You never know the definition of “a step outside of your comfort zone” until you find yourself sitting in the front row of what is a cross between a mass party and an improvised drag show. There I was— a sheltered, oblivious 20-year-old girl in ill-fitting fishnets and a friend’s corset, trying to look as small as possible as I waited for the star of the show, the person I came to see.
For the sake of anonymity I’ll call him B. He was the best definition of a Gemini, even though he was an Aries. On one side he was sweet, helpful, and gentle; he was a Boy Scout and always went to the local blood drive. But the other side was the one that I knew about first. He was a wild child, a sexual deviant who slept around, a rule breaker, and he loved to go against whatever was normal. He was best known for his recurring role as Dr. Frank N. Furter at the college’s infamous cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at Purchase College, aptly named “The PoorChoice Picture Show.”
I started dating B about five months prior over the summer, and the best way to describe that early relationship was hesitant. After all that time, I was only then starting to put my guard down and get a little more intimate with him. I thought he was extremely sexy, stimulating, and interesting, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of being extremely intimidated by that side of him I didn’t understand. It was so far away from what I was used to, and so I avoided it.
But time was going by and we were both realizing that the distance wasn’t working. It wasn’t right for me to just keep him at arm’s length and avoid the rest of him. Halloween was coming around, he was getting ready for a big show, and it was my time to step up as a supportive girlfriend and see him perform.
To be honest, part of me was excited just like part of me was terrified. I’d seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show before, but there’s just another layer of it when the man you’re sleeping with is the one on stage in high heels mounting a finely-chiseled science experiment. I was curious, and I was eager to break down the wall between us. I even dressed up, and wore my nicest bra in case at some point I was compelled to take my shirt off.
Once I got there I was more intimidated than I think I've ever been. I had nervous jitters, and I kept looking behind the little curtain on the side stage for B. He wasn’t there for the first twenty minutes or so of the show.
When B finally made his entrance it was by swaggering up the aisle. He was done up perfectly, his hair curled and his face in full makeup. He looked totally different—I was so used to him in jeans and a Jack White T-shirt, I never imagined what he’d look like in garters and a corset (FYI, it was awesome). And while he was absolutely stunning, the most impressive thing to me was how confidently he wore it. It was like a second skin.
I realized that this costume was more or less the embodiment of that side of himself I had been so afraid of. It was the part that I didn’t know, and that I didn’t want to know. But something about being in that audience and watching him sing and dance totally numbed my fear. It wasn’t scary—it was fun. He was having fun, I was having fun, and everyone in the audience was having fun.
After the show it was like I was on a high. I met up with him backstage where he was helping put things away, and I couldn’t stop smiling. He looked worried that I would be scared, but that didn’t last very long. We ended up going back to my room and just talking and laughing, we had a few drinks, and I couldn’t get him to wash his makeup off before it ended up all over my pillow when we went to bed.
Now this was just a little part of his personality, an aspect of himself that didn’t define him, but was a definitive piece of who he was. But ignoring any part of him out of fear wasn’t fostering a healthy relationship, and of course I was totally missing out on this awesome experience.
Embracing all parts of him was probably the best thing I could’ve done for our relationship. There was no more awkward dancing around subjects, and no more hiding. I kept going to the Rocky shows, and I even started doing his makeup. Even when he stopped performing in Rocky Horror, he still likes to express that gender-defying side of himself every now and then with some nail polish or some fun makeup for the right kind of dance party. And I love that part of him—I love all parts of him. He trusts me, and I trust him.
Starting to accept life outside the box of gender norms was something that he showed me by his awesome rendition of a Transsexual Transylvanian, and even without him it’s like I’m breathing easier with that understanding. It’s not wild or crazy at all, it’s just different from the little square I was living in.
So the moral of the story; if your significant other likes to dress in drag on the weekends, it’s nothing to be afraid of. Try something new, and you may really like it.