Conundrum (European Road Maps) by Jan Morris

By Jan Morris

The author Jan Morris has led a unprecedented lifestyles. maybe her so much impressive paintings is that this sincere account of her ten-year transition from guy to girl - its pains and joys, its frustrations and discoveries.

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I thought it might calm my conflicts by feminizing my b o d y to some degree without the finality of surgery—a half-way solu­ tion, I thought, better than nothing if less t h a n enough. A meeting was arranged for m e with an endocrinologist in L o n d o n , and I came h o m e for the appointment from Italy. Since I suppose the event was a fateful one for m e , I can r e m e m b e r it with a particular clarity. L o n d o n was in that heightened version of itself that one always discovers w h e n one returns from abroad—the buses redder t h a n usual, the 43 taxi-drivers more Cockney, and everything more thickly infused with the p u n g e n c y that is L o n d o n ' s own.

T h e r e is something endearingly comic to the spectacle of your English gentleman, for example, forsaking the exquisite pleasures of his h o m e , his adoring wife, his dot­ ing children, his books and his pictures, his music a n d his wines, the inner resources of a magnificent education, the outer assets of a private income, for the apparently still m o r e compelling delights of an evening with a really rather blowsy tart in Paddington! It seems distinctly eccentric behaviour to m e , b u t I know from long experience that t h e gentlest of your male friends, the sweetest of your h u s b a n d s , is perfectly likely one evening to u p and do it.

A n d while, as I say, in some ways I liked this observer's role, a n d came indeed to m a k e a profession of it, still I pined sometimes to b e a m e m b e r somewhere. Just as, in possessing these two landscapes of my childhood, I h a d felt myself to belong to neither, so I felt n o w that I belonged to n o segment of humanity. It is a fine thing to b e i n d e p e n d e n t in life, and a p r o u d sensation to know yourself u n i q u e : b u t a person w h o stands all o n his own, utterly detached from his fellows, m a y come to feel that reality itself is an illusion—just as the p o o r convicts of the 19th-century silence system, so isol­ ated from their comrades that they were never allowed to see or hear another soul for years at a time, sometimes lost all grasp of their own existences, a n d b e c a m e non-persons even to themselves.

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