Love in the Time of Corona: When RuPaul Put Me in Drag, Part 5

When the rest of the transdragification is complete, Ru balances a pair of Stilettos on his long skinny upside-down peace sign and asks, “You ever tried to get into some of these?” 
“I’m actually hurt you don’t remember,” I reply.
Months earlier, I’d been up at Ru’s when he was trying to lighten his LA closet. I told you about it yesterday. If you missed yesterday’s blog, go back and read it. It will make you want to read the three before that. 
Months earlier, I’d been up at Ru’s in the Hollywood Hills because he was trying to lighten his LA closet, like I said, and among the booty I drug back down to the Lowlands that night was that mint green polyester windbreaker you’ve seen me wear for years every time I want to look like a boxing coach and I want you to know I have never worn that thing that someone didn’t compliment me on it but it was on the day that Ru gave it to me that I was up there at his house and he was actually also multi-tasking by putting together ouch-fits for the “Looking Good and Feeling Gorgeous” video (and in that video I put in my two cents’ worth on the blue jean with yellow and orange top number that appears at 3:26 into the official video) but while I was up there and he and his longtime associate Joelle Hawkes were charging through the list of the day, Ru had held up these pumps and asked, “You ever tried to get into some of these?” I said I hadn’t (I chose not to mention the block-heeled incident from the 10th Grade) and they would have hit me in the face if I hadn’t used my Marine reflexes to snatch them out of the air and into the paws that were about to try to all-thumb my big meaty 13Ds into shoes that looked to me like little sportscars. 
After ten grunts and possibly one fart, Ru said, “Here.” And he took the toe part of the pump and sort of twisted into onto the toe and ball of my foot like a jar lid and then gently slid the heel up onto mine. 
“Rise and walk!” he’d said, a mixture of Dr. Frankenstein and Jesus. 

I stood and I did and I looked to me like someone who’d walked in heels their entire life. Hell, I felt like I coulda run a 10K in them and I was particularly proud of this fact and therefore tonight, sort of annoyed that Ru didn’t remember that day I had walked his Great Room like I was walking a ball in Harlem in 1983 and I said, “You don’t remember that day I walked your Great Room like I was walking a ball in Harlem in 1983?” (I want to furrow my brow but all the buttressing and spackling paste wont’ allow it.)  And he says, “Oh yeah, that’s right,” (a performative statement of complete self-forgiveness for forgetting). 

I stand in Ru’s floor-length mirror and stare at the statue Ru had seen in the marble. 
“What’s her name?” he asks. 
“I always liked ‘Larayne.’  L-A-R-A-Y-N-E. It was my mother’s middle name.’
“Then Larayne it is!” 

Now to unveil the results to my “husband” Adam. I feel like I need to pee and then abandon the idea when I think of all that might entail. Ru enters the main room before I do to announce me to Adam. “Here she is! Miss Larayne!” 

I think mostly Adam was surprised at the good job Ru did like I was. To his credit, he didn’t seem freaked out at all and maybe even a little turned on. 

“You look beautiful” he said and stood on his tip-toes for a kiss. 
“Uh-uh!” Lightening strikes. “The lips!” Ru says. “Drag queen kiss!” So we do. 
I walk around the apartment trying to find out who this person I’m wearing is and feeling a little bit awkward; not because of the experience so much but that I don’t really know what to do. 
“What’s some drag queen song you know? From back in the day?” Ru asks.
“‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’ from Dreamgirls I guess?”
“Attagurl.” And soon it’s echoing up to the high ceilings and I am doing the best Jennifer Holiday I can muster, a drag show for two, for the most famous drag queen in the world and the man I’d salvaged from the bushes outside The Rooster Fish.
After it’s over there were laughs and applause all around. My take from the show? $2. Both from Ru. Adam said he’d have to get back to me.   

More laughs until they die down in a way that makes everyone afraid of the silence to follow. 

I stand in the mirror again. Ru appears behind me. 

“It’s not right, is it?” Ru asks gently. 

“Not quite.” I answer. 
Ru disappears into one of the floor-to ceiling closets in the big room and then returns with black, patent leather boots that go halfway up the thigh!.  I take one look at them and say, “Fuck. Yes.” 
Ru’s all of a sudden twirling around the place grabbing this’s and that’s in a new incantation, an entire identity based on one very badass pair of boots. Just before the boots… “Here! Put these on!” It’s a pair of fishnet hose that look like a hooker wore them for her entire career. There is a little denim skirt, a cute horizontal-striped little sailor shirt worthy of Jean Genet, up to the neck to hide my hairy chest, and a tricked-out yellow motorcycle jacket with chains. Gone is the Bonnie Raitt red. I stand there in a wig cap with Ru holding up two wigs as if the choice will direct the entire future trajectory of my life which is odd because the wigs were identical except for color. One was a magenta only found in 1968, the other a fuchsia so bright it looked like it had batteries.  

I go with the fuchsia. 

When the look is complete, back to the mirror. 
“Fuck yeah! Now this is more like it!” and I give the double-devil horns rock-and-roll sign. 
“Now, what’s your name?!” 
“Veronica!” I announce and Ru falls over in delighted laughter. 

“Well, hit the streets, bitch!”  
I’m confused. 
“I didn’t do all this shit to not have it appreciated! Go for a pack o’ smokes!”

When I walked out those big glass doors on the front of Ru’s building and onto the cobblestone streets of the West Village I knew I was there to do spiritual work. This demonstration of defiance was a revolutionary act for me, a raging against all that I that I had been told in my life that what I brought to the world was not welcome.  All those times I was ever called girly or sissy or faggot or queer, I was about to give them my best version of it. I walked over to Christopher Street and past Stonewall Inn. I walked into a piano bar for a tonic with lime.  I waked the streets of the West Village, marveling how it had changed over my years of coming to New York, waved at a few ghosts. 

Eventually I did head back over towards the Hudson and remembered the smokes; a small Bodega on the corner would be happy to take my twelve bucks for a pack. Surprisingly, even at that hour there were three or four people in the store and no one treated me any different than any other New Yorker (which is actually much warmer than the bad press would indicate). As I marched back towards Ru’s I got lost in the cadence of my boots and I gave the little faggot inside of me a smack on the ass like I’ve been able to do a time or two in my adult life. A smack that says “I’m proud of you” because I’ve finally figured it out. People always talk about going back to “talk to your childhood self.” The idea is that we can give the kid something they didn’t get. With me, I need to go back regularly, “Hey kid, remind me how to be so fierce and courageous.” Every time I’ve acted courageously in my life, I believe it was that little dude who was pushing me. 

I’m a block from Ru’s. That shower is going to feel good. God knows how long it will take to shower Veronica off so I can get Jeff’s pajama’s on. 

The streets are all of a sudden completely abandoned and seem darker than before. I get to experience a kind of fear that some people face every time they go out at night. An electric shock goes through my body when I realize a car has turned on the dark street where I’m walking and is driving pretty slow. I bragged about how I could run a 10K in heels but now I’m hoping I don’t have to. The window rolls down as the Impala vibrates the cobblestone and they slowly pass by. “Lookin’ good baby” says the man with the neck tattoos and he flashes a gold-tooth smile as they drive away.

I wink goodnight to the reflection of the moon on the Hudson River and  turn the key in the big glass door to go in. 

For your information, a good way to take off a lot of makeup is to just get in the shower with a bottle of baby oil and some soap. I don’t have to tell you the order. 

Even though our friendship is no more, I’ll be forever grateful to Ru for that experience, reticent though I was to go through with it. It taught me a lot about myself and how I think about myself. It made me more courageous and it showed me some things I don’t want to be. Telling this story has been sort of bittersweet because my friendship with Ru was precious to me at a time. As I said, I think I simply didn’t make the cut. I’m speaking from my heart when I say I hope the increased fame and fortune has also brought him increased happiness. 

Thanks to those who stuck out for what turned out to be a five part blog series. I thought I could tell it in one. I guess I had more I needed to forgive and let go than I thought. 

At some point I mentioned that after Adam, “Kind to me” replaced “Straight acting” at the top of my “Create a Husband” shopping list, er, I mean vision-board/goal setting list and at the same time decided to set out to become the man of my dreams rather than to find him. Then maybe then I’d look for a kind man to share that life with. 

I have ended up with a man who is just that. And although he does in fact have that raised-a-Mormon-farm-boy-in-Idaho-before-joining-the-Navy relaxed masculinity, the non-performed kind,  the reason I am with him (other than I love him) is that he is very, very kind to me. 

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