There I was, cooking meat and salmon on the grill, just as I always do for our faculty poker parties, when all of a sudden, as I sat at the table sampling my food, here came a box of presents and everyone was singing “Happy Birthday to you.” Surprise party, right? Yes, but with a wonderful twist. Mary Jo explained that since this was my first birthday as Joyce and I had missed out on years (OK, decades) of feminine gifts, people should feel free to go whole-hog and give me the girliest, frilliest, most feminine gift they could imagine.

I got soaps, lotions, unguents, and ointments. I got nail polish and nail kids and hand treatments. I got one of those gel-type eye pads for heat or ice, and I got an herb-infused neck pad that is quite soothing, cold or hot. I got a “Happy 1st Birthday” card and girly pajamas. Someone gave me the Judy Blume book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, which I have since learned every girl has read, but which no boy has ever heard of. While I will never have a period, I can certainly relate to the main character as she waits impatiently for her body to develop with a mixture of wonder and embarrassment.

Mary Jo gave me tights, a girly robe (because my old one screamed male), some earrings, gloves, and many other feminine goodies. And our friend Lisa made (from scratch) one of the best cakes I’ve ever eaten. It was part birthday party, part shower, part tutorial into femininity, and there was nothing to do but smile and soak up the gifts, tips, and positive energy.

Sitting there in my kitchen, surrounded by my friends who were free to poke fun at me while also reaffirming my new self, I felt as if this had to be the best birthday ever. Almost a year ago (here and here), I wrote about the question Lana posed about the proper rituals to recognize a transsexual transition, and whether such rituals should be happy, sad, or some mixture of the two. Having celebrated my first birthday as Joyce in this way, I have to say that my friends and Mary Jo struck upon the perfect ritual, warm, thoughtful, and auspicious.