I didn't look around much as I got on the Brooklyn bound Q train, I was just grateful for the Q instead of the N. Changing trains isn't THAT big of a hassle, but it's just so nice to be able to get on the subway at the first/last stop and take it to where you need to get off. You can pick where you sit, make yourself comfortable, get out your book, and settle in.
So that's what I did. I'd been sent to a different branch than my regular one for the day. They'd let me out a few minutes early, and the sun was setting. The sun was setting over the West behind the Continental United States, but I knew that if I sat on the right side of the train I'd get to look out the window and see the sunset over Manhattan, the high point of my day. A coworker once looked curiously at me as I did that. "Film companies give our state MILLIONS of dollars for that view," I told her. "I get it for the cost of a subway token." She shrugged. She was still too cool to think that it was significant, but I loved the view.
As I got out my book, I almost didn't notice the young man sitting across from me. His shoes probably made too much noise as he sat down, that might have drawn my attention, but what I noticed when I looked up at him, just for a moment, was his eyelashes; thick, long, the sort of eyelashes that women spent hours to get and envy terribly when the men they know have them. He sat across from me, also facing forward. I smiled to myself, and began to read.
Two stops later I glanced up, and there was a young woman sitting across from me, expertly applying makeup. She was trying to look older than she probably was. She wasn't wearing enough foundation for that not to be her skin, but her cheeks were clearly painted on perfectly. Her skin was flawless! Odd, I thought the young man was wearing that same colored hat...Where had he gotten off?
A bob underneath her chin caught my attention, and my concern. The young man had metamorphosed into a overly made up young woman while I was minding my own business. Why was he doing that here? Why couldn't he...
And I realized he was underage. Not THAT underage, exactly, he might have been 17 or even just barely 21, but he was probably still living at home, and telling his parents he was going to visit Jim and they were going out, and he securely painted on his face on the subway where no one he knew could see him, and I realized he was wearing panty hose, and I worried for him.
I worried because I was certain his parents didn't know where he was going and that he was going to make sure they never did. Perhaps he figured at some point he would tell them, one day when he was living alone somewhere, when what they thought didn't matter, but right now they could never know. Was he taking chances that he was sure he was prepared to deal with? Did he know what men were like?
I know nothing about being a gay man, but I still don't think a young man going out in drag is putting himself in a safe place, particularly if he has to get into costume on the subway. I don't think he has a safe place to retreat to if things get ugly out there, and I can't help but worry that a young man thinks he knows how men think but doesn't know how they think about women. And I wanted to tell this young man to be careful.
He put on a wig before we got to 57th street. I was suddenly sitting next to a tall beautiful blond woman with long curly hair that made me envious, but I wanted to call out before he got out at Times Square,
"Be careful out there! Give yourself to someone who cares!"
I minded my own business. New Yorkers are known for that. He was young and didn't want my advice. I wasn't sure I even wanted to give it. His world was different from mine.
That was about 10 years ago. Another Republican was living in the White House. I hope that young man has a safer place to put on his face and get into costume.