First Anniversaries – Celebration & Brief Reflections

Well just where has the last year gone??? Time flies when enjoying oneself I guess, or living a really happy life as I have now, finally, been doing… because today is the first anniversary of the day when I began living full-time as my true female self, 12 months ago today!! Alas, I am celebrating the day by remaining at home not just today but tomorrow too as I am recovering from my latest laser hair removal treatment yesterday – it went well, though I left with a very numb face, which is now a bit puffy and sensitive.

I suppose I could write reams and reams about how the last 12 months has gone… but if you’re interested in all that detail then it is covered in my previous blog posts. Most of all it is just so comforting how normal and happily the last 12 months have gone – I could put that down to a number of things I suppose, such as how nice many people have been, perhaps the significant preparatory effort in previous years that I put into presenting and sounding reasonably well, aided by speech therapy sessions and more recently by HRT which is very slowly affecting my shape, but also it is simply because life has felt so totally right and natural… which only leads to feelings of remorse that I did not do this years ago, although circumstances of one sort or another perhaps just didn’t mean I was ready to do so until recently. I have done lots of fun, and some new (as Andrea), things in the period, such as going on a number of holidays abroad with my female passport (including one with my walking group) and an assortment of cultural Meetup events. Any anxieties I might have had (and I don’t recall many, because it was just the right and only thing to do) of life full-time in my true-gender have been unfounded, life at work has been fine and so many people have commented on how much happier a person I am, commuting has been no bother, and my social life has been enjoyable and fun; I can also count the number of times when by myself that I have been aware that I have not passed on the digits of one of my hands, and I think that is pretty good going over a 12 month 24/7 period as myself… considering that most of it I was still wearing a wig while growing my own hair.

I have actually in a way celebrated my anniversary already, because tw20160128_204254o days ago I went out with a nice woman from work to an upmarket Italian restaurant in Dublin – it was a very enjoyable and fun evening, even if the dining room was noisy, and I had the most alcoholic but delicious tiramisu of my entire life. We got to the restaurant at about 6.00 and left just over 2 hours later. We then took the local DART cross-city train to the station where I get my intercity train home, and hugged before I got off the train, it was a really nice end to a lovely evening and I was happy all the way home on the train (see picture).

Alas another 12-month anniversary that has recently past is the last time that I saw my daughter, but all I can do is hope that time will help her understand and realise that this change in her parent is due to the unhappiness that she noticed in me, and that my personality is little different – I may well miss her, just like I wish I could visit my parents without the hurdle of a brother who doesn’t try and understand what I have been through but is stuck in the grieving stage, but life will carry on and I will continue getting as much out of it as I can.

Who knows what 2016 and the next 12 months may bring…


Christmas Sales

I have often wondered how the concept of Christmas Sales originally arose… because I am quite sure that there is nothing in the tradition of Christmas (whatever that means any more) that says that, literally, the day after Christmas one should go shopping in droves for bargains galore. For as long as I can remember, on Christmas Day itself there have been TV adverts proclaiming sales starting on Boxing Day (at, for example, Currys electricals, House of Fraser, etc) and the day after Christmas news reports of zombies queuing up outside Selfridges in the dark at stupid o’clock in the morning to be the first xmas saleones into the store in what I presume becomes some mad, hysterical dash to grab must-have sale items that one perhaps could not afford before Christmas. Perhaps the concept is that the sales are a retailer’s question of “out with the old in with the new” as the New Year dawns, in which case they should be called “New Years sales” and not “Christmas Sales” at all. Perhaps it is actually a retailers tradition of being considerate in providing an activity for family members who, thrown together for a whole 24 hours over Christmas over mountains of turkey, mince pies, and an inevitable amount of drink, can no longer stand the sight of each other and must escape to spend money that half of them probably don’t have on things that they probably don’t really need, having already spent it on an increasingly greed-filled spree of present shopping just before Christmas. Personally I think it is appalling that much money is spent on presents for Christmas that, within a day of it passing, many such gifts are then reduced by 30-50%. Of course, all of us UK readers know that one significant exception to this rule is the humble sofa, which is on offer pretty much throughout the year for half-price from DFS who just call their sales by a different name according to the time of year. Perhaps for those looking for a new television they are invaluable. Perhaps I am missing something in this sales malarkey…

This year I had expected that I would be champing at the bit along with millions of fellow shoppers on Boxing Day to grab a bargain, not least because I knew I was spending the vast majority of the Christmas all by myself and had a desire to keep myself and my melancholy mind occupied… but as it turned out, most of the Christmas sale shopping I have done has been more of a social get together with one friend or another. Boxing Day I was exceptionally lazy and was in bed for most of the day until 4.00pm… but I also knew when I first woke up that day that I felt emotionally fragile on my own, and half anticipated that had I embarked on sale shopping amongst intolerable throngs of people that I would have at some point run from one shop or another in tears of exasperation… or worse.

The first day I went sale shopping was on December 28th… though half of the outing was salesactually eating and (non-alcoholic) drinking with my BFF. After a coffee and cake, we sale-shopped in Belfast for a couple of hours, and it largely turned into a frustrating and tiresome retail expedition, certainly compared to sale shopping earlier in the year (of which I did quite a lot, with many good bargains had) because in one shop the hundreds of sale items were simply thrown with careless abandon and apathy onto the sale rails by the staff in a largely random manner such that if one unexpectedly saw an item that one liked, but in the wrong size, then one was highly unlikely to find that same article in another size on the same rail. We did go into Zara, where I managed to find a nice pair of trousers that I spied on a rail from a distance and zoomed into it… and funnily enough Kirsty also spotted it from a distance and thought to herself that if there was one item that I might like in the shop then that would be it! The sale-shoes in M&S were equally disappointing, with only a lovely pair of navy suede heeled boots that took my fancy (and Kirsty’s, at a later date), but the heels were too high; again, staff-laziness seemed to be the order of the day, with a veritable mountain of shoes on the floor awaiting attention. Another thing that became increasingly apparent was that there was a good reason why a major quantity of items are in the sales, at least this year… and that is because they are bloody awful!!! Either the pattern of the clothing is frequently dreadful, or the quality of the material or manufacture is poor; I also saw items in the sales that I have seen in several previous sales, which are obviously struggling for buyers attention. So on that expedition we both left the city with not very much at all.

My most successful sale-shopping over the period was in Dublin… which in fact was the first specific sale-shop for (ladies) clothes in Dublin for me. On 30th December I went into M&S in the city centre, during my monthly trip to the bank, and found a pair of leather knee-high boots at half price. Even better was the shopping expedition the next day… for a couple of reasons… the main one actually being that it was with a girl from my department who has known me for years (mostly, of course, in the apathetic presentation of a ‘Bob’ persona, which she has admitted to me recently I did not seem happy in at the time), we had agreed before Christmas to go sale shopping and so as we weren’t busy on 31st that is what we did. Our destination was Grafton Street in the centre, one of the two mainstream areas of big-name shops – firstly we went into M&S, where I saw a coat that I had liked the look of for months but always thought of as being too expensive… except that it was now half price (and in fact €20 cheaper than I had noticed it in passing the day before), and my companion said it really suited me. Then we headed up the street, chatting and casually browsing, going into a couple of shops before spending an amount of time in Monsoon – she tried a pair of jeans on, while I tried on a jacket and a few pairs of trousers – and we both left with successful and good purchases; as we exited she said it was really fun shopping with me, and she was having an enjoyable time.. and that made me so happy to hear, another form of acceptance from someone I have known for a number of years.

Since then I have done a little more sale shopping, mostly on my own, and have found very little to interest me. My parents were kind enough to buy me e-vouchers for Dorothy Perkins and New Look for Christmas, two retailers wear I buy the majority of my clothes, and so far they have not been used!

Perhaps this lack of sale-finds is a good thing. Perhaps it’s a reminder that I spent too much money on sale-shopping last year and should concentrate on buying clothes that I really need… especially as my figure is changing shape and size a bit, slightly larger wasit partly due to a bit of comfort eating during the highs and lows of Christmas (see previous post) but perhaps also due to hormones. Perhaps it’s a sign that I should save my money to spend it on something more significant or worthwhile, something that I really need – we shall see…

Happy shopping!

Christmas Highs, Christmas Lows, Christmas Dinner… Christmas Alone

Most years I hear ‘adverts’ on the radio (if advert is the right word), particularly/primarily from charities, reminding viewers/listeners that there are people out there, especially the elderly, who are alone at Christmas, and who can be quite vulnerable, in one way or another. Upon hearing such past reminders, I expect I pondered for a moment, thought that a bit sad, but could not think of anyone that I knew that was in such a situation… except that this year it has been me in this situation, and I now fully appreciate the difficulties that such charities highlight. In the ten previous years I have spent Christmas Day on my own owing to marital separation, but it has always been in the knowledge that within a day or two I would be with someone that was close to me, my daughter and maybe also my parents and brother; however, owing to the circumstances of my transition to simply live as my true feminine self, the reward I have been given for living my life in this honest fashion is that I have spent the whole of the Christmas period without this company… and it has generally been a very lonely time.

Perhaps because of this anticipation, soon after the first Christmas dinner with my two friends Kirsty and Michelle at the end of November I decided Plough xmas 2015-2that it would be nice to have a Christmas dinner close to the 25th December, especially after our first attempt was not a Christmas menu, and so I arranged an outing for us on 23rd December at The Plough, one of our favourite restaurants… and I am so glad that we did this because I left feeling a bit Christmassy – it gave me an opportunity to have a traditional Christmas dinner (as well as a yummy dessert and reasonable starter) with two good friends, I was also able to show Michelle my new hair style… the first style with MY hair. Afterwards we exchanged presents and cards, and left for home.

On Christmas Eve, the first for many years without my daughter who I have traditionally taken to work with me, I went to work alone, and gave out the rest of my Christmas cards. Actually, the first one of the day I gave at Newry station to the guys there who I see every week, and the one on duty said “Och, thanks so much!” and gave me good wishes. The second card was to this elderly guy who works in Dublin Station who I see most days, he is always very friendly and sometimes saves a newspaper for me to read on the train home, anyway I went to give him the card… and he took my hand and then gave me a kiss on the cheek and wished me a Happy Christmas – uhhh, that’s never happened before (for obvious reasons) and I left the station for my office with a humoured smile. At work I gave out my cards, and in a few I gave thanks for all the support that certain people have given me throughout the year since I started living full-time as a woman, that has contributed to 2015 being the best year of my life by miles and miles; one guy in particular was quite touched, and warmly laid his hand on my arm. I then gave a card to a lady called Audrey who I have chatted to a lot during the year, and because she has given me some good advice as well as been a very good listener I gave her a small present too – she said I was very thoughtful… and then proceeded to give me a whole BAG of little presents!! I couldn’t believe her kindness, she said they were only small things, but she knew I would be alone over Christmas and wanted to give me something – as regular readers will know, I display quite an amount of emotion in my life (I’m allowed to, I’m a woman) and I could not help but spill a tear or two down my cheeks. I left the office reasonably early, and went straight home and put all those presents under my tree alongside those from my two friends.

I woke up on Christmas Day… and did not feel very Christmassy or jolly; opening the curtains made me feel even less so, as I was due to go a walk but the skies were very grey and threatened the rain that was forecast. I decided to still get ready though, but as I set off the rain started, and within a few minutes drive the rain although light was steady; I actually stopped, looked at the rain through the car window, and turned back wondering what I was thinking of… but in a minute or two I turned around again, and carried on driving to my walk, as I did not want to spend the whole day on my own… and I am glad I did that. The walk was up to Cave Hill above Belfast Castle where I met about 15 other people in my group, including several friendly faces. We had reasonable chat as we went, and at the top we did have a white Christmas for a few minutes as the light rain at altitude fell in little flakes. Once back at our cars a few people drifted off while the remainder of us went to the house of a group member who lived nearby – she had plates of biscuits and chocolate log ready, as well as tea and coffee, and we stayed around 45 minutes and warmed up nicely… but eventually it was time to depart, and we thanked the lady for her hospitality and had a hug…

…and then, within an hour, I was home, and on my own for several days of20151225_presents unseasonality over the Christmas break. On the journey home I had a call from a girl at work to wish me Happy Christmas, though I could not take it… and once home I was not in a happy mood to speak to her and so texted her back with my own wishes. I warmed up with soup and toast, and then got an email from my daughter thanking me a lot (with many OMGs) for giving her an iPhone for Christmas – I sent her a reply… and as I proof-read it a sense of longing overtook me and at that moment I cried a little as I missed her so much. Within a half hour I was crying again, but a good (if ‘good’ is the word for a sad emotion) long sob this time while opening the presents from the lady at work, as I opened more and more it was even clearer how kind and thoughtful she had been – the presents may have been small, but many quite girlie and useful – and as I carried on I felt so alone. After all that crying I sorted myself out with a  few chocolates, a few messages back and forth with two supportive friends (one local one and one I ‘met’ on Words With Friends a few months ago), and sat in front of a couple of light-hearted movies… although my eyes itched from my earlier tears.

I had a very lazy day on Boxing Day, spending much of it in bed either on my tablet or dozing while the radio was on… but later in the afternoon I fitted a new curtain pole in my bedroom, very pleased with the result, and had a lovely hot bath and styled my hair… and was VERY pleased with that result, and so I was in a very good mood by the evening time.

Sometimes the key to keeping one’s spirits up is to keep busy… and that is what I did on the Sunday, gardening for four hours into the afternoon, achieving a lot, and later stripping wallpaper from the walls of a spare room; well, it worked, I was happy with all that I did.

Monday I met my BFF Kirsty for coffee, some sale-shopping, and a good meal at a new restaurant for us called Home, where I ate a salmon dish with lovely white wine sauce followed by a chocolate fondant which was rather better than the one I attempted the weekend before; we finished the evening with hot drinks at a new-favourite coffee shop called Arizona… but eventually it was time to go, and it wasn’t long before my Christmassy loneliness returned… and so the next day I kept myself busy again.

For many, many years I haven’t worked between Christmas and New Year, but with no loved ones who felt capable of spending time with me at Christmas I went to work for a couple of days at the end of December. On the New Years Eve I got a kiss from the Dublin station guy again, both arriving at Dublin and departing… although the latter he had just had a smoke, and so that wasn’t very pleasant. Once home, all tedious New Years Eve viewing was abandoned to some weepy movies… and I was in bed with the light off well before midnight, with nobody but my teddy bears to bring in the New Year with.

And so that was my Christmas… and perhaps you are wondering what is the point in this post? A number of reasons I suppose, for me and for others – firstly, remember those that you know who are alone at Christmas time as it CAN be a difficult time emotionally to cope with (I KNOW), secondly if you are alone then do whatever you can to be positive even if it means keeping busy to get through difficult days, it’s also a reminder for me that I’ve got through this Christmas largely on my own and without the company of loved ones and with very little support from them. In past years I would have phoned my parents on Christmas Day, but as I knew I would not have a great day then I warned them I would not ring (I hardly wanted them wishing me a “Happy Christmas”, how could I be happy all on my own), and instead the next day I sent them an email with an update on things, and telling them about my Christmas Day; disappointingly I received no reply from them… which I don’t find very supportive… whereas at least my brother was a bit sympathetic via some online-chat… although he fails to get half the point in that it is him that has prevented me from being invited to spend Christmas with my family.

Best wishes for a Happy New Year, thank you for reading during 2015.