I just finished reading Holden's review of a new soft packer. I felt a familiar back and forth tug in my gut reading it, a private longing mixed with an even more private warning: you want that too much. Don't get it, because once you have it, you won't be able to let it go. And that will make you vulnerable.
I'm surprised in a way that I still feel this tug, this wanting too much. And I'm surprised at how often and at when, or over what. It's such an old, old feeling.
I had a sense, growing up, of the person I really was, and the person that I had to be: two very different people. One was just me, inside, mostly masculine and maybe even male, maybe not, depended on the day. (It still does.) And then there was the little girl (and later the teenage girl, and later still, kind of sort of very briefly, the woman), the one whose name I had to answer to, whose role I had to play.
And sometimes there would be things that the real me would want, things that were appropriate to the real me in some way. And those things were the things I wanted too much. I was afraid that if I got those things, I would not be able to hide myself any longer. I would be too obvious because letting those things go would hurt too much.
I read a line somewhere, and I really wish I could remember where. It was in a work of fiction but I don't even remember the circumstance, only that it dealt with some kind of personal loss that had been repeated in a character's life. And the author wrote that each loss cut some vital thing in that character, and that there would come a time when that thing, maybe the analogy was to a thread reaching out to others, would not grow back. It was so much more beautiful than this but as you see I don't remember enough even to google it. Anyway it is one of the few instances I can recall of completely breaking down and just sobbing over a single image, a single sentence.
I was afraid that if I wanted those things, and got them, and lost them, something in me would die like that and never come back.
I vividly recall the first time I really, truly overcame that feeling. There had been sneaky, backdoor exceptions, times when my vigilance was down and I got the hot men's shoes, or times when FG somehow saw the conflicted longing in my eyes and bought me the cufflinks or whatever. But the first time I really overcame the tugging warning about wanting too much was a little over a year ago now, back in England.
We were in a department store and FG was shopping for bras. I was bored senseless, of course, wandering around and around the lingerie section and I forget, whatever else was on that floor--women's shoes? Accessories? Something like that. She was taking a long time, and she came back out at one point and said she'd need to exchange some sizes and was going back into the fitting room. And somehow, maybe the boredom was so bad it broke down my defenses, but something in me admitted that what I wanted to do was to take the escalator upstairs to the men's department.
I fought inwardly on the ride up, and rationalized. I needed something better to wear, now that we had befriended another... at the time, I would have thought, lesbian or female couple, now I would describe them as another butch/femme couple. I could buy a shirt to wear the next time we went out with them. That's all I was doing.
I knew I was lying. By the time I reached the top of the escalator I was nearly hyperventilating. My heart was pounding audibly as I walked over to the dress shirts and began looking at them. Maybe people will think I'm shopping for my boyfriend, I thought. I looked through the colors, wondered what size I was. After a while I chose the smallest size in a handsome stripe and brought it downstairs, where FG was just coming out of the lingerie section.
I told her I thought I would buy it. She looked at me, quietly, waiting. I was waiting, too, for her to tell me to put it back. I offered to put it back. I temporized about the price. I said I didn't really need to have it. She took it out of my hands, checked with the clerk that it could be returned, and bought it for me.
When we got home, and I put it on, I knew why I had been afraid of wanting it so much. Once I had it on, I knew I could never wear any of my other shirts ever again. I felt like myself, in real time, in actual space, in living color. It didn't hurt to be me, wearing that shirt.
Since that day I have gotten a lot of things that I have wanted too much. But that desperate longing can still rise in me and constrict my throat and surprise me. What's changed now is that I try to pay attention, not to run away, but to trust that I've grown strong enough not to lose that fundamental thing, my own self, no matter what else gets taken from me along the way.