Oh the things I have done… I know it sounds like the invitation to a pretty racy post, but you can sit back, mop your brow and put the lotion away. I’m just not that kind of blogger. Not due to any real inhibition per se, I’m just not nearly as interesting as you might think I am. What I’m referring to is my pseudo nascent girlhood; the time before I was self-realized as trans, but already engaging in what now seems to be some pretty predictably indicative behaviors. I have a lot of stories in this bag, but today I’m going to focus on shopping. As a “dude”.
I was at a Belles meeting when someone advertised that they had a wonderful shopping guide for cross-dressers. Just some handy tips and do’s and don’ts that can help ease a person into a comfortable shopping experience so they can buy what they want in peace. Some of the transitioned members had a bit of a smug look at this, myself included. I also had a strong reality check as I realized that I was doing some of these exact same things not really all that long ago.
The guide contained some nice hints most of us know. You can “get away” with shopping for pretty much anything around the holidays and Halloween. A ring on your finger puts you virtually above suspicion when buying even the most intimate of items. In certain stores it’s possible to ‘sneak’ a pair of jeans or other semi-androgynous articles into the men’s dressing rooms. Come on, if you are reading this you know what I’m talking about. It’s OK though. I’m going to share some of my own just so you might feel less freakish to know a full blown ‘I-don’t-give-a-shit’ trans woman had her salad days as well.
One of my smoothest moves was the all powerful list. Sometimes it was a real list and sometimes it was nothing more than an Arby’s receipt I found in my jacket pocket. Shield in front of me like a young knight, I would brave the perilous intimates and hosiery sections with wanton abandon knowing full well that the tiny slip of paper clutched in my sweaty hand would deflect even the most curious of stares. It’s OK, I’m supposed to be here. I was sent for this stuff. Look, I have a list, dammit.
Sometimes I forgot the list and still had an undeniable desire to shop anyway. What to do? It was fine, I knew how to be cool. Any time someone came within earshot I would make a point to start muttering under my breath, but loud enough to hear, such gems as, “I think this is what she said she wanted.” or “God, I don’t know why she sends me for this stuff.” and even, “Dang it, I think she takes a size 10… better not fuck this up.” Seriously, the CIA should send me behind enemy lines I was that freaking cool. Never mind the tomato red face and gigantic salty droplets coursing down my face.
“Can I help you find anything?” Oh, I knew what she was up to, but I was made of stronger stuff than that. I’d look her dead in the eye and say, “Yes, yes you can. I was sent to look for Spanx in a size D, if you please, and thank you ever so much.” Oh, I passed the test in my own mind. She tried to call my bluff, but I held fast. For some reason it never occurred to me that in the history of retail, no woman has ever sent a guy out to pick her up panties, stretch leggings and a cute pair of flats. Pantyhose, yes, if she was convinced he’d get the size right. Mascara maybe. Lipstick, I doubt it, unless she was comfortable wearing the Hoochie-Mama scarlet shade he would invariably come back with.
The register though, that is where the men were separated from the boys, if such a crappy analogy is even appropriate. An uncomfortably long wait was always guaranteed, ensuring I would manage to accomplish visible pit stains through a leather jacket. I’d hold off putting my wares on the belt, instead shielding them in my arms under yet another table cloth I would never, ever use. Nothing suspicious here, everyone does this. Eventually I had to interact with the cashier. With a wedding ring this was much easier. I’d flash that sucker around like I just won the Superbowl; my passport to buy whatever I damn well pleased. Prior was a little harder. “Yes, I certainly do need a gift receipt. Lord knows I probably got all of this wrong!”
Only one occasion did my fears actually get realized. I was still in the Air Force and managed to find an abundance of great hosiery, in unopened packages, at a thrift store. I plopped my glorious find on the counter in front of the douche bag counter boy, who looked at my pile, me, and said with a loud chuckle, “Heh. Seriously dude?” I stammered an indignant response about the proximity to Halloween (it was early September), lost half my body weight in perspiration, paid quickly and left. I don’t think I ever went back to that location. Actually, the first statement isn’t completely true. Back in college I was at a Salvation Army when the cute grunge girl working the floor flat out asked me if the heap in my arms was for me. I was completely surprised and even more so when I answered her yes. She nodded her head and said, “That’s cool. We get a lot of you guys in here.” The experience was surreal and I never went back there either.
I can laugh now in ridiculous condescension toward my younger self, but it really wasn’t that long ago that I was so driven by need to brave the most mortifying circumstances to fill it. Once I achieved self-realization, the fear and embarrassment just stopped. I am female, and am going to shop like it, even in male mode if such is the circumstance. There is nothing so liberating as being comfortable with exactly who you are.