The Teen Years: Water Balloons, Feather Boas and Parachute Pants, Oh My!

| Oct 1, 2018
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The year was 1982. A real watershed year for me. In May 1982 I turned 13. I was finishing up my school year. On my last day, I came home to the sight of moving truck making the final preparations for our big move back to Pittsburgh. It was a ship container that would hold all of our things plus one of our cars. A 1970 Buick Skylark, 350 engine, light yellow with a black vinyl top. We left our 1969 Chevelle in Hawaii. Somebody got a classic. I loved that car. 305 engine, blue with silver on the bottom. I still have dreams about driving it. I would love to have it back and restored. The container that was to take all of our possessions through the Panama canal and eventually to Pittsburgh, was a red, ridged, metal container that would go down to Honolulu Harbor to be loaded on a huge container ship with thousands of other containers.

We now had an empty house. I was so worried about my plastic military plane models I built. Would they survive all those miles? I packed them as best as a 13 year old could.  I was so sad to leave Hawaii as I said before. It was a different world and it sucked us all into that world. People are just a little bit looser and different there. Maybe it’s the trade-winds, maybe the fresh smell of plumeria everywhere, who knows. I know I was very upset at the thought of leaving this land that I now loved. I would miss playing war in amongst the palm and banana trees and vegetation, capturing chameleons and geckos, watching the F-4’s roar off the offshore runway while at the beach, The warm weather that lets outside play happen all year long, the sunsets over the mountains, but most of all, my friends. This would mark the second time in 3 years I have been ripped away from my friends and move far away. To a delicate kid like I was, this was very hard. I remember roaring down of the offshore runway at Honolulu International just like all of those F-4 Phantoms did. We always loved takeoffs when we visited other islands in the summers. The way it pushed you back in your seats. We pretended that we were Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica blasting out of the chute with our Colonial Viper. Whoooooosh!! This time however, I looked over at Honolulu harbor, the city, and the famous Diamond Head crater. As we banked away and the last sight of land disappeared, I became scared and sad. I knew this wasn’t a little summer vacation to Kauai or Molokai, I was leaving for good.

Leaving Hawaii was a huge event in my young life. I was still a very delicate, 13 year old boy. I was the oldest so I grew up slower. I probably had the maturity of a 10 or 11 year old at that time. One thing that helped soften the blow was that my parents planned a cross country trip after we landed in San Francisco. San Fran, the one and only! Little did I know where I was. I landed in Trans Central. The hotel was called The Manx. It was a far cry from The Outrigger hotel that we just left in Hawaii. It was dirty, cramped, with weird high ceilings and bad fixtures. We immediately went to another place after one night, I believe. The second event that shaped my life in that year was seeing my first transgender woman. Back then I guess that would be transvestite. (Shuddering with disdain for the retro terminology) We were walking up a hill, yes, a hill in San Francisco, what a concept. As she walked by us, I was staring at her intently. She was flamboyant. She was shakin’ it all over the place. Even me, a sheltered 13 year old, knew something was up. I can’t tell you what she was wearing exactly. I think there was a fuzzy or feather boa and funky glasses involved though. She was obvious.

It was 1982 in the middle of San Francisco, of course we were going to see some colorful characters. My Mom told me recently that I was staring at this woman so intently then. My eyes were “like saucers” she said. I KNEW this girl meant something to me. I was having ebbings toward this very thing. It was all so raw. It was a little more cohesively formed feeling than when I had the lion makeup on in the 2nd grade. I was able to process it a bit. I am not sure what I thought exactly. I just remember staring back at her as she shook it down the hill. After about 10 more seconds, a person ran at her and forced her into a store or an apartment. It was weird. My memory gets fuzzy at this point. What happened to her? Was she being hurt? Was that just a friend joking around? I am not even sure what I saw. I was just very confused? Why would someone come at her? What was going on? My Mom was saying something like, “Come on! Let’s Go, Don’t look, don’t look.” It’s all a little fuzzy from the years that have passed but yet, it happened. It all took maybe 45 seconds. I know my parents knew what ole’ San Fran was all about. It wasn’t that long since the late 60’s. I was born in 1969, a very pivotal and eventful year. It was the year of Woodstock, moon landings, The Sexual Revolution, Vietnam, The Stonewall Riots and Abbey Road.

 The rest of the trip was quite an adventure. We traveled to LA and Anaheim to Disneyland, traversed that desert at night to Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon, New Mexico, Texas, saw the St. Louis Arch, and finally meandered our way back to Pittsburgh. It was like going to another strange place. I knew it was “home” but it did not feel like it. It was humid, strange, fast, gray, hazy and scary. We spend the remaining weeks in a hotel waiting for our furniture to be delivered. Thank God for my younger brother. He was always with me. We got though going to Hawaii together, now we still had each other. We were very close. We are 4 years apart but he grew up fast and I grew up slow. We were perfect…then.

Soon, we moved back into out old suburban community. Gone were the 70’s, the block parties, and my friends. Oh, my friends were still around, but they found new friends that I had to share. I was so tentative to re-meet them. Things were so different. They had grown up. Two and a half years makes a difference. They were younger than me, but still they felt foreign.  I remember that day we came back. It was a hazy, overcast, warm, grey day in June. It took a while to get back into the swing. I had the summer at least before school started. The summer of 1982 was in full swing. Slowly, I got used to the new reality, but again, I found myself secluding into my bedroom more and more. I started to build a Sanctuary of sorts.

It turns out that this Sanctuary was going to be a very important hideaway for many years. In August, the thing that I dreaded was going to happen, 8th grade. It was 8th grade in a new place with all new people. I was scared all over again. I was not excited like some people. I always dreaded the first day of school. Always. School was just one more place that made me anxious that I had to get through somehow. I just did it. I never really had any run-ins or was bothered. I just kind of blended in and stayed out of trouble all the way till graduation. School years lasted forever in those days. They were downright interminable. I loved when I came home, back to my Sanctuary. There I could do whatever I wanted. I could play, listen to Styx, Michael Jackson and Survivor, read books, assemble car models, whatever I wished. I was so calm there.

It was the Fall of 1982, basketball season would be starting soon. My brother was very into sports. We played sports all of time in the playground fields and in our huge, flat back yard. He grew up fast playing with the bigger boys. He was a tough little thing. My Dad played basketball as a young man. He wanted to groom my brother to be a good player. My brother showed a real talent and energy. On Fridays, they would begin to go to the church gym where the basketball league played. I was a lost cause for basketball so my Dad concentrated on my brother, and I played soccer. I am not sure what Friday it was exactly, but my Mom started going out somewhere too on Fridays. So, that meant little old curious me was left alone. I must have had some thoughts all summer about what I was about to do. I made my way to my Mom’s drawer. I slowly opened it. It was like angels were calling out. I was all alone with a drawer full of pantyhose and such. I gravitated to the pantyhose. They just seemed so instantly transforming.

 I was a smart kid. My mind was clear and focused. It was dead quiet. I was listening for any sounds, anything at all. A small bump or a distant car door closing would immediately have me scurrying for the window and taking hold of the hose. Whew, all clear, it was just the stupid neighbor with their party. Doors opened and closed all evening. I remember the hugging feeling of the hose was overpowering. I felt so new and alive inside. Things were happening in my mind. It was an anxious, warm, tingly kind of feeling. I was heightened by the sheer fact that is was so wrong to do what I was doing. I found a leotard in later Fridays and used it with some blue tights and some water balloons. I was in heaven. I just would walk around and just…live. I did find some makeup also that I used. I was afraid to do too much because I had to be mobile, stealthy, on alert for someone returning.

I did get braver and braver as I went. I used to wander downstairs in the basement family room. That was a far run back to the bedroom to safety. It was thrilling. My heart beat hard for those 2 to three hours. One of the sounds that would prove to be my nemesis would be the Clink, rolllllllllllllll! The sound of the garage door opening. That sound meant imminent danger. Red alert, parents approaching! Then the feelings turned to a thrilling terror. I ran with all of my might up the stairs, flying into the bathroom and washing off my face and narrowly getting back into my room as my Dad and my brother came up the stairs. I can still feel the fear and the way my heart pounded. Back to the Sanctuary, I made it in. Only my thin, hollow bedroom door separated me from oblivion. I remember trying to calm down enough to answer them as my Mom or Dad knocked and asked why my door was closed. Trying to sound calm when you had just run up the stairs in a sheer panic was very difficult. It was usually a high, short “Oh, I don’t know.” Sheeeesh! That was the best you could come up with? It’s very hard to think when you are panicked.

Yes I loved my Friday nights, that is where the rubber met the road. All of the incidents and thoughts before this led to this point. I was actually doing something about it. I was putting on women’s clothes, and I loved it. It made me feel right inside. It took me away from all of the pressures of school, feelings of lost friends that I had to share now, missing Hawaii and my ideal life there, my Dad focusing on my brother and his basketball, and just being a delicate, scared kid in a very scary world. The world in my Sanctuary was not scary. It was thrilling and a bit harrowing at times, but not really scary. I would even laugh later about me running for my life up those stairs. As I got a little older, I got wiser. I had a good system. Things were rolling along. Whenever I got the chance, I did my thing. From that Fall in 1982 all the way to the Fall of 1990, age 13 to age 21, I followed the same pattern.

I did have only one incident where I was busted. At least that I knew about. I had a few things in a suitcase under my bed. It was a hard, blue suitcase, MY suitcase. I don’t know why my parents looked in there one day. There were pantyhose, I believe, the leotard, and maybe a bra. Two water balloons were also present at the crime scene. The CSI’s were investigating the scene. Agent Mom and Agent Dad. They called me in on a probable cause charge. After all, it was my suitcase. They questioned me at the station. They asked me why did I have these things in this suitcase. What were the water balloons for? My mind was racing. I needed a goodie right now. A whopper. I blurted out that I was going to throw them at my brother as a joke. Really? Okay, You have a bra, pantyhose and two water balloons in a hidden suitcase but, you were going to throw these at your brother? The mind of a young teen at work there. I was busted. However, they seemed to let it go. I don’t remember anything coming from it. It just kind of disappeared. Oh, I continued with my adventures after a cooling off period. The heat was getting too intense then. I had to lie low till to get the fuzz off my trail.

As I went through my teens, I did all of the things that teens do. I went to high school, I started dating a little but not much. I met my first girlfriend Kelly. Kelly could be an entire blog, but for brevity’s sake let’s just say she was memorable and she affected me greatly. I had my first kiss with her in March of 1986. It was the days of Miami Vice and parachute pants. It was actually the second kiss for me, but a girl kissing you in when you are 5 in the woods is not exactly a real kiss. The relationship with Kelly was always very hot and cold. Not because of me, but because of her home situation that I really didn’t understand. I was a raging hormone due to puberty. Yes the dreaded puberty. The introduction to secondary male sex characteristics. The poisoning had started although not as much as as could have been thanks to a little hormonal help. That story I will save for later.

I started driving when I was 17. I hung out and illegally drank alcohol. I caroused a bit, I ogled cheerleaders, I dated a few girls. None went longer than a few months if that. I was still very inexperienced sexually. That was saved for myself. I had taken care of all of that in a very safe environment. Sex was scary. I kept hearing my Dad say “Keep it in your pants!” So I did. I was scared to do anything else. Little did I know this would affect the rest of my life.

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Category: Transgender Body & Soul


About the Author ()

I am a transwoman originally from Pittsburgh, PA. I have been living full time for 5 years. I work in retail but am an artist/Graphic Designer and aspiring writer. I tend to address the controversial in my writing. I would love to change the world one article at a time. I moved to The San Francisco Bay Area to start over, again. But recently moved back to the East Coast. The adventure continues...

Comments (7)

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  1. Sophie Lynne Sophie Lynne says:

    I didn’t move around like you did- I just had few friends.
    Aside from that, our experience is similar. That waiting, listening, fear of getting caught.

  2. ChristyX ChristyX says:

    “The heat was getting too intense then. I had to lie low till to get the fuzz off my trail.”
    You had me laughing out loud at this! The Cops and robbers analogy was exactly how I felt about it. I was caught red handed in the till by my dad and they said nothing about it ever. It was an exciting and scary game. One time I was fully dressed. Wig and all. I must have looked ridiculous. But! I had an overwhelming need to go outside. So I went to get the mail from the mailbox at the end of my driveway, then back inside. I just had to do it. I never did that again after thinking about it. “Holy crap that was crazy.” Looking back it’s really funny.

  3. ChristyX ChristyX says:

    Wow! That is really well written. I can relate to most of your story. I started with pantyhose as well. I just grabbed it from the laundry basket as my mom was folding clothes. I was 9? The rest is fairly similar to your story. While I was reading I was transported back into my own life and brought back memories that I had forgotten about. Great story keep up the good work! I always enjoy reading your stories but this one made me finally join. Thanks

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