04 May 2010

The Person Wearing The Clothes Goes To The Old Bike Shop

Today, I was talking to one of the true masochists of this world:  Roper, who is taking two classes with me.  He is also one of my favorite students because, in spite of all of the time he's spent in school, he can actually think.  And he articulates his thoughts in a direct, concisely elegant way.  

We bumped into each other in the hallway during "club hours."  Roper is one of the last people in this world I would ever expect to join a club of any sort.  That, frankly, is another reason why I like him.

Anyway, he had a question about a paper he has to submit for one of the classes I teach.  As our conversation wound down, a young woman made eye contact with me and smiled.  I don't know her name, but I've seen her before and she's waved, smiled and even said, "Good morning, professor" to me.  Today she wished me a good afternoon.

"How are you?" she asked.

"Fine, thank you.  By the way, I love your skirt."

"Thanks.  I got it at a flea market."

I have respect for anyone who finds something interesting, unique or beautiful at a flea market.  Anyway, I said, half-jokingly, "We should go shopping some time."
"Sure.  I'd like to find out where you get some of your things.  I love the way you dress."

"I'm on my way to class now," she said.  "We should talk."

"Definitely. Have a great day."

As she hurried off, Roper could not take his eyes off her.  "You like her skirt.  I like her."

"She does have a nice body."  

"Her skirt is nice.  But I never could say that to her."

Funny, how just a few years ago, I couldn't have complimented her, or any other woman's, attire.  What's even funnier is that I was actually more likely to notice someone's clothes than to look at her body.  Tammy noticed as much.  Once, when we were out with one of her female friends and her boyfriend, I excused myself to go to the bathroom.  Later, Tammy would tell me that while I was "taking care of business," her friend wondered, "Doesn't it bother you when he looks at other women?"

"He's not looking at them. He's looking at what they're wearing."

"What for?," her friend hissed.

"He probably wants to wear it himself."  Yes, for me in those days, that was my " love that dare not speak its name!"

As I recall, her friend did not approve.  Later, Tammy would decide that she didn't approve of my becoming the person wearing the clothes.

As for Roper...He told me one of his childhood friends also transitioned.  "He was my friend.  She's still my friend," he says.

Well, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that he could stand to have two classes with me--back-to-back, no less.

Anyway...After my last class, I walked a few blocks to Bellitte Bicycles.  They claim to be the oldest continuously-operating bicycle shop in the United States.  That's not hard to believe, and it's the reason I took the walk over there.  I needed a part for my Raleigh three-speed that's over 40 years old, and I figured that if anybody had it locally, they would.

I'd called them just before I bumped into Roper in the hallway.  I told the woman who answered that I was looking for a part for an old three-speed.  She called one of the mechanics--Carl, who's probably about five or ten years older than I am and is friendly and matter-of -fact at the same time.  He knew exactly the part I needed:  the left axle nut for the Sturmey-Archer three-speed hub.  The one on my bike stripped.  

When I entered the shop, I was greeted by a young woman who, I guessed, was still in high school or not long past it.  I told her what I needed, and she yelled to Carl, "That woman you talked to is here."

"She needs the Sturmey-Archer axle nut.  Here it is."  I asked for a second one, just for good measure.  

I haven't dealt much with bike shops other than the ones I had already been dealing with at the time I started my transition.  I always wondered whether I would experience the belittling treatment to which some women I know have been subjected by bike mechanics and the wannabe racers who work in some shops--not to mention auto repair shops.   But, I must say, I didn't experience anything like that at Belitte today.  Maybe Carl just had respect for someone who knew what she needed.  If that's the case, I'm happy.

And, yes, he did sell me the right part.  I installed it a little while ago and tucked the spare into my parts box.  

Maybe I am lucky after all:  Now I can do things I couldn't do as a male, and there are things I can do because I was a male.