I’m a great fan of public transport. Especially in Ireland. Not because there’s anything at all regular or dependable about it, but because of the conversations that just happen and the characters that use it.
On Friday, I was heading to the airport. I sat in beside an older blonde and paid little attention. I turned on my kindle and started to read. Three pages in, she spoke.
– Are you going the whole way?
– I am, I said. To the airport.
– I’m only going as far as the Red Cow myself. I’m on my holidays – over from the West of Ireland.
– Nice, I said. I hope you enjoy.
And I went back to my book. Two pages later, she piped up again.
– I suppose you can tell by me that I’m a crossdresser.
Yup – I’d clocked the nails, the hair, the dress, the tights, the earrings and I’d also clocked the tufts of grey hair that did nothing for the decolletage.
– You’re looking well on it. Have you been at it long?
– A fair few years. Men weren’t built for trousers you know. The Scots and the old boys had it right. Skirts are far more comfortable.
– How do you manage the make-up?
– I had to get a few tips at the start, but today I’m only wearing the nail varnish and a bit of lippie, he said, brandishing his shocking pink nails.
– And the heels? Can you cope with the heels?
– I stay low. I leave the heels to the young ones, he said, showing me kitten-heeled sandals.
– What did your family have to say about it all?
– Sure the wife didn’t mind. She’s gone now though. And the in-laws don’t mind either. I don’t go out dressed up at home – just when I’m on my holidays. Ireland’s come a long way, though. We’re a lot more accepting and a lot more tolerant of those who’re a bit different. But sure, we’re doing no one any harm. And life is too short to be miserable. Far too many of us stay home, afraid.
He had to have been in his late 60s, tipping 70. A man from the west of Ireland, from a small town that might be less than charitable in its thinking if he felt he had to get away for a few days half a dozen times a year, to be anonymous, to be himself. But fair play, I thought, fair play. A lesser man would never have brought it up or gotten into conversation. It was good to hear that for the most part, the people he met reacted well and had the manners to tell him he was looking grand. That said, had he being going the whole way to the airport, I might just have suggested a wax, a scarf, or a higher neckline. I’m not sure how he’d have reacted. I’m grateful though that I didn’t get the chance to find out. I love being home.