Adjustments

Synopsis:

Ron is a recent retiree. His wife helps him make a few adjustments so they both can lead better lives.

Story:

Adjustments
By Angela Rasch

Our dog was on the front lawn in toe-to-toe battle with the same sprinkler that had driven him crazy for five years. One time he dug a hole around it the size of a garbage can lid. That was how he kept sane, I hadn’t found a way.

Ron had gone to the doctor. It was been the single biggest item on our “to do” list for weeks; it was an occasion to be reckoned with. Not that my husband was really ill. For about the last six weeks he had been experiencing a feeling of warmth, sometimes associated with flushing, that spread over his body and was accompanied by perspiration. His symptoms sounded strangely like the hot flashes I’d been having for years.

The doctor went through a thorough check-up and a list of questions regarding his diet. Ron long ago gave up caffeine and spicy food and showed no signs of cancer or any other disease or illness that might be the cause.

“He gave me this bottle of pills,” Ron said. He held them up for my inspection, demanding a comment about who knows what. “He said they’re estrogen. He wants me to take estrogen!”

Ron put the hype in hypochondriac. He had never really been sick a day in his life, but had taken plenty of sick leave. He moaned and sniffled if his body temperature varied by more than a tenth of a degree. Conversely, he’d only been to the doctor three times in his life other than school or life insurance physicals.

I’d been a good wife in that I hadn’t hounded him to go against his beliefs. “People die in hospitals,” he’d say, “and you only go to the doctor if your need to go to the hospital.”

The hot flashes had put the fear of the Lord into poor Ron. How do you live with someone who’s so inconsistent? Hopefully those pills contained something to pep him up; he’d been so lethargic without his work to interest him.

I looked at the wristwatch he’d given me for our thirty-fifth anniversary. Five o’clock, time to make our evening meal. I started for the kitchen leaving him to fuss over what supposedly ailed him.

“I’ll get dinner,” he said, scooting by me. “I’ve got it all planned out.”

Darn. In his retirement he’d taken over my house. I hadn’t cooked a real meal in almost four months. He wasn’t all that bad a chef, but I enjoyed cooking and he wouldn’t give his “helping” a rest.

“Sandra, you just sit yourself over there so we can talk; and I’ll put something together. You fed me for thirty-five years; and now it’s my turn.” The first time he said it, it had been charming: the next thousand or so it had started to wear thin.

“Sandra, you’ve washed clothes for me for thirty-five years; and now I can do it for a while. Sandra, you’ve vacuumed for me for thirty-five years; and now I can clean for a while." Ad nauseum. Which is Latin for “It sucked.”

Ron had no hobbies; his friends were still working and would be for seven to ten more years. It appeared he intended to do every household chore; and I was supposed to do. . . nothing.

I worked for a few years, until Brian had been born. I had complications and he would be our only child. In 1987, he went to Glacier National Park with his buddies and had an unfortunate meeting with a grizzly. That bear killed a little of both Ron and me, in addition to our Brian.

My best friend, Christine, who I’ve known since high school, told me that any women in her right mind would love to be in my place. BUT. . .what do you do when you’re battling for your rightful position in your home?

“Estrogen,” he moaned. “Isn’t that what you take?”

“Mmmmm.”

“A man shouldn’t have to take estrogen,” he whined. “But, if I have to - to stop those darn hot flashes - I suppose I should.”

I buried my head in a “National Geographic” and intently studied a story about extinct reptiles. Not many of them are extinct as it turns out. Reptiles are resilient to change and somehow make it through one era and out the other.

“What if I grow breasts?” His eyes were wide with dismay at the thought of such a horrible fate. Good gravy, couldn’t he see that I had two of them and managed to make it through the day?

He had been a good father and excellent provider. Let me rephrase that. He had been a disinterested parent, who hadn’t abused his son; and he brought home a slightly under-average salary. I had asked him for a household allowance which he let his mother set. Through careful spending, I’d managed to put aside a good deal of money, which I invested long before people like me were called “day traders.”

Put it this way. We lived in a gated retirement community and drove very nice cars; and Ron had never earned more than forty thousand a year. We had several million in the bank and seemed bulletproof through our retirement.

“I’m having enough problems already,” he said. “A man’s testosterone level goes down in his older years.”

“Oh.” Ron’s best friend Dan looked much like he had when he stood next to Ron at our wedding. Dan’s wife, Nancy, had been a wonderful woman. I’d been in the room with Dan and her when she died two years ago. His strength had been admirable throughout the ordeal.

I decided to placate Ron and took a look at the pill bottle. I wasn’t familiar with the name of the drug, but it had to be powerful since Ron only had to take one pill a week.

“The doctor had a sample of those in his cabinet. He just gave me a whole year’s supply for nothing. Isn’t that something? Just so long as I don’t wake up one day with a vagina.”

Ron was wearing one of my aprons. He looked appropriate, in that he had left his hair grow out, because “What do I need to have haircuts for? I don’t have to answer to ‘the man’ anymore, no sir-ree. Can I get you a nice cold glass of ice water, Hon? Your magazine? Some cheese and crackers?”

I got up and circled a date on the calendar. March 5th. Six months in the future. That was the date they would commit me to an insane asylum -- unless things changed.

***

Three days later, we were about to turn off the lights and go to sleep, when opportunity knocked. Ron had been scratching his crotch, the most masculine thing he’d done in bed for years.

“Hon, I’m getting a rash.”

He’d been using twice as much soap as needed in the wash. His skin probably had reacted adversely to it.

What I said next surprised even me. Perhaps I had accepted my role as his “fate.”

“Uhmmm,” I said. “That happened to me about a year ago. I solved the problem by wearing cotton panties.” Inside, my heart smirked.

“Cotton? My underwear are cotton.”

“I know Ron, but you probably should try a pair of my panties for a few days. They don’t have elastic where you’re getting your rash.”

“Ohhh.” He looked over his glasses at me. “Panties, huh?”

“It’s probably a day or two cure thing,” I said. “Your body needs some time to get used to that estrogen. Tell you what,” I jumped out of bed and opened my drawer, “you wear these until Wednesday, or so; and let me know what you think. We wouldn’t want your skin condition to worsen, or for you to be permanently scared.” I took care to give him panties that I’d always hand-washed. I also made sure they were pink.

“I don’t know,” he said, but in the morning my little hypochondriac dutifully donned pink panties.

Four days later, I went to the store and bought him a dozen pink panties of his very own. Several were covered with little purple and green flowers. “I wouldn’t even chance going back to your kind of panties until after you’re off that estrogen,” I commented.

“But that’s a year from now,” he wailed.

Goodness gracious, what a tragedy. I replaced our detergent with a milder brand that allowed him to use a generous amount without bothering his skin.

***

That next weekend he had trouble turning the mattresses and had strained his pectoralis major. Later that night he sat up in bed. “My chest hurts.”

Alert the media.

His effeminacy hadn’t been a difficulty when we lived in our previous home. It had been a larger home on a four-acre wooded lot. At that time Ron liked to say the four greatest technological advancements in our lifetime were the chain saw, power washer, wood chipper, and snow thrower. Since the association did all of our yard work he had traded his tan work-clothes and tools for an apron and a vacuum, food processor, washer, and dryer.

“Oh,” he bravely stated, “it’s probably not a heart attack. It’s more of a dull ache when I move too fast.”

Once again, something came over me; and I just had to play with him. “Where does it hurt?”

“Ahhh. It’s painful all over, but the worst is here. . .and here.” He pointed to both sides of his chest.

“Omigosh! Omigosh” I faked minor terror.

“What! What!” He wouldn’t be able to go to sleep with all the adrenaline I’d caused to flow through his body just then.

“You know what it is?” I asked, just to get him to beg.

“Tell me, please. Please tell me. Please.”

Enough. “It’s that estrogen. You said it yourself. It was only a matter of time before you grew breasts.”

“Nooooo.”

I nodded slowly.

“Nooooo.”

“Uh huh. I noticed how much you’ve grown when you were wearing the t-shirt that says, ‘Dad’s Make the Best Lovers.’” I’d given him that shirt hoping for a self-fulfilling prophecy that never came into fruition. The truth was there hadn’t been any change to his chest.

“But . . . boobs?”

“Poor baby,” I said. If I had a dime for every time I’d said “poor baby” to that sap, I’d have millions, which we did, so what was the use? “Tomorrow I’ll fix it for you.”

“How?” he asked softly.

“A bra, of course.”

“Nooooo.”

“Poor baby.”

That, that is - is. The next day I bought him several padded 38B bras that took the fat he’d always had on his chest and made little titties to fill the cups.

***

From that day forward it was just one thing after another. Each time I saw an opening, I used his estrogen intake as an excuse to heighten his femininization. My guilt was mitigated by the knowledge that he couldn’t have been as comfortable as he appeared without his own approval.

A blemish on his face led to nightly skin care -- using Oil of Olay products. That escalated with other blemishes to foundation, translucent powder, and then blush. Mr. Gullible would buy anything I said as long as I somehow made him think it was because of the estrogen.

He soon was wearing a camisole to protect his delicate skin from his rough clothing, clothing that was traded within weeks for softer things from the women’s department.

All the while he continued to clean the house and make all the meals because, “Sandra, you’ve ‘done’ for me for thirty-five years; and now I can ‘do’ for you for a while.”

The only signs he gave of discomfort with his new role was ordering our groceries delivered over the computer rather than going to the store, and continually putting his friend Dan off when Dan tried to get together with him.

It was absolutely amazing what the power of suggestion was doing to little Ron. I had been bored out of my skull; and he’d provided an intriguing game for me to play.

***

“The doctor called today,” I lied. His doctor hadn’t called. Lying had become part of my daily arsenal to lead little Ron to his destiny, much like moisturizer had become part of little Ron’s nightly beauty ritual. I excused my duplicity as necessary in the process that was obviously making little Ron so very happy.

“My doctor, I hope,” he said. I couldn’t tell if he was happy that I wasn’t ill, or because he was receiving a new medical dilemma to dither about.

I had to make sure my acting was perfect on this one. “Your doctor is concerned about you.”

“Uh.” That got his attention. A concerned doctor wasn’t anything Ron wanted any part of.

I picked at the meal he’d prepared. I did that every so often so that he wouldn’t get complacent. His culinary skills had gotten much better; and if I showed any kind of subtle displeasure, he worked all the harder the next time. “I told him about all the problems you’ve been having.”

“You didn’t tell him how. . . .”

“I told him exactly what you’ve come up with to resolve each problem.”

“But, it was you who. . . .”

“He thought you were doing the right thing each time.”

“He said that?”

I struck a scout’s honor pose. Ron had been an Eagle Scout and took that kind of thing quite seriously. I had made love to a scout, in a tent in his backyard, when I was thirteen.

“Then I guess. . . .”

“He said you’re in deep trouble.” I scowled.

“What?” His eyes were the size of the hubcaps on a ‘57 Chevy. I loved the backseats of those cars. “Did he say why?”

I had set the hook. “He said your body is going to get confused, if it isn’t already. Have you noticed any problems lately?”

Asking Ron if his body had health problems was like inquiring if Johnson and Johnson had any Band-Aids.

“My muscles have been a little sore.”

“Uh huh.”

“And my eyes have been watering.”

“Oh no.”

“Oh no???”

“Oh no.”

“What did he say I have to do?”

“Dresses”

“Dresses?”

“The more feminine, the better.”

“He said that?”

“Uh huh.”

“I can’t.” He folded his arms across his little titties.

“Can’t?”

“Can’t.” He probably would have stomped his foot had he been standing, but he was perched on a stool going through his cookbooks trying to determine what error he’d made fixing the meal I’d found so distasteful.

“Ronnie, you wearing panties, right?”

“Uh huh.”

“And a bra, right?” I fixed him in my gaze.

“That’s right -- and all sorts of other things and make-up, too,” he whimpered, “but a man has to have limits.”

“That’s what the doctor said.”

“????”

“He said any man in your situation would be horribly conflicted. Because you have to take the estrogen, you need to eliminate your personal conflict and make yourself completely feminine.”

“Completely feminine?”

“Or else.” I shook my head to let Ronnie know that “or else” would not be good. It had been the universe who had assigned his position in life, not me.

The next day I bought him a complete wardrobe and stocked his bedroom with a dozen enchanting perfumes.

“Did you say that’s ‘my’ bedroom?” He was wearing an outfit that I thought made him look exactly like Donna Reed in the fifties. I’d searched all over for it. He always wore a frilly apron over his pretty clothes so that they didn’t get “ruined.”

“Ronnie, Honey. All the lotion and perfume you have to use now would give me a migraine, if I had to sleep in the same room as you. You don’t mind do you? I could make my own bed, if making two beds is too much for you.”

He rolled his eyes at me. “Sandra, you’ve made beds for me for thirty-five years; and now I’ll make two beds for a while.”

***

“It’s my turn to host the dessert club next month,” I said.

His face turned white. For the last six weeks he had dressed completely as a woman. He hadn’t left the house even one time, so I was the only one who had seen him. His total transformation had not always been certain, but it had been most likely.

“I could get in the car and go for a long drive,” he offered.

“What if the police had to pull you over for something?”

“Ohhh? I’ll just stay in my bedroom.” His hands were shaking.

“Nonsense, little Ronnie.” I shook my head. “It’s high time you get over your shyness. What you’re going through is as natural as putting Neosporin on a cut. There isn’t one girl in my dessert club that’s going to think zilch about how you look.”

“You think?”

I put my hand on my hip and scratched my chin with the other. “Now that you mentioned it there are a few things that would bother them.”

“Like what?”

“The way you stand, sit, and walk for starters. When you wear a dress you need to look a certain way.”

“Ohhh.”

“In fact, have you been feeling okay lately?”

He listed a number of minor ailments that the average person would never, ever notice.

“I was worried about that.” I knitted my brow to express my deep concern. It wasn’t easy leading this horse to water, but once he was there he would always drink.

“Worried?”

“Uh huh. You know what the doctor said about becoming completely feminine. It doesn’t surprise me at all that you’ve had so many ailments. It’s a wonder you’re not on your death bed. Conflicts — you’ve got to avoid them.”

“Conflicts?”

“You know — the way you dress and how you walk, talk, sit, stand, and your voice. What kind of books and magazines have you been reading?”

“Magazines?”

I sighed and shook my head. “Why do I even bother?”

“Did I do something wrong?” He looked totally distraught. Not only had he placed his health in jeopardy with neglect, but in the process he had displeased me. For almost anyone else he would be the perfect mate; he was totally devoted. BUT — he wasn’t happy in his devotion; and it appeared I could deal with that.

“Nothing we can’t fix.”

That very moment we entered into a serious round of education to improve Veronica. She dived into yoga and other exercises to help her body to and to enrich her appearance. It would have been just wrong to call her Ron.

Prior to the dessert club meeting I took every member to an individual lunch and explained what I had done to Ron. They all thought it was a remarkable approach to husbandry and vowed to help me. I assured them that all they had to do was act as if Veronica was one of us, and not express anything other than total acceptance of her as a female.

Which they did.

***

“Dan called,” I said. “He wants to know if I killed you and stuck your body in the freezer.”

“Did he say that?” she giggled. Ron’s hair had been almost jet black, but “the doctor” and I had made her bleach it. Almost everything she wore was pink and short. She still managed to keep the house immaculate and had mastered cooking so that I looked forward to each meal with fascination. She had been reading nothing but romance novels for weeks.

“He wants to hold a surprise party for your birthday.” I waited for Veronica to break down or throw a fit.

Instead she smiled. “When?” She obviously felt confident in her appearance and was ready for the next step.

I had been prepared to play “doctor” one last time, but there was no need. “I’ll tell him no surprise party, Veronica. We’ll just have a regular party; and he can be the bartender.”

“That sounds nice. I could make. . . .”

She went on and on planning the menu, while I made a few plans of my own. Later that night, I called my garden club members again. Each of them was to bring a “most likely new spouse” for Veronica.

***

The day of the party I took Veronica to my salon and treated her to a complete package. She got up the nerve to shop for and purchase her own outfit. Veronica looked as pretty and confident as she ever had when we welcomed our first guest. It had been a long road from conception to completion.

Dan took one look at her in her chiffon ruffled shirtdress, and then dragged me into my bedroom to talk. He locked the door behind him to assure our privacy, before demanding, “How long has this been going on?”

“Almost a year,” I sniffed and than collapsed into his manly arms. Thirty minutes later we rejoined the party having consummated the end to over three decades of frustration. All of my friends had lived up to their word; and Veronica was surrounded by men who were fascinated by her.

***

The phone dragged me away from our new hot tub, an addition that Dan had recommended.

“Hello, doctor,” I said, looking out at Dan snacking on hors d'oeuvres. We would later enjoy a sumptuous banquet that I’d been preparing all day. I couldn’t wait to get back in the tub to let the jets bubble water across my deliciously stiff muscles — residue from a delightful week of spring cleaning.

“How is Ron doing?” he asked.

“Ron?” I stumbled. “Ahh . . . ‘Ron’ is just fine.”

“He never came back for a follow-up appointment. I guess those placebos I gave him did the trick.”

“Placebos?”

“Your husband is a bit of a hypochondriac. I keep a supply of placebos for people like him. They’re harmless and men like Ron seem to love them.”

“Oh.”

After the phone call I checked my calendar. It was three days to my wedding and just over three months before Veronica’s. We had agreed upon an amicable divorce. In fact, we were going to be each other’s maid-of-honor.

Dan moved in with me; and Veronica is living with her Sammie, who loves her just the way she is.

I’ve hired a maid to take Veronica’s place. That and everything else just had to be done. Nothing could be truer than what my grandmother often said, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”

The End

Thanks to Dimelza for a necessary suggested adjustment.

Notes:

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