Just before I went to Cornwall, I attended a little gathering in a nearby house. The couple who owned it had moved in a few months ago, and thought Christmas time would be a great opportunity to invite their neighbours in for nibbles and a drink. I got a card addressed to 'Lucy' and although it was possibly unwise to abandon my holiday preparations, this was a social event I didn't want to miss!
There would not be many people there who I'd know by sight, let alone by name. J--- next door, bless her, offered to go there with me in case I felt nervous. But I felt perfectly ready to plunge into the company of total strangers, and besides I had to drive off and collect a prescription first. So J--- went on ahead, and I followed an hour later. Honestly, I didn't flinch or hesitate.
And I stayed for five hours! The time flew by. Nobody gave me a funny look. I passed the appraisal of several people who might have said something - three men, one young woman, a child, and some older women with gimlet eyes. I had quite deep, close-up personal conversations with two of the 40-something ladies: one conversation touched on whether my nose looked odd; and the other strayed onto gynae matters. I'm afraid the second lady I spoke to concluded that I was going to have a hysterectomy in March! If I get to know her better, I'll tell her the truth.
Eventually I made my departure, feeling pretty good about the event.
I am puzzled by how well I did though. Yes, there was nothing wrong with my hair, makeup or clothes. The voice was fine and never sagged. Nor did my posture. But none of that could allow anyone to survive a full five hours of constant scrutiny. What else had been decisive? I had received confidential glances from other women - the kind of look that women exchange between themselves that says 'Listen to my husband going on! Well, we know better, don't we?' Welcome to the club: but I still wanted to know what I had done right.
I can only think that I was so relaxed and natural that nobody even thought I was anything other than what I seemed to be. If this is true, then natural behaviour matters much more than a markedly female appearance. You don't actually need big boobs and a pretty face.