All Because of a Dress

As Kris began his transition, our household transitioned, too. Bits and pieces of the 18 year girl were packed away, thrown out or stuffed into a closet. Or so I thought. When Kris started purging, boxes and bags appeared outside his bedroom door, with this pile of dresses flung over the top.

I told Kris about a prom dress drive that was in its planning stages at his old high school. He liked the idea of the like-new dresses going to girls who couldn’t afford new ones.

When the day came to donate the dresses, I packed up my car and took them to school a few hours before the actual drive would begin. My friend, John, was there to help me take them to the room where they would be kept. As I hung them up and fussed a little over them, he asked, “Are you okay?” somehow more in tune to my feelings than I was myself. I swallowed the unexpected lump in my throat and moved my head. Whether it was a shake or a nod, I wasn’t sure. Neither was he.

I went home, feeling a little off. Deep down, I knew those dresses had to go. And I was ready to let them go.

But I wasn’t able to settle down when I got home. I paced from room to room, starting a task but not finishing. I was feeling rattled but didn’t know why.

As time passed, I felt agitated and I realized that my heart was beating faster than usual.

I was distracted and shaken. I felt like the walls were closing in around me.

I tried clearing my mind. Taking deep breaths. Relaxing. No luck.

I checked the clock. The dress drive was about to begin.

Without warning a swirling mass of emotions washed over me all at once and I couldn’t catch my breath. I was shaking and I felt like I was going to jump right out of my own skin.

I had to get to the school. FAST.

I don’t remember consciously thinking about what I was doing.

I just knew that if I did not get back to that school before the other people came to drop off dresses that something bad was going to happen. I felt myself unraveling….. so I grabbed my keys, tossed out a “I’ll be back” over my shoulder and practically ran out of the house, leaving behind a confused son and puzzled husband.

I made it back to the school in record time and speed walked to the room that held the dresses. John stood nearby and one look at my face told him that I was not okay. “What?”

“I need a dress.” I looked at the dresses hanging there, protected in plastic. My eyes raced back and forth until I found the one I was looking for. The one I didn’t even know I was looking for until I reached out and grabbed it….and clutched it to me.

“Kris?” he asked. I felt his concern but outwardly he was very calm.

I shook my head, blinking back the unexpected tears over a dress I was never really sure I liked. I kept bunching the dress in my hands until it was nothing more than a crumpled bundle- a poofy white confection of a bundle.

We were silent. Me waiting for the panic to subside, because it wasn’t until I actually laid my hands on the dress that I realized I was having a panic attack, and John being solid and present for me.

 Why that dress?

Warning- As I tend to do when I’m talking about Kerri-Kris pre-coming out, I will be switching to feminine pronouns.

I have so many memories of Kerri as a little girl. These memories are a mixed bag. Kerri was not forced to do what is viewed as stereo-typical girl things growing up. It was her choice. Ballet, pom poms, American Girl Dolls, clothes, make up, jewelry….. all her own choice.

And going to high school dances was another choice she made. She loved dances. Unlike the horror stories I heard from friends with daughters of the same age, we did not experience nightmare shopping trips, hours spent matching accessories and hair and make up drama.

Kerri was pretty low-maintenance when it came to this sort of stuff. She picked out dresses without much fanfare and occasionally I purchased a dress for her and she wore it. Don’t get me wrong- she wanted to look pretty and she always did. She just didn’t turn the process into an ordeal.

And then she was a senior and it was prom time.

She was so excited! She was going with a male friend who wanted a date but not the relationship ties. It was the perfect arrangement for both of them.

We went shopping for the perfect dress. Store after store. Dress after dress. I stood outside the dressing room doors along with the other mothers, doors popping open and random girls walking out, posing, with everyone watching. Kerri was no different than the rest.

I’ll never forget the look on her face when she slowly opened the door. She had finally found “the” dress.

She glowed as she stepped out, smoothing the floating soft fabric. Then she twirled around and said, “I feel like a princess!”

Her obvious joy brought smiles to everyone’s faces, including mine. But it just didn’t feel right.

Here I was, having that mother/daughter bonding moment that I had been struggling with for 18 years….and it did not feel right. It was such a normal thing. What was wrong with me?

And as I held that dress pressed against my chest, I realized why that dress. It was the last dress I bought for Kerri. It was one of the last times I spent with the child I thought was my daughter. But I also know that it’s okay for me to keep the dress for as long as I want. While it does represent the daughter I no longer have, that’s an IMPORTANT thing- because it reminds me of everything Kerri was and everything she was not. I don’t long for Kerri to come back because as you know if you have a transgender person in your life- Kerri was a temporary part of our lives until Kris could BE and all the important parts of Kerri live on in Kris. The farther I get from Kerri, the clearer Kris becomes.

Everything, even a panic attack, happens for a reason.

I’ve included a link to an article about how it feels to have a panic attack. If you’ve never had one, you might find it interesting– How it Feels to Have a Panic Attack


19 thoughts on “All Because of a Dress

  1. Oh Kat this has brought tears to my eyes, I know this feeling so much and relate to your experience, I still have Jess’s prom dress and looking through the pictures of this night makes me think it was another life so long ago, it still makes me cry even though I know Jake is happier, I’m still dealing with my grief I guess

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Hugh! I didn’t realize that I was having panic attacks for years until I stumbled onto the information by accident. I just thought I was a mess. And then they just stopped overnight.

      When I had that one recently, it had been about 10 years since the last major one, which explains why I was so slow to clue in to what was happening. And when I realized what had happened, I knew I needed to write about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So touched by this, Kat:

    “I don’t long for Kerri to come back because as you know if you have a transgender person in your life- Kerri was a temporary part of our lives until Kris could BE and all the important parts of Kerri live on in Kris. The farther I get from Kerri, the clearer Kris becomes.”


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Panic attacks are nothing to take lightly, I am glad John was there for you during that moment especially.

    I totally understand where you are coming from with the dress and think that the sentiment behind it is sweet and doesn’t take anything from Kris today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know what I would have done without John there. He was standing there eating this bag of chips and while we were standing there in silence, he finally said, “Sorry about crunching on chips in your face.” If it had been anyone else, I might have snapped but because it was him and he has been there all along and knows how hard it has been at times, it was okay. Out of all ‘my people’, he is the biggest surprise. 🙂

      I think that Kris knows that. He understands that I was fond of that girl, too. 🙂


    1. Thank you! I really don’t feel all that strong at times but we all do what we need to do to get through. I share these things to help other people who are going through this to realize that they aren’t the only ones and also to give people who aren’t in my shoes a glimpse of what life is like having a trans* kid to help them better understand.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh gosh, thank you, Deborah! It’s been a life-changing experience for all of us and it’s not over yet.

      My friend, John, has been encouraging me to write a book since the early days after Kris came out. I would like to do that one day.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It had been a long time since I had one. I didn’t even realize what was happening until I was all the way in. Panic attacks really do stink.


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