By Amanda J.
My last post, The Letter, was a fictional tale about a wife’s discovery that her husband, despite promising to quit CDing, had been carrying on behind her back. If you haven’t read it and want to, now’s the time because the rest of this post will be a plot spoiler.
This post is based on two basic premises – the first is that, at some time in the future, we’re going to die and the second is that, no matter how hard we work to control this side of us, we lose that control once that day comes. We can argue that once we’ve departed this mortal coil, the opinions of others can’t harm us but do we really want to leave others with questions or with the opportunity to form negative opinions of us?
And negative opinions may well be formed. What is a wife supposed to think if, having been widowed, she finds a collection of clothing, shoes, makeup and wigs that could only have belonged to her husband? Would she immediately understand his struggles to be the husband she wanted him to be whilst trying to live the life that he wanted? Or would she jump to the conclusion that he was a fetishist, leading a double life behind her back, perhaps dressing in the elegant clothes she found in order to attract men? And then she may start questioning her own validity as a wife. Not an ideal legacy to unwittingly leave.
Of course, some of you reading this will think ‘not a problem in my case, everyone who needs to know already knows’. And on the one hand, I admire you for your openness with your loved ones but, on the other, I would ask the question as to how much they already know. Mrs. A knows that I CD and she knows that it brings me emotional relief & it is not a sexual fetish. But would she be so understanding if she realised I have a complete feminine persona known as Amanda or if she saw the photo that accompanies my bio on the Contributors’ page here or realised that I had left the house fully dressed and made up and mingled with other shoppers in the outside world on several occasions? I can try to reassure myself that she’ll never find out but google searches can reveal a lot from even the tiniest clue, as can scuff marks on the soles of shoes. And given that my stash is stored in a spider colony, otherwise known as our attic, it’s more likely that one of our kids will find two mysterious looking black plastic sacks with cable ties sealing them shut and wonder what’s inside. And when they do find them, it’s almost a certainty that they will open them and, for them, the contents (which given that they include wigs & breast forms, will be unambiguous in their purpose) will be a surprise as Mrs. A has asked that they not be told about my feminine proclivities.
What I’m hoping is that if those two bin bags are unsealed and the contents spread out after my demise, there’ll be a general consensus amongst the assembled masses that I had at least some sense of style; an accusation that would never be levelled at male me! And then, after Mrs. A has explained all, there’s just a lot of shoulder shrugging and mutterings of ‘so he was a crossdresser, so what?’.
‘The Letter’ had a happy ending with resolution, at least in certain aspects; an explanation was given and an apology posthumously offered & accepted. It would be nice to think that real life will always deliver that ending but is that really a realistic hope? Suppose my daughter is upset that I never shared this side of me with her. Or suppose that my son feels let down by the person he (hopefully) looked up to as a male role model? And what if my son & daughter have wildly different attitudes and it causes a rift between them? Or they both turn against Mrs. A because they realise that her palpable hostility to me following my confession in 2013 which my daughter certainly noticed and commented on was directly related to my CDing? I’m probably overthinking this but, without going into details, I have personal experience of attitudes to a family member deteriorating as various adverse details emerged after their death.
I have to confess that, as I’m sitting down and writing this, I have no foolproof answer. But there are a couple of things that I have realised.
The first is the idea that I tried to convey in ‘The Letter’ in that despite all of the negative thoughts that ‘Anna’ had about her husband’s activities, ‘Sue’ was an intrinsic part of the ‘Robert’ she fell in love with, she just didn’t realise it at the time. Equally, I know that ‘Amanda’ makes me a better person and brings out the better parts of my personality which are often lost under the male façade of my normal life.
The second is that, if we’re going to have any chance of posthumously controlling the narrative, we need to have a good explanation for what we do. And that’s not just the CDing itself but also why we’ve deliberately kept it from those close to us. That’s a particularly pertinent point if wives are either unaware or we’ve broken a promise to quit. There’s much less imperative to disclose to children, after all we don’t expect them to tell us everything they get up to but this isn’t a level playing field and there is an argument to say that the nature of parenthood is that parents have more of a duty of openness than children do, regardless of their age.
The easy answer is undoubtedly to ensure that there will be no surprises after our demise. I can honestly say that both times I have sat down with Mrs. A to confess my ‘sins’ have been terrifying but, certainly in our case, the worries I had that prompted me to write ‘The Letter’ are no longer an issue. But do I really want my kids to learn about this side of me? In all honesty, I’d rather that they never get know – it’s a very personal side of me and regardless of whether I’m alive or dead, I’d prefer it to stay that way. And much though I love Mrs. A, I don’t really want to leave her in sole charge of the explanation given her well-articulated views about husbands who wear dresses, heels and makeup which, shall we say, are not entirely positive!
My thinking at the time I wrote ‘The Letter’ was to put a letter inside one of my stash bags as ‘Robert’ did. That’s fine in theory but it does have a couple of disadvantages. Firstly, it relies on the bags being opened and, until that happens, no one has any idea what the mysterious bags are or perhaps that they even exist. That’s fine if it’s Mrs. A who eventually finds & opens them but not so fine if they lie undisturbed and the house is sold to unsuspecting buyers who find them by accident and then hand deliver them back to one of my survivors barely disguising their smirks as they pronounce ‘I think you left these behind’! Or to put it another way, if my kids are going to find out about this, I’d rather it was from either Mrs. A or me, not from someone who happens to buy our house in the future!
So, simple though it is to execute, that’s a solution I’ve moved on from.
On a more general level, I think it’s important to remember that a bit of forward planning for the day that the Grim Reaper comes a-knocking doesn’t go amiss in all aspects of our life. Information about who needs to be told, specific wishes regarding funeral content and even where to sell hobby items all helps and I’m now of a mind to start preparing a pack to help Mrs. A out when the time comes. My thinking now is to include a sealed letter in that pack directing her to the stash and asking that it be disposed of in its sealed state without being opened. It’s not a perfect solution but it does confront the issue head on without relying on chance.
As I draw this piece to a close, it dawns on me that the stash is only one of a number of issues. I am no longer active on social media but what if I still had hundreds of photos on public view on Flickr? Or what about Facebook where many of us (but not me) have a feminine presence? Nowadays, Kandi’s Land is the only place where I’m on public view and I’m happy for my ramblings to remain here in perpetuity because there are only a handful of photos which I’m not identifiable from but in my days on Flickr, I had photos taken in my house on public view which I would not have wanted to come to the notice of my family either before my death or after it.
And what about photos? Some of mine are stored on a password protected USB stick in my stash; in ‘The Letter’ Robert deliberately directs his wife to the photos but, on reflection, that’s not something I would want to do. But having said that, would Mrs. A be repulsed by them as I suspect or would she see them as an intrinsic part of me that she could finally get to know? Would she see them as revealing the complete me or of someone she thought she knew but actually never knew at all?
And let’s not forget friends. Our real world friends will get to know about our death through the grapevine but what about our online friends? We can leave instructions that people like Kandi are to be told but when she receives an email announcing the sad departure of ‘Johnny Brit’ will she make the connection with his alter ego, Amanda J? The alternative is to either leave no instructions leaving our online friends to draw their own conclusions when messages go unanswered etc. or reveal our feminine identities in our instructions which, as I’ve already discussed, would be greatly problematic as far as I’m concerned.
I could go on but I’m sure you get the picture. It’s a multi-faceted challenge and, like everything else in this side of our lives, there’s no single solution or right answer that will work in every case – we may have a degree of commonality in our own outlooks but I can guarantee that our wives and other loved ones definitely don’t. I often half-jokingly refer to my posts here as ramblings but this post really has been a ramble because it just feels like clutching at straws not least because the overriding issue is that, whatever strategy I finally decide on, I won’t be around to see if it’s worked or not.
I’ve also breezed through this in a light hearted way but it is a serious business not least because of its inevitability and the impact it can have. In particular, my heart goes out to anyone reading this who has been prematurely forced to face the inevitable. But inevitable it is for all of us and, unless we’re going to bite the bullet and do a full & final purge, I do believe that we owe it to those we leave behind to soften the blow of discovery of this side of us as far as we can.
I would be very interested to hear the thoughts of others so please feel free to continue the conversation in the comments below.