Look, Ma — no face!

Yes, I can be as unglamorous as everyone else in the morning.

Yes — I, too, can be just as unglamorous as everyone else in the morning.

Dec. 29, 2012

Well, this was an interesting morning, and that was before I was even half-awake.

I was up early, as I had to take care of a couple of things before the second storm of this holiday week struck. (And as I write, the white stuff is finally coming down — heavy, fast and furious. We’re expecting 3-6 inches between now and tomorrow morning. Did I ever tell you I always hated snow? Remind me again why I moved back to Connecticut …) I had to replace my wiper blades with the ones I bought last night, since the ones I had were falling apart, and I had to move my car so that my brother Ken can blow out the driveway tomorrow morning.

And — one thing I wasn’t expecting — I also had to go to the store. Mom ran out of milk, so she gave me four bucks and asked me to go to Oliver’s to get another gallon.

Which is no big deal. Except when you’re trans, you’re half-awake and have no makeup on. And, aside from bicycle rides, you had never gone out without at least some sort of cosmetic product on your face, all in the name of striving to not be read by a not-so-adoring public as something less than full-on genetic female.

This was gonna be a test. A trans pop quiz, if you will.

*****

Save for a brief spell after it was heavily damaged in a fire about three decades ago, Oliver’s Supermarket has been a fixture in town since, well, a long time before I moved to town as a preschooler in the mid-Sixties. It’s the place to go when you want to find decent groceries in a pinch without having to schlep to a Stop & Shop-type supermarket in Waterbury or Naugatuck or Cheshire. It’s modern, yet at the same time has the throwback feel of a market from the days before the supermegamarkets took over. It’s a place where chances are you’ll run into someone you know.

And until Wednesday, I hadn’t been there since high school. No need to. But I drove my folks to the doctor the morning after Christmas, and after that, I took them on their weekly shopping run. No big deal, just a routine trip. And since I’m out in the everyday world, I don’t arouse any attention that I know of.

(What did grab my attention was a bit of tradition that still endures. The women still run the cash registers, while young men bag your groceries and then take them out to your car. George Oliver, the founder, has long since gone on to the Supermarket in the Sky, but the current owner continues this bit of courtesy. The only difference is the guys don’t have to wear white shirts and ties anymore.)

But I do keep a relatively low profile in this little right-wing town — the place where, even though my tormentors are long gone, I was “faggot” at a young age, and some things you don’t forget, especially when you come back as transgender. I buy my lottery tickets at the Mobil station on the corner of 68 and 69. Every so often, I use the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru. Very infrequently, I go to the post office or CVS or stop in at a welcome new addition to town, Aura’s Plus-Size Consignment Shop. But otherwise, I’m at home or I head out of town. I don’t want to get used to the place again.

But whenever I’ve been out, I’ve always had my face on and have been dressed. I’ve been full-time for nearly four years now, after all. At the start of my wild gender trip in 2008, I made certain to find a balance as I learned to do my face, After all, too much makeup and I’d be a drag queen. Too little and I’d still be a boy.

And since I’ve been back, the only time I’ve ever been out in boy drag, without at least a wig, is bike riding — and even then, I’ll throw on the faintest bit of eyeliner so, at least on first blush, folks will peg me for an athletic woman. (Which I now am, really. Minus the expanse of belly fat.)

This morning, though, no such luxury. Around 8:30, Mom needed a gallon of 1 percent. She didn’t think “Fran, you should get dressed.”

But I did. And to tell you, I wasn’t getting full-on dressed. I mean, for what? It’s morning and there’s gonna be a huge snowstorm blowing in, so there’s no reason to be dolled-up.

I deliberated for about 15 seconds and finally said “Screw it.” I pulled on some jeans, zipped my gray fleece over the gray long-sleeved T-shirt in which I slept (no bra), and put on and combed out my wig and fitted in a nondescript gray hairband. That unglamorous, washed-out look — gray for a gray day. I left the purse and put my license and money in my fleece pocket. And not one bit of makeup. I figured that most of the people there would be about as conscious as I was, anyway, not to mention wrapped up in their thoughts and wants and needs. And if they stopped and gawked and stared, screw ’em — I’ve dealt with much worse.

I walked out and started the car.

*****

The confines of Oliver’s were a little on the cramped side, as befitting shoppers stocking up on comfort foods before a storm (including, as one woman was carrying, a six of Sam Adams).

I showed great restraint in passing up the junk foods — and they have Herr’s potato chips here! — as I snaked my way around the aisles to the dairy case on the far opposite end of the market.

And as I walked along the frozen foods island in the middle of the last aisle, a trim man with a gray crewcut turned around to put something in a case.

“Hi,” he said.

i recognized the blue-gray eyes in that split second. Holy shit — It’s Mr. B! (not his real name)

“Hi,” I said, not belaboring the point.

Mr. B — who looks almost the same as he did half my lifetime ago, save for getting older — works there. He’s a really nice guy. He and his family moved in two houses up and across the street from us when I was around 9. He’s a very laid-back guy, very quiet, no-nonsense. He and his wife and my parents used to socialize. He also worked for a while at the tiny grocery/deli where I worked a couple of summers, which stood in a strip mall on Route 69, a quarter-mile walk from my house — a place owned by two brothers, one of whom (along with his wife) was friends with both our families.

Life happens. His two sons grew up, the marriage ended, but he was still living in the area. And, apparently, working at Oliver’s.

I have a little rule when it comes to people from my past. (And no, I don’t have a litany of rules, like the “Gibbs Rules” on NCIS.) I don’t trick-or-treat them with Frannie 2.0. Not surprising people saves on a lot of awkward moments. The one unavoidable exception was a little over a week ago, when I attended the memorial for one of the slain Newtown teachers, the daughter/stepdaughter of two old friends from my first newspaper. There were lots of old colleagues I hadn’t seen in about 20 years. There were a couple of reactions of shock and enlarged eyes when I told them who I was, but they were followed by smiles and hugs and lots of catching up.

But this wasn’t one of those times. Mr. B was busy stocking on a busy morning, I was in to get one thing and get out, and I wasn’t much for conversation, anyway. And I wasn’t sure whether my parents had seen him and told him. So I let things be and grabbed the milk and paid and got home, where Mom had a bowl of Cream of Wheat — classic winter comfort food from my childhood — waiting at the table.

In snowy retrospect, that was kinda huge. The hormones — and the weight — have softened my features in recent years, so I don’t look the same without makeup as I did five years ago. Maybe I’ve made some progress that I hadn’t been able to measure or see until this morning. But there you go — a breakthrough in the most mundane and minimal of moments and actions.

i don’t want to make a habit of it, though …

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One Response to “Look, Ma — no face!”

  1. maXi Says:

    nice read, Frannie. MaXi

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