An awfully odd day, this, one that marks a big transition from being a medicalized patient to becoming a fairly normal person. Today was the day to remove all my packing and my catheter, so I slept a bit fitfully, eager to finally get rid of the catheter, which has been causing me some trouble in sleeping.

I woke early and took a wonderful shower — wonderful, that is, until about 4 ft of my packing fell out, plop on the shower floor as if I had given birth to a tiny mummy. I knew from my instructions that a little packing falling out was no big deal and that all I needed to do was cut it off. However, being naked in the shower room at 6:15 did not lend itself to much of a search beyond poking my hands into the nearby cabinet, a search that was fruitless. I called out to Mary Jo, who, dozing, asked what I needed. Scissors for my packing, I yelled across the expanse of the upstairs apartment. She ran around, looking in every drawer upstairs to no avail, then rummaged around downstairs, eventually returning with a kitchen knife, a utility knife, and some wire pliers, the best she could do. “Who doesn’t keep scissors?” she kept complaining. The utility knife wouldn’t catch across the fibers of the roughly half-inch ribbon, and it was a bit freaky seeing Mary Jo holding a razorsharp knife so close to me. She hit paydirt with the wire pliers, which snipped the packing neatly. “You get to clean up the shower,” she grumbled. “This is the grossest thing I’ve done in a long time.”

We left early for my 11:00 meeting with Phyllis, the nurse in charge of “vagina boot camp,” as I have come to see it. Mary Jo and I went to a coffee and knickknack shop for 30 minutes and then went to our appointment, which took place at Dr. Bowers’ office. Phyllis is a middle-aged, no-nonsense nurse who will tell it like it is — with compassion but without pity. Mary Jo decided to skip the fireworks since she had already had an exciting morning, so Phyllis and I began by tidying things up. First, she pulled out my catheter, a procedure that only burned for a couple of seconds, subsiding within 5 minutes. Next, she pulled out the rest of my packing — they use 9 yards, so that meant that I had a good 7.66 yards left — and her methodical pulling and folding the packing resembled those magicians pulling scarves out of their sleeves. More and more and more emerged, seemingly from nowhere. With a final tug (which I felt deep inside me), the rest of the packing was removed. It was quite a relief, and I realized just why I had had trouble getting comfortable the past couple of days — between the catheter tube and attached bag and the 9 yards of packing, my entire core was tight and stiff.

The next step was to take a mirror and get a really good look at what I had paid for — Phyllis deftly oriented me to these new parts like a park ranger showing hikers how to navigate around a state park. I felt as if I should have been taking notes in case there was a quiz afterwards.

Next, Phyllis gave me the set of 3 polyurethane dilators that come with GRS and to show me how to use them. They come in a handsome roll-up carrying case, too. After showing me the set, Phyllis said we’d begin with the blue one (looking at the orange one just about made my eyes pop out of my head). I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say that it was quite surreal to have this grandmotherly nurse objectively and dispassionately talking to me while illustrating the proper technique of “applying” Mr. Blue into an orifice I didn’t have until just a couple of days ago. I felt incredibly vulnerable.

Next, Phyllis asked me to do the same while she watched and coached. Again, all I can say is that it surreal, being coached in the proper use of an object into a new body part, one that’s still healing with stitches and swelling. She kept urging me, not unlike a drill-sergeant, to relax my legs, something I would have been happy to do if I hadn’t just then been experiencing the business end of a blue plunger into me. “Relax those legs, soldier!” “Ma’am, yes Ma’am.” Eventually, I managed to achieve the proper dot (there is a series of dots so you can know when to stop before breaking through into what they technically call your innards) and was allowed to de-plunge myself; however, she explained, “your normal sessions will involve sitting there for a full 15 minutes before you stop.” Oh, Joy.

I cleaned up and Mary Jo came in and I got a full indoctrination into proper care of vaginas (mine, in particular), a second phase of boot camp that included manuals, pictures, and lectures. My head was buzzing with all this new information, so I’m glad I got some reading materials.

The rest of the day was pitifully simple by comparison — some television, some pizza with Mary Rae and her family, and puttering around the Morning After House. The only interesting moment came at the end of the day, when I set about doing my own dilation — outside of the bootcamp and Phyllis’ coaching voice. It was a lot harder on my own, and I wasn’t sure why. I was set to give up and declare myself a failure, but I somehow managed to complete the mission after much defeatist swearing. Note to all others seeking GRS — this part isn’t in your promotional materials, but be sure to take it into account when tallying up your psychic energy and enthusiasm for the procedure.