I have an admission to make: I keep wondering if I will ever have love again. You know, the romantic kind of love — the stuff that pops your eyes open in the morning and keeps you from falling asleep at day’s end. The excitement, the yearning, the hoping, the comforting, the giggling.
I so want that again.
When I presented as a man, I had that kind of love. Lydia was my high school romance-turned-soulmate and purported life partner. Years into our marriage, we had people come to us, jealous of what we had. “I wish my wife and I could laugh like you and Lydia,” one friend confessed on a Saturday evening over drinks. It happened to be their 25th wedding celebration.
Lydia and I, human yin and yang, were together for 32 years before it fell apart because of my gender transition. And too, by then, I had to explore a deep attraction to men.
I am now almost midway through 64 years, truly living a second, distinct life as me, a woman. On the one hand, it is the most enlivening thing that I could ever envision — finally I get to be a whole, complete person with no more compartmentalizing. What is more, I was lucky enough to have the resources and grit to fix my body so that now, it is all female. (Or at least, that is what the few momentary sex partners have said; I think I will take those reports and run with them…)
But here I am, alone, without a man to love me, Ellie Krug.
I know that I’m not solitary in that longing — there are many women (and men, too) who share my feelings of desiring human touch and connecting hearts.
For me, it is about wanting to be loved as the true, real me — a woman with a way-too-deep-voice, who is an idealist trying to change the world for the better with what time she has left. On the one hand, I don’t think that is too much to ask.
On the other hand, I know it is an incredibly daunting ask. There is the history of me presenting as a dude for five decades, complicated by my still-masculine voice. Then there is the issue of me as a successful lawyer who became a national speaker/trainer. Throw in that I am a writer and radio host, and well, many men are intimidated.
It is not that I haven’t tried to put myself out there. I gave Match.com a couple years, but eventually I realized that the dating site does not attract many risk-takers. I went to another dating app, Kik, but found that site had the opposite problem — men who were extreme risk-takers, as in “Hey baby, can I come over to your place now? Would you like a pic of what I have to offer you?”
Ugh. Call me old fashioned, but I would like a little romance before starting around the infield bases.
My latest attempt has been Tinder. My then-23-year-old niece put it on my phone. “Here you go, Ellen,” she said, handing my phone back to me. “I know you will find Mr. Right now.”
Oh, for hopeful wishes from young humans.
I have had many Tinder “likes” and dozens of online conversations with potential suitors. I have met a few men in public. While I sometimes had an interest, they did not. One standout was a businessman in town for a conference who invited me to a comedy show. The plan involved a pre-show dinner at the restaurant across the street from his hotel. From there, we would go to the comedy show, and who knew what would transpire afterward? My hopes had been raised.
As we finished dinner and awaited the bill, he announced, “Ellie, I forgot the comedy show tickets in my hotel room, so we will need to stop back there and then head to the club.”
I thought, No problem. I have a crappy memory too.
I waited in a funky red chair in the lobby as the man hit the elevator “Up” button.
I pulled out my phone and checked emails and social media as I waited. After ten minutes, it occurred to me that my date had not reappeared.
Maybe he needed to use the toilet, I generously thought.
Another couple minutes went by without a reappearance of Mr. Wonderful.
No, he wouldn’t do that, Ellie. No one would be that mean.
I checked my Tinder messages. There it was, a missive from my date: “Ellie, I know this makes me look really bad, but I can’t see myself ever making love to you with your voice. I am sorry.”
My immediate thought: Whoever said a word about having sex with you, dude?
That was followed by my second, less nuanced thought: F—k You!
I proceeded to pound out that very message in a text. With my blood pressure spiking 50 points, I punched Send.
As my heart free-fell into a black hole, I dragged myself off the funky red chair and walked out of the hotel. It was a bitter cold January night. I feared that tears would freeze against my cheeks, but the worry was misplaced.
The hot mess of my life as “Other,” smashing into a desperate yearning to simply be again one of “Us,” evaporated any wetness.
My fear is that it will always be this way until the end.