The Balancing Act

Hi,

Hi, Someone once said – or more accurately, sang – it’s not easy being green. I make this point only as a pop culture reference and a warm up to the idea of the obvious metaphor at play. So, by a series of fortunate events, it came to pass that I had a day out. With messing things up last week and knowing that I’ll miss next week’s meeting, I was beginning to feel the pinch of being in just one gender.

I feel guilty at what I think of as sneaking out, yet at the same time – either through self-kindness or self-delusion, the jury’s still out – that ol’ inner stress ratchet was clicking slowly but ever upwards. Due to meetings and family commitments, the emergency parachute of grabbing some dressing time by working at home wasn’t available either. So, it was time to put on my big girl pants and get my act together to get out.

A few months back the manager of our community centre had said that if I ever got stuck during the day, I could get changed there. Given that kind offer, I checked that was still the case (it was) and on hearing that the upstairs room – which we use as our changing room – was free, thought nothing of it.

I’ve never seen the centre car park so full! You have to smile really. 🙂 So, I told myself not to worry about things and get on. It was glitz or bust! 🙂 I just about managed to find a parking spot and headed upstairs. Whatever was going off downstairs had brought a lot of folk in, but I didn’t want to stick my head in and find out.

Despite the temperatures heading back towards single digits, I was determined not to wear opaques. I guess I’m still making the most of the leg situation and trying to enjoy a more Spring-like wardrobe before it’s Return of the Wookie. Yeah, laugh it up fuzzball. 🙂 Earlier in the week I managed to find some Vinchy Dermablend in Boots, so after reading up on how to hide a tattoo with makeup, I was feeling more confident about blending in. Yes, I do have ink on my leg, but it’s rarely a problem under leggings or opaques. The coverage – or rather my application – wasn’t perfect, but it made me feel it was less on show.

Suitably changed and with the noise downstairs dimmed somewhat, I headed back to the car, popped the bag in the boot, and headed off down the M1 to Leicester. Given my our house is in the very south of Nottinghamshire, getting to the other city doesn’t take more than 30 minutes or so. Via the M1 and across country, it was a good 50 mins, but on the plus side, that did give my nail varnish plenty of time to set. Some times I think you have to celebrate the little things.

A quick selfie on
the way in

So it wasn’t far from lunchtime when I got parked up, slipped my coat on, and tap-tap-tapped my way through the car park into Highcross, Leicester’s main shopping centre. Some kind soul fitted mirrors along one of the walkways, so it’s a good spot to grab a quick selfie before being exposed to whatever the wind is doing outside.

In honesty, I hadn’t really any plans beyond getting out and being myself (or ‘all of myself’ as I seem to say these days), but as New Look was close – and they do fab shoes – it seemed rude not to pop in. Still no joy on the nude heel front, perhaps that fashion moment has passed. With bloke’s fashion – as trans + male readers will know – our fashion moves so slowly you can pretty much buy the same thing across a period of years. Clearly, not so with female-centric clothing.

Still, I did fall on a pair of red heels and reduced more than once. I wandered over to the nearby till and asked the salesperson for a price check. “I remember you from last time,” she said. “You come here quite a bit for your shoes.” I thought was nice and yes, I did thank her. We struck up a quick conversation about this and that. I was there sometime before Christmas with Val, so we’re going a few months. Hopefully, we’re being remembered for a good reason eh? 🙂 The shoes came in at just four quid, so that was quite a find. I asked the lady her name and made a mental note to send some nice feedback to the shop. (Update: which I did and I’m hoping H got to hear about her good deed. After all, I think good service should be praised).

I wandered through the rest of the centre and spotted a watch repair stall. I remembered the ladies’ watch the Ever Lovely Mrs J had bought me all those years ago – I can still connect so easily with those happy memories – and knew it needed a battery. Rather than do it there, I wondered if there was an independent trader who might do it, rather than a chain. So, off I went outside.

The funny thing about heels – other than they change your pace and gait – is that they can be loud and given the market was fairly crowded, I did feel a little on guard. Still, nothing was said – or yelled – and a few minutes later the watch was ticking again, and I headed out of the wind and into the safety of a nearby charity shop. Oddly, the same one Val and I had visited last year, but this time nothing caught my eye, so I wandered into M&S.

Now, I do enjoy a YouTube video of other trans people just getting out and being themselves. I’m a complete noob when it comes to this, so this very short video was me trying the same:

Yes, I’m regretting not doing all up the buttons on my coat, but hey, this was a try out really. Dorothy Perkins had some nice things in, but the dress was off-the-shoulder and with my frame, that’s a no-no. After that I tried a few more shops, got blown about a bit by the wind, and by something passed two, I was done really. I could have stopped out longer given I didn’t have to dash home nor find a quiet lane to get changed in (I hate that). But, I was conscious of the traffic to get back to Nottingham, and then get from the north end of the city back out to the country at the other.

I did pause to grab another selfie in New Look and then I wandered in to John Lewis to see if they had a half-slip available (they didn’t). I also popped by the Clinique stall to ask about blusher and get some tips from an expert. The sales lady didn’t disappoint and as with New Look, I sent a quick email to pass on my thanks for great service. Regarding blusher, seems I need to go back to the 80s: suck my cheeks in and blend down from where my wisdom teeth (I’ll get some put in) and down my cheeks. I guess a spot of testing is required.

I used the mirrors on the way back to try a quick video selfie, but maybe that’s for another time. As I walked by, I was struck by how much people just didn’t seem to care. I could go about my business and no one pointed, yelled, or caused trouble. I don’t say that as a passing thing, I say that as a society thing. Sure, there are a few nutters – and there probably always will be – but modern folk seem used to us now and I’m cool with that. Indeed, that feeling of coolness was quite pervasive and made me feel like this was just another day. Perhaps that the seductive part of this: it starts to feel very normal. Mind you, I’m not sure I could do a close shave and heels every day. 🙂

The ride home was uneventful and the Centre was very quiet when I got in. That was a welcome relief after the business of the morning and that I had to faff about in the back of the car to get my things ready to get changed into. Upstairs and out of the rain, I tried on a lovely daisy print top that I’d ordered last week from Dotty P’s, but while it was very pretty, it didn’t quite hang right and made me feel a bit booby. Not in an attractive way either 😉 So, after a bit of umming-and-ahhing, I decided to drop that off. I also tried on my new shoes with an old skirt and tried to get a shot of them. I’m not sure what effect the camera has switched on, but so be it! 🙂

Given it was midafternoon the traffic was mad. I’m so glad I don’t have to brave that every day. It took an age to get from one side of the city to the other. The rain had kicked in now, so I dashed into Outfit and returned my top. For some reason when the sales assistant asked why I was returning it, I said: well, it doesn’t quite fit and was a bit low at the front. She took all this in her stride and for a reason I still don’t know, I showed her a quick photo. We had a quick chat about what other styles were available in store and it wasn’t any different to me returning a bloke’s shirt and her telling me about them. I think that is awesome, but maybe I’m biased.

I got home a bit before 5pm and cooked tea. The Ever Lovely Mrs J had been hard a work writing reports on the computer in the kitchen. I sent her off to the sofa with a cup of tea and a promise I’d make the tea. If this was guilt or me just trying to be a good husband, well, I’m going to aim for the latter and not look to the former.

All in all, it was a grand day out if seemingly brief in terms of time spent outside. But, I think I’ve managed the balancing act of my needs with that of Mrs J and the kids, so for that, I’m grateful. Maybe next time I’ll have more warning so I can meet up with others. That certainly adds to things. Oh, as I sat down after tea and felt my calves protest slightly, I checked Google Fit: 3.5 miles. Ah, knock off a half for taking the dog out, and that’s quite a distance in heels. I felt quite chuffed at that for some reason. At this point (natal) women may wish to utter amateur 😉

Take care,
Lynn

4 Comments

  1. A grand day out indeed. I like the red heels, though they come out a bit more burgundy in the photo. I have just the dress they would definitely go with. They must have been an absolute steal at 4 quid. I would definitely have taken a punt on them if they were in my size.
    Although, from this morning's trip I have a new pair of ankle boots for six pound (and a nice pair of strap nude heels but too small at size 7 1/2). But the boots were nice and a good fit, which may be just as well because I think I may have ruined my other pair on this morning's walk.

    I wasn't quite as brave as you, in heading into a shopping centre and chatting with staff, but I definitely pushed the envelope further than I have before with a long walk around a local nature trail which turned out (or I missed a fork in the path) to go in a big circle and came back out opposite the big Sainsburys. At which point I thought that if I didn't do this now, I would probably never do it. So I crossed over and went in.
    It was bright and there quite a few people even at that hour, and while I have few illusions about passing (I am over 6 foot) no one screamed or pointed or called security. I browsed the clothing and sales racks for a while. Nothing took my fancy so I made my way out, and back home.
    I do envy you having a place to change. At that point the neighbours would likely be up and about, so I had to resort to a secluded back alley for an impromptu quick change into a pair of trousers and a shapeless hoodie and a quick face wipe before letting myself back in. It felt like I'd been out for hours, but when go back it was only about an hour and a half according to the clock.
    You're absolutely correct that you are so aware of your gait, the sound of your heels and then length of you steps when you are out. It still takes a bit of getting used to. I don't know whether it'll ever feel normal. But I could get used to it. And that might a danger.

    1. That sounds like quite the adventure, Susie. There's no competition in here, so folk can go as far as they are comfortable IMHO. Can I say top marks on being brave and going in to the store? That must have been a bit of s moment, but nothing ventured and all that! 🙂

      PS: passing? Tis frequently a stick with which we hit ourselves with, IMHO. Instead, be brave and dress the best you can. Oh, and don't forget to smile if anyone gives you The Look. 😉

      I'm quite chatty, so not talking with sales people would be unusual for me. I think if they are up for a chat and there's no queue, why not? I guess I'm not out, but hopefully some typical conversation helps those who don't know any trans people that we're just ordinary folk too.

  2. Good for you! I know how much courage it takes to present as female in public. And how when sales-people are kind, it's deeply appreciated. Great post.

    1. Thanks Shybiker. I love it when sales people take a genuine interest in trying to help. I guess trying to be polite and interested in them might help too. I do wonder what it must be like to be on the other side of the counter.

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