The Second Time Around...
Decades earlier the nervousness was new; but no more intense than right then and there. He watched as the car pulled out of the driveway. Time was on his side, and nothing short of a stereotypical ‘honey I forgot my work keys’ moment would daunt his resolve…her resolve.
The clothing wasn't special at all; just what worked and would suit the need. He stripped down and took a quick shower; his ‘promise’ to be neater and more presentable had paved the way for a departure of the familiar salt and pepper beard. Too sparse to be ‘manly’ and too thick to be anything but ugly in his mind. As it was, after he shaved he avoided the mirror in the bathroom altogether. No sense in crying over something unalterable after decades of delay.
Nothing fancy; no gown or ‘favorite’ dress, he pulled the skirt and the top off the hangers on the closet door and laid them carefully on the bed. A half slip lay on the bottom of a fairly disheveled lingerie drawer in her dresser. He pulled it out from underneath the mess along with a pair of black cotton panties and a bra that she had received from her sister a few weeks back; neither would even appear to be out of place once they resumed their position in the pile of underwear. One more thing to retrieve. A pair of support pantyhose she had purchased and forgotten in a long line of misplaced and forgotten clothing from the previous spring. He had discovered the package and set it aside, rightly believing that she wouldn’t miss them after months of hiding in a pile on the side of her dresser.
Slowly he pulled on each garment; making sure to take his time; more to keep a measure of respect for her clothing than to have a special reverence. The garments were just that; merely clothing that was meant to display her inner self. In the several years since she had rediscovered herself after years of indecision, confusion, doubt and even a gender amnesia of sorts, he had enjoyed the freedom to dress for days on end, with opportunities presenting themselves as he recovered from health and emotional issues. And in all that time, this one moment in time was only the third time he felt safe enough to dress.
He had no fear of detection; part of him had almost sought at one time to be found out; a brief and foolish idea that was scotched very quickly by remarks from both from his wife and son made casually regarding a program.
“What do they call those…the guys that dress in women’s clothing for TV or for shows?” She had said while watching a commercial for a variety program. He had started to say ‘female impersonator,’ but before the words had even left his mouth his son called out from his bedroom, “Sick!”
So sabotage was given a very quick dismissal and secrecy became the watchword. Even after his wife discovered his true self…at least the ’62-38’ ratio he had joked about with his friends that she learned upon reading one of his stories….even after that, life as ‘herself’ was like walking in a minefield, with some days seemingly safe and non-threatening and others feeling like ‘her’ wife would never ever accept her.
So dressing was really an expression; she felt truly alive inside more when talking with friends and writing; the heart of her being revealed through words rather than a nice scarf or the cut of women’s slacks. Even so, she felt that today was a day to dress, in spite of her inaction regarding that part of her that always felt good.
She finished with the preparation by finding a long sleeveless sweater to complete the outfit; black to match the calf-length skirt and the wine colored long sleeve top. If she had the courage to purchase her own accessories, perhaps a wig and some jewelry; the wearing of makeup was too scary a thought, since there was always the possibility of missing some trace. Her life as her ‘true’ self; the woman she believed she had always been? That life had and still was ruled by fear. A margin of error rather than a time of relaxation. The thought of discovery pushed aside any real hope of enjoying herself as herself.
But she sat at the desk, talking with her best friend and sister in one window and receiving hope and encouragement in another window from the one sister who knew her better than she knew herself. The glare behind her from the large window in the living room disappeared when a cloud or two inserted itself into the bright sunny day. In that one moment she noticed her reflection in the monitor as the room dimmed a bit. No amount of dressing, makeup, or any contrivance could change the horrible truth that she would never look like the woman she was, no matter how well conceived and carried out.
And that part of her that remained and would likely be a part of her forever had been pushed back and up along with its companions, giving her at least the appearance of her ‘true’ form. The approximation of breasts from a well stuffed bra still mocked her as she would never have the need or the real joy of expressing herself. Everything was merely a suggestion of what was real; the facsimile instead of the authentic. She was months away from realizing just how authentic she was; that reality borne out of the encouragement of the very women she was talking with at that moment.
So without the someday understanding that was months or maybe even years away and without the visual reminders that would never be, she felt like she was really nothing special; a cipher or a ghost of a real being. Neither a man or woman, but something in between that wasn’t really likeable, much less loveable. She looked at the monitor once more and saw frustration and sadness rear their nondescript heads once again and ruin whatever moment of self-acceptance she had hoped for. There would come a time when she would push past image and form and remember that substance and character and love for others defined her womanhood. But at that moment she felt ashamed, sad, scared and hopeless, and just like the first time decades before, the tears fell from her face; this time hard enough and accompanied by such painful weeping that she signed off without even saying goodbye. She put her head down on top of her arms on the desk and sobbed until she could cry no more.
words and music by
Johnny Burke and Bob Haggart
as performed by Miss Linda Ronstat
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