I debated with myself; I wasn’t up for a day in London all dolled up. That meant going drab, however, there was another choice: the city of Bath was an hour train ride away. A delightful town with Roman Baths, a Medieval Abby and cobblestone streets filled with cute shops. The answer was obvious: it was Bath time!
Since my feet were blistered from walking in my new heels all weekend, I wore my riding boots with my new Pendleton jacket and skirt. Tights and stocking have lessened in popularity back in the US but here in the UK black tights and hose are de rigueur. One of the many reasons I love the UK.
My train journey was uneventful other than the fact that I noticed women tend to sit with women, and on my busy train I had several women sit next and around me during the journey.
At the train station I bought a map and made my way toward Bath Abby and Roman Baths. I stopped for lunch in a traditional English pub and had fish and chips, of course. After lunch I was wandering around trying to get my bearings when I was approached by a hawker for the hop-on-hop-off bus tours around the city. Cute and friendly, I could not resist buying a ticket. I had always enjoyed tours like these and especially the chance to meet others when you travel alone.
Seating myself demurely out of the way towards the back of the bus, I was ready for my tour of Bath. I decided that I want to see the Roman Baths, Bath Abbey and also visit the Jane Austen Center. About two stops later, a couple of American women about my age got onto the bus. As the bus rocked and swayed thru the narrow and twisting streets of this historical city, we all tried to gauge our whereabouts by way of our maps.
One of the ladies leaned over and asked, “Excuse me do you know what stop or where the Jane Austen Center is?”
Hearing her familiar accent, I knew right off she was from my home state of New Jersey. I responded with equal exasperation, holding the map upside down for comic relief. Soon Sharon, Janet and I were huddled in conference over a map.
Looking up for a second, I saw a young woman in a Victorian costume standing outside the Jane Austen Center.
“There, there, there!” I pointed and soon the three of us were off the bus and walking toward the museum. I learned that Janet and Sharon were from the same area of New Jersey that I had grown up in. They were both divorced, one recent and one not so recent and worked at an arts and cultural center at one of the state universities. They had come to the UK for a conference down the road in Oxford, had the afternoon off and decided to visit Bath.
I had a great time touring the Jane Austen Center. I had always enjoyed the movies watching Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park with my wife. I love the clothes and the romanticism of it all. I’ve even read the book Pride and Prejudice.
As I pointed out earlier, I felt that my innate femininity was coming to the surface. I was feeling emotions that I had concealed and masked for so many years. It was fun to enjoy the exhibits and costumes with other women. I realized that it wasn’t bad to be feminine.
I rode the bus with Sharon and Janet for several more stops. Along the way, I learned our paths had crossed many times growing in New Jersey. We had attended some of the same concerts, night clubs and Jersey Shores haunts.
As we chatted, anytime I spoke about an event that involved an ex-girl or my wife, I would substitute boyfriend or husband. “Oh I had a boyfriend who worked there one summer.” It was surprisingly validating to say that and it made me smile.
The last two stops were Bath Abby, which dates back to the 1100s and then the Roman Baths. Historically fascinating, I enjoyed them both. I parted ways with my two new girlfriends at the Abbey.
I’m not sure what they thought of me. Although they accepted me as one of the girls, after any amount of time with me, it has to be clear that I’m not your average gal. They both were well-educated and come from a progressive environment, so I suspect that I was not the first transgender person they met. Their kindness and friendship did wonderful things for my self-esteem and self-image. It would have been a remarkable afternoon to visit Bath even drab. They helped make it even more special.
I was happy to be back on the train and resting my weary feet after a week of high heels and boots. I put on my iPod and was soon lulled into dreaminess by the English countryside and the rhythm of the train. It had been an incredible and memorable week and as I reflected over the events of the last few days, the theme from Disney’s Frozen came on my iPod. I never really listen closely to the words, but now after a week as Paula, they rang true to heart as no song has ever done before:
Couldn't keep it in
Don't let them in, don't let them see
Let it go, let it go
Wearing Rachel Zoe.
Relay for Life womanless beauty pageant contestant in Oneonta, Alabama (2012).