You Always Remember the First

You Always Remember the First
Photo by Amanda Canas / Unsplash
There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.
- Mark Twain


I entered the big walk-in closet, wearing only my jockey shorts.  The smell of clothes and dust filled my nostrils as I looked over on the left-hand side, where Mom's clothes hung. And there it was, just as it had been the last few times I looked there: a yellow dress with long sleeves. For some reason, that dress, above all others, had grabbed my attention.

Not the usual thing you'd expect to grab a teenage boy's attention, to be sure.

I'd been in here before and looked at that dress. I didn't recall seeing Mom ever wear it. But I wanted...I could hardly admit it, even to myself...I wanted to try it on.

There were some trips that I preferred to be left behind for.

When Dad was at work, Mom would sometimes need to go out shopping, and would take us all along, all piled into our station wagon.  But there were times--maybe more, now that I was getting into my teenage years--that I didn't want to go along.

Mom understood this.  She would take David and Clay along, but she had no trouble leaving me alone in the big house on Roberto Rio Road.  And, while the three of them were off to one of the supermarkets out along Poway Road, alone was where I was left.

Sometimes I'd just sit reading in my room, or get on the family Intellivision console in the upstairs family room. I might even go out to the back yard, and sit at the little table next to the cabana, out back of the pool.

But sometimes, I had a different purpose in mind.

I knew that, if I waited too long, I might hear the telltale sounds of the front door unlocking, signifying the return of Mom and my brothers.  And I certainly didn't want to be discovered. Not here. Not dressed like this.

If I was going to do it, I was going to have to make up my mind.

I held the dress in my hands, one hand supporting the hanger while the other one grasped the soft, polyester fabric.  Suddenly, I made the decision, slipping the dress off the hanger and setting the hanger aside.

There was no zipper on the dress; I had to pull it over myself.  I reached for the hem, grasped it, and slipped it over my head.  My arms slid up inside, seeking out the sleeves, my hands carefully wiggling their way past the elastic cuffs.  My head found the neck opening, and I slipped it the rest of the way on.

I looked down at myself, seeing the dress on my body. The hem now reached to right below my knees.  I looked at my arms in the sleeves, felt the soft touch of it all over.  I felt a little thrill at seeing myself...combined with a good spike of fear.

I didn't have it on for more than a few moments; I quickly took it off, and put it back on the hanger, trying very hard to leave it just as I had found it as I eased it back into its place in the closet.  I had left my clothes on the master bedroom floor; I closed the closet and turned off the light before scrambling to dress myself again.

Mom never said anything. But somehow I knew a threshold had been crossed.

There would be other times after that one.  The next opportunity I got, I was able to walk out of the closet and into the hall separating the master bedroom from the family room, to see myself in one of the mirrored linen closet doors.  Did I, perhaps, see the faint glimmer of my destiny to come? Who can say?

I also got familiar with a couple more of Mom's dresses.  I particularly remember a green one, with a longer hem and short sleeves, in a fabric that was plush and shiny, as well as a shorter one, white with a pattern of blue flowers, in a thinner and more delicate fabric.  I got better at walking around wearing them, feeling the gentle swish of the skirt against my legs. Perhaps this is where I first did the twirls I would later be known for.

Of course, it was quite wrong of me to be taking my mother's things without her permission.  This later came back to haunt me, when I did the same thing with my stepmother's clothes, and wound up catching hell for it.

I didn't have the wisdom to understand what made me do it.  The word transgender wasn't on anybody's lips back then, and, even if I had heard the word and could understand the concept, I might not have thought it described me.  If I had known then what I know now, my life might have been vastly different.