Saturday, November 16, 2013

Low Christmas and the Neighbors

Happenings in Tammy World, 11/16/2013.....

Today is Saturday and this is a bit of of a down weekend because my boyfriend Mitchell has to work and is staying in Virginia.  The only good thing about it is that I get to do some much needed chores around the house and catch up on writing my blog.  Of course I spend time with my family as well, as I do see my parents every day that I am in town.


I got to my parents house around 11 am and Mom and I had a few things planned.  First we went to Belk's in the mall so that she could do some Christmas shopping for me, Mitchell, Joan and her daughter.  At this point in my life I not only know what I will get for Christmas, with a few exceptions, but I help pick it out.  She got some moisturizer and make up from Clinique for us ladies and something for Mitchell.  He reads my blog so I cannot say what it is, some people still get to be surprised at Christmas.  She also got me some gloves and a scarf, and Joan some gloves, socks and a wallet.  

We only went to Belk's department store in the mall and then we went to Chic-Fil-A to pick up a takeout lunch.  I don't know what to think of Chic-Fil-A these days and have avoided them for a long time because of their support for what they call traditional marriage and the corporate owners' professed bigotry towrds entire LGBT community.  I think they have since backtracked on some of these positions, as public opinions have shifted in this country, but I still get an uneasy feeling about buying food there.  What really riled me up personally about the chain was when they had a Chic_Fil-A day a couple of years ago and all of these people lined up at their restaurants to buy their food. 

To a person they were almost all religious right conservatives and most of them probably despise the existence of people like me.  At the time I was not out to my parents and I remember them making a big deal about supporting Chic-Fil-A day.  They also supported the "marriage amendment" here in North Carolina that was in the news at that time and passed with an overwhelming majority.  So you can see the mentality that I sensed from my parents all my life and understand why I was so terrified to come out to them.  To their credit, when I did come out they did not equate being transsexual with being gay, but in the last year they have become more open minded on many, many things.  I do not think they would support such an amendment today. 



We all ate lunch at their house and then we took Daddy with us to the grocery store to pick up a few things.  Actually they both sat in the car and I went inside to pick up a some items for them and a few for me.  After that we rode to Lowe's home improvement store to get some small Christmas trees.  Mama has started decorating for Christmas very early this year because it is something that brings Daddy joy and he needs all of that he can get right now.  This week I put up her large artificial tree, put the lights on it and yesterday she decorated it with ornaments.  She was looking for a small artificial tree for the den that Daddy could see from his chair and I was looking for little trees for both of my houses.

Some very small, tabletop, live Frazier Fir trees caught my eye and I picked one out to be the Christmas tree in my main house.  Joan always loved a nice large, live tree and she always made such a big deal of decorating the tree and moving the ornaments around almost every day.  So I decided I needed a live tree but this year but since I am alone I would just have a very small one.  Then some even smaller pre-decorated Norfolk Pines caught my eye and I decided to get one for me and one for Joan to put in her small apartment in Raleigh.  Mama also picked up one for her den and decided to forgo another artificial tree. 

As I was rolling the cart towards the Garden Center checkout my eyes began to fill with tears as they are doing right now writing this blog.  Christmas time is going to be a little bit hard this year.  Memories come rushing back of taking down our last big tree last year, carrying it to the curb and Saying Goodbye to my long history of Christmas' with Joan.  I am going to miss her this time of year, more than I have in many months.  I don't want to be Low this holiday season, I want it to be filled with love and joy but I can already tell this time of year is going to be filled with some emotional moments. It is starting already. 



Living in this house by myself is a very lonely experience.  I have never really gotten used to it.  Recently I have been spoiled by having Mitchell here a lot and spending a good deal of time out of town staying with friends or in hotels where it doesn't seem as empty.  I stay up too late here because I dread being in that house alone and turning out the lights.  I stay up until I am so tired that falling right asleep will not be an issue, then if I am lucky enough to sleep all night I still wake up pretty early.  My body just feels like it is not getting enough sleep and Mitchell says the dark circles under my eyes will turn into bags if I keep this up.  I recently talked with a friend who had to have the bags under her eyes surgically corrected and the last thing I need now is some other problem that is going to have to be corrected. 

Overall though, I can't complain about my life these days.  I am not depressed but I just don't enjoy being in a dark house by myself.  Mitchell says I am like a kid in that I fight sleep and want to stay up as long as I possibly can.  Maybe I am afraid I will miss something, at least when he's here.  But when he is here I have no trouble going to bed around midnight when he does.  I am bored here when I am alone so when I stay up late I get to be bored longer.  Yippee!


When Mama was paying for the trees I rolled them out to the van where Daddy was sitting in the car listening to the UNC football game.  I saw an older couple I recognized and they said hello to me so I wished them Merry Christmas, as I had 4 small Christmas trees in the shopping cart.  Yesterday I would not have known who these people were, having only met them this morning in Belk's when Mama re-introduced me to Mrs. Bishop, who had been my kindergarten teacher.  The good thing is she had never seen me as an adult so when she met Tammy today I was obviously going to be different than meeting the small child she taught in school.  She said I was all grown up.  Mama had seen her recently when she brought a care package from their new church to the house, and of course she had to tell her all about me.  



My parents joined a new church this year and cancelled their membership in their old one they had been in for years and years.  The new church is a Baptist church but the old one is Southern Baptist.  There is actually a big difference in these two churches.  One advantage of the new church is that is only a block away and the old one is located downtown.  There are also some problems with their old church as they have a new preacher who some members love and some do not care for, but the difference in philosophies between these 2 churches is not lost on my Mother and I feel it influenced her desire to change churches.


She says she left the old church because the new leadership seems to treat members who rarely attend Sunday services, like my parents, with some level of disdain.  That is a factor but I also know that the Southern Baptist do not preach tolerance and have a very strict, fundamentalist doctrine.  Their new church is an independent Baptist congregation and has a much more open, accepting atmosphere.  The minister there actually preached against the "marriage amendment" while the Southern Baptist were among its biggest supporters.  This amendment is not the single biggest issue for me, but whether or not an individual, church or other entity supported it is usually a good indicator of how tolerant they are, although there are some exceptions.


When I met this couple earlier today at the department store, Mama introduced me to Mrs. Bishop (apparently I used to call her Miss Bissup) and she also introduced me to her husband.  The way she introduced me to him, right there in the store, bothered me because she said that I used to be (male name) and now I am Tammy.  Gee thanks Mom, here is another incidence of you basically outing me in public.  At least my male name is more of an androgynous name or unusual at least.  Of course he was going to know, but now anyone within earshot would know also, although in this case I don't think that happened.  I didn't even say anything to her about it afterwards, although I should have, because the few times something similar has occurred and I cautioned her to be a little more discreet in dealing with my situation in public she did not want to hear it.  Her way is right, in most instances, and I am extremely blessed to have her total acceptance and support so I shouldn't worry so much about the little things.  Actually it is not that little to me but I know I cannot change what she is going to do and if I mention anything it could hurt her feelings or start a small argument.


So we leave Lowe's and drove by my house to drop off my groceries and trees.  The neighbor across the street was in his yard with his son raking leaves.  I have to mention here that I have never spoken to any of my neighbors since coming out.  The truth is I barely spoke to them before but have intentionally avoided even making eye contact with any of them this year, except for an occasional wave that I just couldn't get out of.  I am not ashamed of myself or afraid to tell the truth about who I am, by now it must be pretty obvious, but the fact is that it is a lot more complicated than just my transition.  


Joan interacted with the neighbors much more than I ever did.  When we were just moving in the neighbor beside us spoke to me and mentioned what fun people the couple that lived here before us were.  I think they used to get together in what is now my little house, which is basically a bar.  In the brief conversation I picked up that she was indicating that they would love to hang out with us the way they did with the old neighbors.  I smiled and talked to her as little as I possibly could but I was thinking to myself that there was no way we were ever going to "hang out" with them or any of these people.  We had dark secrets and I didn't want to get close to anyone.  I have since found out my secrets were not so dark, but they were very big secrets nonetheless, at least at that time.  Joan also would not be able to get along with people for extended periods of time because her own ways are so different.

My philosophy with people was always to keep them at arms length as much as possible, with the ideal neighbor relationship being a slight wave from time to time, no words exchanged.  Since I have come out and made so much progress in actually developing a personality that is not completely closed to contact with those I do not absolutely have to deal with, it is a shame that I have not changed with regards to my neighbors and I have actually become even more closed to them.  In other aspects of my life and around other people I have become much more of a well adjusted person and been more open to communicating with those I do not have to know and even to meeting people and starting new friendships etc.  


The reason I have not been willing to open up to my neighbors goes way beyond my transition.  As I stated, Joan communicated with all of the neighbors much more than I ever did.   She left and I now live here alone and suddenly they have a female living next door.  One of the reasons I never wanted to talk to them was so that they wouldn't notice me and this was true even before I started going out occasionally as myself, but to a lesser degree.  I always felt like people could look through me and figure me out even when I was not openly doing anything that would draw attention.

The fact is that the issue of Joan leaving me primarily because I have a boyfriend who comes over is much more embarrassing to me with regard to the neighbors than the fact that I am transitioning male to female.  I feel like they will look at me with scorn as a cheater and someone who caused their nice, little neighbor lady to flee the house.  I guess to a degree I have been ashamed of myself when in actuality there is no need to be.  They don't know the true situation we had here and honestly I don't know how they feel.  Maybe I am just assuming they do not approve of me and maybe I should give them a chance.


So I am unloading the trees from my parents' car and my neighbor across the street smiles, waves and says "Hi Tammy".  I smiled and waved back and spoke to him in my own voice saying hello back.  That really made my day!  Maybe it is not going to be so bad with these neighbors after all, I thought.  I know that a few months ago the wife of the neighbor that spoke to me today brought Nightingale to my parents' house after she got out of the fence during a thunderstorm when I was not home.  I know Mama told her all about me, the situation with Joan and that Joan and I are still the best of friends.  Apparently she told them my name too.

Gossip travels in this neighborhood so any questions any of my neighbors may have had were likely answered that day.  Also, a couple of weeks ago Mitchell was out by the street at his car and the neighbor next door to us waved and spoke to him.  I wondered what she thought or who she thought he was, but I have to realize she has to know all of this already.  There are no more secrets here and that is a Damn good thing.  I need to stop acting like I am keeping secrets and not keep hiding from these people the way I had been hiding from everyone for so long.  All my life I hid from people, either hiding my little secret inside me or when I finally starting allowing myself to be myself and go out, physically hiding from these people.  Yes, I used to sneak in and out in such a way that my neighbors did not see me.  Now I am open and do what I want, in the yard, walking the dogs or whatever, but still I hide from them in that I won't look at them, make eye contact or speak.

It is time for that all that to stop.  It is time for me to hold my head up and not fear contact with anyone.  My neighbors were the last bastion of my hiding game.  As this past year has unfolded, so many things have opened up to me, one after another.  Becoming a normal person, and an open one, is a process.  I feel normal now, finally.  I live my life normally so now maybe I can act normally around any and everyone, even my dreaded neighbors.  Maybe they are not so judgmental after all.  Sometimes you have to give people a chance and be thankful that they give you a chance.  Today was a good day.