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Oh The Things I Used to Do

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.

About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

2 responses »

  1. I love reading these old posts. It’s so funny to read sentence after sentence and say to myself, “That was ME!” I think I said it to myself. Oh, who cares at this age? Yeah, it was a real relief when I found I could add my femme self as an authorized user on my credit cards. No more having the clerk look at me and wonder if this was one of those “Michael Learned from The Waltons” kind of names. Most of them aren’t old enough to remember that show anyway. Oddly, the only place that has pushed back and won’t give me a user card is Kohl’s. When I wrote the original request (the other card issuers wil do this over the phone for you, but Kohl’s needs you to mail in a form and a request letter), I made sure it was dripping with accolades and expressions of my love for the chain. I got back a letter telling me I needed to provided them with a legal document showing my change of name. WTF? I sent back another letter explaining I wasn’t changing my name, I wanted a second card with Deanna added as an authorized user. I also made it clear I was transgendered and this would help make my shopping experiences there more comfortable, and I threw in a blurb asking whether they had some policy regarding servicing the LGBT community. I never heard back from them.

    Very early last year when I decided to start moving toward womanhood in earnest, I went to Kohl’s in drab and started buying things for the house that would scream “girl.” Invariably, these things are all some shade of pink, and the hotter the shade, the better. You know what I’m talking about. At the checkout, I put all the stuff on the counter, pulled out the boy’s store card and watched the young female associate ring up hot pink bathroom rugs and towels, some fashion rings, and some articles of clothing I can’t remember about from the clearance rack in the women’s department. When she was done, she looked at me with that sly leer and asked, “Is all this for YOU?” How and why do they DO that?!? And why did I answer in the affirmative? We all know why. Because deep down we WANT them to know. We’re almost looking for approval and a pat on the back for being so brave, I think. “You GO, gurl!” But then, as most of us who have mellowed know, the time comes when you walk into the store en femme without the slightest trepidation that you don’t belong there and that you’re just one of the gals, commenting on this or that with the other shoppers as you pick through the racks. Half the fun is getting there, and the other half is being there, finally.

  2. Pingback: 10 Super Keen Milestones of Gender Transition | Michellelianna

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