Thursday, 11 November 2010

At the Shops

When I went up to the shops to get the paper this morning, I nearly collided with someone coming out of the cafe next door to the newsagent's.

This person, who was over six foot tall - and 'not fat, just portly', as my husband told his rather tubby aunt she was, in an attempt to cheer her up when he was five - was carrying a cappucino and wearing stilettoes, a semi-see-through flesh-coloured ultra-mini skirt with a g-string visible beneath, (at least from the rear view - there was a little French maid's lace apron covering some of the front), a black-and-white striped bra, a blonde party wig and a hibiscus behind one ear.

Last time I saw this person she was definitely a man - although always with very strong feminine aspirations. She has been away for a while since then.

Perhaps because she started out in life as a gent, she does not seem to have picked up the importance of sitting nicely when wearing a skirt that short. Maybe no-one is taught such things these days but, even though I went to a state school, the authorities in the early 1970s still regarded it as part of their responsibilities to make sure girls learnt about these matters. As a result, a woman from June Dally Watkins, who was so heavily made up that, when she moved her head, we felt a spray of lipstick droplets rain down on our faces, was wheeled in one afternoon to teach us how to get in and out of sports cars without revealing our underwear.

Boys, needless to say, were excluded from this important piece of secret women's business, and so our pal at the shops this morning did not know that you should always sit with your knees pressed tightly together. As a result of his ignorance, of course, it was possible to gather some visual evidence which might suggest that a bit of reductive surgery has recently taken place.

I'm glad I live in a place where no-one laughs or points or screams at such an outlandish figure. Indeed, for years there was a man quite obviously dressed as a woman at our local church; he passed around the collection plate and no-one ever said an unkind word to him. The whole thing was rather cheeringly ridiculous, a sight to be looked forward to and chuckled about internally. That is very good I think - to be kind to the absurd. However, yesterday on the radio there was a long segment about the "GLBTI community", which seemed to be suggesting there should be more than tolerance, that we should grow much more solemn and deny that there is anything at all unusual about such sights.

I do understand that that person at the shop may well be a seething mass of anxieties and unhappiness, and I would never ever behave in a way that was unkind, mocking or disrespectful to her. However, it doesn't seem to me to be helpful to her in any way for me to lie and pretend that she does not cut a pretty silly and, in all honesty, fairly amusing figure. I'm glad she exists. She makes me laugh at the oddity of the human race, of which I am a member. She adds to the famous 'gaiety of the nation'. Is that to be taken from us? Should my pleasure at seeing her be suppressed? If something is ludicrous, must we train ourselves to think that it is not?


  1. Very good questions ... I can't think of anything else to add (except you must have been listening to Radio National last week - GLBTI is such a mouthful).

  2. I was - although, since the day my youngest daughter and I heard the immortal words, "This is Radio National and now we present part 3 of 'Learning to live with a prosthetic limb'", I can't imagine why I ever do (barring PM, yes, before you say it, brother mine)