Anyone who has ever worn a corset, or even a pair of tight bodyshapers, knows the feeling when you pull them off. Your skin tingles from the air, and all of a sudden you can breathe deeply again.
When we are all tight laced, our breathing is constrained, shallow. Not only can’t we fill our lungs deeply, we can’t clear our lungs fully, can’t exhale deeply all we have taken in.
We corset ourselves for many reasons, but they usually revolve around a role we have to play. Maybe it’s glam chick for the night, maybe it’s just the custom of the day, maybe it’s to straighten our spine and give us support, but whatever the reason, we decide the discomfort is worth the result.
TBB celebrated her last child’s college graduation this spring with a big family gathering in the New York City area that included a trip to the revival of Pippin, her favourite show and a Naval commissioning ceremony.
If you have ever seen the film Trinidad, you have seen TBB and her kids. And you saw some of the flak she took for allowing her kids to continue seeing her as their father, even after transition.
TBB knew, though, that whatever she needed to be in the world, she was the father of two kids who needed a father. And through plenty of drama, family members turning against her and trying separate her from her family unless she followed their expectations, TBB fought to reconnect with her kids, to be there for them.
“I loved that time we spent together in Colorado,” she tells me. “We were really there for each other.”
Now, though, the kids have gone onto their own lives, and like lots of women her age, she is feeling the effects of the empty nest. She put her life into those kids, and now they need to separate from her, with no guarantee that they will ever return.
That corset of fatherhood is loosened now, and TBB is feeling quite naked without it.
Now, she is breathing deeply once again, and more than that exhaling deeply. All the emotions that she kept inside are coming up in her breath, as the reason for staying constrained is now removed.
That’s a tough time for her. Will she ever have that kind of focus, force and connection again? Or is she just a dried up tranny, who used all the energy she had to make sure her kids got the best start she could offer, and now has nothing left? With her babies gone from the next, who will ever be there to make her not feel lonely again?
TBB is a loose woman now, the structure she maintained no longer being useful. Things are coming up for her now, all the knocks she took, all the fights she lost, all the indignities that were foisted on her that just had to be tucked down into her Spanx so she could keep on with her role as father.
Of course, TBB isn’t the first woman to feel this emptiness. The arc of a woman’s life is usually a series of chapters; her mother’s daughter, her friend’s pal, her teacher’s student, her husband’s wife, her childrens mother. At some point, when that service to others is over, she has to let go and figure out who she is to herself, what her possibilities are.
So TBB is feeling that restraint she has worn for so long being ripped from her body, feeling flabby, old and alone, all her breath lost, with a pool of residual pain.
Will she ever breathe deeply again? Will she ever be back in shape, back feeling the kind of love she gave to her children?
I firmly believe that she will.
But this weekend, TBB isn’t so sure.