Living in New Mexico, I am of course addicted to green chile. I love red chile too, but it does not generate the daily craving the way that the green stuff does. To cope with this addiction for the last seven years, I have frequented a local chain of semi-fastfood restaurants known for their award-winning green chile breakfast burritos, and by frequented I mean three or more times a week on my way to work. That is how and where I met Margie.
As I soon discovered, Margie has been a denizen there for years on the breakfast shift. I am by no means the only customer who is recognized upon walking in the door, but for some reason, Margie just seemed to connect with me at the most basic level of delight. She and others learned quickly that my order was going to be one of two things, with a large drink with lots of ice, and lemon for the tea. Spotting me arriving, these extras were often laying on the counter waiting for me when I placed my order. At other times, I would even hear cheerful wagering going on behind the counter as to which one of my two favorites I was going to pick that day.
Back then, I could never really figure out for sure what it was about me that gave Margie such a smile. For years, I expressed as a feminine male and generally wore basic, unnoticeable makeup; some pair of cute but simple earrings; and tight-fitting jeans (actually girl jeans). I have little doubt that most people, including Margie, probably assumed that I was “gay.”
Perhaps that is what caught Margie’s eye: a meek gay guy who is ultra-polite and respectful of all the females who work there. Note that, at times, a male might appear behind the counter for a few months, but this location typically had an all-female staff on the morning shift. After a year or so, I started hearing Margie’s co-workers referring to me as “Margie’s favorite customer.” They would say things like “Margie, your favorite customer is here – get him his drink.” Feeling so connected to all the girls, I soon began a tradition of bringing in chocolate bars for everyone sometime during the week before Xmas. A little card attached just said “thanks!” and listed all their names – names that I picked up from everyone’s name tag over time.
My transition process can be described as a multi-stage, multi-decade undertaking. One of the final stages for me was coming out at work and to my work friends. At that point, I finished completing all the steps (including the legal ones) for identifying as a female full-time. This of course impacted my pre-workday breakfast routine, and so it affected Margie and the other girls I had known for years.
After the shock wore off from my transition to female, I could see a broad spectrum of attitude changes in this small group. Of the ten or so who have been there from the beginning, two do not make much of an attempt to hide their revulsion. Fortunately, the manager of the group seems totally supportive and even friendlier than ever! A few others just look puzzled and perplexed, but Margie’s reaction is kind of unique.
Margie no longer seems to engage. When I arrive, she mostly just stays in the back of the kitchen and keeps her head down focusing on some specific task. When she does need to help up front to fill my order, her expression is mostly blank and distant – the way that someone who had lost a friend might look when thinking about the past.
These reactions to my transition seem to fall into three basic categories:
- Those who transitioned with me
(easily adjusting to me as the same person in a different gender expression)
- Those who misconstrue me
(misunderstanding the meaning, taking me in a wrong sense, or not relating to me anymore)
- Those who spurn me
Margie seems to exemplify the middle case above.
Since my transition, I find myself frequenting this location less and less. There have been no specific negative incidents, but overall, I do not think anyone will really miss my simple gesture of thanks via chocolate bars this December.
Perhaps instead, I will leave a printed copy of this article on the counter or hand it to the friendly manager. I know that I run the risk of potentially further alienating anyone who reads it, but I hope that there is a chance that these words might trigger some kind of rebirth or healing. I miss being Margie’s favorite customer, and wish I knew what else I could do… Cross your fingers that I can post a merry update to this article sometime next month.