I attended a transfer student orientation yesterday and had no idea what to expect. Registration for the orientation took place in a banquet hall where staff handed out packets and name tags. I was nervous about what name would be on the name tag - Dexter or my previous name. The last I had spoke with the college was earlier in July after I had just barely had my name legally changed.
When I walked up to the registration table and told them my last name, I also disclaimed that it should be Dexter, but could be Mel. And there it was - my name tag saying Dexter. Boo-ya!
On a side note, I discovered recently that there's a band called The Dexter Thomas Band, formed in 1995. Totally beat me to the punch.
Anyway, I sat at a table with a few other students. We introduced ourselves and small talk ensued. I primarily interacted with a couple of girls at the table, one of whom had also transferred from the local community college and is a McNair Scholar.
Eventually a guy across the table asked everyone for our ages. As an older student who appears to be much younger (primarily due to the effects of hormone therapy), I instantly felt anxious. Revealing my age prior to hormone therapy never made me nervous. But whenever I've told people since, they're very surprised and comment that I appear younger than I am. When I'm among comfortable company, I elaborate by explaining that I appear younger because I just started puberty #2 about a year and 1/2 ago.
In this scenario - at this table of stranger student peers in a small talk situation - I didn't want to explain anything. But I also didn't want to answer with my actual age and to have it turn into shock and asking questions. Partly out of fear and partly out of curiosity, I let them guess my age. One guessed "22.". Someone else guessed "26." And everyone else was within that age. Reluctant to reveal my true age, I blurted out, "25." A lie.
Shock. Instantly. From the entire table.
"Seriously?", someone asked. Had I lied too old? Too young? And then someone else: "You don't look a day over 20." Seriously? The other students at the table all nodded in agreement.
And then a guy at the table jokingly commented, "Jimmy, you want candy?" Which resulted in all of the girls at the table laughing and someone commenting, "Oooo, burn!"
20? Seriously? From now on, I'm doing my best to avoid mentioning my age. I'd rather avoid it unless I'm friends with someone. It's difficult to describe how uncomfortable it is dealing with an onslaught of questions immediately after the number comes out of my mouth that I don't like answering in all situations. And I don't like lying, either.
On a purely social level yesterday's experience was entirely unprecedented in my life and foreign to me. When I was a student at the local community college, I was very clearly visibly gender non-conforming. This is a salient part of my identity. And I've navigated a social reality where just doing something as simple as walking in to a public restroom results in screaming or calling security. And cisgender men rarely knew how to interact with me. So they didn't.
This time around, apparently I'm perceived as a 20-year-old cisgender guy who should put a propeller on his little hat. It's seriously like I'm living the same thing all over again with all new peers and professors in a completely different body and a whole new social experience.
It's like I've fallen into this entirely captivating and unintentional social experiment.
Back to this orientation - after the banquet hall we were all relocated to the computer lab. The first thing I noticed about many of the other tables: girls were all lumping with girls and guys were all lumping with guys. With my table, I had assumed that I'd head over to the computer lab with either of the two girls I'd been interacting with. Instead, when we all stood up to leave the banquet hall, all of the girls immediately clumped together and walked ahead. So the other two guys at the table walked with me.
... even though we hadn't really interacted. And it wasn't a bad thing per se, just bizarre to me and hasn't happened before - where two cisgender guys instantly socially clump with me.
One of the guys told me that my messenger bag is "awesome". I thanked him, but pointed out that it has one design flaw: a massive red button on the seatbelt buckle strap. At least if you're me, surrounded by friends who love to push the button when I have a lot of stuff in my bag, causing it to just instantly detach from my shoulder and fall to the ground.
They both chuckled, and admitted that they had an urge to push the button. I replied that it would be an interesting study to figure out why we're all so irresistibly compelled to push red buttons.
But, now with no girls present, one of them had a different theory, "No way, man. I bet it's a dude thing. It's our testosterone, makes us do stupid shit. Like how we drive cars and insurance rates are sky high. Cuz we do stupid shit, get road rage.", and the other guy nodded in agreement. Which encouraged him to elaborate: "Chicks, though... I think they get into accidents for different reasons. Like being distracted by looking in the mirror to do their makeup, or just zoning out and rolling through red lights."
The other guy laughed and agreed.
In my "past life" of being visibly gender non-conforming there's absolutely no way that two male strangers would have clumped with me and relayed this theory about girls. Now, I'm seeing that the second these guys in this land binary stereotypes galore are in dude-company, the all-mysterious "girls" are the instant bonding topic of conversation. It's SO interesting.
And it got better. He went on by relaying a story about how, "the other day I saw this blonde bimbo drivin' a car, and a brunette bimbo driving next to her. They were merging into the same lane, but brunette swerved right in time. I don't thing blonde even noticed."
Bimbo? Seriously? Did he really just use that word? Also a first in my company.
Once we got to the computer lab, they both sat near me. As we all logged in to our school e-mail and web stuff, the name "Melanie Thomas" popped up, and also, Welcome, Melanie! This is the name that my professors can see when e-mailing me, or the name anyone would see if I were to e-mail my professors or other students from my college account.
I felt anxious about these two guys seeing this name all over my screen.
No one noticed. Once computer lab was over with, I broke off from the orientation party and immediately piloted to the Registrars office to inquire about why my name hasn't been changed yet and to stress the urgency of it, especially before classes start next Wednesday.
They told me they would have it resolved ASAP, and even got my number to give me a call the second everything had been updated.
I just checked earlier today and nothing has been updated yet. I sent an e-mail and will check again tomorrow. Please.change.soon!
Once I was able to login to my computer account and figure out what books are required for my classes, I am reminded just how insanely expensive books are.
I have to get four books, all at about $100-$150 a pop. I was able to rent one of the four so far for less than it would be to own, but now I'm broke until either next Tuesday - the day before classes - or until I receive my additional McNair funding. Which I'll hopefully get by the end of this week to buy my remaining books with. Especially before those lowly Freshman have their orientation Saturday and run off with all of the used/rental books, leaving me with only shiny expensive new ones. Cha-ching!
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