Thursday, October 3, 2002

Boyz

Through all of this experience there's been one saving grace: no boys.

Okay, there's Jessa's older brother Russell, who is a senior and mostly keeps away from his bratty younger sis, which works for me. Beyond that, guys do not feature prominently into my life at all. That's great. I don't think I could handle it if Jessa had a boyfriend. I don't even know how well I'd take it if she had a male friend. Even Jessa's friends don't seem to have any guys in their orbit, which is crazy to me: Erika is really pretty, and Alicia is fun.

That said, I know for sure they're thinking about them. Erika desperately wants to be a teen queen, and part of that is probably getting a popular boyfriend. Alicia would probably date the first person who asked her, but seems to put guys off with her weird, artistic exterior (she pioneered wearing pajama pants to school with a jean jacket covered in anime buttons.) I figure there's gotta be someone out there for her, but maybe not yet.

I thought I was perfectly in the clear, but then at some point Alicia nudged me and said the name "Brian," in a hushed tone that made it seem like some big secret. I froze up, as I have a habit of doing. That name meant nothing to me, but I knew it was supposed to so I just said "Oh, I... don't want to talk about him" and made a note to find out what was the deal.

Jessa, like a lot of teenage girls, keeps a pen-and-paper diary under her bed, which is all well and good, but she was pretty sporadic in keeping it up, and obviously writing for herself because she wasn't explaining a lot of details. That's why I haven't exactly absorbed all of it (and because, no disrespect for her, she's no Hemingway. I'm not sure even he could make the trials and tribulations of an average teenage girl riveting enough to want to read.) But now I had a research topic. Brian.

Details were scant. Not even a last name, but it seems like he is a friend of Russell's. There's just a lot of "Brian's so cute," "I want to date him" "I love him" hears and stars and things drawn in the margins. The girl obviously had it bad for him.

I felt really crappy reading all of this. I mean, for starters, it's obviously very private, but Jessa and I... I think I can admit, I know from a very particular angle at this point. Whoever Brian is, it doesn't seem like she has a chance with him, and is just infatuated. But it's not like he is oblivious to her. There's descriptions of conversations, in person and on MSN, all of which are terribly meaningful moments in Jessa's life, but probably insignificant to him. It made me pretty sad the more I read.

To my knowledge, I have not inherited any of Jessa's... shall we say, tastes, in that area (all teenage boys look like giant smelly, greasy dirtbags to me, sorry.) So that means that as far as I'm concerned Brian is a non-person. He has not sought me out and I have no idea who he even is. I wish him well.

Wednesday, October 2, 2002

Honestly just a very stressful boring day today, not even worth writing about tonight. I'm going to take my bra off and go do homework. Maybe have a bath after dinner and MSN with Erika. Sky's the limit. Aren't I sooooo glad I got sent back here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2002

Is this it?

A lot of the time at lunch, the girls and I will "do homework" meaning having our books out at the caf table while talking and eating. At first this was valuable for me. I learned a lot about who I was supposed to be and who these girls are by listening in, but after two full weeks it's starting to grate on me. It's very hard for me to get invested in these girls' problems because I've been a grown up so teen drama doesn't really matter ot me anymore. Plus, with time travel and having my sex changed, I feel like I have more profound things on my mind than "where to buy cute tops." (Although come to think of it that's a lot easier for me to wrap my head around than the other stuff. Forever 21 just opened at Lakeville Center.)

So I spend a lot of time just kind of zoned out, trying to focus on math but really just watching everybody at every table. Trying to create a mental profile of where are they now, in 2016? Who became a doctor, a real estate agent, who fell off the face of the earth?

Here's a little spoiler for you -- it's terrifyingly easy to keep in touch with all of these people in the future thanks to the way the internet expands and mutates over the next couple of years, where everyone has a profile on what's called "social media." Right now, I think, somewhere in Boston, a guy named Mark Zuckerberg is hatching a scheme that is going to change the world -- arguably for the worse, but let's not get into that.

The point is, I'm vaguely aware of what happens to a lot of these people, and yet, do I actively keep in touch with them in the future? Of course not. There's exactly one person from high school who is still in my life in the future, and it honestly wasn't by choice.

But I look at these kids all milling around at lunch and in the halls. This is everything for them right now. This is their world. It's mine too, so I should probably get a little more engaged. I don't know why I'm here, but it's probably not just to sit on my ass and thumb through Math Horizons 10.

Am I actually supposed to change anybody's life? I'm walking around afraid to change anything to affect the future, but... I guess that's the point, right? It's not like I can Marty McFly myself out of existence since I'm already here. 

It's hard to know, but you'd think I ought to do something. Of all the times I thought "If I could go back then, knowing what I know now," I never considered it might actually happened, especially not this way. There's got to be a reason I'm here and I am desperate to find it.

Monday, September 30, 2002

Caf food

I didn't end up writing yesterday since Little Sis needed the computer for her homework. I get a little antsy on days when I can't write because there's still so much to say and yet nothing seems to change day to day. I spent the night going over my Math textbook trying to wrap my head around trigonometry.

They should be teaching these kids computer science. How to write programs. How to do their taxes. I get why this math stuff would be valuable for some people but why does everyone have to learn it? And in my case, twice?

I'm doing a lot better in English. Reading, I can handle.

But I had other things on my mind today - food. After last Friday's discussion with Jessa's mom about the appropriate number of pizza slices, I have been very self-conscious about what I'm eating. Does that mean I passed up a chance to have a burger at A&W with Erika? Of course not. But today I'm sitting in the caf looking at my plate and feeling... sick.

Not literally sick, not like I was on my period or anything, but mentally I'm feeling anxious and self-conscious. That's because the caf food sucks. And it's not great for options. As soon as I came back here I found myself in the ritual of waiting in line to be dished out the the same old fries and gravy and chicken burgers, the only two things they really serve around here. (There are a few dicey sandwiches pre-wrapped in the fridge - does anyone trust a public school egg salad?)

I was hungry - starving in fact - but looking down at it I was like, "what am I doing?" Is everyone going to think I'm a pig for eating this burger, the same thing everyone else is eating, just because my body is not petite? And is it in any way my fault that this is what they serve to teenagers, day after day?

I feel like people look at someone who looks like Jessa - they see her eating anything besides maybe the skimpiest of salads and think "That's why you're fat" without a care given to the fact that they're eating the same stuff, often in the same quantities. It's unjust, and it's bothering me maybe more than it should, but maybe not. Maybe it's all in my head and seeing how even Jessa's mom talks to her has given me a complex or something, but I know from the outside that I probably thought that way in school as a teenager as well.

Also, I haven't been in a high school much lately in the year I come from, but I don't know if they still have pop machines there. I can't imagine they do but when I was a kid -- you know, the first time around -- we didn't think twice about putting in two bucks for a bottle of Mountain Dew with our greasy lunch. What's up with that? (I will say that in the short time I've been here I've definitely drank any bottle of Tahiti Treat I could get my hands on. That stuff is harder to come by in the future. Sugary goodness.)  

I got over it - I ate the burger and drank a Pepsi with it. It was crappy food, but satisfying. I thought about whether I should be bringing my own lunch (Mrs. Gilbert doesn't have time in the morning to prepare them and I haven't taken that on myself, hence a daily chicken burger.) But I have to make sure I'm doing it for the right reasons. Am I just worried about what people will think? Am I trying to "lose weight?" Do I think "eating right" will make a big difference in my, or Jessa's life? I don't know. These aren't questions I had to ask myself the first time around because I was a beanpole who ate like a garbage disposal. Jessa's experience as a teen is nowhere near close to mine for a variety of reasons. Being female, and on the chubby side, adds so many complications to decisions I took for granted when I was a kid.

Okay, big lesson learned, send me back now.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Going out

I was awakened at 9 AM by a knock at the door. It was Jessa's mom holding a cordless phone. Erika was calling.

Last night, while I was deep in my frustration about the way I was being treated by Jessa's family, I found Erika on MSN Messenger and vented my frustrations about it. I wasn't entirely sure I was making any sense because I had to frame it from the viewpoint of my life as a girl, not my life as secretly-a-time-travelling-guy, but I think she got what I was saying. It was actually a relief to unload on her, after I felt sure I wasn't troubling her. She's one of the people I've counted on to help retain my sanity through all this, in a weird way. Following her lead, as well as Alicia and to a lesser extent Mary, has helped keep me balanced with my head on straight in 2002 instead of walking around like a crazy person. But I've never really spilled my guts for obvious reasons.

A lot of the time I feel like I'm just uselessly sitting there watching them play out their problems. Part of that is because of my secret, because I can't talk about that it means I can't share my true thoughts and feelings about anything. Have you ever watched a body-swapping movie and screamed at the TV why didn't they just tell the truth? Well the answer for me is - because this seems way easier. If I'm pretending to be Jessa I don't spend as much time worrying about how weird it is to actually be Andy underneath this.

I didn't know how to talk to teenage girls in 2002 and although I know how to talk to women just fine, even as friends, relating to teenage girls as a fellow one is still something that's beyond me. I haven't totally absorbed my "new role" yet (hopefully I never will but getting a little closer would be nice). I don't really care about the same stuff they do, and my life experience is way different up until last week. Still, I'm trying to break the ice. These are the only friends I've been given.

So I thought "my mom shitting on me because I'm supposedly fat" was a good enough reason to turn to my friend, and I was right. She was happy to hear me out on all my frustrations, even if I had to shield her from the "I am also secretly a guy from the future" aspect. It was very useful to help me organize my thoughts and work through it, to finally build up the strength to go pretend to apologize for my outburst.

My apology must have worked because Jessa's mom was happy to act like thing had happened last night. Maybe, as the mother of teens, she's just used to this erratic behaviour.

Erika was calling to invite me to meet her at the mall. Weirdly - as soon as I shook off my sleepiness - I was jazzed about this. I have been really lonely and stuck in my own head when not at school. Getting out and doing something even mildly fun seemed like a great opportunity. I dressed and rushed out to catch the bus and meet her.

Neither of us really had much money, but we browsed anyway. We went to Sears and I watched her try on some clothes (she wanted me in the changing room with her and I said no, I can wait outside.) I didn't try anything on myself, despite her urging, pleading that I was still feeling self-conscious about my body (partially true, and partially the fact that my entire life has been "trying on strange new clothes" lately so I don't consider that a fun, recreational activity.) She pulled me into La Senza - which is a lingerie store where a lot of girls this age buy their first thongs and push-up bras. I remember salivating over the mannequins in the front window at that age. Today they do considerably less for me. It's actually kind of annoying seeing those perfectly skinny plastic torsos there.

There was some novelty to shopping there. I honestly think about this body much in the same way as my male one - that it's for getting around, there's nothing alluring about it. After all, it's 15 years old, very much "in development" and as I've said, not quite up to beauty standards. I dress it accordingly - plain, Wal-Mart underwear and comfy, non-showy clothes. It hasn't really crossed my mind that I could wear a lacy undergarment. I examined a few in the bin and thought, "Is this me?" Before deciding... it's not.

Erika on the other hand, seemed to dream about a world where she owned a whole wardrobe of the flounciest, sexiest things - panties and bras, short skirts, low cut tops. She said her parents were relatively permissive for her culture, but she still didn't feel right crossing that border yet.

I don't think she feels pretty. I think she feels like wearing those clothes would be what makes her pretty and desirable. She's openly counting the days until she gets rid of her braces. I wanted to tell her that in a few years she'll have guys slobbering all over her, but she'd probably just take it as me being supportive, not a literal description of her future. I wonder if she'll be happier then or...

We noticed some "popular girls" from our grade - Heather Lyons and Mikaela Lukic. We are definitely not travelling in the same social circles as them, and they didn't acknowledge us more than an elbow jab that seemed to say "Look at these freaks trying to be hot" but I got the sense that Erika was kind of yearning to be one of them.

I wonder if that maybe tears her and Jessa apart as friends.

More than that I wanted to say there was more to life than being "pretty" and that she has a good brain in her head and I hope she doesn't waste it. When I tried to, she kind of shrugged it off, like, "Why can't I be both?" And... true, I guess.

We ate at the foot court, and we talked about what was going on at school. I'm a little bit more in the loop now than when I first got here. I still don't know everything, and not even everything Jessa's supposed to know (leading to awkward conversations when Erika mentions something that happened over the summer and I'm like "What? Oh yeah, I forgot" despite it only being a month ago for her.) And some of what I know hasn't happened yet (and will it ever? Or am I in a different timeline officially? Headache!) But it was still a good talk.

It reminded me of some casual dates I've been on. Just being around someone, no agenda, doing whatever. I haven't really had that in a while and it was a little sad that this was my most fulfilling day in a long time since before my time travel, but you've gotta take the good stuff when you can.

Friday, September 27, 2002

Pizza night

So, I just got a taste of some of the harsher aspects of being Jessa. And I'm not talking about the period, which is well over with.

I've mentioned before that Friday night is pizza night at the Gilbert household - the one night of the week it seems like everyone can unwind and relax. We were watching TV - American's Funniest Home Videos, which I'm sure I would have found stale even 14 years ago the first time around. Everything was going okay, "Mom" was asking about my day and everything and I gave her the simplest answers, least likely to provoke any kind of follow up discussion (you know, like a real teenager) and then after I finished my slice I went back into the kitchen for another.

When I came back, she asked "What do you have there?"

Confused, I answered, "Um, pizza."

"Isn't that your third slice?"

Um... yeah? And?

"Honey, I just worry. We spent all this money on new school clothes for you, I don't want you to... outgrow them."

I froze, and then kind of chuckled, "Are you fucking serious?" 

I didn't even think anything of it, because my mom is pretty relaxed about that kind of thing but Jessa's mom clearly isn't. She snapped "Language!"

"Jessa, don't talk to your mother like that!" 'Dad' stepped in.

I was starting to get angry. "She's not my--" I blurted out, before stopping myself and - I can't believe I did this - running up to my room. With the pizza slice, of course.

I sat there, in this pink and purple room, stewing because everything about my situation is bad enough - I do not want to be here, I don't want to look this way or have people see me this way or be talked to this way... I didn't expect to be criticized for eating an extra slice of pizza when I was still hungry. Tears were welling up in me, which made me feel even worse, because I hate crying and I've done a fair amount of it in this body already. I fell to my side clutching one of Jessa's many stuffed toys for comfort, sort of leaning into the whole "teenage girl" thing.

Eventually 'Dad' came up.

"Hey sweetie," he said... which made me shudder because it's one of the first times I've been feminized more than being called by Jessa's name. "Do you want to talk about that?"

"Not really," I snapped. "She can't tell me how much to eat. That's... it's not fair!"

"Your mom just has some... concerns." he said. 

"Does everyone around here just think I'm some fatass?" I sneered.

"We--" he stammered, "No, honey, you're beautiful."

I know that he used that word because it's normally what teenage girls want to hear about themselves but I couldn't have cared less and that made things worse.

"We disagree sometimes over how to handle some issues with you kids sometimes. She has her beliefs, I have mine... it's actually not as much about you as you think. I'm sorry that you get caught in the crossfire."

"Whatever," I said, still seething about getting talked to that way and not really letting his words land on me.

"Your mom does know it's a sensitive subject. She's trying to help in her own way."

That didn't comfort me at all. I would rather she just stay out of my business and I bet the real Jessa would agree. He told me to feel free to come down whenever I wanted to apologize for yelling. I thought, it could be a while. 

It's funny. I'm not a temperamental person, I don't yell or anything in my normal life, but this situation has really put me in that place. Different hormones are sending different signals to my brain and changing how I would react to stuff. It's like being on a drug. And it's not like this is a situation I would have had to handle in my previous thin male life. Being in this body means I can't be the "me" that I expect to be, at least not in a situation like that, under pressure or caught off guard. I really am reverting into a teenager. It's weird, and kinda scary.

After he was gone I took some time to calm down and write some of my thoughts out. I meant what I said about how adults shouldn't talk to kids like that, scolding them for an extra slice of pizza. It's true that I find certain things in life harder because I'm currently chubby. It's unexpected because I was always naturally thin in high school and I ate whatever I wanted. So I literally never worried about it until my body suddenly "became" this way.

Do I deserve to be punished or talked down to because of that?

And don't treat it like a failing of Jessa because her body is the way it is. Maybe she'll lose weight. Maybe she'll gain it. Maybe she'll stay in this awkward middle ground her whole life. What does that have to do with her as a person, you know? It's gross to hear. Just let people live.

It sucks that Meghan - Jessa's little sister - has to grow up in this environment. I wonder if she eats less because she's afraid of turning out "like Jessa" and disappointing her mom.

When I was a dumbass teenager myself, I probably would have felt free to mock someone like Jessa because it was the popular thing to do. I hate that about myself, even though I - 29-year-old Andy - have grown past it. Somewhere out there in 2002, I'm not there yet, and it's bothering me. I probably would have thought, if she wanted life to be easier, she should just lose weight, it's a choice she makes not to be thin. Which is stupid. I'm telling you right now, 2002 people, that's not cool.

After an hour or so, and eating that slice of pizza in bed, I came down and gave Jessa's mom her fake apology, barely able to look her in the eye as I said "Sorry I yelled at you" and she coldly accepted it. My mind was still reeling inside because of all the different ways this was very messed up, but if I don't stow it away, this experience is going to be a lot worse than it needs to be. So I play along.

They were watching the show that came on after AFV... get this. It was some hourlong drama I don't even remember called "That Was Then." It's about a guy who fucking time travels back to his high school days. Look it up.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Night. 


Comments

Ok, this blog is weird. I mean, I get the whole mom foisting her own body image issues on you. Yay you for standing up to her! But what's this whole "I'm really 29" thing? You're not a time traveller, you're a girl who is awesome in her own way!
By Anonymous
Sept 28, 2002

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Wake Me Up When September Ends

That's a reference to a song that's still a few years away.

I was able to get through the school days with the help of a bottle of Midol - helpful but not exactly a wonder drug. My period Jessa's period The period made me more distracted than usual, which I have mixed feelings about. I think it's over though.

I keep having this existential crisis. I have to sit through a full day of classes, day after day, learning stuff I already learned once (and forgot.) What is the point? Am I really just here to re-learn high school stuff? Am I here for a reason? If I do well, will I earn my way back to my real life? If I slag off the entire time, will it affect Jessa's life? Why isn't she here learning this stuff? When she comes back (if she comes back??) will she remember any of it?

I'm just baffled. The questions of why and how this happened to me lurk in the back of my brain at all times and there are no answers, no clues. So I have no choice but to go along with it. And that's miserable because school is boring and I would rather be anywhere else.

But I appear to be a 15-year-old girl so my options are extremely limited there.

Last week we had a test in math class. Today I found out I got a 45%, which frankly I'm impressed by since I was totally winging it but failing still doesn't feel good. What do you even say to that? I'm 14 years out of practice for Grade 10 Math, and I wasn't that good at it the first time. And I know for a fact that there is a slim chance calculating the area of a circle plays a very small role in most peoples' successes in life. I don't think I should have to care about passing math for Jessa (again, what value does it have if I'm doing the work for her?? Unless I'm here forever??) But I still felt shame because I did something and failed at it. This is the one thing I've got going on in life and I am doing it badly.

I guess I'd better hit the books. These tests are just going to keep coming.