Day 27: Mint Juleps
With New York City mostly clued into my transgendering, it’s time to turn my attention closer to home and begin the coming out process all over again.
But while New York City has been pretty open armed about this, I’m more than a little nervous about the Maryland/Virginia crowd on a few counts.
One, this region has known me for a long time. Well over 20 years. So I’ve had a long history with this circle of friends as a guy. And most definitely as a guy’s guy. A father. A husband. Football fanatic. So this gender revelation might take a little more time than I’d like to be filed, stamped, indexed and accepted.
Two, this circle tends to be a little more… well… judgy judge.
So with renewed apprehension, I invite my first Maryland/Virginia friend over for a night of college football, food and “the latest news.”
He and I have been extraordinarily close friends over the years, but because of… shall we say, a misunderstanding… our friendship is not nearly as close as it once was. We’re still friends, still speak amiably, but that bond of special friendship, that “Special Relationship” Neil Burnside speaks of in The Sandbaggers, is no longer there.
So you can imagine the raw mileage of pacing I achieve in the house before he arrives. I guess it’s a good thing I have hardwood floors ’cause there’d be a damn groove in the carpet by now.
He arrives a little before the start of the Notre Dame-Florida St. game, and I make some of my famous feta salsa as we settle in. I then tell him I have some news to share. But glancing at the TV, I realize I don’t have enough time to complete my story before kickoff.
“But… it’s going to have to wait until halftime.”
He shoots me a good-naturedly, are-you-serious look. I can’t help but laugh. “For the record,” I add, hoping to recover just a bit, “not gay, not dying of cancer. You can knock those two off the list.”
Cue awkward pause. <sigh> Yeah, definitely not my best moment.
The first half of the game comes to a close over an hour later with Notre Dame up 17-10, and I figure that between halftime and my TIVO, I got a good 45 minutes to get through my story.
Now let me be clear. He has been extraordinarily patient with me. If the shoe were on the other foot, I’d probably have shown my traditional patience… and told him, fuck the game, tell me what’s going on.
I lean into the deep breathing I mastered on my initial coming outs and explain first my move to New York, then the legacy of my stuttering, and the finally acceptance of — tada! — my transgendering.
Much to my surprise, he takes it in stride, very much in stride and with a smile, tells me I seem happier than he’s seen me in ages. And he’s happy for me, adding, “If you don’t mind my saying, I’m proud of you.”
I don’t mind at all. It’s actually kinda cool. He smiles again and explains his fairly nonplussed reaction by relating that he grew up, almost literally, in the theater and saw all kinds of lifestyle and wardrobe choices. Lifestyle and wardrobe choices that were wholeheartedly accepted by the theater community.
We spend the next hour talking about my decision, my state of mind, my wardrobe choices and ignore the game that was the pretext for the evening, at least until Notre Dame gets majorly hosed by the refs at the end of the game.
But it is at this point that in his effort to state emphatically that he doesn’t care how I dress, he says something that sets my hackles on end, or whatever it is that hackles do.
“I don’t care if you’re in the kitchen making mint juleps, you’re still my friend.”
And this is what goes through my mind…
Mint juleps? Seriously? As in the Kentucky Derby? Is that what he thinks this is about? That I waltz around the house in a Southern ball gown with an enormous slanted hat sipping mint freakin’ juleps?
I mean, I know he means well. I know he means really well, but this, for some reason, really freakin’ bothers me.
And heavens knows I’m not prone to overreacting.
Okay, for those of you not in the know, that is what we like to call sarcasm. To be honest, at times I think I’m living in a game of “What Are You Trying to Say?” from Whose Line Is It Anyway? And if that is too obscure a reference, since obscure references are how I roll, I suggest you watch the short skit for yourself on YouTube here.
So yeah. It’s probably me.
That said, the evening ends pleasantly enough, if not triumphantly enough for the Fighting Irish, and we part closer friends than when we started tonight. But after he leaves, I park myself in a lawn chair in my backyard and stare at the stars.
Why can’t I shake the mint juleps comment? I mean, this went better than I could have imagined. Way better. He was more supportive than I had ever hoped. I should be enjoying yet another psychological high, but I’m not. I can’t stop dwelling on “mint juleps.”
Maybe it’s the self-loathing inherent in being writer, that part of me who endlessly ignores the good reviews and focuses only on the bad. Because to tell the truth, maybe those Kentucky Derby hats aren’t so bad.