Posted on April 4, 2020 by scottiejeanette
Okay… i’m failing.
For over 30 years, Mylove, Marcy, was the dog whisperer of our family. Seriously. We had, over the course of 32 years together… three, six… nine… thirteen official pets (8 doggies, 4 cats, 3 opossums and two doves) that were part or our family… as well as revolving door of literally (not exaggerating here) 100’s of rescue animals (yes, she was that into it) sometimes there was many as 30 baby opossums in our office at one time.
I’m not gonna lie, we came thru the now infamous time where “boomers” had “fur babies” in lieu of children… oh, don’t get me wrong we actually did give it the old college try to live up to the stereotypical marriage: two years in, we took a shot at the “oh look, she’s preggers” thingy. Which, was her idea. As a feminist, I was like seriously? Only if that’s what you want.
So, of course I tried as hard as the next gal to make sure Mylove got what she needed… I was in love with her… you don’t always get what you want, but you just might get what you need…
… which, it turns out wasn’t a child.
Yes, we drank the tea, (Yie! Tastes like the bottom of the forest floor) that the kindly Chinese herbalist prescribed. Yes, we tried acupuncture — she was skewered by one of the really good ones trying to reverse her “chi,” every Saturday for months…
Yes, we loved each other dearly and could see having a child with no other… and we had many cheerleaders (doesn’t every newly wed couple?) everyone thought we would be the mostest awesomest of parents…
… because many thought I was that child.
But to say I was Marcy’s child would minimize our marriage. We started as colleagues, then collaborators and ended as lovers… but no one, least of all me, would deny that for 32 years, it was I who did blossom under her love to become the woman I am today.
In fact… other than storytelling, everything I know, Marcy taught me, or guided me toward knowing… Even my cooking was done in the constant quest to please her ever changing and yet ALWAYS discerning tastes and wants.
But… now… I’m struggling…
…to follow her command of dogs.
For those of you who knew her, she was not only the dog whisperer, but the animal whisperer… from the spiders who’d taken residence in our bathroom to the fur babies who graced our life, Mylove communed with them all… But dogs? She was a black belt.
And there were many. I actually dated Mukti, Mylove’s bearded collie, before I even took her took her out. (Details, details, she was married at that time, whatevs) Mukti’s silken fur and glorious presence made even a casual stroke of his mane, a moment of spiritual transformation.
And let’s be real. At the end of the day…Mukti was a chick magnet. Marcy and (her husband at that time) Bill thought it was great that I wanted to walk their dog. Yes, I was hungry for a fur baby – having had one at my side my entire life until college where I “experimented” (how cliché am I?) with cats. Yes, I loved to help out. Marcy would often say that it broke her heart that Mook had to stay in doors all day. My schedule left me free during the days, so I could step up and step in. But really, Mook was the ultimate wingdog. I would walk him down the beach of Del Mar and we couldn’t go ten feet without being stopped by someone to chat about how amazing my dog was… and Mook never let on that I was “just his walker”.
Years later when Mook was my Best Dog at Marcy & my wedding, everything fell into its rightful place. Mook was the Mammal Emeritus, the architect of our household that would never again be without fur. I mean, who wouldn’t want Marcy M. Madden as their caretaker? And I was Taft Hartley’d into Mylove’s Doolittleian ways.
It’s not that I’m not good with fur baby rearing. I tried to be supportive, but Marcy was like all Jedi Masters, constantly evolving, always trying to improve not just their behavior but ways to keep them outstandingly healthy and happy. This dynamic strategy was a little tough to keep up with, as she found ever newer way to bring up our babies. It seemed like I was always auditing a college level course. Never graduating as the curriculum evolved.
She was patient with me at first, painstakingly instructing in the “newest” ways, but being barely a child myself, I… (and I’m not proud of this excuse, cuz, it does, in fact, smell as my father predicted) rarely stopped the info from going in one ear, and out it’s inevitable, predicted exit.
Yes. I was the one sneaking them between meal treats (and feeding them from the table, and etc.) Often undoing a week’s worth of work with our doggies and their manners.
And now… as my mother predicted, I’m…wait for it…
… paying the price.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t usually mind it. And especially during this lockdown, when I have, what so many others are craving… someone, something, or better yet, somedog to hug, I am definitely not complaining…. And If am allowing myself a second snack between 2nd breakfast and lunch, of course, I, the one with the opposable thumbs, will hook them up, tambien.
The other day, as I was just dipping my toe into the temporary new normal, (which we’re promised wis supposed to end by Easter, if you’re a complete idiot or have the immune system of a rat or cockroach, or a Mark IV diving suit — note: which when I first wrote that, it was “current” or relevant” but, tho’ it has changed in the mere days since uttered, still seems pertinent to record, so without further ado we return you to our regularly scheduled rant – um BTDubs, we’re back to…the… um … past) I was with all the other zanies scouring the shopping aisles of my Gelson’s mere minutes before the Mayor’s announced City wide shutdown was upstaged by the Governor’s state-wide decree, and was shocked in this white enclave of Calabasas to discover that the tortilla aisle was mowed tighter than the Galaxy’s pitch.
Whaaaa? You guys get the bagels and white bread! Leave the torts for those of us who have tastebuds!
But hang on, Scottie Jeanette… weren’t you the girl who wrote Recklass in the Kitchen? Didn’t you learn at Margie Romero’s knee how to make manna from Mexico… from scratch?
Oh no. We got this. We’re on it…
Except, good luck finding it here. They can’t even spell Masa Harina. But they did have a lone bag (it looked like it’s mother had driven off without her) of Bob’s Red Mill, grits. Now, a quick dip into the Goog, (which is possible, cuz they got great wifi here) reveals that Masa & Grits are actually kissin’ cousins. Both made from Hominy, La Tia to the humble corn that’s a tastier amiga from across the border (of the Valley, the tortilla factory is in Hacienda Heights.) we think we’re eating as we dip it into salsa. I.E. Who knew? It’s not “regular” corn, (is there such a thing as normal?) but the large fluffy white or yellow starch that make pozole, and so many other classic dishes iconic.
So back to, “I got this.” I adopted the bag and brought it home. Now, the Goog, did say that’s it courser and the suggestion was to grind it finer. No, prob, I say, I’ve got a Ninja… another genius gift from Mylove to her love to improve her cooking prowess. But, I must confess, it was harder than I thought. If you’re gonna try it, be prepared to spend a lot of time on this. After 20 or so grindings, I decided that this was “an experiment” and resigned myself to lowering the bar.
The dough was, after the the mixing process. still… what’s the the right technical culinary term I’m looking for… ah, yes… Yucky.
So I popped them into the reefer to see if a timeout in the cold and dark would get them back on my team.
The next morning I was fantasizing about writing to you all about my genius Coronahack – me, the survival TV showrunner had actually learned something out in the bush, (other than mascara will freeze at 14 degrees) and even the “Perfessor” John Hudson would be proud. Oh yes, I was going to start with the basic breakfast taco and maybe even get some enchiladas out of the deal…
If… by taco you mean chicken wrapped in a hockey puck
Which it was. I’m not kidding — these sucked.
And so I wrapped them still warm in a plastic bag (Lib, don’t judge me — it was recycled at least once!) hoping that maybe the moisture would make them soft enough to salvage. (After all, this is Packylypse — who knows when I will ever get to the store again). I rationalized (again, silk tortilla, sow’s puck, kinda thingy) that they will at least make a good tamale pie – baking them in sauce until they disintegrate back to their original grit.
But if that’s gonna happen, I better seal them in… hey? Where did I put them?
This is the thing about this social distancing thingy…
… I’m… okay,… losing it.
I am maintaining a very disciplined schedule. But I feel like maintaining it is all I’m really capable of doing right now. Is my work good? I dunno. Is my cooking good? I dunno. But then, I’m a captive audience, I would eat anything (everything) long about now. Is it my best. Feels like it. Could be. But I just don’t seem to have available bandwidth for anything other than moving onto the next task at it’s scheduled time. And I’m doing something I rarely, if ever, developed a muscle to even do… and that is:
I’m second, third and even fourth guessing myself — like now.
I thought I put the tortillas up on the reefer. Nope. Cuz they’re not there. The cheese drawer where I normally keep REAL tortillas? Nope. But I put them onto the top of the reefer. You said this already. I know, but… Ah, the bread cupboard. Why? Why what? Why would you put them there? I dunno, cuz there not in the cheese drawer and they’re …
If you go look on top of the reefer one more time, I swear to Gawd… I know, but I put them there.
Obviously you didn’t… And who are you talking to?
YOU! You are who I’m talking to… which… is … shit… me…
It was a mystery that bothered me for the rest of the day… and… I’m not like this. I can get as distracted as the next girl, but I keep my kitchen tight.
That’s when I have to confront the truth… as Sherlock Holmes was credited with saying, (You mean Arthur Conan Doyle? Shsh! She’s on a roll!)
Where was I? Oh yeah, Sherly would say, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” So since they were neither on the reefer, in the cheese drawer or even in the bread cupboard…
Did I walk away with them in hand, and absent-mindedly leave them in my medicine chest? Marcy left our cordless phone in the freezer once… it’s not impossible?
I ran up stairs excited to the freezer and pulled open the door with triumphant… disappointment. Its here that both Aria & Bella, looked at me like I really was certifiable, and started to rochambeau for who was going to have to learn out how to dial a cell phone first. I saw the expression on their furry faces and I realized… all that remained, however impossible was that…
… I had a tortilla thief.
Here’s what’s got me most freaked out during quarantime. How my mind can with oh so little encouragement, can and even more scarily will go… I swing back and forth from the enlightened heart opened expansiveness of crying that the almost ninety year old neighbor gave me a lemon from her tree in gesture of pure human kindness, generosity and connection… to the absolute fear that she could be handing me COVID-19, and I have to smile thru her beautiful attempts to try to find her learned English (as her fourth or fifth language) while as the clock ticks toward to running to wash my hands and quarantine this precious lemon.
I hate that I can see all the vectors like a T1 Cyborg thermal scanning where my left hand (the one that takes the bullet for the team) goes doing the most mundane things, keeping the right hand from harm’s way while I quarantine my mail, my groceries, my deliveries… and we all are developing our own “protocols” for this new normal.
I hate it because it means that despite the warnings of all of the greatest minds before us, like Margret Atwood, Ray Bradbury, Issac Asimov, we didn’t listen to a goddamned thing they said, blowing off their warnings like fanciful fiction… instead of prescient understanding of human kind… NEWSFLASH! we are living that science fiction story you’ve been nightmaring about!!!!!!!
We were warned by countless sources. Our President and his cronies are either evil or idiots.yet neither helps us. But we if die, it won’t matter who’s to blame. cuz we’ll be corona-ed. And there’s nothing FOX News will able to spin about that. So am I really hoping that its as cray as it seems just so idiots will wear their face masks? WTF? I hafta walk myself back from the edge with every waking thought!
Yes! Our Governors are stepping up (some are – the other will burn) and I’m proud as always to be a Californian, always have been, but Governor Newsom makes me especially proud and will be hailed as a a hero as will Governor Cuomo.
… where my mind goes during this lockdown. It doesn’t see the future — only the present… and the present is…
I scoured the house for the telltale signs. Now, you should know that Bella has swallowed an entire knee sock before, (I’ll spare you the photo of that… I still can’t unsee it) and Aria was capable of devouring an entire bunny right before me like a python (again this is a family show) So, if either (and probably both) were in on this caper, I prayed they had the sense to be able to tell the difference between hockey puck and recycled plastic bag…
Which I found. The plastic bag I mean. In the backyard. So even though they might not have good taste (like I said, not my best work) they at least have good sense. And they know to hide their dirty work.
But they ate a dozen.
But left the bag.
Did I still give them their second snack between 2nd breakfast and lunch?
Of course I did. What kind of mother do you think I am? But Marcy, Mylove would’ve made this a “teachable moment”… I… didn’t have the heart.
Everyone needs a little more space these days — and I’ve certainly been guilty of needing that during this lockdown.
Oh, and… What were we talking about?
Did someone say tortillas?
You oughta know not to stand by the window. Somebody see you up there, I got some groceries, some peanut butter, to last a couple of days...
Well, alright sportsfans (as my father used to love to say) I guess I got my wish (sorta) something to write about besides dating apps...
If you're reading this from your digital bunker (as I am writing it) you're hunkering down, waiting for the apocalypse that the White House continues to insist will just "go away." The Carana-virus as the Orange One likes to call it, has wreaked havoc across the world and at this writing threatens to make this spring an indoor version of it's former self.
It's not the virus itself that has affected me personally, but the fear that seems to be gripping everyone except the real humans with whom I interact. Someone has been been ripping through stores in my immediate neighborhood like locusts, someone has been gouging consumers for everything from hand sanitizer to face masks. Someone has been pulling out of their reservations forcing the outright canceling of annual events. We just don't know who those someones are...
Well that's not exactly accurate -- the pulling out are some of the biggest companies in the world - whose full scale withdrawals from their commitments have forced the cancelations of everything from SXSW, to E3 (largest annual Electronics show) NAB, TriBeCa Film Fest and the TED Conference so far. NBA season is suspended, March Madness will live up to it's name playing in empty arenas -- it's flat out nuts. (Today's new parlour/drinking game: https://www.isitcanceledyet.com/).
But, nobody I know has lost their minds... yet - but a sh*t ton of people have and they live in my zipcode or at least they thought we were a market ripe for the picking...
As you know, I live alone. (Except for course for my fur babies - Aria & Bella) I have occasional guests. But where I'm going with this is, I have significantly changed (or had it changed for me) my "consumer" habits. In other words - I only buy toilet paper from Costco about twice a year.
The cost difference is really why I do it. TP in a regular store costs about as much for 12 rolls as it does for 12 packages of rolls (givertake) at "the Costco." I'm no financial genius, but I know it's a better buy. And truly speaking it was my beloved Marcy who even got me to think about the stuff in the first place. She was the one with the sensitive skin. She wanted the good stuff (trust me, she was Scottish to a cliché'd fault and if she was going to splurge on herself anywhere - I'm glad she at least did it there!) So, Charmin' and the Costco it was -- many times we considered canceling the membership but we saved that much money in TP, so my girl was worth it.
Now, ever since the first day of Spring 2017, her wisdom about the softness of said paper became... well... personal. And real. Okay, and yes, she was right. (about so many things - but this was critical). Thank gawd, I listened to her.
So... it's still on my house essentials list. Right up there with dog food, red wine and jalapeńos. (okay there's a few other things that are always on my "must have" list - like my hair colored, my nails done and the mortgage paid) but you know what I'm talking about.
The point is, I keep my eye on the stockpile. And yes, I've been busy lately, and I knew I needed to get some. But I got into writing binge last week and I thought, "I've got two rolls, I'm good..."
Now, yes, I've been watching the news (in my in-box, not the tube, I haven't watched TV news since Mylove had it on 24/7, it was the only thing that could distract her from the pain besides the Golden Girls. I save my TV for Mrs. Maisel, the Crown, Chernobyl and the best pic noms) but, yes, I knew the world was bracing for impact, China was tapering off, but Italy was flaring, 8 cases had been reported in Washington state. But it was still "far off." And one day, when I needed gas, I thought, "hey, I'm not in any hurry, I'll run up to the Costco, grab some gas, some TP and maybe a few other things for the house..."
And it seemed o.... kay? There was a an eerie calm over everyone -- they seemed to be almost hushed in a place that is usually cacophonic in its consumersthenics -- but I was in an hurry and didn't pay it no nevermind. I should've clocked that something was amiss when there were no carts. I had to go back out to the parking lot (which if you've ever been to the Costco, you know it could almost be the distance of two football fields) to find one lone stray cart and return to the store. I picked up some organic chicken thighs as I made my way to the extreme back of the store which is like a warehouse inside of warehouse where the paper products and water and dog food is...
... it was cleaned out like Costco had lost their lease.
That's when it hit me, the veiled calm o'er everyone was the silence that poker players exude when they stare at their cards. Everyone had merely been pretending to be calm as they maneuvered their carts in front of each other to "box out" the "competition." If they had the sacred paper, they were protecting it. Like the Texas Hold 'em all-stars, they weren't giving up their tells, they weren't telegraphing how or when they were gonna take the pot.
Only here there wasn't a pot to piss in, (or wipe after). I put my chicken back in the cooler, abandoned my cart and headed for the manager. When I found one I asked when they would be getting more TP and he laughed, "Darlin' we get a truckload every morning at 10. It's gone by 10:15. If you wanna get some you have to be here and get in line.
I smirked that I'm not gonna play into the hysteria... but he went back to restocking M&M's and those funky rolled Rice Crispies tubie thingys.
I thanked him and left, grumbling under my breath about the chicken-littles who are messing it up for the rest of us.
It took me two more days before I could bring myself to try again -- apparently, I had enough (TP) to afford to be mad. First world problems...
And I was mad -- as the news of the lunacy started to escalate, I realized that there are two people in the world. Those who care about each other and those who care only for themselves, and the latter group weren't any of the people I personally knew, so just who were these faceless hoarders who were sucking up all the TP from Costco... I could just imagine these faceless somebodies, garage full of paper gleefully rubbing their hands together waiting for the extort light to flash, preying on those of us who thought it was better to ration so everybody would be able to wipe.
And my sister Lib said it best. Even of you swear you won't buy into the hysteria, it does mess with your thinking. When she went to her Trader Joes (we all have 'em, do we not?) and the shelves were starting to be cleared by the hoarders, she thought I better stock up too -- who knows when the hoarding will stop? Lib keeps a great pantry having raised three children and an athlete-husband. So if she's second guessing herself, it's bad. But there were only black beans left so she "had to get 'em" only to get home and discover she'd already had 6 cans.
But she hit it on the head. Mass Hysteria (veiled as "thinking prudently" or "common sense") adds to the fear. And I don't like it when I see some woman stuffing an extra dozen eggs into a carton so she can get around the 1 dozen eggs per customer rule, that I start to judge that woman. She could have five boys at home who eat three eggs at a whack or be baking the cake for her niece's wedding. The point is, I'm willing to stop looking on her with compassion just because she cut me off on the way to check-out aisle.
I will not be that person. That person who hates first and asks questions later... but it's requiring more vigilance lately than I have...
Over toilet paper.
I was recounting this tale of whoa, (sic) to my friend Jill as she was shopping for some ready made meals so she could get back to her studies (she had just come up for air -- working on her second Masters degree) and she said, "You're right, I'm here in Gelson's and they have some paper must be because everything is so expensive here anyway, but the aisles are pretty scarce..." We laughed at how cray everyone was, and agreed to talk after her next paper...
And, realizing that I might be playing a harsh game of TP roulette, I finally got off my tookas and set out in search of paper...
It was even worse in the smaller stores -- Ralphs looked like a bomb hit that aisle but every other aisle was perfectly stocked. Musta been a Neutron Bomb. I was going to hunt down the manager and give him a piece of my mind for allowing hoarders to decimate the store. But then I thought I was going to protest by NOT giving them the business (let them fall on their own swords). And I walked out of the store. Sprouts? Same story. Sprouts, REALLY? Who shops at Sprouts for TP????? I left in another huff. Not even gonna try Smart and Final. Skunked at Pavilions. Shut out at CVS. Shut down at Vons.
I couldn't believe these managers (and stores) were playing into the hysteria too. Money was more important than the people who were hoping to spend it, I grumbled, as I turned my car onto Mulholland Highway to head for Gelsons.
Once in, I wasn't going to drop and run over to the TP, I still was digging in my heels -- I would not capitulate to fear. If I had to use old rags and paper towels, so be it (says she now in the comfort of her clean cotton panties... )
And... there was a half-stocked shelf. But the only paper left came only in packs of four. I wasn't about to become the girl I was mother-fing earlier at every other store. But it was a half-stocked shelf. So I grudgingly took two packs, grabbed some butter, some epsom salts and some red wine and headed for the check-out. My total?????
$55.00 - Are you F-ing kidding me?
"This ain't no party, this ain't no disco -- This ain't no fooling around. No time for dancing, or lovey dovey, I ain't got time for that now..."
For the years since I transitioned socially - which means I've officially (through court order, SS change, CDL, passport & constant reminders of proper pronouns) declared who I've always been to the outside world (all you outside Mylove's and my sacred bubble) I've been un....un...un-em...unemployed. Which is weird for me -- I've always been a freelancer or a project based contractor. I get hired by the network & the production company to deliver a show. When I was between gigs (truly speaking, you never know when the other side of the tween is... but you get into a rhythm) it was the blessed calm that allowed me to catch-up on personal writing/projects -- it's why I am so disciplined with my writing - I never know when it's time to go run a show again.
But this time the "tween" has stretched past 3 years of un...un...un-em, employment. We never say that out loud in LA LA Land - cuz that means you're a leper. We have a whole bunch of cute phrases for a situation that the rest of country uses to get a check, some assistance, or even just a free drink at their local watering hole. "Taking some personal time," "Hitting the pause button," or the above or it's even more vague step cousin, "between opportunities." But no matter how you slice it in this land of superstition and mystery, for us it says failure. Stay away. Nobody ever really knows why anything in this town is successful, (The Bachelor? The Masked Singer, really?) so, we then never really ever know why we've failed. Everyone has skills. Everyone is creative. Brilliant? Yes, there are some. But, they make up about 1% of all the work that's ever been done. No, the safest and truly most accurate response is to regard it as "a calling" or "a spiritual quest." And I'm not being facetious, it is really is.
But then, if your destiny dictates your success what do you do when you're... not success-ing...?
If you're not in charge of your success (which, let's be real you're really not) then you're also not in charge of your free fall...
So then what? Will those prayers deliver the parachute by drone?
I have always been known for my creativity and my tactical brilliance. I've been able to invent whole shows out of the fantasy of others and bring them into reality on ridiculous budgets. And I've been able to enlist my crews into this effort. Yes, it's a superpower -- but it's the crucial superpower that all showrunners must have. I'm not special in that regard -- we're a... breed, if you will. Or mutant works too.
But my tactical foresight never saw the blindspot that I'd fallen into once I started wearing lipstick. It's funny what people will say out loud to you when you suddenly become "other."
Well, it's not us, but we're just afraid your crews might not want to follow "a you..." So, suddenly, I'm ... "a you?"
Was that how everyone felt? I will never know. I just know that I haven't had a gig in three years. But I never really had time to investigate... when Mylove got sick, I turned my superpower to making her life the best it could be. I stopped looking past today. Because all my tactical brilliance couldn't cure cancer. But my love and my hands could give her some relief.
Burned all my notebooks, what good are notebooks? They won't help me survive. My chest is aching, burns like a furnace. The burning keeps me alive. Try to stay healthy, physical fitness. Don't want to catch no disease...
And I must admit, that between grief, mourning and outrage, my immune system has been taking it on the chin for the last 3 years. (Let's be real, for the last year of Mylove's life here on earth, I was dancing on shattered glass.) Life for the last few years in the country and abroad has been one of bile & fever, and I haven't been the best at applying my over thirty years of a meditation practice as well as I should. Choosing the sound of one hand clapping...
... and/or out & out disgust rather than love and light.
I'm not proud of it.
It has made me "at effect" in life rather than "present." But is hasn't been all darkness and dread. There are many in my life, my sisters both blood and chosen and a small cadre of brothers have rallied around me has kept watch over me. Of this I am grateful and humbled.
So when this world loses it center, I have a hub that keeps me rolling forward.
Mylove and I used to always debate the very notion of sisterhood - a magical almost ethereal "state" that Mylove swore didn't really exist but I had craved my entire life. I have sisters. She did not. I knew what was possible having grown up with them. And I am so grateful to say I have that now especially with my Lib. Though when I dig deeper, I see it's something I never ever didn't have. It's just that at our age now with the last "untold" chamber of my heart revealed to her, we're closer than ever imagined - certainly, she's the closest human to my heart on the planet.
But Mylove was raised by a mother of a different era who taught her that "ain't bitches women" and "never trust another woman, especially when a man is involved." The good news is that Mylove never let that get in between her and some amazing women. And their relationships were strong - but she did not believe in the magick of sisterhood that I knew had to be there.
And is... here. My coven is actually quite large filled with powerful women who have tied their hearts to mine in a golden shawl of sisterhood. I have named these names many times. And you know who you are. They are raising me to be as strong, as smart, as brilliant, as Gracious and as kind (Indira!) as they are.
And as fabulous.
One night as I wasn't so much leaning in to life during wartime as cliff diving into the abyss -- having been stood up again (or is it still?) by some "right swipe" from Bumble, drowning my sorrows in my second Margarita while watching Joker (Yep, girl's got it bad) I texted to my dear friend Ruthie, (who is my "lifeline" when I go on dates) that I had been stood up. She could, therefore, stand down. I wasn't going anywhere, fast. And, I didn't want her to worry. I finished my marg and tried to get invested in the Joker's origin story (which never really happened) ... suddenly my phone "dinged," Ruthie had gotten my text and texted back for me to "get my butt down to the Rabbit Hole!"
Remember what the dormouse said...
So I did. We danced, and danced and danced - it was Ruthie's friend's Patti's birthday, and we laughed and danced some more ( i was trying to wash the Joker stain from my veins) and suddenly the birthday girl was hungry so we left... since I was the one with the car, I drove us all home. Ruthie immediately yells "SHOTGUN!" forcing Patti and Karen into my back seat (which usually requires both pilates & yoga to accomplish). Once in, Ruthie turns on my radio and we sang all the way home...
... Unseasonably warm winter breeze, good friends "scringing" (screaming + singing) ABBA and the wartime suddenly started to fade away... we turned the corner onto the dirt road above our neighborhood, and were suddenly blasted by the full moonlight...
Ruthie leapt from the car shouting,
Now. The only people who've ever seen me topless are my mammogram tech, my gyno and Mylove. And as I'm getting out of the car, trying to sort out my feelings, my top is yanked from my body by Ruthie while she's arguing with Patti who's protesting that she's not getting into this crackerbox twice! I'm still trying to figure out if I'm going to even know how to dance, let alone do it topless, when my bra is suddenly off and all four of us are rocking to the last strains of Dancing Queen still playing on my car radio...
As the blue-white rays bathed my bare skin, Ruthie grabbed my hands to dance, I was grateful, shocked, giddy and... sistered...
Yes, it's life during wartime, and it's as cray as it's ever been - superheated by the national fever of bipartisan chaos and white nationalism. I do need to keep my eye on the ball, but even so, I know I need life, real life to keep on so, I can keep on, keeping on.
I realized, this was the lyric missing from the David Bryne's, treatise of life when's there's no Mudd Club or CBGB...
Yes. It's the essential ingredient that Seal pointed out was far more valuable than some peanut butter to last a couple of days...
No, we're never gonna survive unless we all get...
... a little Ruthie.
Am I naive? Or just new? I keep thinking that “my next post will be the happy ending(?) of my posts about online dating… or lack thereof.
Dating, I mean.
This is crazy. It can’t be this… silly. Someone asks someone else out and they go someplace to chat and learn about each other and see if there’s a there, there. Right?
Maybe it’s my target demo. As a 57-year old woman going on the edge of seventeen (Stevie!) I set the age parameters at 45 to 65. I’m a reasonable, mature woman, I don’t expect to be some forty-year old’s mid-life crisis. And anyway, my forties sucked. From 36 to 45, I thought my body was in the worse shape of my life – using work and stress and any other excuse I could find to justify not working out. The truth is my ancestors (Irish & Scottish on my father’s side, Finnish, Polish & Swedish on my mother’s ) are prone to many things of which I am most proud – Storytellers, Poets, Scrappy Warriors who never back down (look across the histories of all my pedigrees, none of them have ever let anyone hold them down for very long) but exercise and eating right? Our diets will always start after the next whiskey.
So, I set the bar a little higher on the three (at last count) dating app profiles but I always swipe left for anyone under 49. I am already struggling to find things to talk about — I don’t wanna get called out for not knowing an entire decade of pop culture and other small talk… and maybe that’s the rub. Three dates (so far) pulled the rip cord hours before our pre-negotiated meeting time by playing the illness card. (making the above case) One “back thrown out,” one “tummy-ache,” and one was “just not feeling well.”
It didn’t help that each time I was already into “date pre-pro” which is a three hour process of trying on and discarding half my wardrobe in utter disgust – finally settling for “something, somewhat cute” then hair and make-up (I’ve gotten eyeliner down to a maximum of two complete attempts.) And each time the red abort light went on, I was stopped somewhere between shapewear and curlers…
Maybe this is why these guys are single? (Ya think?) Do they know how much we’ve got in on this stupid coffee or measly glass of wine? They can pull a shirt form the dryer (still damp) and run out the door and we’re supposed to smile and think “Awe, boys will be…”
Gimme a break – put your back into it guys and push even just a little… I’m a freakin’ catch, bitch!
But okay… that’s not what I’m writing about today. And so spoiler alert, this isn’t the happy ending either, it is a slightly different cul-de-sac encounter on my way to one (please God, I’ll even settle for slightly amusing at this point.)
No… today’s post is about collateral damage.
For those of you who’ve been following this thread, you met “Aubs,” Aubrianna, a young woman I met as her mentor in the SDSU TV & Film Production Mentorship Program. She’s an amazing person, who made the jump just this month to come to Hollywood and pursue her dreams (despite my warnings that only the strong survive and we eat our young, bladdity bladdity blaaaaa – I never listened to these warning either when I was her age. so good for her, she passed test one).
She has been a gracious house guest (despite her love for the Batchelor – which is like watching a car crash for me, and our enabling of each other of drinking wine on a school night). Aubs must be born under some powerful stars, because inside of the first week of being here she found her new apartment, she got an interview with a Producer on a hit network show and was standing next to me when I got invited to a real bonafide “Oscar After Party” – and was “Taft-Hartleyed” into the invitation as well. She should buy a lottery ticket – she’s on fire!
Now, for those of you outside the ‘Studio zone” (the thirty mile radius of Hollywood the unions use to determine additional compensation for its members that all productions adopt to stay competitive) – The Oscar After Party is the mythical chimera that you have to pretend you’re too cool to want, or so bored you have to go to… again, but is for all intents and purposes the annual Prom night for Tinseltown. You’re either going, or quietly envious.. especially if you’ve… never gone.
Fair disclosure? I have watched the Oscars and the Emmy’s mouthing my own acceptance speech along with each winner. Marcy and I would always dream-up “the dress” we would wear to the awards when the day came that we would be walking the steps to the podium, (she was prone to Thrift-store vintage, me, I’m holding out to wear the hottest designer du jour). I have never watched the broadcast without waiting to exhale for the three hours, not because I had a horse in the race, but because one day, I will (for reals) .. and it just hasn’t happened yet.
So when we got the invitation, I went all in. This was a “red carpet dresscode” and I ask you… do you have a real honest-to-goodness evening gown? I’ve acquired a lot of frocks since I became everyone’s favorite Barbie. Many generous souls have created my wardrobe. I am supremely grateful. It’s one of the most beautiful and tangible examples of acceptance from the divine women/angels in my life. Audie, Robyn, Auntieji, Ana, I have everything from LA casual to St. John’s Palos Verdes fabulous.
But I’ve never even tried a real, evening gown on, let alone had one.
So it was off to Santee Alley. The famed “dress row” of the downtown fashion district. And 40 dresses later, I had my frock. The next day I was guide (now thst i”m an expert) for Aubs came (and I had pick mine up from being was altered) and…
…she nailed hers on the first freakin’ dress she tried on. I wanted to hurl. The dress practically jumped off the rack onto her body! (bitch!) and then she found the perfect shoes next store. It was over so fast we even had time to celebrate with a trip Phillipe’s (famed french dip sandwiches) since we were stil one day outside of the “carbs?-are-you-insane-you-have-an-Oscar-Gosh-Darned-Party-to-go-to” zone.
And Aubs had a friend who stepped forward to do both our hair and make-up. On the “day of,” we went down to hang with Cassidy, who, in between “bong-rips” mades us both fabulous. (Look I’m not judging – she was great!) We raced back from El Segundo (hey, I will drive for contouring!) got dressed – were smart enough to shoot some quick pics in case tonight’s rain ended our Cinderella night before we could prove it happened, and jumped into our Uber…
Now, If April showers bring May flowers, Oscar Awards bring torrential rains. Many use this as a way to prove the Soddom & Gomorrah thingy, but we prefer to see it as the blessing from the Universe that our work is sacred. Potato-Tomato. So we sloshed across the hastily laid astroturf that was better at protecting the Beverly Hills Mansion’s lawns than the hems of our full length frocks…
…when we got inside the Best actor Award was being announced (even though our invitation was for the after party only) and we were in Oz, down the rabbit hole – thru the looking glass all in one. Magic. Excitement. The air was electric…
And we looked good.
After a few cocktails, some flirting, some dancing, and lots of air kisses, hanging out with the party’s host, the Fabulous MacAfrica (not enough time to describe this force of nature) and the divine Ruthie (the star of last blogs post), more selfies,
a mini-concert with Dennis Quaid’s band the Sharks.
… yes, it was time to try to find the ladies room.
When I returned, a forty-going on sixty something man was chatting up Aubs. I joined in and Aubs introduced me as her aunt (we’d agreed – it was lovely) and the man graciously acknowledged my intrusion. But we all settled fairly quickly into a nice chat and somehow I got on the subject of my career in “reality tv” to which, he said, “well it’s kinda like what’s going on here…”
Aubs and I were both confused by his suddenly going all meta on us, breaking the “fourth wall” on what seemed like a conversation. “Sorry?” I said, whiplash just beginning to bruise my neck from the sudden left turn (with no signal!). The air seemed to freeze and I swear the music stopped…
He blinked a moment, and looked at me and said, “well, we’ve got a fake woman, here,” and he pointed at Aubs, and said, “…and a real woman, here.”
We were both stunned.
Well, he said, without any compunction whatsoever, “You’re a transvestite, aren’t you?”
Gobsmacked… my minded stopped like Wylie Coyote in that half second in the air, thirty feet past the edge of the cliff, right before gravity yanks them by the tail into terminal velocity …
I managed to stammer out, “… no.” trying to sound as calm as possible. Desperately teetering on the tightrope between dignity, protecting my transiblings, and a possible murder conviction.
You’re not? He pressed.
Now I am getting weightless. That sickly, disorienting feeling of surreality that comes and you no longer have any connection to your own body or reason.
This is where Aubs stepped in, my Champion, astride a shining stallion red off-the shoulder gown flowing in the unseens winds… “This conversation is over.” She said, with the surety of a death sentence.
Is it? He challenged, with the utter unshakable gall that is white male privilege.
“Oh, yes,” replied Aubrianna, The Red, with fist balling and pupils narrowing to predatory malice.
He slunk away without another word.
Are you alright? She asked, the malice instantly replaced with gentle concern. Yes, I nodded. And bucked myself up with all the cliche’s — I didn’t care about that assclown’s opinion before we started talking why do I now?, He’s a typical doooooosch. etc. etc.
But it stung like hell. But, I took a breath and put it away — I was not going to blow Aub’s first Oscar Afterparty in what I hope for us both will be a long string that will blur into blasé.
We finished off the evening with a few more trips to the Vodka Ice fountain, more dancing and another Lfyt ride. Then it was sweet Oscar dreams for us both and I’m sure she was as giddy as I was when oxygen finally hit my brain after peeling off my shapewear and getting my first full breath in hours…
But my dreams were short lived – I was still stung.
But, you would’ve been proud of me. I waited three whole days until we were safely away from the after Oscar glow to ask Aubs, “Be honest. Is there anything that could’ve…”
I couldn’t find the right words – cuz here’s the thing about me and some (not all, we are not and never will be, one size fits all) I DO, finally after 48 years of hating, ignoring and eventually not seeing what is in the mirror, like what I see.
Even tho’ I can see all my imperfections.
And before my cisters jump to my defense, you must understand this – YES YES YES all women must deal with society’s expectations and mysogynistic, patriarchal standards of beauty. Yes we’ve all been taking one step forward and ten steps backward at self-love, self-care and not anything-shaming, and some days are better than others but here’s where we, my trans women and I have an added element that many of our cisters still have a hard time understanding (while others get it right away). Our bodies were forged in the crucible of testosterone. And despite all of the surgeon’s skill and inner meditation and self-love, we can still see where we were and where we aren’t, on top of all the above mentioned beauty issues that every woman deals with. It’s a triple whammy. A three-headed Cerberus waiting for us in every mirror.
And for me. I know that the tag-team wrestling match between enlightenment & acceptance and self-consciousness & cynicism is a no-holds-barred match which IS the journey. And I’ve been winning more often than not through the love and acceptance of my family blood & chosen.
So… asking this question without selling myself out was a tricky affair… and thankfully, Aubs stepped in before I tied the noose.
“Nothing. Not at all. I have no idea what could’ve possibly given that idea.”
“Was it… my… voice?” Which, truth be told, sells me out on every phone support call. I have a prepared speech that doesn’t even work thirty seconds after I give it… so, I get it. If you cannot see the lipsticked mouth saying it, you will naturally infer sir.
“No,” said Aubs, trying really hard to help me. “Maybe… honestly, it’s your height?” She could be right. I was never tall when the world regarded me as Scott. But now? I’m the tallest in every group photo… sigh.
As my wounds started to heal (licking does actually help, mom!) I was ready to dig into why this was still bothering me days later… when I was interrupted by the ding of a bumble message coming in… Apparently, Someone was all abuzz about me… (their words not mine.)
Yes. He was handsome. And (sigh) he was “in the biz” (a grip) making me suddenly “Get it” guys in my biz need Bumble, Tinder, and Plenty of Fish because they’ve been shiite at relationships, working too long on my and my fellow showrunner’s sets…
After some playful banter back and forth, I got…
“WHOA – I just saw that I missed a very important aspect of your profile… but I actually do think you are amazing and I would still like to get to know you.”
He was talking of course about my trans-proclamation:“I don’t want to be the first transgender woman that you’ve dated, and if you cannot take me home to meet your family, then we can’t be friends, let alone lovers.”
As I’ve said, I don’t want to be someone’s teacher or hold someone’s hand while they dip a toe “into the wild side,” and I for sure, don’t want to be someone’s fetish. I also don’t want to state any of the above with any apology, any shame, or any anything, not me.
But his WHOA… pissed me off.
I tried to tell him that saying it in that way made me feel like it was everything I tried so hard to make sure it wouldn’t be. And that his saying he would “still” like to get to know me makes it sound like I’m “less than,” and he’s making it seem like he’s making a concession, deigning to meet me.
I tried to be gracious and thread the needle between standing up for myself and making it a teachable moment.
He shot back, “Well, come on, give me a break,
Like the Oscar assclown, I felt the air literally sucked from lungs. As a zillion retorts jumped from the ropes into the melee to be the first to tear him a new one, grace and decorum quietly snuck through the roiling chaos, and I watched as my fingers typed:
“You could not be more wrong or offensive. I am a woman. You are right. I am an amazing person. And when you can understand that, come find me.” I then unmatched him – Bumble’s way of flushing the toilet. A digital mic drop.
And that’s when the lightbulb went on – I could see why this and the Oscar dooosch had gotten so far under my skin. They both had the unshakable faith that they had done/said nothing wrong. Even when it was pointed out to them. They doubled down. They never once took a breath – listened to the world and said, gosh, maybe I got this wrong. I’m sorry.
It’s so cray, because this is not a subject that is new. Trans is a word that is all over the news (the good the bad and the republican), “they” as a reference to non-binary folx is Webster’s word of the decade, so how could these clowns be sooooo fucking ignorant? Arrogant or both?
Oh, Scottie Jeanette, bless your ever loving heart. The answer my friend is blowing in the wind…they’re both fucking dudes.
Now. I can hear the throats clearing and the eyes rolling from here. Everything from isn’t she charming patting of my head to resigned sllghtly sympathetic eyebrow raising to out and out denials and excuses made for the testosteroned ones… but, you all know what I’m talking about. The depth of their privilege and the lack of even a flash of awareness was stunning. Startling. Depressing. And it made me feel hopeless.
Because of our work, and the folx I run and hang with, my life can feel like it’s a fantasy. If I shut out the constant news cycle, and ignore the shenanigans in our nation’s capitol, the world feels like a fantasy come true, progressive, diverse, beautiful and thriving.
Not everyone is Queer, but we are sisters, daughters, aunts, nieces, nephews, uncles, brothers and sons of everyone, so you might not be us, but you know us and how to respect us.
But these are encounters in L-freaking-A, for phuc-sayk! Are you kidding me? And where do we start to get these perfect specimens to open their hearts or even try to understand…?
I realize that it may never happen. Those two idiots explain why we have to fight for the rest of our lives to be human. Because somebody’s gotta do it, and it clearly ain’t them.
So wtf to do? WTF… to do?
I set out on Bumble (and Tinder and Plenty of Fish) to find someone “man enough to love me as much as I could love him, strong enough to hug me harder than I could him.”
I never knew I was looking for a unicorn.
Everyone tells me that I’m going to meet someone who’s going to literally fall out of the sky.
Cuz it ain’t happening on my phone…
Posted on February 12, 2020 by scottiejeanette
Best laid plans of mice & women… I had hoped to follow-up last week’s string of near and total whiffs (okay, I still have a few sports dialect filters running) with a stand-up double (to keep the baseball jargon, a’flowin’) or at least a solid line drive up the middle… I wasn’t swingin’ for the fences (or so I thought) heck, let’s be real, I would’ve been happy for a full-count walk…
I don’t wanna lose faith in the boys of summer (or winter spring or fall) but I am beginning to wonder what went wrong… with guys in general, I mean. Or in this case the men of Bumble, Tinder and Plenty of Fish. They are, so far, turning out to be as cliche’d bad as everyone warns me they are. Even my dear friend Chris (a veteran dude, if ever there was one) just shakes his head, not at their b*llsh*t, but at my naïveté.
But it can’t just be me. And in truth, I’m getting a lot of sympathy from my sisters out here. They commiserate with me, they console me, and they too are battle-weary, and yet, we cling to the myths of “she met her husband on POS” or they met on Bumble and they get married next week. We cling to these as dearly as the legend that somehow kissing frogs will eventually reveal one’s Prince Charming.
After the aforementioned text-misfires I spoke about last week, wherein each fell into one of three response categories that were so similar that I was seriously wondering if I was doing battle with Russian bots, I “hit it off” with not one but two…
I thought I had broken my streak. The first was a handsome hunk that really made me wonder if it was his eyes that stopped my heart or that grin… after he asked the standard line about “wanting to chat” which I replied “no – ask me out”- he did.
And I replied, “I’m free Saturday night.” – he wrote back – “Saturday works.” I said, “great let me know where and when.”
Take 2… this time with feeling…?Take 2… this time with feeling…?Well, Saturday morning came and went. No word. I started doing backwards math. Date night hair = a least an hour + Date-night make-up = 1 hour… no WAIT! Better make it two + Date night dress(es) = however long it’s gonna take to put on and throw off my entire wardrobe – say, another hour… so, if we’re doing, “Saturday night, pick you up at eight.” like they do in the movies, we’re talking three o’clock H&M call, with wheels up at 7:00 (still don’t where we’re going) to make a set call at 8:00…
(Once a producer always one?)
So, I write – Sweetheart, please let me know where and when, but I need to know by three o’clock otherwise, I’m afraid I shall have to make other plans.
Which of course, came and went. I was so mad I did just that — made other plans after jamming several needles into a doll with piercing blue eyes and a grin that stopped my heart.
But the punch line is three days later he (without apologizing) said he doesn’t open his Tinder much and was just now seeing my messages.
Talk about insulting. He didn’t even honor me with a decent excuse. coming up with plausible excuses. — is it that he thinks I’m stupid? (He was the one who asked me out and confirmed that Saturday would work.) Is he stupid? Or entitled, (he doesn’t owe someone common courtesy?) Eyes and grin or no… handsome or not. You don’t get this girl, dude.
After telling myself what all my girlfriends would repeat to me later — good to know this before I wasted any more time on him, his loss, that’s why he’s single, etc. etc. I got really angry that I had even allowed my heart to skip a beat when staring at his picture… I blamed his mother and every girl that came before me for creating this entitled childish piece of…. before realizing that no. If he’s gonna call himself a man – he will take sole responsibility for being him. No woman needs to ever take that fall.
So, another phrase I’m learning to also steal from the set – moving on.
Take 2… this time with feeling…?
Yes, as I’ve said I’ve hit it off with not one fellah, but two…
Fair disclosure, “hit it off” came after the absolute horror on the face of my dear friend Aubrey who eas looking through my Tinder profile and the stack of photos… when I head a whispered… ooops…?
Ooops? Ooops Aubs? Seriously… oops?
Yes, she said, sheepishly handing me back my phone… I sorta, accidentally… um superliked a guy for you… I think.
I looked at the screen lighting up like I just won a free game on a pachinko machine… (Anyone? Anyone? Nevermind, Google it, or ask your older sister) declaring in bold italics —
IT’S A MATCH!!!
And I thought I was the only one who used multiple exclamation points…
Now, I don’t wanna be shallow, so I read his profile which provided absolutely no information on Mr. Oops. But Fate (And Aubrey brought us together, so… you can’t tell an oops by its cover, I wrote – “Hi. How’s your night going?”
And I was surprised when he immediately asked me out. Which is what I had been wanting – I don’t wanna text, don’t wanna exchange pics or more written info, I need to meet someone and see if I’m interested…
I said yes. He said he was new to the area, could I pick the place. I picked a wine tasting room — at least I’ll get a good glass of wine if the evening skids south…
wait for it…
Now. His text minutes before I was finally ready to walk out of the house was cute – he just pulled his shirt out fo the dryer (that’s not the cute part) and… he said he was nervous. (still not the cute part) he hadn’t dated in a while…
Sweetheart… you have no idea.So, yes, I found that cute.
His clean shirt was… dry. He smelled nice… and he was nervous. So much so that his little “manny tail” (what else do you call that little tuft of hair that’s smaller than the rubber band holding it?) was bobbing in the lights of the wine garden. He excitedly asked what we do next…
Oops, it is.
I said, “well, I guess the first order of business is we get two glasses of wine.”
“Oh, I don’t drink.”
Oops a daisy.
My face must’ve betrayed my… my what? Well, put it this way. I have several friends whose lives have been saved by the various “Something -A” programs. (AA, NA, AL-ANON) and I am truly blessed to have these amazing people in my life — so I am extremely grateful for these programs and have the highest respect for their principles and methods. I would never ever ask someone to do anything uncomfortable. This is as my date pointed out… a DATE!
There are a million-bazillion other places we could’ve met at than a freaking WINE BAR!
He tried to reassure me that it was no issue at all. But it was for me. I wanted him to be comfortable…
Which he must’ve thought I was, because within seconds of finding a romantic place under the trees and twinkling lights… soft valley breeze making my just curled locks wave seductively in the evening promise and breeze… I get…
… his story.
And it’s a doozy. Involving international drug cartels, his smuggling pilot skills being tested as the Nokia walkie-talkies that the feds hadn’t quite figured out…yet, being used to alert the twenty 4×4 trucks to turn on their headlights so he could land his shipment on the 600 yards of jungle cleared just and only for his Cessna…
Yes, the excruciating detail here is his, not mine.
And it doesn’t end there but as you can imagine, in a federal prison for ten years with a year in solitary served when he “defended himself” (apparently inmates found his 6’2′ inch blond and cocaine-sculpted physique irresistible) sending his would-be suitors to… (well, his raised eyebrows and unfinished sentence lead me to believe that I was supposed to let this imagination fill in the blank – which, as we both know, is very dangerous) but wait…
.. it gets better.
He’s new in the area, because… yep, you guessed it. This ain’t a history lesson… it’s an “in the moment,” “up to date,” present-day freaking fact. He’s living in a half-way house. He just got out.
I’m flattered. Kinda…? At least, shouldn’t I be?
Now, those of you who know me that not only is he not the first smuggler I’ve ever met, but not even the most clever, bold or professional… I… um, come from a long line of outlaws. But that’s as they say, a topic for another post. Suffice to say, that his story was fascinating only in that…
… it was my second date ever, and the first… wait for it… hour, (that’s right sports fans, she said HOUR) of our conversation.
His phone buzzed, he looked at it and decided that a prop might bring this all home… he showed me a missed call number which his phone had tracked down to a number in Japan. The cartel, inquiring if he was really “retired.”
When we pivoted into “how” he got involved with the cartels in the first place, I did accept his invitation for a second glass of wine. He didn’t care and I needed to join him.
But I could not. I did, in fact, care. I was able to rise above my own feelings for a brief moment and allow myself to be touched by a rather (now) admirable man. He was not a victim. Did not blame others for his actions, was taking responsibility for making his life right. He had a son & a daughter and was making it right for them too, seemingly.
When he finally paused for a breath, I sipped pensively and heard…
“So… what’re you thinking?”
I tried to swallow without choking…I admit I did not see this coming. I bit my lip and tried to sort my feelings – the screenwriter in me was still feverishly scribbling notes for the action thriller that had just unspooled before me. Which was good, because she would’ve tried to stop me if she knew I was going to say…
“Well… we’ve been here over an hour, and… I know your entire story. But… you don’t know a thing about me…”
He was mortified. He had that look on his face that the second baseman gets when the ball whizzes between his legs… (you knew I would do it didn’t you?)… as Charlie Brown would say, “that feeling you get when you cut your fingernails too short”
He asked then begged for another chance, but I had two glasses of wine and more than I could take for one evening. He said he really liked me. Wanted to see me again. Wanted the chance for me to teach him how to be with a woman.
I was speechless. I said I was not looking to be his teacher. How could he like me when… he didn’t ask a single question of me.
He stared at me – mannytail no longer bobbing in the garden lights… and croaked, “Well… what do we do now?” My heart sank yet again.
I was could not believe my mouth was able to put the words together to say, “It’s time for us each to go to our rides home.”
I cried all the way home. I wondered if I had the stuff to be like my friends had counseled me — you’ll know within minutes, (true) and you can just walk away.
They didn’t tell me my heart would make the second part feel like sh*t. I was touched that he was truly seeking connection with another human – a woman. He had seen (almost all) of my TED talk. So he knew that much about me.
I did what any self-respecting woman raised on Nora Ephron movies would do… I called my girlfriend. Ruthie pulled the frosted martini glasses from the freezer with a flourish, poured us two stiffs ones and gave me a huge hug. We curled up on the couch with a box of kleenex and after getting all the reassurance that it wasn’t me it was him – and that I should’ve done what I did and that by staying and spending the evening with him I was more than generous and kind.
I do know what I want. I want someone to want me. I want… f*ck… I want what I had. I want love, someone who will go the distance like Mylove. Did I know she would when we first met…?
Yes. On some level, I had to have… right?
And before you too jump in to wipe my tears or tell me to grow up (both are valid) know that I’m not going to compromise, settle, or even lose sight that it is love or bust…And I know, I know, I KNOW — it’s a process…
But it still hurt my heart. I don’t want to look another soul in the eye and say – sorry not sorry. I don’t know how to be “looking for something else.” I’ve been that one who wasn’t what she was looking for and it’s not fun. So how could I possibly do that to someone else?
Am I cut out for this kinda thing?
Am I playin’ with fire?
Oops… is right.
Okay… don’t pay the ransom, I escaped. I know, I know, I KNOW… my last post here was September of 2017. I would love to say that I was abducted by aliens, sold to the highest bidder, or even entered rehab to cure my addiction to triplets and hyperbole…
But it’s worse than all that.
I am still under the shroud of grief. I’m trying really hard to make light of the rock of mourning that has lodged itself between my heart and my throat and seems for all intents and purposes to make this it’s permanent home.
My Beloved, Cherished, Treasured Marcy – Mylove left this world over a year ago, and I have just now found the courage to even type those words — tho’ I’m typing through the tears that are my new normal.
September 2017… ah yes… a time from ancient history it seems. I just reread that post and I wish I could tell you I remembered writing it. The truth is, I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast — My daily experience consists of reminding myself of the list of tasks for the day and doing them, rarely being able to think more than one full day in advance. I’m serious — If I don’t put it in my calendar, it won’t get done. And this is an odd feeling for someone whose reputation for tactical excellence fed us for thirty years and bought our dream house among other things. I know I’m supposed to be able to think in five steps ahead of myself in three dimensions, in past present and future simultaneously (not my words, my dear friend Brian accused me of this, which sounds like a supreme compliment until the punchline, which was, “but you have absolutely no tolerance for those who don’t share this superpower.”)
It’s not that I don’t care, its that existence doesn’t hold my interest between the waves of grief. And yet, I know I have to keep putting one foot after the other.
The pause in my blogging wasn’t intentional or even conscious… in fact, I spent the time being unconscious – first because, we were steeling ourselves for the latest rounds of chemo — in this case, a clinical trial that promised to be both less invasive for Mylove, and a breakthrough for those who walked the path she was treading. That trial ended on a whimper… it’s efficacy diminishing… and we struggled to keep our “Northstar” namely, hope shining bright. But Christmas brought a cold, which turned to pneumonia which started a slow fade for Mylove… and I was her caregiver — like we had done with all life’s challenges we took it head on, back to back and side by side (hey, we’re yoginis, that ain’t nuthin…) but eventually, (and as I discovered in her journals the other day – months before she enrolled me) Mylove started counting down instead of looking ahead. She was at peace, joyful even ecstatic as she transitioned, leaving this world as she lived in — a brilliant light that shone on everyone with light, laughter & love…
… and I was shattered into a million pieces.
I made arrangements. I produced her celebration of life and I fled our house before Christmas — so frantic was I to be in our home during our beloved Holiday season without her.
When I returned it was time to start “the first year with her” (freakin’ grief and mourning pamphlets keep assaulting the house from well intentioned organizations) and I started my new normal…
It’s not that I’ve been idle in my absence… I started working on my second book, did a TED talk...
.. spoke at several trans awareness workshops (to date I’ve done over a hundred for Kaiser alone)… followed through on a line of cookies that I’d been toying with for years....
… finished my book…
…followed through on a line of CBD edibles, published my book and embarked on a coast to coast tour to promote it. Oh, yeah, I even wrote a pilot for a series about a infamous scandal in the late 70’s. (Ryan Murphy, if you’re reading this, my manager will be calling you soon.)
And I wish I could tell you that it all helped ease the unbearable pain of being torn in half.
But I can’t.
There are times as I step gingerly into “the second year without her” that I wonder if I’m getting “callous” when I miss an hour of crying, like, maybe my heart is hardening, or I’m forgetting her, and what the f could that mean?”
“Is that what it supposed to feel like?” “Is this how it works?” “Is this how you move on? You forget? You stop remembering? You just stop crying, and she just fades from you…??????” WHAT THE F*CK????!!!!!!
And then it hits. Like a set wave that sweeps you up the roiling face of a cresting monster, that, just for fun, spits you out so you can free fall just long enough to feel your stomach rise up into your throat, feel that sense of the earth losing it’s grip on you as vertigo cuts your senses from their tethers before slamming you into the whitewater and crushes you with it’s full weight then bites the scruff of your neck to snap you back and forth, over and under with no rhyme or logic, whipping you into unconsciousness…
When you regain your senses, you feel like you’ve been invaded by body snatchers… forget why you walked into a room, left keys in the front door…
“Oh yeah, I’ve woken up on the kitchen floor pounding my fists on the tile because I broke a jar of mayonnaise… sobbing… slobbering… and then it hits you why — the only reason you even had mayonnaise in the house in the first place was because she loved it.”
I’ve even suddenly “come to” in the shower as I’m being pelted by ice cold water sobbing because I’ve drained the tank simply staring at a bar of her soap. “
People have asking me why my complexion is so good, it’s either the salt from my tears or the salvia from Aria & Bella who take turns wiping my tears with their tongues & kisses…
So… that’s where I’ve been.
But that’s not all of why I’m finally back on line. (and to my readers who were supportive and gracious while I was gone, thank you for your patience, I hope the wait was worth it) It’s time to get back on the horse, so to speak…
STEP 1: Rename my blog — it seems, I wasn’t the only girl raised by wolves — and even tho’ few used that term as I had, still, I feel (as I do in so many other aspects of my life) that I need to step away from the clutter and I’m embracing what I started this past year to lead myself through this shroud of loss into the light that Mylove shone on me and in me for three decades.
So, I’m getting Recklass.
In her name.
And and in her honor.
And because she expects me to do it anyway…
I’m running with knives, I’m playing with fire and I’m going to be absolutely fearless at coming from the heart.
So starting now – Raised By Wolves will now be known as Recklass In The Next Chapter.
In my latest book, Recklass in The Kitchen — a year of light, laughter & love… oh, and food! I wanted to capture how our home – the one built by our light, our laughter our love, expressed itself best when food was involved. I’ll probably keep a little of that going in this blog from time to time. Also, I had no idea when I was writing Recklass, that I was actually chronicling the last year of our marriage. I will probably leave that aspect for the book. (I don’t think I want to condense that for her. If you are interested, Recklass has a far more detailed, and articulate version of the events… without any of the expletivves that have cropped into my recent tellings..)
But the second part of the rebooted title is In The Next Chapter.
I toyed with several “cute” plays on words for a more descriptive overall title… Recklass in the… but nothing actually felt (or sounded right) except what I eventually landed on because truly speaking, like a most areas in my life, I have no idea what’s next. I have no idea where it’s heading and it has no agenda other than to get Recklass. So In the Next Chapter feels accurate, truthful and… right-ish. So we’ll go with that.
Going forward, I’ll be… going forward. I confess, it’s going to get messy — it already has… I’m wondering if ill ever be loved again… let alone get even close to the absolute fusion of hearts that Mylove and experienced. Will I, as a 57 year-old, widow who is also transgender, find love? (SPOILER ALERT: If the dipping of my toe into Bumble is any indicator, it’s not looking good…) but that’s the stuff for future posts…
So, we’re back. If you’ll have me.
Wanna get Recklass with me? Then, hold my hand and let’s jump…
It only stings for a little while.
Fair disclosure - I am the daughter of an Irish bartender-car-salesman-force-of-nature who fed my mom, me and my three younger sisters with his wit and gift of gab, or what the Irish call “Blarney” as much as he did with an honest day’s work...
… in other words, anything that can be said with words is much better with many many more words...
We're storytellers. My pop and I. We come from a long line of storytellers and the proud tradition of Irish bards and poets... and our favorite subjects are usually, supposed to be ourselves. We’re not puffed-up egotists, mind you, c’mon, I said we’re Irish, and we’re good storytellers, which means we’ll usually be the plucky antihero at the center of a very dramatic tale worth listening to… probably even the butt of our own joke.
I willingly took the baton from my father, learning how to capture the attention of the entire room (no matter how large – we’re also very loud) and it’s something that was a great connection with my pop and the world at large. And as I became a veteran of international adventure filmmaking, I developed a huge inventory of material to draw from…
But lately, I find that all of this material, these stories, my precious archives, my history is… bittersweet? (Not quite the word I’m reaching for, but let’s go with it until something more refined comes.)
Because in these stories, the protagonist is.... well, what I usta-was.
This is a phenomenon that the trans community wrestles with all the time.
Writer, Author, TV Host, and Activist, Janet Mock knows this better than anyone. In her response to an incident where some radio “personalities” not only threatened her and all trans women with murder, but justified murder and violence against our community as "normal." Janet had no problem putting those guys in their place, calling out the Black community and our entire society to wake-up and elevating the entire incident into a teachable moment.
But she went on to make us all re-examine one of the core strategies that we in the rainbow community depend on to improve our lives - namely education when she said
“I’ve turned down thousands from colleges and corporations because I refuse to engage in Trans 101. Trans folk, especially of color, should not be obligated to help cis folk play catch-up on our experiences. The effort can detract from our work to protect and liberate ourselves.”
Ouch. So that’s why it hurts.
Trans 101 is shorthand for “Everything you need to know, are dying to know, think it’s your right to know, and should know about how and why someone is and could go from the outdated heteronormative belief that there is a gender binary, wherein a person assigned their gender by a doctor staring at the genitals at birth, transitions, either by the medical use of hormones and/or surgery and/or outward appearance to society into or to or was already there, or isn’t convinced is even the way to describe or subscribe to the seemingly “opposite” gender, which as we discussed isn’t accurate either, but since the majority of humans have a problem relating to even one word of this subject, we’ll have to agree to a modicum of clunky language in order to get them to stop killing us or wondering why we would choose this in the first place, since we keep saying it’s not a choice, but geezus can we stop now? Seriously we’ll never be able to tackle this all in one workshop, because you will still want to know if I am a girl how could I like girls instead of boys or vice reverse so what are we talking about, but yes thank you I am prettier as a guy, but it’s not about our looks, so please stop calling me sir, and I’m sorry that’s all the time we have, please remember to treat everyone with respect and no I don’t know her.”
Or… trans 101 for short.
The shorter version doesn’t flinch on addressing all of the above. Corporations, Academic intuitions, and organizations use a trans 101 to educate their workforces, student bodies, faculties and members about the elusive unicorns that they’ve heard so much about through mainstream media’s seemingly sudden discovery of this phenomenon, that apparently Janet's breakfast club idiots slept through.
But… as a trans couple, Me the transgender lesbian one, and Mylove, the cis-hetero one, who are living all of the above, and are articulate, happy, intelligent women who don’t have four heads, neither of which exploded during the process of transition, we are called upon to bring our experience to the cis world, and do so happily.
Because we have committed our house’s resources to advocating, educating and inspiring for change. Mylove and I write, produce, speak and appear and lend our voices and our experiences to the “dialogue” to improve everyone’s life, but specifically the LGBTQIA community. We know from first-hand experience that the more the cis-hetero world knows of and about us, the faster things change. This has been the LGBTQIA recipe for change since The Black Cat & Stonewall.
And yet, as a married couple neck deep in the waves that buffet the shores of our community, we always ask as we prepare each workshop, “do we really need to go into Trans 101 again?” and "Surely we're past all that by now..."
We feel that everyone everywhere must be getting the same news we are, watching the same drama unfold before us and live in the same country as we do… and invariably, after we’re done with a presentation, and it’s time for Q&A (our favorite part) we get the same questions:
How did Marcy deal with her husband admitting she was a woman? (read her book, she loves me in whatever wrapper my soul is wearing, but she says I’m waaaay cuter now.)
When did Scottie first know she was a transgender(ed)? (Yes, they use past tense of a verb that is supposed to be an adjective is still used even by our close friends… sigh) I’ve not known I was a woman. I didn’t have anyone else’s word until counseling.
How did Marcy deal with Scottie's deceit and betrayal? (By realizing there was never neither)
Did Scottie ever want to kill herself? («kill myself,» no. «Wasn't sure how I could live another day? Always. Until transition.)
Have you had the surgery? (I’m usually coy about this – except in previous blogs)
And we realize. Yes. We still need trans 101 in 2017 and 2018 isn’t looking any better.
Left on their own, the cis world really usually doesn't give us trans folk a second thought. It takes an "inciting incident" as the saying goes, to get on their radar, (which means it's usually negative). They weren't thinking about us or it, until the President’s ban on transgender members of our military, so they never really did. They never thought about us until a cabal of Christians tried to influence the state legislatures of North Carolina, Texas, Louisiana and even Washington State to close bathrooms to us. (No one is really sure why they picked these states to do this.) They hadn’t given us a second thought until ol’ Betsy started to dismantle Title IX protections. The cis world never thought about us at all until an Olympic God, the seeming pinnacle of American Masculinity turned out to be one of us. But they sure concentrated on her car accident and the fact that she, despite all logic and reason voted for the white supremacist in chief for president, and was caught on film wearing a MAGA hat days after transgender sailors, soldiers, airmen, and coast guardsmen & women were barred from serving their country.
But when the hoopla fades once again ... they stop thinking of us.
They may contemplate for an instant what they would do if their spouse came out to them, but it’s mental bubble gum, not a meal and any chewing won’t really satisfy the real hunger or provide any nutritional value. But they’ll go for a chew if they have nuttin’ else to do.
But then again... there are, of course, those who can’t stop thinking about us – and how abhorrent, abominable or disposable we are. They seem to be staying awake nights concocting ways to erase us.
However, the good news is that usually when Mylove and I speak to our audiences, it’s planned, scheduled and we have been invited, so the audience has come to listen and the exercise does go deeper and there is ample food for thought. So most partake.
But Janet’s assertion that we shouldn’t be obligated to help cis-folk play catch-up is a poignant one. Obligated. She’s describing the feeling many of us have when we have to bite our tongues as someone demands of us that we allow them the space to remain stuck in willful ignorance or worse. It’s truly bizarre. They don’t hear how their words are covered in barbs when they say, “give me a minute to catch up” or “we have to agree to disagree…” (this is my personal favorite… of what we’re agreeing to disagree about is that I am real, that I’m legal, that I am allowed to be.)
Think of it. We, as humans are all one. We are all family. We are blood. So when someone says “give me a minute to catch up” or “we have to agree to disagree…” they instantly dehumanize us. It happens in a heartbeat. The cord between our hearts is intentionally severed.
And what was one is now cut into two pieces, “one” and “other.”
It feels innocent enough when someone says, “Scottie, just let me catch my breath, you’re not the you I was expecting.” Which, if we shared history, and the last time we saw each other, I usta-was, then I get it. But take your breath and let’s get back to that connection.
But when you say, “I’m sorry, call me ‘old-fashioned’, but…” Or “I’ve read the research, and what you really are, is deluded…” Or anything else that smacks of you trying to tell me what my experience of me is, you are not only at the height of arrogance, which is “bless your heart” asinine, but you are also so out of step with the current maturity of humanity, that your opinion and thoughts are completely irrelevant. You have played your hand as woefully inadequate. Your sense of entitlement makes you impotent. You have just effectively removed yourself from the conversation.
Can you put your mommy on the phone?
Yes, Janet’s words make sense (still) on so many levels. Especially the ones that make me wonder how long we will have to continue to drag the rear flank of humanity into the present.
But… it’s that we are still having this conversation (and twitter fencing and Facebook arguments) that is the real point of what she’s saying. It shouldn’t be this way in the first place. Seriously, in which situation is it ever okay, by any measure, to dismiss, dehumanize or discriminate against anyone?
Apparently, this one.
Some people believe they have a God-given, Bible-mandated duty to hate. And others who know that those people are insane, choose to look the other way, allowing hatred to spread unabated.
But, (thankfully?) there are still those in the middle. And these are our audiences. These are wonderful humans who, despite the fact that they think they are the ones who that just discovered the unicorn, or discovered a unicorn has been in their family or saw the flash of a golden horn out of the corner of their eye for the very first time… allow their hearts to be heard. It’s still a little weird that they regard unicorns as “other,” but what are we going to do?
They want to know how to care and feed a unicorn because they truly are good people. And though they never knew a unicorn before, or had only read about one in books or saw one on TV, their heart can or has already been moved.
I guess that's why we do what we do, it is because we feel obligated not just to the straight, cis world, but on behalf of my sisters and brothers, and those just now growing up (I’m sorry Janet) but I don’t do it without having to take a breath. As I’ve said above, the fact that I have to be okay while someone "catches that breath," is still a hard pill to swallow.
And Janet's is ultimately right. It's not easy to be the unicorn in the room. No one is fooling anyone - we all know why we're all here for a Trans 101 workshop. It's a safe place to help cis-folk “catch-up” on our experiences, but to do that..,
... we have to play usta-was.
Usta-was has become an ingrained part of the trans narrative. I am an obvious version of this phenom, in that I usta appear as tho’ I was a man. But there are many variations of this phenom. All are equally valid and valued.
The point connection with our audiences is usta-was. And for most, we could end up staying here for the rest of time. Some are so blown away by the physical act of transformation and the process and the courage as well as the hardship and effort required that they don’t have the attention span for any other part of the discussion. They don’t have an appetite for the happiness, the relief, the thriving and contribution we make. It’s not as dramatic, it’s not as exciting, or easy to see with your eyes, certainly not as captivating… and Invariably, questions return to the blunt force trauma of usta-was, where Scottie was Scott, the woman, a guy.
Let’s be real, it’s the only reason the breakfast bozos had Janet on their show in the first place. She says in her article that she has no illusions that these idiots had any desire to be human, even though they have many times decried (rightly so) the devaluing of black lives that our country still can’t seem to fix. They “looked the other way” when hatred sat right before them. And they fed hatred with smiles, laughs and tacit and overt agreement. And still, others made excuses for them –
All while Tee Tee Dangerfield became the 16th trans woman murdered in 2017. She was shot to death in Atlanta, that very weekend (we have since lost two more). She was murdered because she usta-was. Janet was disrespected because she usta-was. The cis world is obsessed, repulsed, enraged by and yet, still fascinated that we usta-was.
I have no counter to Janet's point that the conundrum for us is this: even the act of engaging in usta-was to correct it, perpetuates its existence. It’s the amber that imprisons us forever in our pasts that were never correct or accurate but are still captivating and beautiful.
Our fear is that you will always see us as only usta-was. You will never see me in my womanhood - you will see me as I usta-was.
And yet, an invisible part of being Raised By Wolves is the internal wrestling match with usta-was. Some in our tribe choose to patently ignore it. Erase all traces. Others wear theirs out loud, sometimes literally tattooing the past for all to see. As we contemplate our pasts we see both good times and bad (like everyone) except ours have all kinds of heartbreak in both. When we share with you our “good,” you would never know how the lead shielding of my armor stopped joy from penetrating my heart completely, and with the “bad” you would never know depths to which I sunk.
But I do. I remember how it usta-was.
And as I settle into my own acceptance of myself, I am sometimes surprised that the pain, confusion, and sense of imprisonment of a lot of my usta-was is starting to fade. I have to "call it up" from a distant island where I had marooned it during the coup d'etat my feminine self-staged a few years back. I call it up to support others in their understanding of what this world is like. What's weird is that while the details are clear, gone is the overhanging feeling of dread. But what is left are the sometimes embarrassingly silly ways I tried to deal with a Nazgul who is no longer there. Yes, I remember being hijacked every month, and fearing both the departure and return. Yes, I remember having feelings of powerlessness, the feelings of entrapment, the feeling of injustice. But I can't recall the actual feeling viscerally.
Thank you, God.
When I do recount the times when I stood on the top of a tower of ice and fire in Iceland, or swam in the crystal waters of cenote in the Yucatan, lead my crew out of the Guyanan jungle, or stood on the legendary beaches of Uluwatu, it seems like an adventure novel...
And that’s what everyone wants to hear - it's the hook that not even I can deny. Yes, I wrote the backcover notes on my book. trading on the tropes that I was trying to overcome by writing in the first place - in order to get the reader to pick it up.
Because everyone, including ourselves (at first) is fascinated by usta-was.
But, usta-was is only supposed to be the jumping off point for those who are just waking up in 2017 and realizing that there are herds of unicorns… gosh – everywhere!
As the woman who “didn’t have a hell to leave,” I hope my story helps people understand that nature has a course that no amount of nurture can change. No mob of pitchfork-angry Republicans can “scare” it away. No mean-girls can shame it away, no father can “man-up it” away. No facebook troll can “opinion” it away. No religious zealot can “fire and brimstone” it away. Not even the very real fear of never being loved or lovable can threaten it away.
The only path is acceptance. If it comes with love, all the better.
Maybe we can be women our society is inspired by, “Scottie followed her heart despite what the world, success, society’s expectations, even her own body, tried to deny.” And “Marcy faced down her greatest fear to choose love.”
We thrive when we embrace one another.
We thrive when we choose love over fear.
We thrive when we stand for love, body & soul.
We thrive when we stand up to ignorance, inequality, and discrimination of every kind.
And to make this point, we have to tell you “the before,” the usta-was, so you can grasp the full brilliance of “the after. “
Again. And again.
So, if that’s the price to pay to open one human heart…
We’re all in.
But it's important - when I recall for you what I usta-was, and regale you with the dizzying romancing of a beautiful woman who would take my hand in marriage...
Or when I relate the ways I cared for, protected and earned the respect and love of those I led, was in charge of, or served... or when I confess to you the dreams yet to be realized...
… please know this-
It's all the part of usta-was that I still am.
One of the surprising side effects of estrogen is the melting of a chain that I tried to keep ignoring for my whole adult life. This chain was short by design and the links felt lighter than the other restraints I had used to chain my heart into its dungeon keep. They were lighter, so I would almost forget I was wearing it… but it was made of some seriously strong stuff.
I tried to convince myself that I had several tools that helped make up for the lack of mobility because of this chain, that I had ways to get the work done despite this chain.
I used to talk about this chain metaphorically, because that made it easier to dismiss that I was the blacksmith that forged it, that I probably had the strength to break it, and that I did know where it leads, what it was restraining, and that I even knew why it had been forged in the first place, and therefore…
that I was the only one who could break it.
This chain? Let’s call it Miss-direction. And it restrains the raptor of self-inquiry that hunts the smaller rodents of denial that gnaw on normal, everyday reality.
No, I am not on Molly, hang with me, I can stick this landing, I swear.
You would think that a woman who has been able to claw her way out of the dungeon, past the fire-breathing dragon of dysphoria should be able to deal with the little critters of everyday reality without so much as breaking a sweat. And you would be right.
You would say that a yogini who had dedicated her entire adult life to the practice, study, and pursuit of self-realization, after removing the large boulders of identity and fear with Grace, should have weeded out these pesky weeds in the garden of self-awareness in the process. Again, you would be right.
But the iron chain of Miss-direction was a rusted relic that I discovered as I was redecorating the deeper chambers of the temple of myself. As I said, I was surprised to discover it – it was carefully camouflaged by a thin veneer of “been there done that.”
I wish I had found it through an intentionally targeted search because that would mean I’m on my game. But the truth is, I only saw the rust marks on the floor when I pulled up the carpets that I had used for years to sweep things under.
Along with the skeletal frames of bravado and crass, it had been dissolved when estrogen began to scour the inner walls of my heart.
I guess what I’m just now realizing is that the chain had been unnecessary for a very long time – the raptor it had held captive had given up long ago – the muscle memory from her initial tests of the restraint was still there, she had thought that she was forever chained. But when I threw open the drapes and let light flood in, she could see that she was no longer clapped in iron.
And her tummy was rumbling… she was hungry.
She is stretching her wings in the sunlight, and it couldn’t be a moment too soon.
“Transition” (a noun in our community spelled with a capital T) can be so… what’s the word here, full? Sure that works. So full of both physical and emotional experiences and tasks, that it can be a full-time job just keeping your footing as your entire world shifts on its axis. This “fullness” can be all you could possibly do in a 24 hour day, between trying to shed these “Post-Surgical Pounds” and fending off the impulse to engage with that idiot who thinks their opinion on whether having transgender military personnel will affect unit cohesion is somehow more accurate or pertinent than what the Joint Chiefs already took years to know.
Yes. Good ol’ life can seem like a full time job.
Oh and then there’s getting a job. Keeping the projects that are in progress progressing. Nurturing the new ideas. And none of this takes into account the time that life is really here for, loving and caring and living with the most amazing person in the history of persondom.
That leaves about 7 minutes per day for self-inquiry. That usually comes in the shower.
But one has to take it when one can get it, right?
But as I said, I realized that the biggest restraint is gone and lo and behold, in its place is a strength and refreshed sense of… is that wonder? Why, so it is… okay, a wonder at…
how am I doing?
Well. Yes. How. Am. I. Doing?
To understand the gravity of this question, I think I need a breath here. I have not only dreamed of being “where I am now” – on the other side of GCS, but I fantasized about it (two very different things) like forever, even though I never believed I would ever really get to here. This fantasy was as painful as much as it was temporarily liberating…
until finally it just got depressing
Too painful. I knew it was just vapor. A future that would never be. A pall on my present. And, if I’m going to try to be brutally realistic, a waste of my time to “even go there.” Which was the shillelagh I used to pound myself with when my commitment wavered.
So, I finally got myself to just stop dreaming.
I built wall after wall after wall to seal off the dungeon so the light would never get in, because even just one deflected ray could pierce my heart so deeply that it would take weeks to recover.
But… back when I did dream…
Despite knowing that it would end back in drab reality, I would sometimes be able to soar… and it was giddy, euphoric, blissful (have I made it clear, yet?), ecstatic. A wonderland of gold and pink light, of sparkling newness, and glistening, scintillating… normalcy.
My life as I hoped to live it would be as normal as yours. A life with no questions that started with “how come” and ended with “why me?” In this vast and glorious queendom, I would no longer deal with the body of some guy; I would no longer have the life of that dude. I could drop pretense and fear. I could let fall the shield of appearance. I would reallocate mental energy from navigation and defense to creation and nurture. My fantasies were not of riches and creature comfort but of my family seeing me and accepting me. MyLove loving me as a woman.
I wasn’t some super heroine, but a normal, average ordinary girl.
Yeah, I know. It was just a fantasy.
So, the other day when Mylove asked, “ So… how are you really?” Which for those of you who read GBTM might remember, was a question I would dread hearing, usually about once a month from Mylove after I came out to her.
It’s a question that I also used to ask of myself, not really wanting to know the answer.
And now, as one who has made it to this side of the river trans, I confess to knowing that if I were to ask this of myself, and if that answer were to ever be negative, there would be nothing I could do about it.
So it might be better not to ask?
Yes, I know, I know, to not ask this question of one’s self is (normally) to have doubt that one may not have made the right decision in the first place. I tried to threaten the raptor with a new chain by saying to myself that I would not have this question if there was nothing to question.
But srsly girl?
And that’s why it’s important that I realized the raptor could fly the day before Mylove asked. Because I did it under my own power and direction. I didn’t relegate it to the “so what department.” I actually walked right toward this question and stared it in the face and that’s when I first discovered that the tell-tale tug on my ankle that would have stopped me from going any further “down this road”…
I wasn’t afraid to ask this question and hang around for the answer.
And it was, I’m admitting right here, a bit disorienting because as I went searching for “how” I was. I realized I had been trained to look for only two things – the pink and gold blissful sunshine of my fantasy future life, or the dank and choking fog of regret. I wasn’t prepared for what I found, and that’s why it confused me… I wasn’t sure what it was, at first.
Because it was so… um… well, this is a bit embarrassing, to admit, but… it was so… real. Realer than real. It was as if this was, and had only ever been my experience.
Because it was, you silly.
I was almost disappointed. Where were the flocks of rainbow doves? Where was the golden sparkle of reality, the crystal ring of each moment? Where was the ecstasy of “finally?” Where was the euphoria of “inevitable?” Where was the radiance of angels’ singing welcome?
I had had amazing peak experiences during the days right after (gender confirming) surgery, so now that I was healed, and starting to return to my workout and feeling physically good for the first time in like forever, why wasn’t I still floating in bliss? Why were my days just like any other days… uh! Oh…
… does that mean…?
Yes, girlfriend, it means your dream came true. Your life, your living, your reality is…
It happened so gently and gracefully that I almost missed it. Now, my everyday life looks anything but normal. I didn’t sign-up to have a sitting President try to institutionalize discrimination by not only dismantling long and hard-won rights and protections such as Title IX, the Civil Rights Act, and trying to ban transgender people currently serving in our military, or from ever serving. So there’s that.
But that’s not the normal I’m talking about. I don’t feel like a stranger in my own body. I don’t feel like a charade trying to be “okay” so you can be okay that I’m okay. I don’t think about how to get through another day, despite feeling like any moment I will be swallowed by “the hijacker” (my pet name for the dragon that came as bouts of dysphoria that stalked me for fifty years).
So when Mylove asked me how I was doing, I knew neither she nor I had the time to say all of the above, and I immediately remembered my sister Kimm’s words from a text she sent me after seeing her big sister (me) for the very first time:
“I finally figured it out. It’s weird cuz it’s not weird. Am I right ladies?”
Maybe it runs in the family. Maybe our genes view reality through a “Seat-o-the-pants” filter, an instinctual jedi–scan that looks for disturbances in the Force, that pings under the crust of appearances to scrutinize the heart of the matter to heal what needs it. Whatever you call it, it was the only thing that accurately described… how I was doing.
It’s not weird. It’s not euphoric. It is not “not normal.”
Which is weird.
I just had major surgery. I’m still trying to get the hang of lipstick. I can’t remember the last time I even watched a war movie. I walk through my daily world, where I had previously walked as a relatively high profile “dude” (albeit a flamboyantly independent Hollywood freak) gracefully, unapologetically, and even, dare I say, tastefully feminine. Not a trace of “guy” anywhere. It’s not so much how I look that I’m reveling in, but more the acceptance that greets me. Most of my people do know that I was raised by wolves, and they either don’t care, like this version much better, or are too polite to make a fuss. “It’s” not weird, am I right, ladies?”
Yes. I notice that I am different. I think twice when I feel a string of expletives revving their engines while the catapult prepares to hurl them from the deck of the carrier into an aerial dogfight. But, I flinch at the use of explosive violent adjectives to describe a benign human interaction. (example, I don’t SLAM anyone, I’m COUNTERING their opinion). I used to cringe at the assumptions of patriarchal misogyny in all human endeavors, and resort to “workarounds.” Now I (either it’s estrogen or age) weed them out. Even my sense of humor has gotten different – the jokes I now tell I either modify on the spot or let die a lonely death, unsaid. I don’t need to be the “jokester,” I can graciously just smile at the ones I’ve heard a million times (daughter of a car salesman-bartender – I grew up on the classics) knowing that every comedian needs an audience.
And… yes, I still practically dare the a**hole in the Camaro staring me down at the red light to give me an excuse to… to… to what? My adrenaline still spikes from the same stimuli, but the second part of that is when my brain kicks back in and reminds me that I was never a fighter at any time, in my life and I for damn sure won’t turn into one now. So I can stop “frontin’” here and now. When this does happen now, I spend the next hour probing my psyche for the accelerant that still wants to turn a spark into a backdraft. Before I just wrote that a**hole off without a second thought.
I’m not sure if other girls think this much about thinking.
I’ve come too far to not go all the way. But navigating the way forward by measuring the distance traveled is a cumbersome way to sail. And truly speaking, now that I’m in the seas of normal, it’s getting harder and harder to recall the weird past. The pain suffered is only a vague concept now. I made land driven by winds that came from the original desire to relieve the cause of that suffering almost… um… gee… I guess that would be… well, a few months ago. With that cause now gone, so too are those winds that filled my sails.
Which means that other winds can now take me in new directions.
I guess I will still be of service to others in the sharing of the charts from my journey. And I guess, if I’m really transparent, that’s what these writings are. The reality is that watching this raptor of self-inquiry hunt her prey is not the moment by moment experience that ignoring her had once been. She’s free to hunt. But I am free…
I’m not worried what she will find.
I am strong. I am in my body. Nothing is weird or strange. I have a lot of new in my life. I have a lot of unfamiliar. I have a lot of “really? Me? You mean I can, I am, I will, I don’t have to…” And yes, some of that recalls the vague memories in my muscles of the ways and whys of my time running with wolves, when the opposites were true, “I can’t, I am not, I won’t ever…”
I am doing all right. But that’s now, finally, wonderfully an assessment that comes by measuring the way forward rather than looking back. I’m no longer defined in the negative. Wow.
Am I right, ladies?
Yes. I’m right. I’m all right.
Actually, I’m just…
I’ve been putting this one off for a long time. And yes, those of you who’ve read my book will want to remind me that I’ve said this before –
- it’s not about our looks and it is about our looks… but not in the way that most mean when they say that to us, or about us. Please allow me to explain.
You hear a lot of confusing things when people talk about the T in LGBTQ. The most mystifying of these is Dysphoria. As in “Gender Dysphoria,” which is the medical diagnosis that has been the gateway to all of the things that made my life livable. (Despite an amazing marriage to the most incredible woman in human history, a loving family, and “normal” childhood upbringing, college education, etc.) More recently, you’ll see the term “Body Dysphoria” used as well. I never thought about it before, but when used accurately, Body Dysphoria may be a more relatable term for a huge segment of our Pink & Baby Blue community, I’m speaking of those for whom even the word “gender” can sometimes send the conversation skidding sideways. And before we go any further, we’re okay with this ambiguity in our community, so you can be okay too.
I first heard the term “body dysphoria” when a dear new BFF was sharing with me that though she was cis-woman, she could relate to my experience. She too knew what it was like to be trapped in conflict with her own body. She had suffered from Anorexia. Her own body dysphoria had ruled her life from puberty through her early twenties. And the subsequent work that it took to alleviate the trauma and the health effects that are collateral damage, had become her daily experience.
Yes. She could understand me and my experience. She could relate to the utter exhaustion and trauma of living under the tyranny of the mirror.
Those who have never had this (and God bless you) will never “get it.”
I still hear even well meaning people wondering aloud how come no amount of will power, affirmations or good intentions can ever remove the elephant’s foot from one’s head, neck, and chest. Neither of these dysphorias (gender nor body) are our imaginations. Neither are “psychological” in the lay-man pop-psych euphemism. Neither dysphorias are a curse or punishment for past wrongs or missing Sunday mass. Neither dysphorias are God’s… anythings.
They are medical realities with cures.
I will leave my friend’s reality here because I can only relate to her experience as she did mine. But the lesson learned is that “body dysphoria,” is not our community’s cross to bear alone. Other communities know this, other communities deal with this, other communities beat this. We’re in good company.
It’s important for me to try to lay to rest once and for all, that we’re not talking about “confusion” about our bodies like it’s a mental exercise that can be cleared up by restating the issue in a different way or diagraming its formula or elements.
We have never been confused.]
Bewildered. Blindsided. Betrayed. Maybe. Confused as to why this happens, sometimes. But, confused that this is true, or so, or real reality?
We are not confused.
We each (all humans) learn to develop coping mechanisms to deal with things that are “not right,” when we are children. No matter what the “not right” thing is. Everyone eventually cobbles together a defensive strategy pretty quickly.
Or they don’t -- and become a statistic.
You know these numbers – 41% of our community have attempted or contemplated suicide.
Dysphoria (at least in my case) came from the psychological trauma of trying to suppress messages from my body that were contrary to my heart and mind. That sentence seems benign enough, right? And maybe that’s why the confusion in the cis-community exists. In an effort to articulate our experience in a succinct way, we end up sanitizing words -- which makes them seem so… I dunno, almost benign, certainly surmountable.
Which is something Dysphoria is not.
For me, it was like lying on a live grenade for every moment of of my life. And knowing that someday. It will explode.
Now, try imagining that for even one minute. Go ahead… I’ll time you.
Not easy is it? A minute, under those circumstances is a very long time. Now pile on top of that the tension of feeling that you have to do it every minute of every day of every year of your life.
Now add on to that the feeling that it will never end.
Your nerves are permanently frayed. You are mentally spent trying to keep this tidal wave of grief and despair at arm's length. You are physically spent because this requires every nerve, every muscle, every breath. You are spiritually exhausted from trying to believe that God and life and nature are worth having faith in.
That's the tricky one, spiritually. Try staying afloat in the beauty that is a human birth despite bathroom laws and an asshole in the White House who just threw 15,000 valiant members of our military to the wolves of right-wing Christian hate. (Make no mistake, our brothers and sisters in the U.S. Military are taking the assault on behalf of us all… this will only embolden the idiots on the state level who have already been trying everything they can, to institutionalize their hate.) It drains the soul of a community that has had to keep the faith despite being hunted for sport, despite our own families “turning their backs” on us and disowning us and disavowing us.
Try to remain engaged with God, despite a constant feeling of bile that arises because you’ve been biting your tongue when those who claim to “have no grudge with you” look the other way because our fight is not their fight. Try to stay happy despite being told that everything you’ve been taught to accept as moral and just and good, is not for you. It's for everyone. It is your divine birthright. It is for all... except you.
If you can imagine all of that, like my friend who survived anorexia, then you can begin to understand dysphoria.
It’s a medical reality with cures. I use the plural because, for some like myself, the cure was hormones and GCS. But there are many in our community that need nothing more than love and acceptance to lift the toxic smog of Dysphoria.
And here’s the part that seems to mystify the cis-community. No one needs to know “which is which” and “who is who.” You really don’t need to know why I had to have surgery and some of my sisters and brothers do not – just like I (and my sisters & brothers) don’t need to know why you (insert what you have or have not done to your own body). It’s no one’s business but your lover’s and your doctor’s.
But the “yous” of the world still try.
They announce their misunderstanding and ignorance publicly, saying really stupid things like, “I just don’t understand…” (which, if it was an invitation for someone to come forward to clarify, wouldn’t be so bad, but sadly it’s the sound a wall makes when it goes up to end the discussion.) “Where I come from, there’s just men and women” “Or we just agree to disagree.” "We just have different beliefs, that's all," Or, my favorite is, “You’ve chosen to live this way…”
I, and my sisters and brothers, are not your opinion, belief or agenda. We are people, citizens, your neighbors, your bosses, your employees and your sisters and your brothers. Your nieces. Your nephews. Your children.
Our stunted President has already dismantled Title IX protections, excluding trans youth from services that every person is supposed to be entitled to, citing that transgender people were not entitled to protections under the civil rights act. In Texas, they used a special session to pass a bathroom law to keep trans people out of going to the bathroom with less than 10 hours of debate citing “daughters over dollars.” How hate-filled and messed up is this -- how can you tell a transgender person, “give me your tax dollars, but YOU can’t use the facilities that they pay for?” How can you say your daughter is more important than the Trans child? And this is not just about where we pee. When the child is ostracized by the Federal and state governments, the child is subject to vilification and bullying ONTOP of discrimination. THIS IS AMERICA PEOPLE!
We’re still fighting down these down all of these like whack-a-mole.
It’s the height of ego. Because the yous of the world can not, will not even try to regard us an individual people. It's safer for them to regard as a faceless mass. Easier to built a wall around us. Easier to legislate us into oblivion, Easier to erase us. Forget us. Forget trying to get them to walk in our shoes. They think their view of the world is shared by all. That everyone thinks the way they do. That there is an inherent logic to their argument. It’s like talking to a child who keeps repeating the same question over and over despite being told the facts. They aren't really asking for an answer, they’re looking for validation that they are okay.
But, and here’s the weirdest thing of all, they have made us a cause – the transgender community must be erased. Our existence tramples on their freedom to discriminate and exclude. Our right to live somehow infringes on their right to hate.
With these conditions waiting for you as you step into the world, you might be able to see why we step cautiously. We have been taught that the world thinks we should feel shame and confusion about something that we are born with. Many of us follow the world’s lead and deal, succumb or hopefully cast off this shame and confusion (not of who we are, but how we are to live with it and you) to simply live our lives. This hatred is the backdrop of our lives. Look, we know we are a minority of every minority. The color of our skin intersects with our identities and our sexuality to push us from our families and tribes. A huge segment of the cis world believes it is their divine right to hate us, be confused by us, and works to forget us because of our race, gender and sexuality and all of the above.
And another segment of the cis–world allows this to happen by their silence and indifference.
Is it any wonder then, that this potential disconnect between not only what I see, when I look at me, but also what you see when you look at me, makes me work so hard? I have to get it right. I have to thread the needle between dignity and experimentation. Between self-expression and self-preservation. If you don’t see me as a woman, then I have you constantly reminding me (with both subtle and overt messages) that something about me is “not right.” It’s one thing for someone to say, “You look pretty today,” and quite another for someone to say, “You look like, oh bless your heart.”
So, the more visual clues I give that tell you I regard myself as a woman, the better chance we both have that you’ll get the message and at least not make it more awkward than it might be. In some places this isn’t just a potentially awkward thing – it could be the difference between life and death.
Hopefully, you can see that for us beauty isn’t merely skin deep.
For girls of my age, “the ability to pass” was a holy grail. It’s an impossibly high standard for a community that has been sculpted by testosterone. I’m not sure if I do, (Mylove tries to reassure me all the time) but (knock wood) since my transition, I have not been misgendered or even looked at with so much as a raised brow, so something is working in my favor. Even so, there are those people who knew me before, who spend the better part of a conversation trying to peek under my mascara. I guess I should take even that as a compliment.
But… when I see myself in the mirror, I still go right to my “tells."
Yes, I see a woman. Thank God. But I can’t ignore the “too strong” jawline, the back that has trouble staying in any slinky dress, the wide ankles, and feet that spill over my size elevens and don’t get me started on my arms… thankfully, electrolysis has finally taken most of the hair from my face, and estrogen has softened the easy parts. With a curling iron, eyeliner and a touch of lip gloss, I look like…
… the me that is looking out from my own eyes.
Yes. She needs more sit-ups, fewer carbs, and better fitting shoes. But her confidence glows brighter every day. Which helps her lighten up on herself a little more every day.
And here’s the thing… something almost all of my close cis-sisters say to me is that this self “critiquing” with its wild swing from dismay to acceptance is one of the not-so-good parts of “being a woman.” This constantly comparing one’s own body and physical self to some sort of “ideal” differs slightly for each of us but is there nonetheless.
And I know this – I don’t have to be told. What none of my cis-sisters knows is what it’s like to cry when another girl simply pulled her hair casually back into a pony tail without a second thought. And you can’t.
Or the conflicting war between grief and pride when your next door neighbor wore a “big girl’s dress” to high school for the very first time. And you never will.
Oh, trust me, I’ve been comparing my life to other girls since I was little. But the distance was measured in light years. So yes. I know.
But what I don’t know is what you see when you see me? Do you see a woman who is desirable? Do you see a woman who is strong? Who is intelligent? Who is creative? Who is loved?
What does Scottie Jeanette Christine Madden look like?
I ask this because, the other day, I was talking to someone who said, “Funny, you don’t look trans.”
I wasn’t sure what to do with that. Look trans? I had a train wreck of images in my head from the classic Catwoman-like-too much-plastic surgery taughtface to Jeffrey Tambor’s “Oh Bless her heart” Maura. Then I thought of all the trans women that I respect – Alexandra Billings, Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Jen Richards, Ashlee Preston, Trace Lysette, Zachary Drucker, Rain Valdez…
Were they saying I wasn’t… drop-dead gorgeous?????
If looking trans means looking like anyone of these amazing women, I’ll have what they’re having. Because sadly according to one person, I’m not or don’t.
Or are they merely trans stars? So, of course, they would be beautiful? Now, I know Alexandra is roaring with laughter now and calling me playful yet derogatory names for including her in this group of super models, we’ve had this conversation a few times, and she has the appropriate amount of humbleness about her looks, usually deflecting any sort of praise or adoration. But let’s face it – she is beautiful, inside and out as are we all -- some just more than others.
I don’t look trans? I. Don’t. Look. Trans?
Of course, my self-conscious self went to cynicism, taking “don’t look trans” to be cis-speak for “Now that you mention it, I can see that you were raised by wolves, despite that cute sun dress and pink acrylic nails.”
In other words, my daily fear that no amount of lip gloss will ever cover testosterone’s legacy.
Yes, I am maturing, getting stronger as I said, and on the days when I am self-confident, I like what I see. I like the me that is emerging. And I realize that I have… a different look. When I was growing up, despite not seeing my face as mine, the face that was there was never really handsome. It wasn’t not nice for others to look at, but it wasn’t particularly a man’s face per se… just a face. Now that I am seeing out my eyes and seeing my face, I’m starting to like her, even with her too strong jawline. She is unique. She is different. Is she beautiful? Well…
I hesitate because…, I am a child and a product of the televised concepts of beauty.
I formed my views of femininity and beauty during my childhood and puberty just like you. I had a vision of myself as a woman that still had Farrah Fawcett surfer bangs and wore leather mini skirts and disco inspired slinky dresses. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and my inspirations were the sunkissed FF Jaclyn Smith and Michelle Pfeiffer (I actually placed a lavalier mic on the divine Ms. Pfeiffer, and was so nervous she had to steady my hand with hers… I nearly fainted).
Remember, I was never going to actually get to be my mature womanly self, so I could set the bar impossibly high.
And now that I am a mature woman in her fifties, the bar is still high. Too high. But not quite high enough for me to judge myself with it.
I don’t want the world to view me through cis-colored lenses. But I also don’t want to be seen as a woman with an asterisk.
I’m hoping that with my continuing maturity, I’ll lighten up on myself even more and see my beauty and accept it as the most beautiful me that it… is. That’s a little hard for me to do at this point. Maybe because I still have hope in my youth. I still have a chance. Everything I see in the mirror at this point is because of hard work. Getting up early to work out, almost 50 hours of electrolysis, and dieting. I’m at least willing to work as hard as I can to see where I will end up.
Just like the fact that you will have to be okay with the future versions of you staring back at you from your mirror, I will, because I’m no longer dysphoria’s captive be okay with the me staring back at me.
But will I look trans?
The other day a day friend said something to me that has echoed across my inner skies for… well… Geezus, really? (says she looking at a calendar) Months?
Fade in: It’s Memorial Day weekend 2017 - Bright southern California sun paints the trees with the promise of summer, and the breeze, a welcome break from a late spring heat wave… a glorious treat across bare legs. I ask Siri to dial the number of my favorite Green Beret – the infamous Master Sergeant Terry “Tezzer” Schappert, who is truly one of the stars of my book – his love, support and acceptance, an inspiration to all the “real men” out there. I always call Tez on Memorial Day to sincerely thank him for his service, my freedom as an American, and to talk about our shared love for a Canadian Power Trio, called Rush.
Terry was one of the cast members of my show, “Dude, You’re Screwed!” for the Discovery Channel, three years of my life that was at once both the hardest and best times of my life. A time where I lead a boys’ club of testosterone-addled military survival experts around the world in some of the most dangerous spots (jungles, geyser riddled glaciers, deserts) as they subjected each other to a survival contest to find water, food, shelter and “not die” all in the name of reality TV… as Terry loved to say – “it’s okay, until it’s not okay, and then it’s REALLY not okay.”
The esprit de corps that I had to nurture everyday earned my reputation as den mother, despite an insane production schedule (get into and out of not one, but back-to-back third world countries, with each’s customs and ways, dependent on local transpo to remote locations in just 14 days with 100 cases of gear and 20 crew – then repeat with no more than two weeks prep between), for a network that was not only in turmoil (we had four network executive changes in season two alone) but that also treated our cast as nothing more than “wannabes.” Which was odd, cuz the reason they bought the show and promoted it as such was that these guys were the real-deal, not a bunch of weekend warriors or reality show contestants. I guess, like the rest of the country, they don’t understand the value of real soldiers.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: never regard a Green Beret, A Navy SEAL and RAF Survival instructor as “Wanna–be” anything except, maybe wanna-be removing your head from your neck when you do. Jes’ sayin’.
We did eight countries on four continents in three months with only one case of malaria, one fractured ankle, and two lost cellphones. As Terry would also say, “nobody went to the hospital, nobody went to jail, nobody got pregnant – it was a successful mission.” That these guys not only followed my lead, but had my back was largely due to my having won their respect as showrunner and professional despite long hair and hoop earrings. When they learned that I had guided our adventures despite a soul crushing gender dysphoria, my stock actually went up in their eyes. After I came out to them, they called the production company and the network and said, “Just in case you’re thinking of doing anything stupid… we’re with her.”
That’s how real men roll, boys.
They were with me when my dysphoria was at it’s tippy-top, peaky peak peak. When I was wearing sports bras under my Columbia expedition shirts to hide “the girls,” when I wouldn’t take off my shirt in the Yucatán cenotes or the southern Chilean bays to go swimming, when I was crying myself to sleep every night after screaming my rage and frustration with a god that imprisoned me in someone else’s body into my pillow. They were there right before Ms. Scottie emerged into her full bloom (and let me tell you, the beginning was anything but pretty.)
It ain’t anything like I am on this Memorial day, reddish hair in a cute topknot, white skirt and pink tank (oh, and on the other side of GCS), now a full two years since our “Dude” days, thanking newly retired (and not digging it) Master Sergeant Tez -- himself, toes in the sand of his Outer banks beach. He’s on a new show about Hollywood Weapons and once again touched that I remembered him on this day. As we catch-up about our lives, Tez says something that freezes my mind like the too cold iron spike of a brain freeze:
“Well, Ms. Madden, ever since you went in the other direction…”
I confess, I don’t even know if I heard how he completed that sentence. My mind stopped recording and skipped right to processing.
Was he saying that we had a shared path that I left? Was he talking about gender? Was he talking about… what was he talking about?
Since that time, I unstick this piece of mental bubble gum from the headboard and give it chew almost everyday.
“The Other Direction”
“The Other Direction”
“The Other Direction”
The first time I heard about “othering” was in Janet Mock’s book “Redefining Realness,” and since that time it has become a theme in our national conversation about marginalizing anyone, particularly by race, gender identity, or sexual orientation, and has become one of the various tools in getting people to understand intersectionality. But Tez’s statement makes it seem like I picked a direction that was… well, defined by being, separate from a reference vector of some kind.
Did I choose to be an “other?”
First of all, really, would anyone choose to be one? As I said in last week’s blog, many of us (particularly as adults) strive to be individuals. To be “unique,” and yes to be different. To be memorable, to stand out from the crowd.
But, make no mistake. None of us would choose to be bulldozed back into line, forced into a group of “other” that makes it easy to discriminate against, to vote down, to legislate away. But that’s how it works. Those who fear having less, want to use the boogie monster called “other” so there is no one person whom you would have to look in the eye. It’s neat trick, isn’t it? No one has to be face-to-face with “the other” to remind them that they are human, deserving of all rights equally. The captain has turned on the discrimination light; you are free to move about the cabin.
I must confess that I have... well, always looked at the rest of the entire material world as other. As an artist it's been my job to observe it, explore it. Try to make some sense of it, with film, video, clay or heck, even crayon. So, to be pushed from my post into "other," is um... what's the word? Disorienting? Close.
I was trained as an artist. I'm just now recognizing that tho' (as I've often said here) success was my armor of choice when I was running with wolves, my default survival mechanism had actually remained hidden to even me, masquerading as my gift. I call it "laser-focus," anyone who is an artist or craftsman knows this one. The ability to stay "dialed-in" on a fixed point artistically or intellectually means you can shut out all else. You can immerse yourself in the creative challenge of a project fully and tune out the noise of the world completely.
Even the gnawing on your soul.
Which is what too many realize too late that we were doing. But besides paying a dear price for this Jedi-skill/curse, (disconnection from one's loved ones being the top of a very long list) the problem is, once you start, you cannot stop, lest whatever you were ignoring, gets the upper hand. Is doesn't go away simply because you shut your eyes like a child playing peek-a-boo. And no one has been able to maintain "LF" forever... sooner or later the laser will drift from it's mark and destroy the walls of the tunnel it had bored, and the ocean of life will flood in and claim all.
When my walls crumbled, so too did the myth of security and protection that my laser focus used to whisper as promises to me to keep me separate from the "others" that I was making art for and about. I could no longer let these whispers distort my perception of reality. I knew that we as women have endured misogyny for centuries. I knew transphobia bred murder and hate. But art had hope in it. Hope for change. Belief in humanity. Faith in love. Understanding that we are all one. Being other wasn't even part of my vocabulary. Until it was.
The other direction.
Which direction was I going?
To Terry, I was a respected adventure reality showrunner. I suppose, if we kept on going in the “same” direction (even tho’ “Dude” was not going to get a third season), Terry and I might’ve met up “out in the field” together yet again. We still might. But that’s not what he was talking about. And his words “the other direction” and their Doppler effect speak to how far he knows we are from where we were going.
Terry and I shared a lot of things in our three years in a meat grinder.
Beyond our love for the best rock band in history (tho’ he still has a softer spot for Judas Priest… sigh) and Bugs Bunny, chili’ mango, malapropisms, mixed metaphors and dogs, we both knew to the core of each of our beings that our work ethic, our belief in excellence and family first was who we really were. We drove each other to be the best that we could be at each moment. We counted on each other to always be there. Wherever, and whenever that there would ever be.
Which may be in some small way, what he was saying.
Is he wondering, since I went “the other direction,” that I… won’t be there for him?
Or is he saying, where I’m now heading… he can’t go with me?
I know I have a penchant for drilling down too deep. And I can’t blame it on TV, even tho’ the truth is production, especially on my shows, becomes so intense, and so consuming, so us- against-them, that hearts get fused together by the fire of creativity, sleep deprivation and bad street food. Trying to heal the hematoma that appears when the tissue is ripped apart by time and or your next show usually makes people wary of allowing the fire to fuse their hearts anew. We even have the term “showmance” that speaks not so much to this phenomenon existing, but rather to it’s inevitable end.
No. It’s me. I know this. And so do you if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time. I expect human relationships and interactions to always be our best noblest selves. In my world, even casual encounters are supposed to be our best and no one is harder on herself for screaming at that asshole who just cut ME off on the freeway, or idiot tech support person who misgendered me, than me.
So… yes. It’s me. I always place too much weight on what people say or think. But… here’s the kicker. So does Terry. I know this having to have talked him down from several ledges (more like asking him nicely to take his finger off the trigger, being the retired Green Beret and all) countless times. Like the time when the network said that it was the format that was the star of our show, the cast was replaceable at any time. Or that time the network wanted to deduct the Canadian work permit fees out of his and the other cast members’ salaries. Or best yet, when the network came up with the title for the show. Terry was active duty at the time but delaying deployment in Afghanistan where his real brothers were laying their lives on the line. So what did this ever-awesome network think was the best title they had ever heard? The title for the show that was demonstrating to the world what and how and who Master Sargent Terry Patrick Schappert is? Why, thank you for asking – they called our our show, “Dude, You’re Screwed!” as if it was about a stoner teenager who lost his car.
Terry saw blood. I had to be the one to tell him. I had to be the one who said that titles don’t really matter – and “what’s in a name?” and a buncha other BS to chill his ire, but really, what actually worked, was when I put all that aside and did what I always did, which was speak from my own heart, and say not even a shitty inane sophomoric title could take away what we were practically dying for (not exaggerating) and that we were just going to have to live with it… together.
We shared this too. This affliction of caring. Of overthinking it. Of going too deep.
So. It’s not just me.
So why do his words haunt me so? I guess it’s because I know I haven’t made it easy on myself. The truth is, Hollywood and TV are supposed to be either so enlightened or capitalistic that neither cares if you’re green with polka dots as long as you’re good, and making them money.
But that’s not true.
What is true is that I freak people out. Before transition, I was labeled “passionate” which is network-ese for a “royal-pain-in-the-ass.” But I also had a rep for “getting it done” and bringing home ALL of the story, as a respected showrunner, given the responsibility for millions of dollars of production and literally people’s lives (adventure TV needs adventure, right? That don’t happen on a soundstage) but since coming out?
Well, okay, picture this – I’m a college educated, thirty plus year veteran of almost every genre and format of live and edited, scripted and non-scripted television, who has also taught production to everyone from the CIA to the major network news divisions – okay, hold that image in your mind as… I have had not one, but three people say to my face, “it’s not that we have a problem with your transition, we applaud your courage to be you, but it’s that we don’t want the crews to have an issue with you… for your sake.”
I haven’t worked as a showrunner since I came out in 2015.
I’ve had 10 (in two years) interviews for a showrunner position – each was amazing, went great and then ended with a variation on the above excuse, sorry, reason. I’ve been up for not one but three shows about transgender people, the last was about couples who had decided to stay married after one of them came out as transgender. I was told that even tho’ I was a transgender woman still married after 28 years, they wanted someone with more experience. Which is network-ese for a cis-gender male.
I wish I was making this up.
Terry’s right, it’s okay, until it’s not okay…. And then, it’s really not okay.
Is this what he meant? Is this “the other direction” I went? People are free to say incredibly stupid and insulting things to my face – because why, I’m powerless to stop them, because I will be so flabbergasted that I will be frozen with the aforementioned brain freeze and they’ll be able to slip out of the room?
The truth is I’m going in the direction I was always heading.
Did I know that I would be able to live and grow as a mature woman? No. I was, and maybe this is what Tez is alluding to, trying to play out the clock, pretending to be a boy. I was working double time to keep my dysphoria under lock and key while still trying to be a happy person and functioning member of society and… Tez’s showrunner. Maybe that’s why Tez is still in my corner. Because I was woman enough to be stand up and be myself, despite the world’s callousness to the “others.”
Ironically, I have a sneaking suspicion that if I actually asked Tez what he meant by this, he probably wouldn’t even remember saying it. But that’s not the point. The point is that by remarking that I went in the other direction, I did go on a journey. And it will never stop.
So, tho’ I am going in a different direction than my dear big brother Tez, it doesn’t mean we still won’t end up in the same place we both were heading together. The way to the destination is never just one road.
And I can’t wait to see you when we both get there, big brother.
Scottie Jeanette Madden
Screenwriter, Author, Cook and Lover. Author of "Getting Back To Me, from girl to boy to woman in just fifty years" & "Recklass In The Kitchen" a year of light, laughter & love... oh. and food!