Theresa Part 25 by Hebe Dotson

| May 26, 2008
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Theresa graphicThe Story So Far (TGF subscribers can read earlier installments. Search on “Theresa”.): Alan has assumed the full-time identity of Theresa “Terri” Sayers, single mother. Terri has taken a day job in a department store. She’s begun to have a little good luck in her professional life, too, winning major roles in way-off-Broadway plays. More good luck: the insurance company has made a settlement for Sandy’s death, enough for Jessica’s education — and Terri’s sexual reassignment surgery! Plastic surgeon Ian Sterling accepts her as a patient and begins her medically supervised hormone treatments. Her surgery is tentatively scheduled to take place a year later; she argues for an earlier date, but Dr. Sterling makes no promises. Professionally, she’s in rehearsal for the role of Thérèse/Tirésias in a new translation of an old Dadaist play, Les Mamelles de Tirésias. Eddie has come home for the Christmas holidays, and he and Terri have gone out to see the New Year in at Times Square. So has everyone else in New York, and Eddie invites Terri to his parent’s apartment (they’ve gone to East Hampton for the night) to welcome the New Year in comfort. A little champagne, a little dancing, a little smooching, a little disrobing…and a big shock for everyone as Mr. and Mrs. Roberts, who have had car problems, return home.

The Roberts family evacuated their living room en masse to give me privacy while I reassembled myself and, I supposed, to interrogate poor Eddie. I dressed quickly and slipped into the bathroom to comb my hair and repair my makeup before following the sound of raised Roberts’ voices into the kitchen. The uproar stopped abruptly as I entered, and three pairs of eyes — one nervous and somewhat lovesick, one sad, and one angry — focused on me

“It’s my fault, not Eddie’s,” I said. “I encouraged him.”
“No, it’s my fault,” Eddie said. “She had too much champagne. I shouldn’t have done it — but I couldn’t stop myself.”
“Alan, is that really you?” Mrs. Roberts asked.
“Yes, ma’am.”
Theresa graphic “Oh, you poor thing.”
Mr. Roberts just stood there, huffing and puffing and emitting occasional clouds of steam, but saying nothing.
I couldn’t think of anything to say, but my mouth opened and a marvelously cogent thought emerged. “Well, I suppose I should be going.”
“I’ll walk you home,” Eddie said.
“You’ll do no such thing,” his father fumed. “She — he can walk himself home.”
“Dad! I’ll be right back. It’s only a few blocks.”
“You won’t be right back because you’re not leaving.”
“Look, Dad — I’m twenty-two years old and —”
“I can walk myself home,” I said. “Goodnight.” I went back to the living room and found my coat. The kitchen debate continued.
“Henry,” Mrs. Roberts said. “She can’t be out on the street alone at this hour.”
“He is not a she.”
“Well, he can’t be out alone looking like that. You can drive him home. The car’s all warmed up.”
“Drive him home? I’ll lose my parking place!”
“That’s all right. You drive him home.”

Muttering to himself, Mr. Roberts stomped out of the kitchen to get his coat. “All right, let’s go!” he called from the foyer. “I want to get to bed sometime tonight.”

He didn’t speak a word to me until we pulled up in front of my apartment building. “Now, listen to me, young man — young woman — whatever you are,” he said then. “You always were a bad influence on my son. Keep away from him.”
“Goodnight, Mr. Roberts,” I said. “I hope the rest of your year is better.” He drove off as soon as I closed the car door.

Less than two hours into the year in which I would cease to be a man, I was already a fallen woman, instructed never again to darken Mr. Roberts’ door.


Eddie called me the next evening from Los Angeles. “I’m sorry, Terri; I really am. I don’t know what got into me.”
An unrequitable desire to get into me, of course. “Don’t worry about it, Eddie. We didn’t do anything I didn’t want to do.”
“Partners in crime,” Eddie said. “Just like the old days.”
“Just like the old days,” I agreed.
“Dad was really pissed. He lost his parking space and had to park three blocks away.”
Good! “That’s too bad. He should have let you walk me home.”
“That’s the most lascivious ‘yeah’ I ever heard.”
“Second most.”
He laughed. “It was great to see you. Will I see you again?”
“Not if your dad has anything to say about it.”
“He doesn’t have to know. Why don’t you come out here?”
“Lots of reasons.”
“For instance?”
“Jessie, for one. I’m in a play, for another. I hope to be in more plays. I have a day job, too. My doctor is here. I can’t afford it. Need any more?”
“No; that’s plenty. Well, I may be in New York again fairly soon, on business. Can I call you?”
“Great! Terri?”
“I think about you a lot. Should I?”
“I don’t know, Eddie. That’s a tough question.” Why did life have to have so many tough questions? I was beginning to feel overwhelmed.
“Do you think about me?” Eddie asked.
“Oh, now and then.”
“Not constantly?” He sounded disappointed.
“Eddie, dear — when I think about you, I have to ask myself what I should be thinking about you, and that’s another tough question. So tough I have to stop thinking about you.”
“We both need to think about a lot of things before we see each other again.”
“I guess so. Well, I’ll put my thinking cap on, and I’ll call you again as soon as I know when I’m going to New York.”
“I—uh—I think I may be in love with you.”
“Oh, Eddie. You’d better do a lot more thinking before you decide that.”
“How do you feel?”
“I don’t know, Eddie. Let me maintain a mysterious silence on that one—for now.”
“Okay. For now.”

I had to take stock of my life again. I had too many things to contend with — childcare, my in-laws, my parents, my day job, my career, and SRS. And now Eddie. He couldn’t be in love with me. Not now. Not yet. It wasn’t rational. But when was love ever rational? I’d been in love a time or two myself, and that had been the height of irrationality. How did I feel about Eddie? I just didn’t know.


Men! Eddie wasn’t the only one. I had come to the attention of Mr. Gentlemen’s Shoes at Sutter & Lansdowne. He was a good-looking guy, three or four years older than I was. He was trying hard to date me and I was fending him off, gently but firmly. I didn’t have time to cultivate any new relationships just then, and I especially didn’t want to cultivate this one, since my supervisor had advised me that there was a Mrs. Gentlemen’s Shoes in Queens.

I had also begun to encounter the casting couch phenomenon as I auditioned for parts in plays to follow Les Mamelles. “How about a drink later so we can discuss your approach to this role?”—”This bar is rather noisy; we can talk much better at my place.”

I wouldn’t have gone that route even if I could have; I learned to smile sweetly and murmur regretfully that I simply had to relieve my baby-sitter. Unfortunately, this seemed to reduce my theatrical opportunities somewhat. Men! I was so glad I wouldn’t be one much longer.

Les Mamelles de Tirésias opened on January 9. I haven’t said much about this play because it’s hard to figure out what to say (the critics had problems, too). Thérése/Tirésias is definitely not a role for a Method actress — it’s better for someone more attuned to Madness. I nearly died when I first saw the script and I almost backed out of the play, but I needed the money and the experience and I decided I could handle it. I’m glad I did, because it was fun — the cast was young and high-spirited, and none of us took the play seriously.

In a nutshell, Apollinaire was concerned about the low birthrate in France at the start of the twentieth century and his play was intended to be outrageous, amusing, and thought provoking. Thérése is a self-proclaimed feminist who wants to do anything and everything except make meals and babies. After announcing this, she instantly becomes a man — she grows a beard and opens her blouse to let her red and blue mamelle-balloons pop out and fly away. Her husband appears and thinks this strange bearded man has murdered Thérése and put on her clothes. He fights with her and she wins the struggle. She tells him that she really is Thérése, but she’s a man now and needs a manly name — Tirésias. She undresses herself, puts her skirt on her husband, ties him up, dresses herself in his trousers, cuts off her hair, and goes off to do great masculine deeds. A policeman appears and unties the husband, remarking many times that he is a very pretty girl. That makes sense to the husband — since his wife is now a man, it’s right that he should be a woman. He proceeds to give birth to 40,049 babies in a single day. And on it goes…

It would be a slight exaggeration of the facts to say that the public nearly tore down the ticket booth in its frantic efforts to attend, but I can say that those who saw it enjoyed it. The viewers included several of New York’s leading theatre critics. They said nice things about us, but their reviews weren’t enthusiastic enough to fill the house. That was all right — attendance was respectable, our sponsoring foundation was pleased, and the critics’ comments on my talents as a comedienne enhanced my resume quite nicely.

In late January, one of the sales associates in Misses Sportswear resigned when her husband was transferred to Chicago. I was asked to break in her replacement, a pretty young woman about my age named Christine Riordan.

Chris and I became instant friends. Like me, she had theatrical hopes and dreams. She’d been in New York since July, looking for stage work and running through her life’s savings (which, given her age, hadn’t been too substantial). She had expected it might take as long as six months for Broadway to fall at her feet; with those six months behind her, she’d become more realistic, but she wasn’t ready to give up and go back to Boston. She’d decided to take a civilian job for a while, just to keep eating, and here she was…an apprentice sales associate at Sutter & Lansdowne.

She was delighted to hear that I was an aspiring actress too — and I was actually in a play, right then! I’d had some success, I admitted, but she shouldn’t consider me to have arrived at any professional pinnacle on the basis of Les Mamelles. She thought it all very exciting anyway, and she just had to see my play, as soon as she got her first S&L paycheck. The play probably wouldn’t run that long, I told her, and it would be better if I had a comp set aside for her for the next (and, as it happened, final) Saturday evening performance. She was ecstatic, even after seeing the play, and from then on she seemed to put me in the same category as Helen Hayes, which was flattering if nonsensical.

As I got to know Chris, I realized how much I’d missed having a girl friend with whom I could just relax and have fun. I hadn’t had that wonderful pleasure since I’d left Scyros, and I felt truly fortunate that Chris had come along.

To be continued

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About the Author ()

Angela Gardner is a founding member of The Renaissance Transgender Assoc., Inc., former editor of its newsletter and magazine, Transgender Community News. She was the Diva of Dish for TGF in the late 1990s and Editor of LadyLike magazine until its untimely demise. She has appeared in film and television shows portraying TG characters, as well as representing Renaissance on numerous talk shows.

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