I'm not feeling very special today -- and that's okay.
I'm not sure I even see special as a particularly good thing, and I think anyone who watched sitcoms in the '80s might tell you the same thing. "Special" was a special kind of hell when you were watching TV back then.
It went something like this: A TV show that was normally funny and numbing, in a "I just want to relax because I've had to think all day" kind of way, would throw you a curve ball. Though, perhaps curve ball isn't the right metaphor; pitchers don't announce their curve balls. (Or maybe they do; I'd hate to think the catcher was constantly playing with his fingers down near his crotch for no reason.)
Anyway, for a week before the show was to run, they'd announce that so-and-so show was going to have a "VERY SPECIAL EPISODE." (I put it in capitals so you'd know it was said both dour and deep.) What was so special about this episode you had no idea, but it wasn't good.
Someone was going to get very ill. Somebody was going to have a major life trauma. Something VERY SPECIAL was going to happen to a character that would change them forever. And while there are good things that normally might fall into this category of "very special," no one ever talks about a wedding or birth of child with a tone that could rattle Morgan Freeman. So, like I said -- very bad.
Except it wasn't. If it was a main character who was the subject of the episode, they'd have a brush with illness, but never the actual illness. The almost-diagnosed with cancer/anorexia/fungal nose mold rate among '80s television characters was truly staggering.
On the rare occasion someone actually kicked the bucket, it wasn't a main character who died, it was their "best friend." You know, the one who'd never been mentioned in a single episode -- and never would be again.
(Some of you may find this staggering. Growing up in an TV age where characters bite the dust seemingly every week, I can understand that. In the '90s, though, no one died on TV -- unless they actually died or wanted out of their contract. As Hollywood was about to bury them either literally or figuratively, they sort of had no choice but to bump them off at that point.)
After a time, "a very special episode" stopped being said with capital letters and more with derision. It became synonymous with "Jump the Shark," which ironically enough would have been a very special episode had Fonzie actually crashed into the shark tank.
I was thinking about all this as I sat down to write this latest post. For one thing, I'm weird. More, however, after last week's post about my brush with transphobia, I wasn't quite sure what to write about. I've had a lot of people tell me it was their favorite out of everything I've written. This is a wonderful thing to hear, of course, but it's a hell of a thing to keep up.
Not just because on any given week my writing might really suck. (If you, for instance, really loved '80s television, you might think this post falls into that category.) More, however, it's because I simply can't write every week about the emotive power of something that happens to me. I cannot journal every dark and depressing thing that crosses my path.
For one thing, it doesn't happen to me much. Indeed, this is why I think these things so profoundly affect me when they do. I'm like a 20-year-old lightweight who's never had a drink and then suddenly knocks back a half-bottle of rum and four beers: The profound shock to my system puts me on the floor. (Okay, I was 29, and they were Bartles and Jaymes wine coolers -- but I swear the rum was in there somewhere.) Contrast this with the alcoholic who can swallow a 12-pack and still walk a straight line.
Will I keep writing about those things when they happen? When I feel I should, yes. I'm a writer, and if I feel I can add to someone else's understanding of what some transgender people experience everyday, that's what I'll do. But to write about that every week? That stops being special really quick.
I know this attitude makes some transgender people angry. That I can be so casual and flip about something so deathly serious to someone else is, to some ,disrespectful. Even when I acknowledge that's true, always putting in a sentence or two disclaiming that my life is anything but typical, some people are offended. They say if their life was mine, I wouldn't be so cavalier -- and perhaps they're right.
There was a time in my life where I couldn't have, wouldn't have, admitted that. I've always been one of those that looks at the humorous side of things, no matter how crappy they really are. When an accident left me in a wheelchair 16 years ago, one of the first things I thought was, "Holy crap, I get to pee in a bottle right in front of the TV. I will never have to miss ESPN again..." Hell, I thought my wife still loved me for years when I can see now she clearly didn't; I'm a positive person.
I'm not that naïve, anymore. Growing up in this country with white, male, cis privilege is a gift. I am who I am because life hasn't beaten the crap out of me, and I never forget that. That's why I acknowledge it -- and I still make people mad. Looking at my couple of sentences acknowledging other people's pain, they say my dearth of empathetic words compared to all the funny ones shows what I really think.
No they don't.
In Ironman 2, Pepper Potts talks to Tony Stark about peeing in his suit. It's a small scene, and I'm not sure they mention it again in that movie, the sequel, or any of the other 23 Ironman-related films that have come out since. Does that mean he never defecates again? Does that mean Tony Stark doesn't really poop? Of course not. It simply means that in a two-hour thirty-minute movie, you only have so much time to spend on something that doesn't move the story forward.
What I write and how I write is something like that: It doesn't mean I don't know bad things are happening to people, or that I don't care. I do, and that's why I acknowledge other people's pain and discord. But I only have so many words to move my story forward. If you want to know more about that discord, there are plenty of people to read. I encourage you to read them; I do.
I, however, can only write what I know. I'm a pretty happy girl who every once in a while gets micro-slapped by reality. When I think it matters, I'll tell you. When it doesn't? Well, you'll get to read more about '80s TV, Ironman's potty habits, and all the other things that define my transgender existence. After all, I'm the only one out there doing it my way - and I have to admit: I think it's pretty special.