I told this story to Rhonda over coffee last week. It took place more
than 14 years ago, about a year after I finally decided to break out of the
closet, I had locked myself into for the first half of my life. I couldn’t do
it any longer.
Katy and Tina
photos from that era 2007
Back then, my “outings” were getting dressed, sneaking out to the car, driving a couple of blocks to a blue mailbox, getting out and pretending to mail a letter, and then getting back into the car and running back into the house. I wanted to actually be “out among the living” as I know you all understand.
Here’s what happened: I signed up to attend the Renaissance Holiday Party held in a small hotel west of Philadelphia. The very first human being I talked to while being dressed was a lovely trans-lady named Emily, who, as it turned out, was a retired airline pilot! What are the chances that the two professional pilots at the party meet in the first minutes of the party?
Emily was so kind. She sensed my nervousness about being out in public and she suggested that I join her Emily’s Ladies Night Out (ELNO) group who met once a month in the New Hope area of Pennsylvania which was filled with quaint, romantic, country inns. Emily’s group would meet at the inn, be typically ushered into a private room where they chatted and had dinner together, making new friends, and getting used to being out in public. The “out in public” part was pretty much confined to coming into and leaving the restaurant, but that was an adventure in and of itself for most of us and took courage at that particular stage of our metamorphosis. I attended several ELNO’s at various venues and met friends who remain friends to this day.
Emily didn’t want to the group to get “stale” by going back to the same country inn repeatedly. With that thought in mind, she made arrangements to meet at The Inn at Indian Rock (now permanently closed) at Upper Black Eddy, about 35 minutes north of New Hope. The inn had been around since 1820 and had a lovely view of the Delaware, although the location, admittedly, was way out in the sticks. I arrived about 45 minutes early, hoping to have a cocktail at the bar before being ushered into a private back room. I didn’t want to go back to a “bigger closet.”
I opened the door to the bar area and found the room full of men who were either local farmers or deer hunters dressed in camouflage. For some reason, I was expecting a romantic inn along the river to be filled with sophisticated folks from Philadelphia, enjoying a weekend escape to lovely Bucks County. This was like walking into a rural Agway with beer being served. There were no other women in the room and the only seat open at the bar and was between two guys in camouflage, complete with camo baseball caps! Remembering my self-advice to “walk into a room like you owned the place,” I smiled and successfully slipped into the open seat without bumping into either of the guys who were now looking at me up and down.
The guy on the left, about 60 years old, I’d guess, said with sort of a snicker, “well, what brings you in here?” His seatmate leaned in, eager to hear my reply I supposed. “I was deer hunting and decided I needed a cocktail,” I said. They both laughed and looked at each other, laughing. Then the guy next to me introduced himself as “George” and his buddy as “Ed.” They explained that they were local farmers who had spent the day deer-hunting and they came in out of the cold for a couple of whiskeys. When I asked the bartender for a cosmo, he looked like I had just requested moon rocks in my drink. He mumbled something about not having cranberry juice, but a few minutes later he returned with something that looked and sort of tasted like a cosmo… sort of. He was very proud of himself, so I told him it was fantastic.
I was determined not to be shut down by the situation. I smiled, was pleasant, and showed interest in others. George lived alone on the family farm, didn’t have cows so he didn’t have a regular milk check to bank on, and did a tour in Viet Nam with the 25th Infantry Division stationed a Cu, Chi. I told him I ran the communications tower and microwave links out of Cu Chi to Lai Khe, Phuoc Vinh, and Tay Ninh.
That, new, common ground, opened the flood gates. We talked and talked. George’s wife had died a few years back and he hadn’t really talked to a woman in years. We laughed, told stories, and laughed some more. The door opened and Emily poked her head in, motioning me to come with her to the private room. I told George how much I enjoyed our conversation and thanked him for his kind reception and then said, “goodnight.”
Later that night, as we were all finishing our dessert and coffee, the door popped open and who appeared in the doorway but George, capless this time. He looked straight at me and said, “Goodnight Katy…I hope I see you again.” I smiled and almost speechless said, “I hope so, too.”
To this day, I wonder what could have happened. Luckily, I suppose, nothing did, but it was fun to think about! Mostly though, I was proud of myself for “making something out of nothing,” and not chickening out because of the situation. A smile and a pleasant attitude opened the door to find common ground. Once that was done, it was all an interesting adventure…and a really great “Escape” as Rhonda often says.