But it's the first gathering of its kind I've attended in a while. A colleague at my second job invited me; she was celebrating a round-number birthday. Some other colleagues attended, too, including two of my favorites. But most of the attendees were longtime friends of the birthday girl. And they were very friendly to me.
Some were college friends; others attended high school with her; still others knew her for even longer. I think that may have been the reason I felt comfortable with them: They love and trust each other and aren't cliquish, which itself was remarkable, at least to me. But what really struck me is that some of them told me that they'd heard about me. "She talks a lot about you," a few of them said.
I made my usual jokes about that. But I realized that their discussions weren't about my history--specifically, my adventures in gender and sexuality. Or, at least, that's not what they cared about. "She really admires you," two of them told me.
We were in a bar on Long Island, where the birthday girl has lived all of her life. I hadn't been in a bar in a long time. At first, I was "hiding" in our group. But some of the other bar patrons were striking up conversations with me, including one man who complimented me on what I was wearing and two others who made more direct overtures to me. At that moment, I wasn't wondering why they were paying attention to me. Later, I thought it might have had to do with the fact that I was drinking Diet Cokes and they were drinking stronger stuff. Or did they "read" me, even at this late date? Was I an object of curiosity?
Sometimes I was, even before my transition. In some situations, I could attract attention without trying. Back in the day, some people, including practically everyone who ended up in bed with me, said I had an "intense" look. I wonder if anyone thinks that now. I have been told--by people who claimed not to know my history until I revealed it--that I have a "distinctive" look. Perhaps they're right.
Maybe I can't do camouflage as well as I might want to, at least in certain situations. When I walk down the street, I'm usually not noticed and prefer it that way. But in social situations, I seem to get more attention than I seek. At least it turned out well this time. And maybe I needed to be in a situation like that. After all, I'm in a new phase of my life and still learning how to live in it.