I Am Woman

I Am Woman
By Barbara Lynn Terry

(Author’s note: All song references and lyrics, are the property of Helen Reddy, the original artist, and Ray Burton and their recording company, Capitol Records. Barbara Lynn Terry)

Chapter 1 - Here she comes.

“I am woman, hear me roar …”

I woke up to the smell of eggs, bacon and heard the toaster pop up. We were having a full and complete breakfast. I got up, threw on my robe and stepped in to my slippers. I went in to the kithen, our apartment was a three bedroom, with full kitchen, dining room living room and a spacious bathroom. Yes, it cost over a thousand dollars a month to live here in the upper, upper middle class.

We could aford it, though, and then some. Mom worked for, dare I say it? Oh! Okay, you twisted my arm far enough. Uncle! Uncle! I said Uncle! Mom was actually a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She made good money and she had excellent retirement benefits. In this day and age, it seems the only lucrative jobs are with the federal government.

O M G, where are MY manners? I am Jay Hawkins Andrews. I am twelve going on thirteen. In fact, I will be thirteen on December 24. Yes, I am a Christmas Eve baby. There is something I have wanted since like forever, and a day. I have always wanted to be the … no … you would just make fun of me. So, I can’t tell you.

I went in the kitchen, poured myself a glass of milk and a glass of orange juice. Mom, dished up the food and set it in front of me. I sat there eating, taking small bites; almost a nibble, with each mouthful. I like to have peanut butter on my toast and a little jam. I spread the peanut butter and the jam, and ate my toast. Twenty minutes later, I was finished eating.

“Jay, dear, I have to go in to work today. I am not sure how long I will be, so I am laving the house key with you. I have a spare if I get home and you’re not here.”

“What is it mom? Did somebody do something wrong, again?”

“Honey, you know I can’t tell even you about what I do at work. That is for your own safety. Anyway, I just wanted to make sure you had your breakfast before I leave. I will be back as soon as I can.”

She kissed me on my forehead, and then taking her purse, she left. I watched out of the window as a black government car picked her up in front of the house. As far as everyone in the neighborhood was concerned, she was just an office manager in the Department of the Interior.

Left by myself, I decided to go and hang out with my friends. I got my coat and gloves, and headed for the bus stop. Even though we had a car, mom always got picked up when she had to go to work. I was too young to drive, so I had to take the bus when mom wasn’t home. Not many places anymore will let you hang out at their restaurant, but there was this one Bob Evans restaurant, that as long as were buying something, they let us stay and hang out with each other.

If we were told that they needed the booth space because it was a busy day, we would go by one of our houses. When mom was at work, there was nothing in the house anybody could find to say what line of work she was in. So, we all hopped the bus, and went to my house.

There, we would watch television, have a few sodas, and maybe heat up a few fries in the french fryer. It was just like hanging out at Bob Evans, except we didn’t have to pay the bill. Carl Mann was in my class at school, but, since today was Saturday, there was no school. His father worked for the government, too. Carl was a happy go lucky type, who always had something funny to say. Nobody laughed at Carl, but instead, we laughed with him. He would make a great stand up comic when he grows up.

The group was Stanley Hopper, Bobby Gaines, Sheila Hopper, Joey Dobkins, and Wesley Rand.

We all had been friends since we were all in the same pre school. Sheila was the actual brains of our little group. She has come up with a lot of interesting things to do. Like today, she wanted to go mall hopping. We said that would be okay, and we left for the mall. I left a note for mom, telling her where I was, in case she came home, and I wasn’t there. I also told her who I was with. Mom liked my friends, because they had manners and respect.

All of our parents worked in the federal government, at one level or another. Joey’s father was an attorney, and worked in the U.S. Department of Justice. Sheila’s mother was a secretary in the Department of the Treasury. Wesley’s father worked for NCIS* in the Quantico, Virginia headquarters. Director Traver** has been to Wesley’s house many times. Director Traver and Deputy Director Worth*** have been to Wesley’s house one time, when I was invited over to spend the weekend. They were talking freely without being in a room with a closed door. Of course, our families all knew our parents worked in the federal government.

Chapter 2 - “ … hear me roar …”

We all had fun, but my friends knew there was something bothering me. I couldn’t tell them, because they might not understand. If I told them, they may never have anything to do with me again. So, I had a dilemma. Do I dare tell them, or do I just let this sit inside of me, forever? What do I do? What can I really do about this?

Finally, Sheila took me aside and told me I was not leaving until I told her what was bothering me. I told her I couldn’t tell her, or anybody, because people would make fun of me. She promised she would not make fun of me. She said she didn’t care if I was gay, transgender, or a secret axe murderer. I looked at the floor, and said:

“Sheila, you are all my best friends. I don’t want to lose you. We have known each other ever since pre school. If I told anybody what was bothering me, I … don’t know … uhm … what I … uhm … would … would do.”

“Listen to me, girlfriend. If you think you can put me off, because you are scared to tell anybody, then you need a BFF that can keep a secret. Tell you what, let’s pinky swear. That is the most inviolate pact two girls can have with each other. So, come on, girlfriend, let’s pinky swear.”

It must have shown on my face, because that was when she told me that her brother was transgender. But, they have to keep it quiet, or they could use that to get information from her mother.

“Sheila, if you know, why do you want me to tell you?”

“So you can get out of your system. Bring it out in the open. Listen, the guys are very concerned about you. The way you have been moping around, made me look a little closer at you. What I saw, I knew what was bothering you. I just had to wait for an opportunity to talk to you. Now, if you don’t want the guys to know about this, that is all right. We pinky swore, so you know I won’t tell them. That will be up to you.”

“But, I …”

“No, buts, girlfriend. You have to get it out in the open. We have been through a formal education that most middle school students don’t even know about. I want you to tell the group, but I also want you to take your time.”

We talked like we were fifteen, because our education was in private schools that was owned by the United States government, and operated by the Secretary of the Interior. Because of that, we were taught how to talk in a certain tone. Yes, I am twelve, going on thirteen, but this is October, and Christmas is not that far away.

Sheila likes to say what she means. But, there are things she doesn’t really know about. For instance, the reason I am bothered. She is right about one thing, though. I do have to bring what is bothering me, out in the open, to get peace of mind.

Tomorrow is the beginning of November, then we will have one month and twenty three days until my birthday. So anyway, I was thinking about making my problem come out on my birthday. No, I don’t wear my mother’s clothes, and I don’t experiment with makeup. But, I do have a secret wish. My birthday would be the proper day to bring it out.

“Sheila, my birthday is on December 24th, I think that is the proper day to bring my problem out in the open.”

“I think so, too.”

The Halloween decorations were taken down, and now we will decorate the house with Thanksgiving decorations. Some of the Halloween decorations were used, like the scarecrow, hay bundles. Cardboard turkeys, cardboard Pilgrims and Indians were also used.

When the decorating was done, we sat down and told stories of how the Pilgrims came to this continent. We told stories of how the Pilgrims went from England to Amsterdam, and then to Leiden, the Netherlands. We told how the Pilgrims stayed for a while in Leiden, and then sailed for America in 1620 when they landed on the shore of the new land, and established Plymouth Colony on the site of an abandoned Wampanoag village. The Wampanoag were the native people of the area.

They communicated with the Pilgrims and established a treaty with each other. All through November we told these stories right up until Thanksgiving. The first Thanksgiving was just that. A feast with invited Wampanoag indians and the Pilgrims.

So, yes, back to my dilemma. I had to think of a way to bring it out in the open. Why I was so mopy? Well, I have a little over a month to think about it.

Mom was still at work when I got home. I had made my apologies, telling my friends that I didn’t feel good. I sat down on the sofa and turned on the tv. I want to watch something that would perk me right up. I liked watching Lifetime, because they had very romantic movies. So I turned to the Lifetime channel, to see what was on. There was this movie on about this bride to be who falls in love with the female florist.

I didn’t see the name, but it was interesting. After this movie was over, I surfed the channels again, and found the movie, “A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Arrojo Story. (Did I spell that right?) Anyway, I watched the movie and the battles that Gwen had with her mother. Then at the very end, she finally accepted Gwen for who she really was. I should have found a funny movie, because this movie put me right back where I started this morning.

As the month of November went flying by day by day, I kept a tight hold on my dream, my secret, my … I want to be a girl!!! I screamed. I don’t know where that came from, but it just came out. It was at that moment mom decided to come home.

“Dear, let’s talk. I heard what you screamed. I think they even heard you in Timbuktu. That is a very ancient city in Mali. That is in Africa. So, Jay, why did you screm ‘I want to be a girl’?”

“I’m not sure mom. I think it has to do with my every day moping around I do, when I am with my friends.”

“Is this something that you really want? See, dear, we only scream things like that in desperation, because we think our situation is hopeless. We feel that no one will understand. So, I will ask again. Is this something that you really want?”

“What if I said yes, mom? What would you say, or, what would you do?”

“So, are you saying yes?”

“I … I …” I trailed off in a flood of tears. Mom held me close to her and said in a soothing voice.

“Dear, if this is what you want, I can have you see Sheila Van Brandt. She is a psychotherapist that works with our office. You see, dear, sometimes we get a suspect that will not listen and makes remarks that are right up Sheila’s alley. So, we call her from time to time. I will tell you what I will do. I will make an appointment for you to see her. When you see her, just be yourself. She will not judge you. But, she will listen to you and talk with you.”

“Mom, I don’t know. I guess it will be all right.”

“Good. Now, go and wash your face and hands. We are going to go out to eat. I feel like Italian tonight. How does that sound, Jay?”

“That sounds good to me.”

I washed my face and hands, and changed in to a different shirt. I went back in the living room, and I got my coat, gloves and boots. Yes, we needed all of that, because during the night it snowed. There wasn’t much on the ground, but it was wet. So, winter outer wear was necessary.

We went out to the car. Mom checked the air in the tires, the oil and all of the other fluids. Deeming the car fit to run on the streets, hehehe, we got in the car and buckled up. She started the car and we were off to Filomena Ristorante.**** Mother went here often for business lunches with agents of different agencies, so they could coordinate their efforts in a given situation. Filomena’s is located on Wisconsin Avenue, NW, in Washington DC. They have the finest Italian food in the area. Depending, of course, on who you talk to.

Mom pulled in to the parking lot, and we found a space. Mom joked that the only reason we found a parking space so quickly was because someone was sick. We both giggled, then went in the restaurant, or in Italian, Ristorante. We were shown a booth by the hostess and we sat down. The hostess told us our waiter would be right with us, and she gave us our menus.

I looked at my menu, and there was a lot to choose from. I didn’t realize that mom had made this reservation a month ago. Yes, because Filomena’s is a very popular restaurant in the Washington, DC area, you need a reservation. I ordered the Linguini Cardinale and mom ordered the Ravioli Di Chiacchieri. Mom and I had milk with our orders.

We sat there eating our meal, at first in silence, then mom started the conversation.

“What we talked about, Jay, at the house. How do you feel about it?”

“Like somebody backed up that semi that ran me over. Sheila Hopper said I would feel better if I got it out in the open. I had wanted to wait until my birthday to tell you, but, I guess I goofed.”

“No, Jay, you did not goof. You were just being you in a frustrated manner. Because you were frustrated, you screamed it out, hoping that would help. Did it help?”

“I didn’t have time to think about it. You came home at that time.”

“Well, we will see what Sheila Van Brandt has to say.”

Sheila Van Brandt was a psychotherapist that adheres to the Sullivan Principles. She has been a psychotherapist for eleven years, and in that time, she has talked to many a federal suspect in to surrendering.

“Alright, mom, we will see.”

Chapter 3 - “… in numbers to big to ignore,
“ and I know too much to go back to pretend.”

We finished our meal, and then mom paid the bill, leaving ten per cent for the tip. We then went out to the car, and instead of going home, mom headed for the mall. The mall was The Shops At Georgetown Park. ***** When we got in the mall, we headed for the J. Crew shop. They have many excellent clothes there. But, J. Crew’s clothes are not cheap, or even moderately priced. But, then, mom always says you get what you pay for.

We headed for thr women’s department, and there mom was looking at different dresses, skirts, culottes, and shorts. I wasn’t thinking too clearly, until I heard mom ask me.

“Honey do you think this would look good on you?”

I must have turned several gazillion shades or red, pink, maroon, and back to red again. I knew I was embarrassed because I could feel the heat in my face.

“I … uhm … don’t know … uhm … mom.”

By the way I hesitated when I answered her, she thought that maybe I should try on a few skirts and dresses. I did as she told me, and when I stepped out of the changing booth, she said I looked as pretty as an angel.

“At least we know your sizes. Next we need to get you lingerie. So let’s go find a store that sells mainly slips, panties, stockings, and you won’t need a bra for another year, yet. Mom paid for the skirts and the two dresses, and we went to another shop.

We found a shop that sold everything from panties to that see through robe women wear over their nightgowns. What was that called again? A penwar. Oh well, I never was too good at pronouncing French women’s wear. The only French name I could spell and pronounce is Coco Chanel.

So, anyway, we went in to this little shop. Their panty and bra sets were expensive. One set that was maroon in color and had lace around the bra cups and the waist and leg openings of the panty, was sixty four dollars. We looked around the shop, and we found several pairs of panties, five half slips, five full slips, a dozen mpair of silk, thigh high stockings, and then she turned her attention to sleep wear.

Unless I miss my guess, mom wanted me to wear these clothes full time. I wonder just how my friends would react, if they saw me dressed like a girl. I just wonder. Well, mother paid for the lingerie and sleepwear, and we left the store. Now mom said, I needed shoes.

“Uhm, mom? I’m only going to wear these clothes in the house. Right?”

“Jay, I want to try a little experiment. I want you to go to the supermarket with me, dressed entirely like the girl you want to be. Let’s see if anybody can spot you as a boy in a dress. I am willing to bet nobody will, or even can. When we get home, I want you to take a bubble bath. Then when you are finished, I want you to dress in the clothes I laid out for you. Then I will take a Polaroid camera shot, and show you the picture. I want you to tell me what you see.

So, we left the lingerie shop, and we headed to Comfort One Shoes.****** They have a lot of nice shoes and boots there. Of course, once we got there and I saw the prices, I thought that this was a millionaire’s shoe store. These shoes and boots cost a small fortune.

“Hello, I’m Joan. May I help you find something?”

“Yes, Joan, I need three pair of casual shoes, two pair of dress shoes, and two pair of dress boots for the winter, for my daughter.”

“Alright, ma’am. Young lady, please sit down and we will measure your feet.” She put my foot on this measuring thing, and looked at the length and width of my foot. “A size six. How old are you?”

“I’m twelve going on thirteen. I will be thirteen on December 24th.”

“Well, you are lucky to wear a small size like a six. I wear a seven myself. What is your name, dear?”


“Okay, let me go and get a few pair and see if you like them.”

She disappeared in the back, and was gone for maybe six minutes. When she came back, she had several pairs of shoes and a few pairs of boots.

“Alright, let’s start with these.” She put the first pair on my feet, and told me to walk around a bit. When I sat back down, she asked me how they felt.

“They feel very good.”

“Okay, would you like to buy this pair?”

“Yes, Joan, we will take that pair. Let’s see more of what you brought out from the back.”

The next pair was another pair of casual shoes, in a different style.

“Let’s try these on, then.” After she put them on my feet, she asked to walk around again.

“Do those feel good, too?”

“Yes, they feel very good. They don’t hurt my feet.”

“We will take those, too, Joan. We will also take that maroon pair, there, too. Let me see the boots now.”

She had brought out four pairs of dress boots. I tried on all four, and mother opted for two of the four. Well, I had just about everything. I didn’t need a wig, because my hair was shoulder length. The next store we went to was a jewelry store. Mom told me that a girl always wears a necklace of one kind or another, and has her ears pierced.

Having my ears pierced, was the no return to boyhood line. Having both ears pierced is a tell tale sign of femininity. Even when guys have both ears pierced, their earrings are of a more masculine style. So, mom had the lady at the jewery counter pierce my ears. She put the studs in the holes mom had selected. Mom then bought a few pairs of hoop earrings, and a few pairs of dangling earrings.”

With our shopping done, mom headed for home. This was the last day I would be wearing scratchy, heavy, plain, boys clothes. Marcie Jane Andrews was born on this day.

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