Despite all my worry and quoting of dreary poetry, my world did not end when I got home last night. My wife had a PTA meeting to attend, my youngest had been throwing up all day, and my oldest had crashed the computer (again!), so I hugged my wife on her way out the door and took over parenting duties for the evening. It was almost disappointingly normal.
It wasn’t until after she got home and the kids were in bed that I had the chance to broach “the subject” again. The therapist I’ve been seeing the last few weeks had been encouraging me to “build a support structure” to “get me through my time of transition” — in other words, find some people I could talk openly to, face-to-face, about my dressing. I don’t even have many standard friends, let alone any I’m willing to confide in right now. But there’s a pretty active LGBT community in a city nearby, and I knew that if I went looking I’d find something, and yesterday I finally did it. And since my new policy is to keep nothing from my wife, I wanted to tell her about it.
I opened with, “I, um … I need Saturday night. Is it okay if I have Saturday night?”
She shrugged. “Sure, I don’t have any plans. Just this Saturday, or every Saturday?”
“Not sure yet.”
“Why? You going gaming?”
Tabletop gaming is a hobby of mine. Or, at least, it used to be; I haven’t really played in almost a year, after the last group I met regularly with broke up. So she was assuming that’s where I was going — to the gaming store to play. Oh, boy …
“Um, no,” I said … and suddenly felt really self-conscious and ashamed. The horrible, irrational way my mind was thinking in the moment was, You’re about to tell her you’re abandoning her on a Saturday night to go hang out with other lady-men! No wonder she wants to leave you! It was an utterly biased, self-sabotaging thought, but it strangled me. “Just nevermind,” I said, and mentally abandoned the idea of going to the meeting. After all, this shit ain’t right, right? It needs to stay hidden.
But my wife is not stupid. Also, she can read me like a book. “No, what is it? If there’s something you want to do, you should do it. What is it?”
And so I choked down my negative feelings and I told her. It was odd to verbalize some of it — that I was going to an LGBT support center [wait, I’m LGBT now?!] and there was a support group there; that I would be meeting with other men who like to dress, some of them full-time, some of them maybe even on HRT or contemplating SRS. It was uncomfortable — I’m not sure when I’ll ever stop being uncomfortable talking to my wife about these things — but I explained to her that it was therapist recommended, like that was a shield against it being weird.
“She’s right,” said my wife, who was not at all phased. “You should go. You need people to talk to. How often do they get together?”
“Weekly. But I’m jut going to one meeting. I don’t even know if I’ll like it.”
“You will,” she said knowingly. “You need it. Just remember that we have plans on the 9th.”
Her reaction actually caught me off guard. It was so casual, so normal. It was like I hadn’t just told her that I was abandoning her on a Saturday night to go hang out with a bunch of lady-men! All my anxiety about telling her had been misguided. She is a loving and understanding soul, and she knows the LGBT community, and she knew exactly why I needed to attend this meeting. She got it.
And then she asked. “Are you going ‘dressed’?”
Holy crap, did that put the brakes on the conversation. My wife and I have discussed my feelings, but we hadn’t talked about, you know, actual dressing. That was not a question I was expecting. I think I visibly squirmed in my seat with discomfort. “What? No. I can’t … I mean, I’m not … No. No. I’m just going.”
Squirming. “Because! I’m … you know. Fat and lanky, and I totally do not pass.”
“I’m sure you won’t be the only one there who’s big or tall or wouldn’t pass. That’s not what this meeting’s for, is it?”
“No, but — ”
“I bet you’d be more comfortable.”
Really squirming now. “No.”
“Is it about getting ready in front of me and the kids? You wouldn’t have to do it here. You could go somewhere else. I’m sure they’ve had people use the bathrooms there to get dressed before.”
“No! I’m not ready to go out the front door, okay?”
“You could wear a coat when you go out. No one will notice under a coat. Not in the dark.”
I sighed. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but … no. Not going to happen.”
My wife can be tenacious when she gets an idea in her head. “What about just bringing a top you like? Or some lipstick in your pocket? You don’t have to put it on here. You could do it in the car.”
“What? No, that would be … ” I almost said weird, but given the context of the conversation it felt like a silly judgment.
“Well, I think you should. You’d probably be happier that way.”
“I think you’re going to get there and regret not doing it. I think you’ll go dressed next time.”
“I don’t even know if there’s going to be a next time.”
She smiled. “There will be.”
So that’s my wife, folks. The woman I fell in love with, married, and then treated terribly for over a decade as I fought against my own insecurities. She’s actually concerned about how I’ll feel if I don’t go to the meeting en femme. Here I was, afraid of skeeving her out even bringing it up, and all she cared about was my comfort. I am a lucky man.
Now, I just need to decide if she’s right …