In my house growing up we had a Steinway upright piano that held a sort of sanctified status. It was drilled into us constantly and repeatedly that this was a musical instrument (of epic proportions) and not a toy. If we were to even consider approaching it, we were to do so with the reverence one might use when approaching a saintly figure. We were not to twinkle on it willy-nilly. We must be engaged in actual lessons and therefore be utilizing it for practice. Hands were to be clean and no drinks or foods were to be brought within an approximately 5 foot radius. And placing a drink upon it was a crime so heinous the thought would never have entered our minds. In its Buddha-like state of Grace, it remained throughout my childhood as I off and on took lessons or otherwise practiced and honed my natural lack of talent. And it is with a similar obsequiousness that I treat my own piano in my adult home. I have children and I don’t necessarily want them to be afraid of music or instruments in the same way I was. But it is indeed a slippery slope. We have a 9 year old who has begrudgingly taken piano lessons for several years, who sometimes (even fairly often I might say) throws tantrums over forced practice, sometimes resorting to banging harshly on my deified 88. We have a 3 year old who likes the tintinnabulation of running her hands over the keys as she runs along the keyboard. Lighthearted but heavy-handed. One or two of the sharps or flats have succumbed to those youthful endeavors. I am both proud of the music my children have teased from the keys and horrified at the abuse I have allowed my cherished instrument to bear. That shame and guilt have prevented me from calling the piano tuner. And the longer I go without calling, the more the shame and guilt increase and the less likely I am to call. And the more disrepair my piano falls into. And so the cycle goes.
It is more than just the power of inertia. And I hope that by speaking its name, I might dispel some of the shame. So it is with writing here I think. Maybe I can kill two proverbial birds with one blog post.
I’ve been thinking about writing a lot lately, but it seems every time I sit down at the computer my mind goes suddenly blank. Summer is at the halfway point and I have to say I’m appreciating the noticeable albeit still slight reduction in angst over my body and clothing. Sometimes I still look in the mirror or merely catch a glimpse of my reflection as I pass a pane of glass and am saddened, angered, shamed by what I perceive as a caricature of myself. But those sometimes are far less frequent than they used to be. Either I’m not looking so closely, not noticing, or caring less. I seem to be developing a different relationship with who I am. A new beginning of sorts.
So life goes inexorably on. I have clearly made a decision to adopt a *don’t ask don’t tell* approach to my gender and hormonal changes. No big disclosures or announcements of preferred pronouns as email signature. No meetings with the human resources department at work, registry of motor vehicles or other such legal documentation of difference. Basically no one is asking and I’m not telling. And so it is I don’t even know if anyone notes any changes or differences in me.
Then I had plans to go out of town for a few days and needed someone to watch Cleo. A doc at work with whom I have been friendly, who has a doggie relative of Cleo’s, offered to take her for the weekend. I packed up Cleo’s overnight bag and brought her to work with me to drop her off. I hadn’t seen this person in several months and, in keeping with my don’t ask don’t tell policy have obviously said nothing to her. I brought Cleo to her office and started to thank her when she jumped up from her seat at her desk with almost theatrical exaggeration and said, “Oh my gosh, are you sick?! What’s wrong with your voice?!” I stammered a string of syllables and she said with more than a hint of preposterous comedy, “You sound like a MAN! Are you somehow becoming a man?!” And then she laughed and laughed as if the thought was so fantastic she’d invented a whole new genre of humor. I momentarily stopped stammering in my discomfort at being the butt of a joke I was not prepared for and stood silently, face burning. I couldn’t even muster a companionable grin. I may have, with a mumbled negative syllable, denied becoming a man. I’m fairly certain she didn’t even notice her gaff, never mind my awkward lack of response. Her knee-slapping laughter slowed and she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand as she turned her attention to Cleo. And with that, the awkward and uncomfortable (for me) encounter was over. Perhaps people do notice the changes. I hope not everyone finds them quite so hilariously farcical. I know I don’t.