Life is a Journey - Make sure you get the right roadmap to the universe

I'm quite sure I picked up the wrong one on my way out the door....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The End of the Empire

I never thought it would come to this but perhaps I always did. It was the call from my dad today. He had just come from visiting with my mom in the convalescent home where she had been moved to just a day earlier. Her fractured pelvis had stopped bleeding and she was at least physically stable. Her mental state though has been tortured to say the least, haunted by the daemons of dementia slowly robbing her mind, her identity and her will to live.

The phone rang just after 5:30 this afternoon. It was my dad and he sounded to be distraught and agitated by the tone of voice in which he hurriedly spoke.

"What is it dad?", I asked. "How's mom doing in her rehab?"

"I'm not going back to see her tomorrow", he abruptly chattered back.

"Why?", I asked him incredulously.

"The social workers won't let her go home with me when she gets out - not without someone to watch over her in my house.", he tartly replied.

I had a feeling that this day might come. So many years of seeing how my dad could be... how he would lose his temper. Seeing the physical release of raw kinetic energy against my mom and witnessing her quivering body slumped in the corner as she silently held back the tears. And I, feeling helpless as a young child, hiding with my green blanket in the linen closet, peering out through the wooden slats and feeling helpless and unable to help. I had a feeling that this day would come.

I gathered my thoughts and played devil's advocate. "Perhaps they are concerned for her well being. You, yourself admitted that she tends to wander the house at night while you are asleep, and that this is when these accidents usually occur", I stated.

"No, she is just being careless. She needs to think what she is doing - she never pays attention.", he replied curtly.

It was like talking to the wall. It has always been like talking to the wall. At least the wall never remarked acidic rebuttals back when I spoke to it.

I had told the social workers while she was at the hospital that I was afraid my mother would eventually be released, only to return home and to have another accident while she was unsupervised. I told them that her care was getting to be too much for my father but that he would not accept any help from anyone else either. He was a martyr. He always was a martyr. The self appointed accolades that he did everything, gave everything and expected nothing were always met side by side with the cries of never having the help or support of anyone else - but an offer to help would be met with demeaning replies that he could do it and would do it all on his own without any help that he didn't need.

I had told the social workers what was going on - enough to let them begin to monitor the situation and to take note of the situation. I had wondered whether or not my words had fallen on deaf ears but realized with this phone call tonight, that this was in fact a reality happening behind the scenes...and only beginning to come forth now with my dad's phone call.

I didn't know what to say to him. He never listened, saw, empathized. The rules were his and his alone and so long as you played by those rules, he was happy and in his mind, his family was happy. There was nothing I could say.

So I repeated it again to him, "They are only worried about mom's living conditions at home, being on a second floor". I evaded the root of the issue as it would come out soon enough from any investigation that was ongoing behind the scenes.

"I'm not going in to see her tomorrow", he quipped. "She doesn't appreciate me there anyway. She told the nurse that I was about to lay a hand on her. That's not true - she's delusional".

I ended the call shortly after as I really could not keep my emotions contained. I told him to get some rest and to take a day off - that it would do him, and moreso my mom, a lot of good.

After that call, I felt dead inside. My mom was being lost to the daemons of dementia and my dad was losing his ability to reign in the frustration and anger of his inability to control the situation or himself. It was as if I were being thrust back in time to when the near nightly sessions of abusive language and of physical trauma were so common. There was nothing left at this point.

It was only three years earlier that I had learned through my spouse that my sister was not truly my sister. My mother had been in a relationship with another man before she had met my dad but was too ashamed to ever admit it to me. She confided in my spouse simply because it was easier than for her to face me with this buried truth that she had kept hidden away to fester and mold for so many years.

I had asked her bluntly one time, "Mom, why did you never admit to me that my own sister was the daughter of another father? Why???"

Her reply to me simply was that, "I was afraid you would not accept and love her if I told you the truth".

I knew that was a lie too. She had tried to cover up that failed marriage and hide it away. But secrets cannot be hidden forever and when they are, they grow hideously on their own into monstrous truths which come back at lightning speed one day to blast down the walls which held them back.

I learned that my own mother had been involved romantically with this other man and that she gave birth to my sister out of wedlock. He was an abusive man and my mother refused to marry him so she left the state and moved to live with her sister in Connecticut to hide away from him. It worked... and for over 45 years, my sister's father never did find my sister. Meanwhile my mother went back into the dating scene and met my father while my mother's sister watched over my own sister. She never told him that she had bore a daughter under a prior marriage - never told him that is until my father and her became engaged.

She layed it on him like a ton of bricks crashing down. He wondered how this could be that she could hide this from him for so long. My mother explained how her daughter was living with her sister and dictated to my father that if he really loved her, that this would not change his mind to marry her. She had set the trap and she had lured in her fish, yet the fish she landed turned out to be yet another shark.

When my father's mother heard of this development, she was outraged that my father would marry such a harlot and only accepted that she would allow the marriage if my mother would agree to keep my sister from the family, continuing to hide her away. her only thoughts were of what a disgrace it would be if the family were to catch on that her only son had married a woman who had given birth to a child out of wedlock. My grandmother was concerned only with her own image within the family and the community, not with my mom and certainly not with my sister who was crying daily wondering where her mother was and when she would return.

My mom and dad were married and lived in the apartment of the house next to where my grandmother lived. For three months they were married until one day my mom's sister called up and said to my mother, "You had better take your daughter home with you. She is crying here every day - crying for her mom - and wondering where her dad is". My mother and my mother's sister had both capitulated and agreed that they would tell my sister that her real father had died - never to be seen again. The web of lies and deceit were growing daily on both sides of the family.

My sister was collected from Connecticut and came to live with my father and mother. My sister hated my dad from the start. She saw his violent mood swings and, with the 13 year age difference between the two of us, saw much more of those early and troubled years than I ever did. My father's mother hated my mother for the harlot she was and denied my sister as the bastard child offspring of a harlot. My dad loved his mother too much to stand up to her to defend his own family and so would pace the floor in constant inner rage, having conversations with his id within.

And then I came along......

My sister seemed to end up being the scorned step child that no one loved. It seemed like I was the one they were always giving attention to and ignoring her. But deep within, I was struggling with my own identity issues and my own introversion and insecurities..... dealing with seeing the physical violence day in and day out, dealing with being picked on at school and laughed at and of being beat up, tied to flagpoles with hockey tape and finally, just being ignored after all the fun had run its course and I had been spent.

My sister left home shortly after graduating college. I never really knew her for she was always eager to get out of the hellhole of a house which I languished in.

So long as I didn't complain, so long as I did what I was told, so long as I tried to please my parents, the anger was never seen and the times of physical violence for myself were kept at bay. I so wanted to tell my parents about these feelings deep inside me from such an early age but I dared not sacrifice the little bit of harmony in the family which I seemed to have the recipe to control.

But it has all fallen apart today. My mother was but one anchor in a pillar of deceit and my father was the pillar which commanded life within the family as he saw it to controlled. The pillar of my mother has fallen and with it, any reason to continue this life long charade fell with it.

It was in that conversation with my dad that I had realized that my family was dead to me. Like whisps of images that never really were and never could be, what was left was a sallow shell of veneer around their crumbling lives. A lifetime spent building a webbed facade of lies and deceit were becoming the cancer which killed my family.

There are reasons today why I long for solitude, for the mountains and forests and lakes where no person sets foot. There are reasons why I have chosen to live in the woods, reasons embodied best by Thoreau who once said,

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

It is truly the only place where my soul can find the quiet and solitude which allows me to reign in my own sense of purpose in life and to push forward, hopefully to be able to leave one day, my own daemons which follow me, behind....

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Fall....

It was an ominous phone call received late in the evening last weekend that dampened what had been one of my best days out shopping for wedding dresses. I remember the exact moment.... I was balanced on a ladder which was precariously perched on the stairs to the basement and hanging a pendant chandelier light when the phone rang. My wife answered the phone and acknowledged to me that it was my dad. Mom had taken another fall in the house again and was sedentary on the couch. My dad didn't know whether or not to take her in to the hospital as she wasn't experiencing any pain. She couldn't walk, my dad explained to me. Stunned by that statement my spouse and I exclaimed that he needed to call an ambulance to the house immediately to have her seen.

It was my mom's lack of complaint and of pain as she had lay on the couch and tended to by my dad that had both her and my dad feeling that this was just a simple bruise from a fall. Her arrival at the hospital however and her subsequent examination yielded a diagnosis that was far more serious however. her pelvis had fractured from her fall and she was bleeding internally from deep within the bone.

Doctors were able to stabilize her condition and stop the bleeding by the time we called the next morning to check on her status. We made plans to close up the house and to drive the 100 miles down to Massachusetts that evening after work to check in on her. Her dementia had become progressively worse over these past few weeks and I didn't really know what to expect when I did finally see her.

Arriving at the hospital, I was not prepared emotionally for what I saw. My mother seemed just to be a shell of her former self. It was difficult to see her withered and tortured body sunken into the confines of the hospital bed with so many tubes and IV's hooked up to her. On one night, I sat there with her by the bedside and stroked her hair while she slept. My father, who had been by her side consistently day and night, finally took a long needed break and had left to go home and get some rest. The nurse's aid who had been sitting with my mom asked if she could take a small break and if I would be alright to be alone for a while with my mother. I nodded a quiet yes to her, holding back the tears I knew she saw in my eyes.

I spent the next half hour stroking my mom's hair and just watching her sleep. At times I broke down crying for the pain she was in and had to continually endure. I cried for the torture which the dementia, like a thief, stole from her identity in larger and larger pieces. I just sat there with her, hoping that she would know that I was there and loved her.

And then, without warning, she awoke. Her eyes opened as if she had never been asleep. She turned her head toward me and gazed directly into my eyes. For a moment it was silent as she just peered at me until she spoke.

"You are beautiful", she uttered.

"I'm sorry mom", I replied questioning and a bit startled. "What was that?"

"You're beautiful", she said again, "both inside and outside".

She looked at me for a moment longer and then simply closed her eyes, as if she had never awakened, and fell back to sleep. I completely lost my emotions in tears that I could no longer hold back and quietly wept.

My wife visited the next day while I worked from home to get caught up with a few things that needed to be finished off. While she was there, she brought up to my mom something that I had thought the dementia would have taken from her - my conversation with her about my being transgender.

"You know that your son feels he is and wants to be a woman", she said.

My mom's reply amazed her when she uttered, "I know that.... But I just don't understand why... women seem to be the ones who suffer the most in this world...."

She remembered. She knew. She had known all these years. I was struck with incredulity and amazement.

Mom had been through so much in her life and her dementia seemed to bring back so many difficult memories which she had repressed for so many years of her life. She recounted stories of her father and his cruelty towards his daughters, both verbally and physically. She spoke as she told them, as if she were living through them only for the first time today. My heart sank as, like an onion, the layers of her childhood and young adult years were revealed in their hard and bitter truth. Her life had been more difficult growing up than I had ever imagined, but she had kept this part of her life deeply buried, repressed and denied to everyone for so long.

She cried out one day, asking rhetorically almost to God and not to me "Why am I here? Why do I keep coming back?". I could only say to her at that moment, "Mom, I love you, that is why..."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Say Yes to the Dress

Saturday, October 15 was a great experience for both my spouse, Joanne, and myself as we took a venture out for a day of dining and shopping. There is still some level of concern on my spouse's part with her primary fear being for my best interest. "What if someone says something or causes you trouble or harm?" she often worries. It's more about her worries of what could happen but what never seems to that worries her most. It's having been out a number of times on my own or with other friends which has helped me to gain the confidence of understanding that we are simply accepted by others as who we portray. So long as we are confident in who we are inside, and so long as we exude that confidence outwardly when we present ourselves in the greater world, there are few problems that will likely ever be encountered.

Joanne and I had a wonderful lunch at a local Chinese Restaurant Saturday afternoon. Interestingly, after lunch, she snapped open her fortune cookie and laughed as she read her fortune. She handed it to me and I read it.... "You will have a long and wonderful life with your wife". How ironic, I thought to myself, that she should end up with such a specifically apt fortune! How more ironic was it that I would be out shopping the next day for wedding dresses with my other girlfriend, Joanie, to redo our vows with our respective partners - except that this time it would be as brides!

We followed up lunch with a few stores so that Joanne would have the opportunity to be with me, watch and see how the world behaves around my presence. Our first stop was to a T.J. Maxx to utilize a gift card I had been given. I asked Joanne to let me head into the store and then to come in after me a few moments later. This allowed her to be able to watch interactions between myself and the other patrons. No one picked up on anything out of the ordinary and if they did, they really didn't make it obvious at all. I shuffled through aisles and racks of clothes, sharing space with other women who excused themselves politely around me or I around them as I browsed. I do recall one couple passing me whose husband said to his wife, "She is quite a tall woman", to which the wife did not comment or correct. Well, true enough, I was wearing my low heels that day and I was fairly statuesque. If that was the only comment, I'm happy!

We headed over to the local Fashion Bug where I was approached by one of the sales associates who helped me find a couple of items I had been looking for fro the catalog. She was personable to the point that we were able to strike up a conversation about several topics outside of the realm of immediate business. Again, we had a good experience in this store....

Then.... we headed over to Payless Shoes where I found what I needed for an outfit I had put together for fall. I am quite sure that the associate at the register did not pick up on the fact that I was anything but a natal woman UNTIL I opened my mouth and spoke to her at the register. There was an immediate wide-eyed expression as she realized that there was a variance here between who she thought I was initially. She was about 18 or 19 years old at most and I am imagining that she may not have seen a transgender woman much, if at all before in her life. I maintained confidence and smiled back at her nervous smile reassuring her visually that everything was alright. I inquired about a discount going on in the store to which she replied I could most certainly have one if I texted a code to the stores site. I engaged her in conversation as I donned my "old lady" glasses and I could sense her feeling much more relaxed as I did so.

Joanne, who was not at the register at the time, approached as I just finished swiping my credit card through on the purchase and asked if she could obtain the discount as well. The cashier had just looked up from her screen as I signed my name and almost slipped as she replied, "You can certainly get the same discount that she did". I thought it quite astute and considerate that she had been careful in her selection of pronouns, even with relatively sudden exposure to a new and different situation.

My best and most lasting experience of the weekend was on Sunday when I went out shopping for wedding dresses with my friend Joanie. The idea is that we will both redoing our vows sometime next year with our respective spouses except that this time we would be the brides in our own wedding! I had located a consignment shop in a nearby town that seemed like it might prove worthwhile to visit. Upon arriving and browsing through the racks of the first floor and half of the second, we found only racks and racks of women's clothes. Joanie, on a whim, clopped across the wooden floor in her heeled boots and into the "men's and boy's" section. I suddenly heard my name as she shouted a whisper from across the store, "Pssst - Christen!". She motioned with her hands as a huge smile lit up across her face. I thought little of it as I casually sauntered over and into the staid men's clothing area.

As I stepped through the doorway into the men's clothing room, I gazed to my right and saw before me, rows and rows and rows of wedding gowns! It was too impossibly perfect to be true but there they were! We navigated into the lair of dresses suspended by racks which were themselves suspended to the ceiling. The gowns created a labyrinth of pure white which one could not see over, through or around. We found a couple of dresses and, collecting them, turned one last corner in the labyrinth to find a changing area sealed off from the rest of the store by the walls of white around us. This was no private changing facility but the temptation was too large to not try on such beautiful and well priced dresses! One by one, we each tried on a dress. The ones that were too small still endured the herculean strength which my fingers would allow to try to coax zippers which would not go any higher, just a wee bit more!

I finally tried on one last dress and Joanie took a couple of wonderful pictures. It was at that point that a mother and two daughters caught a look at me from their vantage in the labyrinth to see my reflection in the triple mirror which I stood before on the raised podium. It was both a moment of affirmation and panic as they caught me in their gaze and loudly proclaimed how beautiful that dress looked on me to themselves. I was not sure how I would get changed as I stepped off the podium. They were browsing but inching closer by the minute to the row I was in. The changing area was both a changing area and the last rack of dresses so I knew they would be upon me soon! Joanie held up a coat as I slipped off the dress. I could see their reflection in the mirror as the dress dropped to the floor. Nothing was too far out of the ordinary as my gel inserts in my bra were most definitely not showing as I glanced down quickly to check. I imagined that my breast inserts would fall to the floor just as they walked in, or perhaps they might see the medical tape I had wrapped around just under my breasts.

I had just slipped into my top, my hair still tussled from wrestling with clothes as they turned the corner and walked in on us! The mother complimented the beautiful dress she had seen me in a moment earlier and a conversation ensued. They were thrilled to learn that we were both redoing our vows and thought it wonderful! At no time, even if they did know something was different, did they let on. As far as we both could tell, they treated us as if we were the women we know we truly are inside.

It was a truly gratifying experience with just enough adrenaline coursing through me to make it a day I will not soon forget in my life!

"Be who you truly know you are and others will truly let you be!" -CB

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Woman Within

Monday, October 4, 2010

Christmas in the Fall....

My spouse and I spent a wonderful weekend with our friends, a couple, who live on the other side of the state in New Hampshire. It was a day filled with great conversations and lively atmosphere as we trekked from store to store in the resort town shopping mecca of North Conway, New Hampshire. It was a day too, for Joanne and I to learn from each other and the world, as we interacted with the greater world in a busy realm.

Joanne and I arrived at Joanie's house in the early afternoon on Saturday and were met at the front door by her spouse, Deb. After exchanging greetings and hugs, we headed in with our overnight bags to our guest room. Joanne made herself comfortable as I proceeded to get my makeup on, get dressed and to style my hair for a day of shopping adventure. It took me about an hour and a half to get myself put together but the end result proved worth it. I went for an upscale look with my ruffled top, brown pants with buckled belt and low brown mary jane shoes. Joanie looked fantastic as well with her jeans look. The girls both went with their casual look, not requiring the time which we needed to doll ourselves up.

We headed into town and to the outlet stores at Settler's Green. It was a very, very busy weekend with the fall foliage beginning to peak and the leaf peepers out in force scurrying to view the myriad of colors that surround this mountain valley. The only green left to view at this time of year, was that of the cash flowing from the shoppers pockets. Parking was hard to come by, but we found a spot near the back of the lot, alighted from my SUV and trekked towards the mass of shoppers promenading in the warm sunshine of the outdoor plaza which embodied this retail outlet mecca.

As we stepped up the curb and into the plaza, it became quite obvious as we walked, that no one was paying us mind or heed. There were no uncomfortable stares nor gestures to be noted. And if an anomalies were to be noted, they were impossible to detect or find. The four of us, loosely connected as a group as we strolled past the throngs of people, worked our way towards our first stop at the Dress Barn outlet. It was not long that I was in the store, perusing the sale racks, that I found a brown cardigan sweater that was just the perfect addition to the outfit I was wearing now and my other that I would be that evening for dinner. I modeled it against a mirror on the side of the main hallway, as other shoppers past behind and around me. As I did so, a sales associate wandered by and eyed my selection and my whole outfit and proclaimed, "You are like a walking advertisement from Dress Barn! The blouse, the pants, the shoes!"

I thanked her and remarked that I could not take credit for the shoes, as they were a Fashion Bug purchase, to which she replied softly, "That's OK, I shop there too!". She also made mention, as I was unaware, of a sale going on with the purchase I was making, offered a suggestion, and led me over to another rack where I could take advantage of a "buy one/get one" promotion. Joanne, noticing that I was interacting in a positive way with both the sales associates and with other shoppers around me, began to feel ever more comfortable with both my presentation and with the actions and non-reactions of those around me.

With our purchases carefully selected, Joanne stood in line to pay while I sauntered and browsed lightly in the clearance racks. One of the associates noticed my diamond wedding ring and remarked, "I would love to have a ring like that!"

My mind immediately thought a level beyond that question to probe just a bit deeper on her remark as I retorted, "...But would you be willing to take on the commitment which comes with accepting such a piece?".

She thought for a moment and then stated, "No. From what I have seen", she said, "men are mostly liars and cheats".

Our conversation continued for a bit more in regards to types of relationships that she felt comfortable with. What struck me as surprising in all of this was that I was able to get her to not only open up and discuss her personal relationship stance and preferences with me, but to do so in a public realm. The sheer fact is that she was conversing with me as a woman would another and it became quite obvious to me as we talked, that this conversation would NOT have occurred in any form or fashion had I been talking to her dressed and behaving as a male.

At another women's fashion store, a sales associate approached us and asked Joanie and myself what we thought of a piece of jewelry that SHE was buying for herself in the store. We were able to exchange opinions and helped relate to her what types of colors would go well with what she was considering. She thanked us immensely for our opinions as we continued browsing. Here again, we were interacting as women would and most certainly *not* as men.

We headed back to Joanie's house in order to freshen up and to change into something a bit more formal for dinner. I wore a brown v-necked top paired with a multi-brown paisley skirt, brown suede boots with a nickel buckle on the side and a deep brown cardigan sweater. Joanie dressed within the same color scheme but in lighter tans so that we complemented nicely with our longer skirts and boots. The spouses both wore pants which I thought a bit ironic but well played out!

Arriving at the inn, we were ultimately seated, after a brief wait for a table, in front of one of the fireplaces. We were treated well and the dinner was unbelievably fantastic. The only notable mention was one particular middle-aged woman who was dining with her spouse at a nearby table. She apparently could not take her eyes off of either Joanie or myself. Her gaze was more so sensory overload as she appeared to have a blank look upon her face. It was more than obvious that she recognized our variance from natal women yet could not figure it all out - thus sensory overload. Her husband could have cared less and seemed entirely disinterested, even with his own wife, as he sat quietly facing at an angle away from her throughout the entire dinner.

Back at our table, the boisterous chatter and conversation continued as we worked our way through dinner and into dessert. We ordered the house specialty which was known as the "Chocolate Bag". This decadent dessert is created by painting the inside of a waxed paper bag with chocolate, allowing it to dry an then peeling away the paper bag. The chocolate bag is then filled with chocolate cake and layers of whipped cream and chocolate up the brim. It was large enough that the four of us had trouble trying to finish it off.

As we mulled over the last of our chocolate heaven bliss we were in, the owner of the inn made a stop at our table to ask us ladies how we enjoyed everything. One thing led to another and we were soon in conversation with him for quite some time, discussing everything from travel to inn ownership. It was completely obvious how comfortable he was with us and he made it apparent that he did enjoy our company as we chatted.

On our way back home after dinner, we made a quick stop at the local Shaws. As I left the store with my purchase, I was quite surprised to see a late middle-aged man intently focused on my breasts as I walked past. He made an initial eye contact with my face and then immediately fixated his gaze about a foot lower. Immediate dichotomous thoughts of what must come into most women's minds when this happens to them filled my mind. Interesting to say the least.

It was a wonderful evening for us all and it brought additional levels of affirmation and of comfort to both Joanne and myself in regards to my comfort being out, her comfort being out with me and a general comfort in realizing that the world really can deal with a couple of middle-aged transgender gals!

Friday, October 1, 2010

9.29.10 - An interesting day out....

It was after work that I drove down to my therapist's office to chat about what's been going on since our last visit nearly six weeks ago. There was a lot to chat about - with SCC happening - with me coming out to my parents and Joanne to her mom about me - about my adventures out and about - and, most importantly, how I felt inside.

That last one always takes me by surprise I find. It's the simplest of questions but it causes the greatest amount of thought and reflection. I thought carefully about the question as it was posed towards the latter part of our meeting. I've been in a paradox of thoughts really. I am comfortable with myself and quite happy to simply exist as the woman I am inside and frustrated that I continue the 'swiss cheese' persona of the male character I had built up over so many years. Frustration... no - really more anxiety - and showing up in my dreams in restless nights and in my thoughts by day. I keep them all at bay knowing that my staunchest supporter is my wife and that she gives more than most wives would - heck, she is, even at this moment, out shopping for a couple of girly items I need! So for now, we take the small steps, one at a time, working to build on what we have slowly and in an attempt not to rush into anything so quickly as to tear our lives apart.

After therapy, I decided to stop at Kohl's Department Store on the way home. I had a coupon and 30 dollars in Kohl's 'play money' to utilize before expiration in a few days and so what better than to stop while dressed appropriately! It was dark by the time I arrived and so I parked under a light and alighted from the vehicle. I retreated from the darkness and into the light of the store as I entered through the double doors. I clip clopped across the hard tile floor past the registers and towards the women's department. Even with the noticeable noise I made as I made my way down the main aisle, no one paid any attention to me. I was blending in and, for the most part, quite invisible. I wore a nice ruffled long sleeve top and dressy brown pants with a buckled black belt and some low heeled Mary Janes.

I made my way through the store to the women's department, where I spied a skirt I had seen prior in the weekly circular. It was exactly what I wanted and so grabbed a size 10 and an 8 just to have my bases covered, and worked my way over to the fitting rooms. Joanne was not with me this evening so I was on my own as I entered the hallway of dressing rooms. Standing in that hallway were two teenage girls, who were chatting busily with one another. I thought to myself that perhaps they might clue int to me, as I have noted that some teenage girls have in the past - and I considered to stop dead in my tracks, turn around and wait until they had left before entering. The thought was a fleeting one and I continued with confidence and powered my way into the dressing rooms, made eye contact with them both and excused myself verbally as I parted around them. They gave no odd looks although they had locked eyes on me as I approached - but with no expression that would be out of the ordinary. As I entered the dressing room and shut the door, I could hear them do the same and their chatter and banter did not include any talk of me or about me as I caught their conversation between themselves.

I tried on the skirt, but neither the size 10 nor the 8 fit. Being a fitted skirt, I needed to get the size just right for my waist. It was obvious that the sizings were not correct at all since I was normally a size 10. I got dressed, went back to the racks, and replacing the ones I had tried on with a size 6, went back to the fitting rooms. Again, this was just a tad bit large and although it was not a bad fit, a size 4 would be PERFECT. I went, once again, back to the racks and scoured them for a size 4. Alas, none were to be found in the racks.

Just as I was giving up all hope, I noticed the mannequin display wearing the skirt and thought, "well, why not take a look - just to be sure....". I peeled back the skirt on the mannequin and lo and behold, it was the size 4 I was looking for! But now the question was... what to do? I was a bit nervous and somewhat wary, but only for an instant. I NEEDED that skirt and this was the exact size I had to have! I sauntered over to the sales associate, who was organizing racks, a young woman of perhaps 20 or so and explained my situation. She gave s slight smile just as I started to speak but quickly became disarmed as I spoke and affirmed that she could definitely help.

Back at the mannequin, I held the body in mid-air as she slipped the skirt off it's waist. If ever I wanted any attention in a busy store on a solo shopping expedition, I certainly had it all on me now! Me holding by one hand, a half naked mannequin off it's stand, while I reached with the other hand to grab another skirt off the rack for the sales associate to re-dress the dummy. I laughed slightly and chided with the sales associate that I was sure this would at least make for a more interesting night and an experience to talk about tomorrow for sure. She agreed and chuckled back as we wrestled to get that dummy back on it's perch and screwed in with the two wing nuts on it's trunk. She thanked me for the help and I replied that it was the least I could do for her help.

As it turned out, the skirt fit perfectly, and I was a very happy camper as I left the store. I would be wearing that skirt over the coming weekend - a weekend that would bring new adventure and open a few more doors in both Joanne's, and my own world.