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Extreme Empathy

Friday, May 17, 2013
Thanks to your prayers, I slept like a log. I don't have to go in for this blood test for some hours yet, so I will calm myself by returning to "Let's Praise Men Week." (In case you didn't read my terrified midnight post, by 14:20 British Summer Time I will be in a waiting-room waiting to have a blood test. I suffer from an irrational fear of blood tests, so there is a Pray-for-Seraphic campaign going on.)

Today's topic is, "What if you were kidnapped by space aliens and they zapped you with alien technology so that all your XX chromosomes warped into XY chromosomes and when you regained consciousness, you were really and truly a man?"

Being married to a former lecturer in Philosophy, I already know that there are deep theological and philosophical objections to this question. I also know that men so much hate thinking about what women they know would be like if they were men that I am recommending Anonymous replies from all Single women today, so that the sneaky Eavesdroppers don't start picturing you as men and throw up.

It is, however, too late for B.A. who said he didn't want to think of me as a man, and anyway if aliens turned me into a man there would be no me anymore, and no continuity between the woman that was and the man that is, and the soul is the form of the body, and my soul is feminine so how could I have a feminine soul and an actually male (because totally XY, responding to androgen, etc.) body at the same time? Et cetera. Et cetera. Men are simply no fun at all when you ask "What if I were kidnapped by space aliens and they changed me from a woman to a man?"

So never mind them. Paradoxically, we will have to ignore men's squeamishness in our quest to identify with them. Today we are going to imagine what we would be like if space aliens transformed us brain and body into men, leaving us with our memories intact.

There should be some honesty here, though. Don't say you would look like Ryan Gosling unless your brother looks like Ryan Gosling. (One of my brothers is a dead ringer for Ryan Philippe, but I am waiving my right to look like Ryan Philippe.) And don't say you would be a tall dark guy if you are a short red-headed woman. The idea is that the aliens have zapped you in such a way that if you mother saw you, she would do a double-take, for you would look exactly like a son she never had, like a male version of her daughter who, sadly, was abducted by space aliens.

For example, I am the shortest woman in my family, so I don't think my alien zapping would make me any taller than 5'7". I would be a short, healthy, moderately fit, nearsighted, ginger-headed man of 39+. Male pattern baldness is present but not a given in my family, so I'm choosing to imagine I would have a bit of a receding hairline. To make up for this receding hairline--stop reading now, B.A.!--I would be otherwise hirsute, like a ginger Sean Connery.

Poor me. Thanks to these cruel space aliens, I am now a short, fit, hairy yet slightly balding, ginger, 39+ year old man. Fortunately I live in Scotland, so I could blend right in after the scientists let me go. (I know from the annals of science fiction that the first thing that happens after space aliens zap you is that scientists do a lot of intrusive tests.) Obviously I would divorce poor B.A. at once, and let the canon lawyers sweat over the annulment process. Stumped you now, canon lawyers!

The first thing I would do is to refuse to talk to a grief counselor about my losses because my XY brain would hate that kind of thing. Then I would go to the gym. Every day. Maybe twice a day. Obsessively.

If  I were zapped, I would be all about upper body strength. Never mind male social privilege. I'm 39+, so it would be too late to reap the most of the benefits of what remains of that. I would simply be stronger, and doors would be easier to push open, and groceries lighter to carry, and I would want more and more of this magic physical strength power. I would also want to be stronger than  the other men around because a male version of me would most definitely be thinking, "I could take 'im. I could take 'im, too. That one might be difficult."

In terms of work, I would march into the retraining center and learn a lucrative, upper-body-strength trade like fishing or plumbing. (Okay, plumbing is way more lucrative than fishing.) B.A. says I wouldn't, and I would be bored, but I am telling you, if the aliens zapped me, all I would care about would be (A) strength and (B) money. My present reluctance to allow people to tell me what to do would sky-rocket and so either the fellowship of fishing boats or being an independent contractor would be the way to go, not some white-collar job being pleasant to managers. Ick. I would spend holidays doing all the stuff I would be way too afraid to do as a woman, keeping in mind that although I could take on a lot of bad guys, I could not take on all of them, or more than two at once. Going camping by myself would be really cool, as would hitchhiking across Europe on my own. Were I 25, I would still worry about truckers making passes at me, but being 39+, not so much.

In spare moments, if I had any, between work, the gym, and eating high protein suppers out of cans, I would write philosophical reflections on being a fisherman or a plumber. For company I would go down to  the pub and drink too much or go to a football game. If the budget allowed and I still lived in Edinburgh, I would most definitely get season tickets for Easter Road. No matter how lousy Hibernians are playing, they are my team and that's just the way it is. For relief I would occasionally take a cheap Ryan Air flight to Germany and watch Bayern.

My problems would involve loneliness and wanting to be friends with women while fearing they might look at me as if I were either a potential rapist or the solution to all their problems.

I would worry that people wouldn't be my friend or hire me if they found out I was that guy who was a woman until completely zapped by space aliens, so I would never ever talk about it or admit it.

I would worry a lot about having  enough money saved against the day I just couldn't lift heavy stuff  anymore, although hopefully I would eventually hire guys to work for me. Plumbing is really starting to look better than fishing.

I would be a bit worried about being beaten up, but generally men  don't like to pick fights with short, middle-aged gingers with the muscles I would obsessively develop. (I might go back into boxing, too.)

I would hate going to the doctor even more than I do now, and sulk when he told me I drank too much.

I would go mental over the extremely lousy playing of Hibernians.

I would also go mental if tall men stood very close to me in an attempt to intimidate me with their height.  Bad idea, Stretch.

If I were still straight--weird thought--I guess I might eventually get married so as not to be so lonely, but only to a woman who really loved her job and didn't complain all the time about being bored and unfulfilled. I would like having kids, for sure, especially if my wife believed the Man is the Head of the Family and the Woman is the Heart of the Family stuff the priest says, so that my familial duties were mostly reduced to shouting and handing out pocket money.

If B.A. reads this he is going to wonder how the aliens managed to make me working-class as well as male. The truth is I would not want to be a middle-class guy after 39+ years of being a middle-class woman. If I had to give up being a woman, I would really be all about strength, money and calling all the shots in my life, and that would mean a decent trade. Besides, I saw Fight Club, and I do not want middle-class guy problems. No way. No way, Hosea.

Well, I enjoyed that. Your turn. I very strongly suggest you remain Anonymous for this one. Or, to really freak out the Eavesdroppers with impunity, pick a guy's name. Don't give yourself any advantages you are not likely to have. If you are a short girl, ponder the difficulties short men face. If you are a tall girl, exult in the unfair advantage tall men get in this unfair world.

P.S. Don't forget to pray for me at 14:20 BST (8:20 in Chicago, 9:20 in Toronto, 15:20 in Berlin and Warsaw).

UPDATE: Here I am back from the medical center. Thanks to all those who prayed, either before or at or after 14:20 BST! I think the first needle went in around 14:35. At any rate, the nurse was very kind and listened hard when we discussed how we were going to do this. I didn't cry and I didn't freak out. I made myself do the stuff I had to do (like straighten my arm) and when the needle went in I just said "+Jesus+-remember-me-until-You-come-into-Your-kingdom" under my breath about 250 times in the space of 90 seconds or however long it took to get three vials of blood out of my poor wee arm.

"Whatever you're saying, it's working," said the kind Scottish nurse.

I did not think that up in advance; that's just what came out, and later I wondered why that particular wording. And then I realized: Taizé. Which is very funny given my mad traddery, but there it is. And I was very comforted, indeed, as I hurried to the centre, to know readers were praying for me. Vobis gratias ago.