Sunday, December 14, 2008

Requiem to a Fading Memory: Part I

Its a cold winter day, and as I sit at home, cozy and warm, watching the chill winds whip the trees mercilessly through my window, I find my thoughts churning much like the pine branches outside, blown by a steady breeze of recollection. Some memories fond. Others not so much.

I suppose a cold, drab winter day indoors lends itself to nostalgia. When there is nothing happening, it is only natural to look to the past. And so today I start a project I have wanted to for some time. Requiem to a Fading Memory. This will be a series of short stories, describing past events that have shaped me and paved the way for my transition. They will be in no particular order, but they will all be things I have thought about recently, and found myself thinking, "How I wish I had been blogging at that point in time." And so today I begin with my first full twenty four hour day in femme, and the preceding night. May, twenty three, of the current year. 


I am at an intersection; in more ways than one. Ten minutes ago work ended, and now I am in my car, coming to the point where the road that connects my town to the outside world dead ends, with two simple options. Left or right. And for me the answer tonight will be left, as it is every other weekend, when I head north for counseling.

That intersection is the easy one. But I am at another crossroad mentally. One I've been staring at since my teens. To transition, or not to transition. I have taken hesitant steps on each path, but never too far to wander back and find myself at the same crossroads looking at the same choices yet again.

But at this point in my life, I am stepping on to transition boulevard. In my soul I want to keep walking. I'm looking ahead to the first bridge. I want to cross it, burn it, and never look back except to smile at the flames.

For me, at this point in time, that first bridge is hormone therapy. I know if I can get that far I won't be able to give it up and my path will be set. Later I will realize life is not that simple, but right now that is the goal. Every two weeks, on a Saturday, I head north to talk to my therapist about my issues, and to work out for myself how I will get my life in order for a transition to living full time femme.

This time is different. Usually I leave Saturday morning, drive the three and a half hours to counseling and then go home immediately after. Today however, is Friday, and I have what seems at this point a very bold plan. I have told my parents I will be out of town for the weekend visiting an old college friend in Lexington. But I really have no intention of going there. There are extra items in the cargo area of the sport utility for this overnight trip and thinking about the contents makes me feel almost giddy.

In addition to the small black rolling case I take on my typical overnight trips, there is a beautiful silver cosmetic case, a big black leather duffle, and a stylish, well worn leather hobo bag. Lovingly stretched across the back seat, full length without a crease or fold, my beautiful red Victoria's Secret sweater dress is also along for the ride.

Tonight, I'll be looking for a hotel, less than an hour and a half from my Saturday destination, so that I can have a staging area for my first full day, free to express my true gender.

After a little fast food, and a quick hotel search on my mobile phone, I settle on EconoLodge in Richmond. The drive is uneventful, but I am more excited than I have been in a very long time. Being out of my home town makes me feel so free. My muse Sarah McLachlan is blasting on the stereo, and I'm singing along for all I am worth. "Oh, the quiet child awaits the day when she can break free, of this mold that clings like desperation. Mother, can't you see I've got to live my life the way I feel is, right for me. Might not be right for you, but its right for me. Oh, I believe, this is heaven to no one else but me."

I arrive at the motel and approach the front desk. The man at the counter issues me a room, but the transaction feels odd. He looks at me strangely. Almost judgmentally. But then that is not new to to me. This year, I have started plucking my eyebrows, lost over 15 pounds of weight, had part of my beard fried off with lasers and I have grown out a head of hair that would look out of place anywhere except on the end of a mop. Besides all that I have completely changed my voice gradually over twelve months to the point that on the phone at work, I am called ma'am more often than sir.

My room turns out not to be in the well kept building that houses the motel offices, but instead, in one of the two seedy looking buildings behind it that I didn't notice on my arrival. Suddenly I'm having doubts about this whole idea. This place does not look safe, and I feel so alone. I go up the stairs to my second floor room, carrying a makeup case and purse in drab. It feels awkward in this ghetto looking place and my doubts are turning to fear.

The inside of the room does little to make me feel better. Some things are typical motel. There's a tiny little desk, with a simple wooden chair. Cheap still life art prints adorn the yellowed walls that were once white. There's an old TV in one of those hotel style TV cabinets.

But then there are things that don't strike me as typical at all and add to my growing worry. The plum carpet looks less than clean around the edges. The ugly curtain that covers the window fronting the entire room, leaves a 5 inch gap on one side compromising my sense of privacy. Behind the curtain is a window that seems thin, and almost like it might be made of cheap plexiglass. The door has a large gap down one side and doesn't seem at all secure. 

Suddenly I can't believe my life has come to this. Its getting dark outside, and here I sit in this awful room. Its dirty. Its cheap. I feel so unsafe. And no one in the world knows where I am. I'm suddenly sure that this place only gets business from druggies and people needing a cheap place for clandestine meetings. That secrecy has driven me to this tears at my heart, and I find myself wishing so much I had someone, anyone, to share my dreams and plans with. As darkness falls, a heavy rain sets in that makes the world seem darker and colder still. 

Eventually I get around to checking out the bathroom. It is surprisingly clean looking, and the vanity is well lit. Thinking about sitting at my own vanity, and doing my makeup with no time constraints lightens my mood a little and I decide to begin preparations for the next day.

I take a long warm bath, and take care of all the shaving I need to do, then I start the tedious arm bleaching process. At this point in time I am very picky about arm hair, and I can not stand the tell tale black stubble shaving leaves, so I always trim it incredibly short and bleach it to a near transparent blonde instead.

There is lots of waiting involved in the process, so I switch on the TV and listen to Estaban peddling guitars in a fake husky voice almost as unreal as my femme voice. When the bleaching is done I get back in the shower to rinse the bleach away and survey the damage. There is lots of red irritated skin on my forearms, but I know it will be better by morning.

I look so much better in the mirror without the hair, and again my mood is lifted. I decide I would like a dress rehearsal for the upcoming day, and so I slip in to my dress. I feel beuatiful. The stretchy material clings to my body, taking every advantage of my pitifully undefined figure. The bright red color is a strong contrast against almost anything, yielding such a strong silhouette and again bringing out every inch of curvature and accentuating it in a way that made me look almost femme. 

I open the black duffle and get what is probably the silliest part of my wardrobe. 

(OK, I can't believe I am admitting this! If you have stuck with me this far, then you probably at least deserve a little humor and candor though, so ... er, yeh~! And I did not make up this idea on my own. It actually came from an interview on Oprah or Ricky Lake about insecure flat chested women. I saw it as a a kid back in the 80s. :P )

A bag of cheap, dollar store variety, round party balloons. I get to the sink and cap a balloon over the faucet and fill it to about the size of a b cup. Then I fill the second to an absolutely perfect match. I slip these into my B size bra, and suddenly the dress is fitting everywhere without my flat chest messing up the lay of the fabric. 

(Yeh, laugh it up! *cry*)

I'm feeling good about myself, and now my dirty little room is feeling like my private salon instead of like a seedy dive. I decide to go out and buy some fuel, by credit card at the pump, without makeup since it is already so dark. With my black sling back flats on I'm ready to hit the streets. 

The rain has subsided and it feels clean and fresh outside. I'm in my favorite dress, with my cute little flats, and my credit cards and ID moved into my purse. Its so easy to just pretend I'm a regular girl, taking a regular trip to the store. I drive by three gas stations before I find one uncrowded enough that I feel safe buying fuel sans makeup. And for a moment, standing there at the pump, in public but with no one closer to me than 100 feet, I feel pretty. A car slows as it drives past, and I find myself fantasizing that perhaps the driver is a cute guy, slowing for a look t this tall, slender lady in red. A silly fantasy, but a fun one. 

Back at the hotel, I retrieve my wig from my duffel, for a quick shampoo and conditioning. Then I set it on the TV stand and preen at my eyebrows, getting groomed for my big day. Finally I call mom and tell her I have arrived, but not where I have arrived. A little of the fear and loneliness comes back as I talk. I hate lying. Sitting there in a dress, talking to mom, with her not knowing my real situation at all, I find myself saddened by the need for secrecy.

Now I set my alarm, and strip down to my underwear for bed. But pulling down the covers I find something that looks like dried semen on the sheets. I feel disgusted and my earlier thoughts about the filthy room rush back. I don't want to touch anything. I'm just so disgusted. Eventually I fall asleep in men's jeans and a big floppy tee, curled up in the office chair with only two hotel towels for cover. 

In the morning I am stiff and tired from the sleeping conditions, but I am too excited to care about the room anymore. Starved, I run out to a gas station in drab for a quick breakfast.

Then I shower and get dressed as I was the previous night, and do some extensive makeup work. Sorme layerable powder foundation first wet sponged on until the beard coverage is right. Then another layer dry sponged for more convincing texture. A little blush. Some blue eye shadow. Kiss Me mascarra. A dark red Sorme lipstick. Just a touch of solid white rice powder blended in everywhere to complete the finish. I've trained for this moment for such a long time. Off and on for years. And the results are worth the effort in my eyes. 

With my wig styled and my sling-backs on, I am ready to roll. But first I spend lots of time in the mirror and snap lots of photos with my phone. I feel radiant. I feel feminine. I feel, to a degree I've never experienced before, like my true self. 

(The photo with this post is actually one of the ones from that day and that awful room. Looking back now, I'm awfully critical, but at the time, I felt absolutely beautiful.)

I hit the street with a new sense of pride. Here I am, dressed as I want to be, presenting as female, and out on the road free to do whatever I choose. Later I will develop more confidence but today I am feeling shy, so I make the trip to my counselor without any stops.

This is the moment the day is all about. I am going to open up to someone, and let them see me as who I want to be for the first time. This is not a fast food drive through or paying at the pump. This is not driving or going to the mall without buying anything. This is me, having a conversation with someone I know, with a level of candor, openness and expression I have never had. I feel so nervous as I knock on her open door.

This is the very instant I've been thinking about. As I knock she turns around, and I know I only have a second. If I look ridiculous or pitiable, she is not going to be free to tell me. All I have is this very second when she turns around, to gauge her appraisal. I'm looking for a flicker of shock, or anything to show me for the first time how another individual sees me when I'm trying my hardest to be what I want to be. 

Her reaction doesn't give anything away, and she gives me an easy smile. A few moments into the conversation she compliments my dress. I feel very comfortable with her and have a wonderful session.

After counseling its off to the mall. I still do not have the courage to buy anything face to face. But I walk around without feeling nearly as stressed as on previous outings. Then as I walk through the crowded food court something happens. Its such a small thing, but it helps me in ways I can't explain. A man giving out samples for the chinese restaurant there calls out to me and presents me a tray. I take my tiny sample with complete confusion. 

Here I am, this strange looking, over tall, oddly made up creature. And I'm not expecting acceptance. My goal is just to look normal enough to be left alone, and not get laughed at. And now I'm standing here shocked this person is not disgusted by me at all. There are tons of people and not nearly time to offer samples to everyone. If he were disturbed by me, he could have ignored me and it would not have even seemed impolite. But instead he specifically picked me out of the crowd casually just like he was dealing with a normal person. Not the sub-human I have always felt like deep down.

I smile, and say "delicious." He smiles back. I don't feel passable, but I feel almost human.

After lots of driving, a drive-through McDonald's lunch and a couple stops to get photos and check the appearance of my makeup in the sun, I get back to London. Its late at night and I so dread going home. Its hard, but I finally manage to make myself change clothes, and then hit the men's room at Huddle House to wash away the makeup.

There's that silly looking guy in the mirror again. Beard shadow and fluffy hair. Scrawny and shapeless in the oversized clothes. Welcome back to reality mister.

I have described the end of these outings often as being like finishing a good book. I relish it, but at the same time, I so wish there was more. I'm so hungry to be myself, and more determined than ever to make it happen. 

Two more weeks of my tired male act and I'll be back for more. I drive home dreaming up what to wear. Sarah McLachlan sings as I drive. "Nothing stands between us here, and I won't be denied."


Anonymous said...


I always feared using water filled balloons. Afraid they would pop or spring a leak like in that Will and Grace episode. I came across a blog where a girl talked about using bird seed. Which I tried Halloween before last. It worked quite well. I passed so well that night that they had to ask me what I was doing in the costume contest.

I didn't even want to be in the stupid contest but was egged on by my friends.

ms.shandy said...

Thanks for commenting. When I posted all my old entries here, I never really expected anyone to read back this far. But this entry is probably my favorite of all, so it brings me a smile to know someone liked it. :)

When I first published this on yahoo 360 a friend there also mentioned bird seed. The balloons always did leave me nervous about breaks. But there were things about i that I liked. I do lots of hugging when visiting friends and doing support groups, so i was nice being soft. And filled to a small size, they aren't unrealistically firm, or tight enough to break easily. But I always imagined being out dancing somewhere and having balloons fly out of my top. :P

Anonymous said...

I am becoming a fan of your blog. I "feel" your entries. They hit close to home so I'm pretty much in the story with you.