By Amanda J.
A recent post was called ‘It’s not easy being ourselves’. It was posted here on May 30 and written a couple of weeks earlier but what I didn’t realise at the time is quite how difficult being ourselves can be. Kandi, as she usually does, added a great subtext ‘It’s not easy being ourselves but neither is it impossible!’ under the title. That’s a fantastic message for many in our position and ever since I became active here, I have drawn much inspiration from the positivity that courses through the veins of everyone who contributes.
Of course, Kandi was absolutely right. If living my life through Amanda’s persona was the only priority I had in life, by this time tomorrow that would be a reality. There would be nothing other than any obstacles I manufactured myself standing in my way. In fact, as I’ve stumbled through this side of my life over the past decades, I’ve dealt with many of the emotional roadblocks that I’ve encountered. I’ve reassured myself that I don’t look completely hideous en femme (there again, if you knew my normal ‘look’ you’d realise that the bar isn’t particularly high in this respect!), I’ve discovered that I can break free from the confines of my house and feel the breeze on my legs and the click-clack of my heels on the pavement, I’ve come to terms with the fact that ‘Amanda’ is not someone I become, she’s someone I am. And so on. But when I sent that piece to Kandi on May 16, I had no idea how prophetic the title would be and how challenging living Kandi’s subtext would become.
Those of you who latch onto my every word and excitedly wait for my next post (OK, let’s get real, what I mean is those of you who have nothing better to do than read my ramblings and have a sense of relief if you get to the end without having lost the will to live in the meantime) will know that Amanda’s life carries on under the marital radar and that, after a botched confession several years ago, I promised to cease and desist, a promise that despite my best efforts, I have been unable to keep. This plays on my mind every single day and I’m constantly trying to find an angle that will help Mrs. A (my wife) perhaps turn a blind eye if nothing else. Sometimes, I think I may have a good strategy but then I’ll think about it some more and realise that it’s probably doomed to failure like all of the others.
As we all know, life has its ups & downs and challenges and life in the Amanda household is no exception. Trying to sell our business & retire, a house move hanging over us which may or may not happen, trying to convince my one remaining home-dwelling offspring that the party’s over and if he wants the lifestyle to which he aspires, he’s going to have to get a good job which means knuckling down with his schoolwork and so on. But one of those – the business sale – will have a particular impact on Amanda’s life because, once it’s sold, the luxury of an empty house five days a week during term time will be gone. And so my mind has been working overtime trying to figure out a strategy using the one potentially decent card I have left in my hand – to try to get Mrs. A to understand that I can’t help the way I am and appealing to her compassion to allow me to indulge my feminine side to stop the whole thing eating me alive from within.
Without going into too many details, an incident happened just after the posting of ‘It’s not easy…’ that more or less spelled out that that particular strategy will almost certainly not work. Of course, there’s a small chance that it will but finding out for certain runs the risk of blowing up my marriage in the process. That is a huge price to pay for something that may turn out to be not as important a feature in my life as I thought it was. But equally, it may not be as high a price as suppressing a part of who I am for the rest of my life. I just don’t know.
At the time that realisation hit me in early June, I was in a bit of a lull. It happens sometimes where I have no emotional need to let Amanda out to play but I’ve been through those cycles often enough to know that they are temporary and the urges soon return with a vengeance. But I also realised that, in the first week in July, the school holidays would start and I’ll have full time company at home for a couple of months. Now, what normally happens after one of those lulls is that I’ll realise that the urges are returning and jump on the first possible opportunity to slip into the heels. This time, though, I decided to play it differently.
We all know that the inner woman cannot be banished and, in fact, the more we try to push her away, the more persistent her demands for freedom become. But what I have learned is that sometimes I set Amanda free because I want to and other times it’s because I need to. There’s a huge difference between breaking out the stash because I’m wondering whether I can get my eyeliner on point or wanting to feel the sensation of nylon on my legs and breaking it out because I’ve got that debilitating feeling in the pit of my stomach that we all recognise. Getting the stash out for the first situations is life enhancing but for the second, it is life preserving. And so I made a simple decision – I would not get dressed when I didn’t emotionally need to and see how long I could last before the urges demanded it.
Of course, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Not to put too fine a point on it, I love the whole experience of thinking about outfits, getting dressed, putting on makeup and then staring in wonder at the woman smiling back at me from the mirror. At those moments, all of life’s challenges seem to evaporate and everything feels just right. I allow myself to dream about what things would be like if that was my everyday routine. It seems like there are no longer any barriers to Amanda living a full life as herself other than her male-presenting host’s pesky family challenges.
But, as I said above, Amanda is not someone I become, she’s who I am. Of course she’s an incorrigible tart who likes nothing better than trowelling on the makeup and teetering around on her heels but perhaps, like many other women, it’s time for her to move on from that and live her life in jeans, a T-shirt and trainers/ tennis shoes and with a sensible, perhaps some would say masculine, hairstyle and no makeup. How she’s dressed won’t change who she is and whilst those who lurk around flickr may notice a lack of new photos, those who have a deeper interaction with her wouldn’t see any difference whatsoever. Also, for the first 18 years of my marriage, I managed to live life without indulging my feminine side – that amount of time is a good chunk of my remaining life expectancy (and possibly quite a bit more than it if my kids continue to drive me to distraction!). And with retirement and a reasonable degree of financial freedom to give me the time & opportunity to indulge my other interests in life, perhaps the stilettos and eyeliner will seem less significant than they do at the moment.
All of this is conjecture of course because I know full well that when the aforementioned debilitating feeling in the pit of my stomach hits, there’s only one thing that can give me relief.
Now this is the point, dear reader, where you accuse me of overthinking all of this and you’re absolutely right of course. And I have to admit that I haven’t even got halfway through my thoughts. Not yet, anyway.
I know from experience that Mrs. A finds all of this trans stuff abhorrent. That’s almost certainly never going to change. But let’s suppose that she was prepared to turn a blind eye and agree to a DADT arrangement. Prima facie, that’d be brilliant but the problem is that the arrangement never would be DADT. It’d be YMCIDADTBIKEWYUTWINA – ‘you may call it don’t ask, don’t tell but I know exactly what you’re up to when I’m not around’! Every time she left the house for a day out or I went away overnight, she’d be wondering what I was wearing and I don’t just mean whether I’d finally listened to her and managed to put a clean pair of jeans on. And there’s every chance of living under that sort of pressure would have a detrimental impact on me, both emotionally and in not feeling able to take opportunities when they arise. One thing that I know for certain is that Mrs. A would not be able to cope emotionally with me interacting with other people in my feminine guise, whether during anonymous shopping trips or in social interactions with like-minded people.
So is this Amanda’s swansong? In all honesty, I don’t believe it is. I’m still me and every time I look at one of my photos, it reminds me of who I really am. It reminds me of the joy I feel when I am able to see the complete me, not just the compromise I live for the sake of others. It reminds me that having a strong feminine side is nothing to be afraid of. And it reminds me of all of the girls who have messaged me or commented on my posts to say that what I have written resonated with them or inspired them.
But what this whole exercise has shown me is that ’Amanda’ is far more than the incorrigible tart on the photos and, because I’ve accepted her emotionally, I don’t always need the physical reminders of her presence. At least not at the moment anyway. It’s proved to me that I have nothing to fear about the future but it has also shown that I have to control the future and not let it control me. Of course, I’ve missed living and breathing in Amanda’s physical form – it’s been seven weeks now – but it means that the indications for the future when I no longer have the luxury of being able to dress how I want, when I want, are pretty good.
And what’s most important of all is that if I feel the need to slip into something more comfortable, I will do. I’m not going to compromise the rest of my life through fear of confronting it, even if confronting it is challenging. This whole exercise has been firstly about discovering which are the superfluous parts of this side of me and eliminating them and secondly to enable me to develop coping mechanisms when circumstances conspire against me. So there’s no purge planned or anything like that but, in the same way, I’m not just going to break out the stilettos and eyeliner just because ‘it’s x weeks since the last time’ or ‘if I don’t do it now, it’ll be ages before I get another opportunity’. But if I hear a feminine voice inside my head screaming to be let out, I’ll be up the ladder to retrieve the stash straight away. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in six decades of life, it’s ‘what a woman wants, a woman gets’!
As I write this, I have not retrieved my stash of clothes since it was last hidden away on 19 May. That’s 49 days and counting. My son finished school for the summer yesterday so that’s potentially another 62 days before the opportunity will present itself again. Perhaps by that time, I’ll be climbing the walls in frustration, perhaps not. We shall see.
When this is posted, I’ll add an update in the comments as to how things have progressed since I wrote this (there’s normally a 2-3 week gap between submission and posting) and please feel free to add your own with any bright ideas you may have that could help! Please just don’t feel sorry for me because this whole thing is about working out how to have a happy life, not wallowing in self-pity. That would never do!