It was early morning, 4 a.m., the first time I met Candy. I had been on the job for about a year. Not having any idea what I was walking into, I slid Candy's curtain to the side to enter her treatment room. What I walked into was better than a shot of espresso.
Candy was running her fingers through her nurse's long blond hair.
"Honey, what I could do with your hair if you let me," she was saying to Mo, who was being an awfully good sport about it. I'm not sure I could let some stranger caress my scalp and hair in this manner.
"Yeah, yeah. Thanks, Candy," Mo answered, "that's what you told me last time, too."
So, Mo already knew Candy. I later learned that everyone who works in our ER knew Candy.
Candy, as it turns out, is a transgender male-to-female. These terms can be confusing, but transgender simply means that a person is living cross-gendered without sexual reassignment surgery.
Candy was known for handing out brutally honest fashion advice to our staff during her treatment time. I was only too happy to watch her interaction with Mo play out.
"Yes, honey," Candy continued as she held tight to Mo's hair, "you need to cut it a little shorter, get some highlights, and have it frame your face better."
"Um, okay, thanks Candy. I'll get right on that," Mo answered, still the good sport. "You do remember, though, that it's four in the morning, right? I'm sure not getting gussied up for an overnight shift."
"Ugghhh," Candy continued, ignoring Mo's defense, "and your split ends! Girlfriend, how could you? Go get me some scissors and I'll take care of this mess right now."
Mo extracted herself and her hair from Candy's grip. And then noticed me standing by the entrance.
"Oh, Candy, look who we have here! One of our doctors is waiting to see you." I do believe that Mo had just thrown me under the bus!
I stepped forward with my hand extended and introduced myself to Candy, feeling her eyes bore into my every fiber.
"Well, well, well," she said thoughtfully, "what do we have here?"
Nope. I'm first. Let me describe Candy to you. First, her outfit. She was in a white with black polka-dot mini-skirt with white tights, humongous red heels capping the ends of her lower extremities. Her shirt was sheer, white and black zebra-striped, hanging loosely over her skirt. She had a five o'clock shadow, a prominent Adam's apple, and thin scraggly hair that hung limply to her shoulders. Her makeup was very loud, despite the facial contusions and abrasions from the assault that brought her to us this night. She was sitting upright comfortably in her cot, one leg bent under her thin frame.
Okay, now your turn, Candy.
"Hair, good. Body, good. Nice eyes. Nice lips. Wow, look at those cheekbones!" Yes, I was really liking this Candy character, but made a mental note to myself that I should probably check her vision on this visit. Mo, who I thought was leaving the room, decided to hover to see what advice I would be receiving. She was leaning against the wall, arms crossed, smirking at me, thoroughly enjoying me being in the hot seat. She must have known it was going to get ugly soon.
"Wait. Oh yes," Candy exclaimed, pointing at my mouth, "look at that tooth!"
Shoot. I can't believe she narrowed in on my tooth. I think I have pretty nice teeth, barring one slightly off-colored one on my right upper front. And even this tooth isn't so bad. I had gotten knocked in the mouth playing basketball a few years ago, resulting in this tooth turning slightly off-white. My dentist had thought it would die and I would ultimately need to get it pulled, posted, and replaced. However, the darn thing didn't die off completely, and now I was stuck with a half-living tooth. Kind of like tooth purgatory.
Eventually, I knew I would have to get the tooth addressed, but it didn't bother me, and you had to look really hard to see it. At least I thought so. Thanks, Candy, for looking hard.
"Yeah, sugar," Candy continued, Mo now in a full-bloom smile, "get that thing taken care of, would you? Jesus H. Christ! Why would you walk around looking like that?"
How can you not smile? I started laughing, but Candy was just getting warmed up.
"Honey, can you spell manicure? Because you need one bad. Look at those bitten-up nails!"
I looked down at my hands, appreciating my nails, actually thinking that they looked pretty good to me. Now, though, I was feeling the need to apologize. "I'm sorry, Candy, I can't help it."
"Well, help it. You're a doctor, right? There's no reason you shouldn't be getting yourself some manicures (she said it like "man-neeeee-cures") and pedicures." She shuddered and continued. "I can only imagine what your feet look like!"
"Do you want to see them, Candy?" I asked, now enjoying this immensely. I had on hospital clogs, it would be easy to accommodate her.
"Ugghhh," she said, "find somebody else with a foot fetish. That ain't me, honey."
Ouch! She was tough. Clinton and Stacey from "What Not To Wear" held nothing on Candy.
Well, I'm happy to say that Candy turned out alright that night. Just some bumps and bruises. Interestingly, she had been working a corner in one of our less-desirable neighborhoods and had been picked up by four college boys for her services (this was her version). Less than a mile later, when they found out her true gender, they assaulted her and threw her out of their barely stopped car.
I'd like to think it wasn't her gender that bothered them as much as her fashion critiques. Can you even imagine? "Honey," she'd start out as she bent to get into the car, "what's up with all those pimples on your face? And you," she'd continue, looking at another one, "what's up with that greasy haircut you're sporting?" Yep, out the door she went.
I've seen Candy in the ER a few more times since then and always enjoy her wisdom and our conversations. Most recently, I was out to a dinner party at a local restaurant that was having a simultaneous gathering of transgender/transsexual localites. As my party followed the waitress to our table, we passed the gathering and there was Candy, sitting at a table with three other members, laughing and smiling and being quite animated.
Her hair is still scraggly. My tooth still isn't fixed.
You go, Candy!
Thanks for reading, as always, and have a great weekend. Next post will be Monday, December 21.