ten years.

Now turn up the volume and go: Stayin’ Alive

M&Ms

I have a (large) jar of M&Ms hidden away. Not just plain ones, either. Rather, I have a perfect combination of plain, peanut and pretzel. No mint. No peanut butter. No minis. No mega. Despite full knowledge of said stash, my jar has either not been discovered by the others who reside in the house or, and perhaps more likely, it has been, but all are wise enough to abstain from touching.

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I am very disciplined when it comes to their consumption; never taking more than one palm full per visit, never more than one visit per day. When the jar is one quarter full I dutifully replenish. No sooner. No later.

I never make an impulse purchase of a single serving bag of M&Ms at the market/Target/Walmart/Staples checkout counter. When Halloween bags are dumped on the kitchen floor, I do not ever grab a bag, opting, instead, for the Sugar Babies, which are, I might add (with sadness), few and far between.

If someone I live with were to sneak a few, I would know from the distinct aroma they leave on the breath. No one has dared.

My jar of M&Ms, which I often go weeks (okay, days) without visiting, makes me feel safe. Like a good friend, they are there when I need them, bring me cheer (plain? peanut? pretzel?) and always buoy my mood. Yep, M&Ms have that power.

One of the joys of being an adult is having an M&M jar. It is up there with staying up late, not making the bed and declining an invitation simply because you just don’t want to attend, no excuses concocted in an effort to explain yourself. To me, it is akin to money in the bank, clean sheets on the bed and fresh milk in the fridge.

When we wake in the morning, we never know what lies ahead. The day could start strong and stay that way. It could, for that matter, morph into a shitstorm. Likewise, a rough morning is not always an indicator of twelve lousy hours. This morning I was laughing in my sleep so loudly, and, according to Barry, slightly hysterically, that I woke him. (Damn, I wish I could remember what was so funny!) I went on to have a great workout – complete with making a new friend – only to have things take a turn as the day progressed. I arrived home a bit worse for the wear and considered (but did not act) delving into my jar. I will admit, I went as far at to venture to the hiding spot to check my stash. I have not filled my palm, but the day is not over yet.

If you ask me, everyone should have his or her own M&M jar. What’s yours?

Love/Hate

Earlier this week, PBS’s Frontline aired  a program entitled, “Growing Up Trans”.  You can see it here:

http://video.pbs.org/video/2365520005/

A part of me loved it.  And, a part of me hated it.  Here’s why:

I loved the title.  The fact that in the title they used “trans” which is so casual and matter of fact reiterated a heightened national awareness and, arguably, acceptance.  To my mind, “trans” is way more cool and way less clinical than transgender.  As someone living in this world, the absence of the word gender can go a long way.

I loved the honesty of the parents.  This is not easy stuff and any parent who tells you that each day is anything other than overwhelming, scary and uncertain is a liar.  I don’t care how effeminate or butch your son or daughter may be, there is nothing, not one damn thing, that prepares a parent for this transition.  Your little boy loves dolls and dresses and mermaids?  Your daughter is only interested in trucks, contact sports and super heroes?  Big deal…who cares?  In fact, when my entirely cis-gender son was little he loved to go with me to the Chanel counter at Bloomingdale’s and paint each of his fingernails a different vibrant color.  Weekly.  Never ever once did I wonder if he would come to me one day and tell me he felt that as though he was a girl.  For that matter, I didn’t even really expect it from George who so resolutely favored dolls, wigs, dresses and mermaid costumes but also acted, in many ways, “all boy”.  Yet one day he told me just that.  And, like the parents profiled on the program, I was totally, completely and utterly knocked off my axis.  Apparently I put on a brave face and had everyone convinced that it was an easy adjustment but, newsflash, it wasn’t. Still isn’t, actually.  It is, however, a whole hell of a lot easier. I love those parents for admitting their fears, anxieties, and trepidations with no apology. Bravo.

I loved the kids, each one of them, with all their individual quirkiness, for having the courage of their convictions and for sharing with the world what this feels like.  I loved how each one of them owned their behavior: the good, the bad and the ugly.  No matter your age, environment or gender…that takes balls.

I loved the lack of discussion about bathrooms.  Seriously, loved that.

I hated a few things, too.  A friend messaged me about the program:

“…Wanted to punch a few of the Dads. I am sure their reactions are pretty typical but still…”

Now, what I hated about this is not what you might think.  My friend is right.  Some of the dads’ reactions were painful to watch.  The perfect parent in me wants to chide them for their selfish candor.  And, that said, I can fully understand wanting to punch them…I mean, really, who talks smack like that about their kids, in front of their kids and, oh, yeah, on national television?  The honest parents do.  I entirely understand how they felt/feel and applaud their putting it out there.  To be clear, these parents, despite verbalizing their misgivings and concerns, are not to be confused with the parents who kick their kids out of the house, disown, humiliate and, essentially torture their children for doing nothing other than being honest.  But I hate that the perception, from folks who have not walked in these shoes, that these parents were behaving badly.  They were being human.

I hated that it forced me to have many (many, many, many) conversations that, frankly, I didn’t really feel like having.  And I hate that I have to admit that.  The subject is rife with opinions, facts, speculations and, well, scary stuff.  Every well-intentioned and well-meaning exchange left me feeling equal parts soaring with confidence and paralyzed by insecurity.  Confession: It is way easier to coast than to make this part of the daily discussion.  While I know that I always have Jess’s back, there are differing opinions of what that means.  File under: scary crap parents have to deal with while pretty much punting.

I love that PBS produced this program.  I love that discussion and acknowledgment of the realities of the transgender community has become so, well, mainstream.  I love that I have so many people in my life who love me and feel comfortable enough with me to offer their always, always, always well-meaning, well-composed opinions.  And I hate that it has to be so complicated, so emotionally charged and so overwhelmingly overwhelming.

special shout out and lots of love to PS, BTS, and GS ❤

Decidedly Undecided

Transgender everything is everywhere and I am decidedly undecided about how I feel about it.

On the one hand, all the exposure, explanations and acceptance are spectacular. On the other hand, that’s a whole of exposure, explanations and (not so much) acceptance. Oh, the irony.

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With this latest round of chatter (thank you, Caitlyn Jenner) I have found myself again asking why anyone gives a shit. I know that sounds trite and, perhaps ridiculous, but seriously…how does one person’s gender (or any other, for that matter) expression in any way impact me, you or the mailman? I get that it is (un)comfortably outside of the norm. I get that it is not what most of us grew up with. I even get that what feels natural and real to the transgender person and their families, feels extraordinarily unnatural and unreal to folks who are on the outside looking in. I. Get. It.

What I don’t get is how polarizing the whole subject matter is. Oh, I do, but I don’t. See: decidedly undecided.
I will acknowledge that the sheer volume of media attention is indeed making it virtually impossible, particularly for those folks who are uncomfortable and unable to latch onto the concept, to avoid it. Even in the three and a half years since our transition (to be clear: it is an entire family that needs to transition) the discussion has changed dramatically…and while I applaud the newfound understanding, I worry about it being too much all at once. And, boys and girls, that just gives me one more thing to worry about.

Yes, I have seen the Vanity Fair cover. Yes, I will buy the magazine and read the article. Yes, I believe this is a good thing in terms of paving over the gravel on the road that my kid is travelling. And yes, I think about it every single day. Repeatedly.
No, I don’t think that the people who are spewing hate, anger and vitriol are playing fair. No, I don’t understand why they, as I have already said, give a shit. And no, it isn’t easy to listen to.

The media is entirely schizophrenic on this subject and has caused tremendously good and fantastically horrid banter. This, in my mind, only breeds more anxiety on both sides. I love that transgender is part of the national discussion. I hate that it is, too. I just want my kid to be whomever she is…girl, boy, somewhere in between.

Yes, I am decidedly undecided.

Explain This

When George was two, my parents went to an afternoon movie after which they were going to come to my house to babysit. Around 6 that evening, my mother called to tell me that they were not “coming over” after all. “Um, you weren’t coming over, you were babysitting…” I said in a perhaps less charitable tone than I should have. It was then that she explained that my father had fallen asleep during the movie and she was unable to wake him. Huh? What does that even mean? Since he was a Type 2 Diabetic, she had tried, in vain, to feed him some of the Jr. Mints left over in his lap. (He must have “fallen asleep” early on…there was little that would keep my father from emptying a box of those little gems). Suddenly aware that something was quite wrong, I told her to meet me at the hospital.
When she arrived there with him he was, apparently, in such a frightening state (important visual: my father was 6’1”, my mother 5’1”…imagine her trying to “carry” him in) that they immediately bedded him and started to try to figure out what was wrong. It was a long night. By the end, we knew that he had had a stroke. That was the good news. The answer to the question following the routine chest x-ray of, “are you aware there is a large mass in your chest?” was “um, no”. That was the bad news.
At the time, I was a (mostly) happy stay at home mom. I had stopped working not too long before, in part because George was so wild and busily beating his own drum that the family day care sort of, kind of, might have thrown her hands in the air and cried uncle. So, the only help I had was for the one (okay, sometimes two) hours a day I would drop him off in the babysitting room at the JCC and (usually) work out. There was a lovely older woman named Alla there who was solidly unafraid of George. Perhaps it was the fact that she was Israeli and, as such, able to withstand more than most, but it doesn’t much matter. Not only could she handle him, she freakin’ adored him. The admiration was reciprocated and all was right, if only for one (okay, sometimes two) hours a day.
I was a no-show for several days following my father’s diagnosis. When I finally returned and told Alla what was going on she asked how she could help. She knew I had no other coverage and that the babysitting was only for when I was in the building (theoretically) working out. Without hesitation she offered to watch George at her home for as much time as I needed, for as long as I needed. At the moment, I hadn’t realized how desperate I was for help and after asking her about a hundred times if she was sure, accepted her offer.
George and Alla hung out together for the next several weeks. I would deliver George to her and know that he was safe and happy, even though it was evident that the world around me was crashing in. I still feel indebted to her and never will forget the kindness she showed me and George.
I’ve seen Alla many times over the years. I am even relatively certain that I have told her that George is now Jess. But, either I didn’t or she does not recall…because each and every time I bump into her, she asks for her “boy George”. Every. Single. Time.
Yesterday, I ran into Alla. Literally. I was coming around the corner at the market and our carts collided. We embraced. I told her, as I always do (because it is true) that she simply doesn’t age. She caught me up on her kids, two docs and one who is set to graduate next week from Harvard Law. And, as always, she asked about her “boy George”. I told her that “everyone” is great, getting older, keeping me on my toes. I mastered the ol’ sin of omission by not engaging in one single pronoun. She asked if I had any recent pictures and I, um, lied, and told her that my phone was in the car, hoping against hope that it didn’t ding, ping or ring right then and there. I was secretly relieved that Jess was not with me. Not because I am ashamed, but because it simply feels like it is too late/too exhausting/too old news/too overwhelming/too much a part of everyday life that I sometimes forget to have to explain it again.
This is not the first time I have skirted the issue of “explaining.” I have omitted the details to my elderly neighbor who moved away years ago, but with whom I still keep in touch – primarily by phone. I once skimmed over the details of the facts with two little kids who were too young and new to our family to tell. I was later accused of lying to them which stung a little, but I know I did the right thing by “explaining” only what they would understand. Things like this come up all the time. No, really: all.the.time. And, if I am being honest, I am getting tired of having to explain to every Tom, Dick and Harry that my daughter started off as my son.
Then, late yesterday afternoon, just hours after my encounter with Alla , “explanation time” came up again when I took Jess to Urgent Care for an ear infection. I checked her in, ponytail and pink-checked lounge pant-clad Jess who happens to have an insurance card that says George. I leaned in and asked the receptionist to please call her Jess and use female pronouns which, not surprisingly, caught her off guard. To her credit, she had a quick recovery, wrote it on the intake form and moments later, Jess was called. And then! Then, the doctor came back in with the prescription which was written for Jess, forcing me to tell her (kind of again) that the script had to say George. So many Ts to cross, so many Is to dot.
Jess is used to it. She heard me tell the folks at the new allergist’s office. And the blue-haired gal taking names at Super Cuts, and the on-call pediatrician, and the camp directors, and the gymnastics teacher… She’s corrected people who slip up and others who should know better than to, um, slip up. It happens.
Anyone who has ever read a word of this blog knows how I adored my father. What you might not know, however, is that I felt the same way about his father, my grandpa, who was named…yep, George. In 2001, most people were not naming little boys George. I even hesitated a little, worried that he wouldn’t be able to pull it off. But he could and did better than pull it off – he killed it. He was the man. He was Georgie, Georgieporgiepoopoo and “boy George”. On paper, she still is. Every so often, Jess will ask that we change her name legally, but never with an intense and desperate need. If and when that happens, it happens…but for now, it’s all cool.
So, I will continue to forewarn, correct, whisper, lean in and remind folks that the name George on the form is only the name on the form. I will share as necessary. I will keep my mouth shut when there is no purpose in telling our story. She is just my kid who doesn’t always need to be explained, but if she does, knows I’ve always got her back…just like my dad and Alla did.

Except When…

To the outside world, I exude confidence.  Perhaps it is because I am able to find the humor in just about any possible situation, so it therefore appears that I am in control and can (perhaps) handle all that is thrown at me.  I am outspoken, honest and (perhaps too) open with whatever is happening in my life so the natural assumption is that I am down with it, cool, unfazed, and confident.  And, to be fair to myself, sometimes I am.  Most of the time I really do believe that “I got this” and that the curveballs and bumps in the road are not enough to throw me off my axis.  Except when they are.

That is when I ignore said jolts in the hopes that they will be magically worked out through some sort of divine intervention.  You know…the whole “fall in your lap” kind of thing.  And, if I am being honest, I have been fortunate in that sometimes that has indeed happened.   Except when it hasn’t.

A mountain in Chile which took my breath away.  In part because they told me we were going to climb it.

A mountain in Chile which took my breath away. In part because they told me we were going to climb it.

Case in point: I am a pretty good writer.  I can tell a story.  I can, for example, strike up a conversation with a woman at Uniqlo (she mentioned “the sisterhood”, I was in), talk to her for an hour and then write about it.  This usually garners a supportive laugh or other form of appreciation from someone like you.  (I haven’t had a chance to write about it but it is a great story including our discussion of body image, foreign travel, divorce, transgender and, wait for it…heroin.  All while standing in the middle of the frenzy that is Uniqlo.)  I willingly go up against the hysteria of any given day in my life and relay it to you in a way that you respond to.  I actually love to do that and it isn’t, frankly, too hard for me.  Over the years, folks have told me to do something more with that skill…as in make a living from it somehow.  And that, friends, is the precise moment that I become totally, completely and utterly immobilized.  Wha??  Make a living at it?  You smokin’ dope?  Yep…there it is: the abject fear which stops me in my tracks, resulting in my total inability to do a damn thing.  Despite my propensity to be riddled with self doubt over the little stuff[1], I don’t generally think of myself as a fearful person. Except when I do.

Then there are those women who do a little something on the side (with nary a thought of it becoming a big something) only to find themselves sitting across from Matt Lauer on “The Today Show” [2]couch chatting themselves up.  Man, does that mess with my head, setting in motion a viscous internal battle between over-confidence and crippling insecurity as to any possibility of enjoying my own such trajectory of success.  Of note: most of these gals didn’t necessarily set out to do it, rather it just, well, happened.  (See divine intervention above.) Regrettably, I have this (ridiculous, dangerous and often disappointing) desire for all things[3] to happen organically, without contrivance or strategy. And, truthfully, that has happened in my favor.  More than once, even.  Except when it hasn’t.

I know what I want.  To make more money.  To have more freedom.  To create for people things that they might not be able to, because, while they rock this world with their particular brand of expertise they do not happen to be great writers.  (No judgment: I can give you a list as long as my arm of things I suck at…math comes to mind.  And science, yeah, science does, too.) I know what I am good at and where I thrive.  I am 50, after all, so I have it all figured out.  Except when I don’t.

p.s. If you know someone who wants a scribe…you know where to find me.

[1] It is always the little stuff.  Big stuff I take on fiercely.  If you don’t believe me, ask my mother. Or my brothers.  Or my kids. Or Mary.  Or Barry.  Or Marcia.  Or Janet.  Seriously: I had an easier time with cancer than I did with choosing whether or not to let my gray grow in.

[2] I’m talking to you, Jill Smokler…

[3] Not really all, but many.

Thanks, Bruce

No, I have not seen the Bruce Jenner interview.  Yes, I have every intention of watching it…just not sure when. No, I don’t have a reason for avoiding, er, not tuning in.  Yes, I realize those are two hours of television I should most definitely have watched by now.

bruce

Okay, so in the three plus years since Jess has transitioned the public awareness of transgenderism (I think I made up that word) has exploded.  Way back in 2012 it was way weirder, way less common and certainly way less publicized than it is now.  Admittedly I am more tuned in, but I am quite certain that there was not a seemingly daily story on the subject like there is now.  My kind and well intentioned friends send me links to stories on television, the radio, online, in print and overheard at the local CVS nearly every day.  Many I have seen by the time they are forwarded to me, others I have not.  Some I read, some I do not.  Each time I skip reading the story I feel a pang of guilt; I should be well-versed on and interested in everything good, bad, thrilling, infuriating, scary, despicable and ground-breaking that happens in the transgender community, right?  I should be a loud and proud voice for my child, right?  I should know the what, where, why and how of the LGBT community so I can educate, explain and improve the world view, right? Only here’s the rub: sometimes I just want to be a regular mom with a regular kid with regular issues.  Sometimes I literally cannot bear the thought of hearing one more tale of transition or acceptance or rejection or triumph or catastrophe…so I do things like avoid, er, not find the time, to watch the Bruce Jenner interview.

To be clear: I am all for educating, explaining, protecting, supporting, and normalizing the transgender experience.  I applaud Bruce Jenner and Laverne Cox and Brad & Angelina and Cameron and Aiden and Connie and Rogina and Jill Soloway and Diane Sawyer and Jazz and Mimi Lemay and every other man, woman and child who puts themselves out there.  In fact, I have been one of those people.  With each new story I already know what the comments will be…they never change:

“A child is too young to make this decision.  If they said they wanted to be a pony would you let them?”

“G-d doesn’t make mistakes.”

“These are the most wonderful parents ever!”

“These are the worst parents ever!”

“Crazy mother didn’t get the girl she wanted, so she’s doing this!  For shame!”

“I wish I had had parents like this…it would have saved me years of pain.”

This cycle is, as I am sure you can appreciate, exhausting.  What’s more: at this point in the game, I sometimes forget that Jess was George.  I see her as my very cool, very complicated, very interesting, very unusual, very artistic, very independent thinking kid.  I think of her as my kid and not as my transgender kid.  I don’t bring it up in conversation, nor do I hide it.  It is what it is.  Maybe your kid has issues with anxiety or anger or learning or obesity or is so obnoxious that it is legendary…and you don’t need or, frankly, want every article, story and debate over your given malady because you are living it.  Yep.  It is the same thing here.

I know that each and every person who has ever sent me a text about or a link to an article or story is doing so with kind, loving and supportive intentions.  I really do.  I know that the media has latched onto the transgender story and that it is doing wonderful things for the community.  I really do.

From everything I have heard, seen and read since his interview it is clear that Bruce Jenner did a wonderful thing for himself, his family and the world by sharing his story.  I am grateful for that.  I hope it throws some tar down on the newly paved road for kids like mine.  I also hope it takes a little bit of pressure off of us parents who, despite enormous support and love, often feel like we are flying solo.  By not watching, and not weighing in with an opinion, I feel a sense of relief that someone else can talk the talk and walk the walk for me, if just for a few days.