75 Study and Inquiry

“Let’s sit down,” Dad said, closing the study door after us. There were two high-backed chairs opposite a love seat. Mom sat on the love seat, so I took one of the chairs. Dad sat next to Mom, and the two of them looked at me, expectantly. “I understand you’re a bit upset, Marsh,” he said.

I nodded. This was going to be pretty easy. “I’m really sorry for worrying you, Mom,” I told her. “I… I guess had been just thinking too much about school and not paying attention to dinner, and I… just lost it. I’m fine, now. Really. I’m OK, Daddy; sorry to take you away from your game.”

“Just as simple as that, Marsh?” Mom asked. She didn’t look convinced.

“Yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I wasn’t thinking. But I’m fine.”

“So is this the truth we won’t believe, or the lie that we will?” Dad asked, smiling. “I think I want to hear more about this experiment you mentioned to your mother.”

When did he hear about that? Mom must have told him while I was talking to Tina, probably during a commercial. “Oh, that was nothing,” I said, as calmly as I could. “I… I just had this stupid dream, and–”

Dad cut me off. “Marsha, I want to hear it. If it bothered you enough that you were freaking out, I want to know what it was. Why exactly would somebody make an experiment that changed how you look?”

He wasn’t buying it. I’d said too much, panicked too much. I had seriously messed up, this time. This could be very, very bad. “Daddy, please…” I whimpered.

“Yes?”

“Please… please don’t pull me out of school. I… I can really handle it. I’m doing well in my classes, and… and I have some great friends who are always there for me, and…”

“Marsha, your mother and I are worried about you.”

“I know, but–”

“Your mother’s worried that you might hurt yourself, somehow.”

“I won’t!” I wailed. “Please…”

“You’ve always made good choices, Princess, so as long as you can convince us that you’re not going to do anything stupid, I don’t see any reason to keep you out of school.”

“I’m not… I–”

“But I want to hear this ‘true story.’ I want to hear about this ‘experiment’ that changed you.”

My mouth went dry. Dad seemed really relaxed, but he wasn’t giving up. I’d already blabbed so much, I just didn’t feel comfortable lying, any more. I’d just have to trust my parents. Dad had said that they weren’t going to pull me out. I just had to sound calm and collected. Yeah, right.

I took a deep breath and let it out. Then, watching Mom and Dad closely, I explained, “It was some kind of time travel experiment, Daddy. I think they said they wanted to see how things might be different. We thought it meant that we would get to see things and report, you know, as explorers, or something. But…” I hesitated again. How were they going to react to this? “Before the experiment… I was a boy.”

Mom looked at Dad. Dad didn’t move, although his eyes flickered. I was surprised. That revelation had been really hard for me. Why were they taking it so casually? Dad just said, “Go on…” as though I were telling an interesting story, instead of confessing to hiding a terrible secret.

“Well… I was tall,” I added, indicating my old height by holding one hand above my head. “I was taller than you, Daddy. And… I dated a lot. I had girlfriends all the time. And then I woke up like this… and everything was wrong, and I had to keep pretending that it was OK.” I was in agony. Admitting this should have been a relief, but now what was going to happen to me?

Dad put out his arms and I ran to him and sobbed on his shoulder, his arms wrapped comfortingly around me. He stroked the back of my head and said, “It’s OK, Honey. It’s OK.”

“The question, Mir,” he said to Mom, speaking over the top of my head, “is what would make our beautiful daughter want to believe that she was a boy?”

What? I almost popped my head up at that.

“You think it’s wishful thinking… or escapism, or something like that?” Mom asked.

“As opposed to what? That somebody invented a time machine to change the way people look?”

“No, of course, not.” Mom looked at me with concern. “Marsh, honey, did a boy… do something to you?”

“Or make an inappropriate suggestion?” Dad added.

“No,” I answered, a bit thrown by the way they were taking this. “Nobody… oh, wait. But that doesn’t have anything–”

“What doesn’t?” Dad interrupted. And now there was an edge to his voice.

“I mean… we worked things out…”

“What. Happened?” Dad insisted.

“The… the guy who’s playing my ‘husband’ in the show. We met at the Grill, you know, to get to know each other, and… and he asked me to sleep with him.”

“What?!”

“Daddy, it’s OK,” I protested hurriedly, looking up at him. “We worked things out. He apologized, said it was a really stupid thing to do, and now we’re friends. So it’s fine.”

“But how did you feel when he asked, Marsh?” Mom prodded.

“Horrible… vulnerable, afraid. I mean, I panicked, and I know I overreacted, but my roommate said that I was right to. That I shouldn’t have anything to do with a guy who would do such a thing.”

“I should think not,” Mom agreed.

“But it was all a mistake. He was just really clumsy, and he never did anything like that again, and I think he’s dating one of the girls in the cast now. We’re cool. We’re friends. I trust him.”

“You’re sure.”

“Yes. I don’t have anything to worry about there.”

“OK,” Dad chimed in. “And I wonder how this relates to the conversation we had over your midterm break, Princess.”

“What conversation, Art?”

“When I took Marsha to the train, she asked me if I was sorry not to have a son.”

“Oh, Marsh,” Mom said sympathetically, “How could you even imagine that about your father?”

“Princess, your aunt and uncle have a boy and a girl, and I’m sure they are very happy with them, but I wouldn’t trade. There’s something very special to a father about having a daughter – and I have two! How lucky can a guy get?”

“And don’t worry about not dating anybody right now, Marsh,” Mom said. “You just have high standards. I admire that. Too many girls seem to think that they aren’t worth anything if they don’t have a boyfriend. I’m very proud of you, that you don’t need one to feel good about yourself.”

I was in shock. Mom and Dad had jumped to what was probably a more sensible conclusion, howbeit wrong, than the truth. They thought I was horribly insecure, and were love-bombing me to make me feel better. But I didn’t laugh; it just felt too good. Dad still had an arm around me, and it was very nice, feeling protected and cared for. So what if they didn’t believe me? I had told them the truth, hadn’t I? Even though I had been afraid to? The important thing is, they were there for me; they were absolutely on my side, and not looking at me as though I was some kind of freak – or a stranger in my own family.

“Now, honey,” Mom said, standing up. Obviously, what she had decided had reassured her. “You do seem to be feeling better, but I want to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. I’m fine with you going back to school, but I want you to call me at least every other day.”

“Every other day?” I repeated, doubtfully. What in the world were we supposed to talk about? But I stood up as well.

“Yes. I don’t mean for a long conversation each time; I know you’re busy with school. But I do want to make sure that if you are ever upset about something, that you feel comfortable telling me. You never called about this boy in the Grill, for example. If I had known about him… well, I think I could have helped you, or at least made you feel better.”

“This is really important, Marsh,” Dad put in. “College can be very stressful, and sometimes talking to your mother can be just what you need.”

I grinned. I knew he didn’t mean talking to him.

“Art, wait,” Mom said. “What about this imaginary cousin?”

“Oh, that’s right. Marsh, can you explain?”

“Do you think she even knows? Consciously?”

Now I was looking back and forth between my parents. They had rationalized away my sex change; what would they do with my panic over Tyler?

“Well, it does sound as though she’s feeling guilty about something. What haven’t you told us, Princess? What do you think you might have done?”

Oh boy. I just stared blankly. I had no idea at all what to say.

“You know,” Dad said cautiously. “On second thought, maybe we should see what happens over the next few days. If there’s no recurrence of… tonight’s episode, I feel comfortable with you returning to school, Marsh, as long as you talk to your mother regularly. But, I think we should wait to make a final decision until Sunday. Just for your own safety. OK, Princess?”

I nodded, slowly. I was pretty sure I could keep from freaking out again this weekend. Tina might have to help me try to anticipate any more surprises, though.

“OK, honey,” Mom said, kissing me on the cheek. “Remember that we love you and we just want the best for you. OK?”

“And I love you too, Mom,” I replied, kissing her back. Then I stood on my toes to kiss my father on the cheek as well. “And you, Daddy.” And since they seemed to be done with me, and before they could change their minds, I left the room quickly, and returned to the kitchen.

29 Comments

  1. scotts13 says:

    >> “Nobody… oh, wait. But that doesn’t have anything–”

    Marsh is, beyond question, the clumsiest liar on the entire planet. I recommend the Dale Carnegie Sales Advantage course; did wonders for my skills.

    I am disappointed in her parents, and I am even more disappointed by the (apparent) anticlimax in the story. Still, this outcome is quite believable; and likely the best Marsh could hope for under the circumstances. Must grate on some level, though, to have her revelation dismissed as the delusions of a “silly girl.”

    On a plot level, any OTHER outcome to this scene would take the story in a much different, and likely darker, direction.

  2. von says:

    >>On a plot level, any OTHER outcome to this scene would take the story in a much different, and likely darker, direction.

    Ha! (I dramatically disagree, obviously. But this is a known disagreement.)

    >>I am disappointed in her parents, and I am even more disappointed by the (apparent) anticlimax in the story.

    Agreed. I liked his dad until this line:

    >>“Or make an inappropriate suggestion?” Dad added.

    Where he loses his focus. There are days of details to work through. And they both forget that he told Tina. I liked this chapter, indeed I felt it was one of the best in the book, until this line. After that, as Scott says, the anticlimax is palpable. It is another tension-buster for me.

    >>“So is this the truth we won’t believe, or the lie that we will?” Dad asked, smiling. “I think I want to hear more about this experiment you mentioned to your mother.”

    This is one of my favorite lines in the entire book. I want to hear more from this character. Too bad he only sticks around for a few more lines 🙂

    Edit:
    I take that back. It may well be that Dad wasn’t told about Tina, and that he might take appropriate action once he finds out.

  3. Russ says:

    I liked his dad until this line:

    >>“Or make an inappropriate suggestion?” Dad added.

    Where he loses his focus. There are days of details to work through. And they both forget that he told Tina. I liked this chapter, indeed I felt it was one of the best in the book, until this line. After that, as Scott says, the anticlimax is palpable. It is another tension-buster for me.

    Perhaps you could explain what you mean? How is this a loss of focus? What issue do you see with Tina knowing?

    Yes, the conflict is largely resolved quickly — Marsh not going back to school was not going to be a resolution.

  4. von says:

    Reply via PM, Russ may post it here if he wishes, but I dint’ want Erin mad at me unneccesarily. She is half-Elven, and that sounds dangerous to get even a half an Elf mad at you 🙂

  5. scotts13 says:

    >> I take that back. It may well be that Dad wasn’t told about Tina, and that he might take appropriate action once he finds out.

    Remember, I’m discussing the characters as though they were real: “Appropriate action” including pulling his daughter out of school. At this point, Dad has a stressed, delusional daughter who may or may not be stable enough to continue in school. Tina has no evidence to the contrary; all she can really confirm is that the delusions are persistent and detailed. Marsh might even be a danger to her sister, drawing her into “his” fantasy.

    As always, Marsh might have saved this by having a spine, and not backing down when challenged. CERTAINLY not by whimpering, pleading, hugging and kissing her father. But (since Russ is writing an increasingly girlified Marsh) he instead plays the stressed and delusional daughter to a “T”. Short version: Marsh is screwed.

    Oh, and Russ? “howbeit.” I thought I had the exclusive franchise on archaisms. Kudos!

  6. scotts13 says:

    >> Perhaps you could explain what you mean? How is this a loss of focus?

    C’mon, Russ – the line I quoted in the first comment derails the entire conversation. From that point on, both parents are zeroed in on protecting their daughter from the nasty boy than actually listening to what she’s saying. Complete loss of focus on the “real” topic.

  7. von says:

    Ooops, forgot to reply about Tina.

    Dad didn’t mention Tina knowing. Does he know that she knows?

    Tina knows about the article, and the others at college having changed. She knows it was on the news. It is not a *stress* issue, and that will be obvious the second Dad (assuming he has the IQ of an eggplant) finds out that others are involved. Tina knows that Chad knows.

    Tina knows. But does Dad know that Tina knows? What will he do if/when he finds out?

    These and other questions haunt my little mind.

  8. von says:

    >>Tina has no evidence to the contrary;

    She read the article!

  9. von says:

    >>the delusions are persistent and detailed

    … and widespread.

    C’mon Scott (:) ) wouldn’t it make a difference to you as a parent to know that there were several other students with the same delusion?

  10. von says:

    Oh, never mind, I will post it here. Scott has already been negative enough to attract Erin’s Eire.

    >>Marsh not going back to school was not going to be a resolution.

    This was not the issue, or the conflict for me.

    >>Perhaps you could explain what you mean? How is this a loss of focus?

    Sure. Start with the line I like:

    >>>>“So is this the truth we won’t believe, or the lie that we will?” Dad asked, smiling. “I think I want to hear more about this experiment you mentioned to your mother.”

    OK, this is the Dad I want to see. He is asking a good question. He
    wants to know ‘what happened.’ I can see this line leading to a good
    two hours of conversation. ‘When did you first find out?” ‘Who did you
    tell?” ‘How did they handle it?’ ‘Who knows what you have told us?’
    “You mean there are others that changed too?’

    Even if I thought one of my kids had gone suddenly delusional, I would
    at the very least want to find out when it all started, and what they
    had been doing about it. Take the red-herring about Jared. Obvious
    question: “Did this happen before or after you ‘changed’?”

    To my mind (sorry Scott) this has gone from a quasi-negative tension to a very negative tension. I hope, obviously, for him to get his parents on his side. That is not happening, I understand, as the modern disney version of parenting is in control. OK. I dont’ like it but I get it.

    But I would have liked at least for Marsh to shift from ‘I want to fool them’ to “What do you mean you don’t believe me!! I will prove it!! Tina!! Tina get in here and tell these Disney moron parents of mind what really happened. Where’s my cell phone, I am calling Vicki”

    This would have been a positive fun tension. I hate the whole
    ‘therapist’ thing. I hate the whole ‘oh, you are undergoing a lot of stress right now.” Yuck, gross.

    The focus I refer to is Dad’s focus on ‘what happened’. I would have hoped he would be a big boy and want to figure things out, ‘solve’ the problem. He goes into ‘mom’ mode and grosses me out.

    I wouldn’t have minded if he had gone into ‘dad’ mode and gotten angry… ‘who is this awful person that has done this to my daughter… making her think she was a boy?!?!??! I will beat him up.”

    But to end up where we were, but worse. Now Marsh has to actively lie to his parents, and pretend he doesn’t belive what he does beleive.

    Oh, how you people must hate parents.

    Russ: Delete and add comments together as needed.

  11. Hoopla says:

    I really enjoyed this chapter, even after the third re-read of it 🙂

    I can see were Scott is having a derailment issue, but I see it as Art trying to rationalize the situation. What would make his Daughter doubt her gender identity?

    Marsh needs to warn Tina and have them dicuss a cover for Tina knowing about the experiment and the almost conclusive proof that Marsh was a boy – mostly behaviourial proof that physical proof.

    Russ, I feel spoilt having 2 updates on 2 days, I hope it isn’t going to be 10+ days for the next part 🙂

  12. von says:

    >>and he asked me to sleep with him.”

    >>“What?!”

    … At a college in the United States a boy asked a girl to sleep with him? I am shocked and appalled. I can’t believe that anything so horrible would ever happen. A boy ask a girl to sleep with him. This has got to be the first time that has ever happened in the whole history of the human race.

    Sarcasm button now in the ‘off’ position.

    To get the response you want here, more details were needed. The event itslef was not actually shocking; at least I wouldn’t be shocked if it happened to my daughter. But to even come close I would think that the (supposed) inappropriateness of the method of asking would need to be discussed. I’m not sure what that is, but it should be discussed.

    In the alternate universe, their son sleeps around. Presumably with girls. Who he presumable asks to sleep with him. (or would they prefer rape? That is what it is called when you sleep with a girl without asking, no?)

    (disclaimer: the above paragraph was not written my some liberal. I do not believe in sex before marriage at all. However I would not be ‘shocked’, nor would my daughter be devestated if some boy asked her to sleep with him. She would (I hope) merely tell him that that was not a possibility and that she would prefer that he cease speaking to her until such time as he had been to see me, confessed, and been shot. Or approved, as the case may be.)

  13. von says:

    >>What would make his Daughter doubt her gender identity?

    Yo, hold on. This is not a TG issue. This not some guy coming to his mother and wanting to wear a dress. This is a ‘I was a boy, participated in a time travel experiment, and woke up a girl.’ Not your standard TG. Not ‘doubt her gender identity’.

  14. Hoopla says:

    We know that Von, but Art & Mir don’t, so that seems (to me) to be their take on the situation. I can see we’re going to disagree on this, but hey that makes life interesting.

    I agree with your comment on girls getting propositioned at college, but they do strike me as a conservative/traditional/old type of family that has stuck to family traditions/beliefs for a long time. Not having a daughter or sister so I wouldn’t know for sure, but I’d expect Marsh & Tina to have had a conversation with Mir about how to deal with an unwanted advance.

  15. scotts13 says:

    >> C’mon Scott – wouldn’t it make a difference to you as a parent to know that there were several other students with the same delusion?

    Well, they don’t know that yet. Beyond the use of the word “we” Marsh almost meticulously avoids any corroboration; including any from Tina, who (until she comes up with the printed article), ostensibly has only Marsh’s word for it. Now, it’s POSSIBLE at some point Marsh will have the conversation she SHOULD have had in this chapter; but as we leave the scene, she seems to have decided to “play nice” and keep her mouth shut. We shall see.

    NB: We’re all discussing the motivations of the characters, rather than the author’s motivation in writing what he did. Good one, Russ.

  16. von says:

    >>Beyond the use of the word “we”

    Good Catch, Scott. I missed that.

    ::We thought it meant that we would get to see things and report, you know, as explorers, or something.

    Makes Marsh’s dad even a little less intelligent than I thought, that he didn’t catch it. Of course, maybe he was so freaked out.

    Which brings me to another comment. I realize that Football is an American god but…

    “Honey, our daughter thinks she is a boy…”

    “Whatever, let’s discuss it after the game, OK?…”

  17. von says:

    Oh, and I love this line… ish

    >>This was going to be pretty easy.

  18. Russ says:

    Von says:

    I realize that Football is an American god but…

    “Honey, our daughter thinks she is a boy…”

    “Whatever, let’s discuss it after the game, OK?…”

    Miriam didn’t know that at the time. All she knew was that Marsh had freaked out about some experiment and believed in a non-existent cousin.

    Besides, this wasn’t just Football – it was Football on Thanksgiving. 🙂

  19. scotts13 says:

    >> Besides, this wasn’t just Football – it was Football on Thanksgiving.

    It’s better on a full stomach?

  20. von says:

    >>Besides, this wasn’t just Football – it was Football on Thanksgiving

    OIC. Not just our god, but our god on one of his high holy days.

    You are right that she knew less than I indicated. But I bet that you would not watch football if your wife told you that one of your kids was having even the kind of problem she knew about.

    Feel free to consolidate my comments as appropriate.

  21. Russ says:

    My wife is always more in a hurry to resolve things than I am – typically, if I have something that can just as easily be dealt with in an hour and I have something that I can only do right then, I’ll wait. In this case, there was no reason to suspect that Marsh’s problem was going to be any worse if left to the end of the game.

  22. von says:

    Wow. So if your wife came and told you that your kid was delusional and had imagined a cousin that they now thought was dead… you would finish watching the game? Wow. OK.

  23. Russ says:

    If it wasn’t a crisis, yeah. If the problem has been going on for weeks, why does one more hour matter?

  24. Hoopla says:

    The more I read this chapter the more I am amazed at how easily Marsh slips into the girl ‘persona’. I bet Russ has a nice big fat juicy shock for Marsh coming up soon – I hope so anyway 🙂

  25. von says:

    One thing I don’t know if I stressed enough is how much I liked the Tyler issue being raised. I am hoping that it will prove to be a real stress and a plot element.

  26. Von says:

    Was hoping that we would see something new today.

  27. Onessor says:

    I was expecting Marsh to bring up the line his father said as he came back from walking out on them, something like “In my memory, when you came back you said that a father should be there to raise his son.”

  28. Psyche says:

    This is an awful lot like a conversation I had with my parents a little over a year ago… Then again, most of Marshall’s experiences are strikingly similar to what many trans people go through, though, admittedly, much less mundane than said problems.

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