While at my mother's on Monday evening, we were all sitting around in her den. She is approaching 90 years old, and has had a Life Alert wrist band for a couple of years now, but she has accidently set it off on several occasions, probably from bumping her wrist into things, as she walked about her apartment.
She got a flier in the mail for a new system from another company, and it turned out that they charged less per month for their service, so she ordered their system, and canceled her old service. The trouble is, Mom doesn't have a clue when it comes to anything technical. The equipment that she received in the mail consisted of a base station, that needed to be hooked up to her telephone line, a pendant with a pushbutton to wear around her neck while at home, and a portable device about the size of a cell phone to take with her when she went out. In the event of a fall, all she would have to do is push the button on the pendant around her neck, or on the portable device she took out with her, and they would talk to her on it, and find out whatever kind of help she needed, and send it on it's way. The mobile device had GPS capability, so they could locate her wherever she was. The only problem was, the whole system had to be set up and activated, and she didn't have the slightest idea how to do it. So my sister volunteered to help her. It turned out to be a very convoluted process of making several calls to the company that sold the device, checking that the base station was properly hooked up, then setting it up with a call, then setting up the pendant with another call, then taking the mobile device outside of her 12 story building along with a cell phone, so they could talk to her, and making sure they could communicate with the mobile device, before setting it up as well. The whole process took nearly and hour, and involved several back and forth phone calls! I sat there in amazement during the whole process, and wondered how in the world they expected old people with no technical experience, to understand their complicated set-up? Mom could never have done it by herself. It took her years to learn how to operate the digital timer on her microwave oven. Fortunately, my sister was able to do it for her, and she is now good to go!
I digress. What I really wanted to write about, was not being able to completely relax and be myself, even when I'm with the two people that have given me their loving support. On Monday evening for instance, while we were sitting around in my mother's den, and my sister was trying to activate my mother emergency help system, I just happened to notice that my niece was wearing a pretty new pair of studded red flats. She had her legs crossed, and in a typical female way, she was moving her foot around, and admiring the way they looked on her. I wanted so much to say, "I really like your new flats. Don't you just love pretty red shoes?", but how in the world am I supposed to say that when in male mode, with my macho bother-in-law, who I haven't come out to, sitting right next to her? I'm afraid that would have been far too weird! Not for me, but definitely for him.
In spite of some of my more critical comments about him in past posts, he actually can be a fairly nice guy, when he's on his meds, and he seems to have been doing that for the last several weeks. Other than an incident a couple of weeks ago, where he flung a morsel of food off of his fork into the face of my niece, as he gestured wildly without thinking ,while talking and eating (reminiscent of the time he soaked my pants and place setting at a nice restaurant, when he knocked his full water glass over onto me, while talking and waving his hands about), he's been fairly calm and pleasant, but even so, he is still completely clueless about anything feminine. He was raised with just one brother, and no sisters, and spoiled rotten by his mother, so unfortunately, he never learned to take females very seriously, and he is clearly uncomfortable when the conversation becomes female centric.
Because I live close to an hour west of Richmond, Monday evening is the only time, other than holidays, or tragedies, that I get to see my sister and niece. It's very frustrating to go there, and feel like I have to hold back on my self-expression, for fear of freaking out the one and only macho male in the room. The trouble is, I've always hated to make anyone uncomfortable. I suppose that's the main reason I never pushed my gender identity with my mother, once she made it clear to me early in life, that feminine behavior in boys was unacceptable to her.
When I first started out, at what turned out to be a 37 year career at my last job, I was still carefree, and innocent. I freely expressed my sense of humor, and I emoted without even thinking about it, but I soon found out that sort of liberty of spirit and emotion, alienated me from most of the males I worked with, and I gradually became withdrawn. Where I was once jovial, and felt free to joke and kid, I began to doubt my sense of humor. My humor was met with blank stares, or worse, looks bordering on contempt. Where I was once naturally compassionate, I began to withhold my compassion, for fear of offending their macho sensibilities. I had to shut myself down, and become a completely different person to get along with them. It ruined me, and I just hated it. My brother-in-law, as decent as he can be when he's taking his meds, still reminds me so much of those men I used to have to work with. I had hoped that when I retired, I would be done with those types of males, but now I find that I still have to deal with one every week, when I should be free to be my self around the two people I love most in this world. I'm slowly trying to push the envelope with him, but my need to be polite and accommodating is making it a difficult balancing act. It would be so much easier if I could just ignore his sensibilities, but I can't. If I did that, then I would be just like him, and I would hate myself.