Today I continue telling Sarah’s story.
If you have not read the first three installments in this series, please do so before you continue. I’ll give you handy-dandy links because I am a very giving person!
Sarah stretches out her legs and exhales. It sounds like a breath she has been holding onto for years.
I’ve just asked her when she first suspected that Sam wasn’t the man she thought she married, but instead a transgender female. It’s obvious answering this question is difficult for her.
“I was in the attic one day, and I found this box of women’s clothes. Not just clothes, but purses, wigs, shoes, you name it. I know you’ll think I’m crazy but I didn’t even think for a minute that he was transgendered or even just cross-dressing. I thought he was having an affair and for some reason his mistress was keeping some clothes in our attic.”
I look up from my legal pad and Sarah sees the incredulity spreading across my face.
“Don’t judge me,” she snaps.
“How would you feel if you came across something like that? My husband was a very masculine guy – I never in a million years would have suspected he identified as a woman. So what would you do? How would you feel?”
“That depends on his taste in women’s clothing,” I joked.
“If he shared my sense of style, was my size, and knew how to properly accessorize I’d be kind of stoked, to tell you the truth. If I could get Mr. Patience and Understanding to at least develop a fetish for women’s jewelry, my David Yurman addiction could finally progress to full-blown, which would be a lovely thing indeed.”
Archie pawed again at Sarah’s hand and managed to spill her drink, so I quickly got up to make another one. He lapped up what he could from the couch and burped.
“That’s hilarious,” she said.
I pressed on.
“Look, if you can’t laugh about this stuff it will eat you up inside. Plus, you have to admit there is something very practical about married people being able to share clothes. That would save a ton of money. No wonder the gays are a higher-income demographic.”*
“Don’t get me started on the money,” Sarah sighed.
“Don’t even get me started.”
“Tell me,” I said.
I poured her another drink as Archie vomited in the corner of the room and started dancing. Have you ever seen a dog dance?
“Sam was always a big spender, but as he got older and I guess as he began to accept that he was really ‘Samantha,’ the spending got really bad. He would find a new interest and shop online obsessively until he dropped that interest for a new one and started buying the new stuff.
“Model airplanes, rare books, golf clubs, watches, Mont Blanc pens, bicycles, antique fishing reels, you name it. Everything had to be top of the line and he blew through hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
“It takes a lot of ‘stuff’ to fill a hole,” I noted, “and yet there isn’t enough ‘stuff’ in the world to do it.
Because everything is really all about me, I went on:
“I empathize. I was a compulsive shopper when I was deeply unhappy, too. It’s funny because I just don’t have the urge to shop anymore, and it used to be a very big thing for me. Now that I better understand who I am, and now that I am living an authentic life, I just don’t need all that ‘stuff’ anymore.”
Sarah snorted and pointed to my shoes.
“Boy, those AGLs are really cute, and they look brand new.”
“I said I don’t need the stuff anymore, Sarah. I didn’t say I don’t want it. There’s a big difference.”
We laughed and moved on.
I asked her the obvious question:
“So how did he react when you produced this box of women’s clothing and demanded to know what was going on? What did he say?”
“He totally blew it off,” Sarah answered.
Sam told his wife he was just curious to see what it felt like to dress like a woman. He laughed it off and assured her nothing was going on that she should be concerned about, or “about which she should be concerned,” if you are a grammar Nazi.
Sarah believed him, and told Sam that she was getting rid of the box. He assured her it wouldn’t happen again and that everything was fine.
Everything was not fine.
The next time she found The Box it wasn’t The Box at all; it was The Suitcase. And as the years went on the “hiding” of women’s clothing and other items became as blatant as Trump is obnoxious.
Sam began buying expensive prom dresses (“really hideous stuff,” Sarah complained) and “hiding” them in the closet.
His wife’s closet.
Yeah, do you think he wanted to get caught? These dresses were discovered by Sarah’s sisters as they were going through her clothes looking for hand-me-downs.
That was a hard one to convincingly explain when her own sisters, who knew her taste in clothing, began pulling bedazzled slutty ballgowns out of her closet that aren’t her size, and asking, “What the fuck, Sarah?”
Every time she made a discovery she would angrily present the found items to her husband, and every time he would lie to her and tell her this was just an interest, or a fetish. For years he hid his true feelings and misled Sarah into thinking the marriage was viable when it was not.
Their daughter Katie was conceived after Sarah’s discovery of The Box, and the marriage continued.
The family moved out-of-state and out-of-country to follow Sam’s career path, and as the years went on Sarah became more and more worried about her relationship with her husband and his relationship with their kids.
It wasn’t just the continued discovery of the women’s items and seeing her husband shop online for prosthetic breasts. It wasn’t just viewing her husband’s female profile of “Samantha” on a transgendered website. It wasn’t just the profligate spending on the hobby-du-jour.
Sam just wasn’t around.
Sure his career was demanding and he had to travel a good deal, but he started lengthening the trips and taking extra days for himself. Sarah would later find out he did that so he could spend time in a strange city as “Samantha,” with less fear of being recognized.
His relationship with his children was, in a word, “poor.”
Sam spent so much time on his own hobbies and away from home that his children felt estranged from him, even as they lived in the same home. That situation would become far worse as they were forced to say goodbye to Sam and expected to welcome Samantha into their lives without hesitation.
Remember being a pre-teen and teenager? Put yourself back there and imagine what that would feel like.
While I am absolutely dedicated to the rights of the LBGTQ community, I know that accepting a parent’s transition during what is already a terrible experience (divorce immediately after yet another move) would be very, very difficult.
More on that in a later blog, but it is one of many key points that define why this case is such a disaster.
As the marriage further unraveled, Sam eventually started wearing women’s underwear every day and told his wife he was transgender and she needed to accept him for who he was. She threatened divorce, but he begged her to stay.
They each sought therapy, together and separately, and one therapist went so far as to scold Sarah:
“Do you have any idea how lucky you are?”
“I know 1,000 women who would line up to be married to Samantha. You need to be more grateful that you have such a giving and feminine partner, and you need to accept her.”
At this point I had to laugh.
“Pardon me for saying so,” I chuckled, “but a man having and retaining his dick and not wanting breast implants is a non-negotiable for most women in a marriage. A woman having and retaining her tits, and not wanting to have an addadicktome operation is also a non-starter for most men. Her position seems unreasonable, to say the least.”
Sarah thought she could stay until the kids finished high school, but the marriage became unbearable.
The couple moved back to Portland, into separate homes, and Samantha came out to her employers and filed for divorce, choosing the nastiest law firm in town with the worst reputation.
“Why do you suppose she picked that firm?” I asked.
“Because she blamed me for the marriage ending and she blamed me for the kids’ rejection of Samantha. She blamed me for having to come out to her company for fear they would find out. She blamed me for all of it. She told me she was going to get a bulldog, I guess to make me pay for all I had done to her.”
“That’s a neat trick,” I observed, using one of my favorite new phrases, “but it explains why she chose that firm.
“They specialize in people with a robust entitlement complex mixed with irrational anger and a victim mentality. Those clients who don’t come to their office with those characteristics are quickly brought up to speed on how to assign 100% of the blame to the other spouse when a marriage breaks down and the art of revenge and bridge-burning against someone they will have to co-parent with for years. Isn’t that a neat trick?”
“That was cute when you said it the first few times today,” Sarah sniffed, and wiggled her again-empty glass my way.
“Now it’s just annoying.”
Archie burped again, and I opened a bottle of wine.
“Let’s talk about what happened next,” I said, and that’s when Sarah finally started to cry.
Coming up in our next installment of “Anatomy of a Disaster,”
Part Two, Scene One: The Vacation from Hell
* I made that up but assume it’s true because the ones I know have really nice stuff.