More Oddz And Endz

I’m friends with a trans woman on a social media site. She related how she started cross-dressing in the early 90s because she was tired of presenting as what she was not. I told her I thought she’d been brave for doing that. She replied, “not brave–resilient.”

“Brave,” I shot back. Tired or not, given society’s murderous, despicable attitude toward trans people, to start dressing as she felt herself to be was brave. What was resilient is that she continued to be true to herself in spite of all of the ugliness.

That short exchange reminded me of an experience I had in college back in the ’70s. I was at a party on another campus with a bunch of friends and at some point, a trans woman joined our group. I didn’t know anything about trans back then but I quickly realized she was biologically male. I could tell she desperately wanted to hang out with us “girls,” wanted us to accept her. My friends were pretty oblivious (drunk) and basically ignored her. I didn’t. I thought she was cool. So she hung out with us at the party and I could tell she was feeling relaxed and having a good time. Then it was time for us to leave. I said good-bye and told her I’d had fun hanging with her. Unfortunately, by that time I was pretty oblivious myself and it never occurred to me to get her name and contact info. I wish I had. Even today I think about her from time to time and wonder how life has treated her over these long years. I hope it’s been kind. I hope she is well.

The other day, I heard from a friend of mine who’s a big-shot partner with a Big Law firm (meaning a real player in the field). He’s originally from North Dakota; his family has a ranch there. He goes to visit the old homestead with his wife and 7-year-old son as often as he can. Anyway, he apologized for not keeping in better touch. His job keeps him extremely busy–he told me he’s almost never in the office for a full week, always off to meet with clients, argue in court, or whatever and wherever. A real road warrior. I hope he flies first class. For all this effort, of course, he’s paid the BIG $$$$. But he also told me he wishes he could spend more time with his family. I received an email from him once that came in at like 11 PM. He’d been out all day and had returned to the office at 10. Now, after going through the day’s emails, he was getting ready to go home. He told me he fears he’s missing out on his son’s growing up.

I immediately thought of my father. He was just like that–always working. His job sometimes took him away from us for extended periods of time. Not for just a couple of weeks–like, for a year. When he was with us, he’d leave for work at 6 AM, long before we kids got up for school, and return home around 10 or 11 PM, long after we’d been sent to bed. When I was in high school…I remember this one time–it was a Saturday afternoon–I was going up the stairs at the same time he was coming down. We kind of jumped and stared at each other, both of us realizing it was the first time we’d seen each other all week. And so it went, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

Long after he retired, we were having lunch at a little restaurant. He told me he regretted not seeing his children grow up because he was working all the time. To him, it seemed that one minute we were kids and the next, we were heading off to college. But he did it so he could give us what he never had when he was growing up. Then he pulled out his wallet and opened it. Flipping to the clear sleeves that held photographs (yeah, wallets really were like that back in the day), he showed me our first-grade individual class pictures. He smiled. “No matter how old you get, you’ll always be my little girls.” I almost cried.

I tear up every time I remember that scene.

So now you’re thinking I’m so glad my career didn’t follow the same trajectory as my friend’s or my father’s, that I took a road which allows me time to enjoy life, to write. You’re wrong. Yeah, I detest the law. It was a mistake and I wish I hadn’t done it but after spending all that time and money, not to mention going through the hell that was school, the least I could have gotten in return was a job as a big-shot partner in a Big Law firm, making megabucks. Truth is, I couldn’t do my friend’s job. I’m mentally incapable. It’s not intellectual–it’s mental. There’s no way I could take that kind of pressure. The constant travel. Prepping for court. The speaking gigs. Endless meetings. I know because except for the prepping for court thing, my life was like that when I was about 30 years younger. I loved it then. It’s not a question of whether I’d love it today. It’s the reality that I can’t do it today. I’ve made peace with the fact, though. I mean, what the fuck am I gonna do about it? Is what it is.

I have a tattoo. It’s right above my left hip on my back. It’s a little thing, a dagger about three inches long. Got it over 30 years ago, while in law school. Most of the time I don’t remember it’s there and then I’ll be in the bathroom just out of the shower or something, turn around and catch a glimpse of this black thing back there that my brain instantly registers as a big-ass bug crawling on me. Then I give an embarrassed little chuckle, realizing that I’d forgotten again.

Why do I have a tattoo? Well, I had a non-school friend who was getting himself inked like no live person I’d ever seen. He introduced me to Dan, his tattoo artist. Dan was a real-life motorcycle gang-banger, like the Hell’s Angels, into all sorts of illegalities until he got married and his wife made him stop that shit and get a respectable job. I met her–she was a serious force to be reckoned with. Anyway, he did. Dan must have learned to channel his wild impulses because he was one of the gentlest people I’ve ever known. And he was huge. About 6’5″ and had to be over 300 pounds. I remember a bunch of headstones tattooed on his left bicep. He told me the stones were in memory of each member of his gang who’d died so far. Lemme tell ya, he had a whole goddamned cemetery on his arm.

I used to go with my friend and watch him get inked. I thought it was fascinating. One day Dan asked if I’d like a tattoo and I’m like, “yeah!” So he told me to design something and I came up with my little dagger. Then he told me that on the day of the inking, I should get shit-faced (this was seriously old school, folks). So I did–practically falling down drunk. Not feeling a damn thing. Until that needle bit into my skin. Folks, I’m tellin’ ya, when I felt that needle, in a split-second I was as sober as a goddamned judge presiding over a murder trial. It HURT. Well, I braved it. The funny thing was, Dan knew I’d suddenly sobered up. He laughed and said it happened all the time. He also said if I wanted another, I should just stop on by. I gave him a weak smile and took a pass.

Enough of my rambling. For those of you in the US and Canada, enjoy your holiday tomorrow!


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