Yesterday I bought a dress. So what? Yeah, you’re right, not earth-shaking, but the moment does provide an object lesson in layers of becoming.
One of the first things I did after my gender revelation in ‘08 was buy a grey knit sweater-dress with a big floppy collar, at Reny’s. Oh, my, I was in state - terrified and ecstatic. I couldn’t conceive of trying it on in the store, so I took it home, discovered it was too small, and went back in an even more heightened state to exchange it. The flat hard look the young woman behind the returns desk gave me was my first encounter with the judgemental eyes of the world.
I had fun with my new dress. I put it on along with my new garter-belt stockings and black pumps and costume-jewelry pearls from Walmart and my outrageous rolled-up-sock-with-filbert-nipples boobs and posed for the camera. It was the beginning of figuring out who I was.
As time went on I acquired more dresses, of two types: fancy ones from the evening gown racks at Goodwill, and simpler everyday ones either bought without trying on or given by friends. I continued to have fun wearing both kinds at home, but the only time I wore a dress in public was when I put on one of the fancy ones for a soirée - the USM drag show, the EQ Maine dinner, a holiday party - and it was always a big deal. I never wore the simpler ones in public, even after I was completely out and living full time as a woman, because I just didn’t like the way I looked in them.
Yesterday I met Susan for a shopping date at the mall, and on the sale rack at Banana Republic I found a light soft grey-and-white V-neck dress in stretchy cotton. I tried it on and stood looking at myself in the three-way mirror. Susan looked with me.
Me, to myself: Shoulders back, dear. Chin up. Relax the lower back more, let it curve. Is it binding or bagging under the the arms? No, seems to be just right. Wow, not bad at all.
Susan: Oh, that’s really nice.
Me: I don’t know...I just don’t wear dresses. People don’t, you know? So it’s a thing.
Susan: What do you mean?
Me: Well, I have dresses, and I put them on and look in the mirror, and I see...I don’t know, I’m so tall, my shoulders are still so broad, my hips are narrow...I still see a man in a dress.
Susan: You don’t look like a man in a dress. I’m not just saying that. I want you to feel good, but I would say if you did. You don’t look like a man in a dress.
Me: Thanks, I needed to hear someone say that.
I bought the dress (Only $18 on deep discount - score!), and in a few months, maybe on the first really warm day of spring, I’m going to wear it to work. No back-up outfit in a bag in case I chicken out. I’m going to commit to the dress for the day. And honestly, I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal. Check out how far I’ve come: