I kept the same ultra curly short bob for about two and a half years with it having to be re-permed every four months to maintain its shape. Nevertheless, the completion of high school by this time was only three years away, with a return to long hair really wanted for my graduation ball. Hair extensions were not readily available in the late 1980’s which meant undergoing the experience of a grow-out to achieve my hair goals.
Abigail and I decided to trim the sides of my hair to allow for my bangs and shorter hair at my nape to catch up. This would also have the dual purpose of my much-admired perm growing out at the same time. It made logical sense. Once this could be achieved focus could be given to any extra length. There was obviously an awkward in-between stage as the shape and length of my hair changed however this was seen as part and parcel of the process of returning to a long-haired girl.
I became quite the expert at assessorising my hair with barrettes, combs, bobby pins and hairbands. Softness returned to my locks as my curls were gradually cut leaving virgin hair and the acknowledgement that progress to my goal was ever so slowly making headway. My grow-out was another feminine experience with which I was becoming accustomed, and it was coming along swimmingly.
I was not a fan of permanent colour at that stage of my life although a semi-colour was added to my locks to provide extra depth and shine but also help allay boredom. It offered a nice change as the growing out phase continued. Serious thought was given to another perm upon reaching shoulder length but after the hard-won gains of my grow-out phase thankfully never eventuated. A return to a pretty ponytail and braids came as welcome with experimentation with the wearing of a bun providing an extra dimension. Shoulder length hair also saw the return of a weekly shampoo and set although looser ringlets were worn in lieu of the tight curls of my permed bob.
The natural bouncing of my long hair as I walked along the street was very much welcomed as an old friend as extra length was gained. Taking the plunge to short hair had been a fulfilling adventure, as was the experience of my grow-out, but the familiar feel of hair reaching past my shoulders was a treat that kept on giving. Grooming my locks obviously took longer but the advantage of having a larger variety of styles in which to wear my tresses made it worthwhile. My hair goal was reached three months before my graduation.
The occasional chat with Abigail as to how to wear my hair at the graduation ball occupied more and more time but my primary thought was what to wear. Some beautiful gowns were available in the nearest service town with one in particular catching my eye. Its sizing was near ideal with only a couple of pounds of weight required to be lost for this most exquisite of pieces to fit absolutely perfectly. I was smitten as my mother placed a holding deposit for its eventual purchase.
It was rose gold coloured and strapless with a square neckline and an overall mesh fabric. This was offset by a tulle undergarment to create a full silhouette. I was not overly tall but with the wearing of a two-inch heel its hemline would sit femininely grazing the floor. Female hormones had been started to be taken ten months beforehand under medical supervision and would co-incidently allow for a little cleavage as my body slowly morphed into its true being.
More talk ensued with Abigail regarding my hair but also make-up until a fairly clear picture of what was to happen became established. My hair was to be semi-coloured in a deep burgundy hue earlier the same week with the afternoon of the graduation ball to be used to set my hair in beautiful retro curls. My sides were to be swept away from the face with a few retro curls pinned on top. My curled hair would drape ravishingly down my back with some glitter interspersed throughout its length creating an old-style Hollywood look. A skin toned natural foundation with a touch of bronzer would be applied for make-up with a green eyeshadow and black eyeliner blended for a smoky look to accentuate my green eyes. A dark red lipstick would complete my palate.
Although most of the school knew of my softer side, they had never seen me in female attire. I was nervous but determined to show my true self at what was an auspicious occasion to end my school years. My gown was collected by my mother the weekend before and took pride of place in the house. A pair of glamourous white silk gloves were also purchased. I adored the burgundy hue as applied by Abigail at the salon earlier in the week. It was certainly a change from my usual brunette and added an understated touch of class. With a bit of luck such a colour would last close to four to six weeks.
The day of my graduation ball arrived quickly. We had graduated as a class the preceding day which provided ample time to be primped and preened. As expected, Abigail did a tremendous job in making her pretty girl even prettier with my hair and make-up finding a much-admired transformation. I was still in love my burgundy coloured hair and even more so when fully curled. I was wished the warmest of luck by Abiail as a return home for the fitting of my gown finally transpired.
Two girlfriends were already awaiting my appearance upon my return from the salon. They both though that my hair and make-up were absolutely gorgeous. Curly locks cascading down my back only added to the feeling of immense femininity. I was in my element. My mother has shown them my gown with they in awe at such a beautiful dress. My description of my gown had not done its elegance any justice. I thought that the girls looked absolutely divine as my gown was fitted. Having some cleavage to show made me feel so radiant and a little more complete.
What followed was a most joyous moment as my reflection in the mirror showed a most stunning young lady ready to take on the world. It was then that my mother presented a small jewellery box where to my surprise were found a beautiful pair of diamond pear shaped drop earrings encased in rose gold to wear that night. With my hair being swept away from my ears they would provide a most regal addition. My girlfriend’s eyes were moist. My eyes were moist as my mother found her camera to take some individual and group photographs. Such photographs are still cherished to this day. Extra poise was found in wearing my two-inch-high stiletto heels.
Ther drive to the graduation venue found my nerves increase dramatically but I was determined to show the courage necessary to enable my true self to if not be accepted, then definitely respected. My girlfriends held my hand as we together entered the venue. My feminine features almost always allowed for the passing of me as a girl, but more so in full make-up, which again proved to be the case. Some other girls greeted my girlfriends who asked about their pretty friend. When they replied that it was Andrew, but in girl mode known as Angela, their mouths dropped in astonishment at the beauty which stood before them.
‘You look absolutely stunning, Angela, what is your secret?’, said one. She had been a real bitch throughout high school but having seen me in my real guise found an instant appreciation of the person I had long since been.
‘I adore your make-up’, said another.
‘Why didn’t you say anything Angela. We would have been so supportive if we knew what you were going through’, piped another. All were nodding their heads in agreement.
‘I thought that everybody knew and that my softer side was not accepted’, I replied as we all became teary.
We all took a trip to the ladies’ room to fix our make-up and upon returning to the graduation ball found many a male eye trained in our direction. It quickly became apparent that none of the boys were aware of who I was and were attempting to find the courage to ask for a dance. We girls all giggled as one of the boys who had made my life a misery throughout high school made an approach. I looked at the girls as they looked at me as his proposal was accepted. We danced for half an hour with he enraptured before I excused myself.
Another visit to the ladies’ room ensued before the serving of canapes. Voting was about to commence for the Belle of the Ball as another bully asked my hand for a dance. I again accepted. The night was passing quickly but so much fun was being derived from the company of the girls, who now all knew of my secret, and the boys, who remained totally oblivious.
I was feeling so graceful as I twirled the night away with great femininity. It was proving to be a most wonderful evening full of charm and happiness. I was very conscious not to lose my dainty poise but my womanly gestures as per usual came as quite natural. The microphone suddenly came to life to interrupt proceedings which meant the end of the graduation ball was not too far away. The votes had been gathered for the Belle of the Ball as selected by all fellow students in attendance. Drums rolled in anticipation as it was announced that Angela was the winner. I was overcome with emotion as the girls clapped and cheered.
No thought had even been given to the idea of an acceptance speech as I quickly collected my composure. My heels clicked up the stairs of the presentation stage and after giving a dainty curtsy and twirl received a beautiful tiara and a bunch of flowers. I composed myself further and gave an impromptu oration of being kind and understanding to your fellow citizens in times of turmoil as well as in times of peace and success. It was also mentioned that we all have a finite time in which to live our lives and that this should be used to the benefit of all across a myriad of different cultures and beliefs. In closing, it was emphasised that we all should leave the world in a better place than in what we found it.
A passionate ovation followed as I exited the stage being careful not to trip over my gown when negotiating the stairs in my heels. It was made a point to show some feminine dignity. Soon after my two girlfriends and I caught a taxi home to my place and awoke my mother with the most unexpected surprise that her girl had been named Belle of the Ball. Tears started again as all four of us wept tears of joy.
My transition to female was fulfilled in my early twenties. My girlfriends from school still remain my best friends to this day with I accepted within their own wider family dynamic. A law degree was completed with a career in human rights a natural progression. I still like the touch and feel of a beautiful fabric with such garments almost always worn with my obligatory stiletto heels. I’ve only returned to short hair once since my permed bob in the mid 1980’s with a Victoria Beckham pob worn for twelve months. Hairstyles have come and gone with the late 1990’s having me wear the ‘Rachel’ although a preference for curls is still very much in existence.
A body wave is my hairstyle of choice these days allowing for lots of body and bounce but without the need for a tight curl. It is still a perm, but the freedom provided by its structure suits me and my wishes and looks more than natural. I can always set my hair for a tighter look when required with it usually sitting at bra strap length before the addition of curlers. Such a body wave is a twice-yearly process with a monthly deep conditioning treatment a welcome but necessary treat. I’ve kept my hairdressing needs in the same family with the retirement of Abigail finding her daughter named Trudie tending to my tresses. She is so similar to her mother and a much-trusted confidante. As for my mother, she still adores her girl, and wears her hair in a wavy bob. When it comes to curls the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
And as for those boys who asked me to dance. I would like to think that until this day that they are none the wiser.
Ultimately it is a lesson in perseverance. Show resilience and focus in achieving your goals and success will follow.