<Warning long-ass maudlin post, cue Puddles Pity Party>
So I turned 50 last summer, and I’m not handling it well.
Usually I’ve been fine with -9 birthdays, even the -0 birthdays. It’s the -1 birthdays that have kicked me in the butt. OK kiddo, now you’re really in your 30s, your 40s. But this time around it started at 49 and has just gotten worse each year. I’m sliding down the slippy slope… of the U-curve.
On the outside things look good. I’m successful in my career; damn good at what I do and in job that pays well and is high demand here in Silicon Valley. I really like the company I work for, I’ve been there almost 10 years, which is practically a geological eon in Valley years. I’ve had a successful drag career; maybe not what others would define as success — I’ll never be on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” — but successful on my own terms. I’ve generally performed as much as I’ve wanted, doing the material I want to do. I got to head up the charitable organization I’ve been involved with, and pull it back from the brink after a disastrous predecessor. My budding burlesque career is taking off; I’ve got bookings for the next three months and expect to get more. I’m known and liked in burly circles.
And on the inside I’m a woman on the verge…. Of what I really don’t know.
I’ve had recurrent mild depression for most of my life. But I’ve always muddled though, always been functional during the work day. Still am, but for the past few months, it’s been different. I’d get home to near paralytic depression, just wanting to curl up, stuff my face with Ben and Jerry’s and vodka, and hibernate. For a week or two or three, and then once again it would pass.
Part of it is classic mid-life crisis-related stuff.
While I’ve enjoyed my job, it’s starting to get stale. Particularly this year when I’m working on some important, but frankly boring stuff. I’m the right person for it, since having a deep knowledge of the company and our websites is crucial. And on the plus side, it’s something that’s not that challenging — useful as I’m going through this upheaval (and trying to launch my burlesque career). But it’s probably getting time to move on, which is scary, since I’m old enough now that age discrimination becomes a thing. Even if it isn’t, 20 years is a long way to retirement. Particularly in the Valley, where 40 hours a week is a part-time job and everything seems like it’s a treadmill where someone’s stolen the handle and the train won’t stop going. Faster, faster, pussycat… until we kill, kill, kill ya.
Drag is still enjoyable but it’s no longer the new and exciting thing it once was. While I was able to turn things around for the charitable organization, in retrospect it wasn’t something I should’ve taken on, and it left me pretty burned; and I’ve gotten weary of some of the personalities. Drag queens, drama? Who would’ve thunk it.
My body ain’t what it used to. There’s the fat that won’t go away. The seeming accelerated decrepitude: being in chronic pain for month due a pinch nerve and whiplash that took far more out of me than I realized at the time; a stubborn case of patellar tendonitis (jumper’s knee); most recently 10+ weeks of tennis elbow that worsened enough that I went and got a cortisone shot for it this week. Seeing those gray hairs creeping in among the blonde.
Realizing that I’ve got more years behind me, than ahead of me. Worrying about what happens when my 80-year-old mother, who lives 400 miles away, starts having trouble caring for herself, since I’ll be the child who has to deal with.
Realizing that the Fortress of Solitude that I’ve built has prevented me from getting hurt. But at the cost of loneiness and not having many friends, especially ones who are proximate to go have a drink with after work.
Realizing my social life is all up in San Francisco, and I’m out in the ‘burbs. Now I mostly like it out here, and the weather of the cool gray city of love would really not be good for my head (call me a shallow Angeleno, but I am a solar-powered being). But it’s a minimum of a half-hour drive, and often longer to get up there, and parking in SF is one of the circles of Hell that Dante overlooked.
Regrets, I’ve got a few.
Wishing that I’d embraced my trans-ness years earlier. Wishing that I’d embraced my kink years earlier. I’m indescribably envious of the young ’ems posting videos on Fetlife of themselves having wild sex and more. I could use a bit of a friend’s wanton past.
Is that all there is, my friends?
Yeah, it’s so fucking prosaic. First World problems. Which makes me even more blue.
And then there’s Teh Tranz.
As I’ve alluded to before, I’m becoming more and more unmoored from the men’s side of the middle path. I’m leaking gender in ways I didn’t before. I didn’t use to underdress, now I wear panties every day and had to remember to wear men’s underwear to the doctor’s this week. I’ve started wearing earrings (discrete diamond studs) regularly, and one morning when I forgot them, even though I was running late, I turned around to get them. My hands have always been dry, but now I’ve become somewhat obsessed with moisturizing and getting my skin soft and smooth. I was trying out a new nail polish, one that was a light pink, suitable for a professional woman. I ended up leaving it on at the end weekend and wore it to work the next week. (No one said anything, but then again everyone knows I do drag, so it’s one those eccentricities that I’m allowed.) When I got my nails done, the salon owner said she thought I’d look nice if I grew my hair out for the next six months. Does she see something I don’t see? Did she read my mind? I’m getting my hair cut tomorrow and I’m planning to ask my stylist if it’s possible to get something that can also be fluffed up into a tousled pixie cut.
To apply my friend Erica’s Middle Path Turning Test… If I could transition tomorrow (no cost, no risk, no pain) with absolute assurance that neither I nor those I love would suffer any adverse consequences, would I? …yes I would. Not out of a long-buried sense of “I should’ve been a woman,” rather I’ve done the guy thing for 50 years. Been there, done that. Time to try something else. To be someone new.
In the real world, if I really wanted to do so, I’ve got the money to do it, and while transitioning in place might or might not work out, I’m lucky to have a job that’s in high demand, so I’d land on my feet. It would be disruptive personally, but I’d weather it.
But… the pull isn’t strong enough to pull me over to the other bank. I ran this experiment before, almost 10 years ago, when the urge to express myself feminine self became overpowering and I finally left the house and started interacting with other people as a woman. Then, I was living alone, and working from home, so I could be en femme as much as I wanted. What I discovered then is that I reached a saturation point, and I’d loss the interest in dressing. Today things are a bit different. I don’t really hit a saturation point. OTOH, I don’t feel the need to present as a woman all the time after work hours. (A friend of mine decided it was time to transition when she realized she was presenting as a woman everywhere except work.)
Burlesque has been a two-edged sword for me. I enjoy being in the company of woman much more than men, I’m generally accepted as if I’m woman in those circles. To the point that I really hate going to events as a guy, which is somewhat detrimental, since I haven’t gone to as many shows as I should, and putting in face time to schmooze is important for getting booking. It’s also been my own personal Turing Test: how womanly can I present myself, even when I’m not wearing clothes. But it also kicks up my body dysphoria, which thankfully I’ve only had periodic bursts of. I’m not young and nubile, I’m old and fat, and my fat is very much of a male-bodied variety. I’d really love some boobs and some hips to balance out my broad child-bearing shoulders (thanks a friend for that line). OTOH, while my cock is… inconvenient… for burlesque, I rather attached to it, and would rather keep it attached. Yeah, my preferred sex is “chick with a dick.” So sue me.
Part of the gender dysphoria right now probably is just wanting to be someone else, because my day-to-day life is feeling sucky. It’s not coincidental that the burst of gender dysphoria that got me out of the house also occurred when I was having a bit of life crisis.
Where do I go from here? Damned if I know. I just know I need to make some changes in my life. I’m tired of feeling tired of it all.
But the Catch-22 of depression is it robs you of the energy you need to do things to get out of it. I’ve read up on things. I know the techniques Cognitive Behavior Therapy teaches you, the tips for dealing with depression. But it takes energy to that do it, and some days I’m all out of spoons.
Small steps then. When I saw my doctor for the tennis elbow Wednesday I mentioned that I’d stopped taking Lexapro because it killed my libido and my ability to orgasm, so he’s having me try out Wellbutrin. (As an aside, it’s funny… when I was in really bad chronic pain last year, I really had to push to get the Lexapro to take the edge off things. Now I’ve got it on file, it’s no big deal to get another anti-depressant.) I’m looking for a therapist — and got a recommendation for one who’s trans/kink/poly-friendly. The down side is she’s somewhat inconveniently located, although it’s doable with some effort. (For those of you who are in therapy, how often does one typically see a therapist?) I’m doing this as part of my prep work for counseling, figuring out what’s bothering me and what I’d like to get out of therapy. I’m trying push myself over those humps when I don’t feel like getting dressed to go out — knowing that what ends up happening is that I get a second wind later in the evening, and end up regret not going out.
Right now my femme life, whether as Lena, or as Joie in the drag/burlesque spaces, or as Miss M, is where my friends are and my enjoyment is. My guyself goes to work, pays the bills, takes care of business. Arguably I should give that side of myself more attention, go make friends, etc. But I’m not sure I want to. I’m more comfortable interacting with the world as a woman. And yet I don’t feel fully a woman. I’d like to develop more friendships as a woman — a friend of mine wants to join a social group for bi/lesbian woman. And yet, I feel nervous about that because I don’t live full-time as a woman. Am I going to run into the cotton ceiling? It would be enjoyable to be a woman full-time, and yet, being gender bendy makes me special in ways that I would definitely miss. While I’m treated as a woman in burlesque spaces, I’m also well aware that I’m also sparkly unicorn precisely because I’m seen as a drag queen (for those who don’t know me well) or as trans (by those who do). If I transitioned, I’d just be another 50ish woman, peasant-bodied with heavy features. Move along, nothing to see here.
And so here I am. Betwixt and between, occupying a place on both sides of a threshold I don’t quite understand; at that place of transition, waiting, and not knowing. Trying to get from “Is that all there is?” to “Now what?