Sunday, September 30, 2018

Quickie: Speech Therapy and a Night at the Opera

As I might have noted elsewhere, I am not a fan of opera.  The only operas I might enjoy are written by George Gershwin or Pete Townsend.  So it should be no surprise to anyone that I consider Harpo Marx in A Night at the Opera to be my favorite opera singer, as he didn't hit a bad note.  Mind you, he didn't hit any notes at all. So one could say that he was perfect for the role. In this film, Groucho also showed opera the respect it deserves by making sure that he arrived late for the performance, maybe to avoid hearing a fat lady sing. And I had the pleasure of seeing this film on the big screen for the first time today.

- - - - - -

But first....

I didn't get much sleep last night, and only had 3 hours of sleep before I had to wake up for speech therapy. Getting there a little early, I had a little time to rest before going in to the building for my 45 minute hour. This visit, elements in my speech were measured a different way than the past few times, and it was a little bit less annoying than before. But I didn't get that much out of this session.  At least the supervisor noted the improvement in my voice over the past year, so I still have hope that this semester will do me some good.

Once done with speech therapy, it was over to Suffern to see A Night at the Opera, one of the better Marx Brothers' films.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get the image I wanted from the movie - Harpo in costume for an opera, not being able to produce a note from his mouth. So the image above will have to suffice for this entry.  My lack of sleep was trying to catch up with me. But I was able to enjoy the organ playing before and the movie I came for.

- - - - - -

Next, it was down to Paramus to browse the offerings at Catherine's.  Nothing I wanted to buy at their current price points, but I did try on a sweater.  It looked OK with my leggings, but I'd have liked for it to be a couple of inches longer. Then it was off to the Avenue and Lane Bryant, where I also bought nothing.

I called GFJ to see what time he'd be down here.  And it was going to be late, as the Wasband was still emptying the house of things he might want to keep. Knowing she wouldn't be here before 7, I figured that I'd go to Walmart, then go home for the night.

Now if only I could get some sleep when I want to get it....

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Volunteering delayed with some politics to start the day.

Yesterday, I decided to postpone my weekly volunteer stint at the GLBT center, so that I could see my dad.  Given that I had to change back to Mario if I volunteered on my normal day, I got a little lazy - and made yesterday a rare Mario Only Thursday, allowing me to stay comfortable today as Marian.

- - - - - -

It seems that when I least expect it, I am able to wake up early without the alarm clock. That's what happened today, and I was able to enjoy the last half hour of Morning Joe.  When I first started watching this show, Imus had just self destructed by calling a women's basketball team "nappy headed hos." Although Imus found other TV and Radio homes, his show was never the same. But this allowed Joe Scarborough's show to come into its own. Many of the same political personalities kept coming on - but the audience had a better chance to hear an honest give and take, because Scarborough was then a relatively conservative host on a liberal TV network.

Things change with time, and Scarborough has become more of a centrist. The former conservative has cut his ties to his former political party over Trump, and he now brings up the hypocrisy in his former party's positions every chance he gets. And lately, his show has been comparing the treatment given to Anita Hill when Clarence Thomas was nominated to SCOTUS and the treatment Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is getting with the Bret Kavanaugh nomination to the court. In the past, POTUS ordered the FBI to do an investigation because of Anita Hill's allegations. Now, POTUS doesn't want to do an investigation.  What does the GOP have to fear, save that Kavanaugh may be guilty as charged?

Not being a cisgender female, I can't imagine having lived a life where one can be assaulted and that the structure of "the system" assumes that the female is responsible for her assault. Her state of dress may be given as an excuse for a male's attack - "her clothes were an advertisement for sex".  But what part of a woman's "NO!" can a male misunderstand?  Why is is that people excuse this, saying "boys will be boys"?  What gives males the right to be predators?

- - - - - -

But enough of politics for now....

When I woke up this morning, I slowly realized that I had a volunteer stint to do at the GLBT center today.  Today's task was to set up the media room for a "Film Friday" presentation of a movie with a transgender theme, then facilitate a discussion group afterwards.  It's not what I'd have chosen to do. But it's something that brings me a little out of my comfort zone. So, after starting today's blog entry, I got shaved, showered, made up, and dressed as Marian, and prepared to go out for the day.

I got to the GLBT center before 1, and everything was already set up for "Film Friday". There were 3 of us watching the film, "A Kid Like Jake", one of whom was a transgender child's mom. And we all had the same comment - normally, it would be the male parent who is most disturbed about having a child assigned male at birth exhibiting signs of being transgender. Jim Parsons may be a good actor, but in this film, he seemed like a softer, more likeable version of a character he plays on TV.

Shortly after the film ended, I decided to go home.  The Cat Lady emailed me to see if I wanted to go and eat.  By the time I got to respond, she was already craving food, and wouldn't be able to wait - whichever presentation I'd be coming as.  So that killed the option of having dinner with her.  And then I chatted with Lili.  The (ex-) boyfriend now is coming over on weekends, so she couldn't take advantage of a night I had free.  But we did agree to have dinner tonight, as her man wouldn't be over until 11 pm.

- - - - - -

Lili and I eventually had dinner, though she was trying to juggle the time slot.  She had a new tenant that she wanted to meet, so that his/her name could be put on a lease for one of her properties.  So we had dinner at 6:30, and I was home by 8.  Since I was dressed and with nowhere to go, I went to see a movie, Operation Finale.  This film is about the Israeli abduction of Adolf Eichmann and how the Israelis spirited him away to Jerusalem to be put on trial for the murder of 6,000,000 people.  (This is one of the few times I won't quibble using the number of Jews killed.  The movie notes the number of "others" killed, confirming my figure of 10,000,000 to 11,000,000 killed.) Although I knew how the story ended, they did a good job of trying to build up the tension until the airplane was aloft....

On the way home from the theater, I realized that I needed the help of Google Maps.  In most Westchester County towns, there are few places where you might say "you can't get there from here." Bronxville has a couple of streets like this. And if you don't know them (I didn't), you could easily get lost in the dark. (I did.) Once I reopened Google Maps for my return trip, I was home in 30 minutes.  Thank god for modern technology!

Friday, September 28, 2018

The cleaning lady and the board meeting.

I can only imagine how hard the lady in the picture had to work at her job. Given the apparent age of this picture, you can tell that she was likely a live-in domestic taking care of more things than one would expect of a typical cleaning lady.  Thankfully, today's cleaning ladies can be much more comfortable while doing their jobs, and have the advantages of modern cleaning tools and supplies that make their jobs that much easier.

- - - - - -

When I started the day, I realized that I had to get out of the house before the cleaning lady came.  This week, it was not because I was going out as Marian.  But it was simply a need to drive to Long Island to see my dad, and to be back in Croton before this evening's Co-Op Board meeting.  So I woke up early, stashed away the evidence of Marian, got showered and dressed, and off to Long Island before noon.

I arrived at my dad's nursing home as he was going to lunch.  Instead of hanging out in the lunch hall, my dad suggested that I wait for him downstairs in the reception area. 20 minutes later, he came down - and we chatted for the next half hour.  He suggested that I drop in on my sister in law and my niece.  But I wouldn't do that unless I had enough time to get home with time to spare for traffic jams.

On the way home, I encountered the expected traffic jams.  Stopping at the local Shoprite, I picked up some goods for the fridge, and proceeded home.  Looking at the Route 9 "expressway", one could easily see traffic coming to a halt - the Senasqua Road overpass repair work was blocking a lane of traffic, and was causing a traffic jam just before rush hour was to begin.

Reaching my apartment complex, I parked my car and was "accosted" by a former board member who had complaints about our current landscaper and our managing agent. As much as she couldn't be told the details of what we're discussing in private, all I could talk about were my personal views on these issues and not those as a board member. I could tell her to "read between the lines."  Yet, I doubt that she picked up on what I was saying....

- - - - - -

When I finally attended the board meeting, I was starting to get very tired.  Halfway thru the first vendor presentation, I had to fire up the Keurig coffee machine and deal with having too much blood in my caffeine stream. Luckily, I needed one cup of brew to bring myself to alertness. And it lasted thru the second meeting.  Sadly, because of matters still unaddressed, it looks like we will need to schedule multiple vendor meetings next month, so that we can deal with critical matters before they become urgent.

I was informed of another unpleasant surprise at today's meeting which I can't go into here. But this is a problem which has been brewing for years, and that we must find a way to make right very quickly.  If we can't do so, it will cost us even more money, money we can't afford, to make things right.  Thankfully, we have a good relationship with the person (or organization) affected, and this should help us as we make things right.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Car Maintenance, Laundry, and Informal Dining - What do they have in common?

Believe it or not, the above picture comes from a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner being held in a laundromat in Edmonton.  I can't imagine why people would be eating there, save that the owners of the place wanted to show its thanks for its patrons and its community by providing a place to eat to people who'd have nowhere else to go on this day.

- - - - - -

I knew that when I woke up, that this would be an expensive day.  My car was going into the shop for dealer recommended service, and I expected a $500+ bill for services rendered. So I got dressed as Mario and drove my car over to the dealership at the ungodly (for me) hour of 10 am, and was home by 11 - having enough time to do some laundry before the courtesy shuttle comes to pick me up, so that I could empty my wallet for those services rendered.

Not being able to drive anywhere, I took up the next thing on my list - Laundry.  Although I had 3-4 loads to take care of, I decided only to do whites and colors, leaving towels and sheets for another day. While doing laundry, I met my downstairs neighbor. (The family had just gotten back from a 2 1/2 month vacation, driving cross country and spending the better part of 2 months "somewhere out west."  Both of us were busy, so I didn't ask too much about the trip.)  And then I asked him to be on the lookout for mail mis-delivered to his mailbox because of the visual similarity of our addresses.  Hopefully, he'll have some mail for me that the postman put in the wrong box.

Around 12:45, the service representative tried to reach me.  But I didn't see that he called.  By the time I noticed this, I was almost done with my laundry and called the dealership back.  Work on the car was complete.  A little later, I received another call from the service representative and found out the damage to my wallet - $627.  Bad, but not as bad as it could be.  Some of the work done on my car by the local repair shop (e.g.: A Tune Up) was already performed, and saved me money today.  Still, $627 coming out of my wallet would hurt - and it did!

- - - - - -

After I paid my bill, it was off to my house and then to do some shopping.  Lili had gone online and found a dress length tunic that I could wear with leggings.  So I ordered the tunic, a pair of leggings and a bra (all on sale, 50% off) and another $100 left my wallet.  Now, I should be fully prepared with clothes I can wear on my cruise.  I figure that during the day, I'll be wearing the casual clothes a typical cisgender woman would wear, and that at night, I'll be switching to dresses.

And then it was off to Beacon for dinner....

I left my house in time to make it to the restaurant with a few minutes to spare.  However, getting there on time was not in the cards for today.  Some fellow got into an accident on Route 9, and 3 lanes (2 + the entrance lane) were merging into 1, as the right lane was blocked by the accident. Once through this jam, I had a smooth ride to Beacon - and arrived a few minutes late.

Sitting down next to Lili, I realized that this is not a place I wanted to eat at again. There were only 2 or 3 things I wanted to eat on the menu, and I ended up choosing the pulled pork quesadilla.  Although my meal was tasty, it was not what I really wanted to eat. If I had it to do over again, I might have made plans to see another Off Broadway play as part of the 20@20 deal. But this would be my only night out this week interacting as Marian with people I know. So it's just as well I decided to have dinner with the crew.

Before I left the place, I took careful notice of the lady waiting on our tables.  Her arms were heavily tattooed, and she was wearing the T-Shirt pictured above.  At a distance, one might think it's an Oakland or LA Raiders T-Shirt.  But looking closer, it's something different.  It's interesting how people proclaim their individuality these days....

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Monday, Tuesday, and Already thinking of Friday.

Lili and I are tired of the ship on which we took our past 3 cruises. Given how much money Lili lost on her last cruise, she was able to finagle getting comped a cruise on a "new" ship being positioned to serve the port of New York.  I'm looking forward to the cruise, and know that 7 days will fly by as if they were a short weekend.

As you might expect, the timing of this cruise affects more than one thing in my life.  It has already forced me to reschedule one speech therapy session at Mercy College. And it has
now affected the timing of a co-op board meeting.

- - - - - -            - - - - - -            - - - - - -

When I got up this morning, I knew that it was going to be a half and half day. This meant that I would get dressed as Marian, and then go home and changed into Mario for the rest of the evening. If I had a choice, I'd have stayed as Marian and skipped the meeting.  But I am there to help the co-op, and that I'm doing.

I made it to Arts Westchester around 2:00, and spent the next two hours making phone calls to prior donors, and trying to sell them on the idea of giving us another donation this year. When I reached people, I typically had the following results:
  1. The person politely took a message, and forwarded it to the appropriate person.
  2. The person apologized for a donation budget being exhausted, and suggesting we call back next year.
  3. The person telling me how to submit a donation request electronically, and politely ending the call afterwards.
  4. The person saying "Yes, we'd love to donate. And we'll be in contact shortly."
But I encountered one person who felt that we were beggars and had a great contempt for us. I feel sorry for him, as he took out his frustration on me - and I didn't give much of a damn what he said after he said "No". I was more than able to say "Thank you for your time."  Luckily, the person who can help us will be back in 2 weeks - and we still might get a donation out of the organization.

- - - - - -

I finally got out of Arts Westchester at 4 pm, and I drove straight to Mt. Kisco to pick up the night's dinner and dinner for the night after that.  By the time I made it home, I had to put the food in the fridge without being able to eat dinner, as the co-op board meeting was at 5:30. So I changed back into Mario, and spent the next 5 hours dealing with issues that keep draining our co-op's president's energy.

I won't go into details of the co-op board meeting, but I can say that we made one person very happy early on. And then the serious business began. We have some issues with one vendor which is causing us to interview new vendors. Now, a second vendor is acting up, and we may have to interview new vendors to replace that one.  By the time we were done, it was 10:30, and HWV and I still had things to discuss.  And when I entered my apartment, GFJ had already gone to sleep for the night.

As they say, minutes were taken and hours were lost....

- - - - - -            - - - - - -            - - - - - -

The next day, I didn't even bother to get dressed and go out.  Somehow, watching old movies was more appealing than going outside.  I was told that the weather wasn't as wet as I expected - but it was humid enough that you could cut the moisture with a fork and knife.

I sent some information to HWV regarding Friday's 20@20 deals to HWV, as well as information regarding about a staging of To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway this fall.  Hopefully, she'll be available for both - she'll let me know on Wednesday.  It'd be nice to have someone to accompany me to the City this week....

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Quickie: GFJ and the weekend.

I expected GFJ to arrive at my place earlier than she did.  So I ended up leaving the monastery early, and did not see any of the walking paths I'd liked to have seen.  Since it looks like the meetup group I went with will go there in the Spring, I may go back then to see more of the place.

- - - - - -

A common theme in my relationship with GFJ lately has been our mutual need to go out more and walk for exercise.  And I realize that the lack of exercise I've gotten by resting too much would make the daily grind of trekking into (and from) NYC a non starter these days.  Two years ago, it took me a couple of months to get comfortable walking up the steps at the Wall St. station on the IRT.  Now, it would likely take me longer, as I am even less active than I used to be. So I let GFJ drag me out and prod me into getting moving. As long as I do so, she doesn't give me too much grief.

When GFJ arrived on Saturday, we went to the diner after a short drive, and then we went out for a short walk.  In the past, I'd have felt comfortable walking a couple of miles. But now, getting me to walk half a mile would be a lot. So I intend to increase this each time GFJ and I go out walking, now that the weather is getting cooler.

Sunday was similar to Saturday, as we both got up too late to do much of anything - save for a visit to the diner and a walk along the river.  About the only thing different was that there was no cooling breeze near the river, and it was missed.

- - - - - -

Our weekends together are too short. But at least they are cherished.  But when they end, I enjoy going back into Marian Mode as quickly as possible.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Quickie: Thoughts on travel as Marian and as Mario

(Slightly retouched picture of me in 2012)

When the above picture was taken, I was just starting out on my journey to femininity. And it is fitting that I'm posed in front of a Buddha in San Francisco's Japanese Tea Garden.  I was truly at peace for the first time in years.It's been about 5-6 years since then.  And I have grown a lot more confident in my ability to travel as Marian.  Yes, there have been some glitches, such as when my car broke down in DC and I reverted to being Mario for a little while. But, on the whole, I am relatively pleased to be able to make my way in this world while showing Mario's identification when necessary.

There are many more places to go and many more places to see. As long as I need to present as Mario, I will always have identification with me in Mario's name.  This is a pain in the ass for those times I want to present as Marian. Yet, I don't think that this will get in the way of me traveling to Great Britain with Lili one day and spending the whole time as Marian.  (I will have to touch base with appropriate people first, just to be safe.)

A potential fly in the ointment is my relationship with GFJ.  She will likely never be comfortable with me presenting as Marian.  So there is no way I'll be able to travel with her this way.  As long as I have the money to spend on two sets of trips each year, this is not a bad thing. With GFJ, Mario is out and has a good time.  With Lili, Marian comes out, and the other side of me has a good time.

- - - - - -

Unfortunately, being a large person gets in the way of being comfortable when traveling. Most of the world is designed for people half my size. And I hope to lose some weight before taking my next long trip by air.  (I hate using the seat belt extender.) I know that this must be a goal for me, as I expect to end up flying to England sometime in 2020 for my niece's wedding.  However, that will be one trip that Mario and not Marian will be taking. I have also found a cruise that might be possible for me to take with GFJ.  This will be another trip that I will have to take in Mario mode. Assuming this cruise comes off, I will be chomping at the bit to become Marian again when I get home.

- - - - - -

I'm a little concerned about travel outside the United States.  If I travel as Mario, I'll still have to worry about the little differences that give me away as a tourist.  Compared to many countries, we are very safe in America. We don't have as many petty crimes (such as pick pocketing) taken against us as they have in Europe. But they are much more humane in regard to how all people are treated.  If I travel as Marian, I have these issues to worry about AND others related to me being a transgender person.

Do I think I'll travel with Lili to see Great Britain?  Probably not.  She's looking at taking her (ex-)boyfriend with her, as she doesn't want to feel lonely.  As for me, I'm not sure if she should get back with him unless both have gone to some therapy.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Speech Therapy - Starting my last semester

Even though the film version of the play is a classic, I can't help but wish that Julie Andrews was cast as the film's Eliza Dolittle instead of Audrey Hepburn, with dubbed in singing. Supposedly Hepburn had a good singing voice, but they used Marni Mixon's voice instead. (And how can one argue much with that voice?)

In many ways, I feel like I'm a transgender version of Eliza Dolittle.  I feel like I'm having to learn another way of speech and mannerisms so that I can go about in the world as a female, not having to worry about anyone reading me as a male.  It will always be a goal for me, as there will always be room for improvement. 

- - - - - - 

Last night, the Cat Lady (TCL) asked me to send her some photos, so that she can ask one of her friends if I'm passable or not.  Who knows what her friend will say.  But I feel like I'll be told people are being polite to me, and that I'll get a little depressed.  The reality should be that I should be happy that people are treating me as a female, and that no one notices or cares whenever I use a public women's room when needed.   

As expected, I eventually chatted with TCL today.  The 3 photos I wanted to send were not received, and the formal gown (sent via a text message) was received.  Her friend pegged me for my large hand size.  Neither TCL nor her friend liked the dress.  But what was most important about our chat was her focusing on why I go out as Marian. And after thinking about it some more, it may be because being Marian helps me associate with women without sexual tension coming in to play.  Who knows?  But I'd wish she'd drop the issue and accept me for who and what I am, and not try to psychoanalyze me.

- - - - - -

When I woke up this morning, I was extremely tired. But I had speech therapy on my docket, and there was no way I was going to miss the first session.  So I forced myself to get ready and out the door before 9 am, thinking that I'd have enough time to stop by a deli and get myself a scrambled egg sandwich. And you'd think I had enough time for this, as I reached Dobbs Ferry at 9:25, leaving me 15 minutes to get my sandwich and 5 minutes to drive to Mercy College.  But this was not to be.  The bagel shop I went to was mobbed, and only one person there was speaking any English.  There was no organization to what was going on, and if I had known of another place where I could get a quick bite to eat nearby, I'd have done so. The man at the grill was moving slowly, and the only word that came to mine was "Mañana."  Because of this mistake in "dining" choices, I was 5 minutes late for today's session.

Today's visit to Mercy was uneventful.  The student clinician was very friendly, and didn't rush me to the lab room to measure my voice characteristics. (That will be next week.)  Unlike prior student clinicians, she has some real world work experience. And that's a plus. She asked me what I hope to achieve in this semester's work, and this will help her develop a plan for me.  As usual, I had her laughing. And then the supervisor came in - she wanted to work with me, as she had seen how I got along with the other students and supervisors.

- - - - - -

Next, it was off to the Chuang Yen Monastery (CYM) in Putnam County for a meetup.  We were given a vegetarian lunch (for a minor $6 donation), then a tour of the site.  The tour leader explained the tenets of Buddhism, and made us feel very welcome during our visit. While there, I noticed a woman I had dated as Mario.  Did she recognize me?  Who cares?  But that's another story for another day.  I had some nice conversations with other women, and one woman and I exchanged phone numbers (her idea) so that we could keep in contact.  Hopefully, we'll meet each other again at another meetup. 

It was a little warmer than I dressed for, and I decided to leave a little early.  This would allow for two things: (1) For me to get comfortable, and (2) For me to change back into Mario Mode before GFJ arrives for the weekend.  Instead of taking the Taconic back to Route 6, and that over to Route 9 to go home, I decided to go through Fahnestock State Park - just to see the lakes at the side of the road.

Would I go to the monastery again?  Yes.  I could see taking some lessons there one day.  But first, I want to take care of other things in my life....

Saturday, September 22, 2018

A nice trip to Heartbreak House which went a little longer than expected.

Having no idea of what to expect, I decided to plan my day around seeing the above play. It is not one of George Bernard Shaw's most loved plays, but it is interesting once you get in to it. But don't go and see it if you are tired, as you'll miss some of the word play that Shaw is known for....

- - - - - -

Getting up this morning, I had to be ready in case my cleaning lady were to come and make a rare Friday appearance. So I stayed in my apartment, dressed in Mario Mode just in case she came.  (She didn't.)  Around 3 pm, I decided to get ready for a trip into the city, so I got showered, made up and dressed as Marian to spend a night in the city.

Unlike last week, my drive to the Pelham train station was uneventful, and I was able to park close to the station in a lot that becomes available to non-permit holders from 5 pm to 2 am. Since I was late for the train, I figured that I'd look at the flower shop that my wife's best friend once worked at - and saw that their hours are now 8 an to 4 pm on weekdays. (I guess the owner is getting ready to retire, or a new owner has changed the store's hours.) Walking across the street, I noticed people still waiting for the train. So I walked to the platform and bought a ticket. Even though I was late for the train, the train was even later, and I was able to catch the train into NYC at 6:15.

- - - - - -

Arriving in NYC at 7, I decided to get a bite to eat at Grand Central. And there wasn't much I wanted to choose from. My choice was Chinese. Though the food was tasty, it was probably a mistake because of the salt content.  Once done, I took the subway to Times Square, walked to the theater, then found my seat.

Heartbreak House was staged as if it was being presented during WW2, in the basement of a theater presenting other works. (Yes, it's a stretch, but it still fits in to Shaw's desire to stage this play as a warning.)  But I was too tired to give this play the attention that it deserved during the first act, and attended semi consciously. When the second act started, I was awake enough to pick up on the Shavian word play, and enjoyed some of what was going on.  Unfortunately, the play didn't hit the mark with me, and I might have felt better, in retrospect, if I had gone to see Avenue Q one more time.

- - - - - -

By the time I get out of the theater, it was after 10:30, and time to get moving home.  I reached Grand Central at 11:15, and was able to go to the washroom before getting on the train. When the train reached Pelham, it was running on the inbound track, confusing some people. (Maintenance was going on overnight, and MNRR was using only 1 of the 4 tracks for all traffic.) It was too late to call GFJ, so I sent her a message wishing her a good night. As for me, I continued my trek home, and made it to my door a little after 1 am.

Hopefully, I'll make it on time for my first speech therapy session in the morning....

Friday, September 21, 2018

Quickie: I played only one game today....

Settlers of Catan - an old standard in the modern gaming world, but a game that many people my age might not recognize.  I'm far from the best in playing this game, but I enjoy playing it when I do.

- - - - - -

Again, I was expecting the cleaning lady to come today.  But I think I got my signals mixed up with her, and that she'll come next week.  This means that I still have to have my apartment ready for her visit tomorrow, and if she doesn't come, ready for a visit next Thursday.  Because I didn't know if she'd come today, I had to get up and out of the house early today - and made an earlier than usual visit to the GLBT center for my weekly shift. My shift ended quickly (or so it seemed), and I made it back home to take care of a few things.

Once I got home, I found that my cleaning lady did not come as expected.  No problem for me, I'd rather keep the money in my hands for another week. However, I ended up deciding that I'd go to Stew Leonard's to pick up a crumb cake for game night and grab a bite to eat. Unfortunately for me, their "Burger Barn" closed early for the day, and I had to depend on finding a hot sandwich inside. But I did get an apple pie instead of the crumb cake I originally planned on.

Next, it was off to game night, and I only played one game - Settlers of Catan.  As usual, I lost.  But I had a good time.  However, I wanted to get out a little early for two reasons - Lili wanted to speak with me before the (ex-)boyfriend came over, and because my back was aching.

On the whole - a good day.  But one where I'm ready to fall out before midnight.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Good Luck at the Golden Buddha

The Golden Buddha restaurant looks better on the inside than it does on the outside.  If I had passed by the place before tonight's meetup, I'd have thought it was a typical take-out joint which had a few seats for its patrons.  But looks are deceiving.  As the adage goes: "Don't judge a book by its cover."  And it would be right in this case.

- - - - - -

But first....

Although I got to sleep late, I started waking up around 9 am. At this point, I got up and started to surf the web a little. And then I had an idea.  Instead of calling my former employer to determine what happened with the Direct Deposit Summary I'm supposed to receive every month once my monthly pension payment has been deposited to my bank account, I'd send a written letter instead. The following is the gist of that mailing:

I’ve been receiving my pension for several years now without problems.  However, I cannot say the same about the Direct Deposit Summary that I also should be receiving on a monthly basis.  Normally, this is not a major problem for me.  However, I now have a need to receive this document on a regular basis, or to be able to print it from an online website for my records.                                                                

Looking at the attached document, you will note that the font and spacing used for my address makes it possible for the post office to deliver the mail to the wrong address.

(Personal identification has been removed from this part of the letter to protect my privacy when published in the blog.)

I would appreciate it if you can send me a fresh copy of September’s Direct Deposit Summary, and make it possible that I can log online to a website, so that I can print copies of any Summaries which may have been lost in the mail.  Additionally, if you can adjust your print layout so that my address is clearer (to prevent incorrect delivery of the mail), I’d appreciate it very much.

Just as I was finishing up on this task, Lili called.  And we agreed to get together this afternoon, so that she could vent about her boyfriend problems and that I could give her some money that I owe her for paying taxes and fees for our upcoming cruise.

- - - - - -

Around 2:30 pm, Lili and I met at a bagel shop near her house.  I had a sandwich while she sucked down some coffee. Then she went thru the saga of her and her (ex-)boyfriend, trying to figure out what to do about him.  She's so unhappy, that she's been eating everything in sight, and has gained a few pounds in the past few weeks.  She's afraid of gaining back all the weight she lost via Bariatric surgery, and is in a vicious circle of eating to deal with disappointments. 

While listening to Lili, GFJ called. She also had problems - this time with the Wasband.  He didn't want to sign some paperwork for her, as he wanted to collect money for work he wasn't involved in. So she walked out of the office for the rest of the day.  Sadly, she will still need to get his signatures if she wants to collect money from the customers. So she will need to figure out some way to "Blackmail" him to do his job and sign the paperwork. (Later on, I reminded her about a clause in her divorce settlement - and that will be some nice ammunition she can use against him if needed.)

When I was done with Lili, I chatted with GFJ again, and drove up to Catherine's in Poughkeepsie.  Although I can't remember the salesladies' names, at least one remembered mine.  We chatted, and I browsed a little, and killed a lot of time that needed to be killed before my Fishkill meetup.  Next, it was off to the bookstore for a while. And then, it was off to Fishkill.

- - - - - -

I was very lucky on my drive to Fishkill, almost missing a turn.  Making the mistake of turning late (having seen no cars on that street), I was lucky to stay on the pavement. From there, I had a very uneventful ride to the restaurant. And then, I was able to find a seat next to the wall - just before everyone came in. My choice to sit next to the wall was made so that I could sit next to another lady, H, who used to go to the Whine and Dine meetups. And we finally exchanged phone numbers.  Hopefully, we'll meet for coffee (or something) soon.

Eventually, more people came in, and I was locked into my seat for the duration of the meal. Our hostess told the story of why she started this meetup....

She was sitting alone at an airport bar, and had two nice conversations with two different males without any attempts to have anything but a nice chat.  She thought that if she were sitting alone at a bar outside the airport, it would be interpreted as a woman looking for a man to pick her up for an evening's intimate companionship. By setting up a meetup that was "dinner only", she could have a similar experience to her airport chats without having to worry about "next time expectations".

Later on, she told us about the costs of meetup - $10 for up to 50 people, and $16 for an unlimited number of members.  To spend $16/mo. to have a group of people to dine with is a cheap price - and something she is willing to do to have a nice evening once per week.

- - - - - -

On my way home, I had another chat with GFJ.  She told me about a business/future employment plan she has involving a business a half hour away from my place.  GFJ has done her research, and is trying to figure out how she'd approach the owner about (1) selling off part of her business and staying on as an employee and (2) closing down her business and joining this other firm as an employee.  Both are viable options, and both quickly separate her financial interests from that of the Wasband.

I hope GFJ can get what she wants from this potential meeting....

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Quickie: Eating out as Marian

Looking at the picture above, you can see that I'm happy. You can also see that I need facial feminization surgery (especially to take in the sides of my jaws) to start looking more like an older woman. But what's more important is that you can see my love for eating out. This is the focus of today's entry.

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One of the things I miss about two of the meetup groups I once belonged to is that I got to socialize as a peer with women while eating out.  In our culture, food is something that helps bond people together. And I enjoy that bonding process.

Unless I end up in a long term relationship with someone who needs to see me as Mario, I intend to live the better part of my remaining life as Marian. And my interactions will be as one woman with other women over many nice meals. Right now, I get together with Vicki, Vicki#2, Patty, BXM, HWV, RO, and others for scheduled meals. And we always seem to have a good time doing so.  But I feel like the never married woman of grandmotherly age who doesn't have pictures of any grandchildren to show off.

- - - - - -

I'll always wonder what would have happened to me had my late wife survived the cancer that took her life.  Would she have accepted me as Transgender?  Would she have been comfortable being out with me as Marian?  There is no way that I can answer these questions and many others like them. But if I'm going to share any part of my life with someone, I want to share that l can share it with someone who accepts me as Marian.

Until then, you may want to visit this restaurant - McDowell's.  It has a very friendly staff, and it is centrally located. Read the reviews in the highlighted link, and you'll see why I want to go there soon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A wet weekend with ideas of things to do when dry.

GFJ and I were interested in taking a food tour of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The company, Free Tours By Foot, provides them in several cities, and I figure that I'll take a few of their tours the next time I'm in one of the cities they have tour guides.  But with the expected rain, this will have to be postponed until some time in the fall.  Some of the best places on the tour will be closed for the Jewish Holidays, and replacement sites will be poor substitutes for the ones we missed.

- - - - - -

As is our custom as of late, GFJ now comes down on Saturday afternoon and leaves on Monday mornings. This Saturday was no different than usual.  Her handyman was scheduled to arrive at 6 am, and that meant she'd be awake 6 hours earlier than I'd be awake.  It also meant that I missed another chance to visit the insides of the Old Croton Aqueduct - something I've wanted to do since I found out that one can visit on occasion.

When I finally gained consciousness, I had skipped answering two calls from my dad. No malice or anger for me.  I was way to tired to talk when he called.  Given that the clock and calendar mean very little to someone in a nursing home, I figured that I'd call him back later in the day.

I took care of laundry while waiting for GFJ, and had my summer dresses hanging out to dry long before GFJ got here.  Of course, I was presenting as Mario when she arrived - a little later than originally planned.  So we rushed to the diner, and had a leisurely dinner there before going home early to catch up with the news and to sleep early.  (GFJ has been getting up at 5 am lately because of her handyman's 6 am arrival.  So she's tired by 11 pm.)

- - - - - -

The next morning, the weather forecast said it was going to rain all day.  That squashed any plans of ours to go outside and do anything resembling a long walk - which we both need to do more often.

When we finally made it outside, it was around 3 pm, and it hadn't rained much yet.  So we figured that we'd go to Walmart (to return some curtains GFJ had bought), get a bite to eat, take a quick walk, then go to a movie. Well, We took care of everything on the list, save going to a movie.  GFJ was way too tired for that.  Within an hour of leaving Walmart, we were home - and GFJ was ready to fall asleep.  (Strangely enough, I was tired too.  Rainy days have a habit of sapping me of energy - even when I've done nothing for the day.)  And that's where our day ended.

GFJ fell asleep right away.  I did not for several hours....

Monday, September 17, 2018

How feminine is your voice?

Many of us M2F Transgenders have real concerns about our female speaking voices. And we have good reason for this.  Most cisgender males speak in a pitch approximately one octave lower than the average cisgender female. This means that for most people it is easy for people to identify male speech from female speech from pitch alone.  However, there is an area of androgynous overlap where both cisgender males and females speak in the same pitch range. This is the range that I have been trying to master speaking in, learning all the appropriate feminine speech patterns to have my voice identified as female when there is no other social clue to guide a listener.

I have stumbled on to the following article: Identifying the Gender of a Voice using Machine Learning in my online reading. Someone has developed a prototype tool, "What is your voice gender?" which can be used to identify whether is a male or female.  

The question many of us will ask is: How do we use this tool to help us determine whether our transfeminine voices are being picked up as male or female?  And I have developed the following procedure for Windows PCs that can be used to record a voice clip, convert it to WAV format, and then upload the file for analysis:
  1. Using Windows' Voice Recorder, capture a short speech fragment of no longer than 10 seconds for analysis.
  2. Rename the speech clip to something meaningful. (e.g.:FemVoice-20170901.m4a)
  3. Convert the speech clip to a "wav" file. 
    (I have used the conversion tool at:          for this task.)
  4. Upload the "wav" file (e.g.:FemVoice-20170901.wav) to the following site:
This should result in a simple Male/Female rating for your transgender voice. Please note that this is a work in progress, and may not be available at all times. I have uploaded a copy of the opening to Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky that was recorded by me. This should give you an idea of how my feminine voice has developed over the past few years.

The goals I have for my feminine voice development are:
  1. To be able to speak on the telephone without anyone being able to tell that I once spoke with a male voice.
  2. To be able to talk all day without my voice breaking or having trouble maintaining a feminine pitch or voice pattern.
  3. To be able to project my voice loudly so that I can make emergency outbursts (e;g.: "Fire!") or talk in noisy venues without using male resonance or pitch. 
These 3 goals are my reasons for working with the Speech Therapy department at Mercy College. It is important to me that I maximize progress towards these goals without risking harm to my voice. This means that I need guidance, as there are so many people out there who have done harm to their voice boxes because their vocal exercises went well beyond what their voice boxes were capable of doing at the time.

Kathe Perez of Exceptional Voice has worked with transwomen to help make their voices sound more feminine.  I have used her lessons to help me develop my feminine voice. However, I realized that I am a lazy person and that I am not given to practice anything without someone to prod me a little to do the right thing. So I have picked up what I could from her 3 CDs, but have not done anything with her iPad/iPhone apps as I prefer to spend my money on in-person training. 

Ms. Perez notes that your physical voice is produced by your vocal cords (or folds) which are encased in your larynx. A fascinating thing about the larynx is its location in the body. It’s positioned in the front of the neck right in the middle of a busy freeway of supply lines (airway, blood vessels, and nerves). Therefore, the voice is a unique witness to the many events that occur in the body. Poor health or disease often leaves some kind of “footprint” on the voice. Your uncertainty about who you are may be revealed in your voice. When you’re angry, anxious or upset, your voice shows it. When you feel joyful, your voice trumpets the news to others. Voice scientists, speech-language pathologists and ENT physicians (otolaryngologists) organize voice production into five components. They are:
  1. Respiration– power source
  2. Phonation– sound source
  3. Resonance– sound modifier
  4. Articulation– speech modifier
  5. Prosody– melodic aspects of speech
In order for there to be sound, the vocal folds vibrate and phonation (voicing) occurs. To achieve this sound air must travel upward from the lungs through the opening of the larynx called the glottis. Once the vocal folds have been set into motion by this air stream, the sound is modified by chambers of the throat and mouth, creating resonance frequencies. The size of the chambers directly affects these frequencies. The bigger the size, the deeper (or lower) the formant frequencies. We call these deep resonant overtones. Cis-gender females have a smaller mouth and throat and therefore does not have that deep rumble that you hear in most cis-genetic male voices. These chambers play a very important role in the perception of the timbre of the voice—whether it’s perceived as a rich, or nasal or thin voice. The articulators (tongue, lips, jaw, and soft palate) shape the sound into recognizable speech. Then it’s the prosodic features (speaking rate, inflection, pauses) which make your speaking style uniquely your own. In training your feminine voice, all five components must be included.

By the time you read this, I'll have started what will likely be my last semester of speech therapy at Mercy College. My goal is to work on Prosody and Respiration.  If I can help it, I'll start picking up a typical feminine speech melody, then develop it on my own later on....

- - - - - -
Training a biological male's voice to sound feminine is a time consuming task and is not one that should be done without professional help. There are ways to get this help without having to do in-person sessions with a speech therapist. However, it pays to get a therapist's help from time to time to insure you are moving forward to your goals without picking up bad habits or otherwise damaging your voice.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Quickie: I figured that I'd buy the dresses....

You may have already seen these dresses on me.  But you might be interested in what I was thinking at the time I bought them....

- - - - - -

It was late on a recent Friday night, and I saw that the stock level on these dresses was getting a little too low for comfort.  So I figured that $40 would not kill me in the long run, and ordered these dresses from Target.  I figure that I'll get at least a month's worth of use out of them before the weather cools down, and then I can break out my Fall/Winter wardrobe.

Of course, there is the black dress below the first two. I had overpaid my Catherine's account by $40, and saw a great deal on this dress and a violet shrug. Poof! went the credit, but now I have a nice dress I can dress up with the right accessories.

- - - - - -

Shopping for me is often hit and miss.  Sometimes, I gamble on something inexpensive working on me. And if it doesn't work for me, I'll donate it to a charity, where it will do someone some good. However, if it does work for me, I'll have something I can wear again when the weather gets warm.

- - - - - -

Lili is someone who does things on impulse. And recently, this has meant that she'll take a cruise because she is feeling down. Guess who gets to go with her....

I don't mind being her room mate for a cruise, as we tend to stay out of each other's way. I think we've learned a lot about each other's zones of comfort since our first cruise several years ago.  On our first cruise, she was very insistent that I accompany her son and future daughter in law on a trip into Boston. I'd have rather gone to the Union Oyster House for some clam chowder. But that was not to be. I ended up going to the aquarium with her son and future daughter in law that day and got some nice shots of fish in their tanks.

There are still some things that bother me, such as when she goes hunting for a brand of tea that she can not buy in the USA and wants me to keep her company. But they are relatively minor.  And in many ways, the things I don't like about Lili are the things I've either already overcome in my life, or am still trying to overcome.  As has been said, one sees in others what others see in you.

- - - - - -

Hopefully, I'll get enough use out of these dresses to make the money I spent on them worthwhile.  They are comfortable, and will be perfect to pack on our next cruise to the Caribbean.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The cleaning lady won't come until next week, so I can sleep a little....

My cleaning lady is (officially) on a 4 week schedule.  She comes on Thursdays, does her thing, then leaves. If I am in Marian Mode that day, I'm usually out the door before she leaves.  If not, Mario will often be in the house until she leaves.  She may see some traces of Marian's existence, but probably not enough to tie Marian and Mario together.  And if she has tied Marian and Mario together, she hasn't said a word.  However, she is coming either next week or the week after that. So I can sleep a little....

- - - - - -

The first thing I did after waking up was to call my cleaning lady and ask when she was supposed to come here.  She either said next week or the week after that. So I was able to rest until I wanted to get showered, dressed, and out the door.  Given that I had no plans, I asked myself - what do I want to do today?  If it weren't for the risk of another subway tunnel shutdown, I'd jump at the chance of doing another Free Museum Friday.  But last week's headaches on a "Free Museum Friday" caused me to think carefully about another trip to the city.

As usual, I lallygagged around all day. Then I realized that the 20 @ 20 Off-Broadway theater deal was on until the 23rd of the month.   So I showered, got dressed, etc., and went out as Marian, with the idea that I'd be going to an 8 pm performance of Smokey Joe's Cafe. I figured that leaving at 5:15 would more than give me enough time to reach the theater. But traffic on the roads would put this in doubt.  When I reached Tuckahoe Road, all the South bound roads were jammed. There was no good way for me to go South on the Sprain. And when I got off the Sprain, I decided to pick up a soda and a sandwich at the local Mickey D's. Even there, there were problems, as the soda machine wasn't working. So I skipped a quick burger, and barely made it to the train on time.

- - - - - -

When I reached Grand Central, there was a crowd near the entrance to the Vanderbilt Hall. (This was the former waiting room, when New York Central passenger trains were in their heyday.)  The entrance was blocked off, and the rumor (later reported as true) was that this was where Paul McCartney was performing for 300 people (and more listeners outside the viewing area). There was no way I was going to stand for two hours - even to listen to a live performance by an ex-Beatle.  (My knees would kill me if they weren't kept moving.)  So I proceeded to Theater Row.

I had my choice of two performances: Heartbreak House and Smokey Joe's Cafe.  The 20@20 site reported Heartbreak House as starting at 7:30.  And I arrived at the theater at exactly 7:30, walked in, and hoped that I could get a last minute seat.  The 20@20 site was wrong - the play started at 8, and $20 tickets would go on sale in 5 minutes.  This gave me barely enough time to walk to a nearby diner and get a sandwich, then return for the play.

At the diner, I ordered a gyro, and was seated next to another person dining alone.  We struck up a nice chat, and I was out of the diner in 15 minutes.  When I got back to the theater, Heartbreak House was sold out. So I hustled to Smokey Joe's Cafe and got a last minute ticket. It's hard to believe, but I had enough time to go to an almost empty ladies' restroom and still be seated in time for the play.

After the play, there were a couple of people who blocked my exit. And as a result, I got to enjoy another one of the pleasures of being a woman - the long women's restroom line. At least, the line moved quickly. Then I made it down the block for a couple of slices of pizza and a can of soda.  Why do I mention this?  There are some pizzerias that compete not on quality, but on price - making their money on volume alone.  Although the pizza is tasty (it's hard to ruin a basic pizza), it is cheap. It's far from the best pizza I've eaten, but it is better than most frozen pizzas. And it was enough to keep my stomach happy....

- - - - - -

The return home from Grand Central was uneventful.  However, I had my concerns about parking in a new area of Pelham, as not many people were walking in this direction. It's easy to understand how a cisgender female would feel walking down an empty street alone. And as I live more and more of my life as a female, the more these experiences resonate with me. But I made it to my car safely, and made it home without incident....

Friday, September 14, 2018

A downer of a day that could have been worse....

It was one of those where a lot of things went wrong for me.  Yet, "Debbie Downer" wasn't able to ruin my mood - even where she had many opportunities to do so.  The little headaches I had to deal with today were minor in the grand scope of things, and I didn't suffer much because of them....

- - - - - -

My cleaning lady was supposed to come today.  So I made sure to set my alarms to get me out of bed by 10 am, and was ready to face the day as Marian before noon.  Before I left the apartment, I stripped the bed of linens and put them in the hamper before her expected visit.

Once out and about, I did a little browsing at Lane Bryant, then picked up a couple of things at BJ's. And from there, I took a slow, leisurely ride to the GLBT center.  On the way there, I chatted with the Cat Lady (for too long), then called Lili after picking up lunch at I deli I frequented when I used to work for the Bank.  For about an hour or so, I worked on updates to the contents of their web site, and then I chatted with one of the directors of the center. While talking, the skies got dark, and "severe thunder storms" rolled in.  It was raining like cats and dogs, and I had no umbrella.  So I borrowed an umbrella from the Lost and Found box, got to my car, then finally delivered some books to the donation box.

- - - - - -

Getting back into the car at the GLBT Center, I found that I couldn't help but get wet.  (Part of my dress was caught in the door.) So when I got to Panera Bread, I took advantage of the restroom and was able to use their hand dryer to dry off the wettest parts of my dress without revealing anything to anyone. And then I got around to having dinner.

When I got up to leave Panera, I overheard 3 ladies talking about the abuses of the Emotional Support Animal designation.  So I politely jumped in, and told them some small details about my co-op's experience in this area. (I won't go into them here, other than to say that shareholders are concerned about potential abuse in this area, and that we are addressing this issue in the best interests of the shareholders.)   And then it was off to game night.

- - - - - -

The weather was a deciding factor in how many people attended tonight's meetup.  One of the regulars hates driving in bad weather, and she was missed. However, there was even more sad news - the host told us that he had considered cancelling tonight's meetup because L's mother had died Wednesday morning. L (the woman whose Karaoke birthday party I attended) had said NOT to cancel the meetup, but to make sure some strong liquor was available.  L needed to relax, and with help from 1 Lemon Drop Shot and half a bottle of wine did just that.

Even though L will feel like crap for a while, I know she will be a survivor.  Hopefully, I will be there to help her as a friend (and that she will accept that help). She is a good person, and I don't want her or her husband to suffer any more than normal for this kind of loss....

PS: The cleaning lady never came and I had to put sheets back on the bed in case she comes tomorrow.  A minor frustration to close out the day.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Some juicy tidbits to talk about for a change.

Over 100 years ago, several members of one family came to America from the island of St. Kitts.  One branch of the family has become more and more Black over the years, as they married people of darker skin than theirs. The other branch of the same family has become more and more White over the years, as they married people of lighter skin than theirs.  I come from the branch of the family which was "passable".  On the ship's manifest which brought my grandfather to America, he was listed as Black.  By the time of the 1930 census, he was as White as the driven snow.  Even though he was a mean son of a bitch who none of his relatives have said good about him and that I would likely have killed him had he lived to see me, I'll be one of the first to thank him for lying on a federal census form before the age of computers.  I've had privileges as a White transwoman that I wouldn't have had if I had been born Black.

- - - - - -

Why did I open with a discussion of my ethnic heritage?  I was on St.Kitts approximately 20 years ago, on a cruise with my then girlfriend, another female friend and her new husband. The two of us were sharing a honeymoon cruise with a couple who might have gotten bored shitless had we not been around. I won't go into too many details regarding the newly married couple, save to tell you that he passed away less than a year after this cruise.  He was the wrong man for my friend, but she was willing to put up with a lot from a man as long as he was Jewish. (I could write a comedy routine about this man, but I don't want to risk speaking ill of someone who can't respond in kind.)  Hopefully, she is very happy with her third husband, and that her house in the Miami area has stood up to the hurricane seasons which have passed since I last had any contact with her.

- - - - - -

My then girlfriend had a common body for a 57 year old woman. (I wish I had that body. I'd have to lose a lot of weight and go on hormones to start the process, and then it would require some surgery.  But I digress.)  This former girlfriend is 76 now, and no longer looks like the middle aged woman in the picture above, nor that in the picture below:

If she were not wearing sunglasses in this picture and that I doubt that anyone connected with her reads this blog, I would not be posting this picture of her to give you an idea of what she looked like.

But why do I mention her?

After I went to my Arts Westchester meeting today, I walked back to the parking lot where I stashed my car. On the way there, I met a woman who could have been my ex-girlfriend's spitting image. And to make it more interesting, we were chatting as only two women would do - unguarded, relaxed, and spontaneous with a total stranger.

We talked of Arts Westchester, her former profession of teaching, being pushed into early retirement, and then she mentioned that she and her husband will be doing an interesting snowbird routine.  During the winter, they will be staying with her son in Dubai, and returning to New York for the Summer.  (Her son has a great teaching job in Dubai, and has a standard of living much higher than that if he were a public school teacher in the states.)  We exchanged phone numbers, and hopefully, we'll be able to get together when she's next in New York.

- - - - - -

Once done with my new acquaintance, I made my way up to Poughkeepsie to kill time before tonight's meetup. I couldn't find the book I was looking for, so I picked up a couple of magazines and read them for an hour. Then, I went next door to Ulta and bought another container of Dermablend makeup, as the one I'm using is close to running out.

At this point, it was time to drive to Beacon. I was lucky to get a parking spot one car length from being in front of the restaurant. And I met one of the meetup regulars as she was arriving.  Of a 20+ person meetup, we were persons #11 and #12.  While there I met another person who was in the old Whine and Dine meetup. And she bailed out of the group when it switched to a "Whatsapp" group, as she was getting way too many "dings" when someone had something to say.

I had a great time, and would love to go to this restaurant again with the same group of people.  However, I'd have liked to get to know the new people at the other end of the table. One thing I'm finding - people are reacting to me as if I were a large cisgender female.  Could I be wrong about this?  Maybe.  But as Lili had noted, the fellow who treated us to dessert last week wouldn't have paid for the two of us unless he thought us to both be cisgender females.