Musings and Thoughts from Claire

claire staffordIt has been almost a year since I moved out. I have spent the last twelve months in a whirlpool of emotions. From feeling hail and happy and reawakened then drop to a depth which I prefer not to describe. My whole life turned upside down. It’s funny, (funny peculiar that is), you can actually get used to living in an unhappy relationship, you wonder should you try harder to make things easier or better, but think, ‘better for who’? Self defeating and destructive in the long term as your situation might be, the idea of being alone, starting over again can be traumatic.

Tasi asked if I could write about this experience, at first I agreed but then it just became too painful to think about. To be honest it still causes pain but maybe it is time to use this as a cathartic exercise. I don’t know if it’ll help but what the hell. I don’t think it can hurt, I think.

After twelve years on a marital roller coaster I am now on my own again. Suffice to say the events leading up to and including the actual move left me emotionally depleted and seriously down the toilet. I took myself to another, smaller city in Victoria.

Some of you who know me and those who might have come across my scribbles may note that they were often prefaced with, ‘When I was more active’. In fact my activities had been getting slower and slower over the years prior to leaving, practically minimal in fact. While I did have a few episodes when my ex was at work, such was my reluctance that even when I was alone I was disinclined to indulge in case, for some reason, she came home early. This reluctance was so ingrained that even when she want abroad on holiday I was still reluctant.

I am aware that this is the life many of you live but, in my life I had moved on. When I came to live in Melbourne, twenty years previous, I was at a place many may envy. Coming and going as I pleased, many of my girl friends, as opposed to ‘girlfriends’, knew about Claire. I had made a decision to modify my lifestyle. I would no longer, actively, hide myself in the closet. I don’t mean I was wearing T shirts with “I’M A TRANNY” on it or wear make-up to work. I simply didn’t hide, I groomed like crazy. Arms and chest was waxed. My eyebrows were shaped, also waxed. If anyone I was friends with asked me I would be honest. As it was only one person did, a work colleague, she was, like me, a movie fan. She asked if I was interested in going to catch a movie, we had dinner before it and she casually asked if I ‘cross dressed’? I was a bit gob smacked but managed an ‘Uh huh’. And sat like a stunned mullet for a few moments. It was the very first time anyone had come straight out and asked me. Usually it was me who did the informing. She noticed my immobility and asked was I all right. I replied about her being the first etc. She beamed and said she had the same reaction when a girl friend asked was she gay! We became really close friends after that and she often invited me, as Claire, to dinner or shopping etc. She also accompanied me to a CD support group on a few occasions.

Eventually others in my work area came to me and let me know they knew and it was fine. Ultimately this got around the hospital and evidently I was the subject of lot of gossip in the place. I had expected this, small hospitals are hot beds of gossip and everyone knows everyone else and takes interest in interesting things, which I suppose I was.

But I was also held up as an example of the diversity of the staff. Apart from the various nationalities who worked there, the varied religions, we had everyone including the current one of concern to many people, Islam. But we also were what I came to call, ‘Gay Central’. I had never been aware of so many gay work colleagues in any of my places of employment, male or female. On one occasion I was informed a work colleague was discussing with new students about this diversity and apart from revealing anything else she told of the gay staff and the cross dresser! This was without my permission, one of my close friends warned me this was happening so I could discuss its inappropriateness as far as respect and personal confidentiality were concerned and nip it in the bud.
So I had quite a few changes in my life. To abbreviate, ten years, I met someone, fell in love, she knew all about Claire and was initially accepting. Accepting to such a degree that she accompanied me to group meetings, on outings, bought me clothes and nightwear, including a pair of matching nightgowns for our honeymoon. She actually said it felt unnatural if I wasn’t wearing one to bed! As you can imagine I was ecstatic. But for whatever reason this came to an end. So, enough about that.

Claire in polka-dot dressNow I am well on way to a new stage, a new beginning. I haven’t had the urgency to dress, the frantic determination and urgent need, it’s more a relaxed awareness of something I like to do. I sleep in night dresses, I shop a lot, I do love lingerie but I am still self-conscious enough to be aware that people may notice me browsing. I have resorted to the old, ‘Note book in hand ploy’. Whereas people observing me will start to think, “Ah hah, obviously shopping for the wife”. But then anyone who works in clothing retail, especially lingerie retail will be aware of this and it’s probably called ‘The cross dresser with note book pretending to shop for wife’ ploy!

Actually, that brings to mind the time I was in a supermarket trying to make my mind up about a pair of stockings when I lady walked up to me, huge smirk on her face and asked, “The wife sent you shopping for her then? Maybe I can I help?”.

I suppose I could have said, “I’m fine, I’m looking for a nice pair of smokey grey stockings. I think they’d set off my new black dress and patent stilettos”. But she was so generous and so eager to be helpful, she gave a nice talk about denier and size etc. I thanked her.

One draw back has been living in an apartment without central heating. The weather in winter here has been almost zero for such a while and the heating leaves a lot to be desired. Waltzing round in lingerie, as attractive as it sounds, while I do all that while icicles hang from my sniffle ridden nose isn’t attractive.

Claire and MollyAnother drawback is the simple fact I live so far away from an active area where I can meet others for a social get together. It is with some irony I note that Melbourne now has quite a few outlets for us, whereas when ‘I was active’, we only had two groups. But I was out quite a lot then, shopping, dinner, afternoon coffee in the city, theatre and my all time favourite, the opera.

But those stresses I was going through have eased off, not totally I must say, But I can relax more at home. I sometimes wonder if Molly gets confused, ‘Who’s going to take her for walkies, she might think. Well, maybe not, she knows that both of us, Claire and ‘himself’ still feed her and care for her.

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