I need to take some exercise, but I also want to meet many more natal women. One obvious answer is a keep-fit class. But I've drawn a blank looking in the local papers.
When I invited my neighbour J--- in for a coffee this afternoon, I asked her how she would go about finding a local keep-fit class. Her suggestions were the internet, or simply looking at the stuff pinned up in the Village Hall, which is just across the park from me, and within easy walking distance. Job done then - nearly! I'll trot over to the Village Hall tomorrow, and find out what might be going on there. And I can do the same thing at other village halls within a few miles, although it'll be nice if I can find what I want on my doorstep.
There are also bound to be classes at the two leisure centres that I belong to, but the cost per session may be greater. I can check that out on the internet.
There is of course a problem in all this. Will I be accepted? It's one thing to walk confidently down any street in the country. Quite another to join a local class and fit in, especially if my face may already be known.
We discussed this. In June 2009 (when I moved back to the village after the death of my father) I went full-time, and was suddenly seen around the village in full female clothing. I was shopping for food, going to the doctor and dentist, doing things at the Post Office, and keeping the charity shops well-stocked as I cleared my parents' wardrobes. My presentation was OK, but far from perfect: there was little hormonal effect so far; hair removal had only just begun; I had no female voice. I never noticed any tongues wagging as walked by, but surely I must have been seen and discussed by dozens of local people. But, J--- pointed out, I would have been just a nine day wonder. People soon move on to other things to talk about.
And nowadays I would not be any kind of news at all. Indeed I'd be very surprised if anyone, apart from immediate neighbours, could recall what I used to look like. I'd expect to be taken as a middle-aged women in all circumstances, and treated accordingly.
But a credible appearance and voice is one thing. What about my lack of lifelong 'female background'? In between whatever aerobic gyrations we are put through, will I be asked about my marriage status, family, former job, the school I attended, current interests, and medical history? I'm thinking I might well be. I'm a chatty sort, not one to stay silent and say nothing; I intend to make friends; and once rapport is established, and we're swapping personal stuff, I'm going to be vulnerable to a lot of natural probing. So a decision has to be taken now: how much do I disclose about myself? I'm inclined to be completely frank, and if anyone has a problem with me, face that with honesty, and not be affronted or embarrassed or in any way negative. I'm sure that there will be fair-minded people in the class who will support me, if I stand my ground in a reasonable way. And if the situation is clearly not winnable, then I will try in a neighbouring village or town where I can be a little more anonymous.
Bottom line: I need exercise. I will find somewhere to go!
J--- thought, if I wanted women's society but not necessarily any exercise, that I should also try groups such as the Women's Institute. But I can't make jam, I said. She said go: it wasn't how I thought.
Perhaps I'll end up as a Calendar Girl.