Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Celebration in Padstow 2

(This is what should have appeared earlier)

My Cornwall holiday is going well.

On Monday (1 November) I had a little personal celebration: the first anniversary of legally changing my name by Deed Poll to Lucy Melford. Hurrah! To mark this event, I had lunch at Rick Stein's famous Seafood Restaurant in Padstow. I just turned up without prior booking and got a table. Thank goodness it was a Monday late in the year, otherwise it would have been hopelessly booked up. As it was, I was momentarily at a loss when told yes, I could come in for lunch or dinner. As I liked the look of the lunchtime menu, I leapt at that. It felt like being suddenly hoicked in off the street and ushered in a friendly fashion to a table in one of the best-known restaurants in London. I felt excited, and clearly I wasn't the only one. It's demeaning the place to call it a classy tourist experience; but the female half of the sophisticated-looking couple next to me admitted that she was here for the first time too. And the restaurant filled up with others who were obviously visitors and not locals. Clearly, even on a weekday in November, there were plenty of affluent people around in Cornwall ready to blow £45 a head!

I began with complimentary bread and olives, then had gurnard quenelles. My main course was a fillet of hake topped with mussells and cockles, plus vegetables. Dessert was good old rice pudding with raspberry conserve, followed by black coffee. (I'll add photos of all this once home again) Throughout I had still water and a large glass of Macon to drink.

This was an impressive meal. The bill was awesome to match, but I did not flinch.

It was doubly, triply, enjoyable by being treated without question as a discerning woman. Not a sign of doubt, hesitation, or disbelief. It was all smiles and 'madams' and warm, sustained eye contact. And not just from the staff. The couple next to me, mentioned above, who from what I overheard were seriously knowledgable about food, happily discussed with me the courses and wine they had chosen. And I went to the ladies' loo with a girl in heels who had just slipped on the floor. She was all right, but appreciated my concern, and after we'd done our business we had quite a conversation. Sustained eye contact again. She certainly didn't run away screaming, complaining that there was a strange person in the toilet! And then afterwards, in the shops (Padstow nowadays seems to be nothing but expensive - though very nice - fashion shops and restaurants) I was able to chat away with women young and old about the merchandise and all sorts of other things, such as the arrival of Flower Power in Padstow in the summer of 1967 - I was actually there, but was dragged away from the 'weird people' by Mum and Dad. This ability to chat and reminisce was all so liberating. I found it easy to draw on my past life, which was, I now see, very unisex and non male-specific, and therefore safe to discuss. As if in some way I'd been rehearsing my eventual role as Lucy - albeit unconsciously, of course.

Of course it helped, when wandering around Padstow, that my clothes and makeup were right; but I think the voice and demeanour were the killer factors. Honestly, if I had one key piece of advice to give, it would be to spend money on female voice tuition and practice, practice, practice, practice, practice. And at the same time watch what women do, and learn to walk easily and naturally like a woman does, and school yourself to make light, quick, deft, flowing movements. Even large women walk as if floating on air. I have long paid attention to all this.

So I trotted around Padstow feeling immune from enquiry, passing all kinds of people quite unremarked, and apparently unnoticed. I felt invisible. And it was glorious and intoxicating to think that if someone DID challenge me, I could reply in a voice that would have them apologising.

But in case anyone thinks I was flying too high, and due for a fall, I will mention an incident from the previous day. I was in Fowey. And I found myself approaching three girls. They were looking in my direction. I heard one say, 'Go on, ask him!' Did she mean me? Oh well. I had to face up to a public challenge sometime, and I'd rather it be three girls in an empty Cornish street late on a Sunday afternoon, rather than a group of cocky lads outside a city pub on a busy weekday with a throng of passers-by to relish my exposure. So I walked towards them without pausing. Then I walked past. And then with huge relief walked on, still with nothing said to me. I stopped within earshot to take a photo of something. There was no mistake. I'd been wrong. They must have been talking about a potential boyfriend, not me. I had underestimated my ability to stand up to close scrutiny. Later on I felt massively encouraged about this. But my first dismayed reactions were proof that my self-confidence was really quite fragile. Hence my elation at Padstow next day.

I wonder if you ever get off this tightrope of antiicipated challenge, or does it go on 24/7 for the rest of your life?

7 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you're enjoying your break in my home country.It is a wonderful place,and i'm so glad yo are now feeling confident in your ability to pass unnoticed as someone who is T and just as another woman.

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  2. So we have a psychic link!

    Caroline xxx

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  3. I no longer have that anxiety, so for me at least it did go away. And even though I can't say for sure that it was because of SRS, it does seem to have gone away since that event.

    The change was invisible to others but very apparent to me, and I think it made a difference in how I felt about myself and how I expected to be perceived. Truly now if I were called out, I would be surprised.

    My guess is that you will reach that point too. Especially if you are confident in your voice! Your advice is well given, even though you spell "practise" (verb) like a Yank. :)

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  4. I wish I had your confidence Lucy. It's lovely to read of your adventures.

    I like the idea of floating on air... (floats off)

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  5. Even some of us in Cornwall who are not so affluent don't mind splashing out good money on good food, especially when there's something great to celebrate. Warmest congratulations on your First Birthday!

    Hugs,
    Angie

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  6. Dear Lucy
    You have already discovered the truth within you, my friend.
    By expressing your true self you enrich your self esteem to levels you never perhaps dream could be possible. GRS may also add validation that brings further confidence & peace of mind.

    It is a joy to read of your successful adventures of self discovery.
    You have such natural serenity & a warm personality, you brighten all our lives.
    Love
    Debbie x

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  7. I'm delighted that you will have such good memories of Padstow: it's a place where Angie and I have also had good and affirming times.

    I'm now ten years on from the name and role change for me, and my experience is that you do get off the tightrope. It never occurs to me nowadays that anyone might challenge me - though of course if they did I have all the documentation to prove my status, from birth certificate on! You get to a point where you're no longer TG, you're an 'ex TG' who is now just a woman. And it's great!
    Hugs, Sarah

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