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Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Domestic Bliss?

While giving the bathroom and the stair carpet a thorough clean before my other half* was due back yesterday, I was struck by two thoughts: 'Why is it you never have a maid’s outfit when you really need one?'**, and 'where does all that hair come from'? What remains of my own hair is nowhere near that profuse or long and we haven’t had a cat in many years after our first feline housemate died. 

[* my other half as a couple. My other half is, of course, Susie. Which is useful in shops when I  can say honestly that I am buying something for my other half and not specify which one I mean.]

[** I still haven’t quite laid that particular adolescent fantasy to rest. Sad, isn’t it. ]

But it also sparked one of those curious random flashback memories from my first time living alone.

If you show even a trace of domestic competence as a male, such as cooking, cleaning, washing or mending clothes, have you ever had someone tell you, even in jest, “You would  make someone a good housewife”? And how did it make you feel at the time? 

Times and attitudes, of course, change. That sort of comment would seem out of place now. Nowadays we are probably more likely to regard a man who can’t even boil an egg, or load a dishwasher or a washing machine with scant sympathy or even scorn rather than expect them to know nothing about such things and to rely on or expect a more domestically competent member of the other sex to always do it for them. 

But the memory of this instance, in my case, dates back to the mid 70s, when some people actually regarded Alf Garnett as a role model. It was said, I think, by one of my landlords after I first moved out to live on my own. Or maybe by a flatmate. I’m not sure. I’m not even sure what prompted it. I can’t even remember what I was doing at the time: sweeping the communal stairs or cooking something that didn’t involve merely opening tins or (throwback horror) Pot Noodles.  I certainly wasn’t wearing a pretty floral frock at the time. Or even an apron. (While I grudging acknowledged that side of me existed and had been there for  as long as I could remember, I was trying as hard as I could to ignore it.)

It obviously jostled a nerve, otherwise why would would it have lodged in my memory to reappear many years, decades even, later. How would I have felt about it at the time (or even now)? Defensive perhaps, even secretly smug (my parents both worked; I learned to cook and clean at an early age). Maybe even secretly thrilled at the idea. 

It was that fantasy vision of stereotyped domesticity  that would come back to bite me some years later when my first girlfriend saw me dressed for the first time, ironing a skirt in her parents house that we had moved into to look after for a week when they were away on holiday. My girlfriend knew I dressed. I had already told her in a long heart to heart early in our relationship. She had just never seen it up to that point. She had even suggested I should take advantage of the family home as a safe space away from our prying landlord to relieve my obviously pent-up desire and frustration to dress and live as a woman (but only indoors) for that week. But seeing me, made up, legs shaved, wearing  a blouse, skirt and heels and standing  ironing a blouse, broke something in our relationship. From that point she could no longer see me as a boyfriend. That other image would always stand between us. We survived the week, though I stepped dressing before it finished, but two months later she was gone, leaving an empty bedsit flat when I returned from an overseas business trip. 

My current partner also knows I dress. In fact she knew before we moved in together. She’s never seen me dressed as Susie (although that name came many years later) and has made it clear that she doesn’t want to, or even talk about it. We have a fortuitous arrangement where they are a number of days where she wants to go out alone or with friends and thus give me 'time to myself’. Perhaps not as many as I’d like, or for as long (and for that reason I’m both putting off and dreading retirement, but for how much longer I don’t know). Neither does she really want to know what I do on those days. But we’ve survived thirty years together, which is better odds than I might have expected from past experience. 

4 comments:

  1. There's a definite melancholy here, but I agree that thirty years is a damn' good innings and thus worth it.

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  2. Certainly a sadness for a future that I will never see, where I can spend a day or an evening at home with my partner as Susie.

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  3. "...I was trying as hard as I could to ignore it..."

    I think that's the hardest part about being trans something or other. Having to ignore a part of you and try to such it off.

    I think support groups - where you can be all of you - are so important in that regard. It's not just about being able to appear as you want, but too also not to hide away nor fear upsetting someone you love. It ain't easy being pastel in a blue and pink world.

    Fab post, BTW ❤️

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  4. Thanks Lynn,
    I think the hardest part is in accepting that there is, now that I've acknowledged it, a part of me that feels increasing important to who I am, that we will never be able to share or even talk about.
    So support groups and networks, in person or online, where you are able talk freely, are increasingly important as a safely valve.
    At the same time it curious that this is a non-topic as it applies to me/Susie, but we can both watch someone like Misti, on Britain Best Woodworker, who identifies as trans, and both cheer for her.
    Perhaps it's because Misti is not making any attempt at artifice, overtly 'feminine' dress (one slightly dodgy fashion choice in the final episode apart) or makeup to 'pass' and is presenting only as herself.
    Maybe there's another post in that if I can work it out.

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