It started last week. I was still in a tizzy from the Father's Day gathering but the work week had started and I was trying to regain my focus.
I walked into the office past the front desk girl, Daisy. I hadn't really paid Daisy much attention since I got here, I've had other things on my mind, but as I proceed back toward my desk I heard her chipper voice say, "Nice top, Chan!"
I stopped in my tracks. It was like my fight or flight response had been activated because I have been very alarmed, basically anytime someone calls me that name without any forewarning. It took me a second to gather myself and register the statement. The compliment.
I looked down. I supposed it was a good color on me, navy blue with zigzags. Kind of a fun design. Sleeveless. I hadn't really thought twice about it this morning when I picked it, it was just one of those things that I deemed acceptable to wear. I don't think it shows too much boob, hopefully not for the office anyway.
"Oh, um, thanks," I say back, and scuttle away to my desk.
The remark goes through my head again throughout the day. Was I supposed to compliment her back? Did Was I insufficiently gracious? Is there any chance, any whatsoever, what Daisy was flirting with me? (No... right? Probably not.)
Suddenly I find myself fretting about social code. I already hated being in an office but now I'm expected to navigate it as a woman and play this part. Did I do something wrong? Will she hate me if I don't say something soon? What do I say?
I have to remind myself -- this is what women do with each other. Just pay random compliments and generally, you know, uplift. I'm very not used to being part of that. No, in my past life (which I hope to get back to someday) I would have kept my distance from Daisy out of necessity, and I bet she would have done the same, after all I was a married man, and she is... a cute-as-a-button perky blonde who is younger than me even as Chantelle. I don't remember ever being complimented on my clothes or my appearance by a woman unless we were very close and it was well understood where we stood with each other. But now that distance was out the window. Having a woman's body invites other women to treat me as... a woman.
I see her again at lunch. She's got one of these, like poke bowls or whatever. With some trepidation I sit with her, and of course she welcomes it -- why wouldn't she?
I decide I'm going to test the water with some girl talk. "Hey," I say, "Where do you get your hair done? I really like it."
"Oh, I have a girl on Livingston," she tells me. "I can give you her number if you want."
"Um, maybe, maybe," I say, eating my sandwich. I have no intention of getting my hair 'done' anytime soon, but I suppose I'm open to the possibility.
"She is so fun, we go clubbing sometimes. You should come with."
"Maybe, uh," I say, "I'm kind of a house mouse these days."
"I totally get it," she says, "Plus there's no guys anywhere."
"Yeah, yeah," I say, feeling the conversation drifting away from my interests.
Still, it was a good first try and it emboldened me. For the rest of the week, I would make a point to chat her up every time I passed. Just small talk, you know, kind of building that relationship to see how it goes. It's been... enlightening, if weird. It feels flirty, but I have to remind myself, it's not, at least not on her end. For me, it's a bit more confusing, because obviously I know she's a very attractive girl and I... I don't not see that. I mean, my tastes haven't exactly changed as far as I know, just my, shall we say, drive to do anything about them. It's not like I'm ogling girls. Or guys, for that matter. I feel strangely neutral on the subject, except for the fact that I think Daisy's attractive, and I think Chantelle is, actually, quite attractive.
I don't know. It just gives me an interesting... project, shall we say. Since I'm currently estranged from manhood, it wouldn't hurt to embrace my feminine side, see if I can bring out the side of me that laughs easily and talks freely and builds connections casually instead of being, let's face it... maybe a bit of an anxious stick in the mud. I'm taking Daisy as my role model in that. I seem to be unconsciously imitating her patterns of speech and maybe writing e-mails and texts like she does with extra exclamation points and caps and emojis and gifs (not, like, professional communications of course, but some of the more casual ones.) That could be the key to who Marc is as Chantelle. Maybe if I become that person my time here will be a little easier to face.