It’s sometimes funny how I question who I am and yet there really isn’t anything to answer. Sometimes it’s the doubts around anything I do that might be remotely considered a male quality and that I can’t even just rubber stamp those things as being just a bit of a tom-boy from time to time. Nothing strikes a chord with such tone as a quote. In the film The Truth About Spring when Hayley Mills playing the part of Spring is sat on the end of the small boat in the Caribbean and Will Ashton, played by James MacArthur attempts to bond with Spring.
“That’s not all there is to being a girl.” says Ashton trying to figure out who she is beyond her tom-boy personality.
“Well it’s enough to turn me against it. I’m me, Ashton, that’s all I ever intend to be, so don’t expect anything else.”
I couldn’t put it better myself. I’m me. That all I ever intend to be, and yet despite that sentiment the internal conflict and embarrassment of being me is what causes all the problems.
It amazes me when some would say ‘why on earth would you want to be a woman’ usually pointing out medical problems or the battle in the work place for fair pay and letching that some men still persist in. Despite the virtues of brittle nails and split ends nothing changes the innate inner feelings which when examined come to the same conclusion that I want to be; despite the upkeep.
When I was in my late teens on holiday with my parents we were walking along the oceans edge in the Canary Islands. Between the path and the beach was a short patch of that rubbery grass you get over there with sporadic palm trees and a few groups of families taking shade rather than the blistering heat of the volcanic sand beyond. As we walked-by my mother said to my father, “Look at that girl under the palm tree –” There was a girl, probably a similar age to me give or take a year, with her parents, and then she proceeded to tell my father how this girl was the image of me if I were born a girl. “Oh god, yeah.” replied my Dad. I looked over and my word, she certainly was. I actually had the chance to see who I could have been; if only.
For that moment I felt both elated by inner feelings of confirmation about how I felt about myself and in contrast a little sadness. Despair that she was living the life I kinda really wanted. That day stuck in my head for the rest of my holiday and the rest of my life. Even talking about it now, though in complete closure on that moment, has resurrected a little moisture welling up my face.
On that holiday I caught myself out. Later on we passed the usual array of stores with touristy items on sale. Spiky empty shellfish homes glossed in lacquer or varnish for a couple of hundred pesetas and nuggets of fools-gold in baskets between racks of beach clothes. Sticking out on a rack hung several pairs of shorts of the same style of varying summer sunshine colours. As we got closer I had the urge to mention to my Mum that I quite liked them. “Oh look at those.” My words were lost amongst the noises of the crowds also shuffling along the path in the midday sun and so she never heard me.
I then realised as they became in reach that they were in fact skirts. Without the courage I couldn’t continue with a facade and may be even play along my mistake so I could have at least spoken to my Mum about those skirts and may be offer some excuse, “Oh, I thought they were shorts.” No. I didn’t say anything and the moment passed by and the skirts disappeared behind us as we walked on. I can even see them now and how I would have loved to have been able to have had a day on the beach in some clothes that would just make me feel a bit more me; as Hayely would have put it, “that’s all I ever intend to be.”
Even if by some miracle I’d have had the courage to say that I was buying the skirt and wearing it for the holiday I would have probably had a holiday of feeling awkward and out of place. Not by others, back then I would get mistake for a girl certainly more than I get mistaken for a woman now, but feeling awkward on behalf of my parents. Guilt and sand by the shovel.
As that holiday came to a close I remember seeing a checkered beach dress in another shop. Before we left I slipped away in the day and asked the Spanish shop keep what the equivalent size was of the dress, “Is this a fourteen?” I said slowly.
“Four…” she said a little confused, “ah, sí, sí.”
I bought it but the fourteen turned out to be forty in the european size which was a twelve. Something at the time I struggled with a little. It didn’t matter though. I didn’t wear it on holiday and at home only when I was alone and eventually got rid of it in a misguided attempt to forget my female side and become someone I wasn’t. Shocking how much emotional value was attached to a cheap dress when it comes to a means to express who I am.
Things are, at least, a little different now some twenty odd years later. Wearing at least some clothes that makes me feel good and are a little obvious, some people who I’ve spotted noticing but not saying anything; at least to me. With things moving on slowly with some kind of transition in mind may be I can make up for lost years.
Until next time.