I have been promising myself all summer that I would, before the end of the season, stop at the local farmer’s market in Ali Mode. It wouldn’t be too hard; it’s right there between the grocery store and my apartment, and it’s open every Sunday, the day I do my shopping.
A very good friend of mine, Heather, has a stall at the farmer’s market. Heather and I have a storied history — she is my ex-wife’s best friend and initially turned on my when my ex did — but in the months since the divorce she and I have built a relationship independent of my ex. She knows about my transgender status, I have wanted her to meet Ali before, and I know she’s open to it. The farmer’s market would be a great opportunity.
The problem is that she always has her kids with her at the market. Her kids know my kids; her kids play with my kids every week. Not only do I not want to have to explain myself to a six year old, but I don’t want that six year old telling my five year old “I saw your daddy dressed as a girl!”
Today, however, I decided that I would take the risk. It was an absolutely beautiful day — sunny, breezy, cool — and honestly, I was rocking the top I was wearing. I was feeling gutsy, and I needed some fresh veggies, and I didn’t feel like going back to the apartment and changing. I figured that, with the wig and my large sunglasses, I could hopefully avoid being recognized by the kids. It helped that they usually run around the market and aren’t always near the stall.
It becomes easier and easier to pull into new places nowadays, though there’s always a hesitation while I scan the parking lot. Do I want to get out right now, or after that guy in the NASCAR shirt passes by? Should I wait until those teenage girls pull out? Better safe than sorry is always a good rule to live by.
The market wasn’t that big, less than a dozen stalls, but there were more than a few customers about. I decided to browse a bit before approaching Heather’s table. Behind the sunglasses it is easier to watch people’s reactions without them knowing you’re looking their way; and happily, no one seemed to be reacting very much at all to my presence. I bought some tomatoes from one vendor; some green beans from another; and then I approached Heather’s booth.
She was talking to someone and didn’t even take notice of me at first. I pretended to browse for a moment, waiting for the other woman to go away; but apparently this was a friend, not a customer, and the conversation wasn’t going to be brief. So I managed to stand behind the woman and in her line of sight, and after a moment she looked right at me, smiled, and waived a little bit.
Score one for Heather. She didn’t do a double-take, didn’t widen her eyes, didn’t stop her conversation. Totally cool, totally casual.
It was at that point that, her son appeared. He’s a little salesman himself; in the summers he sells homemade lemonade from his mother’s stall. Today, it being chilly, he was selling hot chocolate. “Hi there!” he said to me. “Would you like to buy some hot chocolate?”
Crap. If I talked to him he’d probably recognize my voice. “Um, no,” I said softly.
He didn’t hear me. “Hey! Would you like to buy some hot chocolate?” he said again.
This time Heather intervened, shooing him away and pointing out that I’d already said no. [I don’t remember if she used a gender pronoun, or which one if she did.] Apparently her conversation was finally over.
We exchanged a few words, and she admitted that it took her a second to recognize me. But before we could go any further, her son appeared again. “Who is that?” he asked her, indicating me.
Uh oh. The kid wasn’t stupid. Something in the back of his mind recognized me, or knew that I was familiar somehow.
“Just someone mommy knows,” Heather said, but he’s a kid and isn’t so easily dissuaded when he gets focused on something.
“But who is it?”
“Just nevermind it,” she said. “It’s someone I know.”
It was time for me to beat a hasty retreat, so I said a quick goodbye and hustled away before the kid connected ideas in his mind.
I texted with her later and thanked her for being cool about everything. She told me that she thought I looked fine and that I “don’t stand out too much” except when I speak. [The voice again, gah!] She also assured me that she didn’t hear any of the vendors talking about me; and since vendors tend to talk about customers sometimes, that was a good sign that no one was bothered by it.
There’s only a few more weeks left to the farmer’s market season. I don’t know if I will go back; the last thing I need is Heather’s so to put two and two together about me. But at least I did it, at least once before summer ends. One more small step along the path.