While I was working at the flower shop, I met quite a few interesting people. But none as memorable as Denise. Sweet, sassy, manly, Denise.
It was a Friday, late afternoon and I was about to get off work. At the time, I was in charge of helping customers when they came in . I would take orders, make arrangements and wrap things up for them. It was a pretty normal day, until Denise showed up. I heard the bell ring as the door slammed shut. I finished what I was doing and casually went out front to see if someone needed help. As I turned the corner I experienced feelings of confusion, curiosity, humor, confusion again and then acceptance.
Denise was very tall for a lady, maybe 6'4" or so. She wore a sandy blond, curly, shoulder length ladies wig and big glasses. Her glasses reminded me of Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie. She wore a floral print long skirt and sweater. She was wearing high heels, but not new and fashionable, think orthopaedic old lady shoes. She reeked of cigarettes and cheap perfume and carried a large purse.
She seemed uncomfortable and a little nervous. I smiled and greeted her. She uncomfortably smiled back and turned the other way. I asked if she needed any help and she simply nodded her to let me know not yet. I fiddled around the cash register for a while trying to figure her out without her noticing my stare.
Now, I am very gay friendly and have many friends that are "the gay", as my best gay friend would call it. I grew up in an environment where I just understood that men have men friends and sometimes we call certain friends "auntie Craig." So, seeing a man dressed as a woman should not have been such a shock to me. I think, rather, it was the fact that she was such a poorly done tranny that I was confused by the most. Of all the gay men I know, none would have ever been caught dead in her attire. If I can say one thing about gay culture, it is that you do it in style, honey. Snap snap.
To continue, as I watched from afar, I questioned whether or not she really was a man or woman. I noted the details.
1. Very tall
2. Obviously wearing a wig
3. Walks like a man.
The bad clothes, choice of purse and shoes really threw me off though. I couldn't get past it and that is what made me wonder if she was just a really manly woman. As she looked in the cooler for a long time I finally, after about ten minutes, asked her again if she found anything. She faced me and the moment that helped me make my final decision that she really was a man happened. She had an obvious five o'clock shadow and said in a raspy, Jewish, New York accent, "Yes, I am having a dinner party and I need a corsage to wear on the lapel of my blazer." And as she said 'blazer' she laid her large, hairy knuckled hand on her collar. That hand gave it away!! She had the biggest hands I have ever seen with long fake press on nails. Any self-respecting queen would have had her nails professionally done, but she had obviously gone with the Lee Press on Nails.
I smiled and contained the laughter inside me and proceeded to take her order. She was very nice and told me all about how she was having a dinner party and wanted a corsage to pick up the next day. I finished taking her order trying not to fall apart and wondering where the hell were all my co-workers to see this!! (At the time, I worked with three respectable gay men that would have died to see her!) We finished the transaction and she agreed to pick up her order the next day, which was Saturday.
As she left the shop, I near fell on the floor laughing. The minute the door slammed shut I let out a blast of air, as if I had been holding my breath under water for the last 10 minutes. I scurried around the corner to the back of the shop to find someone, anyone that could catch a glimpse of her to validate my thoughts that she was, indeed, a man in a dress. As I found the first co-worker, which was the manager, I blasted, "DID YOU JUST SEE THAT!?" A confused and dumbfounded response, "What? That lady?"he said. "No, THAT was NOT a lady! That was the worst drag queen I have ever seen!" I replied.
"No, that was a lady. I saw her." He was not convinced either. (This manager happened to be a veteran gay who probably had seen his fair share of drag queens in his day.) I couldn't believe it, they didn't believe me!
The next day, I had off so I made sure that the manager was aware of the order so he could see with his own eyes when she came to pick up her corsage. On Monday, when I returned, the first thing I said before I even got my coat off was, "So, did you meet Denise?"
As his face exploded with laughter, I knew he had the same realization as me. Turns out Denise had come back the next day in her just-as-bad outfit the next day and picked up her corsage, reeking of cigarettes and cheap perfume.
Denise became a long standing joke and loyal customer. She returned every once in a while, wearing bad clothes and smelling like a shady disco club. She was always very sweet and uncomfortable. She would lay her cigarette outside the flower shop door and pick it up and proceed to finish it after she left. She always came to order flowers for friends or dinner parties. I always wondered who she was having dinner parties with. Did her friends see her as absurd as we did? Why didn't they tell her? Or maybe they were also a bunch of men that dressed so obviously as women. Maybe they didn't care and that's what I loved about Denise. She was a man wearing a dress and wig God damn it and by God she didn't give a shit! She was living her life the way she wanted to and being the person that she wanted to be. She obviously didn't care what people would think of her and she was brave enough to embrace it. We should all look at Denise not with a smirk or giggle, but with admiration and envy because how many people can honestly say they are living their life exactly as they want to live it?
Where ever you are Denise, work it girl! Be yourself, honey and rock those orthopaedic shoes!