Monday, June 7, 2010

What happens in Vegas is blogged extensively

Long time no update, largely for lack of news. But it has been an interesting week.

On the medical front, healing continues apace. There's still some swelling, and a persistent bruise on one cheek. That same pesky area under my left jaw still causes pain, and as the rest of the swelling dies down, it's exposing a distinctly flat section on that corner. This seems to be caused by some localized swelling at a particular point on my jawbone that turns the arc polygonal.

I'm still massaging all the scars and swollen areas religiously. While groping around this lump last week, I felt a sudden gush of fluid inside my mouth. Checking with a q-tip confirmed that it was blood, rather than anything too disturbing (this hypochondriac is really quite proud of not immediately freaking out about abscesses). More interestingly, there was some solid waxy pieces on the q-tip as well, and fishing around in that corner of my mouth yielded more, including some surprisingly long pieces. I thought it might have been toothpaste collecting under stitches, or something similarly innocent, but a chat with the surgeon a few days later yielded the interesting news that it's most likely to be bone wax that they applied during surgery.

Bone wax (aside from having a rather disturbing wikipedia article) is notable for the fact that it goes on the bone. Meaning that the swelling and fluid is sitting directly on the bone, and is connected to my mouth via one of the (healed, I had thought) incisions inside my mouth. This makes me a little nervous about bone infection and other such things, though the surgeon seemed quite calm about it all.

During that same conversation, I also received permission to stop wearing the facial garment entirely. This has made, I think, a major improvement to my speech. Waking up with the facial garment on (having been only wearing it overnight in the preceding week or so) I'd generally noticed numbness and tingling that in some cases seemed to improve over the next few hours. Now that I'm not wearing it at all, although there's persistent odd sensations in my chin and lower lip, I think I'm shaping sounds more consistently and more correctly. I don't really have a good way to measure it, though - since I've been cocooned in recovery, my social world is largely divided into people I see very often (who wouldn't notice gradual changes) and people I see just about never (whom I don't see to ask, but if I did, would have no baseline). Tricky. But feeling good about it anyway.

Some of this latter group that I've run into over the past week or two for the first time since surgery have not noticed any changes worthy of comment. In fairness, this is a subset that I'm sufficiently disconnected from that they've remained blissfully unaware of the surgery either during my well advertised anticipatory stress or even better advertised post-operative whining, so they couldn't be accused of deep and abiding interest in my facial skeleton, but it's interesting nonetheless. I guess that with many people unable to detect changes in hair style (or colour, in many cases), overlooking other alterations isn't unexpected.

It's another matter when comparing to a before photo, of course. The most common case is ID checks at bars and stores, where the interest is purely in checking printed details on the ID. Airports, I thought, could be more challenging, but that, too, turned out to be a breeze. Domestic security flying to Vegas and back likewise check ID authenticity but don't think to compare it to the person presenting it. Clearing international security will be more interesting, since they consistently hold up the ID to my face to compare, but all such processes to date have been so smooth that I intend to fly on the old passports at least once just to see if they notice, and what they do if so.

Vegas - my first visit there - was amazing. But that's not what this blog is about. It being a >100 degree dry desert summer, I trotted out my standard hot weather uniform of kilts, sleeveless tops, and boots. Normally this draws a certain amount of notice. This time, despite it being - as far as I could tell - unique to the area, it didn't (or at least it drew dramatically less). Instead, there was a much higher than usual incidence of female pronouns directed my way by staff, which could explain the former - a girl in a kilt is entirely unremarkable, after all. This is obviously quite satisfying at one level, though I admit to a slight twinge of amused offense at being so thoroughly ignored as well - but I feel entirely confident in my capacity to meet the challenge of reacquiring the foreground. With boots alone, frankly.

My one dolled up evening of the weekend there supports the thesis as well. I've always been over-sensitive to others' awareness of gender dissonance in these situations, but, as far as I could tell, the overt attention was commensurate with being a 6' figure in 4" boots, rather than the startled double-takes that I normally watch for. My voice still very effectively destroys the illusion, but, so far, I think this entire exercise might just be on track to delivering the desired result.

This makes no allowance for it being Vegas, of course. Perhaps the city has seen it all and just doesn't care, or local customs discourage any expression of shock or surprise. More intriguingly, perhaps wearing a mask drops my sensitivity to these things, and either directly or indirectly reduces their impact on me. Again, it's challenging to measure the effect of the changes objectively - I didn't really drink enough for it to be a properly blinded experiment. But then again, the precise combination of causes is more of an intellectual curiosity; the overall effect, assuming it persists across times and places, is the critical element, and on that score: so far, so good.

(Footnote: one surprise discovery is that I appear to have lost my whistle voice (?) - the thing one uses for loud, high-pitched ululations at concerts. It's gone. Multiple attempts to use it at a jousting tournament just had my voice faltering at the falsetto barrier. Not that it's a particularly great loss, but given that there were no changes to my airway - as far as I know - this is really quite astonishing.)

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