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