Today, I had what is by far THE weirdest retail-based experience EVER.
This beats outs the girl who tried on a prom dress over her pajama pants. This beats out the guy in the trench coat who came into the book store to tell us that he was going to report to Jay Leno that we were selling Maxim. This even beats out the couple who tried to have sex in an Aeropostale fitting room.
This was a late 50’s, early 60’s man with gray hair and a mustache who wandered into the store and was gingerly looking at the first rack. Now, a dude in a women’s clothing store is not at all un-common. We get a decent amount of sales from men coming in to pick out a gift for their lady. So I walked up to this little man and gave my usual man-ice breaker: “Shopping for a gift or Saturday night?” Usually they laugh and say a gift. This man did not.
Instead, he uncomfortably tells me that he’s participating in a fund raiser for his wife’s charity in which all the men dress up in drag for a fashion show, and then they auction the clothing off for the charity. With a red face, he shows me a smudged piece of paper with well-worn edges and a typed up list of all the things he needs to buy, including a mini skirt and blouse ensemble, a shorts and top outfit, and a formal gown. He also mentions about 6 times that he is absolutely mortified to be doing this, and that he can’t believe he agreed to do this. I smile, tell him that he’s a wonderful husband, and tell him that if he’ll have a seat I’ll take his list and pick him out some clothes. He smiles nervously and sits on the edge of one of our chairs and jiggles his leg.
Now, here’s where I should probably mention that it has been pointed out, on many occasions and by many people, that I am incredibly naive.
Which is why I probably should have been suspicious when he began showing interest in our gold sequenced bustier.
I probably should have been suspicious when he tried on the clothing in full pantyhose, panties, corset, and strapless bra with breast inserts.
I probably should have been suspicious when he tried on the clothing in a brunette wig and a pink neutral mask painted to look like a woman’s face.
And I probably should have been suspicious when he asked me to take a picture of him with a Kodak disposable camera in 2 different outfits, “because his wife wanted him to prove that he’d actually tried everything on.”
But I wasn’t.
Instead, I told him that the bustier looked better than the red halter.
I went and got him a size 10 dress when the size 8 was too tight.
I complimented the flowers painted on his toenails.
I helped him into a complicated blouse.
And when he handed me 2 outfits, a dress, and a pair of shoes, I rang up his purchase while he changed back into his man-clothes.
He emerged from the fitting room, told me that he had to go to his car to get his wallet and take out some cash, and left the store. 15 minutes later, he returned. He asked if I had his list still, and began inquiring where he might go to purchase other items: a one-piece bathing suit, a nightgown and robe, and the like. I gave him some suggestions, and he thanked me, turned, and walked briskly out of the store, leaving his $600 sale wrapped up and in its shopping bag and me behind the counter, speechless.
He never came back. His name was Paul.
The whole experience left me a little freaked out. Not because it was a dude in women’s clothing; that doesn’t even begin to bother me. Come on people, I went to a fine arts college; helping a male friend of both orientations shave their legs and navigate a new pair of hose was not unusual for a Friday night. In my dance supply days I sold tights to drag queens and one of my best clients last month was a lovely blonde transvestite. I know men that walk in heels like a pro, with bodies that put mine to shame.
No, what freaked me out was that he was deviant about it, that he lied to me about his purpose. If he’d walked up to me and said, “Hi, I’d like to see what I look like in a dress,” I would have smiled and recommended a halter. (Because with wide shoulders like that, a strapless gown would make him look like a linebacker.)
But instead, he fed me that story about doing it for his wife’s charity, which preyed on my desire to nurture him and my romantic notions about what a man will do for love. Kyle says that lying to me was probably a part of the thrill. I wonder if maybe he wasn’t just ashamed of his desires. Whatever the reason, I did everything in my power to make him as comfortable as possible. I waited at his beck and call, ready to fetch anything he might need. I worked quickly, so as to help him make decisions faster. I praised him over and over again for being such a selfless and devoted husband. And I felt sorry for him. I admired him. And I thought how lucky his wife was to have such a wonderful husband. I resent, more than anything, that I was emotionally manipulated so that this man could get his kick. I certainly haven’t any right to judge how a person gets their tickles, but I don’t want my manipulation to be a part of the process.
So Paul, wherever you are, I hope that it was just your discomfort over what you were feeling that lead you to lie to me. And I hope that you’re one day able to come to terms with yourself, whatever that may be. And I hope that when you do, you’ll come back and do some proper, shame-free shopping.
Because you look damn good in a halter dress.