Sitting in the garden, just by where Ali had completed a rather unusual example of topiary depicting Cleopatra’s Needle and two of the Elgin Marbles, not to scale, I poured my wife a glass of wine.
“Darling,” I said. “have you ever had a boyfriend who liked to crossdress?”
“Well, I really don’t know,” she replied nonchalantly. “What they get up to in their spare time is a mystery to me.”
“Yes, but surely,” I persisted, “there must have been one who showed interest. I mean, so many men talk about it these days. I can only think there must be some women who find it, I don’t know, exciting?”
“Well, I’ve always thought men look rather odd in dresses. Not to mention heels.”
“I’m sure,” I replied.
“On the other hand,” she went on, her voice dropping a little, “it does give me a feeling of power.” At that point she paused and corrected herself. “That’s to say I’m sure it would. If someone were to, you know.”
I looked at her sideways.
“Are you quite sure you’ve never…”
“Well, there was this one young man in college. A very unusual chap, but certainly very liberated. Exciting even,” she murmured.
I could see she was leaving a great deal unsaid, her mind wandering through what seemed to be some happy memories. I decided it might be best to let it hang for a moment.
“I think it wonderful how much energy women put into their look, and it’s always seemed a little unfair. A man shows up to a date with a clean shirt and he’s considered well dressed. A woman spends two hours putting on corset and suspender belt and god knows what, and she’s not even remotely satisfied how she looks.”
“And ten minutes after you’ve left the restaurant they’re trying to get the damned stuff off! You have no idea.”
I kept my desire to say ‘I know exactly what you mean’ in check.
“Well, I must say I can’t help thinking that now and then a man should have to try doing that. Just to remind themselves how much trouble you girls go to.”
I topped up my wife’s wine.
“I think you may have something there. I think it would be a great idea to help men understand.”
I sipped my wine quietly.
“Well,” I murmured. “If you really insist. I suppose I could try.”