29 July 2009

Maxi-pads, Chocolate and Reaffirming Femininity

My big outing of the day: to the Post Office, then to Rite Aid, where I bought two packages of Kotex maxi-pads, two bars of Lindt 70% Extra Dark (one of the world's best legal non-prescription drugs!) and a package of Ferrero Rocher chocolates that were on sale.

Cheryl, the assistant manager at Rite Aid, hadn't seen me in some time, and commented on it. She first met me when I moved into the neighborhood, just before I began my year of going to work and family engagements as Nick while going shopping, to movies and to various LGBT-related events as Justine. So she has seen the transition, but I hadn't talked to her about my surgery. And she noticed the two packages of maxi-pads.

"Two of a girl's basic needs," she dryly remarked.

I couldn't suppress a grin, which I couldn't keep from blossoming into a smile.

"Exactly what I need now," I said.

She looked at me. One of those silences that lasts a nanosecond but seems to engulf all of time hung in, but did not fill, the space between us.

"I've just had my operation."

A silence that seemed even longer than the previous one filled the air as she looked directly into my eyes for the first time. "You're looking well. You're looking happy."

"I feel as if a huge weight has been taken off my shoulders. I feel more complete now."

"I'm glad for you. I hope everything continues to go well." Then she rushed toward the back of the store, where a young woman was stocking the shelves in the "baby needs" aisle.

Given that she was on the job, I'm surprised that we talked for as long as we did. Perhaps we'll talk about this some more. Perhaps not. Maybe she won't want to, or we won't need to.

It's not as if Cheryl is a close friend. But she's one of those people who's always been friendly and helpful to me. Who knows....Maybe the next time I go to that Rite Aid, she'll tell me to buy different pads. Or she'll tell me that she likes dark chocolate or wonder how in the world I eat them.

I've long suspected that all women love chocolate, and if women can be classified in any way, it's according to their tastes in chocolate: one who likes dark is definitely different from someone who prefers milk chocolate, who is yet another kind of woman from one who goes for white. Then, of course, we can further categorize women by whether they like truffles, caramel fillings, cream fillings, liqueurs, nuts, raisins or other additions--or whether they prefer their chocolate "straight."

Somehow I suspect Cheryl likes milk chocolate with caramel. Nothing wrong with that: I just happen to prefer mine dark and straight, or a dark truffle. I must admit that for the life of me, I don't understand how anyone eats white chocolate straight-up. I can understand using it as a garnish or flavoring, or swirling or layering it with dark chocolate. But to eat chunks of it...no.

Later in the afternoon, I talked to Regina for the first time in a while. She moved from the college where I teach now to the one in which I taught before I came to my current college. It's not so far away from me, but because our schedules have been so different, we haven't seen each other in a while. We made a lunch date for next Friday. Still, I was trying to talk to her for as long as I could: It's always such a pleasure for me.

Near the end of our conversation, she said something that still moves me, even though she's said it before: "You're an inspiration for me."

If her phone were photosensitive, it would've been pink from my blushing. "Really? Well, I'm happy for that."

"You really are. You reaffirm femininity. You show people how good it is to be feminine."

The funny thing is that I never set out to be "feminine." I just happen to be that way, or at least express myself that way. But, if she or any other woman--or man, for that matter--feels that I reaffirm what is best about being who one is, then I'm happy.

Just remember that I need maxi-pads and love chocolate, just as you do! ;-)