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 The first time I saw my father as a woman was at the grand old restaurant Musso & Frank on Hollywood Boulevard. He had called me the week before asking if we could meet for lunch, as he had something important he wanted to discuss. It sounded serious, but he didn't want to speak about it on the telephone. I had my suspicions as to what the conversation might be about, but nothing could have prepared me for this notable afternoon.
I arrived at noon, and Musso’s was buzzing with its regular upscale crowd and battalion of aging, Italian waiters who are as stiff as the white table linens.
My heart sank when I saw a frightful looking character coyly flagging a paisley handkerchief in my direction. I thought, “Dear God, please don't let this be my father.”
The distant sight of him made me feel faint, like I was being pulled to my knees by an unearthly magnetic force. I'd grown up in Hollywood and I'd certainly seen my share of cross-dressers, transvestites, and transsexuals, but this was my dad. We used to come here for hot flannel cakes when I was a child. I forged my way to the brown leather booth where he had positioned himself, and put on my nicest smile like nothing was out of the ordinary. As he stood up to greet me, I said,
"Hi dad,” and lightly pecked his powdered cheek.
In place of the handsome, he-man racecar driver that I remembered, stood an eerie unknown entity. As he leaned over to kiss me I smelled his familiar scent of Jack Daniels, only this time it was mixed with a spritz of eau de gardenia. The sweet, musty odor reminded me of crumpled perfumed tissues, mixed with cherry Lifesavers. He smelled like my grandmother’s purse. As we sat down, he crossed his bony nylon clad legs and daintily folded his large hands in front of him.
"Are you surprised?" he beamed.
I wasn't really sure how to respond. I think “mortified” was the feeling, but not wanting to spoil his moment, I replied,
"Yep, I’m truly amazed."
My dad couldn't wait to fill me in on all the scary details of his operation. As he explained how the doctor nipped off his private parts and constructed a new vagina I was completely lost in his shocking transformation. 
He was wearing artificial, spiky long eyelashes with iridescent blue eye shadow. He lined his pale blue eyes with black liner and had painted on the old-fashioned fish tails curling up at the ends. Dramatic, heavy brown eyebrows scrawled down to his temples, and pasty pancake foundation gave his complexion a dull death-like pallor. His lips were stained in a blaze of scarlet, and silver hoop earnings dangled from his large ear lobes. I noticed that his gold Rolex had been replaced with the smaller female version and feminine rings that I recognized as belonging to his late wife Loren were squeezed onto his swollen fingers. He held onto a fifties style red handbag and wore matching red pumps with one wonky heel. More strange was seeing my dad in full female regalia.
He was wearing a fancy knit ensemble with a short, slim-fit skirt that showcased his stick-straight legs. To top off the whole new look, he donned a long auburn thatch that sat slightly askew on his graying pate. The entire image was a fright.
When the waiter came to take our order, my dad suddenly developed laryngitis and in a scratchy, high-pitched whisper, ordered the grilled chops and another Jack on the rocks. My appetite had pretty much vanished when I walked in the door, but in my cheeriest tone I ordered the seafood salad and a Hires root-beer float. The waiter took off and my dad's deep timbre suddenly came back. I guess we fooled him, just a couple of nice girls out for an afternoon lunch.

Copyright © 2007 Catherine James

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