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Sunday, December 19, 2004

Bread

Beloved has commandeered the dining room, especially the table, and I've been mostly in the kitchen. There is a potluck this evening at the Friends Meeting House and another one tomorrow night at PFLAG. While I'm confident of my cooking enough to please me and a few others, I'm still a shrinking violet when it comes to my peers, so I tend to retreat into what I know, which is bread.

I once lived in a Hutterite/Quaker commune in Georgia, where one of the income ventures was a bakery, and the baker, a magnificent Hutterite woman, was called back to North Dakota to take care of her failing father. She trained me on her job in one week, decided I would have to do, and went away. The product was whole wheat bread, sold at the door and to hippie food cooperatives and health food stores, in one-and-a-half pound loaves. I milled at 4 A.M. on Monday, and baked fifty loaves to the batch through Tuesday morning, a twenty-four hour shift once a week, producing eight hundred loaves. It was really good stuff, made with organic hard winter wheat and raw honey from the big North Dakota farm.

So, later in life, when I became interested in creating bread at home, I realized I knew only a recipe for a seventy-five pound batch and had to relearn the whole process.

I'm not baking much for myself these days, because of the belly I'm still trying to eliminate. But for others, as a rule, I can do pretty well. When inspired.

Today I'm doing apple-raisin wheat loaves, with a hint of cinnamon; these have been a hit lately, but, looking at them, I'm beginning to worry. One is spreading out a little flatter than I like, and the other is showing signs of not wanting to rise in time to bake before I leave.

I sometimes bobble baking when there's performance pressure, so that it's almost as bad as my other options. There have been times where I have just grabbed two cans of Three Bean Salad, poured off the excess sugar-water, and dumped them in a bowl. Uh, voilĂ , yeah ...

Last week we had our holiday potluck at work, and I have had three bread disasters in a row there.

So I poked about in the kitchen and came up with two sweet potatoes. I looked them up in Rombauer and Becker and could see that I didn't have all the ingredients they'd like, but I thought I might get by. I peeled them, cut them up in two-inch squares, and simmered them until soft, then drained them off and put them in the mixer with some brown sugar, a bit of salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 1/4 pound of butter. I scooped all this into a baking dish, and then found in the refrigerator some homemade applesauce a friend gave us, already cinnamony and nicely textured, and spread this on top of the sweet potatoes. Baked about 15 minutes at a low heat to kind of fuse the flavors a bit, let it cool, covered it with plastic wrap, and took it to work.

A few minutes in the zapper, and the "deep-dish sweet potato pie" was ready to serve. There were seventy other dishes, but it was a hit nonetheless. Luck. I'm so far behind in these skills, I'll take any credit I can get.

:::

Beloved took a break and we talked a bit about gender roles.

She's never really liked "girly-girl" stuff, hates terms like "chick-flick," likes overalls and barn boots, could do without slaving in a kitchen for anyone, has enjoyed having a career, doesn't particularly like having doors held open for her (unless she's carrying a load of firewood).

I go in way more for that stuff, though I try to have a sense of proportion about it; I keenly dislike grotesquery and avoid exaggeration. I'm learning to use a bit of mascara and a bit of blush and a bit of lip-liner. She didn't used to use any of these, but finds herself competing with me for feminine space. I'm a mild threat, though I'm not sure why. Is this a whiff of the thing some militants complain of? MTF transitioner as femme imperialist?

I say, "How do I look?'

She says, "disgusting."

That means I look pretty.

Fortunately we have our own bathrooms, such as they are.

"And there's this thing you do," she says, "I brought in the wood and you held open the door for me and you flirted with me as I came in. I have to admit that made me really nervous."

Pause.

"You're doing it now!"

Sorry ...

Some people, you just can't bat your eyes at.

My opinion only, the following:

There are those of you who are considering male-to-female transition because you think it would be fun. Well, life is fun. Or not. Depending. If you were sort of cheerful before, you'll likely be cheerful after, because glass-is-half-full people have to be put through a lot before they'll see the glass half-empty.

In other words, don't depend on your fantasies about how "it's going to be different" to guage success. "Different" could turn out to be hitting a brick wall.

For example, libido. It's true; I make eyes at the Firewood Lady. But I've been with her twenty-eight years. And now I'm wearing a patch and taking an androgen blocker, meaning that that behavior is much, much, much more about affection than, you know, that other stuff. This happens to late transitioners, and though some of us will feel a return of desire post-SRS, many will not. It's a risk that has to be faced. If you're reading this, and you're considering doing what I'm doing, I recommend your partner read it too, so that any subsequent discussion of your plans amounts to full disclosure.

Look at it this way. Suppose your spouse or significant other said: "I have to go find myself. I'll be here the whole time, but we have to not do anything especially intimate together for the next year. If ever."

Would you stick it out in that relationship?

Because, if you're transitioning, you may be asking something like that from the person you're with.

But if that Special Someone touches your hand, and your entire being fills up with sparkles -- not really desire, just sparkles -- and your eyes brim over with tears, and that's sufficient for you -- under the transition circumstances -- and for your partner, then you're good candidates for going though this together.

Eek! Gotta go check the oven.

:::

Later: well, that was a success! The Friends Meeting potluck had over 60 people, and we fed them all, with leftovers. I helped with tablecloths, napkins, silverware, crystal cups for the punchbowl, set out plates, served, and pre-washed dishes for the dishwasher. During the talent show I stayed alone in the kitchen, doing the pre-wash, and stopped a bit to savor a wee slice of my own raisin-apple wheat bread, with butter, and some apple cider.

Suddenly I realized why I was so happy. I was living a scene from my all-time favorite movie, "Babette's Feast." Life is good.

I met people I hadn't seen in a long time, and some new people. I wore my name tag, even though no one else did, because lots of people don't know me or know my new name.

Two people told me flat out that they didn't know I wasn't a born woman. That still blows me away.

I know that several people didn't try to connect with me, and gave me that wall-eyed look I now recognize as what trans people call being "clocked."

Serious, even angry, clockers generally seem to have small kids with them. So their radar is tuned to whatever they're trained to think is a weirdo. If I'm not absolutely convincing, then i'm a weirdo, therefore potentially a predator. In other words, yes, it's ignorance, but, y'know, I have had small kids of my own, and I remember that vigilance. It was the proudly accepted price of fatherhood.

I'm a false positive, but it means they are on the job.

I actually respect that.

So, no, it did not put the least damper on my evening.

The place was so crowded, moving dishes of food around was like waiting table in a Paris café. Twice I had to negotiate past other dish-toting women and both times, even though I wasn't sure I knew them, they said, "Excuse me, Risa."

Life is really good.

-- risa b

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