Dec 31, 2009

Resolved, Rinse, Repeat

I have never been, dear friends much of a New Years Resolution type. Like many, I have made easy promises about cold hard things that melted away at the first heat. My track record over the years, if I am to be honest was zero for whatever. Not wanting to reinforce that tradition of failure, some years ago I resolved to resolve no more. Here, finally, was a promise that I could keep. I lightly entered the next 15 or so new years without dragging burdensome profanity, drinking, or career track baggage with me.

I managed nonetheless to attain a reasonable position of comfort and accomplishment, and in some senses, a lavish life without these annual commitments. Clearly I was on the right track, and clearly something had to be changed.

And so last year, newly intoxicated by my acceptance of “Petra”, I resolved again. Publicly in fact. Long time readers may remember a post from 31 Dec of 08 wherein I promised 2 things.

I resolve to keep at this (ed. blogging). I want to be a better writer, and Petra surely has much to write about.

Done, and to my thinking, done well. I have posted, since that pledge, 100+ mini-essays on diverse topics here on Voyages en Rose. I have figured out the discipline of placing butt in a chair and getting the thoughts sorted into words. I do believe that the quality is good, the voice is original, and your response as an audience for my writing has been particularly gratifying. Next:

I resolve to share this (ed. cross dressing) in some way, slowly, and respectfully with my wife. I know she wants my happiness, but this is a very, very big ask.

Again, done, a bullet dodged, a bomb diffused. And possibilities of growing love and happiness exist again in the home I share with the principal miracle in my overblessed life. Top that.

A pretty good year measured against my promises. I should take my winnings off the table and go back to the happy no-years resolution posture of prior years, but fool that I am, it is time to double down.

First, on the writing. I am going to take it more seriously. I take much joy from the work of writing, and a have great inheritance of experience to plunder. Most of that experience has little or nothing to do with the what I write about here. The sugar and spice is nice, yes, but there is more to life than all that. I am going to write in my own name and in the open. There I will lose the lovely anonymity that Voyages en Rose provides. New challenges and consequences no doubt. Looking forward to them.

This will represent a loss of voice for Petra, and that is likely, certain in fact, to be registered here with a less productive year on Voyages en Rose. This anticipation ties closely to my other big resolution.

It is my hope to normalize my cross dressing this year. Cross dressing has been so much, too much on my mind for the last 12 months plus. It has taken cycles from parts or my life that truly require and deserve attention. I don’t regret a moment of the time I have spent blogging, corresponding, checking analytics, and pondering new purchases, but I simply cannot sustain this near obsessive level of attention to the life en femme.

I believe that I have been too occupied with this part of my life because it was hidden from my wife. Lots of steam in that tightly shut pressure cooker. The lid, loose now, the heat lower, the broth is off the boil. There are other dishes to prepare. Some of them have to do with money. I could have made a lot more of the stuff in 2009. Money is not everything, but at heart, money does represent choice. I like choice and it is time to give myself more of them. Therefore, my paying work will get some of the displaced energy.

More importantly, I plan to use the freed up time and mental cycles to be a better husband to my wife. We do need to carefully figure out exactly how we share our home and lives with Petra together, and that is a big, complex and sensitive undertaking. Taken in the big picture though, these matters are small beans. We have much to plan for and achieve together, and most of these things have little to do with gender expression and much to do with humanity, love and hope. The big stuff, dear friends.

Wish us luck. And for you, my wishes are exactly the same for you as they were one year ago today:

I wish you all a completely happy new year. Whatever makes you peaceful, tranquil, curious and young, I hope you find in abundance.

Thanks for visiting. See you soon.

Dec 30, 2009

A look back in Angora

Just moments ago I ran into a creative wall and hit the pause button on my efforts to create a suitable wrap up post for the end of an eventful 2009. One wants to kindly pat the ass of the old year as it totters out the door, and embrace the new one with warmth and anticipation as she sashays in. This process involves, for me, a quick reflective flight back through much of what I have written over the past year.

On balance I am very happy with the yield of my labors in the Voyages en Rose garden. Moreover, I have been really encouraged by the comments and contributions that many of you have spread around here. To stretch the garden metaphor, you have helped fertilize things quite nicely, thank you. To fully snap the metaphor, I will now pull five blooms from the past years yield for your consideration. I think they represent the full spectrum of colors I write with, and document the tides, high, low and in between of what has been for me a remarkable year.

From oldest to youngest, here is a fast clatter through 2009:

From 27 February “
Big, Subtle Victories” wherein your correspondent comments on a Freudian non-slip, and the comfortable embrace of my cross dressed life.

From 13 March,
A Cross Dressers Hiatus, the first time in my life that I had been paying full enough attention to my habit, to see it wash away from me. The first time too that I knew I would be comfortable when the tide came back in.

From August 11,
Veronica vs. Betty, Stockings vs. Pantyhose. Here, I took a diversion from my typical reviews of tights to generalize on the allure of sheers, in their many forms. This sort of stuff tends to get my poetic juices running.

From 26 October,
Cross Dressing Canvas, a real stretch of my mental silly putty, but in hindsight, not a bad attempt at understand dressing in general and cross dressing specifically as an artistic undertaking.

From 21 November,
The Stations of the Cross Dresser – The Brassiere Fitting, in which your quivering correspondent does some straight reportage from behind the lines of a fine lingerie shop.

I will pay tribute to Mrs. Bellejambes here by mentioning that her 2 favorites were my poetic efforts
here and here. This came as a surprise to me, and a challenge I suppose. Perhaps the creation of a the odd couplet will help keep this odd couple young and fresh.

I am now going to self-medicate, a 375 ml dose of a decent Argentine Malbec, in the hope that I can rise tomorrow to the challenge of thanking you for properly for your visits this past year, and setting expectations for the next.

Happy New Years Eve Eve.

Dec 28, 2009

Petra’s Pantyhose Parade – High Waist Sheer Elimination Tourney

Long promised, overdue, derailed by the holidays and the fluff ‘twixt my ears, I am today getting around to fulfilling an editorial promise made on 10 December in a post you might review here while your nails dry.

In America, we are but weeks away from the culmination of the Collegiate basketball season and so I thought to stage a mini-tourney of tights in a bracketed format to help get you in practice for March Madness with my own brand of Sheer Madness. The sheer part is easy, and I expect that my madness will be fully confirmed by the time I publish the concluding post sometime in late January. The tournament runs through 3 preliminary rounds, after which Gold, Silver and Bronze medals will be handed out. A virtual set of steak knives and flowers to the plucky also-rans.

This week our Ivy League Competitors, Ann Taylor and Donna Karan go sandal-toe-to-sandal-toe in our first high-pressure, low-denier slim-fest. Next week, it’s the SCC (Sara’s Corporate Conference) featuring an epic intra-brand battle of the bulge between marquee brand Spanx, and her value priced sibling, Assets by Sara Blakely. We will wrap it all up with NCAA (Nice, Cheap, All-American) Division 2 upstarts and crowd favorites L’eggs whose Silken Mist and Profiles entries have garnered no small amount of pre-tournament prattle and buzz. Got your pom-poms and popcorn and pomegranite martinis ready? Lets have at it, shall we?

Round 1: The Ivy League.

Donna Karan and Ann Taylor truly are the Vassar and Wellesley of the tournament, sleek, polished, refined and ready to gobble up an inheritance of any magnitude.

AT strides onto the court with
The Perfect Sheer Modern High Waist Control Top available online or in stores at a retail price of $25.00. They are very true to the size chart, and this I do not mind telling you will come as a bit of a surprise once you have pulled them out of the package. They are the tiniest little things, positively elfin and cute beyond words. They look to have the same dimensions as a dressy little infants one-sey that you might see at a baby shower if the soon-to-be-born was expected to require evening wear in between feedings. The 23% Spandex content provides all the stretch required to hoist them high, up and over knees, hips, waist and well north of this Adam’s rib to rest comfortably just below the bra line.

The slimming thoughout the panty portion is provided solely by the high elastic content, as is the position of the panty top. The good news is that this simple approach to figure fixing leaves clean lines beneath your outfit. The bad news is that there is really nothing for the garment to find purchase on and cling to. You can expect a gradual loss of altitude over the course of the evening, but in fairness, the loss is evenly distributed and does not create an unsightly spare tire about the waist line.

The leg is a pretty, matte sheer that I would guess to be in the 15-20 denier range, so dressy yes, attractive by all means, but not really red carpet ready. The run resistant weave does show a tell-tale horizontal thread, but clearly you are on friendly terms with anyone close enough to notice that level of detail. It is good that run resistant durability is built in at $25.00 a throw, but Ann's durability comes at the price of a little elastic heat. They feel better to the hand then they do to the leg, not really wicking heat and moisture away very effectively.

Team DK takes the court with the
Body Perfect Collection Waist Embrace Perfect Sheer, evenly matched from a price perspective at $24.00, but ready to outclass Team Taylor right from the tip off. The art direction of the packaging is alluring, and the feel of the garment is nothing short of superb even before the long delicate climb in and up. The 90% nylon shaping panty portion has a polished silken feel, and is buttressed by a reinforcing midriff panel and some extra determined butt lifting hydraulics in the back field. The rear half of the high waistband is augmented with silicon grip, and the front half by a clever, subtle bra clasp mechanism. This is a structural slimmer, not simply a an elastic one. Once on, they stay in place. I do advise you to avoid environments where nervous impulse drinking urges may strike. I imagine it is easier to suit up for a space walk than to disrobe for a call of nature in these. All beauty at a price though correct?

And the beauty really shows in the leg. 10 denier sheer to my practiced guess, 12 tops, delicate, light catching and faintly glimmering sheers, there is no room in my social circle that the DK’s would be outclassed in. Even with the high (23%) Spandex content, there is a cling and glide about the leg that is cool and comforting, and to the hand, luxurious as leggings get. Appearance and feel that rivals the very best of the premier European hosiery vendors at a very competitive price.

Ivy League performance all the way. Our clear-cut conference winner, Donna Karan moves on to the playoff round, assured of a spot in the Final Sheer Three.

2 up, 1 down, 4 to go. Stay tuned here for the Spanx tip off.

Dec 24, 2009

The Night Before Cross Dress

‘Twas some weeks before Christmas, and up in the attic
Were blouses and dresses which, if found, would cause static.
And wigs too, and padding and heels at their highest
And short skirts for bold girls, not the girl who is shy-est.

This bounty of pretty, to me a delight
Was a source too of upset that I hoped to set right
My too private wardrobe did enjoin me with grief
And for long months I puzzled, in pursuit of relief.

So temptingly close, six small steps up the stairs
Duck down here, mind your step, look beyond those old chairs
You’d see wires and boxes, old tools and detritus
Squint there now, beyond them, all the things that delight us

In the cold, and the dark, and on hangers, not shoulders
Dresses not loved and worn, well they wither and molder
But molder they must long as I do not share
With my wife, who might find this all too much to bear.

Having married a man, a chap dressed in a Tux
Who took to things manly like water to ducks
And who took loving pledges, religious and civil
But now wants to walk with a different hip swivel

You know news of this sort would confuse and confound
The smart and the strong and the frail and the sound,
And my proud wife, she made of such sterling stuff
Might say, and quite fairly, that enough is enough.

And I for our home, for our love, for my vows
Would purge and would promise no more dressing, no-how
And shut off desires in the wool dyed so true
For feelings and fabrics more pink and less blue.

Feelings deeper than surface, more profound than reflexive
My feelings of kinship for the woman’s perspective
I would try to disarm, to discard, and suppress
And live on with less me, and with more of my stress.

But the stress is not mine, as you know, its all shared
And unfairly with loved ones, with the people I care
To see happy, delighted, at ease and in love
And so last week, dead frightened, my push came to shove.

My story I told, (in prose form, not in verse)
A confessional letter that for better or worse
Told truths too long buried about the whole me:
Mix up 3 cups of man, add a fresh dash of “she” .

There are moments dear friends that you pray will go right
That moment, now past, I’m relieved and you might
Think me lucky in general, and most blessed by a wife

Who said, “thanks love, for sharing, lets get on with our life”.

Now panties and stockings and girdles and tights,
And jungle print tunics and tall boots that beam bright
And blouses that button from the left, not the right
Are now folded and hung in a room warm with light.

Our stockings are hung too, by chimney and belt
My favorites, more flimsy than the red ones of felt,
And I wish for you friends, with my heart, that you might,
Enjoy Christmas today, and each day, a good night.

Image courtesy of Katie over at the always worth a visit Knickers Lingerie Blog. Happy Holidays to everyone!

Dec 23, 2009

The Other Woman - Part 2. Out with a hall pass

Ed. For fashionably latecomers, this post is the conclusion of the story commenced in “The Other Woman” just a few days ago.

After saying "see you a little later" to the true beauty of my home the other night, I slid into the car and headed out into the night.
Driving en femme is always special of course – adjusting to the feel of heels on the pedals, the electric touch of tights on more closed legs, elbows in, arms held just lower, the seatbelt seated differently across the augmented bust.

And O, yeah, the hair blown errantly and adhering to ones newly glossed lips. I love the challenges, but honestly they sometimes stack up too fast and furious. All happiness at a price I suppose.

In any event, I was off to meet with an unknown number of card and purse carrying CD/TG guild members at a nearby gay bar welcoming of all-sorts. Mrs. Bellejambes did volunteer to come along with me but, not really knowing the crowd, I thought it prudent to do my reconnaissance as a solo mission. It is important to me that each threshold we cross together is done well, and that we avoid mis-steps along the way as much as possible. I took a few minutes to browse cosmetics at a Walgreens in order to get my hips operating correctly, bring the heart rate down a small scooch and etc., took a couple of deep breaths and strode into the smoky confines of The Stage Door.

It was pretty easy to spot my sorority, front and center at the bar, as they are. I said hello to Heather, the outreach director for Atlanta’s
Tri-Ess CD support group, and Rebecca, full-timer and bravely transitioning girl in town from the reddest county in a very red state. A few other introductions, Joanne in a pretty red dress with her loving wife, Cindy, Nikki with the 6” black pumps, and exchanges of hello’s with a few others whose faces I remember but whose names elude me mostly. I have a pretty easy way with conversation but am hopeless with names dear friends.

Heather had to call it an early night, but took the time to ensure that I knew that Mrs. B and myself were most welcomed to lean on Tri-Ess for whatever support and fellowship we want, and I must say that that is a nice coupon to have in the purse for the right time. Bless you Heather.

I am happy to report that the evening was about as normal as nights out get. I shot a little inept pool with Leslie, she of the complexion of a 40 year old who confessed to being a grandparent of 9, social security eligible, and a mere 4 years into fully womanly life after tackling GRS in her late 50’s. Her pool is less inept than mine, with a rather intimidating display of bank shots, massées and décolletage which she unleashed to easily kick my amply padded butt around the table.

It was a relief, after that crushing defeat, then to talk about high availability, mission critical EDI and other computing matters with Joanne. The IT business would be so much more sexy if all the part time geek girls could dress without career consequence it seems to me.

Demographically, the crowd tilted a little silver. Even in my late 40’s I was at the young end of the spectrum. No real surprises or issues with that to me – just an observation. I suppose that many of us are capable of putting up a pretty good fight, and forestalling the embrace of the truth until we hit some level of maturity that can only come with experience, and for me, lots of it.

Some of the hi-jinx did go a little to the young and green side of the age continuum, too young at moments for my tastes. There was a certain amount of flashing and friendly feels copped here and there (not by me, or of me thankfully). I am fully with St. John Lennon in believing “whatever gets you through the night, it’s all right, its all right”, but I am a bit of a reserved prude, at least about my own comportment. Its not that I have inhibitions so much as I just don’t get all tingly about exhibitions. The universe however says Ohmmmmm, and I try my best to hum along.

I took my leave before being tempted by the cocktail of no return with warm hugs, light handshakes and happily, no high-fives, to arrive quietly at home a little after mid-night. I was reminded of an old girlfriends complaints about smoky places (my own apartment I think, back then). Women with long hair are Vapor Velcro. Even with my own retarded sense of smell, I could tell I was a tad rank, which takes some of the gloss off a ground breaking night.

There is the slow, mindful and decorous unbuttoning and hanging of garments, the doffing of shoes and wig, the careful peeling of nails and lashes, and the good scrub of the old mug. Sad moments, or perhaps not sad, just a little wistful. And privileged moments too. And then, there in the mirror blinking back at you, yourself thinking … “where did that woman go...?”

Well, she went home. To climb quietly into a warm and slumbering bed.

Dec 22, 2009

Beautiful Bloggers

With coffee in hand, I crept downstairs to my writers crypt (think low budget fan-film Batcave meets IKEA) to check mail, read the analytic tea leaves and drop a few blog thoughts down in the golden moments before the day takes over.

Well I must say I blushed to see a note all the way from Mandaluyong in The Philippines from dear friend
Leah who had, to my delight, presented me with the coveted “Beautiful Blogger" award. Leah is a professional photographer, and so bless her big heart, who am I to argue with her aesthetic senses? Thanks Leah! Really, I had a speech prepared, but now standing here at the podium I am just drawing a total blank!

Lets take a quick moment to “better know a bloggers home”. Mandaluyong is one of the 17 cities that, taken together, form the massive, 20 million strong Manila metropolitan district. This city-within-a-city, right in the throbbing and colorful heart of one of the worlds most sprawling conurbations is the shopping capital of The Philippines, a pretty enclave, and warm host to some of the more beautiful and fashionable neighborhoods in this storied and attractive land.

All of which must make Leah feel quite at home and look quite in place. I mean, check her out folks (below right).

In any event, I am very flattered to have been singled out for attention with Blogistan being so dense with beauty. And so, I accept, and now set out to fulfill my duties. They are as follows:

1. Thank the person who bestowed this honor upon me. Check.
2. Copy the award, and place it on my blog. Roger that.
3. Link to the bestowers’ site. Affirmative.
4. Enumerate 7 interesting things about yourself. Regardez ici:

  • My most enduring work habits were picked up as a pimply faced 15 year old earning $1.85 / hr sweeping the lobby floor of a McDonalds restaurant.
  • In drab mode I can wear a striped tie on a striped shirt with a striped suit, and make it all work.
  • En femme, I am neither that brave or skilled.
  • I time my punch lines so that people involuntarily shoot carbonated beverages through their noses.
  • I once flew to Savannah and back to Atlanta 3 times in a single day to secure Delta Gold Medallion status for the next year.
  • I proposed to my wife of 14+ years six days after meeting her, and
  • My Mom is too refined to say it, but I am her favorite.

5. Nominate 7 Bloggers that you find beautiful. Aye aye Captain!

Now, this part is a bit tougher – I see a lot of beauty everywhere. You all know who you are. So here are 7 lovely blooms pulled quickly from a gorgeous garden, the rest of you left to dazzle strangers, friends and loved ones as you do daily. In no particular order:

Treacle, and Tights Lover who so exhaustively explore and document the world of foundation garments that my efforts in The Pantyhose Parade are actually quite mooted. The lovely Couture Carrie, who probably has Beautiful Blogger awards stacking up like the countless shoe boxes blocking entry to her walk in closet. The young poetess and philosopher KD whose cultivation of happiness is a sure hallmark of beauty. The brave and resolute Leslie Ann whose hope in the face of obstacles is surely beautiful to the people nearby who really matter. Lynn D, whose open delight in the full nature of her partner and their possibilities is surely possessed of a 24/7 beauty aura, and finally Staci Lana, Head Cheerleader, Class Valedictorian, and role model to Femulators everywhere, making the world effortlessly more beautiful every day.

Dear friends, please accept your nominations in the spirit of respect and admiration I extend to you at this festive time of year. I do hope you feel inclined to spread the feeling far and wide. To those of you not mentioned here, you too have a warm space in my heart if not in this post.

Beautiful Holidays all around…

Dec 21, 2009

The Other Woman

Do your best for a moment to describe the taste of your favorite food, and then imagine the gap between your words and the very real sensations, the aromas, textures, colors and flavors enjoyed in the eating. That gap is what I imagined to be the difference between me talking about cross dressing with my wife, and actually standing before her in full femme glory.

My goodness, it has been a week of weight and consequence. There is absolutely nothing that Mrs. Bellejambes could have done to make it any easier for me, god love her. Her acceptance has been out the outer limits of my hopes, but in hindsight, absolutely true to the person I have known her to be all along.

But still. I had not dressed for us. Mrs. B had not met The Other Woman.

This moment was organized for and executed on Saturday night. And we are both still breathing. I had received an invitation to a holiday party with a handful of birds of a similar feathers, and accepted. I have been a quiet and lurking member of a local online group for some time without joining in any of the message threads, going to a social, or striking up any friendships with these girls. Now, with me out to my wife it seemed like a good time to go public.

I don’t have any makeup at home, and Mrs. B’s complexion is so flawless that our cabinets are absent of all the mortar and trowel kit that I require to not frighten innocent children. Out of vanity, I did not want to do a half job, and just appear for her bewigged, breasted and hipped out, clad and shod in my finest. Thusly, a visit to my cosmetician was required. I dressed at home, with Mrs. B elsewhere, and slipped out to
Ramona’s for expert application of war paint. Ramona really outdid herself, and flattered the hand I have been dealt by nature. Sorry, no pics, and it’s a shame, I really felt terrific.

Home at about 8ish with a promise to gather at the Stage Door at 9:30. Mrs. B was lounging upstairs, tending to her vast
Facebook Farmville holdings and, I suspect, breathing a little more regularly than I was click-clacking up the stairs, wondering … exactly what is the correct pose to strike here, now, for this?

Back straight, eyes wide, and lips curled up … Hi honey. I’m home.

My ensemble, an aubergine camisoled Chiffon blouse up top, the black shirred silk skirt a good few inches above the knees, both from
Ann Taylor, a very fashion forward pair of Oroblu tights, all perched on a closed foot pair of 3" heeled, black pump booties. Smart professional girls night out look for the holiday season really. Very pretty in my view, attractive yes, and happy miles away from the come-hither borderline slutty territory that the cross dresser sometimes travels through.

I really wanted to represent all of “us” well to my important audience of one, and think that I did. Again, with the “Oh. My. God…”, fulsome complements and a couple of questions about where the pieces came from. I then sat next to her on the bed, and ….

easy there friends. Her PC was locking up. I explained how to diagnose things through use of the Task Manager. CPU utilization was at 100%, and a quick look at the process tabs showed multiple runaway SVChost.exe instances. In my sexiest normal part-time tech support guy voice I explained that she was more or less up the creek and in need of a reboot paddle.

Oddly enough, over the background hum of a thrashing CPU, my part-time tech support guy voice is still very much my part-time Petra voice. It is a nice baritone, and I don’t make an effort to cloak it. So this unfamiliar and convincingly female form with the familiar but unexpected voice is the other woman. I am sure it is an unsettling thing – perhaps if one of our dogs starting speaking in Esperanto rather than Standard Global Canine Bark/Yelp, it would have the same effect ( for my ruminations on guy voice in femme mode, please click over
here …).

So, how exactly does Mrs. B address the other woman? Very small sample at this point, but I do not think that Mrs. B will take to calling me Petra. The everyday endearments will be employed I suspect: honey, sweetheart and hey you. I do not suspect that when we speak about “Petra”, that we will name Petra. I do not think that Petra will be real and distinct enough to warrant 3rd person, gender specific pronouns such as "she" and "her". This seems proper to me. “Petra” is integral, and not a broken fragment, distinct from the “rest of me”.

So, with a quick kiss, and a double check on the contents of my purse, off into the night I go. More details soon.

Dec 18, 2009

Trans-dental Meditations

I will start off here with a pretty “male” declarative statement. Everyone ready?

The male smile has an aggressive aspect to it, while the female smile has a sympathetic aspect to it. Venus and Mars are not all right tonight. Our pearly whites light different paths.

I am quite certain that my interpretation of smiles is hardwired to, and a captive of a long evolutionary history. Our smiles have evolved with purpose, perhaps in the same way as our capacity for glib generalizations. I thank you in advance for allowing me mine. Generalizations that is. This topic will force a few of them out of me.

And odd confluence of things took me to thinking about smiling. My very first
post here on Voyages en Rose made mention of my smile, and how I felt that it did not work en femme. My feelings are not unique. I have seen a good number of the CD/TG set indicating that the smile is a trouble spot for them. There are so many things that can act as “tells” and can trigger the erosion of confidence and happiness that we hope to enjoy while out and about, or simply in front of a private mirror. The smile seems to be one of them.

Thinking about this then, I paid a little attention to the photos of some of the “natural born women” who visit here. Warm, full, and welcoming. Beautiful and free, different entirely.

Recently, New Yorker magazine featured a photo essay entitled “
Portraits of Power” (link is subscription enabled only) featuring the work of the superb lens man, Platon. He had set up an ad-hoc studio on the campus of the United Nations, and over a few months cajoled as many global leaders as he could into the booth for a quick snap.

The resulting portfolio is a small epic. Rogues and saints. Self important and self effacing. Fathers of the revolution, and sons of bitches. And largely male (41 of the 44 featured subjects). Their smiles, or at least the expressions around their mouths cut a pretty wide swath through guarded, confident, serious, fierce, happy, at ease, and full-on, pissed-off at the imposition of sitting still for even a moment. Page after page.

Flipping through them, you could be forgiven for not noticing Madam President Tarja Halonen of Finland as being different from the other subjects, so sadly denatured of signals of gender she is in her portrait. Then, 20 pages in, catch your breath. Side-by-side, Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of Italy (at left), and Christina Fernandez of Chile. (below right, click images to enlarge).

Photography is editorial of course. It reveals artist bias and draws out your own. What do you make of this editorial statement?

To me, Berlusconi is the leering satyr, jacked up on Viagra and immune from consequence. His smile says ‘” ... that is tasty, I may take it for myself. You may now envy me my freedom from the petty rules that limit your life”.

Fernandez on the other hand and the opposing page is ready to cradle, comfort and to come to an appreciation of the your needs. Her smile says “I can understand, if perhaps you share more. You can trust me to be kind”.

The contrast is stunning.

A little research here and there shows that we are all born, boys and girls both, with the same propensity for smiling. Things seem to change though at the onset of puberty, the ribbon cutting ceremony for our shiny new testosterone factory. Boys start smiling less. Girls, under different influences, beam brighter still.

I will confess to never having fully understood or bought into the purported link between smile and submission amongst us biggish apes in general. But I can buy into the idea that our more serious, wary and combative male ancestors were likely giving all the right signals about strength and survivability to prospective wives by keeping their mouths shut except when their teeth might be employed to frighten the crap out of a competitor. This reflex is our inheritance. Gee Dadthanks... I guess. Just what I wanted.

I think we (fellows that is, full time, part-time, and past-tense) have an equally unshakeable evolutionary response to the smile of the fairer sex. We are fools for flattery lads, and quick to interpret the female smile, that gradual, shimmering parting of the red-lipped sea as permission to engage, to come closer, to provide what we can, and perhaps take what we might.

And so here, in our pre-history, the smile diverges, and serves in distinct ways for the distinct genders to assure the longer journey of the genetic stuff that drives us all.

This is perhaps the very root of the issue for those of us whose gender is just a measure or two less distinct. It was Mary Richards who turned the world on with a smile, not Lou Grant. I do carry with me a useful, rich and persistent tool kit of guy behaviors. That tool kit perhaps understandably makes it difficult to master the very distinct art of smiling like a woman.

I am not convinced, even with my background in theatre that there is a mechanical, technical solution to the problem. I rather will hope for more moments of un-selfconscious being, both in drab and en femme, where, free from my own editorial processes, a more thoughtlessly smiling subject may emerge, happily for moments or instances at a time.

How about you? I am all ears for whatever is between yours. Ears that is.

Do take a moment to visit Platon if you love beautiful pictures. Don’t forget to smile this weekend. :)

Dec 17, 2009

Say hello, dear friends, to a new visitor

Those of you keeping up with the happy drama here on these Voyages en Rose will know that I introduced my wife of many years to my cross dressing this past weekend. Like any couple, we have had days, weeks and months over the years that are not as good as others, or as good as we each deserve. In recent times, these less than good days were a too common feature, and I had to believe that the long concealment of my habit was a pretty big contributor to that state of affairs. And so in defense of our potential for goodness and greatness, I introduced “Petra” to Mrs. Bellejambes.

The walls did not collapse. This I credit largely to my wife’s naturally liberal take on life in general, and to her unalloyed love for me. I believe as well that the complete, if late, honesty expressed in my “reveal” was a small contributor. So, we now have an opportunity to learn how to live better with each others fuller selves.

Roses though still have thorns, and avoiding the thorns takes care. What happens next weighs on the mind you know, so I thought today I might update you a little.

Wives do not carry around a nicely illustrated and indexed Husband Operators Manual with an FAQ on cross dressing. As such, I am the primary resource, the go-to-guy on these matters. Sadly, I am equally bereft of manuals and road maps too. I might stuff a copy of
My Husband Betty into her Christmas stocking next week, and she knows that we are welcome to meet with the similarly afflicted/blessed at a meeting of Tri-Ess / Sigma Epsilon here locally any time we choose. Clearly we are not pioneers, but we are self reliant. I suspect that our baby steps will be taken together and will draw on our own instincts and reflexes.

My instincts and reflexes are informed in part by advice I have taken from friends directly, and indirectly from my flitting about the online world. Some of the very good counsel I received before and in the immediate aftermath of this disclosure was to move slowly. I placed a particular value on
Lynn D’s input: “Take small steps in high heels”. Now, there is a thought that I just intuitively get. So, small steps it is.

I started with saying that I was willing to answer any question Mrs. B has at any time, fully and directly. On day one, questions were of a general nature: “have you been in out in public? ... where have you gone?” Well, restaurants, malls, shops and etc. Just normal, everyday things, with an admitted twist.

Late in the day Sunday, I was asked if I had a wig. Well, yes. What does it look like? Hmmm... brunette, with blonde highlights, shoulder length. Its up in the attic with the rest of my things.

Monday, then, just after dinner: do you have any pictures? Well, yes I do … no glamour shots, but yes, I can show you some online in fact. Her laptop was handy, and so I opened up a new tab to Voyages en Rose, and there I am in full force femme glory, draped in a nice Ocelot (or is it leopard?) party frock, contemplatively caressing a piano.

“That’s you? O my god. That’s you?!”

Yes honey. That is me. And over here is another snap. And there a 3rd and a 4th.

This blog has been central to resolving a life long conflict. My letter of confession revealed that I had spent a good amount of time over the last year writing about the conflict, learning more about myself, and slowly arriving at a place of acceptance of the self. Moreover, the value of that writing was to me, greater than being an enabler of honesty. It was also a vehicle for working out the mechanics of writing itself. I do have pretentions to this craft. I believe that I can write. Doing it well, would be a great source of joy for me. Voyages en Rose has been a terrific platform for working on the disciplines of writing. Habits developed and refined here will be used in other authorial efforts. This I know.

So, there we are on the couch. I explained some of the rudiments of blogging, showed my darling how to go back in time and attack posts in chronologic order, and left her to her reading.

I spent an hour on my own piano (Beatles song book), fielding the odd question from the next room, closed the lid, and then sought her views. I am happy to report that Mrs. Bellejambes thinks that Voyages en Rose is the very best of my writing. I am accused (correctly too I believe) of tortured and over-complex syntax in my drab journals, and she sees less of that from Petra. If you are surprised that I am capable of more tortured syntax than I typically serve up here, well, I am full of surprises, if not excesses.

“You wrote all of this? The
poem too?”

Yes. All of it. Every word. Proudly too.

“What do you want to do?”

Well, I want to do whatever we are comfortable with. I would love to be able to do all of the things that we enjoy doing. Movies, meals, and I suppose shopping. Just time together. I would want it to not matter whether I am in drab, or en femme. And I would want those things to happen when we are comfortable, a naturally as possible.

So there we are. Average time on site statistics have nudged up this week owing to Mrs. B’s extended visit. You should feel free to say hello to her in your comments. She is a very nice woman. I think you would get along with her beautifully. And I am sure she will be following my continued efforts here online as we continue to learn our way through our future.

My wig, wardrobe, foundation layers, and accessories having been freed from the cold dark attic are within easy reach in a guest room, hung, folded, and in their way, like me, breathing better.

Its Thursday. I think I will take a shave today.

Small steps in high heels.

Ed. All of this may pre-empt my promised reviews of high-waisted tights for a little while. Its always stocking season for over at Tights Lover and Stocking Addict though, so rely on our friends there for your fix.

Dec 15, 2009

Fountains of Youth

The last couple of posts here have been pretty emotionally charged, at least to me. I could, and will over time add more observations on the process of learning to live with and share cross dressing with my wife, but I must tell you that living through these recent moments and handling the very live intimacy of it all it all has taken quite a little of the starch out of my blouse. I am pooped.

So, perhaps a return to previously scheduled blog programming is in order. Typically, I have tried to throw at least 3 blog bouquets over my shoulder each week. I like them to be different and have found in time that they are usually one of the following 3 types:

Profound – something heavy, bordering on ponderous, that attempts to get to the serious if not darker heart of human capability as revealed by gender issues
Pithy – something lighthearted, often analytical of an odd data set, or commentary on the pratfalls of the pretty life. and
Pantyhosed – "write about things you know and love" is the advice that any aspiring author gets. Well, I am a bit of a fiend for tights, so there we go.

Having done enough of the profound for my own good and yours these last couple of posts, let us move lightly on to pithy, and cast our smokey eyes over last weeks poll. I asked just how old our femme selves feel relative to our actual age.

I was moved to think about age, and cross dressings impact on our perception of age when I caught myself checking myself out in a mirror a couple of weeks ago. If I had made a pass at myself I would have been engaging in age-inappropriate dating behavior. Forgiving the slight puffiness about the eyes, there was a 20-something reflecting back - - - at least from a fashion sense perspective. Furthermore, I did not feel as though I was dressed too young.

It appears that I am not alone.

90% of us report feeling younger when adoptive of our feminine sides. More shockingly more than 40% or respondents (14 cheeky lasses) reported that the transformation routinely knocked 10 or more circling rings off our personal tree of life, at least for a little while. I will confess, that this is the crowd I run with.

None of our polls respondents indicated that the femme personae is even a minute older in feel than their actual age. Just under 10% indicated that the femme and the full-time or former male selves are more or less the same age, as felt from within.

I am not a youth worshipper. I welcome experience and am rather looking forward to having more of it. Many of the most challenging, charming and rewarding relationships I have are with people deep into their 70’s and 80’s, men and women both. All of us are capable, if their examples are true, of carrying brio, verve, and humor with us wherever we go, and for how ever many years. With good health, and even in the face of poor health, our outlooks are in large part matters of choice. Choosing a youthful outlook it seems is never a bad choice.

And so when the cross dresser chooses to give light and voice to the feminine self it seems right and proper that we should feel and express younger. Those of us who, like me, are part-time dressed, and more or less functional for the rest of our hours can and do leverage our relative lack of experience and can get younger in an instant. Nice fringe benefit with that fringed skirt.

Comments from friends who have transitioned are similar. People who emerge whole, in a new full time gender after GRS mostly embrace the new life with youthful vigor. The clock gets reset in a very profound way I suspect for these voyagers.

For either set of people, we are both driven at heart by a curiosity, and surely curiosity is a hallmark of youth.

And I must say now to the very special, and especially welcomed “natural born” genetic women who visit Voyages en Rose that you seem to be possessed of some of the same curiosity. It shows in your outlook expressed in your correspondence and comments and shows fully in your looks expressed in your photographs and avatars. Keep it up, and be assured that the people who matter will always find you to be beautiful, whatever age you are.

Whatever form your fountain of youth takes, slurp away with abandon.

Dec 14, 2009

The 14th Station of the Cross Dresser – Sharing with ones Spouse

Way back in February of this long, fast year, in a moment of insouciance I coined a phrase, cobbling together a ritual from my lapsed Catholic past, and my cross dressing habits of the present. The result, The Stations of the Cross Dresser was intended to identify a good handful of big moments, moments to mark and celebrate, and then, catch ones breath and move on the next inevitable and unavoidable challenge. These “stations” or milestones in the journey ranged from the easy and, I suppose, universal events like underdressing or making a purchase while in drab mode, all the way to the challenging, and not universal. Events like using a public restroom, and finally, sharing your life fully with ones spouse.

Sharing the truth with my wife was something that I had not done when I drafted my glib gamut of girly daring-do. The requirement weighed very heavily on my mind though. It took a full 46 years of living for me to fully accept it for myself. How can somebody else, who believes she knows you fully, and loves you nonetheless manage to not be shattered at the introduction of this new reality?

I neatly forestalled the urgency of sharing my truth by putting the truth telling at the very bottom of the list, Station # 14. I put some pretty daunting obstacles in front of me, knowing at least at some sub-conscious level that I was buying some breathing room. One by one though, I passed my stations, genuflected and moved more or less gracefully on to the next: make-up counters, wig salons, fitting rooms and the lot. I was beginning to run out of runway.

More importantly, I realized that the burdens of privacy and deceit that I was carrying with me always was getting in the way of my wife and I enjoying the full measure of joy that we carried together into our marriage over 14 years ago. Joy we deserve to have today, and hope to have for many more magical years ahead.

And so the moment came.


In 1972, legendary American Sportscaster Jim McKay advised his global audience of the horrifying news of a botched rescue mission in Munich and the violent death of the 9 remaining Israeli Olympic athletes/hostages with, what was to me then, and still is now a movingly simple and profound quote he attributed to his father:

Rarely are our worst fears or greatest dreams realized

I am happy beyond words to report that my worst fears were not realized. It is rather closer to the truth to suggest in fact that my greatest dreams have been realized. Those dreams have less to do with cross dressing than they have to do with things that are more important to me: respect, honesty, trust, openness, fidelity and happiness.

Having now cleared the air of the biggest impediment in my life to having those necessary things, I have a feeling of lightness, hope and joy that is difficult to describe in a single blog post, even for this wordy old thing.

As to my wife’s reaction, she is an idealist, and a highly liberal person. Without understating the difficulties, awkward moments, and adjustments that lay ahead of us, one quote stands out:

“I get to wear pants. I don’t see why men wearing a skirt should be such a big deal”.

Hard to argue that sort of logic I suppose. There is logic though, and then there is the fully attenuated, live-nerve-ending emotional world we live in. Figuring out how we will share our full selves with one another will be an ongoing challenge, difficult for all couples, and perhaps more difficult when a non-standard gender expression tendency is alive within the couples lives.

I did not arrive at the discussion with any bargaining chips or a list of personal requirements. I felt that my long dishonesty had traded any leverage I had away. I was honest about my belief that my cross dressing is something that is integral to me, that it reveals a part of my self that enables my view of the world and my place in it to be more complete, full and satisfying. So, how we share and what we share --- well that is all still yet to be determined.

I did not say this in so many words, but think that I inferred that the person revealed when I am able to access these feminine parts of my whole is a good person. A kind person. A sensitive person. Some of the fetters of deeply inbred, highly evolved masculinity often get in the way of a guys ability to express those beautiful and loving dimensions. I hope to be able to more freely tap into those senses and express them for my benefit, for the benefit of my wife, and for the benefit of everyone I am privileged to meet and interact with.

I do not believe that being able to tap into those qualities will unalterably change the “natural” and always easily expressed dimensions of my nearly full-time guy self. I am comfortable in pants, literally and figuratively. I have enjoyed many successes in this life. The vast majority of them as a guy untroubled by wardrobe conflict or a deeper wrestling match with my true nature.

The biggest success of my many successes though was winning the heart of my beautiful wife in the first magical place. That success was matched for me this weekend by being granted an opportunity to love fully, and to be loved fully by, that same wonderful person.

As I am.


Dec 12, 2009

A Short Post a Long Time in the making

Dear Friends,

I have been busy thinking and writing this week, and not only for the blog. I have just finished drafting a condensed cross dressers autobiography. Autobiographies of course want an audience, and I have a special one. My wife.

We have some time set aside this afternoon. In fact, we organized things such that we both have the social decks cleared fully for the rest of the weekend. In December no less. No obligations, no contractors under-foot. A couple of beautiful dogs staring at us wondering why the hell we are not either going walkies or at the least scratching their bellies, and the only knocks on the door likely to come from Jehovahs Witnesses or other such vendors of salvation.

Well, all the salvation I require today can be found in honesty I suspect. I have owed my wife that honesty, in full measure, for as long as I have realized that cross dressing and my general explorations of my fuller self was simply not going to bloom, fall of the stem and die. As long as I have obscured this in my home, our shared home, I have made the home less loving than it deserves to be, than it needs to be to flourish and grow. There is stress in the life that my wife and I share, and perhaps some, perhaps much of it stems from my cross dressing.

I suspect though, that more of the stress, and friction, and heated moments are related to my lack of openness about it, the burden of carrying around a pretty big deceit.

So I will be sharing a well considered and honest couple of pages of notes, and then opening the floor up to questions this afternoon.

I must tell you that while I have some fluttering nerves about it all, I am more possessed of a tranquil resolve. I can almost taste the relief that comes from unburdening. I am not under-estimating the potential for negative, emotional, and hurt outcomes from this disclosure. But I am convinced that non-disclosure is putting us on a track to the similar and perhaps bigger hurts.

It is time. Past time. This is my duty.

I do promise to update you with news. I hope you will forgive me if it takes a little while. I really have no instrumentation available to me that would helpfully indicate that clear skies are “x” miles ahead on bearing “y”. Similar with comment moderation. Love you all dearly, but my focus will be rightly elsewhere for the forseeable future.

Do wish me a little luck though, and think a nice thought in your busy weekend friends. And again, let me thank you for visiting. Finding an outlet here at Voyages en Rose for my thoughts has really helped me get to this necessary day. Looking forward to sharing new days with you all sometime soon.


Dec 10, 2009

Petra’s Pantyhose Parade – New Heights

Over the course of the last year I have made a regular passion of reviewing and ranking standard issue, natural-waist, sheer tights. I am at a bit of an impasse though you see. I have started to run out of new product to review. O, I know, I am missing Falke, and Mantoux and Fogal and too many to mention, but these delights are simply not falling off the shelves here locally. Come the new year, I mean to do a little more shopping online. Just for now though, little brown packages tied up with string are not amongst my favorite things.

I have accumulated a fair number of tights of a different class in my many shopping sorties this year. High-Waisted Super Slimming Pantyhose. Not your standard issue control top sheers, no ma’am. They might be better described this way:

Two garments, dear to the hearts of lingerie enthusiasts everywhere, girdle and stockings, have been shot at each other, as though from opposite ends of a lycra-rich super-collider, super-conductor. The hybrid that survived and glows in the still steaming wreckage is, to me, the peanut butter and chocolate, the champagne and popcorn (ed. no fooling, a great match, try it) of modern era, non-retro foundation garments.

When I run these rib-cage ticklers through the Petra’s Pantyhose Parade scoring algorithm though, something simply does not work. I suppose that like anything shot through a super-conducting super-collider, they elude the generally agreed upon laws of physics. At the same time, they do though have an enormous impact on the known laws of physiques,and that piques my interest, meriting the creation of a new class of hosiery, and a new math to evaluate them with. Some opening notes on this planned series are tendered here today.

What qualifies them in? Quite simple really: If you can pull them up to your bra-line without voiding the manufacturers warranty, they are in!

Why wear them? Well, for starters, admire the picture on the right. I simply could not understand the person who would not want at least to try them on. Male, female, straight, not, soldier, sailor, tinker, tailor, I mean, people, please

Why else? Because, like Everest, they are there.

For those of you not yet convinced, would a handful of feature, advantage, benefit statements work? Let us try.

Slimming is good.
Smooth surfaces beneath clingy garments are good, and
If quality hosiery feels good, then more of it must feel better, no?

The defense rests.

The prosecution will of course point out the following:

More hosiery means more money.
When nature calls, you must be prepared for a little grappling, and
Gravity always gets its way. Anything not nailed or glued in place will slide down a tad.

Well, no pain, no gain says I, so its time for a high stepping parade. Here are the contestants, in no particular order: the L’eggs Silken Mist Waist Cinching Shaper, the L’eggs Profiles Waist Smoother Toner, the Assets by Sara Blakely Perfect Pantyhose High Waist, the Spanx All The Way Up! High-Waisted Full-Length Pantyhose, the Ann Taylor Sheer High Waist Control Top Tights (pictured at left), and the Donna Karan Body Perfect Waist Embrace Sheer Pantyhose. I may stumble upon one or two more of this class on my travels. If I am missing any obvious candidates that you, esteemed reader, believe should be under this lasses glasses, just drop me a line. Can’t find the Wolfords anywhere, and lord I have tried. If you know where I can find a medium in black, I am willing to trade my collection of rare Barbara Feldon memorabilia for them. A second mortgage is not absolutley out of the question either I suppose.

The criteria that they will be judged on goes as follows. Price will be a factor, yes, but less of a factor than in my standard sheers formula. Compression and smoothing is what these garments promise, and so I will hold them to their own standards (do they preen and prune and nip and tuck us well?). Gravity fighting (do they stay up or do they go inner tube at the waist?). Feel, to the leg, the body, and the hand (do you want to wear them?). Beauty on the leg (naturallement, would you be proud of their appearance, and look like a slimmed down million dollars?). And finally, judges prerogative – a random Petra Value that will express my delight or consternation about …. well I don’t know quite yet. We both will soon though.

Back next week with the first edition

Dec 8, 2009

Queens, Knaves and other Cross Dressing cards.

Today’s post is addressed to all visitors of course, but is especially intended for the growing number of Voyages en Rose followers of the natural born woman variety.

When we of the CD/TG inclination explore our wants and investigate our desires, I think it is safe to say that our first big hurdle is self-acceptance. When we find out that we are not alone, well that is helpful. My one year of blogging and lurking around online has been therapeutic to the max. I am OK with me, and on the whole, greatly comforted by the smarts and sensitivity exhibited by my sorority mates. Or sisters. Hmmm. Never mind. Never was much with pro-nouns.

For me, (and I suspect I am not alone in this either), the next group of people whose acceptance we would seek are the important women in our lives. There are a whole host of reasons that this can be a difficult and dangerous bridge to cross. I won’t recapitulate the particulars here today, but I have to say that I have not tottered fully across that bridge. Yet.

I am preparing to though.

As I prepare for this ...( words fail me) event, I wanted to pay you a little tribute, by way of thanks for your happy, non-judgmental acceptance of me here. It helps me to “normalize” my cross dressing. Ladies, as individuals and as a special group, you have my respect. Respect is important. It is the core theme of this post.

Perhaps you have been exposed to gender bending in nightclub settings. Remember the be-wigged and bombshell breasted drag queen at the microphone, lip synching Half Breed or some other syrupy musical tribute to the mighty Cher? That was not me.

But for a straight guy, I have seen a fair amount of this class of cabaret over the years. At the peak of her game, the dedicated gender illusionist is something to be admired. For contemporary theatrical female impersonation, I would single out for positive notice, the statuesque RuPaul (pictured right, photo credit to Albert Sanchez). Respect for performance craft is displayed in RuPauls’ work, and to my thinking, a sincere respect for women too. Those traits are borne of self respect. Self respect is a precondition for anything of value. So, a tip of the Tiara to RuPaul and the select few (or perhaps countless) who approach their own transformations from that place of respect.

All too often though, Cinderella’s step-sister, the Drag Queen is more spectacle than spectacular. Knavish behavior is seen often under the spotlights. Something catty, something demeaning gets brought to the ball. Traits are exaggerated, the walk, the hands, the hips. Colors are unnatural, the hair, the cheeks, the lips. Body parts and prosthesis are poured in and pressed up, the boobs, the butt, and god help us, the bulge. Often there is skill in the craft, but not much evidence of respect for the fairer sex. It sometimes approaches and passes mean-ness. Mean people are not known for self respect and I suspect that this is a reason that this sort of show gets old for me awfully quickly.

Drag performance does have its uses though I suppose. The weaponized, inflated and slightly distorted parody of femininity is satire, and satire does make us think. The drag artist forces men and women both, (but mostly men) to challenge their own feelings about what is attractive, if only for a few gin soaked moments. This too is a healthy and periodically life changing challenge to orthodoxies. The performer of course has the experience, the microphone, the spot light and therefore all the power too, and often spends it mercilessly on defenseless amateurs in the audience. Again, a nice challenge to typical power structures.

Drag performance pre-dates Shakespeare and perhaps goes back in time through Classical Greek drama and, for all I can surmise, may have taken it's first pre-historic, hip-sprocketed baby steps after supper one night around the fire in front of the Caves of Altamira. I am not knocking the tradition. There is room in the world for a little over-the-top spectacle. The the women I know and love are able to stand a little lampooning, and able to enjoy a laugh at their own expense. Furthermore, if someone is able to make a living not swindling widows and orphans, well, who am I to complain?

The larger than life performing Gender Illusionist is designed and presented in such a way that they cannot be ignored. I, however do want to be ignored. I mean to say that when out, en femme, in the big wide world with my somewhat bigger hips on, I aim to blend in, to disappear, to not illicit undue attention. To, as much as possible, just be one of the girls. I suspect that too is the objective of regular visitors here who share my inclinations.

I remain as hopeless baffled in my attempts to understand what “real” women want at any time as I have since puberty. But I remain dedicated to figuring you out as well as a guy can. And so to you natural women, I say:

… I appreciate your acceptance. I hope to have your respect. On those occasions when I have the privelege to unearth, explore and present my undeniable feminine facets, I truly aim to respectfully represent the beauty that I see in you everywhere, and especially close to home, every day.

You have helped me see that I can cross the bridge in front of me. Thank you.

Dec 7, 2009

The Power of the Purse: Human Rights Campaign Edition

Ice hockey fans of a certain age may remember a time when the National Hockey League had a mere 6 teams, huddled closely against the cold in the American and Canadian north-east. For the rest of you, please just hang in there a moment. Hockey, then as now, was a sport that was fueled by good measures of finesse and brutality both. Teams required players from both ends of the spectrum in order to succeed. The most successful team of the era were les Montreal Canadiens, and firstmost on the finesse front was the incomparable Jean Béliveau.

In Toronto one night for a match against the lamentable Maple Leafs, early in the game one of the home team thugs was sent out to provoke M. Béliveau into a fight with the view to getting him off the ice and into the penalty box. The graceful great was determined to not fight, and so was circling, dodging punches and not punching back, when from the cheap seats a beer enriched bellow was heard:

Hit ‘em with your purse Béliveau!!!... "

The owner of that voice probably never had to buy a drink for the rest of his years. But to bring the point home, we too can effectively hit with our purses. A Voyages en Rose reader (thanks Ellen!) shared a terrific resource with me, that I want to share with you.

The Human Rights Campaign ( is a non-profit, member supported advocacy group fighting the good fight for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered rights. My wife and I are long time supporters of HRC. Good people. Yes, they clear cut whole forests for their direct mail campaigns, but the cause is sound. I had thought of them as largely being involved in promoting legislation that makes life more fair for more people, but of course there is more to the good work.

HRC maintains a
buyers guide. Their method is simple. They write retailers, manufacturers, service providers, financial institutions, media organizations, really all the places we toil and spend the spoils. HRC asks a few questions about hiring policies, benefits (think of extension of health care to same-sex partners) as well as policies vis a vis service to the LGBT community. Some vendors come out tops. Others have blotted copy books. And a handful do not respond and so leave themselves either as unknown quantities, or safely assumed to be unfriendly environments.

With this information in hand, HRC membership is encouraged to shop or not shop accordingly. There is no better way of getting attention from a person or a company than withholding something they want. In the case of these businesses, they want your money. Perhaps they should get it if they deserve it.

I come from a long line of boycotters. In most matters I have the memory of a goldfish, but grudges I can carry great lengths. Happily, I have not met any behavior myself while shopping en femme, or shopping for Petra while in drab mode that puts any company newly on my snit list. My normal, standing boycotts are maintained for my femme shopping (Walmart, can I have my main street back please?), but I have not added to my enemies list on the basis of recent personal experience.

A couple of highlights from the Apparel and Accessories retailer section here:

Personal favorites including Macy’s, JC Penney, The TJX Stores (TJ Maxx, Marshalls, etc), Target, and The Limited Brands (including flagship lingerie vendor, Victorias Secret) all score close to perfect by the HRC. So its not just me. These are companies that have policies in place that promote sensitivity, and a culture of openness. I will be back for more.

I was surprised to see a couple of names on the Red Alert, failed grade list. Not too much of my money has gone here, but a little has, and a little always does go a long way. The whole Jones Apparel Company is in the time-out chair. My Evan-Picone’s and Nine Wests may pinch a little next time I slide into them. Burlington Coat Factory, Chico’s, Ralph Lauren, the whole Vanity Fair group are amongst the short-bus, remedial class too.

Given my recent rhapsodies about Ann Taylor, their superb response to an initially awkward service incident, and the royal treatment I have enjoyed there en femme and in drab, you can imagine I was surprised to see them in the HRC gun sites. Ouch.

But this fact does illustrate that as the pharmaceutical and investment management commercials say, your results may vary.

I do not think that the HRC list will change my habits too much. Most of my shopping dollars seem to reward great organizations, and I am happy that most of my findings true up with the findings of the professionals. I encourage you to look through the guide, and, if you believe, like I do, that businesses should be held to higher standards than lower prices, let HRC’s findings influence your habits. Good time of year for a little withholding from those who have been naughty, and a little kindness to those who have been nice.

If you are not a member or supporter of HRC, they certainly are nice, and could use the kindness too. Go ahead, hit ‘em with your purse.

For those of you from outside of the US of A, I would be happy to publicize the name of organizations that do good work of this variety in your countries. Drop a line in the comments section please.

Photo Credit: Bottega Veneta tote courtesy of Couture Carrie

Dec 6, 2009

Cross Dressing your Age

I had a good few private hours to attend to my femme self with last night. Too much of a chest cold to share with the world, and truth be known, the event I begged out of was more my wife’s crowd than mine. I can grin and make small talk with the best of them but am acutely afflicted with an inability to remember names. I really don’t mind looking a bit daft myself, but hate to reflect poorly on Mrs. Bellejambes. These people are important to her after all.

So home alone, I set out to organize the wardrobe, accessories and whatnot, and to test drive a couple of newish mix and match options. Those boots with that dress?, this top with yonder skirt?, and etc. The exercise confirmed my belief that I have been shopping well lately. Not just for price, but for harmony with my shape, personality, and aspirations to beauty.

I truly had some moments in the mirror that made me catch my breath. You know the feeling (you full-time women know it too). Wow is the simplest encapsulation. I love the wow moments. Thrilling and calming at the same electric instant.

After snapping myself back to the moment, I took a good look through much of what I have acquired over the last year. These items represent the bulk of my femme wardrobe and is a pretty diverse rainbow of shades, silhouettes and styles. It runs the gamut from Lady Gaga to Liddy Dole. For those of you not obsessed with American politics, one of them is pictured here.

While I do not see myself pulling off any of Lady Gaga’s ensembles (figuratively dear friends, I am in exclusive relationship), I do notice a clear and happy drift away from twinsets, safe suits and other such pillars of the middle aged woman’s wardrobe. This drift is at odds with my biology: I am a middle aged something or other.

The high waisted stretch lace skirt from JC Penney is a look that 25 year olds I work with would go nightclubbing in. I am quite certain that high-schoolers will prom up and get down in it. My wife would feel terribly self conscious in it. And I love it. This put me to thinking – just what age am I? Do I have a split personality cherry on top of the gender expression cake?

With no certain answers are emerging, I thought to ask you. There is a poll to your right that will be running through the week. Queue up nicely friends, one vote per customer.

As I do put thought to it though, I do not think I am overly fooling myself. In my day-to-day life, I do feel younger than what the odometer indicates. When in serious business settings, a part of my brain is expecting a butler with a polished English accent to walk in and to discretely whisper in my ear,

Young man, a terrible mistake has been made, grown ups only here, you know. Do excuse yourself, leave with me, and please try to not make a fuss about it….”

So while I do pointedly maintain a youthful outlook, cross dressing winds up being a very real fountain of youth. It turbo charges natural inclinations. Cross dressing creates the opportunity to play with the hands of time and for that I am thankful. I really hope that I am not delusional though. I am still expecting a visit from the butler.

How about you? Go vote. I am keen to see if we share perspectives. Analysis to follow.

Happy dressing and etc...
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