Guest Post by Paula Gaikowski
The 4 AM air was a cool 45 degrees and the New England sky was filled with the scent of autumn. Normally, I’d hate to leave home during this special time of year, but I was going to Houston on business for six days and would be spending my nights as a woman.
I arrived to a hot and humid summer day, the type of day that has New England newscasters issuing heat advisories except here in Houston, it was business as usual. I arrived in my room at the SpringHill Suites just before noon. Now that summer was over back home, the first thing I did was shave my legs. What a relief it was to get rid of all that ugly disgusting hair. After adding a coat of pink nail polish, I was literally a new woman!
I decided on my blue Jones New York suit since it is the coolest one I own. By 1:30, I was down in the lobby getting a bottle of water and chatting with the desk clerk. It took her about a minute of chatting with me before I could see that realization in her eyes that something was amiss, (like I wasn’t really a Miss). I’m finding that I pass up until I speak for an extended period of time.
After getting directions, to the Galleria, I said to her politely “I always like to get an opinion before I go out, how do I look?”
Her eyes lit up and she smiled, “You look great, I love your suit and your makeup looks amazing.”
“Thank you”, I answered her. “I appreciate the opinion; I like to know if I’m put together all right before venturing out into the world.”
By now she had started to relax and opened up a little. She leaned forward and said, “I think you look great, and it’s great that you’re not afraid to express yourself.” Then she added I’m bisexual and I think it’s great what you’re doing.”
Be honest, open and confident and astonishing things can happen. Michelle and I became friends and throughout the week, when I would come and go she and I would chat.
My first stop that Monday was the Houston Galleria and Nordstrom. I couldn’t resist looking over the evening gowns for First Event this January. When I saw this beautiful blue dress, the sales associate asked if I’d like to try it on. I couldn’t say no. It was probably the prettiest dress I ever tried on, but at $198, I had to pass.
Next, I stopped at the M·A·C store and bought some powder for highlighting and chatted with the makeup artist about contouring. I spent the rest of the afternoon shopping and finished up with dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. They have an awesome diet menu with all dishes under 590 calories and I wound up eating there for 5 nights.
This produced an added benefit because after awhile, I got to know the hostesses and staff and enjoyed great conversations about the food, fashion, shopping and it was also nice to receive complements on my outfits. The more time I spent as a woman, the more natural it became. By the third night, I was no longer dressing as a woman and going out. I was just living my life as woman.
Over the course of the week, I did so many things en femme. I bought a cute pantsuit at Burlington Coat Factory, bought a phone charger at Best Buy, grocery shopped, tried on boots at Avenue, tried on wigs, and pumped gas. I interacted with dozens of people and was treated like anyone else; I looked for signs of disapproval or dissatisfaction, but found none. I just went about my business as a woman and began to feel more and more female.
One night I was driving by a strip mall and I saw a huge wig shop. When I entered the shop, it was empty. I said hello to the female sales associate and started to search the huge selections of wigs. She came by and offered to help and we both started picking and choosing wigs. We were both having fun.
The exciting part was when I sat down to try on the wigs and pulled off my own wig, she then realized that I was transgender.
“Oh, my lord! Oh, my lord!” she exclaimed in a southern accent. A bit shaken myself, I apologized for startling her.
“I had no idea! No idea!” We both had a good laugh and I was able to do some outreach on behalf of the transgender community.
The other interesting event occurred when I was leaving the Galleria one night. I was standing at the entrance to the parking garage looking for the car keys in my purse. From behind me I hear a woman ask loudly, “How tall are you?”
Hmm? I think to myself that’s a strange question to ask, even a bit rude. I turned smiled and responded, “I’m 6 foot,” and then added, “How tall are you?”
She shyly responded, “5 foot 8”.
I kept smiling and said, “I got you beat!” At that point my voice and something else must have gave me away because I saw that bewildered look on her face as she walked away. In the past such an interaction would have bothered me, but now I find it amusing.
The last night in Houston, I stopped by M·A·C and went in asking for help with my eyebrows. Once you get into that makeup chair, there is no hiding the fact that you’re transgender. So after Allie gave me a great lesson on shaping my eyebrows, I asked her if she had many other transgender clients.
Her answer, “Oh, we get a few each week.”
I asked her about my presentation and what she thought. She was complementary, but also helpful. Then she asked me “How far along are you in your transition?”
The question hit with a jolt. I thought to myself, “Transition; am I transitioning? Do I give that impression?”
I smiled back at her and said, “I’m just starting.”
I then mused to myself, “Yes, I’m just starting.”
It was a slow night and near closing time, so we chatted, as two women would. She told me about her work, school and plans to marry when her fiancé returned from Afghanistan. Then she asked me, “What are your plans are for the future?”
Well to quote the lady in the wig shop “Oh, my lord! Oh, my lord!” I didn’t see that coming and what poured forth was more of a dream than a plan of my future life as woman. I’m too embarrassed to share it here because it was a bit personal, but it all came pouring out late one evening to a trendy makeup artist at the Houston Galleria.
Was this a crossing the Rubicon moment? After five nights living as a woman, and having it feel so natural, I was resistant to let it go. I had started building relationships and lived my life ever so slightly as female. I was hesitant to leave it behind. The idea caused me angst.
Being away from the role and responsibility of my male life, I could now see myself building a life and being happy as a woman. Many of my crossdresser friends tell me that they would miss their male side. That they enjoy being a man and living in that role. I can truly say that’s not the case with me. I just know it and always have. As the plane taxied down the runway and lifted off, I was sad that the week was over and Paula would have go back into hiding. I looked down on the skyscrapers and highways and the mass of humanity in the city below, “Houston, we’ve got a problem!”