Baaaaaach! Buckbuckbuck!

Nov. 24, 2012

Thanksgiving weekend has taken on an extra dimension over the last couple years. It’s now my high school’s alumni weekend, and most of the five-year reunions now take place at the school the Saturday evening of Thanksgiving weekend, when they assume most people who’ve moved away will be home.

And on those off-reunion years, there are class nights on Thanksgiving Fridays for the individual graduating classes at various local restaurant/bars.

And since it was the first class night since I moved home three months ago, your humble author was thinking of attending last night.

Actually, I was there — just a few feet away from the backroom where this was taking place — and chickened out.

As you might imagine, this gave me great pause, as I’m out and living very confidently as Frannie 2.0 in the everyday world. What the hell’s going on here?

*****

I graduated from Holy Cross High in Waterbury in 1979. Yes, your friendly good-Catholic-boy-turned-estranged-Catholic-woman did four years in a Catholic high school, too, to go with my eight years as an altar boy at St. Anthony’s in Prospect. I graduated 16th in a class of 385 — I was sixth, actually, until my junior year, when I suddenly forgot how to do math; in analysis, a bridge class between algebra and calculus, all those numbers and letters suddenly started looking like 23rd-century hieroglyphics, and the A student limped to a 73 for the year. Chemistry that year was nearly as bad.

Despite having to wear ties and not being allowed to grow out my mustache, it wasn’t all that bad; I got a great education there, and since the school didn’t tolerate abuse or harassment by students, it was a sanctuary away from the abuse I endured in my goober hick hometown. (The bus rides home were another story, though — not to mention Prospect itself …) And the tuition wasn’t that bad yet; when I started there, it was $450 a year. (Now, at $10K, it’s practically a lower-rung prep school, no longer a viable place for working-class families to get their kids a better education than public schools.)

It was also the place where I first learned I might actually be a good writer.

As a sophomore, I became interested in working for the school paper, The Cross Chronicle. My junior year was a tumultuous year; the torture growing up in Prospect continued — coupled with the full-blown onset of depression that I didn’t realize, until my gender transition and the start of hormone therapy 2 1/2 years ago, was as much chemical as anything. And the aforementioned problems with math and science made me realize that maybe my talents lay elsewhere. An early case of one door closes, another opens.

In this case, the kid who hated essay questions and preferred fill-in-the-blanks found myself learning that writing was a good thing. My English teacher my junior year was the newspaper advisor, Brother Larry Lussier. And part of my classwork that year was keeping  a daily journal. I can’t begin to tell you how valuable that’s been to me. I mean, until my industry committed suicide by a thousand cuts, I worked in newspapers my whole adult life. And I might not keep a daily journal at the moment, but I’ve kept notes as I’ve gone along this transition of mine and do plan on writing the damn book about it.

And one life pattern, unfortunately, was set in high school. I belonged to everyone and no one at the same time. I was accepted by several cliques and circles, seemingly liked by a lot of people, but didn’t really belong to any of them. Nowadays, I’m accepted by a lot of people, and I have the Facebook friends list to back that up. But I don’t belong to any one group. I spend a lot of time alone.

It could explain why I’m only Facebook friends with three of my classmates and one of my teachers …

*****

I’ve been to two class reunions so far — my 10th in 1989 and my 20th in ’99. I missed the 25th because it was my first year out in Fresno, and I was saving my vacation time to go home for three weeks at Christmas. As a bunch of my classmates celebrated the 30th the first Saturday of October 2009, I was in my rented room at the dysfunctional Happy House in Fresno.

My class is not much different than most; it’s had its share of successful businesspeople and doctors and lawyers and housewives, of marriages and divorces, of people who look like a million and those who’ve let themselves go to hell physically, of those who’ve traveled the globe and those who’ve stayed at home this whole time, of gifted people who died way too young (including the star of the basketball team, along with a childhood friend who had become an architect to the stars). We’ve even had one who’s gone on to a successful acting career (Dylan McDermott, who attended his first reunion in ’09).

And an unemployed trannie and failed journalist who had gone from high hopes and aspirations as an A student in Waterbury to stuck sitting alone in a room in the dry heat of the Waterbury of California — unemployed, battling depression and trying to figure out, as I was three decades earlier, whether life was worth living anymore.

At that point, I was out of work nearly seven months, there were absolutely no jobs to apply for, let alone any up my alley, I was starting to go through a huge amount of weirdness with my family back here three weeks after coming out to them, I was realizing that I was stuck living in a house owned by an angry, judgmental hypocrite of a wino and his crazy co-dependent, and I was still less than seven months away from the start of the hormone therapy that would ease my depression.

To say I was in a place is grossly understating it. That evening, as many of my classmates celebrated, I alternated between sitting at the desk, playing online poker on my laptop and going fetal on the bed, sobbing, wishing to hell I could just get out of my skull, end my pain for good, wishing for the courage to ride my bicycle to a grade crossing and wait for a train to finish the job, or at least hoping the night would end quickly.

Just as well I wasn’t there. I swore I wouldn’t ever go back to my reunion a failure. And I wasn’t far enough along in my transition yet to be totally comfortable with it.

*****

Three years later, I’m still out of work, save for my 10-month spell as an on-call copy editor, but in a much better place. At the time of this writing, I’m waiting to hear about a huge job I interviewed for three weeks ago at a well-known place, sitting and writing at the dining room table of the house where I grew up in Prospect, living for now with my parents, who have long since accepted Frannie 2.0.

And I’m fully out as my female self and quite comfortable with it. And, weight aside, I look fabulous.

So what happened last night?

Well, I was in a weird state yesterday — not quite depressed, somewhere close, but not really. Unhappy, anxious, a little on edge, and I’m not articulating it very well. It would be one of those nights when I forced myself to doll up to go out.

Did I really want to go to this class-night thing? I wasn’t feeling it. I flipped a coin ahead of time. Several times. It kept coming up tails for “no.” So I told myself to get in the shower, and if I decided not to go, bring my laptop and camp out at a coffee shop.

It was a casual affair, so I was casual enough — loose top, leggings, boots — when I left the house. The event started at 7 at a restaurant/bar in the west end of town, and I imagined it wasn’t a sit-down affair, so I didnlt leave the house ’til just after 7:40. Went through the Dunky D’s drive-thru for an iced coffee, stopped at Prospect Mobil for my lottery tickets, then headed north to Waterbury.

I pulled into a space in front of the 1249 Wine Bar around 8. I sat there for a couple minutes. It reminded me of the late night in September 2008 when I sat in front of the Million Elephant in Fresno, sweating (literally) over whether to walk into the restaurant as my better half for the first time. Except this was different.

At the Million, I was in friendly territory, in the Tower District, at a restaurant where I was a regular. Here, I was a virtual stranger — and I couldn’t imagine there would be a lot of people there, let alone any I knew. There was probably no one there who knew of my transition, and to a certain extent, it would be a combination of “Trick or treat!” and “Look at me!” It would have all the effect of the alien who dropped in on the cocktail party. On the other hand, maybe there were a couple people who knew me and would think I looked great and be wildly curious.

Only one way to find out, right? I walked in.

The waitress asked if she could help me. I told her I think my old high school class is having a reunion, and she said, “Sure. They’re in the back room.”

So I walked through the dining room, past the lounge trio playing in the space between, and I could see into the smallish back room. I was only a couple of feet away.

I quickly scanned the room. There were only about a dozen people there. And there was no one I really recognized, let alone knew. A couple of faces looked familiar, but no one I was friends with back then. I was far enough away from the group — and trans enough — that none of them would’ve recognized me.

I made a quick decision. I was gonna leave.

I told the waitress that I didn’t recognize anyone there. She told me more people were supposed to come. So I decided to take a walk over to the CVS next door on West Main, then returned and drove off for about 20,minutes, heading north to Waterville, then back down until arriving and parking out front of the wine shop next to the restaurant. I sat and played Othello on my cell phone for 20 minutes and watched no one enter or leave the restaurant. And I flipped coins again. Again, a lot of “no.”

This time I left for real. I drove the half-hour to my adopted Starbucks in Orange and set up my laptop. From there, I decided not to go to New Haven and came home instead, a little after 11.

This wasn’t the time or the day or the moment to reintroduce myself. The timing and the feel just wasn’t right.

I’ll wait for the 35th reunion two years from now. By then I’ll have lost enough weight to really look fabulous …

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One Response to “Baaaaaach! Buckbuckbuck!”

  1. Colleen Says:

    You can be brave without being brave every second of every day.

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