hen I was managing the shop in Studio City, I never knew who would walk in through the door. I had regular customers as well as a constant flow of men who were taking their first trembling, awkward steps to affirming or exploring womanhood. A few hard core fetishists, gawkers and tranny chasers made my days interesting. I managed the Studio City, California branch of a national chain that sold products and services to the crossdressing and trans community, but my job entailed more. I was confessor, confidant, stylist, diplomat, dominatrix, facilitator, drag mother, shopgirl, makeup artist, and most often, the psychological equivalent of a Paramedic, handing out the numbers of the LA Gender Center and other reputable therapists to sobbing boys who were finally coming clean to Someone Who Understood. Studio City was an unlikely location for the shop. It is an upscale bedroom community for Film Industry types as well as other Mercedes Benz target consumers, but there we were, like an accepted eccentric family member. The shop was an historic relic of the days when it shared a parking lot with the Queen Mary Show lounge, the grand dame of all drag bars with a show in the front and a bar full of trans folk in the back. The shop had always been a hub for the transformation and makeover process, and now I was managing it for the new owner.
It was a slow Friday night in early winter, just before the Holidays. The door buzzer went off, and a small, slender woman wearing jeans and a blue peacoat walked in.The Valley was cold that night; down in the forties; she wore a knit lavender scarf and a cute knit beanie which she shyly took off before speaking. Her hair was a short, soft looking blonde fuzz. “HI, you sell wigs here, don’t you?” There were wigs all around us, on foam heads. “Yes!” I said, enthusiastically and affirmatively. I held out my hand; “I’m Darya; what can I help you with?” She took my hand in both of hers and a smile broke across her face.”So nice to meet you, Darya…My name is Julie.” she looked around the shop. “It looks like you have fun stuff here...” “Most of my clients are boys who want to become girls” I said,” so yes…we have lots of fun here.” Her face lit up even more.”Really? That’s so cool! You must have stories...” I told her I did. She paused for a moment, and stared off into space. She pulled a bottle of water from her large bag and took a long drink. “I’m recovering from breast cancer. The holidays were horrible last year.” She had beautiful light blue eyes I now saw for the first time, and they were looking deep within mine to find my reaction. “it was just a week ago that my results came back clean; I’m in
remission for now.” “Wow, I said…that’s great!” I honestly didn’t know what else to say. “Thank you”. She said it with a beautiful half-smile. I could tell she meant it. “I have two holiday parties to go to, and I want to celebrate. The high end wig shops I’ve gone to treat me like a patient and not a customer...almost like I’m not even a woman anymore...” Her eyes were tearing up and I gave her a tissue. She began to laugh. “I’m not crying because I’m sad, I’m crying because I’m really pissed off!” We both laughed together at that one; she grabbed my hand. “Honest to God...” she said “People are so weird about cancer...they forgot I was human, and start doing this weird patronizing shit…” she shook her head “...they tried sell me a goddamn thousand dollar wig, and all the time looking over anxiously at my husband for his approval, as though I was a goddamn invalid, as if I had no...” She looked up at me and didn’t finish her sentence. “I want to have fun, you know? I’m alive.” “Our most expensive wig costs a lot less than a thousand dollars…” I said, “...but I do kind of a hard sell.” She laughed again. I motioned for her to sit down in front of the makeup mirror in our well worn swivel stool with a chair back. “I’ve got this blue velvet dress for this one party. I want to look cute.” I grabbed a few of our best selling wigs
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