15 June 2009

Tranny Serendipity

Is there such a thing as Tranny Serendipity?

If there is, I expereinced it today.

Getting dressed for work...I'd just pulled a jewel-necked top over my teenaged-girl breasts and middle-aged woman's body. Its hue--a cross between magenta and fuschia--brought out the violet zags and shapes in a jigsaw-printed tiered ruffle skirt that was a kaleidoscope in purple, coral, brown and a sort of dove-gray color. I've worn it before and gotten compliments on it. I was deciding what to wear over the top.

A knock at my door. The landlady: She said she'd bought a shirt that didn't really fit her, but it was too late to return it. Would I like to try it on? Certainly.

I don't know whether she'd intended to wear it as a regular shirt, but it fit me perfectly as an overshirt. Its purple crinkled silk-like fabric brought the outfit together! And, it changed my mind about the shoes I would wear: Instead of my gold faux-lizard wedge sandals, I slid my feet into my purple peep-toe bowtie pumps--and perfectly balanced the shirt my landlady had just given me.

On my way to work, I went for a badly-needed manicure. (My nails were starting to look like driftwood.) I chose a shade of mauve that had a tint of lilac. Two strangers, as well as two of my students, complimented me. And my landlady said, "Wow! When you get dressed, you look better than I do."

Some landlady, huh? First she completes my outfit. Then she makes me blush. And she didn't even raise my rent. Hmm....

She has two young sons. Did she want a daughter? Is that why she was dressing me up? Well, I must say, she does have taste.

Today I really wanted to look good--or at least as good as I can look. In class, we were talking about gender in relation to some of the poetry and stories we've been reading. Teaching that class has been a very emotional experience for me, and it seems that every night, at least one of the students strikes some nerve of mine with a comment about one or another of the readings.

Tonight I wrote the words "Male," "Female," "Masculine," "Feminine," "Boy," "Girl," "Man" and "Woman" on the blackboard, and asked students to spend a few minutes writing about what those words evoke for them. Some of the responses were what I expected: "masculine" and the other male words evoked strength and dominance; the ones about femininity evoked emotion and nurturing.

One student, Angie, said that to her, "woman" made her think of expectations, roles, sacrifice and submission. And, "asking for permission," she added.

On the other hand, men are allowed to feel a certain confidence that allows them simply to proceed, she said. An example of this can be found in Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 (the one that begins with, Let not to the marriage of true minds). According to Angie, only a man could have written the poem's final couplet: If this be error and upon me proved/I have never writ, nor no man ever loved.

As great a poet as he is, those lines proved that he was still thinking like a man, Angie said.

One thing that makes all of this so interesting to me, aside from my own life experiences and interest in poetry, is the exchange she and I last week. Yes, she's the one who winked conspiratorially as she said that if her husband, who was waiting for her, found out she was hanging out with me, he'd accuse her of being a lesbian.

Here's a conversation I'd love to have with her: How does she reconcile her religious beliefs with views that are even more feminist than those of a lot of women who call themselves feminists? And, I'd like to hear more about something she mentioned to me: She's trying to keep her daughter, who's in her early adolescence, away from cosmetic formulae and procedures. When her daughter was about to shave her legs, Angie talked her out of it--for the time being, anyway. Angie herself doesn't wear make-up--not that she needs to. I wonder how her husband feels about that, and how she reconciles it with the notion of being submissive to the man's wishes.

Is there some sort of intellectual serendipity that brings you, when you least expect them, the answers to vexing questions ?

Like this: Charlie's licking my arm. Should I stop writing this and play with him? OK, that's not so vexing. I know what I'm going to do. And I don't know what will turn up next. Will it come at an opportune moment?

A little serendipity of any kind is a good and helpful thing. I think the fact that I am about to have my surgery is the result of a whole series of bigger and smaller serendipities.