By Meg Cowie
Although these events take place before my wife’s transition, out of respect to her I will be using female pronouns throughout. This isn’t the whole story – that would take far too long to tell.
Instead, this is the story of the pivotal moments that would change my life: six days that changed my world.
We return from a vacation to Anacortes.
We had enjoyed wonderful weather, good food, and romantic walks on the beach. I start to sort laundry. My girl goes upstairs to check her email. After a while, she comes flying down the stairs, bang bang bang bang.
She is as white as a sheet and obviously in shock. My first thought is the children, or my Dad or her brother – someone was ill, or possibly worse. Then she speaks:
“I’ve just been online, and there’s a doctor who won’t do SRS on anyone who is over 50, and won’t operate on anyone who weighs over 200 lbs or who smokes, and I weigh 225, and I smoke, and I’m forty eight and – I think I have left it too late!”
There is no warning. No hint. Nothing. I feel the blood drain from my face, and I sit on the arm of the sofa as my legs suddenly refuse to support my weight.
I don’t have to ask for an explanation. I know what she is talking about. She wants to have “the operation.”
From our very first date, I had known, and been comfortable with, the fact that she sometimes wore skirts or dresses. But it was a part of her life we hadn’t discussed in years. Life, divorce, and child custody arrangements had put an end to it, as far as I knew.
Yet with that outburst, 17 years together suddenly came into focus: this was really who she was. My wife.
Strangely, I didn’t argue or protest: somehow I knew that this was not a negotiation. This was going to happen for her. What I needed to work out was what would happen to me? To us?
We don’t talk much that evening. There is too much to process. Her boss has called her to ask if she would pick up something from the office before she flies out to join him in Baltimore. Oh yes – she comes down the stairs, hits me over the head with a cricket bat, and then leaves me for three days to go to Baltimore.
She leaves for the office to pick up whatever it is her boss has left behind. Theoretically, she is still on vacation, so I ask her to come home soon so we can talk before she goes away.
She promises that she will be quick, and then comes home at 9:45 pm. As her flight leaves at 4:45 am, we don’t have time for the in-depth conversation I had hoped for.
In fact, I am so angry, and feel so let down that I tell her, “Well then, you just naff off to Baltimore, and make sure you have your keys because I might not be here when you get back home.”
Days 3, 4 & 5
The house is silent. No-one calls. I have no appointments. I do not leave the house. I wonder, “Is this how it’s going to be? She’s going to do her thing and leave me behind?”
I don’t know how many times I pick up the phone to book a flight back to England. I even walk round the house, trying to work out which of the furniture is mine, and how would I get it overseas.
I waver between furious anger and total despair. I am a dependent spouse to an H1B visa holder. I am not allowed to work. I am completely financially dependent on her. How will I live? If I go back to England, will I be able to get a job after so long out of the workplace?
Then gradually I begin to think “Do I want to go? What would I do alone?” My mind keeps circling back to one thought: “But she wouldn’t be there.”
We would both be alone. I love her. Isn’t it worth a try?
I now realize that those days alone were a gift; I had time to be with my own thoughts and to reach my own decisions.
She comes back from Baltimore, and finally we talk. I tell her, however, that as she changed the rules I was putting our marriage, and her, on probation.
Those six days happened back in 2008. I guess I should tell her now that she got the job.
2019 is our silver wedding anniversary. We are going to repeat our marriage vows, and this time I will call her by her real name. I will address her as the woman she has always been, not the name she had to hide behind for so many years.