It was laying down right at the back of the wardrobe hidden under a pile of clothes wedged behind the wicker basket of make-up, eye lash curler, dried up nail varnish bottles and a couple of blusher brushes. I can’t believe I still have it. It must be what, eleven or twelve years old. ‘Soft Jasmine’ it says at the bottom of the dusty-pink coloured can with a silhouette of a woman and the Palmolive brand name stamped on the top. I’d bought this deodorant when I first started going out as a woman. It was the only time I used it. Way too feminine to use from day to day with me still way too scared to wear it at the time. It must be at least half full still; or to those who still doubt they’ll ever transition, half empty.
I haven’t used it since I stopped visiting those ‘special’ venues. It’s probably not even the fragrance that I would pick now. I solidly stick to Sure Cotton for everyday use but here it still is. I should be surprised that I’ve kept it this long but I’d be kidding myself given some of the clothes I still hoard. I looked around the can for a date. Does deodorant have a use by date? It doesn’t appear to. I pulled the frosted white cap from the top of the can; even the top slipped off the rounded top softly. Everything about this is meant to shout, ‘Soft!’. Even the product is called Soft and Gentle although how a can of chemicals sprayed onto the skin is gentle I don’t know. I sprayed a little into top to see if it still worked. Nothing had escaped this can until now. It was still as fresh as the day I bought it.
I smelled the fragrance. It transported me back to those days instantly. It took me back to Bristol evenings. The thick stripes of Pan Stick painted down my face before sponging. The smell of the powder to try and make the foundation appear more natural and to ensure any flash photography wouldn’t make me look like a ghost. It took me back to the nerves and sweat as I got ready knowing that I would soon have to leave through the front door. Those minutes spent behind the front door waiting for that moment when either I thought the street was quiet enough to leave or my heart had slowed enough. I breathed another wave from the top.
It reminded me of those walks through the darkened shadowed streets of Old Market and the elation of ordering from the bar or getting totally pissed-up and seeing my bright red cheeks in the photos that followed later that week. It was also the memories of London, that long trip across the M4 corridor just for a few hours in a night club in the quiet streets of the finance district in The City.
For some reason the smell reminds me of the True Blue nail varnish I loved painting on my finger nails that blended with my sort-of lilac blouse I wore on one of my first nights out. I sprayed a bit under my arms rather than my usual deodorant for old times sake.
The Jasmine deodorant didn’t tell me the whole truth though. It failed to remind me of the back street walks in the pouring rain with my friend just for a night out. The dangerous parts of Bristol where the only people who knew where I was were the friends that I met in Bristol that were completely anonymous to everyone I knew at home. In fact after a while I was so aware of this that at the time I even left a note on the table at home of where I was in case I ever did go missing. When I think about the risk we take for just a few hours of me time it seems quite unbelievable. To think I drove over one hundred and fifty miles for a night out in the city.
It failed to remind me of some of the people I’d met. Not the nice ones, not the people I’d met that I called true friends but the few self centred ones. Those that used me from cross dressers to admirers. Back in those days I lived in a city apartment. I allowed one girl to change at my place before we would head over to Bristol. She locked herself in the bathroom to get ready for an hour leaving me with little time to get ready. Another had left a trail of dents in my beautiful wooden flooring from her stiletto heels and never offered an apology let alone a repair.
May be that can of Soft and Gentle hadn’t lied to me after all. May be like a counsellor it allowed me to find the memories I needed to from that spray in the plastic top. Things are so different now. Those days are long past and things are quite normal in comparison. Back then was a clearly contrasting double life, right down the middle. Black and white like a bottle of Sheridan’s liqueur or a pint of Guinness if there are still some parts of masculinity that doesn’t fade. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a ‘girls’ night-out and I feel more womanly for it. The problem is, a single night out as a woman makes the contrast super sharp. That come down on a Sunday when there is no real reason to dress up always took a good glass full of energy from me. It was also unreal. It wasn’t real life. It was an escape.
These days I go to work in my size twelve jeans, my carefully plucked eye-browse on show with my hair in a high ponytail and I buy Sure Cotton on buy-one-get-one free whenever I can. Being female is no longer a special occasion, it’s a percentage of me everyday. I guess it always was, I just needed to show it.
The cool evening breeze is coming through the back door. My legs warmed by the laptop as I sit on the bean bag. May be the fragrance memory is just like a photo album that I should close and enjoy the good memories. I wouldn’t change those days for anything but neither do I wish to return to them. Things have moved on, my life is more honest and I may have not transitioned yet but the journey is good, hard going at times, but good.
Who would have thought a can of deodorant could be such a good counsellor.
Until next time.