Despite the weather and the inconvenience of the snow, I’ve been feeling relatively upbeat lately. Praying and meditating daily and walking and being with Cleo clearly make a difference in my life. I’m in this zen calm of just being and while never genuinely, truly, deeply comfortable in my skin, I am at least not experiencing what I often feel as suffocating, debilitating discomfort in my body. Plus, it’s winter and I get to wear several layers which significantly reduces my anguish. Anyway, so here I am, jauntily going about my business humming a happy tune, when I pull into my work parking lot… and… ACTION!
Because of the snow and need for snow removal and plowing, we had our valet service addressing cars as they came in and directing them so that the snow reorganization could commence in a relatively orderly fashion. As I pulled into the lot I was greeted by a cheerful young man. “Good morning miss!”, he said enthusiastically as I rolled down my window. “We’re valeting today miss. Would you like me to take your car here and park it for you miss?” Before I could answer, a jolt of embarrassment and awkwardness washed over me. My therapist would say that “awkward”, like “fat”, is not a “feeling”. But really, now that I mention it, awkward and fat were exactly what I was feeling. Because I wasn’t responding (because I was trapped in my head with the crazies contemplating fat and awkward as feelings), he continued, “Miss? Would you like me to take your car here miss? Or would you prefer to park it yourself? I can show you where miss. But why not let me park it for you so you don’t have to walk so far. Miss?” He was being so kind and solicitous. But every time he said, “Miss” it set my teeth on edge and I wanted to scream. And the more I wasn’t responding, probably giving out super shitty vibes, the more anxious he seemed to become, feeling the need to be more, what he considered, deferential and polite. So he’d “miss–ed” me about a thousand times before I roused myself to paste on a half smile (all I could muster) and accept his offer. I sullenly skulked into the building after rather ungraciously handing him my keys.
I was irritated all day. I mean, not over-the-top angry. Just sigh and shake my head aggravated. But what did I expect? And furthermore, what did I want? Would I have felt any better if he’d “sir-ed“me? Maybe. I don’t know. I should just be thanking my lucky stars that I don’t live in a country where the preferred tongue is a gendered language. Talk about throwing me over the edge with every sentence!?
I’ve written and deleted this post several times now (not unlike my emails to Tracy in which I pour out my heart and soul and then feel embarrassed that I’ve shared too much…. but I always end up sending those – and they always seem to result in deeper connection, more love and trust and respect…. so, I’m going to trust the process and force myself to continue here). On the one hand, I feel ridiculous. This is so insignificant and inconsequential, it doesn’t even classify as a first world problem. At the same time, it gets to me, it rattles and vexes me. It affects me, enveloping me with the same tainted malodorous residue as a bad dream, clinging to me like a shroud. And like a bad dream, it infiltrates my mind and my being, my awareness and my interactions, coloring my whole day. It doesn’t completely cut me off from the world, no. But it does inhibit me. It restricts me. It is an encumbrance that impedes the real me from being part of the world. It separates me from others in a way that I no longer wish to be separate.
Once upon a time I held tight to that cloak of separation. Shame bound me to that concealing distance. But as I’ve gotten to know the real me, the me I’ve been ashamed of and hidden for so long and the more comfortable with that real me I’m getting, the less I’m needing or even wanting to hide. That’s a powerful revelation, a big acknowledgement, one giant leap for… whatever… I’m not that funny. Let’s just say it is a considerable step in the process of my healing and growing into the person I am. The problem is that now that I have become more comfortable with and have bolstered the courage to be myself, when that real me gets ignored or is unseen or is refused or rejected it really throws me off and upsets me. And I don’t know what to do with that. I completely understand that people like this poor parking-lot- guy simply see a woman in front of them and respond to her. And I get that I am not attempting to present as a man. At the same time, there has to be a way to bridge the gap without tortuous contortions from either side. I don’t want to spend my time in relation with people focusing on and forcing them to use a specific pronoun for me. At the same time I don’t want to feel shame every time someone refers to me as not the person I experience myself to be. Another of those koans I dislike so much.
When I got home that afternoon I decided to distract myself with the frivolity of Facebook. Several of my friends have added Bitstrips – a cartoon characterization of oneself – to their profile and I figured I’d give it a whirl as a way of diverting and amusing myself. Little did I suspect that the first decision I’d have to make in creating a comic me would be, “what gender are you?”. Really?! As if a cartoon requires that much detail?! To make a relatively long story short, I tried both. The female cartoons have better short hairstyle alternatives. They also seem to have more proportional faces. The male cartoons win hands down on the clothing options. Unless more women are choosing to dress like the Queen mother and I haven’t noticed, these outfits were painfully outdated. The facial features of these simulacra, for the most part, were similar enough and the accessories were, well, what one might expect (keeping the Queen mother in mind). In the end, I realized I have way too much time on my hands. And I have no real rejoinder or resolution to my gender dilemmas. But I do have a super cute comic me.