Linda Asks: My Wife

I reached out to my friend and reader, Linda, for some prompting on blog topics. She was kind enough to provide me with plenty of material, so here is the first such post, our little Q & A. She has Q’d me and now here I am A’ing her.

One of your objectives is to encourage others: if you can so we can.  However, you appreciate that no two circumstances are the same.  A wife who knows and tolerates is a rare privilege.  (Do tell us more about your wife’s views?  Would she write a post?)  A town close by large enough to not encounter anyone who knows you or intersects with ‘his’ life.  To cite just two, lol.

There is quite a bit to unpack here. Let me work through it. Absolutely, my main goal is to demonstrate that we can in fact go out and be who we wish to be. But is also to show that we have to follow some simple common sense rules in order to do so. I acknowledge that I am unique in many ways. While I have never passed (each complement received is specifically because I do NOT pass), I blend quite well. In the best case scenario, no one thinks, oh that was a woman that just walked past me. Probably, I am principally not noticed, the other person’s mind simply processing my presence was if I were anyone else walking by.

Indeed, in any facet of life, in any situation, no two circumstances are the same. Life is loaded with risk, day in and day out. It always existed, but seems to be on steroids now with our immediate information age and the power of social media. Social media is a lit match to the tinder that is the fabric of life and our personal safety.

I have acknowledged here and do so in my life daily, every second of the day, my good fortune to have an accepting wife. Without that the whole possibility of Kandi would not even exist. I am not sure what Kandi would be or how I would navigate life with that eating at me, but I am fortunate in that regard. Also, as I have stated, most would not trade life issues with me for the gift of an accepting wife. There is a saying, if we all packed up our troubles in a suitcase and left all these suitcases in the middle of the room, with the ability to take home a different suitcase, most would grab their own suitcase and leave the room. Not sure I would.

I have talked before about The Angel Known as My Wife. As hard as this is to believe, my dressing is a non-issue. It’s just considered a part of our lives. One thing I try to do is to not make it an “in your face” kind of thing. To my wife, going out dressed is no different than my going to run a race, it’s just what I enjoy doing. She knows I have a blog, but it’s not a big deal to her. I would not even consider asking her to write a post, preferring to just allow things to be as they are. If it ain’t broke, why break it? We have enough challenges in our lives, which includes as I have mentioned, our daughter’s anxiety problem. These frequently result in hour plus phone conversations with my wife about something she is obsessing on, routine and mundane things we don’t even realize, she obsesses about. OCD. Help is on it’s way, we hope, but like everything else, it takes time. Throwing things on my wife’s pile of concerns and/or worries, wouldn’t be right. This is my gig.

The final point on this initial “Linda Asks” post, everyone seems amazed at my ability to go out close to our home without being discovered. I can attribute this to many things. You would have to know me in male mode and put two and two together. It certainly would not be that difficult, but you would have to have the time to do so, have the thought process to even make that mental calculation, have a suspicion about me, and most importantly, you would have to pay attention to someone other than yourself.

Most people are focused on themselves and what they are doing. I frequent places I know friends do not. I know this now through significant personal experience. The density of people that would know you thins out the more you move away from your home. It is very infrequent for me to run into someone I know in male mode, let alone in “disguise”. To the best of my knowledge, I can count on one hand the number of people that I know otherwise, that I have seen when out dressed, now out hundreds of times in thousands of different places. Could it happen? Absolutely. If it does, I already have in my mind how I would deal with it and explain it to mitigate any “damage”. Frankly, there is no damage possible, just opening the Pandora’s Box of questions to answer. We just don’t want to have to explain why, since I cannot explain why myself. There is no shame for either of us, just the desire for our continued privacy.

Thanks Linda and much, much more to come. Not sure I answered the questions, probably rambling on, but I hope I made some sense here.

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A Three Star Weekend

By Marie Anne Greene

The drive to the big city, Atlanta, was uneventful. However, the later than normal arrival time precluded all afternoon fun activities so after a change from comfortable driving clothes into womanly Skinny pink jeans, a flowing tunic also in pink and of-course Pink Tennie’s and a Make-Up touch up Our Gal was more than ready for a glass of wine and a nice dinner in a comfortable restaurant. Regrettably, there is only one within ten miles of the Dream-Maker’s Studio, an old reliable, comfortable family style Italian Restaurant.

Neither one of us, Marie and Phoebe, (the Dream-Maker) had a fixed agenda for the weekend although since it had been a month since our last get-together there were many happenings and topics to chat about. However, it quickly became evident that each of us had two-three things she wanted to do. Phoebe had, in a previous telephone call said she had a Wedding Gown that she just had to see on Marie. Our Gal countered that she had a Strapless Party Gown that she was just dying to show the Dream-Maker. A fun start!

Next Phoebe said she and a lady friend had visited the Inn two weeks back and proceeded to remind they (Marie and Phoebe) had visited the Inn back in November and enjoyed the experience but had not visited the Museum/Gift Studio. Phoebe continued with the fact that she and her friend had visited the Museum Shoppe and had met and been entertained by the lady who ran the shop.

It was decided another trip to the Inn and Shoppe was warranted. Phoebe then proposed that Marie bring “The Spring Sun Dress” which after an extended search, Marie had recently purchased. Phoebe’s plan/idea was if the meeting with the Shoppe Lady went well, Marie could change from her walking out luncheon outfit and really get into the “Plantation Story Theme” that the Shoppe Lady loves to tell.

With that plan (fantasy) made, Marie was planning to wear a multi-colored striped skirt and a solid Violet colored Tunic top. Phoebe rejected the striped skirt and recommended a much more feminine alternate. This was a filmy floral yellow/rose/violet colored airy skirt with a flouncy hem. Marie loved its femininity and acquiesced to Phoebe’s judgement, and off the daring duo went for the twenty-mile ride through the backroads of the Georgia green hills arriving at the Inn during the last half of the lunch period.

After sampling the large variety of Southern Cuisine that was offered and the several savory deserts our two-girl team walked to the Museum Shoppe and Phoebe reestablished her rapport with Natalie, the Museum/Shop Manager and proceeded to introduce Marie, who was still wearing the Walking-Out Floral skirt and violet tunic and an Auburn bob. Then began a three-way girl dialogue about the many unique Museum displays which included many handmade artist works ranging from paintings to statues, jewelry and uniquely colorful flowing coverups. After this warm period of friendship, Marie asked Natalie for directions to the restrooms, then headed off with her “Large – It’s In here Somewhere Shoulder Bag” dangling in her left hand.

Our Gal is well accomplished with her Wonder-Woman super-fast change capabilities and in less than three minutes had slipped out of the Floral skirt and Tunic combo and into a near ankle length yellow Sun Dress, white sandals and now shoulder length Blonde tresses with a matching yellow Plantation Sun-Hat. When, our Gal returned to the Shoppe in this new mode, she was greeted immediately by Natalie with a joyous “Marie – Oh my gosh! You look wonderful. Welcome back.”

Of-course both Phoebe and Marie were thrilled by this unreserved warm demonstration of womanly acceptance neither, Phoebe non- Marie detected any questioning of Marie’s persona.

The tour and stories continued eventually with Marie Anne describing her experience living in Virginia and Carolina Plantation Homes including showing a few pictures. After purchasing several of artistic items our two Gals began their departure preparations, Natalie came around and gave both warm hugs, thanked them for the visit and turning to Marie said she really hope to see them again soon and please send her copies of some of the photos that Phoebe had been busily taking during the visit.

After leaving the Museum, Marie made a bee line to the lady’s room, where she accomplished another rapid transition back into the Tunic and Floral skirt mode. Next Phoebe yielded to Marie’s desire to drop into some of the Main Street shops. This detour was a Marie excursion solo. As Our Gal enter the first shop with the name of, The Twisted Sisters, Marie exclaimed to the young woman sitting behind the counter reading a book – “Wow! What a change from my last visit. Last time the store was bare.” The book lady said Oh! That was not this store but the one next store.” Marie responded, “Oh! Okay- Sorry. My mistake. May I browse”. “Of Course, please do”, came the cheerful reply.

During the slow stroll, Marie picked up two bars of a hand-made cherry perfumed soap and an absolutely delightful looking Blue-Violent-Silver Bralette. Both were on Sale. As Marie placed the trio on the checkout counter, Marie’s interlocutor pick-up a box containing one of the soap bars and putting the box near her nose sniffing its aroma and commented “Pretty”. Marie jokingly chided her saying “Now you owe me a discount”. The exchange concluded with the standard – “Do you want the receipt in the bag? Nodding her head Marie concurred, and placing the receipt in the bag, the smiling young women said “Thank you for dropping in and your purchases and please do come back – We get new things every week.” Marie then decided not to duck into the other stores and returned to the car and a very patient Dream-Maker.

After starting the car and embarking on the final leg of trip to Home Base (Phoebe’s Studio) the topic of discussion turned to a review of the interchange of Marie and Natalie. Both Phoebe and Marie were sure that Natalie had no inclination that Marie was anything other than the friendly, soft-spoken, polite and pleasant lady who appreciated old houses and Southern history. They both also agreed if Natalie had seen beyond Marie’s presentation, she hid it well or was not put off and just accepted Marie’s persona as a pleasant person.

Having had the Southern Lunch, neither of our Gals were interested in dinner, so no further stopping and after reaching the Studio and sampling a light wine, the mini-Fashion Show began. The first on the stage was Marie contribution the violet and gold studded Strapless floor length number with its multi-layered crinolines. Marie was the model and Phoebe both the critic and photographer. It was deemed perfect for a whirling Viennese Ballroom dance competition or Fancy Ball Party with all its glitter and glamour. The challenge, possibly far beyond reality, was where could such a venue could be found. A possibility was a Halloween Event and evenly better was a Halloween Themed Cruse. With those thoughts the Violet Gown left the Studio Stage and was replaced by Phoebe’s special find – Her size 8 Wedding Dress.

Both of our GALS, as do most women, just love the arura of romance and glamour that surrounds the mystic of a Wedding and this particular example of the Wedding Dress Designer’s Art fully measured up, and in the opinion of our Two-party jury, exceeded the norm. Marie, the model, was ecstatic with the style, feel of the satin material, the tucks, folds and sweep of the bodice and skirt and the overall perfectly womanly image and sensation. All these feelings could be seen in her eyes and her joyful smile. Phoebe was so enamored with this Bridal Vision she could not stop taking pictures almost in a random manner.

This ends our narrative and we leave to your judgement the three ensembles worn by Our Gal – the Walking Out Floral Skirt/Tunic Combo – the Strapless Party Gown and the dreamland Wedding Dress. Oh! Almost forgot. Marie send a Thank You Note to Natalie which hopefully may prompt a reply- will let you know.

Hope You have enjoyed this little Vignette.

Pandemonium Redux!

September 7, 2019 – Show time! Take a risk with my outfit. Just let it all go! I would only wear this dress for this event. It’s me, but not me. This year: Pandemonium 2019: Alchemy.

Cleveland Public Theater’s annual fundraising extravaganza transforms the CPT campus into a labyrinth of theater, dance, visual, and performance art in every corner. We raise about $350,000 for the theater, which is intimately involved with our creative community.

Tickets are all-inclusive, featuring fabulous local food, free valet, and complimentary drinks served all night long. A feast for the eyes, mind, appetite, and imagination—proceeds benefit CPT’s groundbreaking artistic work and life-changing education programs. It runs at least $165 to get in. Me…..a $5 dress, great legs, my time and all the food and drink I can handle.

Let’s step into the way back machine. Here is last year:

https://vimeo.com/channels/pand

At around 1:20, you’ll see yours truly, for a split second. Damn, I wish I were that cute again!

We live on a cul-de-sac, at the very end. Every year we have a block party, essentially at the end of my driveway. Every year it is the same weekend as Pandemonium! So every year I miss the block party (which I would like to attend) and have to assemble myself on-site. Fortunately it is a theater, so there are plenty of dressing rooms for me to do my makeup, etc. But I hate walking in the place in hybrid mode.

Here I am in the artists’ dressing area after having pulled myself together.

Okay, story time. Remember The Prom to Remember a few months back? During the Dress Extravaganza as well as at the prom, I made friends with a wonderful young lady, so full of personality. She really touched me. Fast forward to this day and a beautiful woman comes up to me, calls me by name and tells me what a kind person I am. I had no memory of this woman (surprise there, huh?). It ends up she is young lady’s aunt and did in fact meet me at the prom. Her niece apparently spoke fondly of me. Pretty cool. Well, here is Mindy and me prior to the beginning of the festivities (the photo on the left). The other photo is her niece and me from this past April. By the way, she is in remission!!

It went like that all night. I was part of quite a few photos, many of which I have no copies of. Well, I’m just happy to be happy. The night was wonderful and here is one other friend who shared the photo with me.

Finally, here is a little fun with my friend Christina!

Here are my friend Carol and I.

Hugs

Yeah, another rewrite. You do know it’s Saturday. I’m probably at a race…..

All of my life (up until my self acceptance) there were a few things I hated.  Having my picture taken, smiling unless prompted by something and hugging.  You can probably tell I have tackled the picture and the smiling thing.  Well, I have also taken to hugging.  I love hugs!  I have frequently challenged myself to go out and get hugs from three total strangers.  I have accomplished it often!

I talked about my (then) church.  I frequently got hugged by the greeter, who opened the door for me (and everyone else).  I could easily log 5-10 hugs with in my first 15 minutes there and got many more during the time of greeting that is part of the services.  Here are some memorable hugs:

Months back I was working at the art museum’s monthly MIX! party.  My partner (we are partnered up for whatever our task is that evening) and I were checking out a new exhibit before we started.  Two African-American ladies were doing the same.  One started chatting with me and we talked about how we all just need to spread love, love one another.  Nice chat.  Then she turns to me and asks if she can give me a hug.  Of course!

A few summers back I decided to do some shopping and stopped at a favorite store of mine, New York & Company.  I gather a few dresses and got into a fitting room.  While attempting to fit into a size 0 (my eyesight is not what it used to be), I hear a mother and her adult daughter in the adjacent room.  I ask the SA to get me the dress in a 10 (that’s more like it).  I am chuckling listening to my neighbors.  The SA returns with the proper size and I step out to check myself in the mirror.  It ends up the daughter is wearing the same gingham dress!  Long story short, I have Mom take a picture of me and her daughter and we talk and get to know each other.  The visit ends up with multiple hugs!

I work for a community theater group, as I have discussed, Mercury Theatre Company.  We (yes, I do say “we”) performed La Cage Aux Folles.  There were a number of “girls” in the show (ranging from high school to recent college graduates).  Apparently they all took a shine to little ol’ me.  The first night I was there many of them came up to me and thanked me for being there, wrapping me in big hugs, often during the show.

Working an event for the North Coast Men’s Chorus (I usually am the raffle ticket girl) is a long line of one hug after another.  So cool!

I was bound and determined for a “regular” girl day many months back.  Just got up, dressed and ran some errands. Strangely, I felt more feminine that day than I do many days when I am more dressed up (wore jeans, a sweater and boots).  The cool thing was that I got two complements in Walmart.  I walked into Macy’s at the mall, I could not have been in there for 30 seconds when an SA ran up to me and with a “Hey Girl!” (love that) and went on to tell me how much she liked the boots I was wearing in that store last time, probably 3 months prior (how did she remember?)!  We, of course, ended up hugging quite a bit.

Well anyway…..I could go on and on.  Yes, I am probably unique as I have reached that stage in my life where I don’t really care what others (beside loved ones) think of me.  That in itself gives one “courage”.  I radiate happiness.  And while I fool NO ONE, I do present myself with class and dignity and all of these seem to endear me to many.  But there is nothing like a big hug! 

Last story.  I have a vintage store that I frequent, I buy a lot of jewelry there.  The proprietor is a sweet woman.  Her 80+ year old parents both work there, Bob and Natalie.  Bob talks to me like it’s no big deal I am standing there in a dress and make up.  We often have long conversations.  Natalie loves me and I her.  We hug and hold each other while we talk often.  Very heartwarming.  Sure, she refers me to “he”, but given her generation, I don’t mind.  It’s that unconditional acceptance that I find intoxicating.

So if you see me, odds are pretty good, I’ll be looking for that hug!

Pandemonium! The Set-up.

September 6, 2019 – It was time again for the Cleveland Public Theater’s annual blow out, Pandemonium! It is easily the biggest social event in Cleveland every year and a huge fundraiser for CPT. This year, I finagled my way into a promotion! The funny thing is I did so by not really being of any help all throughout the year. I am kind of a perfect person to work this event. I went from a wayfinder to House Manager. The campus of CPT is a number of adjunct buildings. My station was the Storefront Studio, featuring four intimate musical performances, from jazz to opera to pop/folk to blues. My responsibilities included helping direct the flow of traffic within the space and making sure that capacity isn’t exceeded. This day was the pre-event meeting and I was delighted to be a part of it. But if you follow this here blog, you know there are many facets to one of my outings.

Let’s start with the outfit. The only pair of jeans I paid full price for and could not be happier with the purchase. The Old Navy Rock Star jeans……OMG, I wish I could wear them 24/7. This top, essentially free (a coupon wiped out its cost), so cool, feminine, just me.

Prior to the meeting I had coffee with a delightful friend from Plexus. Ellie works for a local non-profit and had some opportunities to discuss with me. They were all of interest to me in terms of both contributing as well as networking potential. We talked for about a hour and a half, it was wonderful getting to know her and share stories. I thoroughly enjoyed our visit. It was effortless, as if we were long time friends. Thanks Ellie!

I headed over to the theater and had an hour to kill, so guess what? Here I am with my daiquiri, sitting on the patio on a perfect weather evening.

The pre-production meeting itself was fun. I got to see some friends and learned my responsibilities for the next day. No real story, just me getting out and about. The event should be fun and quite memorable (especially my dress!!).

Attitude Adjustment Sunday

September 1, 2019 – On the day my “Help Wanted” post ran, my wife had to work, so I decided on a simple morning, church and a bit of shopping to get some needed household items. I kept it kind of low maintenance with this lovely outfit that didn’t require too much work on myself to pull off. I felt pretty in pink all morning! The top had shades of pink (my purse, pants, necklace and shoes as well), orange (my watch and earrings) and purple (my lipstick and nail polish). I love a colorful pallet to work with.

I wish I did better with the photography because those shoes garnered quite a few complements.

The backstory on the outfit. I was trying on dresses this past March (in male mode, ironically) at Macy’s and chatted up the SA. She mentioned this consignment store she loved so off I went. Things were a little pricey for me, but hanging on the wall was this outfit, with an adorable long necklace. I admired it, but left the store without any purchases. I couldn’t forget the outfit. So a week or so later, I went back and tried the outfit on. Perfect! But the entire outfit was still pricey so I did not buy the necklace and substituted a pink pendant I had and loved. Today was its maiden voyage.

Back to this day, I walked into church, not having been there in about a month for various reasons. I had told many that I would be missing for that time, but would be back. Apparently, they missed me! Quite a few “welcome backs”, smiles, hugs and complements. It was simply life affirming as I sat there smiling without realizing so. My attitude started to turn away from poor, poor, pitiful me to moving forward positively. All in all the service was excellent, uplifting and a great way to start my day.

Then I had to stop at Walmart to pick up a few things for the house. As I always do, I couldn’t care less about being in there dressed. I just go about my business. So I go to the self-checkout area and start checking out. But first let’s step back a few moments as I walked toward the checkout behind a husband and wife wearing Browns backers gear (unbelievably, the Browns have the largest booster organization in all of sports, it is worldwide, almost every major city across the country and globally has a club and a bar that hosts fans specifically for Browns games on game days). I took note of where they were from as well as the odd tattoos they had and walked past them.

So, back at check out and I am pulling things from my cart, scanning and bagging when I hear “I just want you to know how beautiful you are!”. It was the wife I just mentioned. Caught me by surprise and touched me deeply and immediately. She went on to tell me she had a cousin transitioning and just felt the need to tell me how much she loved my outfit and they fact I was in pink! This also proves I pass zero percent of the time. But I could not care less. That moment, ladies and gentlemen, was the moment I got my head out of my behind and my attitude changed. She, of course got a stare-in-the-eyes, heartfelt thank you. You never know, who, what, when, where or why something happens that changes things for you.

A quick stop at the grocery store and I headed home. As I unloaded the car, half torn down, lipstick wiped clean, wig off, my daughter calls with a minor but easily solvable problem. Except she wants to FaceTime me! I quickly explained that I had an intestinal emergency to deal with and then washed clean and called her right back.

Life, when you figure it out, please let me know.

What It Was/What It Is

Some past thoughts, updated a bit.

What It Was:  Disgust.  Guilt.  Self-hate.  A compulsion.  Anxiety.  Almost 50 years of struggle.  Stupidity.  Horrendous “outfits”.  Hair, all over.  A crappy mustache.  The complete avoidance of photographs.  Certainly never smiling in pictures.  Never, not one single time (and there were many) enjoying “it”.  Denial.

Waste.  Delusion.  Illogic.  Headaches.  Too many drinks.  Too much to eat.  An inability to properly love.  A negative outlook.  Always looking for the cloud.  Excuses.  Frustration.  A ratty appearance.

What It Is:  Joy.  Comfort.  Happiness.  Acceptance.  Uniqueness.  Better than it was before.  That feeling…..  Pride, in myself, in those that, without thought, accept me.  Surprise.  An outfit well assembled.  A cute dress.  A genuine complement.  Hugs!  Hugs!  Hugs!

A natural smile.  Being one of the girls.  “Hello ladies!”.  The opportunity to explain myself.  Giving to others.  Love.  Being loved.  Loving that!  A positive mental outlook (even of late).  Finding the silver lining.  A massive wardrobe.  Friends, different friends, many friends.  Open-mindedness.  Getting it done.  People I never dreamed would welcome, accept me.  Doing things I never imagined.  Wedding dresses.  Being pretty.  Feeling pretty.

Continually evolving. Becoming known. Being both a real person and a complete fake. A real sense of what I like and what I don’t like. Everything slowing down, no longer getting that “oh my gosh, I am actually doing this” feeling because I actually do this. Friends I am blessed to know. “Friends” that have disappointed me. This place, where I can speak my mind, maybe help a bit, vent, show off. Slowly, very slowly, being seen as an asset to the community.

For me what is was right after my self-acceptance is different than what this is right now, which will continue to change, both in good and bad ways. I guess that’s because this is part of my life, part of life, is life. My life. Once you think you have it figured out, something will throw you for a loop. No one can understand what is like to be me, just like I cannot understand what is like to be you. Not only is our world’s filled with different variables, how we view the world and most importantly how we process that view, shapes us.

Don’t be as foolish as I was.  Yes, I had and have so many blessings in my life.  But I had that pall hanging over me.  It wasn’t there all the time, but it was never too far away.  Once all the distractions (good ones for sure, but distractions from the elephant in the room) were gone, that elephant began stomping on my head and I succumbed.  But you know what, that elephant ain’t so bad!