Mrs Kirsty has a theory. That theory is that despite my protestations to the contrary, I want to be caught. I want someone that knows us both to see me and recognise Bob in me, so that I can be outed without actively having gone and outed myself. My conscious mind disagrees with this, but subconsciously, I wonder if she’s right. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if that happened. I mean, I’m not going out of my way to make it happen, but judging by my recent actions I’m not exactly taking huge precautions to ensure it doesn’t.
Somewhere I know that Andrea has visited a few times is Junction One, an outlet centre in the town of Antrim. I have been there many times as Bob, usually with the family, as it’s a decent place to pick up a bargain or two. In particular, there’s a Next Clearance store there which is a great favourite of both of us – a lot of my Bob wear comes from Next. Being a clearance store, it’s usually last season’s stock, but at the age of 45 being just one season out of date is pretty much bang-on-trend for Bob. Anyway, the whole complex is a decent place to spend a Sunday afternoon. It rather similar to “The Outlet”, which I have visited with both Michelle and Andrea in the past.
As well as being the site of Junction One, Antrim town is also the home of one of my brothers. For this reason, when Andrea had mentioned to me over a year ago that she had been for a visit round Junction One I replied that no, I wouldn’t be going there. It’s near my brother’s house so the chances of running in to either him or my sister-in-law were too high. The logic seemed to make some sort of sense to me, although to be fair I never had any such qualms about going out in the centre of Belfast where all sorts of family or work colleagues might see me. Go figure.
Another place I had never visited before was Abbeycentre, a decent sized shopping mall on the outskirts of North Belfast. There were two reasons I had never visited there. Firstly, I remember back when I first started going out, in fact I think the very evening I made my first trip out in public into Lisburn Tesco, our club president Linda was reminiscing about her experiences going out and while difficulties were relatively few and far between, one tale that stuck in my mind was of her being followed round Abbeycentre by a bunch of sniggering schoolgirls. So in my mind Abbeycentre was somewhere where trans* people were laughed at, and so not somewhere I would go. The second reason for my non-appearance at Abbeycentre is more pertinent to this post. It is the simple fact that it’s the closest shopping mall to my home. It is where people from my area go shopping if they don’t want to go into the centre of Belfast. It is where my neighbours would go. It is where my sister and her 4 adult children would go. It is, if not exactly on my doorstep, rather close to home. So obviously I wouldn’t be so daring or foolhardy to go there as Kirsty would I? I suspect you can guess the answer…
On Wednesday this week I had a series of meetings with clients away from the office. As is sometimes the case in circumstances such as these, I bring a holdall with me in the car containing a change of Kirsty clothing, my make up, handbag and various accoutrements. My last meeting was near the town of Coleraine, about an hour’s drive from home and nearly an hour and a half from work. The meeting finished at around 3.20pm and I hadn’t taken any time for lunch. So I felt justified in saying “Sod this I’m not going back to the office”, I found a secluded lay-by, and I did a reasonably quick transformation. By around 4.20pm Kirsty was on the road again.
By shortly after 5pm I was approaching Antrim town, which is bypassed by the M2 motorway that would take me on either to home, to Belfast, or with a change of road to Lisburn. But on approaching Antrim I thought yet again “Oh sod it” and I took the exit and headed for Junction One. To be honest, the principal reason for me wanting to go there was because I was in urgent need of a visit to the ladies’, but I thought I might as well have a look round while I was at it. You know what? Neither my brother nor my sister-in-law were anywhere to be seen.
Unfortunately by the time I arrived there was only around 40 minutes left until the entire complex closed, so I just had time for a quick look into the aforementioned Next Clearance store, where I saw a few nice tops that caught my fancy but not to the extent that I was about to break open my purse. I called into another couple of shoe shops, where I discovered that in Clarks, 8/42 wide means effing tiny (I was wearing the suede boots that I had bought in Primark in Belfast the previous Saturday, which are 8/42 standard and are super comfy) and that Pavers believe that once a woman’s feet grow beyond a size 7/40, something clicks in their brain and they lose all sense of style and just want to wear shoes that would make them fit in with the less fashionable delegates at a Susan Boyle lookalike convention. So no purchases made, but another new venue crossed off the list.
I had tentatively arranged to meet both Michelle and Andrea at 8.30pm at our usual venue of M&S Sprucefield that evening. While I was walking round Junction One Andrea emailed me to say that she had managed to get away from work reasonably early and so could we meet at 8pm. Well of course, and I texted Michelle to let her know. So it was 5.45pm, Junction One was about to close, I was no more than 50 minutes from Sprucefield and I had over two hours before I needed to be there. Was there somewhere else that would be open where I could go to kill an hour before heading on up to Lisburn? Somewhere more or less on the way? Yes indeed. There was Abbeycentre.
I parked up outside Abbeycentre at around 6.15, just as the light was beginning to fade. I wasn’t sure where I was really going, but I knew it was open till 9 and there was a wide selection of shops so I could have a good browse round for an hour or so. And that’s what I did. I went into Next, where I saw the very dressing gown that Mrs K had covered her head with during our uncomfortable conversation the previous Friday, and a few other favourites like Dunnes Stores and Bhs. In Dunnes (an Irish chain store for those outside the Emerald Isle) I saw a light brown suede short skirt that caught my eye. I though it might go quite well with the similarly coloured brown boots that I had bought in Primark the previous weekend, and that I was wearing with jeans at that very moment. However £20 is £20 (I’m such a cheapskate), so I thought I’d look to see something similar elsewhere. In Next I saw a gorgeous light brown tartan skirt but I wasn’t paying £30 for that. I tried a few other shops such as Quiz, Topshop and River Island but to no avail. Then I wound up right at the far end of the mall at Primark.
Good old Primark, I’m sure I’m keeping several Indonesian toddlers in gainful employment recently, and I found what I was looking for there. A brown suede skirt quite similar to what I had seen in Dunnes, but for £8. Even then I thought “Do I really need this?” and initially picked it up, examined it, and just left it back on the rail. Primary’s sizing is famously all over the place so although it was a 14 and should fit, I really wanted to try it on. Even after all this time, I felt slightly intimidated by the set-up for the changing rooms, with one entrance with a staff member handing out tags according to the number of items you were trying on, then a left turn for men and a right turn for women. It was quite busy. I went over to their hosiery section and found the patterned tights that I had been unable to get in large size in their Belfast city centre store at the weekend, so I picked those up and then, just like the skirt, I put it back on the rail.
By this time it was 7pm and I thought I had better go back to the car and make my way up to Lisburn to see my friends, but I made a quick loo stop which was right beside the exit to the car park. When I re-emerged, I had decided that I would only regret not getting that skirt, so I walked all the way back to Primark, grabbed the skirt off the rail and headed for the changing rooms. The young bearded male attendant asked “Just the one is it?”, I replied in the affirmative and he handed me a tag bearing a big number 1 and the word “women” in smaller letters. No problem, no double takes. I tried on the skirt and yes, it was just what I was looking for even if it did look rather ridiculous when paired with the lower part of my bare thighs and nude knee-highs. So I got the skirt, and I picked up the tights too. Happy Kirsty.
By this time I was starting to cut things a little fine for getting to Sprucefield for 8, so I got into the car and headed over there. I met Michelle pretty quickly after arriving, then Andrea arrived shortly afterwards. It was the first time the three of us had met up since the night at Blu with the amazing toilet and we had a lovely 90 minutes together. We went to the deli bar at M&S where I had an enormous steak sandwich, Michelle had a huge club sandwich, and Andrea had a disappointingly insubstantial lobster roll. Michelle and I donated a portion of our sandwiches to the “Keep Andrea Well Fed” appeal. As we finished up and were heading out of the store we walked past the entrance to the cafe. Andrea asked “do you fancy a coffee?” and so we went in there too. A cappuccino and a slice of lemon drizzle cake. A lovely dessert.
Finally Andrea headed for home while Michelle and I went back to the Butterfly Club HQ for an hour to sit with Linda, Charley, Michael and Adrianne. I had been my real self for considerably longer than my usual Wednesday today, and it felt wonderful.
The next morning I awoke with a feeling of dread at the prospect of spending yet another day as a be-suited Bob. It just became too much to bear and after dropping off Mrs K and the kids I called the office and asked if it would be ok if I took a day’s leave as I had an “unexpected personal matter” that needed to be attended to. The personal matter being, if I had to spend that day as pure Bob I would end up sitting at my desk screaming in frustration, or worse.
So I ended up having something of a Kirsty-day. I just wore the same outfit I had worn the previous evening so I was able to get dressed at home (apart from the shoes) and covered the girly jumper up with a coat. I even did my make-up at home apart from the lips, which I thought were more likely to be noticeable to any twitchy-curtained neighbour. I made my way to my usual quiet roadside spot and quickly put my hair in place, put on a bit of lippy and some jewellery and made my way back up to Junction One. I didn’t actually end up buying anything, but to have a few hours to myself to browse round at my leisure was fabulous. I even had a lovely relaxing lunch in Costa in the company of this month’s book for the book group. Just bliss.
Come mid-afternoon I had to leave and become Bob so I could then go back into Belfast to collect Mrs K from work as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that the urge to be Kirsty had been so strong that I couldn’t face work. That’s bad isn’t it? She still doesn’t know that I wasn’t in work on Thursday. Maybe she’ll only find out if she reads this, although I don’t think she does read the blog these days. I suspect she’d rather not know what I’m thinking.