Notes from the Road
Part Twelve: Los Angeles
There’s no ice in the freezer, so rather than drink my cold crew without ice, or walk a couple blocks to the nearest coffee shop, I’ve decided to hide in my room instead. Complaining that there’s no ice for my cold brew is the grossest thing I’ve done in a while, I think.
I’m stuck in L.A. until Saturday. I bought my flights here and back too quickly and should have waited until I had a better idea of my shooting schedule. As it turns out, I’m not in the episode after the one I shot last week. So, I’m just sitting here in L.A., waiting to go home.
Someone once told me that Los Angeles is an awful place to be if you’re not working. It’s true.
Yesterday morning was hot enough that I decided to take myself to the beach. I lived in L.A. for nearly 13 years and went to the beach maybe a dozen times. It took about an hour to get to Santa Monica. I passed by the three-hour meters on Ocean Ave. thinking I’d want to give myself more time. I went down to the beach parking lot. $14 flat rate. I went back up to Ocean Ave., parked at a meter, and set an alarm to remind myself to feed it at 5pm. By the time I put my towel down on the sand it was 2:30 and overcast and windy. A straight couple was doing gross pda in front of me, a gaggle of girls was shrieking behind me, and I was too obstinate to move. I ate some of the food I brought, and even though nothing had touched the sand, I still ended up biting down on sand. I read my book. Zipped up my hoodie. Tried to nap. Put my socks back on. Finally, at 3:45, I gave up. It took me an hour and a half to get back.
And then I remembered why I never went to the beach when I lived here.
I have friends out here whom I dearly love. There are a handful of restaurants I really like. But I do not understand the appeal. If I hear one more person in line behind me talk about their diet, I’m going to implode. I heard a woman casually (and loudly) give plastic surgery advice to her (very young) waiter. Stereotypes exist for a reason. Everything here takes an entire day to do. The incessant driving. Always the driving. I don’t know how I normalized this lifestyle. The only upside to living here (besides the weather) is the convenience of keeping all your crap in your car. You can change your shoes, grab your tiny bag, take a sip of water, and flounce away from your car to your ONE THING you have to do that day, light as a feather. In New York, you have 18 things to do in one day and you have all your crap in a backpack, a tote bag, a purse, and a grocery bag. We are experts at weight distribution. We’re like urban Sherpas. Oftentimes, we’re also juggling a child, or children.
New York has become a luxury mall that smells like piss in the summer, and I still prefer it to Los Angeles.
Notes from the Road
Part Twelve: Los Angeles
I’ve been thinking a lot, A LOT, about gender. Gender identity. Gender presentation. Gender conformity and nonconformity. And this is going to be a little unwieldy because I’m kind of working it out as I go.
When Ryan and I first met, they were considering taking T and having top surgery. They had their period on our second date and felt embarrassed and ashamed. They’ve talked about preferring their body when it’s less curvy. My ex also hated her hips and wished that shorts fit her they way they fit some men. This is so foreign to me. Ever since I could remember, I wanted “womanly” hips. Personally, I find curves to be delicious. There are few things more satisfying to me than resting my hand on the curve of a hip. But far be it from me to tell other people how they should want to look or feel. Ryan could take buckets of T and have top surgery and be a beanpole and I’d still love them. I’d probably still be wildly attracted to them. There would be things that I missed, but those would all be physical. Ryan would still be Ryan and that’s enough for me.
Neither Ryan nor my ex are males. My ex is a woman and Ryan is nonbinary (they use the term “enby”, which not all nonbinary people do). But they both feel uncomfortable with certain “feminine” aspects of their bodies.
I am fascinated by how trans people “know” they were assigned the wrong gender at birth. I have no idea what it means to “feel like a woman.” I never felt “like a girl” when I was growing up. I was a tomboy. I’m now a grown-up version of a tomboy. Tomman? But I didn’t feel “like a boy” either. Maybe the point is that it never occurred to me that anything was out of place and I was lucky enough to have parents who weren’t interested in hypergenderizing me. But it seems to me that when people say they don’t feel like the gender they were assigned at birth, what they’re actually saying is that they don’t necessarily feel like being categorically treated the way our culture has decided their assigned gender is supposed to be treated.
And maybe there is something deeper than that. Ryan says that they feel like there’s something deep, deep inside them that told them their gender assignment was wrong. Maybe that’s the thing that would determine what “gender” we were if we were all raised equally. Personally, I don’t have a strong feeling in any direction. I use she/her pronouns because it’s what was assigned to me, but I don’t feel any allegiance to my womanness. I don’t feel fundamentally female or like a woman. I don’t have anything in me telling me I’m a man, either. Maybe that’s my privilege as a cis gender person. But if you asked me what it is to be a woman, I would be at a loss.
Side bar: Someone I know recently announced via intsagram that he and his wife are having a baby, with a picture of pink balloons, pink baby shoes, and a pink sign that read “It’s a girl!” Really? Really?
Ultimately, I think it’s impossible for anyone to know what it feels like to be a man or woman. All of our gender “norms” are cultural. Being brave or meek or tough or sensitive; Liking trucks or dolls; Liking to bake or liking to grill. Those aren’t genetic traits. Those are culturally prescribed behaviors. A person who has female reproductive parts and who grows up liking trucks, and being scrappy, and wanting to play football, and, I don’t know burping, farting, and jerking off with abandon, who gets to say that that person is male or female?
We have a strong desire to classify things. And I understand the purpose of classifying humans based on their body parts. It is, in truth, the only thing that makes us different from each other (along with the accompanying chromosomes and hormones, but even those things are being found to be less clear cut and have less determining force than we thought). So, we came up with a classification system. The fact that different cultures, over human history, have managed to come up with more than two genders should be proof that gender is subjective. And yes, yes, I know humans have gotten plenty of shit wrong scientifically. Like, we used to think that our veins were filled with air and that diseases were caused by spirits or some dumb ass shit like that. But gender isn’t science. Sex is. Gender is not. Gender is a completely made up social construct to help us classify people. Gender, like race, is a MAN-made construct. No one can tell you what it feels like to be White because “white” isn’t a thing. (Which is not to say that “Trans-racial” is a thing. It’s not. I can’t explain it. But, it’s not. Rachel Dolezal, sit down.) I can tell you what it feels like to have my period because that’s a sciencey thing that actually takes place in my body. But I can’t tell you what it feels like to be a woman. I can tell you what it’s like to be treated like a woman. I can tell you what it’s like to go through this world being treated like a woman (it’s not great, guys, it’s not great). I can tell you how I feel being treated like what my culture has decided a woman is. But if I were somehow teleported to The Isle of Lesbos and I was like, “Ladies, don’t you hate feeling terrified of walking home alone at night,” they’d all be like, “A. What’s a lady, and B. What?”
This is not to say that all cultural constructs are useless and should be disregarded. Some constructs are truly useful. Having shame around pooping and peeing serves to prevent us from pissing and shitting directly into our drinking and bathing water. Not raping and not murdering are cultural constructs that serve an actual purpose (and people disregard those constructs constantly…).
It is next to impossible to extricate ourselves from our culture conditioning. There is no need, for example, for makeup. But I like the way I look with makeup on. And I know that’s because I have been conditioned to accept certain standards of beauty. I understand that rationally. But I still like it. I prefer to have my legs and armpits shaved and I KNOW that serves absolutely no evolutionary purpose. I KNOW that it’s just my culture telling me that’s how women should look. But I like it. Ryan doesn’t feel like a woman, so they present in a way that is culturally less feminine. In their nonconformity they are, ironically, consciously or unconsciously conforming to cultural ideas of gender, albeit, that gender being “not” male or female. Because they like how those things make them look. It is unspeakably difficult to separate ourselves from our cultural norms.
Side bar: I was watching Fear the Walking Dead last night and Kim Dicken’s character (who, btw, is (or was? I’m not caught up) the most badass woman character on television) does a bunch of badass shit to protect her children and this dude calls her more of man than some other men, and she says nothing in response. Really? Really?
Ryan and I have talked a lot about these things. I have told them that I will support whatever they decide to do, but I have also asked them to think about who or what is telling them how their body should look or what it should do. And since then, Ryan has looked more deeply at their gender presentation and what it means. I think, when they realized they were non-binary, about a year ago (because they finally had a term that sort of fit how they had felt their whole life), they felt pressure to conform to whatever they thought a non-binary person “should” look like. And more recently they have started looking deeply at what it means and who they are, as opposed to who they thought they were and who they were supposed to be.
There should be no shame in who you are. If you like the way you look in a shirt with a binder on and also love having breasts when you’re naked! Awesome! Live your best (breast) life. I like my silhouette in clothes with breasts. But I have no emotional attachment to them. They don’t signify anything for me. I wouldn’t be devastated if I had to lose them. But I do like they way I look with a bra on under a shirt. For me, getting my period is a pain in the uterus, but it doesn’t make me a woman. When I stop getting my period, I will still be a woman. I think. Who knows what I’ll be by then? If you want to grow a beard, take T! But a beard doesn’t make you a man. And neither, incidentally, does testosterone.
If gender is not science, then no one should be able to tell anyone else what gender they are or how they should present or behave. If, tomorrow, I realized that I was, in fact, a man, I shouldn’t have to change a single thing about myself. It’s no one’s business if I don’t have surgery or don’t take T or don’t even change my name. I get to be whatever I want to be. Someone else’s discomfort at that because it challenges their ideas of gender is not my business. If the day after tomorrow I realize that I’m not a man, that’s okay, too.
Be who you are. Look however you want to look. But do it for you. Life is hard. Getting from point a to point b is a fucking slog. You don’t have to make everyone else comfortable while you’re doing it.
Thank you for your time. I will now spend the rest of the evening burping, farting, and jerking off.
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Notes from the Road
Part Twelve: Los Angeles
First some light housekeeping.
1) I should rename this blog “101 Excuses for not Writing.”
2) I’m going to skip the part where I give my excuses for not writing.
3) We have a lot of catching up to do.
I’m in L.A. for a recurring role on a new TV show, which is amazing and awesome and what I’ve been vision-boarding in my head for years, but it means juggling a lot of logistics including flights, places to stay, transportation, child care. As the great philosopher, Bret Michaels once said: “Every rose has it’s thorn.” He also said, “Unskinny bop, bop, bop, bop/Unskinny bop, nothin’ more to say.” And I think we should all remember that.
I don’t celebrate my wins like I should. When I tell people about this gig I find myself downplaying it. “It’s just a recurring guest star. We’ll see.” I hear myself saying it, and I know I should be proud. I got this job myself (with the help of a couple friends). I heard about the role from a friend, called Jordan who happens to be close with one of the producers and got her to talk me up, casting reached out, I made them a tape and booked the gig. I did that. On Monday I was sitting in therapy saying something had to change. That I couldn’t keep banging my head against the wall. That I had a hard time being present with Monty because I’m always worried about my next job. I resolved to keep reminding myself that I am doing what I need to do in my career to book work; To stop constantly stressing; To do what I can to book work and then turn away from it and focus on the rest of my life. Less than 48 hours later I was on a plane to Los Angeles.
Life is weird.
Monty spent his summer at the YMCA day camp, which is not so much “camp” as it is a holding pen for kids during the summer. It was fine. I’m not sure he learned anything useful, except that most kids’ parent pack them literal junk food for “snack,” which makes his baby carrots and grapes look like prison food, and that when he punches a kid in the head for “being too close” to him, he doesn’t get popsicles for a week, and all TV privileges are revoked. Yes, I grounded a five-year-old.
When the counselor called to tell me about the punching incident, I imagined Monty rearing his fist back and punching this kid in the temple. Blood and teeth flying in slow motion. I instantly pictured him with a buzzed haircut and fucking rattail because that’s what the bullies I grew up with looked like. By the time I got back to camp to pick him up I was convinced he was going to end up in prison and that he was likely a sociopath. I spent the day having conversations with him about what kind of people we want to be in the world, and to use our words, and hands are for holding, and blah blah blah. In reality, it was probably less of a punch and more of a bop (unskinny bop), because face it, Monty is not Rocky Balboa, and he is definitely not a sociopath, and he will NEVER HAVE A RATTAIL. But the lesson remains the same. No punching, no bopping, unskinny or otherwise.
Ryan came out to L.A. to visit. We hadn’t seen each other since July when they came out to Brooklyn for a week and I was complete mess. Monty and I had JUST moved back into my apartment I’d been away from for eight months. I was a full-time single parent and didn’t know when I was going to work again. The timing was bad, but also so was my attitude. I was not very nice. Finally, on the last night of their visit, Ryan was like, “Pull yourself together, Eagan. Stop being a fucking idiot.” But way more loving than that. More like, “I am trying to love you and you won’t let me.” So, I pulled myself together, stopped being an idiot, and let them love me. And this visit was really, really good. They came to set when I filmed, we went to Malibu and drank froofroo drinks and ate seafood and watched the sunset, they cooked for me.
I am going to take this opportunity to celebrate my wins. I’m doing good. I have a job (sometimes), my kid is happy, healthy, and mostly nonviolent, Kurt is living with us again which is great for all three of us, my relationship with Ryan is loving and stable, I am getting closer and closer to figuring out who I am (more on that later), I have a tad of cash in the bank. I’m doing good. Things are okay. We are okay. I am okay.
“Ah, come on, honey, I wasn’t that bad!
Ha ha ha
- Bret Michaels
Indeed, sir. Indeed.