March 31, 2014

Paging Dr. Godot

The long hours in the hospital, beginning Sunday afternoon and stretching through Tuesday night, were torturous. There’s nothing like the feeling of helplessness that comes when you are waiting for a loved one to die.

As I noted in a prior post, though, it wasn’t continuous. We were allowed into the ICU for about 30 minutes every four hours, which meant that there was a significant amount of time where we were waiting — waiting for some miracle; waiting for the worst to happen; waiting for the next chance to go and visit. Just waiting.

In these interminable stretches of time, my family and I sat around and talked, mostly. We talked about family, about friends, about things we’d experienced since the last time we’d seen each other, and about anything else we could fill the space with. So it wasn’t surprising that, eventually, the topic of my transgender status started to come up.

It was my hair that generated one of the conversations. My presentation at the hospital was gender-neutral-trending-towards-female: I spent most of the time wearing a black cardigan over a t-shirt or tank (always layer in a building with good climate control), plus jeans, and black boots. My hair was long, shaggy, and generally not held back by any band or tie. I really had no choice; it kind of does what it wants and doesn’t respond well to pinning back.

My mother noted that it was getting long and asked me if I was planning to get it cut or styled anytime soon, noting that styling would help with the shaggy-and-untamable thing. I told her that I was, but that finding a stylist when you’re trans can be complicated. She countered by noting that she could call her stylist, who knows about me and whom (she said) would be okay with the whole trans thing.My sister, who knows the stylist, agreed. And then she pulled out her phone, called the stylist, and told me I had an appointment for 12:30 on Wednesday.

So it turns out all I needed to do to find a good stylist was travel 1000 miles from home. Who knew?

Thus it was in those long stretches of waiting. That was neither the first nor the last time my mother and I talked about being trans in those times. it was something to talk about; in a lot of ways my mother and I needed to talk about it. Then the next visit would come and we’d leave the subject there in the waiting room. There were more important things than hair to attend to.

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