Perfume and the Ocean

Thick orange horizon fell quickly with the sun as it hid itself below the other island that was outlined in fading grey. Sub tropical air with the atlantic bringing in the evening surf and people, just like me, standing here in awe at the sunset. The humidity clinging around my clothes and the remaining orange glow where the sun, now gone, leaving the burning embers in the sky. I really was here, taking an hour away from my parents while on holiday and just taking a moment for what it was, no life stresses, no gender thoughts, no nothing other than that moment. The sky, the colour, oneness, wholeness – how things should be.

It started just a few days before packing clothes at home and trying to decide what I wanted to take, what would end up being those clothes that would never get worn on holiday, I mean who wears a denim jacket in thirty degrees. On top of that was what female clothes, my clothes, could I really take that I would use without feeling anxious around my parents on the rare time I would holiday with them. ‘Sod it’, I thought, and chucked my denim shorts with the coloured crystal studs and turns ups into the case, my black running short-shorts, my turn up soft leafy camouflage shorts in pale greens and creams, the new look t-shirt with the cropped sleeves and most things I really wanted to wear but rarely had the confidence. I stopped short of perfume because I was down to my last spray, there wasn’t much point.

It was funny how quickly, once on holiday, that conversations between myself and my Mum had turned to clothes. I think it was when a woman worked by with a thin white seamless long vest top branded with Calvin Klein, shorts and a seamless tan down her long legs. I say branded but as with many clothes bought and worn on the island the brand had been stolen, printed and sold for five euros a top. “I like her vest top, Mum” I said without thinking.
“Which one?”
“The white CK top. I’d like to have one of those for running.”

Thoughts seem to churn for her a little and within a day we were shopping together looking for the elusive Calvin Klein vest and it expanded into looked for linen cropped trousers and shorts. I was already wearing some of my female shorts. There was some immediate acceptance but the underlying reason still unspoken.

I slipped into a perfume shops and tried a few scents on either wrist and caught up with my Mum who had walked on slowly browsing the trinket gift shops. I smelt either wrist trying to make my mind up which I preferred.

“Let me have a smell.” I offered either wrist but didn’t mention one was perfume, the other the men’s equivalent which I genuinely wasn’t so keen on, but it was okay.
“Oh that’s nice – ” she said smelling the ladies perfume, “I prefer that one. It seems longer lasting.”
“Yes me too. I might get it for a change.”

It wasn’t too long before we were talking about it again as we wandered in and out of clothes shops with genuinely nice clothes. Mum was soon talking about perfume rather than ‘aftershave’ and not even ‘eau de toilette’, “well if you decide to get your perfume you can always put it in my luggage if it doesn’t fit in your case.” The holiday suddenly had lifted some barriers without any kind of dramatic conversation, it just happened organically.

Mornings were started with solitary runs along the Atlantic coast with the deep blue ocean waters and fizz of oxygen turning the water aqua marine pale green as the waves broke. I would put on my short running shorts showing my now carefully tanned legs much like the woman with the vest and legs. My mum would already have woken and from the gap in the door wave to me as I left the apartment. Another day she got up early and took that refreshing walk with me and commented, “they’re nice shorts.”

“Yes, these are my running shorts. They’re nice to run in. I think I might have to replace them soon as they’re just about to start loosing their cling.” I pulled at the side with my fingers.
“They need to be clingy for running don’t they.” She said.

The jig was certainly up just like it was with the perfume. It was just accepted that I preferred perfume, I preferred my running shorts and cropped white Mediterranean linen trousers. Yet things were still unspoken. I know she knows. She knows. She knows I know. Rinse repeat.

May be this how it is or at least how it should be. No dramatic hand written letter about the gender thing or sitting them around the dining table, “Mum, Dad, there is something you need to know.” God, thank the stars for not having to go through that rigmarole that sums up that song and dance drama of the phrase coming out – eugh. The less of that the better. A long slow change of life rather than some overbearing statement.

Even my dad had been talking briefly here and there about what I was going to buy or wear. We might not have been sharing shopping trips and conversations of ‘how nice that girl’s top is.’ but he was equally trying some kind of encouragement to do what I wanted. When my Mum was pulling linen trousers and vest tops from the rack that were clearly female, especially with fancy cuts going down the back, hold it up and saying, “how about this one?” I felt suddenly at ease.

The coffee was short, hot and bitterly strong and the view from the beach side rustic cafe, dramatic and relaxing. With the few highly coveted seats on the wooden flooring surrounded by sand and rocks bordering the ocean I was home away from home. Holidays, for me, are always life changing. Re-evaluating and inspiring to change things for the better when I return, throwing away the ruts that drag but I didn’t expect to suddenly have this honesty thrown upon me. I suppose if I had known this would happen in advance I would have felt like that moment when you need to pull that plaster off your arm but are afraid to yank it through the fear and the longer you think about it the harder it becomes. Instead someone else just pulled that plaster and it came off painlessly like it was stuck on with Post-It note glue. Enough so that I would put on more plasters just to pull them off so I could be more me around my parents.

Until next time.

Hannah x

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