When the anger finally subsided, my mind wandered in a million directions. Did a lot of men like cross-dressing? Were women into it, too?
“He better not go out of this house dressed like a woman,” I said out loud, with anxious conviction.
I thought back to the time ‘Rick’ and I had been waiting for a cab in the lobby of a convention centre where we had been attending a spa event. Because I work as an esthetician, occasions like this were more for me than for him, but Rick always liked to be there to support me. The discovery of the box of lingerie in our closet had left me questioning Rick’s motives.
Rick had been the first to notice a person standing with shoulders slumped forward, looking very awkward, as we stood in the hotel lobby. “Look over by the door,” he had said. “Is that a man or a woman?”
I saw a man in drag. He wore a wig, a gaudy, brightly-coloured dress, and high-heeled pumps.
Caked on make-up made him/her stand out even more in the crowd. “How weird. How sad,” Rick had said, looking away.
Later on, I recalled that moment and wondered if the man dressed as a woman had a partner? If so, what sex was the partner? Now that I had to live with my husband’s cross dressing, I recalled the person standing in the lobby in the tarty wig, and more importantly, I imagined the people in his life and wondered how they coped with this behavior? It horrified me to think of Rick ever looking like that. I tried to make myself stop thinking this way. It only made me angry.
“I’m a liberal person. I can deal with this. Who does it hurt?” I asked myself, eager to rationalize away my gut emotional response. I began to look at the websites Rick had told me about. I started with “Support Groups for Spouses of Cross-dressers.” I then went to a site called "The Secret Garden" and there found my way to a woman in England who was married to a cross dresser.
We began corresponding. She wrote that her partner had come out to family and friends. They more or less had accepted it, she said. She told of dressing up with her partner to go out shopping or to dinner. She enjoyed the adventure of the outings.
I wished I could be as accepting as she was, but I honestly couldn’t imagine myself shifting roles this way with Rick. This “support worker for spouses” said that it was nice to be with a partner who understood women so deeply. We were lucky our partners didn’t want to have an affair with another woman, she said, that they just wanted to dress like them.
“Oh, great," I thought.
Other sites were full of kinky sex. They brought me back to what I had found in the box. I remembered the shock of finding maxi-pads, condoms and the little, red, rubber ‘thing’ and said out loud, “If not for sex what else would these be for?” I really didn’t want to delve deeper into these sites as they were making me feel worse. Whatever curiosity I initially felt, this was the last thing I really wanted in my life.
Later that day, Rick and I sat to talk about what I had seen and read. “Have you actually checked out any of these sites?” I asked.
“I have,” he said. “What did you see? What did you think? Is it helpful?”
“I really can’t deal with this,” I said. Out of exasperation, I asked, “Are you positive this cross-dressing thing of yours isn’t about sex?”
“No,” he said. “I told you before it isn’t about that. I just like women’s clothing, the tactile feeling of silk stockings, satin and lace bras, just how women look. You have more clothes to choose from than men. Men don’t care about how they look. I’ve never liked the way men are. You know that,” he said.
“What do you mean, ‘how men are?’” I felt so frustrated.
Rick said men had no sense of style, not a lot of clothing to select from, and what there is has no color. “How boring,” he said. “They are crass, slovenly, and don’t care about women and there is nothing feminine about them,” he explained.
“What the hell does that mean?” I shot back. “They are guys and as much I at times would like to see men who get in touch with their feminine side, I don’t want men to be women!” I shook my head again. I said I didn’t want to talk about it anymore.
We turned and walked away from each other. I looked around the house. Everything was in its usual place. Outside, a horse whinnied in the pasture.
A blue jay called. The sound of water rushing in the creek filtered through an open window. Our wedding picture on a table rested in its beautiful pewter frame. Maybe it was just a fleeting thing with him, I thought, like a fling. If I could accept it, maybe he’d get over it faster. I wanted to. But could I?
Suddenly, it hit me like a slap across the face: the money Rick must have spent to buy the clothes. We didn’t have any extra money.
What next, I wondered. What now?