By Paula Gaikowski, Femulate Guest Blogger
"Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." – Ferris Bueller
That’s a quote from one of my favorite movies, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The 1986 farce tells the story of a high school student’s spontaneous day off and his imaginative attempts to keep from being caught by the dean and his parents.
Fast forward to November 14, 2012, visualize if you can an office building along Boston’s high-tech corridor, then a conference room, there a project team is getting ready to meet. They filter in, laptops, cell phones, coffee cups and backpacks. The project manager starts the meeting by taking attendance. Smith?, here!, Hancock?, here!, Reynolds? here!, Gaikowski?... Gaikowski?... Gaikowski?...
Nowhere was she to be found, but out amongst the New England countryside on a beautiful autumn day, there she was, Ms. Gaikowski in all her glory.
I normally spend my time en femme while traveling on business. However, recently I’ve been grounded and have been dying to get out as a girl. Wednesday was a perfect day; the house was empty as other family members were away or busy at work.
I had my doubts as I was suffering from a cold and also sore from doing hurricane clean-up work in New Jersey, so I just wasn’t feeling that girly. But, I put on a favorite black suit and added a leopard scarf; having lost weight everything fit great and just made me feel pretty and confident.
Down the driveway I went only to see my high school-aged neighbor waiting for the school bus. Who goes to school at 9:30 AM?
I waited a few minutes in the car. The school bus came and I was off down the road; my destination was the Paula Young factory store.
First, I stopped at the Dunkin Donuts drive thru for a hot coffee and had a pleasant exchange with the young woman there, who didn’t notice a thing.
Speeding down 495 toward West Bridgewater, I noticed that the coffee I bought was now filling my bladder. As I exited the highway, I stopped a t a Hess mini mart to use the restroom. As I entered the store, I noticed it was filled with several landscape crews who were on break. All of those macho men and in walks a 6-foot blonde in a black suit, black hose and heels.
Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive, but decided, "Screw it;" I’m a transgendered women, so "Forward march!"
I walked past two guys who checked me out, then down the hall toward the restroom and it was decision time: Men or Women? The girls won.
I took care of business and went back out into the store to see if I was being noticed for anything other than being a well-dressed business woman. There were no whispers, stares or knowing glances;, the men continued taunting each other while I got a coffee to go. I checked out with young a woman who was oblivious.
Did I really walk that gauntlet? During my many years of denial, self-loathing, and the endless cycles of purging, I would sometimes let myself wonder, could I ever go out in public? Would I ever be anything more than a caricature of a woman? Could I ever be perceived as a woman? The question was answered in the Hess station. Yes!
I tell you this because I know that there are many of you girls out there who are frustrated with your situation. It may be an unaccepting wife, feelings of isolation, shame and guilt. You look in the mirror and see an overweight, hairy guy, who’s getting too old too fast and think it’s a lost cause. I tell you my story because that was me three years ago.
So into Paula Young I went only to find that the stores computer systems were down and they couldn’t pull any stock. That meant I could try on any of the display wigs, but could not buy anything. So I spent about 45 minutes working with one of the sales associates. We tried a bunch of different wigs and I got some good ideas for the next time I came in.
They were friendly and helpful. I asked if they get many transgender customers and they replied “Oh yes all the time."
I’m finding that when I ask that question lately, the indication seems to be that more and more of us are getting out. The last time I went to Paula Young about two years ago, they said they had one other crossdresser who came in.
They told me right up front that they were trans-friendly and wanted our business. So no excuses here, girls! The older sales associate, who I was a little apprehensive about at first was wonderful. I found out she has a gay son and she complemented me by saying that she thought I was a woman until I starting talking.
My next stop was a visit to Illusion Wigs in Milford, Massachusetts. Dotty, the owner, is a sweetheart who has always been a friend of the trans community. She taught me how to style my wig, but had never seen me en femme so I decided to stop by and buy some accessories and also visit. Her eyes lit up and when she saw me. She then asked me to turn around so she could get a good look.
“You look stunning!”
That, of course, made my day and then she sat me down in her styling chair and touched up my wig and gave me another short lesson.
I asked “Dotty, am I kidding myself or do I look like a woman?”
“Sweetheart, no question, you look like a woman; you’re perfectly put together, dressed age-appropriate, and you carry yourself wonderfully. I see all kinds and I would tell gently you if you didn’t.”
This acceptance and validation means so much to me in so many ways. I’m still trying to understand it all.
One thing for sure: if you’re thinking of buying a wig or just can’t style yours well, then call Dotty, make an appointment, go in drab and she will help you so much. She actually gave me lessons on how to style my wig. Made me comb it out and style it several times, coaching me along the way.
Next I stopped by a thrift store that I visit each week. The manager didn’t recognize me and was surprised to learn that I was that fellow who stops buy weekday mornings and always getting great deals on designer suits! So that’s who those suits are for!
As time was ticking away on my day off, I made one last stop at the local mall and visited the M·A·C counter to stock up on some pressed powder. Nothing to report here other than a woman getting friendly professional service from the M·A·C artist.
So before the sun set, I made my way home and Cinderella turned back into a fella, content with a great day out as a woman. I’ll end with my own version of that Ferris Bueller quote.
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and put on a pretty dress, makeup and heels once in awhile, you could miss it." – Paula Gaikowski