It was a long time coming, but at at last we got around to it on Thursday. It was back in May 2008 that Claire emailed me wondering if I and a few girls might like to spend an evening at the bridal shop where she works to try on a few dresses.
So, at long last, myself, Julia, Susan and Rosie paid them a visit.
I organised to leave work a little early, so at 4:15pm I set off for home with only minor tingles of nervousness. Strange the things that matter at times like these … still undecided as to what to wear.
Applying makeup gets easier with time … though there is still plenty of room for improvement.
In the end I wear a long black skirt … almost a leg longer than usual … and a black shirt. I have black stockings on but decide I should also take some white ones. And beige. I’m wearing sensible walking shoes (i.e. heels no more than an inch high). And put the new 4.5 inch heel white ones in a bag. My handbag is full of “just in case” kind of things like foundation, powder, lipstick and gloss.
The short walk from the front door to the car is much less nerve racking than it used to be. I’m still waiting for the day when a neighbour will coincidentally be walking by just as I head out. Or for someone to ask my wife who the strange blonde woman is that they see coming and going every so often.
For quite a while now these possibilities have been real … but I’m ok with them – if people ask then they ask, if they notice then they notice. Sally says that she doesn’t mind. I guess, I’m not trying to flaunt the Andrea that is me … but neither do I live in fear of her being discovered. However … there is still a nervousness.
Getting in the car I fight with the sat nav. In the end it sticks to the windscreen without any broken nails. It guides me along a route that I wouldn’t have chosen myself … but the 23 minute estimated journey time is pretty much correct. I pull into the car park at 7:10 or so.
It’s very quiet. A man in a yellow jacket wanders past and then back again.
The plan is to meet Claire at the car park entrance at 7:30 so she can drive us to the shop.
So I have some time on my hands.
I decide against going loitering around the car park entrance.
You never know who you might meet at a place like that.
Even guys in dresses.
Fairly soon a car comes through the barriers and I find myself waving to Julia.
I get out the car and walk over … then get into Julia’s car and we sit and talk a while. Neither of us thinking it’s a good plan to stand around the car park entrance.
A small group of kids on bikes wander past, but pay us no attention.
Susan and Rosie arrive pretty much exactly at 7:30.
We walk towards the car park entrance.
Hoping that Claire will be on time … I guess Claire was hoping that the girls would be on time.
And there she is. Being out numbered 3-2 (tg to gg) Claire had more to be nervous about than anyone. But she didn’t show any signs of it.
It’s really nice to meet.
Arriving at the shop Claire introduces us to Cat and, shortly after to Cheryl. All three lovely, helpful, wonderful.
Susan, myself and Julia are the first tgirls that Cheryl and Claire have knowingly met … I think Cat had met a few before.
We look at the dresses on the rails and the fun begins.
It’s another totally new experience for me. The freedom to try on dresses at a shop without having to worry about anything other than what size dress will fit.
I know … it’s not quite the same as a crowded shop during the middle of a shopping day.
But also, it’s not at all like being at home in the bedroom.
The girls make the tgirls feel totally relaxed and welcome.
I know that many people might think that the whole scene is totally bizarre, unreal. Abnormal even. But, to me at least, it didn’t feel that way at all.
First I try a blue cocktail dress. Of course, I needed help with the zipper. And also with some unfastened hooks at the back of the basque. I like the dress a lot … it’s a shame that the zipper won’t fasten.
Julia tries a wedding dress.
Susan a wedding dress.
And tiaras and veils.
And of course, some pictures.
The zipper is undone … but it doesn’t show. The hooks in the basque at least are all fastened – I think.
The evening progresses … and honestly … it was so much fun … with such nice people.
Zippers fastening and unfastening.
I change stockings and put the heels on for a while. But the heels come off as the feet get sore.
I didn’t know that there are wedding skirts. But now I do. Complete with a bodice.
Of course, I can’t do the lace at the back of the bodice so Cheryl begins to truss me up.
“Are you still breathing?”
“Can you speak?”
“Is Andrea turning blue yet?”
The lace is quite tight.
But I can breathe.
And it does hide the tummy bulge.
A glass of wine and some nibbles.
More dresses and pictures.
Very laid back … almost falling over?
These dresses are just the right length for someone that is a ittle over 6 feet tall.
Look – no shoes.
Cheers from Susan, Julia and Andrea.
Complete with headgear.
Almost like three weddings, but no one getting married.
Talking a while towards the end of the evening is really nice.
We talk about gender. TVs. Sexuality. Work. Partners. Families. Life. Self acceptance.
Rosie and Susan and Cat all think that Erotica is a good place to visit in London in November.
Claire, Cat and Cheryl are lovely people.
Thank you especially to Claire for having the initial idea and dropping me the email and organising everything.
We all had a great time and it was lovely to meet you all.
For me, things like this help me enormously in terms of building confidence. Little by little I feel less and less worried about Andrea in the real world as I get further and further out of the closet.
Several months ago when I mentioned the evening to a friend I remember that she said that if she wanted to try on dresses at a shop then she’d just go to the shop whenever it was open and try on the dresses.
For me, Thursday was a step along that road.
There won’t be a time when I am Andrea 100% of the time. Or at least made up and dressed as Andrea all the time.
Last night Cat said that she didn’t think there are just two opposite sexes … rather that many people are somewhere between the two extremes. And that the way that society bundles all the people that are born with penises into the “male” camp and everyone else into the “female” one doesn’t really accurately reflect how a lot of people really are.
The real me is somewhere between those two extremes. With no desire to move from the male extreme to the female one. More a need to be able to express the femininity without being made to feel shame or guilt.
So anyway … thank you again Claire … and Cheryl .. and Cat … you are all stars!!!
Friday was a different kind of day. Last week a friend died from cancer. He’d been ill a while ago. Had treatment and went into remission. Then … all of a sudden it was back. And in almost no time took him away.
The funeral was Friday morning. Relatives and close family friends.
In the afternoon there was a service to celebrate his life, which I got along to.
Before things started there was a slide show to watch and music to listen to … his life … family. Things to make a person smile or cry or both.
As the pictures changed, the Paul McCartney song Blackbird played.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
Black bird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
all your life
you were only waiting for this moment to be free
Song lyrics are always open to interpretation and mean different things to different people.
At that moment, the words seemed appropriate.
The time there was tinged with sadness but also happy memories.
A man spoke about where we came from … why we are here … and where we are going.
But I was unconvinced.
The certainty of eternal life in Jesus.
Once I would have nodded in agreement.
These days I see mostly contradictions.
As seems to happen at all events like this, there is a sense of being in a time warp. Meeting up with people that you haven’t seen for so many years.
Almost everyone was a friend or acquaintance from my born again years. A place where Andrea could not be. Where men must be men. Women must be women. And everyone must be heterosexual.
I would like them all to know Andrea … to accept her as a part of me. But I think many of them could not bear it. And once a thing is told it cannot be untold.
All of them such nice people.
Yet some would almost see Andrea as a demon to be cast out from me.
And yet, people can be surprising at times.
The friend who died had strong beliefs … verging towards fundamentalist almost. And yet he could cope with people that saw things differently. Could see the funny side of almost everything … even sacred things. Maybe he would even have been able to smile at the concept of Andrea in a nice kind of way.
It’s strange how at times there are people that you have known quite well … and then drift away from … and then only realise that you’ll miss them once there is no chance to meet them again.
And oh … Elina … I hope you had a great time in Italy!