A few weeks ago an incident occurred which really made me think about my assumptions about “passing” and what it really means. My wife and I were on the way back from visiting relatives when our car began to lose power and buck wildly. I managed to get the car off the highway and into a nearby garage, but I was concerned with more than our vehicle. As usual for me, I was dressed more or less en femme. I was wearing a pair of acid washed, distressed Bermuda shorts, a cute red top, and my pink Converse sneakers. I had just shaved my legs. My nails were done up in pink, and I had all of my rings on, as well as some new bracelets I had picked up earlier that day at a flea market.
I was seriously worried about how the men at the garage would react to my appearance. I mean, I dressed like this everyday with the loving support of my family and colleagues at work, but not only were these men strangers but they were mechanics and as such, notoriously “manly” men. As we walked into the garage’s office, I had visions of heckling or worse, but I decided I would just have to tough it out. I tried to be as confident and assured of my femininity as I could without being exaggerated or “in your face.” I simply acted like, as a woman, this was how I was supposed to dress. And it worked! There were no rude comments from the mechanics, actually no comments of any kind. They even called me “ma’am”, as they tried to help us.
As it turned out, our car couldn’t be fixed right then, and we had to call for a truck to tow us home. We ended up having to wait over three hours for the truck, and we spent a sizeable chunk of that time at a nearby fast food restaurant. There I had the same experience as at the garage. I was totally sure of being a woman, and the fast food workers simply accepted me as such. I even joked easily with them as I repeatedly ordered drinks and such during our extended stay. Later when the tow truck finally came I wondered how the driver would react to me, but by that point I had lost all my concern and inhibitions. Just like all the other “normal” people I had encountered so far, the driver simply treated me like any one else. Actually, he was more concerned with getting our car where we were going as fast as possible to care about my Bermuda shorts.
So what’s the moral of the story? I don’t want to get all preachy, but it seems to me that when I faced my fears of discovery and derision, and simply acted like what I am (and was dressed as)– a beautiful woman– that’s how the people I met responded to me. I still fall prey to my fears sometimes, but this experience has given me a tremendous amount of confidence in myself and others. I hope your car breaks down sometime while you’re wearing Bermuda shorts.