I'm now beginning to get out and about quite a lot. Driving is easy and no effort, and the M23 and M25 motorways here in the south-east of England can get you very far in a short time - right into Kent, for instance. More locally, I can, within an hour or so, get beyond Eastbourne in the east, and beyond Chichester in the west.
I still baulk at venturing further afield. But this Sunday I'm going with my friend R--- to a village barbecue north of Bedford. However, I'm not driving. We're going in her car, and of course I can nod off if post-op fatigue sets in.
Whatever the personal effort needed, I don't want to miss a social occasion like this. For both of us it's an opportunity to guage how well we pass in a rural setting far, far away from Brighton. We know we'll be absolutely fine, but there are degrees of fineness. It'll be fascinating to see how, for instance, the woman-to-woman conversations develop, and whether they take a turn only taken when the participants take each other completely for granted. Delicious if it happens! And even more affirming if the men there attempt a chat-up!
Besides, this is a chance to appear in a public gathering in scanty summertime garb. It'll be a simple outfit - no long dresses, not at a barbecue, where at any moment you might drop a burger or sausage or tomato ketchup onto your clothes! I'm going to dispense with a bra, and wear a cotton cami-top that I've bought recently. It's very pretty, and shows off my breasts and hips very well indeed. And of course my girly arms and shoulders will be exposed to view. I want to be sun-kissed, as I indulge in animated chat with an engaging smile on my big red lips, while all along my ash-coloured hair plays gently in the soft breeze. You get the picture? I'll be wearing black leggings as usual, because these not only show off the surgical area - flaunting my credentials, as I call it - but reveal the much-improved shape of my legs.
Recently all parts of me have definitely acquired a more girly look, even to my own sceptical eye. I'll continue to qualify this with cautionary remarks like 'but there's still a long way to go' or 'my nose will never look quite right' or 'my chest will always be a bit too bulky for total credibility', but these are quibbles that in real life don't matter. There are plenty of women around with unpretty noses and large shoulders, and I can easily see for myself that for a woman in late middle age, I have better skin and less sag than most. It's your voice and manner, and the way you move, that carry the day. And yes, your dress sense: but nobody expects haute couture at a village barbie.
So is this what all the trauma and determination and sorrow and emotional damage and financial pain were for? Is this the Girly Dream realised?
Yes, of course it is. Not by any means the whole of it, nor even a typical slice of it, but this adventure on Sunday will be one more event that says my personal journey has been a success.
It's the mere fact that I can fit into the kind of get-up that three years back would have seemed physically impossible. It's the mere fact that I can speak to anybody I choose when I get there, and not have to keep quiet because my voice is no good. It's the mere fact that I have an assured sense of my own true personality, complete and unassailable. I can assert my existence, and my right to exist, and insist on being taken seriously. Or at least as seriously as society allows a woman to be taken, which, regretfully, is still not all that far! (But that's quite another issue)
My friend R--- said that I had become a 'woman of power'. She's right. I do have power. I have control and choices and the money and personality to exploit that control, and those choices. I'm not a victim of anything. I have done what is necessary to reveal the right person, and left the old, wrong, person behind. The knowledge of that, and the sheer comfort of being in the right skin, enable me to hold my head up. That's the real meaning of discovering your true self, and is the real joy at the core of the Girly Dream.
All right. I'm not ruling out some crass challenge from a drunken oaf at this barbecue, or in the village pub. Let it come, if it comes at all. But somehow I don't think it will. I reckon that any man who is a real man will be far more interested in trying to make out whether I'm wearing a bra or not.
In fact, how amusing it will be, if all the male idiots there keep letting their eyes slip downwards. Tossers. Come on girls, another drink, and let's ignore them.