It has been a couple of weeks since I last wrote a post. The reason? I had nothing to write about. Nothing. But now I do. So here I am. Make the most of it, my life may get boring again quite quickly. A few days ago I extended my Meetup activities a little bit further than before and decided to go along to a cinema meetup. It was a trip to the Queen’s Film Theatre (QFT), Belfast’s arthouse cinema, to see the new Coen Brothers film Hail Caesar. While the trip was being lead by our book group leader Joanne, and one other book group person had booked, there were nearly 20 people going most of whom would be new to me. So I was rather apprehensive as I approached the QFT, a little bit later than intended, to find everyone sitting at a long table in the cinema café with pre-film coffees on the go. I waved across to Joanne, but while the other book group person who had put her name down was nowhere to be seen, three other of my book group colleagues had turned up unannounced so there were plenty of familiar faces. As we filed into the cinema, I ended up sitting next to a rather nice guy that I already know from the book group. He even gave me a jelly baby!
As I was taking my seat, I noticed that seated in the row behind me was my old friend Shirley, the one who has known me in my male guise for 20-odd years and was at my wedding, but who now knows me as Kirsty through the book group. I said a quick “Hi Shirley” to her and she gave a reply that set my mind a-running. Up until Sunday I had been pretty convinced that Shirley had not realised that Kirsty and Bob are in fact the same person. However now I’m not so sure. She replied to me
“Hi Kirsty, this is the first time in ages that I’ve seen you outside the book group”
Now I know for a fact that this was the first time she had ever seen Kirsty outside the book group. She has however seen Bob outside the book group many times. But not for ages. Was this perhaps Shirley’s oh-so-subtle way of telling me that she knows? Perhaps, perhaps not. I kind of hope it is, because if she does know and is acting in that manner, she is still friendly, and she is discreet. It would also spare me having to tell her and worry that she might feel I have been taking her for a fool. But I can’t actually find out without asking her, and I’m not going to do that. At least, not until I go full time next year.
As for the evening itself, the film was perfectly acceptable, although probably a little less than the sum of its parts. A lot of very very good set pieces, but rather disjointed. All in all, worth seeing. After the film ended we all hung about in the lobby for a while discussing what we had seen, and I was invited along to the pub for a post-cinema drinkie, which I politely declined as I was driving. It was nice to be asked though, particularly as I was asked by someone I hadn’t previously met. In fact, when I had first walked in I noticed that that guy looked at me with a slightly puzzled expression on his face, then the expression relaxed and he told me “I said to myself ‘I don’t think she’s meetup’ (meaning me) but I recognise you from your profile picture now’. And he sent me a Facebook friend request afterwards. All in all, a perfectly pleasant evening and yet another example of me getting myself in a bit of panic about meeting a new group of people and yet again seeming to be accepted.
I found out on Tuesday that I was going to be able to get away from work early on Wednesday, meaning an earlier-than-usual arrival at the Butterfly Club on Wednesday evening. Or afternoon, I should say, as I arrived around 4.50pm. I had texted my old friend Jonathan late the previous night just asking if he would be free to meet for a chat and a drink. Not knowing how he would respond (it was very short notice) I went to work with my current book group book thinking that if he wasn’t available I would ensconce myself in a coffee shop and read a few chapters with a nice caffe latte. As it happened, the book remained unopened as Jonathan responded in the affirmative.
I don’t often write these days about what I actually wear. For me, being trans isn’t really about the clothes at all. Normally as a reader you can usually take it as read that I’m wearing something suitably feminine but quite casual, or a dress and heels if I’m going out to a restaurant. However on this occasion my attire is somewhat relevant. Since I was going to meet my friend in a nice hotel bar, I decided to dress up a little, and I mean a little. Rather than jumper and jeans or denim skirt & opaque tights, I wore a multicoloured scoop neck top with a black cardie, and a black-with-white-dots pencil skirt that would be knee-length on a normal sized woman, but hits about four inches above my knee. I was wearing high sheen nude tights, and nude Mary Jane shoes with a 2.5 inch heel. This was covered up with my thigh-length black woollen coat, with a belt cinching it in at the waist. So when I was out in the street immediately below my head one could see a pink scarf round my neck followed by the full length of the coat, about 2 inches of skirt peeking out the bottom, then my legs in nude tights and nude heels. And on my way round to meet Jonathan I walked past the most famous pub in Belfast, the Crown Liquor Saloon, where some bloke slouched against the wall outside shouted out at me “Nice legs, darlin’!” Flipping cheek! But thanks. How am I supposed to feel about that? What a sexist pig, women are not there for you to ogle and shout leery comments at. But still, when I consider what he could have shouted out it could have been a lot worse. And I do rather conceitedly think that I have nice legs (shame about the face). But I don’t need him to tell me that. But thanks. Or not. I think fundamentally I was quite pleased to be admired by a man, but at the same time annoyed at myself for being pleased and not being able to muster more indignation at his uncalled-for sexist behaviour.
I arrived at our usual hotel bar meeting place slightly later than anticipated, but Jonathan had been able to keep himself entertained by drinking lager, so no harm done. I’m not going to go into great detail about everything we spoke about (although having told him what she said in the cinema, he now thinks that Shirley knows) but I want to mention one specific thing that he said to me. It was how his view of me has changed. It is now well over a year since Jonathan first met me as Kirsty, as the real me. He has known me as a male friend since we were in our early twenties. That first time I met him was quite awkward. Having come out to him as trans* a month or so earlier, I was apprehensive about how he would react to the theory becoming reality, and he didn’t know how to react because he was so busy minding his Ps and Qs that he forgot to be himself, so it was all very stilted. Then there were the misgenderings, which thankfully have ceased in recent encounters. I’ll forgive him those, after all he has known me for a long time.
Jonathan and I work in the same area of Belfast. Not exactly next door, but close enough that the occasional lunchtime encounter is to be expected. Since he first met the real me, there has been one such lunchtime encounter. I was almost on top of him before I realised, and then immediately covered my face and shied away, saying that I didn’t want him to see me like this. He said at the time that it was ok, don’t worry about it, he has seen me like that plenty of times. However now it appears he has changed his tune. He told me last night that it has reached the point where he only wants to think of me as Kirsty, that is who he knows now and seeing me that way is now normal. So much has he accepted the new me, that he says that he couldn’t cope with being exposed to the old me again, and certainly wouldn’t want to engage with him. So referring to those occasional lunchtime encounters, he said
“Don’t be offended, but if I see you in the street as him, I’m just going to blank you.”
And like that, he more or less told me that my male persona was dead to him already. He was a little concerned how I would react to this. He needn’t have worried. I was thrilled. Perfect acceptance from a very old friend. I am so grateful to have him.
All too soon it was time for Jonathan to get the bus home and for me to head on up to the Butterfly Club for the final round of our “Come Dine With Me” competition. Not that I minded too much. I wrote about my entry in the heats a few weeks back, and I duly made it through to the final four. In the first two weeks of the final we had had amazing meals from Charley (Chinese spicy pork dumplings, chicken & noodle stirfry, chocolate orange mousse) and Karen (an Italian-themed meal of cold meat & parmesan antipasti, minestrone primavera (vegetable soup), spaghetti puttanesca and panna cotta with raspberry & raspberry coulis), then we had me last week. The competition was fierce, but I decided to go a little bit basic on the menu front with a cupcake, a burger and a jaffa cake. The cupcake starter actually consisted of a pastry shell containing slow cooked shredded beef in white wine and chicken stock, topped off with piped creamed potato, sitting on a pea puree bed.
My main was literally burger and chips (burger and fries if you’re American, I didn’t serve a burger with a packet of crisps). A burger with habanero chillies, smoked bacon, tomato relish, rocket, fried onion and melted cheese, served with a rocket & red onion salad in balsamic vinaigrette and my own chips, which are really long thin roast potatoes rather than true chips. Tasty.
My jaffa cake dessert is actually out of an old Gary Rhodes cookbook. A sponge base infused with orange zest soaked in an orange syrup, with a layer of orange jelly (pure orange, caster sugar & gelatine) topped off with a rich dark chocolate ganache, served with custard. Rather good, if I do say so myself. But was it good enough to beat the competition? I had my doubts.
Last night was the final night of the competition. Linda cooked us a cheese and broccoli soup, chicken fillet in white wine sauce with creamed potatoes and brussels sprouts, with a dessert of arctic roll and strawberries. Actually, Jonathan cracked a funny when I was telling him what Linda was planning to cook, he nodded toward the general area of my chest and temporarily ample bosom and said “Do you really think chicken fillets are appropriate”? Oh how we laughed.
In the end if I had have had to award the title to one of the four of us, based on the meals in the final I would have given it to Charley. Her Chinese dumplings were out of this world. However, I would also say the best meal I had in the whole competition was Karen’s Indian meal that she made for the heat. And when the scores had been totalled it was Karen who won, by a fraction of a percentage point from both Charley and myself tied for second. A close-run thing, and a lot of fun.
So while the competition was very enjoyable, and I really do like cooking, I am also very pleased that it’s finished. The reason for this is that having to be inside the club premises in time to eat a three-course meal every Wednesday evening did somewhat curtail my extra-curricular activities. Well no longer, next week it’s M&S Cafe here I come! There is literally no beginning to my excitement.
And on that note, I’m off. But remember, if you see Bob in the street, be like Jonathan, blank him!