One of the things I was really looking forward to during my Boston trip was to get to meet my Second Life friend Violet Eggplant in the flesh. Most of my friends know what it’s like to know someone really well from a discussion board or IM or email, then to meet them in real life for the first time. About half of our time together was surreal for a variety of reasons; however, the other half of the time was plain old normal — both halves combined like yin and yang to make a very fulfilling visit.

Violet came up to the Peabody Marriott after work on Friday and called me from the lobby. I came around the corner looking for her, and there was a non-transsexual standing there, expectant, and while she did not look like Violet Eggplant’s avatar from Second Life, I knew at once it was her. We talked sort of nervously and cordially: how was the drive up? having a good time? And then we decided to sit at the bar and talk for a bit while we decided what to do for the evening. At this point, I’m sure Violet was looking at me (who also doesn’t look like Joyce Bohemia’s avatar in Second Life), and looking at the company I was keeping (transvestites and transsexuals) and must have been thinking “how can I get a quick beer and then beat a quick retreat back to the normal world?”

The initial awkwardness notwithstanding, we soon loosened up and began trying to figure out what to do for the evening. The conference was having some sort of ball, and we nixed that option immediately. The concierge helped break the impasse, steering us the right direction to a seafood place called Finz in Salem. I wore black jeans, cowboy boots, and a red sweater with matching red scarf. I still had on the makeup from that morning, along with the short wig, and off we went to a fine seafood dinner of clam chowder, sushi-style tuna crusted in sesame seeds, and a haddock, along with white wine. After an initial concern that people would go running from the restaurant and screaming at the mere sight of me, I relaxed and had a great time, talking with Violet about teaching art to teenagers (which is, conveniently, what she does for a living), about the nature of identity, and about gender expression and fluidity, among other things. Most of the dinner, I was happily oblivious to being trans, but was enjoying just being.

Next day, Violet and I again took the advice of the concierge at the hotel, this time to the Peabody Essex, a museum in Salem. I wore a green skirt, gold top, velvet jacket, and high-heeled boots. We drove to pretty much the same spot as the night before, and walked to the museum, getting the general tickets as well as a special ticket to the Yin Yu Tang, an ancient Chinese house that had been moved from china to Salem in 2002. I initially felt it sounded kind of corny, but it was a lot cooler than it sounded — great wood work and good exhibits outside the house about moving it and about the culture of building. This exhibit was surprisingly moving, but it might have been the hormones, a theory I came up with after bursting into tears watching the DVD when the builder bangs a board, waves around incense, and asks the dead parents’ permission to change the house in order to help it survive. Violet thought I was nuts, and maybe I am.

We saw a kick-ass exhibit on origami, and one on Kodak Brownie pictures that were double exposed, thus looking like ghosts were in the pictures. As we rushed around the museum to beat the Saturday closing time of 6:00, I realized I was in stupendous pain and sat down multiple times to rest my feet, muttering under my breath that that’s the last time I go anywhere in heels…. at least uncomfortable ones. Normally, my boobs hurt all the time, so I had at least worn a bra, but evidently I wasn’t thinking nearly as clearly about the more important feet. So I kind of petered out and looked at artwork from any room that had a cushioned observation seat.

The museum visit was another terrific outing where I was anything but trans — I was just a museum-goer with a friend, talking about things like the workmanship in the Chinese house, the titles of the various pictures (which were odder than the pictures themselves), the layout of the museum, the lavish party they were setting up for after closing time, among others. I forgot entirely about my feelings of being an outcast.

As we left, we asked the museum people about restaurants nearby (and I was pretty insistent on the “nearby” part because of the pain in my feet) and it turned out there was a great place just a couple of blocks away called the Lyceum. Since they wouldn’t let me have one of the museum wheelchairs, I steeled myself and walked with Violet over the ice and snow a couple of blocks to the restaurant, where we had yet another great meal. Violet had meatloaf (comfort food) and I had risotto with shrimp (former better than the latter), salads and a white wine. And again, it was an outing characterized by normalcy and conversation that involved a lot less about gender than the night before. Had a ginger ice cream and bread pudding for dessert that was quite tasty.

I hated to get back on my feet, but since I didn’t figure they would let me sleep in the restaurant and that I probably wouldn’t be able to convince the group of burly guys waiting for their table to carry me, Indian-maiden style to Violet’s car, I got to my feet and, leaning on Violet’s steady arm, made it back to her car without injury, thus ending our Saturday outing to Salem.

Going back to the hotel to do some Trans-spotting, which is covered in another blog entry, I noted to Violet that I had managed to actually forget about gender at all during several long blocks of time, when I wasn’t George trying to be Joyce, but when I was just Joyce looking at a Chinese house, or Joyce talking with my friend Violet over wine and dinner about how to teach art to middle school students. Very mundane, yes, but sometimes, when you’ve been buried under an unrelenting avalanche of gender identity issues, the mundane–the normal–is the most wonderful state of mind there can be.