What do you get when you fall in love? I guy with a pin to burst your bubble?
The Crush: Womanly
By Angela Rasch
I love him, even if he is “womanly!” I’m not ashamed to admit my crush – to myself.
I smiled, deep in thought during my morning training run. In six weeks I would take a shot at my first triathlon. I wasn’t expecting to finish with a good time but loved the challenge.
Jim and I have been friends since our first year in law school when we formed a study group with Ron. “J-A-R-heads” they had called us. Jim. Andy. Ron. We were good together then, and we’re still good together now.
Damn the partners!
We’d all graduated from law school in the top two percent of the class. We immediately cloistered ourselves in a shabby apartment preparing for the bar. It was our stratagem to look for employment as a group rather than individuals.
The firm we landed with had eagerly taken us on, but almost immediately became disenchanted with Jim.
Jim worships the law. He lives in a world of absolutes. While the rest of us try to twist and turn the law, Jim thinks we should find the truest position under the law and advocate for our clients within that position.
There's an old legal aphorism that goes, "If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table."
Jim believes that the law is the law and that we should all respect it enough to try to make sure everyone abides by it. I wish everyone were more like him.
He had created a place in the firm researching the law for Ron and my cases. We know that when we’re facing our opposition, we have a much deeper and profound understanding of the law.
The partners in our firm are amazed at the results Ron and I have achieved but have been slow to give Jim credit.
I jogged by a carwash and stared at the long line of suckers who were donating twenty dollars each to the carwash owners. They’ll all be back within a month! I’ll wait for a good rain.
Yesterday, the partners called Ron and me into a meeting. One of the partners had been chastised by one of our bigger clients for having a “homo” on staff. The partners said Jim was just too “womanly.”
Their rant became brutal as they took turns assassinating Jim’s character. Andy and I started to defend Jim, but we were firmly told their decision was final. Andy and I had one decision to make: whether or not we wanted to keep our jobs. They said we both would make partner within two years, but Jim had to go. We were to tell Jim this weekend that his services were no longer required. On Monday, he was to be gone and we were to let them know that we were both prepared to continue working as we had been, for the “good of the firm.”
I winced in memory of the statements they’d made:
“His unwillingness to make a decision is purely feminine.”
“When people who don’t know him talk to him on the phone they think they’re talking to a gosh-darn woman!”
“I was following Jim into the supply room yesterday and was nearly hypnotized by the swaying motion of his hips – until I caught myself. I nearly barfed.”
“The way he holds his hands makes my skin crawl.”
“His nails are too long.”
“There are days he smells like a flower.”
Each word pushed me further back into my closet. I’d been sure that I’m gay since high school, but have been discrete. Jim knew, but Ron didn’t. I wanted to present an argument that Jim wasn’t womanly, but didn’t have the ammunition.
The three of us had purchased a larger, older home together when we started with the firm, mainly financed through family loans. We didn’t have any time to do remodeling, so we hired all the work done, but it turned out great. It was a brick American Foursquare built in 1918, with dormer windows and a huge front porch. The boiler provided six heating zones, with consistently comfortable hot air. It had four bedrooms on the second floor, but we had converted the extra bedroom to an office/library, which was rarely used because we worked such long hours at the firm. The first floor enjoyed influences of Frank Lloyd Wright, in that it had open concept floor planning.
A blast of cold wind momentarily brought me back into focus, and I realized I’d been running much too fast for the distance I wanted to cover today. I’m not good at this.
Things had been going along great for over two years when Ron was called out of town for depositions. Jim and I ended up by ourselves with a rare free evening.
We quickly decided to spend a quiet night doing absolutely “nothing.” I bought three bottles of wine, which was more than we had consumed in total for the prior six months.
We sat together on our overstuffed couch in front of a birchwood blaze. It was the first time we had used the fireplace.
I’m not sure how it happened, but we found ourselves in each other’s arms and eventually in my bed.
Two weeks later I moved out. Jim was too “womanly” for me. I wasn’t exactly his sexual cup of tea, either.
I love him, but not like that.
Now Ron and I are faced with telling him the firm doesn’t want him. Not because his work isn’t excellent, because it is. Not because he isn’t a great person, because he is.
They don’t want him around the firm for the same reason that I’m not sexually attracted to him. He’s just too “womanly.”
I had been mad, but Ron had been insanely pissed. He told them to fuck off. They asked him to spend the weekend thinking about it. He agreed to, only because I said we should, at least, give it forty-eight hours before making any decisions.
Laura eyed her menu with scrutiny worthy of an Inquisition, before sighing and resigning herself to order “something” containing gluten. “What’s the deal?” She demanded with the practiced assumed rights of an older sister.
I blushed, unprepared to leap out of my closet – just yet.
“How can they advertise a ‘croissant-anything’ as nutritious?” She continued.
I smiled shyly, realizing her first question had been rhetorical rather than soul-stirring. “I picked this restaurant mainly so we could talk privately, not because their food made Frank Bruni gush,” I apologized. Laura seems always to put me on the defensive, even if it’s as simple as questioning my choice of restaurants.
As if to refute my indifference to their offerings, a much-too-perky waitress delivered a black skillet brimming with fresh-baked cornbread to the two precious seniors next to us. They sat pressed tightly together on one side of the booth they occupied, leaving the opposite side both empty and envying their affection.
That bright-yellow starch they’d ordered will soon be swimming for its life in a lake of butter and maple syrup. I hope they have their Medicare cards with them in case they have a cholesterol meltdown.
An only slightly less energetic young lady posed next to our table and responded with “Excellent choice!” to both my order of an English muffin and Laura’s dry wheat toast. Having rated our ability to parse a menu she left me on my own to explain to Laura why I needed to have a serious conversation with her.
“I’m not who you think I am,” I sputtered, the second the waitress had left in search of our “excellent choices.” If I’m quick, I can reveal my news before the waitress comes back. I’d rather not have a third party share in what I’m going to reveal.
Laura laughed. “Listen, Jim, I’ve known all along that you’re the evil twin of my real brother. At least, that’s what I tried to get Mom to believe when I was starting school and had become ‘worldly.’ Can you believe that was twenty-two years ago?”
My wistful smile reflected my longing for our deceased parents, as well as a remembrance of a happier time. “You were the best older sister anyone could ask for.”
She grinned. “Remember when you were in the third grade, and I staked out the playground and caught ‘Attila’ Carson shaking you down for your lunch money?”
I nodded. “Attila” had been in Laura’s grade and was about forty pounds heavier than me, at that time. His real name was Henry, but he forced us younger kids to call him “Attila,” because he thought it made him seem scary. “You held him down, and then wrote ‘Creep’ on his forehead with a blue magic marker.”
“I also made him give me HIS lunch money for a week.” She laughed. “So, my only sibling, what’s this Saturday brunch about?”
It was hard to believe she had once been the biggest kid in the schoolyard. She has the body of an Ann Taylor model. A perfect size six. Thank goodness we both were blessed with Mom’s genes.
“I’m like Caitlin,” I cautiously explained, deciding to finally come clean.
“Bruce Jenner?” Her eyebrows shot up with her voice. “What does he have to do with you?”
“ ‘She’ is transgender and so am I.”
“Is he really, or is he just trying to make a pile of money? I can’t stand that family of his,” she hissed.
“ ‘Hers’,” I insisted. “I’m not a big fan of her family, either.”
“Are you saying you’ve got the same illness as Bruce?” She laughed nervously.
“She’s ‘Caitlin’ now, and ‘illness’ isn’t remotely the right word. But, yes . . . yes, for as long as I can remember I’ve believed I should have been born in a body like yours.”
She sneered. “Be careful what you wish for. My hips are too big and my waist is too low. I have to be very careful what I wear, or someone would mistake me for a Franklin stove, and try to fill my tummy with kindling.”
I shook my head. “You have a darling body and ninety-nine percent of the females in this town would trade for it, any day.”
“I don’t know about that, but I do know this. If given the choice, most people in this town would trade for your life in a nano-second. Jim, you’re healthy, good-looking, extremely smart, and a lawyer in a prestigious firm.”
“Working in that firm is a lot like attending junior high school,” I complained. “They hate the way I practice law.”
“Not Ron. Ron was in the supermarket the other day, and I complimented him on winning the Wood’s case. He told me that he only did about a third of the work. He said your research was responsible for more than half of the huge court award your firm won for your client.”
“Ron appreciates me. Andy does, too.”
“How is your scrumptious roommate?” Laura had thrown herself at Ron several times before she met her husband. Ron had avoided taking the bait. “What does he think about you having Jenner-itis?”
“Laura, please.” A small tear escaped my right eye. Lately, that eye always was the first to betray my emotions. “You’re the first person I’ve told, other than my doctors, of course.”
“Doctors? I thought you said it’s not an illness?”
“Doctors are necessary for. . .things, but it certainly isn’t an illness. Please try to be civil.”
“I’m handling this the best I can,” she asserted. “You’ve always been the stable part of my life. Now . . . all of a sudden -- you tell me you’re a transvestite.”
“No,” I said flatly. “It hasn’t been all of a sudden, and I’m not technically a transvestite. Although a transvestite does enjoy dressing in the clothing of the opposite sex, which I certainly do, except it’s not really the ‘opposite sex’ – it’s complicated. I’m a transsexual in that I want to be accurately recognized as a female even though I was born with male genitalia.”
She waved a hand dismissively at me. “It’s my fault. I wanted a sister. I tried to get Mom to take you to the hospital to have your ‘peter’ taken off when you were two and I was four. Maybe I made you play ‘dress-up’ too much when we were kids.”
“I was already aware when I was five that something was horribly wrong, I just didn’t know how to tell anyone.” I smiled ruefully. “Gender confusion is thought by many to be rooted in genetics. You probably didn’t do anything millions of other older sisters have done. I just came wired this way.”
“But, you dated so many girls in college. . .?” Her face registered her lack of understanding.
“I did a lot of things in college. Let me ask you a few questions.”
“Do you like me?”
“I love you. I admire you. I want my two kids to grow up to be just like you.”
“Thank you. I love you just as much. But. . .did you like me when I was in college?”
“You had a lot of growing-up to do,” she admitted ruefully.
“It was more than that,” I asserted. “My first year in law school, right after I moved in with Andy and Ron, I had a long talk with myself. Things were spiraling out of control. I was so miserable trying to be a so ‘male’ when I’m clearly not, that I was doing nearly everything wrong.”
“Everyone has to go through self-discovery.”
“Exactly. However, it felt to me like there were four people in our apartment. Andy, Ron, Jim . . . and Jill.”
“Jill? I never met ‘Jill.’ ”
“I’m Jill. The trouble was I was trying to be Jim . . . and it was killing me. Imagine if you had to fake being a male for twenty-fours a day.”
“There are things about being a male I could enjoy.” She pointed toward a man in a jacket designed more for a deer stand than a restaurant. “Just imagine the decadence of spending a weekend with nothing more to do than to track down a moose.”
“I don’t think they hunt moose anymore,” I guessed. “However, I’ll admit there are male things I do enjoy. But the vast majority of my preferences are more feminine than masculine.”
“Oh,” she said with some relief, “you’ve always been like that. You never had much interest in sports and spent hours talking with me about fashion. That’s just you. That doesn’t mean you’re like Caitlin Jenner! You’re just you.”
“That’s what I’m telling you. I’m going to be “me” full time in the future. No more dishonesty.”
“Dishonest?” She scoffed. “You’re the most honest person I know.”
“Really? How honest was it when I was lying about my true gender to the girls I was dating?”
She picked up her toast but dropped it as irrelevant.
“One night, I made a list of my key personality traits. I assigned each of them to either ‘Jim’ or ‘Jill.’ What I quickly discovered was that those behaviors I admired pretty much all belonged to ‘Jill.’ That was about four years ago. From that day forward, I’ve made a real effort to be myself.”
“I don’t understand.”
“For example, I was a binge drinker in college. That was a Jim thing. I decided to restrict my alcohol to wine with dinner.”
“That doesn’t make you a female. Lots of women drink more than men.’
“Yes, that’s true, but do lots of men love wearing floral perfume? Do they enjoy the feel of a great pair of heels? Do they spend hours polishing their nails just to try a new color?”
Her eyes darted to my hands. “I’ve wondered why your fingernails are always a little long.”
“The line between female and male is very narrow,” I said. “Here, let me show you.” I signaled our waitress who came over to help us. I raised my voice a half octave. “My sister and I have been noticing the way you wear your hair. It’s very attractive. Would you mind telling us where you get it cut?”
She blushed. “No problem. I go to Edie’s on seventh. She’s pretty busy. You need to call about three weeks in advance.”
“Thank you so much. One other thing. Could you point me to the little girl’s room?”
She gave me directions without batting an eye.
“That was astonishing,” Laura allowed after the waitress left. “I’ve given you baths and. . .. Yet, I was as utterly convinced as the waitress that you’re a female.”
I smiled. “Some is practice. Most of it is unlearning all the things I’ve had to do to appear male.”
She pulled her phone from her purse.
Laura uses her phone as a weapon against the world. They should make her get a concealed carry permit for it.
“This isn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision, is it?” She asked.
“I’ve been taking estrogen and anti-androgyn for over a year.”
“It blocks the male drugs in my body that produce secondary sexual characteristics. It’s allowing me to grow breasts. I have them wrapped tight most of the time, but I’m just about a B cup.”
Her face registered surprise. Then she grinned. “You’re going to love them. Mom and I are both D cups. So – if genes have anything to do with it. . ..”
I could feel my face reddening.
“You’re totally committed?” She asked.
“I’ve been totally committed for two years.”
“Let me make a few calls.” Her fingers were flying across her phone with practiced skill. “I’m going to free myself up for the rest of the day. It’s almost 10:00, but we can still have a full day of salon and shopping.”
“I have plenty of clothes,” I whined.
“Are you sure you’re female?”
I grinned. “What I meant to say is, you don’t have to take me shopping, I fully capable of doing that on my own.”
“Girl,” she glared, “your big sister hasn’t had the opportunity to teach you the things sisters pass on to one another. We’re going to fix that – starting now.”
The day had been heaven. Laura took me to her salon where we had “the works.” Even in my boy clothing, I looked and felt spectacular with my hair fixed, my nails extended and polished, and my make-up professionally applied.
Then we went to the Mall of America where she gave me a crash course in big sister advice. An hour into our excursion we decided I should put my boy things into a shopping bag and continue our mission “looking fine.”
Laura delighted in pointing out the appreciative stares I was getting from men while we strolled from shop to shop. By the end of the day, I was exhausted and had spent what amounted to an entire paycheck.
We decided to put off introducing “Jill” to my niece and nephew for another day, but Laura assured me they were going to love their aunt just as much as they had loved their uncle.
I was sitting in our second story library, in one of my new outfits, dangling a high heeled show from my toe working on a Will Shortz’ New York Times crossword puzzle. It was rated two-stars which meant the answers could be somewhat obvious.
I had already gone through the puzzle once filling in those I felt certain were correct.
“Let’s see,” I said to myself, “fourteen across is five letters and starts with “w.” The clue is ‘John Lennon’s last million-dollar single. That has to be Woman. I love that song.” I went to my iPad and called up a Youtube of Lennon. “After all it is written in the stars,” I sang along, sounding more like Carole King than Lennon. Youtube automatically followed up with Imagine, so I let it play.
I smiled. Laura had helped me pick out a new scent. Laura convinced me that my Chanel No. 5 was a little too old for me and introduced me to Yvresse, which had a fragrance like a more flirtatious, blonder Chanel. Perfect.
“Let’s see, 65 across is an upholstery fabric with “l” as the fourth of five letters. That’s easy – toile.” I grinned. I have five hours before Ron returns from his out of town trip. I have to tell him sometime soon, but today might not be right. Actually, when I tell him, I want to be wearing this dress, with maybe a little less make-up.
I’ve always picked up a bit of a vibe from Ron. He seems interested in me . . . as a sexual partner, but can’t quite decide what or if to do something about it. To be honest, I’ve always had a bit of a crush on him. More than a bit . . . for the last year or so I’ve dreamt of marrying Ron at least once a week.
My iPhone buzzed with a text from Ron. “What you think of starting a new law firm? Just us 3? Andy’s in, if U R? Home soon 2 talk.”
That would be great! I’ve never felt welcome in our firm, and lately it’s been worse.
I picked up my crossword with a grin as I felt one large weight lifted from my shoulders. It looks like 23 across is “Hetero.” What else could it be . . . a six letter word for boy – girl? Ron is definitely hetero. If he perceives me to be what I truly am, would he ever like me?
The effects of the wine I’d been sipping and the exciting day combined to cause my eyes to flutter, and I eventually lost the battle.
“I’m home,” I shouted from the front door. “Today must be our lucky day. I was able to negotiate a substantial settlement, and didn’t have to do the dispositions.” I stopped in my tracks at the living room entrance.
Jim was sitting on the couch looking totally womanly. He appeared to be waking from a nap.
“You look amazing,” I said without thinking.
“I . . .,” she said blushing and sounding very sexy.
“Is this a permanent change?” I asked hopefully.
“Great,” I said with increasing excitement. “I’ve always. . .. I’ve often thought. . .. This is how you should be.” I sat next to her on the couch. “Have I ever told you that I have a mad crush on you?”
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