It was often said that I had no brakes on my Dare Car, and today’s shopping trip proved it. I was browsing the maternity section at Lane Bryant, and not for clothes for Mary. Thus far, Operation Impregnation had produced zero results, but I vowed to soldier on and do my part in the procreation process no matter how many times it took.
Hey, I’m a giver.
No, today I was shopping for me, and let me tell you, it was damned humiliating. When a guy needs to look pretty, it helps to feel pretty, and having to shop in the big girl’s section at the big girl store to find a dress that will fit did nothing for my self-esteem.
Lest you get the wrong impression, I didn’t switch sides, nor did I decide to embrace my true self. My true self was still fervently heterosexual, but I needed a nice evening gown that will fit a 6’2”, 280-pound man, or failing that, a pretty sundress and a pair of heels that showed off my shapely calves.
Normally, I considered myself embarrassment-proof. I was the guy who, when sent on an errand to buy tampons and feminine hygiene products by an ex-girlfriend, readily accepted the challenge, and then innocently asked the mortified clerks at Walgreen’s which flavor of douche they would recommend.
“My girlfriend wanted strawberry,” I said, holding up several boxes, “but y’all seem to be out. Is this peach blossom stuff decent? Personally, I’m more of a meat and potatoes man. Do you have anything in ribeye steak flavor? Maybe boiled crawfish? Wait, where are you going?”
Nothing beat the look on the face of a Walmart clerk as I bought supplies to restock my moulage kit. I’d pick the most grandmotherly, prim little old lady I could find wearing a blue smock, get in line, and watch her face as she scanned lipsticks in purple, black and deep red, eyeliner, neutral concealer sticks, Knox gelatin, and for the pièce de résistance… a large tub of Vaseline and a box of Kleenex.
Smile. Wink. Sign the credit card slip with a flourish, leaving scandalized little old ladies in my wake.
When you’re trying to maximize your feminine hotness, it’s a different story. I held up a sundress for Mary’s approval.
“Uuuhhh… no.” She wrinkled her nose in distaste.
“How about this one, then?” I asked, holding up a pretty floral number.
She shook her head. “We’re trying to cover up as much of your body as we can, not show it off.”
“Well,” I sighed in disappointment, “we can always try – wait a minute. Did you just say cover up? What the hell?”
“You do know why they asked you to participate in this Womanless Beauty Pageant, right?”
“Yeah, to raise scholarship money for children of EMTs killed in the line of duty. It’s a good cause.”
“No, I mean why did they ask you, specifically.”
“Because I’d be a hot chick?” I asked innocently.
Mary rolled her eyes. “No, they asked you because they recognize the comedic potential of a big, hairy guy parading around in drag, and because you – “
“ – have no brakes on my Dare Car,” I finished, realization dawning.
Come to think of it, none of us are particularly good-looking men.
“I was going to say ‘embarrassment proof,’” Mary confirmed.
“You think there’s no chance I can win this thing?” I asked sadly. I felt like Rocky Balboa when Adrian told him he couldn’t win against Ivan Drago.
“I didn’t say that,” Mary mused. “I think you’ve got a legitimate shot at it. All you have to do is be less hideous than the other contestants.”
Hope springs ever eternal in the aspiring drag queen’s breast.
A breast which, by the way, I was carrying around under my left arm. A Nerf football cut in half would give me some impressive boobs to fill out my evening gown. Still, if I was going to be more Mrs. Howell than Ginger, I saw no way I could win.
“There’s no way in hell you can win a swimsuit competition, and you ain’t winning this thing on your looks,” Mary mused, reading my mind. “Which means we focus on the talent round. When it comes to talent, you’re the, er… girl to beat.”
“You think I’m talented?” I asked, flattered.
“At anything outside an ambulance? Hell no. As you said, you have no brakes on your Dare Car, and that oughta be enough.”
“I am immune to your insults,” I said smugly. “I will think of a talent routine that will bring the house down. I’m in it to win it, baby.”
“That’s my girl!”
It took four hours and three stores, but we finally found the perfect dress. Selecting it was not without emotional trauma. Every dress I held up, Mary would reject.
“Nope, honey. Not good with your skin tone.”
“Won’t work. Doesn’t go with your shoes or your handbag.”
“You’ll be the biggest woman on the stage, sweetie. We need to find something slimming that emphasizes your best features… like maybe a cardboard box that leaves your feet sticking out.”
Eventually a dress was procured, and I was proud to note, it wasn’t even a maternity dress. The only issue was squeezing me into it.
“Excuse me, ma’am?” I asked the salesperson in the lingerie section. “The only thing I could find in my size was nude. Do you have anything in taupe? Maybe something in a control top?”
“And a girdle,” Mary added, “Or a corset with as much boning as you can find.”
“Boning?” I asked under my breath.
“Trust me, you are waaay beyond Spanx,” Mary whispered. “You need as much structure as we can find to rein in that beer gut.”
“I prefer to think of it as hops and barley retention,” I told her loftily. “Women my size in the Middle Ages were considered the most alluring. I am Rubenesque.”
“Well, in this age, women your size are considered fat,” Mary declared flatly. “Scientists follow them through the woods and make plaster casts of their footprints.”
On the day of the pageant, I submitted myself to several hours of primping, preening, spackling, cinching, spraying and various other indignities at the hands of my wife, who pulled away the drape with a flourish and presented me with a hand mirror so that I could gaze upon the image of myself as… my mother.
Not the version of Mom when she was a knockout, either. I looked like Mom after five kids and menopause, only with a five o’clock shadow and hairy legs.
It was a Norman Bates kind of moment.
Mary drove me to the hotel where we were having the pageant while I amused myself at red lights by flirting with the rednecks in the jacked-up truck next to us, licking my lips seductively and rubbing my Nerf footballs against the window. Oddly, they didn’t roar away in horror. Either they were morbidly fascinated, or their beer googles were extra thick.
Or just maybe, I am hotter than my wife gives me credit for. RuPaul, eat your heart out.
In the green room, a fair amount of alcohol was being consumed by the contestants awaiting their turns on stage. I sipped a beer and silently judged the other contestants.
Not bad Bob, but my wig is better.
Geez, tweeze those eyebrows, Larry!
Love the satin dress, Jason, but the panty line ruins it.
Got a little lipstick on your teeth there, Hank.
Boy these heels are tough to walk in, but DAMN don’t they make my calves look defined!
A concealer stick would cover those circles under your eyes, Frank.
While we waited, even more alcohol was consumed, and I think it’s fair to say that never are men so coarse and unrefined as when we’re standing around in women’s clothing, silently questioning our own masculinity. After the umpteenth “That’s what she said,” joke of the evening, I noticed a rather attractive, statuesque blonde sitting quietly off to one side, giving off a strong young Lauren Bacall vibe. I elbowed Colby Graham in the side and nodded in her direction as if to say, “Watch your language, there’s a lady present.”
“Oh, sorry Ma’am, we didn’t realize you were sitting there,” I called out apologetically. “We didn’t mean to… Myron??? Is that YOU??? Damn, but you look HOT!”
I’ll say this: Myron Fonseca in drag was one sexy woman. My gaze flashed to his knuckles, his shoulders, his Adam’s Apple, taking in his makeup and ensemble along the way, and came to the inescapable conclusion that the rest of us were vying for second place.
Unless, of course, I really rev up the Dare Car.
Half an hour later, everyone was back clustered in the green room. More alcohol was consumed, and men bitched about their high-heeled shoes hurting their feet, their bra straps digging into their backs, and so on. Myron was nowhere to be seen, no doubt sitting on a barstool somewhere, looking elegant and smoking a cigarette through an ivory holder, with unsuspecting men buying him drinks.
Phil Alimia was passed out on the floor, manspreading and giving us plenty of nightmare fuel. Phil was in it to win it, too: to avoid panty lines, he wore nothing but fishnet stockings under his leather micro-mini. The wedding tackle was on full display.
At least he looked comfortable, because Phil’s stage persona, “Mattress-Back Marge,” came with a kid’s bunkbed mattress strapped to his back.
A chorus of cheers, hoots and catcalls erupted from the banquet room next door, heralding the end of Colby Graham’s talent routine. The kid was way too athletic and limber, and his tumbling routine was going to be hard to top, even if he did look like Mary Lou Retton with a moose knuckle.
I took a deep breath, climbed the stairs to the stage and pushed the curtains aside. A spotlight hit my face, blinding me, and I tried to channel my inner Jessica Rabbit as I prowled down the catwalk. Judging from the cheers and catcalls, there were a lot of paramedics in the crowd who liked thicc women. Or a lot of drunk paramedics wearing extra-thick beer goggles.
Or maybe both.
I still had no idea what I would do for my talent routine, even though I was due to perform it in about twenty seconds. Then, I spotted one of the judges, our state EMS association president, John Roquemore. John was sitting in the front row, looking vaguely uncomfortable, and it flashed in my memory that he was also the President-Elect of the National Association of EMTs.
And it was his birthday.
Well, there’s your talent routine, Marilyn Funroe. What else can you do for the President on his birthday?
Signaling for the spotlight to follow me off the catwalk, I slinked up to John with a predatory leer. John, for his part, looked about as comfortable as you’d expect when singled out by a 250-pound drag queen with mischief in his eyes.
Before he could escape, I spun his chair around, straddled his lap, and proceeded to give him the most seductive lap dance in the history of lap dances, all while singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” in my breathiest Marilyn Monroe voice. John retreated mentally into his happy place, but the crowd went wild. I won the talent competition and got first runner up in the pageant.
Eat your heart out, Myron Fonseca. You may be a natural beauty, but I’m way more woman than you are.