TRANSPARENT recap: “The Letting Go”

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People led secret lives, very lonely lives

Episode two opened where episode one ended.  Maura, Sarah and Tammy were together and Sarah and Tammy were looking at Maura and she’s looking at them trying to be causal, when Sarah asked “Dad, what are you wearing?”

Maura answered “I have something to tell you. ….. (pause)…. So, (pause)….  yes…(pause)… (heavy sigh)….when I was a kid, ever since I was five, I felt something was not right.  I couldn’t tell anybody about my feeling inside…it was different times…(pause)…people lead secret lives, very lonely lives…(pause)….(Maura brightened up) of course, the internet wasn’t invented.”

Tammy interjected “Magic.”  Sarah threw a shut up look at Tammy…”Dad help me out here?   Are you going to start dressing up like a lady all the time.”   Maura pulled Sarah’s hand close to her bosom and answered, “My whole life I have been dressing up like a man.  This is me,” she said in a very plaintive voice.   

Flashback to 1989: Professor Morton L. Pfefferman of the Department of Political Science strode down the hall to his office.  He entered the dark office and only turned on a desk lamp.  Here in hiding where he felt safe Mort pulled a bag out of a drawer and then pulled a truly gaudy woman’s (unless it is part of a clown suit) garment out of it. A student knocked on the door

“Professor Pfefferman.” Mort ignored the knock.

In the final scene of the episode, Professor Pfefferman left his office with the gaudy garment in the bag and stuffed it into a trashcan on the way out.  He was purging and suppressing.  He arrived home to a glowing house in the evening with three happy little kids.  Neil Young’s “Razor Love” played on the audio track, and the Professor returned to what was supposed to be normalcy, no matter the cost to her.

Assuming Morton L. Pfefferman was a baby boomer, born just after World War II, those times were different. For transgender people there wasn’t really a word at the time for Maura’s feelings. There were transvestites: poor, sick, sexual fetish creatures. There were cross dressers, who were often prosperous men with wives, who dressed like women for fun and relief from stress. Weird, but harmless enough.

I once heard of a wealthy cross dresser who openly walked the streets of Nashville and did her shopping.  In the 1950s there was Christine Jorgenson, who’d had a sex change operation (as they called it) and was in the news as a curiosity for several years because she was such a picture of 1950’s ideal womanhood.  Later there was Rene Richards, tall lanky tennis player.  And, of course, there were drag queens.  Without drag queens there would not be any queens at all.

One thing defined most of the period: being homosexual was a treatable medical condition.  (On a personal note: because of my feminine interests, I was diagnosed as a latent homosexual during this time, but so long as I did not act on it I was okay.  No treatment required. OK, I guessed. I was attracted to males and liked show tunes, but felt like a woman.  Also, I went to my first drag show in 1962.)  

So Maura was basically invisible and by today’s standards there was little contact outside of her immediate area. The development of the internet made it possible for her to be the only person like herself in a local personhood desert, but able to reach out and find some distant people who were like her. Before that Maura probably thought she was crazy. She was alone. Never really fitted in with any group.  Just did not seem to belong.  So, she hid it and suppressed it and went on.  Or as a post-World War II saying had it, “You need to straighten up and fly right” and doubtless, Maura waggled her wings and tried to level out.

Very different times from today?  Okay, in terms of sexuality and gender, yes.   But in many ways those times (the 1950s through 70s) actually had much in common with today, but there were many more people in the streets. Civil rights, the Vietnam War, the Feminist movement and equal rights for women,  the entire counter-culture, just to name a few that provided the background to Stonewall and the emergence of the lesbian and gay movement though the seventies, which was accelerated by the AIDS crisis and garnered straight allies in the eighties. And, though small in number, transpeople were there from the Compton cafeteria in San Francisco to Stonewall in NYC in the sixties, at the beginning. Yet, Maura seemed to have missed all of that.  It seemed she went down a different path that had little if any contact with the Castro, or Christopher Street, or Chicago’s Boystown, or … you name it.

 

Why is this so damp?

Sarah and Tammy of papusa kissing fame continued to develop and deepen their relationship. After leaving Maura at her house, Sarah and Tammy were in the SUV.  Tammy began, “that was brave of her.”  Sarah, was chuckling now “Yeah.”  Sarah got a text from Lynn that he had the kids and Barb and their kid were at her house.

“Oh F……”  Sarah and Tammy arrived at Lynn’s and Sarah’s home and were greeted by Barb and Lynn, who were getting along famously.   Lynn called out “Barb is a scratch golfer.  We can all go.”  Tammy and Sarah grinned and had almost smirky looks on their faces.

Later that night and Lynn and Sarah were in bed.  While Lynn slept, Sarah carefully got out of bed and ran down the driveway to meet Tammy in the SUV, which was parked outside.  The next shot they were parked at the Los Angeles movie make-out spot. We have all seen it, an observation point by day, by night it overlooks the twinkling lights of LA and all the young lovers of LA go there.  How any of them are alone there is way beyond me.

Hot gasps, hands went inside panties, then there was the afterglow of lying with your beloved in the back of an SUV on a kid’s sleeping bag.

Sarah: “what did you do to me?”

Tammy: “I made you come.” A shot of Sarah’s two kids’ car seats outside the SUV on the ground.

Sarah: “I feel alive.” The next day the family was to gather at the home of the Pfefferman kids’ mom. Lynn and Sarah were on opposite sides of the SUV loading the SUV.  Lynn: “Why are the car seats not fasted down?”

Sarah: “Oh, Tammy and I had to move them when we went to the tile place.”  And the seats were not on the correct sides.  Lynn was ok with it, but Sarah’s children would not be on the correct side of the SUV; so, they had to be switched. They each took a seat from their side and met at the front of the SUV.  Lynn suggested trading seats.   Sarah was all, we had to take them all the way and install the car seats on the proper side.  Sarah warned: “there is that tone thing.”

“What tone thing?”

Now they were putting the car seats in and Lynn picked up the kid’s sleeping bag.  “Why is this so damp?  Did a Capri Sun explode back here?” as he quickly jumped to a conclusion.  Clearly trouble was brewing in their wedded paradise.

 

I am scheduled to have an abortion

Josh and the older member of Glitterish, to whom he made “sweet love,” were talking business.

Glitterish: “I can’t reschedule.”

Other member of Glitterish: “I think you should tell him.”

Older Glitterish: “I am scheduled to have an abortion.”  Now in male chauvinist Josh’s bedroom.  Older Glitterish said, “of course it is yours—that is so rude.”

Josh: “we never had the talk” about sleeping with others.

Older Glitterish: “guys need the talk, girls don’t need the talk.”   Josh complained about her being fussy and announced, “I am going to take care of you.” Seems to me she has already taken care of matters herself.  Later Ali and Josh discuss the pending abortion.  Apparently Josh was not involved, “It’s not my fault.”  Ali questioned, “So, what?  She said she was on birth control?”

“Have you ever gotten anybody else pregnant?”  After spending time with Sarah and Lynn’s kids, a new softer Josh talked to “Sweet love” Glitterish, and said, “Think about the possibilities. You could just get fat, like a ripe peach.”   Glitterish was not interested in being a ripe peach, but Josh continued his sales pitch.  Gets on one knee and pulls out the giant pearl ring.  “We should get married.”

“Where did you get that?” It belonged to a relative who died in the Holocaust.  “Eeuw, no girl wants to get proposed to with a ring from the Holocaust.”

Josh: “just think about it.”

 

I am so much better than Stephanie

Ali was nude and going up and down in front of the camera with her hands over her head and in the audio was heard “17, 16, 15”….”oh yeah”….”1”….”ahhhh.”  The trainer from the park was prone underneath Ali and lifted her up and down on his male appendage.  Later, clothed in the kitchen with a healthy green smoothie, Ali proposed they have a business called “twerkout.com.”   His roommate, Mike, entered: “You must be Stephanie.”

Ali: “I am so much better than Stephanie,” as she waved the smoothie around for emphasis.

 

Mom’s going to freak

Ali and Josh were at the deli to pick up mom’s standing order.  Ali asked the counter man, “Do you have tofu smear?”  She announces she has been seeing a trainer and dairy makes her fart.

Mr. Producer: “mom’s going to freak, you changed the standing order.”

“No, I am adding to it.  The tofu smear is the problem, I suppose.” Mom, Shelly, lived in a condo development at a marina, and her life revolved around running the condo association, and her ill second husband, Ed. Ed lived slightly above a vegetative state and didn’t interfere with Shelly.  She can just park him somewhere. A micromanager by personality, she forgot nothing, and had an opinion on everything. Her kids arrived inside the condo, Shelly having taken the bags from the deli. She yelled with her edgy voice, “Who changed the standing order?”  All this from just holding the bags. Now that was one sensitive woman.

 

Your dad is creepy

Lynn and Sarah were talking outside the condo. Sarah confessed, “So the other day, when Tammy and I came back late, we were at dad’s, like looking at the place (wink, wink)” and “dad came in dressed like a woman.”

Lynn: “your dad is creepy.”

Sarah: ”No, it is like he has been hiding his whole life.”

Then Ali was attacked by the condo ducks.

 

A festive cocktail

Maura’s group was meeting, which seemed to be made up of actual LGBT folks, not actors.  The meeting was ending as Maura said of her surprise coming out to Sarah, “one down and two to go.  Then all of North America.” Maura felt like celebrating and sought someone to join her in “a festive cocktail.”  Maura met Davina, who I understand was the only trans person in the series, who was an extra. They go to Davina’s apartment.

Maura explained, “I grew up in LA.  Did the whole Jewish thing. It’s like musical chairs, you hit 25, and you marry the one closest. Had three kids: Sarah is the oldest and I told her about transitioning. Then there is Joshie,” her very successful, image conscious son.  (No wonder Josh hides acted super macho chauvinist much of the time, when he obviously was not.  What must a childhood of being “Joshie” have been like?  Just joshing. )

Then there’s Ali.  She was “out of the box smart. She just doesn’t seem to be able to land.”  Maura began exploring the adventure land of the first apartment she had seen of a woman like herself. “So, pretty.”  Then in a giddy voice, “I’m  going to sit at your vanity.”  Davina got serious and tried to brush away Maura’s fairy dust, “You know sweetie, this is a very big journey that we are on and you have to let go of everything everyone thinks of you.”  Davina then told Maura “that in five years none of your family will still be there. “ A siren interrupted her.

Outside Davina’s apartment building, The Shangri-La, residents gathered in response to the siren and the EMTs took a gurney down the stairs.  “Goodnight to Marie,” said Davina, “he was a sweet old queen.”  For the first time, Maura was really in the LGBT community.  That was who lived in “Shangri-La.”  Davina and Maura went to Marie’s apartment and Davina introduced Maura to ”Shangri-La.”  “We check each other’s mail.  Water each other’s plants.”  They entered Marie’s apartment.

It is $2,000 a month.  Maura: “$2,000, its cheap.”  Clearly Maura was envisioning herself moving from the suburbs to “Shangri-La.”

“It took you a long time Maura,” said Davina. “Welcome to the family and the beginning of the end of your very secret and very lonely life.”

 

 

See also:

TRANSPARENT recap: "Pilot" (season 1 episode 1)

TRANSPARENT recap: "The Letting Go" (season 1 episode 2)

TRANSPARENT recap: "Rollin'" (season 1 episode 3)