In Part I of this series, I introduced the concept of discarding old ‘suits’ in favor of newer ones that fit better. It is a concept I came to embrace after understanding how, as a youngster, I would ‘try on for size’ many dreams. In my youth I’ve been a baseball player, a star wide receiver for the Washington Redskins, a reluctant super hero (I even painted a Frisbee to look like the shield Captain America had at hand), a spy, and even an amazing lead guitar player and lead singer of a band that was better than the Beatles.
Of course there were many other dreams, too many to mention, but as I got older the ‘dreams’ didn’t stop. In my early adult life I wore the “husband” suit. In my first marriage we didn’t have children until after six years; I was so ready to be a father. My “father” suit was tailor made by then; to this day it’s my finest. Along with those suits I wore the “singer of a band” suit. I was part of a number of bands for the next 20 years; some were regionally successful while some were just a short lived experiment. As a solo artist I even had a couple of songs that reached limited airplay
So, as life presents new information, I have been forced to either continue with the old duds, have them re-fitted or man-up to a better suit.
Next, an amazing story…
I went to Phoenix to complete my college education, while there I met Mike. A couple years younger than me, Mike left his home in Wisconsin for the sunny southwest. He didn’t really have a specific destination in mind but ended up in Phoenix. In short order he and I became fast friends, our common ground was music.
We started to collaborate and even accepted singing engagements at gatherings, we were always being asked to sing. As you might imagine we made the leap into our “Musical Tour D’ force” suits. It wasn’t a new suit for me, but Mike never thought he’d be able to succeed in my musical genre, the world of Contemporary Christian Music.
Grand plans and new suits came to a quick end when Mike met Ayako. She was fresh from Japan, a mystical, head turning wonder to him. Many promising careers spin out of control trying to live on love.
A fine start on a musical career went into its death skid, Mike wasn’t showing up for scheduled practices for our fledgling band, a sure formula for a break up. Thus, my “Musical Tour D’ force” suit went to Goodwill.
Mike and his soon to be wife, were bound for Milwaukee and the security of the family convenience store business.
We really had a good connection despite the misgivings and they certainly didn’t warrant breaking our friendship for very long, phone communication bridged the distance nicely.
Sadly, his wife found another suit to wear, her “Wild Side” suite, soon after he discovered her indiscretions the marriage ended. Like so many that visit our country she disappeared with haste into obscurity along with her expired student VISA.
What I didn’t know is Mike had a secret that played into the demise of their young marriage.
He raised their son alone, managed a career and continued to write and record his own music. His pinnacle CD release was entitled, “Dreams Are Far Behind”.
Then, one day in 2002 I get a call from Mike; he’s flying from Milwaukee to San Francisco for the first of several facial surgeries. I was shocked. He never mentioned an accident of any kind, what on earth could be the reason for it I wondered. He asked me to expect an email from him with some long overdue explanations. Sounded like a suit change coming!
Apparently, my one time singing partner had believed since a very early age that he was born in the wrong body. You could have pushed me over with a feather. He was seeking a gender change. We spoke on the phone at length, once I determined he was largely alone in this suit change (his family disowned him for a time) I decided to meet him in San Francisco so he wasn’t alone for the first surgeries.
Typically suit changes come without much planning, months perhaps but rarely years.
I mean, who really spends years planning a divorce, or changing jobs, or even planning a long distance move. Usually circumstances present themselves that lead to quick decisions, but Mike had been planning this change since just after his divorce! It is apparent that his wife discovered the secret he’d hid since he was a young teenager and would have no more to do with him.
He spent years, with precision, developing the best credit ratings possible, and on his oft-times meager income. Now THAT was an amazing accomplishment. In the end he concluded that it was worth an acceptable moral/ethical position to put all the various surgical costs on his many high balance credit cards only to bankrupt them at a future point. After all, once the surgeries were performed they could be taken back.
I went to San Francisco a second time about a year later for another of his prepaid facial reconstruction changes and never saw him again. We kept in touch for a couple more years until after his final ‘permanent’ genitalia changes. Then, one day in 2005 he calls me to inform me “Mike” is dead, “Michele” is born, he’d received his new birth certificate. His suit change was finally complete.
Mike was one of the most gentle souls I ever knew, never fast to anger, slow to speak and yet quick to encourage, always willing to listen and offer help where he could. Underlying all of this was his unhappiness with his body, and the belief he’d never truly be settled until he changed it.
The Michelle I know is excited and adventurous, she still wears the “parent” suit, the “child” and the “sibling” suit, and perhaps the best suit for me… the “friend” suit.
To conclude this two part series I can only say that giving myself over to the freedom of a suit change from time to time has been my salvation at points in my life. And, if you plan a change as methodically as Mike, you will surely be happy with the new fit.
Thanks for reading this far.