I bet you were wondering if I'd ever get around to telling you the seventh--and final--thing about me that you didn't know. What's that you say? You forgot all about the fact that I hadn't finished my list? Well, I didn't forget--I was just saving it until I had a little more time to write. So here it is:
7. My first husband is now a woman.
Pretty weird, huh? Yeah, I thought so too, but I wasn't as shocked to find out as my brother-in-law expected me to be.
I met my first husband--we'll call him Mike, since that's not his name anymore anyway--when I was 16 and in my junior year in high school. I had gone with a friend and her boyfriend to a party at someone's house. None of us really knew the person having the party, but back in those days, if someone was having a party, half the kids in the city would hear about it and half of those would show up. And it was a pretty big city. During the course of the party, I met Mike and we started dating.
Mike was a fairly big guy at 6 feet tall and weighing 170 pounds. He graduated from high school the year before and had been working for his father, doing drafting work and helping to collect statistical data for environmental impact reports. He was renting an apartment with his cousin, and his motorcycle was his main form of transportation. I thought the motorcycle was pretty cool, and we took long rides into the Santa Cruz mountains and along the highways and byways of the Bay Area. Mike also loved to play his guitar and would occasionally serenade me with his music.
Sometime around the beginning of my senior year, Mike and I got engaged. As an engagement present, Mike bought me my first sewing machine. We set a June wedding date, and we were married two weeks after I graduated from high school; about a month before I turned 18. The marriage was to last just less than two years.
During that time, Mike got a job with a company that built custom conveyor systems for food manufacturers; for instance, Nabisco was one of his clients. His job involved designing and drawing up specifications for the production of those systems--something that seems quite complicated given the fact that Mike learned all his drafting and engineering skills in high school and in working for his father, but he was very good at what he did. Before we divorced, he had gotten interested in electronics and was taking a correspondence course. I had taken a job with a law firm before graduating from high school, but that only lasted about eight months before I decided it wasn't the job for me. After that, I worked on and off for my father-in-law.
Mike was also interested in hiking and camping and would drag me along on camping trips every so often. Backpacking, which was just becoming popular at the time, was something he enjoyed and I did not, but we would occasionally backpack into someplace and camp. Mike really enjoyed the outdoors and wanted to get into surveying work, although most of the jobs were through the State, and the State wasn't hiring.
I mentioned before that I first met my current husband at church when I went to mass where Mike played guitar with the "other Mike," who is now my brother-in-law. For the most part, playing at mass was the extent of Mike's musical outlet, although every now and then, he would get together with other musicians and "jam." A short time into our marriage, I began to hate that guitar! As a wedding gift, Mike's parents had given us money, presumably to start building a savings account to buy a house eventually. Mike used that money to buy an electric guitar and amp. I think that's where the resentment started, but it was fueled by the fact that his attention to his music meant less attention to me. On one memorable occasion, I was in bed, sick with the flu. And I mean the "real" flu--not just a stomach bug. Every part of me hurt, including my skin. I was running a high fever. That afternoon, Mike brought a friend home, and they hooked up their guitars to the amp and started jamming. That was pretty much the last straw for me with Mike's music.
We lived in a two bedroom apartment, and the second bedroom was set up with a drafting table and other equipment that Mike used in his work. Oftentimes, he would bring projects home which he would work on in the spare bedroom in the evenings or on weekends. About a year after we married, I woke up in the night to use the bathroom. As I walked down the hallway, I passed by the other bedroom, where I expected Mike to be working. Instead, I saw what appeared to be a woman in the room. I continued down the hall, attempting to process what I had just seen and make some sense of it. I remember thinking that it might be best if I just stayed in the locked bathroom the rest of the night, in denial. Maybe it had just been a bad dream? Before long, though, Mike came knocking at the door, and I had to come out.
We talked that night, and I learned Mike was a transvestite. What I saw on my trip down the hallway was Mike dressed in a wig, a mini skirt, and platform heels. That explained a few things--like why I would sometimes find buttons missing from my clothes and things moved around in my drawers! I'm not sure how he hid it from me so well for so long, although he said he fought his urge to "dress up" much of the time. Although I was only 18, I don't think I was naive for my age, but I also don't think I realized then the wide variety of sexual behaviors in the world. Looking back, I think it was at this point in my life that I realized I was a grown-up with grown-up problems, and I needed to make some decisions about my future.
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW . . . .