Thrift Store Shopping: No One is Really Watching You

thriftstoreThough it takes some digging, thrift stores can be inexpensive goldmines for lady’s clothing. Shopping online cannot hold a candle to the organic beauty of thumbing through a rack of gowns and blouses. There is a downside, however, depending on your level of comfort with being “out.” Basically, everyone else in the store can see you shopping for women’s clothing.

Whether or not this actually bothers you, varies by the person. As for me, my transvestism is known as fact to a few close friends, comfortably assumed by several others, and is yet completely hidden from many more people. I live in a midsized town where word travels relatively quick. More than anything, my exploits have lead to an abundance of ambiguity about my sex and gender related interests. I’ve been seen in drag on a good number of occasions, but to most people it’s merely a side note to my larger reputation. Said reputation involves some business, some entertainment and a hell of a lot of social networking. Running into people most everywhere I go, I generally keep my transvestism on a matter-of-factly, need-to-know basis.

So how comfortable am I shopping for women’s clothing? Generally it depends on who is in the store. Living in a red state, scary mullet headed rednecks are commonplace and so are neo-con fratboys. I don’t need either kind of person kicking my ass on the way to my car because I bought a new skirt. Recently, however, I had an eye opening experience at the thrift store.

I had recently taken a job that allowed me to travel around the state. Naturally, I spent my downtime visiting up whatever local thrift shop was nearby. Being in an unfamiliar city always makes it easier to browse women’s clothing because if no one recognizes me, there will be no one asking awkward questions later. I found a few items of interest for cheap. A blouse, a sweater, a wig, a hat, a clip on hair extension and some make up at a wholesale outlet. All for about $25 total. When I got back to my town, the thrift shopping bug was still inside me and so I ventured down to a one of our locals.

Already inside were each of the aforementioned stereotypes. Not one, but two mullet headed (and overall wearing) rednecks, and also a keenly dressed black dude who may or may not have been a neo-con fratboy, but I wasn’t taking any chances. And so I stayed around the perimeter of the women’s section, in between sifting through old records and, when the coast was clear, making quick jaunts into the gowns and formal attire hung on high racks that I could hide behind. All the while I kept my eye on the rednecks and the black guy. The rednecks didn’t seem to notice me at all, but the black guy kept looking over at me, which 1) was uncomfortable and 2) seemed to reaffirm the possibility that he was of the judgmental kind.

I returned to the records and got my head engrossed in the 45’s. I looked back to check if I had the proper browsing opportunities and suddenly, it became quite clear as to why the black guy was watching me: He was watching me because I was watching him. And now that I was hung up on the 45’s, he took his own opportunity to do exactly what I had been waiting to do. He began exploring the women’s clothing! It was the same section I was waiting for as well.

It all became clear to me. He was no frat boy. What would a frat boy be doing in a thrift store anyway? He was but another transgender, like myself, watching out for what I was watching, just as I was doing the same to him. He didn’t care if I browsed the gowns because he was there for the same reason. There was even a point when I was browsing the formal attire on the high racks when he came around the corner (dong his own browsing), saw me and quickly, awkwardly changed direction.

As for the rednecks, I’m not sure if they were ever aware I was there. They never looked in my direction, let alone made eye contact. So the lesson here is that, aside from be cautious when letting our gender identities out to the people we do know, we should really pay no mind to those that we don’t know. Most everyone is there to shop…not people watch. If you do happen to find yourself under the observant scrutiny of a stranger, there’s a good chance it’s for the same reason you are scrutinizing them.

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