Oct 31, 2010

Ruminations on Halloween

Halloween is many things, including a license to behave differently, to occupy a surprising new shell, and finally, to not be held accountable for all the hijinks.

Always happy to do my bit for a good cause. Therefore, today, on the behavior front, I am likely to take a miss on shaving. For my surprising new shell, I think I will favor comfortable, worn, faded jeans and a non-descript pullover sweater. There won’t be much in the way of hijnks as such to be held unaccountable for, but I do hope to get credit for a certain amount of routine household and yard maintenance.

Always the rebel, that Petra.

Yes, it is a drab Halloween chez Bellejambes.

It is likely not the last one either. As “Petra” has, over time, converged with and enlarged the rest of me, my Cross Dressing has diverged from Halloween. Me, in a dress, is not a costume. Me in a dress is a happy extension of something that is core to me. This is a spectacular thing, to be sure, but it is not a spectacle in the way that Halloween demands. And so this evening, I will answer the doorbell and dole out the bon-bons in drab.

This Halloween though is the 2nd year Anniversary of my first “real” Voyages en Rose, and indeed of my adoption of the name Petra. I had spent the prior 40-something years either fighting or being fast and furtive with my feelings. For whatever reason I decided just before Halloween of ‘08 to stop fighting, to slow down, and not be furtive, at least with myself.

In the days running up to Halloween, I ordered the fabulous 4 pad girdle from Fredericks. Quite remarkably, in hindsight, I hand crafted a silicon based full chest prosthesis complete with an adjustable back closure fashioned from a cheap bra. Terrific shape, but not the pliability I was hoping for.

A wig, a cheap one was acquired, on the 30th of October. The jolly Asian woman behind the counter asked me who it was for. “It’s for Halloween” said I not then willing to put my name to my actions.

“Very pretty. You will be very pretty”.

I did not know then quite how to react.

I did take courage from the encounter though, and visited an off-brand discount shoe store, emboldened enough in a crowded shop to find a nice stiletto heel, to hold it up and to ask the cute young thing if she had it in my size.

“What size are you?”

We sorted out the details, and I quite pointedly tried them on, viewed them in the floor mirror, hazarded a step or two to the delight of my small audience. Here again I did not die of embarrassment, or of fear, or under a hail of stones from and angry mob of shoppers. I was a little shallow of breath, yes, but composed externally and happy for the Halloween cover story.

I rather lacked the perfect dress at the time. Oddly enough, even today with a very full closet, I still feel that way, but that is another story, yes? In any event my Googling for a turtleneck knit mini lead me into the youthful confines of American Apparel. By a factor of 2, I was the senior most person in the room. The cheerful young sales assistant and I agreed quite ambiguously on the correct size and color without any real discussion as to who would be wearing it. I thought then that the general assumption was that I was simply a normal father picking up a vaguely slutty frock for his daughter. Just for kicks I went back to the AA web site, and am happy to see my glowing and frank product review is still live on their site.

It should be noted that this small epistle is the first “published” work of Petra Bellejambes, prior even to the launch of this blog. The curious may see these baby literary steps just over

I lastly stashed a pair of black opaque tights into a Target cart filled to toppling with paper towels, tissue rolls, light bulbs and golf balls, and drove home, ignoring speed limits and road safety conventions, heart hammering anxious to, at last, wrap myself in these loose threads, to see if the sum was greater than the parts.

It wasn’t. But I was hopeful, shocked, becalmed, giddy, head-over-heels, terrified, intoxicated, flattered and critical. Thoughts and impulses both ungovernable and crystalline flashed brightly, loudly, clearly. As with Neo, quite suddenly my Matrix was revealed. Whoa.

I cannot remember, but I do suspect that I did not sleep deeply that night. When Mrs. Bellejambes is away, as she was then, I do sleep more lightly, but here I had much in mind for my tomorrow, my Halloween.

Much of that
story was recounted in the inaugural Voyages en Rose post. It is easy to forget, once one has become practiced at swanning around in public en Femme just how big a threshold moment those first committed steps are, with or without the cover of Halloween. Looking back from here, I have to say I really braved it out that day, and committed myself to a deeper immersion than was required. The blog post stopped at the Lancôme counter. What happened immediately after that was an early evening, slow stroll the length of a mall. I took a seat on a bench beneath a big clock and aimlessly poked at my cell phone, pretending to tap out a text message. I looked up from time to time, to see if I was attracting any attention, good bad or indifferent. Not much as it happened.

I stepped into a couple of shops, felt the merchandise, and on a couple of occasions was stopped dead in my tracks by a mirror, a shocking image of a complete stranger I had known my whole life. I drove home, slowly, at the speed limit, savoring things, how my dress was the same shade as some of the leaves, how the heels felt on the cars pedals, how my lipstick tasted.

I fed the dogs, and fixed a bite for myself, relaxed, freshened up the makeup and ultimately drove out to a now defunct gay bar not far from home. I wound up in a lovely old chat with a chap who played clarinet for a living. He was a big fan of early polyphonic music, and possessed an encyclopedic wealth of information about late medieval society that made for really neat conversational fodder, even surrounded by a crowded array of butch leathermen and over-the-top drag queen karaoke enthusiasts.

He asked me, at one point in the evening “Why ….” not finishing the sentence but indicating with an up and down hand gesture that he quite clearly meant, “Why are you, seemingly well adjusted and charming person, wearing a dress?”

"I do not know. But it feels good".

So here we are, friends, 2 years to the day later. I have come closer to the always receding horizon of “why”, and have come surprisingly far from fear of what I might find out by honestly asking myself the question. These two things are of enormous value to me. And so even as I wallow in my drabness on this day, I have many happy thoughts about Halloween.

We all need a little help here and there. You may be at a place in your life where the help, the cover, the license that Halloween provides is useful to you. Go ahead and use it. No trick. All treat.

Happy Halloween.

Oct 28, 2010

She’s the Day

I do a good bit of anticipating and planning for days out en Femme. My predisposition for probity serves me well in much of my personal and business lives, as well as in my Voyages en Rose too. Forethought eliminates risk, and with risk eliminated, one can put more of ones mind “into the moment” and really take value from those moments. This helps me process things in the aftermath of a nice day en Femme, and I think that shows in blog posts that come up after the make up comes off.

Typically, I plan quite privately, and don’t provide kind readers with much of a glimpse of thigh as to what is in the works, but today, I am going to give you a flirty peek at a planning process that has just started up.

First off, a little credit and some background on the precipitators of the now scheduled outing. Meg Winters, created her blog,
Call Me Meg earlier this year to chronicle the planning and execution of an ambitious project, flying en Femme. Her plan was to create the document, and then leave off the blogging when done. Happily, blogging is just as habit forming as Cross Dressing, and so Meg has continued to share her exploits. If you have not followed her, please do. If you want to see first rate project management skills at work, she is a wonder.

Presently, Meg is putting the final touches on her project to appear in The National Mall on Saturday as Senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell at the Stewart/Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity / March to Keep Fear Alive events this weekend. Nice. Touché, quelle finesse! Mrs. Bellejambes and myself contemplated going to DC for the weekend, but ya know, things just got in the way. So we will catch it all on the tube. I will certainly keep an eye out for beautiful standard bearers of the (other) T-Party. Go Meg.

To make up for my absence from this event, I have decided to attend a rally with a slightly different take on Sanity and Fear on 9 November called “
Seize the Day”. Within the cavernous Phillips Arena in Atlanta a star studded roster of motivational speakers will assemble to deliver some good old timey words of inspiration to, well, to people who go in for that sort of thing.

Bill O’Reilly, Ben Stein and Terry Bradshaw are amongst the media celebrity crowd. There are a good number of personal, financial, and spiritual mavens too, A-List no doubt in their worlds but unknown to mine. I do have something greatly prized in common with the headline speaker though:

Sarah Palin and I both wear a size 4.

So, yes, there crowd will number in the 1000’s, and editorially, the content will generally lean to positivity, hope, thrift, hard work, belief in the self, love for neighbor and devotion to family, things I value. Really, I do. I suspect furthermore that there will be periodic mentions of Divine Will and commentary on precisely what The Creator wants of us. Living in a glass house as I do, I can let that stuff go without much fuss.

I don't know for certain, and it is not my way to pre-judge things, but given the relatively small and uniform social spectra represented by the speakers (including former American First Lady, Laura Bush) it is quite likely that there will be a few spoonfuls of "Red State Red Meat" social messaging served up that does not agree well with my political palate or settle very happily in my belly. I share this information with you very guardedly dear friends. Voyages en Rose is not about politics.

Presuming that the planning comes together and that my clients do not rain down crises on or about the 9th, I suspect that my journalistic observations will, however, reveal a good amount of my own sympathies, and perhaps some antipathies for views that are very near and dear to some of you. This may offend or upset. No apologies before or after if that is the case. Our freedom to hold divergent views is foundational to our ability to wear, well divergent foundation garments too. Behold: I celebrate diversity.

And really, at this point in the planning, I am hoping that most of what I write about will be fashion oriented. My iPad and I will be tapping out notes, as long as my feet hold out, on the general appearance of the maddened and gladdened crowds. I expect as well that I will totter in to a handful of interesting interactions with rally attendees. I am especially looking forward to chatting up strangers with great taste in accessories. Pashmina scarves and really high end bags will be my beacons. Believe me when I tell you that I am expecting to meet some really nice people. In truth too, I am expecting to freak out a couple of them.

Making an omlette here people. Gonna break some eggs.

And so the planning begins. There is a coupon code in fine print on the publicity billboards that drives the price of admission down to $20.00 from $100.00. Must make note of that code this afternoon.

I believe it will be entirely fitting for the event if I secure some new hair that I can pile up high, and find a pair of smart-girl glasses too.

I will then, swing open the closet doors and Seize the Skirt most likely to help me Seize the Day, and hopefully in higher style than all the other ladies in the room, Ms. Sarah included.

I will keep you posted.

Oct 25, 2010

I blame Yvonne Elliman.

Many Voyages en Rose readers are lovers of music. I know this from reading your blogs, and from the odd bit of private correspondence with you. Me too. This lifelong love transcends format (45’s, LP’s, 8-tracks, cassettes, CD’s, MP3’s etc) and genre. From Albinoni to Zevon, preference and predispositions do not readily emerge, and a quick flip through my stacks reveals either refined broad-mindedness or borderline schizophrenia depending on your own muscial points of view.

On the whole though, songs with lyrical content are the songs I go back to. I do like stories after all.

The musical stories that drive most expertly, persistently and deeply into my thinking and feeling are the ones that women sing, expressing their experience, from their perspective, and typically in response to some generalized shortcoming or specific fuck-up doled out by a guy.

And yeah, this goes back to Yvonne Elliman. I first heard her perform on the 1970 pre-Broadway opening recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. For the sonority and range of her voice of course, such a gorgeous instrument she possessed then, and probably still today. This 8 year old didn’t have the language to describe the music, but I had all the instincts I needed to be moved by it, to be riveted in place by it

Her voice, paired with with Tim Rice’s lyrics in “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” carried a depth of feeling, an honestly, a fully expressed emotion, that was startling to me. Freely admitted confusion, an understanding of her own weaknesses and worst potentials, complexity, hope, despair, the whole shootin’ works in a 3 minute masterpiece portrait of the full spectrum of human emotion, from high to low.

This stood in marked contrast from such then popular male vocal efforts as Tony Orlando’sKnock Three Times” and the Archies truly lamentable multi-platinum tribute to all that is transparent, shallow and water soluble, “Sugar, Sugar”.

It was a golden musical era. Female songwriters were getting a shot at telling their own stories on their own terms. Janis Joplin hurled pieces of her heart at us. Carole King made the earth move beneath our feet. Carly Simon called out our vanity for what it was and told the world. Yes, of course, there were many gifted male songwriters doing deeply revealing, sensitive personal stuff (all due praise to Jackson Browne, Van Morrison, and Neil Diamond), and countless songs by chaps that remain potent today.

With that said though, I felt then, and still today, that much of the masculine emotion revealed in song was expressed, at least in part, in the service of getting laid. Soon. Now preferably. And would it kill you, O mighty Creator, to serve me up twins? Do this righteous dude a solid would you?

The female lyrics however seemed enlisted in the service of something of more lasting value. They seemed as to tap in to the wellspring of endurance and patience that women possess as a matter of survival, and nurtured in beautiful contrast to common masculine survival virtues.

I listened so closely to those songs as well because, dammit the women just sounded flat out disappointed by some guy, and by logical extension, me. I felt in some way responsible for the hurt, confusion, despair and weariness expressed in song. Perhaps, if just given a chance, I could make it all right.

O, there was so much to make right too. Guys were clearly capable of and perhaps mission driven to discover new frontiers of insensitivity. The hits just kept coming, the weariness started showing in more unpolished voices, and blown over gaping acoustical apertures, exposed nerves, cracking and creaking, with raw broken china scratchiness, Marianne Faithful, Stevie Nicks, Linda Thompson and Patty Smith.

My 80’s begin with Rickie Lee Jones, end with Sinead O’Cononor, and were punctuated along the way by Kate Bush and k.d. lang, each capable of stamping a nearly toxic dose of honesty, hope and hurt into a 3 minute tune, each terrific long form story tellers too, and each in their way a trailbreaking affront to rock-chick beauty standards.

Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Bjork, Natalie Merchant, Liz Phair, Aimee Mann and too many to name made the relative absence of male singer/songwriters the musical non-event of the 90’s. In hindsight, the guys contribution was simply not required. Beautiful, attractive performers, feminine, unashamed of their sexuality, self aware, easy on the eyes, easier on the ears, and happy to challenge your thinking about exactly what women were thinking.

Musically, the ‘Aughts and our current decade are, for me, mirroring and perhaps anticipating a broader change in society. Our beauty definitions have changed, Cougars prowl with quiet certainty in the beauty of experience. Musically too, the kids have left the nest and the mother is still possessed of a confident come-hither look. Lucinda and Emmylou, Patty Griffin, and yes, god bless her hopeful heart the still radiant Mavis Staples hits the studio and jumps on a tour bus in her 70’s.

These lives and stories, expressed in song have for me always revealed a different view of life. They possess a luring complexity, intricacy, deeper and different learnings taken from the seen and felt world, and have been just as potent a lure to my own curiosity about a woman’s experience as her clothing and appearance.

And so, yes I blame Yvonne Elliman. I thank her too. Whose praises do you sing?

Oct 22, 2010

Cross Dressing Senses: Sound Edition

Sight and Touch are two of the five Senses easily alighted when you dress well for a special occasion. Fashion-hungry female readers of Voyages en Rose know this as well as (or better than) periodic Cross Dressers. We, all of us though, have other Senses, hungry ones too who get a little less attention from wardrobe elements. Today’s essay has to do with one of the Senses less obviously catered to, the Sense of Sound, and is written for anyone with the precious and all too fleeting gift of hearing.


The other day, a new threshold of experience was attained, just then, fully dressed in the quiet moments before taking the air en Femme.

The skirt I had selected for the day was typical in terms of shape: a black, slim and fitted pencil cut, back-zipped and slit, seated quite high on the waist, and cut a couple of inches above the knee. This skirt, in black leather, is an assertive, highly visible fashion statement that never fails to seize my attention when I see a woman so outfitted. This is a look certain to rivet the attention of the female set too. Watch for it the next time you see a leather skirt, pay mind to the reactions of other women in the room. The leather skirt gets seen. Reactions on the faces and given voice to ranging from “you bitch, you look great” to pensive admiration, to puritanical disdain at such a daring outfit.

Again, driven in part by envy as I am, I have long wanted to stand in the eye of this little storm system. I did, just last week, find a day-appropriate leather (ok, synthetic pleather) skirt at Macy’s. With a couple of coupons and great luck in the clearance rack I managed the heist for a mere $21.00 down from $80.00. I need yet another shortish black skirt like I need toilet tissue on my heel, but leather was, I felt, underrepresented in my wardrobe. So there.

She fits perfectly and has the impact on posture, movement and stride that one expects from a well fitted skirt, but it came with an added, unexpected, and delightful bonus. Like any tailored skirt, it has a slick lining (acetate in this case) that facilitates comfort, a smooth exterior finish and relative ease of motion.

The lining being moored to a completely inelastic skirt exterior though, taken with the real restriction on stride length inherent in the figure hugging cut created a Sound, a gorgeous, upper case "S", Sound that provided me with one of the most rewarding sensory pay-offs from these years of self examination and wardrobe exploration: The soft, subtle and unmistakable swish of sleek lining across nyloned thigh. An absolute Choir of Hushed Angels between my knees.


The skirt guards against lengthening of step, or hurrying from Point A to Point B. In fact, making any distance with a modicum of grace necessitates much more swiveling of hip, shifting of rump, and tightly circling thigh than any other garment I possess. One is encouraged to adopt the exaggerated prowlish motion of the catwalk. This walk, dear friends, is not an affectation: it is a practical imperative. And it amplifies the Sound.

Swish, swish.

These soft woodwind notes join the percussive meter of the stiletto heel on hardwoods, tiles and pavements in a satisfying swell of music. Dramatic punctuations from the brass section herald such movements as the ascent up and on to the leather upholstered car seat, derriere first, with knee-locked legs swinging in behind. The sizzling crescendo when sinking deeply on to a couch, or attendant upon straightening the skirt and tucking the blouse, all of it very evident in ones quiet and newly self aware aural center. While others paid some attention to my appearance, I was drenched in this music, a private channel delivered with terrific reception even in a room crowded and buzzing with ambient sound tracks.

Swish, swish, swish.

And to close this small symphony, the dénouement notes, the diminuendo, muffled snare of the zip, sadly undone at the end of the day, heralding the long sibilant slide of skirt from high on hip to pooled at feet. A deflated, briefly sustained and mournful cello grace note from the now formless, collapsed and accordioned skirt signaling the end of a magical, musical performance.

Encore. Bravo. Encore.

If you like music, and you like the look of a nice leather(ish) skirt, I encourage you treat yourself to a little shopping, and to treat your ears to a little night music. There is a positively operatic selection of them online and in stores at Macy's.

And if this fun is not on your program today, I would be so happy if you might share your favorites Sounds of dressing here today in the form of a comment. I’m all ears.

Oct 20, 2010

Not your Mother’s Tuesday Lunch Bunch

I promised on Facebook the other day that future posts here on Voyages en Rose would take on a lighter aspect. The last couple of servings have been pretty heavy and I fear that I am liable to crease my poor forehead with thought. Happy therefore, delighted in fact, to have a frothy and tasty day to report on. Long time readers may remember a couple of mid-week, mid-day musical frolics at The Heretic here in Atlanta that I chronicled here and here early Spring of this year.

Well, Tuesday Lunch with Miss Edie and the unstoppable Sue Nami have remained a recurring feature of high society calendars, and I found time to trowel on the maquillage, preen my way into a skirt and totter out on the town yesterday to catch up with all the fun. This event was super special and not to be missed in so far as it was dear Miss Edie’s birthday. Miss Edie is unknown to you? Let me make a short, glowing introduction that cannot even begin to shine light on a fraction of the dazzling facets she shows the world:

Miss Edie King is a mathematician and physicist by academic training, an engineer going by resume and job descriptions, a singer/songwriter, guitar picken' entertainer by vocational calling, and an inveterate tinkerer/inventor by forces of nature that cannot be contained within her youthfully slender figure and equally young outlook. In her spare time she is on staff at The Heretic, and does the odd bit of outreach to sociology departments looking for domain experts on matters of gender.

A really laudable life. I will not tell you how old she turned yesterday. She ridicules time just living as fully as she does. Apart from celebrating her birthday by serenading us yesterday, she was getting ready for an afternoon of final QA runs on a
Tesla Device she had crafted from baling wire and willpower over the last 15 months. Reliable, zero-carbon footprint power generation is the big idea. Go ahead, get busy, and top that. With or without the thigh high 4” stiletto boots. I double dog dare ya.

Did I mention she sings with a sweetness that would knock Willie Nelson off the bus?

Sue Nami, resplendent in Red Chiffon, with boobs sometimes in a different zip code than her butt, and a pink bouffant beehive hair-DO threatening the very existence of ceiling fans wherever she gracefully glides her 6’6” of towering Technicolor gorgeousness sat in and backed up the effort on keyboards. My iPhone snaps just do not do Sue justice. You will simply have to see for yourselves.

Very much possessed of a classic Southern church musical upbringing, Sue happily shamed sinners and heaped musical praises on all God’s Children, hallejulah and glory be. She furthermore engendered a general swell of the tip jar/collection basket, baritone booming in a beautiful duet of Amazing Grace performed with a middle aged tenor from the audience whose adoring wife looked on with pride, quiet loving pride.

It was all so moving that I simply had to take the air. I moved outside to bathe in the patio sunlight and to bathe as well in the company of and complements of Mary Kay Beaver, a charming, touring burlesque performer who was taking a lunch break from her gig across the road at
The Dollhouse. While I was marveling at her complexion and being introduced to her multi-talented professional entertainer friends, she was tapping me for hosiery tips. I had to agree that the Wolford Leos I had on were a look she could pull off, or at the very least encourage other people to pull off for themselves, in exchange for high denomination gratuities. We agreed that the Stay Ups would suit her aesthetic sense, choreographic potentials and the expectations of her adoring audience better than the Tights I was styling, in my more modest way. Validation, dear friends, when a working dancer comes to you for wardrobe advice. I am still blushing.

Yes, my newish Wolfords (reviewed
here) were very well received, and with the cooler weather now upon us, I must say that of my prior concerns about their relative warmth were overstated. They looked great, and I felt great wearing them. I suspect that the Wolford shop up at Phipps Plaza had a little clatter of traffic later in the day that was perhaps more colorful (and bosomy too) than their typical clientele.

The rest of the ensemble, a new leather skirt, a simple silk blouse and the usual tonnage of stylish bling borrowed from the always tasteful Mrs. Bellejambes cache of Weapons of Mass Adormnent. Thanks hon! Your are the very best. Forgive the blurry snaps. I am unable to find the good camera and am using the back-up device, a 1.2 megapixel behemoth that was state of the art early in President Clintons second term of office. Bill and myself have aged better than the camera methinks.

Old friends
Ramona and Gabrielle kept an eye on my matching leather jacket and purse while I surfed a few tables, had my palm read by an eerily prescient seer and had a lengthy chat with Irene, proud author of a recently published novel foretelling the end of the American Empire. While I do not share her enthusiastic, heartfelt belief that the gradual erosion of 2nd amendment rights is either happening or likely to contribute to our eventual enslavement, I am always deeply admiring of people who labor at writing. Hats off to you Irene, and no, the ivory cable knit, cowl neck tunic is never, ever wrong, and don’t let them tell you otherwise. Just be sure to lay it flat after a gentle hand washing. If you do forget and throw it into the dryer, let me know. I may be able to slither in to it.

Miss Edie, Sue Nami and friends will be back at The Heretic Nov 16. This event is absolutely unique on the planet. No cover charge, free BBQ, wear what you like. Nobody will glare at you unless they are mad jealous about your outfit. My kind of place, my kind of peeps in short. If you are in Atlanta do what you can to be there too, en Femme, drab, guy, gal, straight, gay, tall, short, black, white and everything in between. If you live elsewhere, but have a friend here in town, tell them to come for you. I’ll be there for shootin’ sure, praises be.

Now, what to wear, what to wear…..

Oct 16, 2010

The Art of Cross Dressing. Part II

Ed. If you did not read Part One, please set aside a few minutes to do so. Link here. This post should then provide better value.


Yes, I relish the risk of Cross Dressing. I love the effect that it has on me, and on people around me. I am enthralled by the Art of it all. This drives me. These impulses and motivators, and the way that my pleasure receptors are touched when I act on them seem to me to be artistic, or at least creative, at their core.

Perhaps now is a good time to introduce a little more of me to help contextualize this theme.

I did a good amount of theatre in my 20’s. The high I took from working a stage is similar to the high I take from being Petra. The nerves prior to curtain, the attenuation to surroundings when on stage, the conscious blocking of movement, the ownership of personality, and presence while interacting with other players, the odd flower tossed by an admirer in the audience, it is all there, all of it. The satisfaction of knowing that to some degree you pulled off the performance, and that the immediate world briefly suspended disbelief is immense. If I had not worked in theatre I would have less, or perhaps nothing to compare Cross Dressing to. I did though, and damn it, but the likenesses of experience are profound.

It surprises me that I had not twigged to this earlier on.

For a variety of reasons, in my 30’s, I lost theatre and settled into technical lines of work. Lots of process, heaps of data, chains of command and the like. A couple of IPO’s that did nothing to fatten my purse too, but I am not bitter. It was a busy time building a career, and a busy time learning how to be a husband too. There was much to take me off the scent of creative pursuits. Great stuff, but different stuff.

I hit my 40’s with reasonable achievement on both the career and marital fronts. There was room in my life, and a creative, artistic activity snuck into the gap in the form of a big, beautiful piano. I had not played a note of music in my life. I started up pretty much the same way a 5 year old does and managed to become a pretty accomplished 7 year old before hitting a talent wall. I do play though, for minutes at a time, most days these days. The piano is a great source of joy for me. Certainly, the making of music is Art, even if in this field, I am no Artist.

Art has become much more central to my happiness over the last couple of years. I taught a course this past summer on the topic of Art History from Paleolithic times to the present day, viewed through the lens of technological advances. I cannot draw for beans, but I lit a room full of avid minds up expounding a theory of Art not as luxury, but as a necessity in the lives of our odd species. I gobbled up the research effort. It was delicious. I loved it and will refine the material for another go around the next time there is room for me.

Some, perhaps much of the confidence or the carelessness required to create this curricula from scratch, and then to stand up and teach it came from my recent experience of building this blog into a home for another type of Art. The Art of Writing. A fair amount of effort goes into rendering feeling, thought and experience into words here on these bright pages. Arguably the effort falls short of art, but it is creative. A blank Word doc is “medium” as surely as a freshly shaved face, and the keyboard is brush, shadow and blush. Doing this labor has thoroughly awakened within me just how central works of creativity are to my happiness.

All of this, if I am on the scent, truly brings me closer to apprehending the big catch, the whole "why". Not quite though.

I am left with why Cross Dressing, as opposed to, well, something else.

There remains the possibility of an odd chromosomal arrangement somewhere inside. There remains the possibility that some suppressed childhood experience guides my life and interests. There remains the possibility that the second hit of purple microdot I took at the David Bowie Station to Station gig clear cut an odd neural path and got me behind the velvet rope that keeps tourists from getting a good bar stool in Club Gender. And who is (ever) to know?

Not knowing these things with any certainty, I can at least contextualize my Cross Dressing as satisfying Artistic urges.

Art, at core, is work in pursuit of truth. Truth has a close relationship with beauty. Much of what I see in the world that is beautiful is displayed by women. This beauty inspires. I feel envy for it in moments of weakness. I admire it in moments of clarity. I realize that I cannot have it all or always. I can, however, aspire to beauty.

The beauty that I see in women provides very stark relief from what is ungainly, unmusical, and unbeautiful about men.

In admiring womanly beauty, in acting on the admiration, in adopting womanly surfaces, and surfacing the better feminine self from within, I believe that I am able to stand further away from my ungainly, unmusical and unbeautiful masculine potentials.

Having done this, the sculpting, the painting, the performing, and having written about it all has been completely transformational for me. Transformational in the way that Art is supposed to be. Lasting in the way that Art is supposed to be. Beautiful in the way that Art is supposed to be. For me.

I do feel further away from ungainly, unmusical, unbeautiful potentials that were always ready to stumble into view in earlier years. Perhaps that comes to us all with time, with maturity, but I am quite certain that it came to me earlier than it would have otherwise as a direct result of the pursuit of this Art.

I am happy that this Art found its way to me.

And I am curious to know from you, my Artistic friend, if these thoughts ring true for you, if you feel these things too. Comments most sincerely welcomed.

Photo Credit for Female Magritte to Colin Carver

Oct 14, 2010

Laundry, and the Art of Cross Dressing. Part 1

Just a little more than a month ago I was finishing up the weeks worth of laundry I created for myself at the Southern Comfort Conference.

The mental laundry has tumbling between my ears a little while longer. Today, dear friends, I will do a little fluff and fold of these pretty and static charged thoughts with you. It is a big pile, two loads at least. Let’s just take on one of them in this post.

You see, a week long skirt-a-palooza was big stuff for me, and for a number of reasons. On a visceral level, I had not been out en Femme through the too long, too hot Atlanta summer months. I therefore felt a great deal of anticipation for the first Frolic en Femme of the Autumn season.

Beyond that though, on a cerebral level, I truly wanted to see precisely what a more pronounced, prolonged immersion within my feminine surfaces might surface from within me. Complex stuff, yes, and while comprehension of the motivations that drive this splendid behavior is likely not to be completely seized, we must try. What would we be if we did not try?

Getting to “why” is important to me. My own personal delight in having a “why” for things runs counter to a deeply embedded hedonistic streak that I am possessed of, and which has largely served me well in life. This attitude can be succinctly summed up by saying “if it feels good, do it, provided it does not frighten the cows and sour the milk”.

The hedonist is kept partly in check by a ravenous analytical appetite. Like Mr. Spock from Star Trek, I am half Vulcan. Unlike Mr. Spock, my other half is Lt. Uhuru.

Back now, to the laundry of the mind, spinning on the question: “what is my motivation?”

I have, since giving Cross Dressing a wide berth in my life a couple of years ago, changed greatly. I will confess that there was an element of fetish, of forbidden thrill, of tactile excitement in my earlier experiments with wardrobe. This element is gone, long gone. Much else is gone with it. I no longer furtively under-dress, or sneak therapeutic moments of partial dressing in to my days. When I do dress, I go top-to-toe, and take it out on the road. Doing less does not seem to address any needs or desires. Moreover, I harbor no lesbian fantasies, have little interest in the company of men, and have absolutely no interest in congress with them. In some ways my conventionality borders on kinky. Perhaps then, we can reasonably eliminate sex as a motivator for my habit.

I have, since giving Cross Dressing a wide berth in my life (and since sharing that truth with my wife of 15+ years), listened closely for signals, kept my ears open for the Syren song sounding off the rocky shoals of Gender Re-assignment. I simply do not hear the call. At some level, I may be shutting off some sensors, daunting and disruptive as that trip would surely be. Perhaps, but I believe that I have been open minded and honest with myself on this matter.

Again. Just. Not. Feeling. It.

Perhaps then we can eliminate gender identity disorder from the mix. My birthly, earthly inheritances are sources of happiness and accomplishment for me. My advantages are considerable. I can not imagine not being the me that I am. Male. Shaken or stirred, with a twist perhaps, but yeah, a guy.

What then, dear friends, am I left with?

A thought has been coalescing around my uncertainty as to motive. It goes like so:

There is an element of Theatre, of Performance in this dressing. There is an audience, unwitting as they are, who get to see the show. I am capable of a good performance, of inhabiting a character convincingly, and staying on stage without being broomed off from the wings or shut down by a caustic review.

There is an element of Art, of Creativity in this dressing. There is bodily clay that is molded into new and attractive shapes. There is a frame draped in startling fabrics, a kinetic sculpture whose movements are changed, freed, constrained, and governed by dimensions of garments. There is my skin, a coarse canvas, smoothed, painted and beautified, an improvement on nature that I can see in a mirror and still feel surprised by.

There is something more. There is an element of exhibition, of sedition, of challenge to status quo in Cross Dressing. It may stem from some insecurity, a mad juvenile desire to be seen, noticed, to be paid mind to. In truth much of the friction of my younger years was borne of uncertainty about my value, insecurity about my place and progress in the world. There is abundant evidence in my more mature years though that this impulse has been largely stamped out, or corralled to a healthy degree. My present challenges to status quo seem better considered, more organic, and pretty well calculated for risk and effect.

I relish the risk of the Performance. I love the process of the Art. I am drawn to the challenge of the Status Quo. All of these things may be very important to me, and all very real contributors to my “why”.

It all requires a few more turns in the dryer before getting line dried here in Part Two tomorrow. I do hope to see you back here after a brief intermission.

Oct 12, 2010

Red Carpets, Green Lights, Pride and Progress

This past weekend witnessed the 40th annual Atlanta Pride Festival. Born out of the rubble of the 1969 Stonewall riots and lit by sparks thrown off by a soon to be dead global youth protest movement small handfuls of brave gay men organized marches, protests and festivals in major American cities coast to coast, and in other relatively enlightened places girdling the globe. It was small stuff at the start, here in Atlanta for certain, guerrilla social warfare really. Two parts civil rights movement, one part journey of personal discovery, a jigger of shocking street theatre, and a dash of delight mixed well and served over ice.

The language of the early days is rich with radical, revolutionary 70's zeitgeist. The GGLF (Georgia Gay Liberation Front) was joined in 1972 by the fervent souls of ALFA (Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance) for march # 2. Well organized, the movement attracted enough attention to have one if it’s charter members, Charlie St. John appointed by Mayor Massell to the Community Relations Commission.

Mr. St. John was promptly fired by the Atlanta Journal for his visible activism (click here to cancel your subscription, it's never to late to make people pay for stupidity). Mayor Massell in happy contrast to the lead-brained, clay-footed retrograde clownhats who canned Mr. St. John pronounced that Atlanta would not discriminate in the delivery of city services on the basis of sexual orientation. To my thinking, that moment, that statement made Atlanta an official magnet for people who lived elsewhere uncomfortably. Atlanta has since grown beautifully as a result. Thank you Mayor Massell.

There were times in the early years when parades were cancelled and momentum fizzled, but if you are on the side of the Angels in these United States there is something you can count on as surely as sunrise in the east: Hang in there long enough and some odious, sanctimonious jack-ass will grab the banner for the other side and herd sympathy and sympathizers your way.

Take a pretty bow Anita Bryant! I am sure you did not mean it all to turn out this way, but you were just the gasoline the fire required. And while I have your attention, dear Anita, those Dacron pant suits never worked for you.

Fast forward a few decades, and Pride Week here in Atlanta is a pretty big enterprise. It comes complete with a film festival which provided me with a terrific opportunity to put two of my big passions together for the very first time:

- becoming Petra, and
- going to the Cinema.

With the event being a kind of art-film review I felt as though a little old fashioned Hollywood glamour was required, but really, sadly, I don’t have any vintage Givenchy in the closet. Two of my heroines, women I would look like, perfect role models are pictured here, needing no introductions. Try as I might, delude myself as I can, I am left with the very certain knowledge that the very best I can make of myself is Tawdry Hepburn, or Disgrace Kelly*, but try we must, yes?

Now. on to practical matters.

If you have ever wondered for yourself why you do not see many women wearing skirts and such at your neighborhood Cineplex, I believe I have your answer. Theatre seats are designed expressly to slowly drive ones hemline into close proximity to ones waistline. There is a shoe story too. Look around the next time you are out at the movies and I bet that you will notice more women wearing flats than pronounced heels. I submit that this is a result of just how difficult it is to un-jack-knife ones self out of a too cushy, too low chair when you have a pair of 4” heels on. Experience is a beautiful mistress.

But how very rude of me to rush you into the dark room without a little lobby chit-chat. It is a film festival after all, and so a round of drinks (ghastly Gallo in a plastic cup, but more nutritious than Coca Cola, yes), with local Patron Saint of the Cross Dressing Arts,
Ramona and her dear friend Gabrielle first. We were introduced though a friend of Ramona’s to Robert Phillipson, the director of one of the short films on the menu, a documentary featuring proto-blues legend Ma Rainey called I Dreamed Last Night I Was Far From Harm. Ms. Rainey’s 1926 recording of Sissy Man Blues accompanied black and white archival film scraps that matched the song content quite imaginatively. As to the song, go ahead and google it up if you want lyrics that make Gwen Stefani (or … I don’t know, whoever) lyrics sound tame.

Between this fine effort, last years Oscar winning Live Action Short
The New Tenants, and a few other largely gay-themed short dramas I felt as though we got our moneys worth.

Movie types always somehow attract an entourage and so a quick round of apres-film cocktails was called for at nearby Café Diem, the patio packed with movie-goers and run of the mill midtown habitués. Mr. Phillipson and 8 or 9 others of us gathered in the late afternoon sunshine, toasted the success of the film and gabbled on about a lovely and weird variety of themes.

The director had come to this film project through his academic career as an authority on the literature of the Harlem Renaissance at UC Berkeley. What preceded that career was really interesting. He had worked in the Central African Republic in the Peace Corps way back in the day, around the same happy and idealistic times that the Pride Festival was taking toddler steps. A love of Africa, of Africans, of African stories took root then and there, was transplanted home to America and found repeated harvests in the fields of African American cultural studies. Neat how these things can go.

A couple who had served with Robert in Africa were at table with us, and with their teenage son, nursing a soda and pretty much looking entirely at home in a setting that could not be everyday fare for him. The father crowed about how this past summer the son had navigated a canoe all the way from Atlanta to the Atlantic. Being an avid paddler myself, we chatted happily about this Homeric, heroic and often hilarious trip.

Conversation meandered on rivers, turned back to Africa, portaged around the table into the French language, my ineptitude with it, frustration at not finding enough outlets for practice, then on to the impossibility of riding bicycles in this car worshipping city and ultimately lit briefly on too many conversational branches for me to count. Here we all were, young and old, straight and gay, vagabonds and homebodies, presenting in different genders or not, and not finding anything about those things that might drive a wedge between us. I wonder what people who marched 40 years ago would make of this scene.

Surely, some of those pioneers who marched then are with us still. I wish there was an easy way to know who they were then, where they are now. I think they would have to smile when they see a table like the one I was privileged to sit at on this evening. I hope that if they do see that table, they pull up a chair beside me.

I have much to thank them for.

* If you have already adopted either of these names for your nom de femme, please drop me a line. You are exactly the sort of wit I like to hang around with. If you choose to adopt them, be sure to tell your friends and admirers where the bright idea came from.

Oct 9, 2010

My pals, M.A.C. and Macy

Long time readers will know of my smoldering love affair with the nice people at M.A.C. Skilled staff working with terrific cosmetics, in settings that are 100% free of the possibility of a hassle about gender/wardrobe incongruity. Lovely people with an abundance of passion and personality. Really, they had had me at "yoo-hoo!"

My inaugural M.A.C. trip was chronicled
here. I have been back on a few occasions, slowly padding out the color palette and generally adding to my arsenal of tools and skills in matters of maquillage. I have also been discovering how beguiling a business the beauty biz is. The array of shades, textures, purposes, tools and etc. is practically infinite. And as is the case with shoes, you can never have all the stuff you want, or feel that you need. Again, as is the case with shoes, there is the possibility of a more attractive, more noticeable, more unique you, right there that you can try on and take away with you.

Unlike shoes though, the price points are low to the extent that it is easier to say yes, easier to open the purse and treat yourself.

Yes, this whole beauty business courts the client well, and pushes the buttons of borderline addictive personality types (moi? Pas de tout!) quite expertly. That and my seemingly inevitably destitute non-retirement aside, things are slowly picking up for me on the beauty front. I have been motivated in this effort in part by words of, well, perhaps words of encouragement is not the perfect word, from Mrs. Bellejambes.

“You look like you are wearing makeup. Too much of it. Way. Too. Much.”

Hmmm. In fairness I had to agree. I had been for some time using a Dermablend concealer/foundation cream and finishing powder, and really I have no complaint with the quality of the products. In hindsight though the advice I got at the ULTA shop where I picked them up was inexpert. They got my skin tone wrong.

I have switched over now to a couple of M.A.C. products that I highly endorse. Concealer
here and finishing powder here. Terrific finishes, not invisible, but closer to it, close as I might get, or can expect to get given flaws of complexion.

If hitting a makeup counter en femme is beyond your reach or the limits of your nerve, really do not hesitate to engage with a technician in drab. Explain your requirements. Offer your hand up as a test area. Getting a quality product on your skin is easy. Getting the tone right is not. So give a technician a chance to get it right, and it will pay dividends in the form of beauty. If you feel as though you are invading a territory you are standing out like a sore thumb in, get over it. Chaps buy gifts all the time. And unless it is 9:30 A.M. you are likely not the first Cross Dresser they have met on the day of your visit.

Earlier this week I popped into the M.A.C. Pro Shop in Atlanta Perimeter for an inexpensive treat. My false lashes were not going to stand another wear, and so I dressed fully, did the make-up entirely minus my eyes, put a big pair of starlet sunglasses on and waded into the mall. I worked with a lovely technician for about 45 minutes getting a beautiful new pair of eyes painted on for the price of new lashes and a couple of shadow colors. I wanted these colors in any event (this is my year of purples and lilacs), and watching a pro work for basically no extra charge is great value. With a happy new look on, and the little extra confidence in the stride that goes along with it, it was time to say so long to Mac, and to drop in on dear friend Macy.

I really took my sweet time getting from A to B, and for a couple of reasons. Firstly, men rush through malls. A lady does not. I do still consciously need to moderate my pace of movement en femme. Next, and of equally vital import, you cannot really see what other people are looking at when moving at man-pace. So, in between longing looks at window displays and mental notes on the wardrobes of younger, hipper, prettier things than your correspondent, I was meeting eyes to see what was in them.

Lots, as it happens.

For the most part, males of the species who do notice you scan you pretty quickly. Top to toe with a slight pause somewhere between necklace and belt. Hmmm. I am glad that I am not too busty a lass. I think it might get tiresome. Legs, yes, they get a look too. How many of them perceived a difference about me beneath the surface? Surely some. Not one of them though betrayed shock, alarm, delight, bemusement or any strong sentiment by their facial reactions. And their eyes, when met go elsewhere. Just, kind of look away and move on.

And the women? Much better watchers. Again, they are moving more slowly, and are more receptive. There is a longer look, it takes in more details, but goes right back to the face. And then a Mona Lisa smile. The smile mostly seems to impart a message that goes like so:

“Wow, look at you. You are a guy, dressed as a woman, getting away with it, kind of, maybe mostly, but I got you, didn’t I?”.

And then the eyes lock on yours. This is a real invitation to engagement. I felt as though I was losing a game when I looked away. It is tough to not look away though, in a feigned act of indifference to the scrutiny, or simply because I am so easily befuddled and confused by women.

In the jungle of the mall though, there is no doubt that the women are the Alpha predators, the Lions, and the chaps are either feral packs of teenage hyenas or easily herded stray lone herbivores.

Several herbivores had been corralled in fact into a nice pen just outside of a massive warren of fitting rooms in Macy’s. Rather a sad looking bunch, docile and sleepy, sunken into a too low peach-shade sectional couch. Penalty box, purgatory and not pleasant for the lads. Their lasses were obscured from view, doors slamming, hangers flying, winners and losers determined inside the fitting room, and in my 15 minutes or so within earshot of the place not once did I hear a woman say, “honey, what do you think of this?”

What I did hear was one of the Macy’s shop assistants engage in a lengthy and clearly expert discussion with the 4 or 5 guys in the antechamber to the fitting room about football. While I bided my time removing chunky jewelry, peeling off my cardigan, stepping slowly out of my skirt, unbuttoning and hanging up my blouse, on and on they went. The Macy's staffer really knew her stuff. Back and forth they talked and trash-talked sounding like something off ESPN, expert analysis, analysis that was way over my head, and moreover, of no particular interest.

What was of interest was just how perfectly my dress fit (mine is blue, her sister is pictured here). This feeling, is visceral. Everybody on the planet deserves to know just how fine the moment is when you try a dress on and can believe, if only for an instant, that this is as good as this dress can look. It is a wonderful feeling. I could have kept the feeling to myself. But I am more generous than that. Perhaps generous is not the right word for this moment though.

On the way in, I had noticed the tailors platform and panoramic mirror complex just next to where the chaps were seated. I wanted a better look at my soon-to-be-mine dress. I knew that this would come at the expense of giving everyone in the bleachers a look too. And I did not mind. I admit it. I sought the moment out. I felt, I believe, for the first time as though I was the Alpha predator.

Conversation slowed and then stopped while I exhaustively, critically 360’d myself in the 3-way mirror.

Great dress” says the nice Macy’s lady, slowly, after some moments of silence.

The lads were wordless.

They both were right.

Oct 7, 2010

Café Society Continued

The prior post just a few paragraphs due south of here has all the background notes for this post. I left things on a bit of a cliff for you dear friends. Let us continue then.

A couple was leaning over the patio rail, vaguely lost, looking for The Bonefish Grill, and asking the smart young lady at the table next to me for guidance. She was drawing a blank. My Atlantic Station restaurant directory showed me that they were misinformed. Boneheads Grill was the actual place, and I could see it on a Google Map, 1 block south and 2 east of where I was seated.

I descended from my high stool and waltzed myself and my MacBook into the conversation.

I think you are actually looking for Boneheads not Bonefish folks. See here it is, just around the corner …:

That’s it” says the fellow. “Thanks!” and into the early evening they went.

When they were out of earshot my new acquaintance opened up the conversation.

You know they said they were looking for a pretty fancy place. I wouldn’t call Boneheads fancy. Would you?

No, heck no. Fast casual at best. Bonefish is nice, but Boneheads… nah

Yeah, exactly! Ah well, whatever floats the boat I suppose (or other words to that imprecise effect)”

Readers might be reminded at this point that regardless how expert or convincing my presentation is, when I start to chattering with people I am quite obviously not what the surfaces indicate. I do not possess, nor have I yet cultivated a feminine voice. I do turn down the volume a little and edit for profanity but otherwise the voice is the same voice I engage the world with every day.

With the laptop placed back on my table and me pulled up into a chair closer to her, facing her, we continued the chat. Dialog is not my strong literary suit, so I will expose the action as epic narrative here.

I invited her to my table, because she was getting peppered with inquiries from passers by. She smiled and declined, needing to hold the table for her friends who had left PC’s, bags and gear there while investigating the premises on foot. She had wanted to join them but her bum knee and a small crisis at home kept her at the table. Her knees looked just fine to me, but she showed a weary face and described some gawdawful bug her 8 year old had picked up at school or playground that had necessitated several visits to the Doctors, and a mitt-full of shots, pills and suchlike.

She needed this like a run in her tights of course, because the business was demanding so damned much of her just now. My earlier instincts were pretty much on the money. She represented the property developer to commercial real estate brokers, and was in the business of arranging marriages between them and retailers who might sign a lease at Atlantic Station. We spoke about the personality of the place, and what sort of shops might thrive here.
Chico’s she thought should move in, while I thought they were a little OTP (Atlanta slang for bland suburbs “Outside The Perimeter") for this setting.

My consideration was that there was a possibility of creating a genuine destination shopping venue in Atlantic Station if more marquee retailers with very small retail footprints in North America were courted. More designer boutiques, luxury brands, European vendors looking to test for expansion in America, and etc. Hartsfield-Jackson is the busiest airport in the world, the convention center is a straight shot down the 85/75 corridor, Lennox and Phipps don’t have room for new tenants. From a business and differentiation perspective, this made sense to me.

Having an excuse to go swanning around Europe looking for clients I proposed might be a nice sideline motivator for a clearly cosmopolitan gal like my chatty new pal. This was some different positioning and thinking to her, and a little outside of her plan. I was smiling inside reminded of just how close this moment felt to my typical business life. I am always the voice in the room questioning the first principals of just exactly what the hell makes this business uniquely definable, sustainable and well defended against the competition. Some days I don't get burnt at the stake for my thinking too. It is a pretty natural line of work for me, and here I was, at it again.

In heels this time though. Pro Bono too.

Occupancy rates were pretty good she opined, given overall economic conditions. No, the residences are not fetching what they should, and finding great brokers was next to impossible. She really hoped the two new guys she had signed on to the challenge would succeed where others had tried and faded away. But topmost in her mind was her poor sick little boy. 5 shots of who knows what and still laid low he was. If she or her husband or the dog caught whatever the hell he had things would just fall apart. It is just so sad to see a sick little kid and you want to snap your fingers and make it all good, just now, and maybe have some ice cream then .....


Here friends, are a few things we did not talk about: Her outfit. My outfit. Why a chap might dress smartly en femme and visit this café today.

Her colleagues returned from their tour of their new battlefield with bright ideas to air and campaigns to mount, and I smiled and excused myself from the now serious business setting. The wine finished, the check signed, the Mac shut down and my things gathered up, it was time to move further on into the evening.

I found some killer shoes and a beautiful new blouse. I met some friends, one of whom is a new acquaintance from the recent Southern Comfort Conference for a nice supper. And I drove home, still surprised at the all-encompassing feelings of newness that come with these explorations of … I am not sure what to call it, but lets settle on these explorations of my fuller self.

And the thing that stood out was the short, deep, in some ways really intimate conversation with the stranger at the café. A conversation that did not light even for a second on my differences, or my admiration of her differences.

I hope you find that hopeful. I do.

Oct 4, 2010

Café Society

The following post was written on Wednesday Sept, 29 around 5:00 - 5:30 in the evening. It has been edited for spelling and clarity, spit polished just a touch, but appears largely as first drafted. It is a little departure from my typical writing routine. This is a quick, on-the-scene reportorial effort, rather than the multi-draft editorial mini-essays typically found on the menu here. ..............................................................................................................................................

The setting is quite nice. It is genuinely Autumn. Temperatures are in the low 70’s (which, for my Metric friends, converts to super-comfy). There is a lovely breeze, perhaps just a bit too fresh as my hair is blowing quite randomly across my face, and lodging all too often on my glossed lips. My MacBook, a cool glass of Pinot Grigio and I are loitering around late Wednesday afternoon at Café 19 for a little exercise in real-time blogging.

The effect that I am out to achieve here, deep in the heart of Atlantic Station in Atlanta that of a professional woman catching up on firestorms at the office that happened in my absence. My ensemble is office appropriate, at best, a look that a successful media exec, or perhaps a lawyer might adopt for a day in front of the clients.

I am surrounded by women who are dressed like me, and men who are dressed fairly much as I typically am. People who are loafing, and engaged in business, shoppers and tourists, wait staff and wastrels. The idea today is enjoy my wine, look around, write what I see and feel, and share with you my observations. From an authorial perspective, it is my hope to limit editing as much as possible. I am an embedded reporter today, and will try to deliver just the dry facts of the event.

And I must confess that the facts are as dry as the wine. This I could put down to one of three possibilities.

- People here are just entirely o.k. with a Cross Dresser,
- I am occupying my role well enough to “pass”, or
- We are all too busy to pay mind to the people around us.

Of course it could be a combination of all of these things, and some other unconsidered elements thrown in for good measure. Who’s to know when it comes to Earthlings after all?

My waitress today is the heartbreakingly cute young thing who has taken care of me before. I love her privately. I find it so charming that so often it is the people with the most menacing piercings who are the most gentle and happy people you are likely to meet in a day. But she is doing a little extra, deeper look at me today.

I think, that she has put Petra together with a chap she has served in the past. I think she knows the face under the make up, but wonders whether it is quite the right thing to say, “ ... howdy, you look different today”. Out of politeness, she just takes care of me. Out of politeness, I am happy to be just another customer even though we both know something extra.

The woman at the table next to me, has wonderful fashion sense and very nice legs. She is a little younger then I, and is sporting a smart black pencil skirt, and a very fancy dark faux-lace cardi over a simple camisole. She is in commercial real estate, going by the table chat. Her two male colleagues have just left her table to take a foot tour of this nicely designed, upmarket, but far from fully occupied commercial / retail / residential development. We exchange smiles.

The poor dear, she looks lovely, but there is a mountain of paperwork and a Coke in front of her. As soon as her colleagues go walkies, she is on the phone to her husband to figure out exactly what to do with their child who came down with something yesterday and has had five shots today.

And if this isn’t enough, she is seated at a corner table where the wind blows wild, and every lost rube from Mobile to Monticello is leaning across the patio rail asking her where such and such a restaurant is or how far Ikea is from here. She does look competent, yes, but she is not wearing a name badge, or a tiara and sash. She seems to know her way around here though, and so as soon as she sets somebody off in the right direction, a new couple leans in for help. I have just pulled up the Atlantic Station merchant and services web site on my totally cute Mac. I am going to sign off and go help her out.

To be continued.


There was a lot of good stuff that happened after I stopped taking “live” notes. I will be gathering all of that from memory, putting it back together and serving it up as time allows later this week.

Oct 2, 2010

Brush with Celebrity. SCC Video Cameo

Typically, I have pretty good instincts around cameras. That is to say when other people are holding them, I try to stay out of the frame. I really do try, but quite deep in the evening of the final night of the recent Southern Comfort Conference I let my guard down.

My charming friend Aislin spied me walking through the scene of a short interview with a very visible star of the TG universe, Chloe Prince and sent me a link. Chloe is noted amongst other things for her
blogging, the creation of the Pink Essence social network and a very graceful and informative ABC Primetime feature that exposed a lot of mainstream living room dwellers to one remarkable woman’s life.

The second lass swanning (thanks Aislin, I can't really quibble with your language) by Chloe’s left shoulder towards the camera around 15 seconds in wearing the black boat neck cocktail dress is me. The dress is holding up nicely. My makeup, not so much. As to the walk, I cannot recall whether I was going for an amplified hip-sprocket gait or had simply fallen prey to the effects of too much wine, women and song.

It seems as though the embedded YouTube vid is not displaying on iPhones, and perhaps other devices. So here is a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMeYjHsJ3Gs

Next year I think I will use the service doors and avoid the camera crews. In the meantime, I suppose one must in some way note their You Tube debut.

As for Chloe, she is just admirable. A completely genuine person. I attended one of her presentations at SCC, on the topic of living genuinely, online and otherwise. She spoke from a position of authority on the matter, and with such feeling for we “students” in the room that it was all quite moving. There were a few sniffles and many dabbed eyes. Her seminar was one of the things that made conference attendance a real dollar value for me.

If you are not a member of Pink Essence, you should go look around, and join up if you like what you see. You will likely feel more compelled to attend SCC too if you do, so be forewarned.

If you are camera shy you should, like I will, practice your 180 degree turn and retreat move, and do try, my dears, to pay attention to where you are walking.


On another note, this post is #200, which is I suppose somewhat of a milestone. Thanks to everyone who has visited, full body hugs to all of you who have left comments. I would have stopped much sooner without you. I suspect there are another couple of centuries still left in me. I look forward to sharing them with you.

Happy weekend all.

Oct 1, 2010

Petra Guest Blogs, yet again

It is my delight today to center and smooth my skirt before answering the virtual doorbell to welcome visitors from Guilty Pleasures, where I have a guest post up today. Darling, you look smashing, love your bag, please come in.

Regular readers of Voyages en Rose are encouraged to go and visit with Ally and friends over Guilty Pleasures. I wrote a product review on some terrific new tights there, and you might get a laugh out of it. In just under 900 words I was unable to discern whether my new Scrunchy Sheers were made for Supermodels or Streetwalkers. They might be appropriate for solicitors in general, or The Solicitor General. Honestly, I still can’t make my mind up.

In fact, I went so far as to model them in both modes. I do know for certain now that I am not made for the life of the Streetwalker. The gal in the middle (pictured below, please do not click to enlarge) looks pretty much like I like to feel. The more risqué ensembles left and right did feel weirdly empowering for a couple of minutes, but a couple of minutes only. Truly I did not recognize myself. That is not good. Our clothes should reveal the true person within, not distort her. I will think about Halloween though.

So go and read, and then do hurry back would you? While you are away, I am going to have a quiet chat with our newish visitors.

Just now I suspect that you might be surprised to find yourselves reading a Cross Dresser's blog. You probably would have guessed earlier if I had posted a pic on GP, but my real camera is out of town with Mrs. Bellejambes just now and the low-res snaps I did get were just not sharp enough for a real blog. Additionally, it must be said that the model in the snaps over on GP does have nicer legs than me. I am an authority on legs if nothing else.

In any event, welcome to Voyages en Rose. For those of you who have not already hit the back button, I have a thought for you:

You already know a Cross Dresser. It is likely though that you do not know who that person is.

Perhaps a neighbor, a happily married chap like me, whose wife knows and is to one degree or another is supportive. Perhaps somebody who is deeply private in their habits, a little bit guilt ridden and fearful, and is just now wearing a smart pair of tights at the office under his khaki’s two cubes down the way from yours. Perhaps the new woman in Customer Support with the biggish shoulders who, in the not too distant past, had a different name and a different gender assignment, but discovered her true nature through wardrobe experimentation. We are all over the place.

We have wardrobe elements in common, but at some level we are unique as fingerprints or snowflakes. For me, I arrived at this place in my life after long decades of pushing a curiosity away. When I welcomed the curiosity and explored it fully and freely, here is what I found: I am a pretty happy, successful and well adjusted guy, and am good and natural at those guy-ish things. All good, but just not a big enough canvas for me to fully express myself on.

I have always been entranced by and envious of women. Really, you must know you make our heads snap and swivel with your looks. My, but you are beautiful. And your minds, how they confound and delight and sometimes short circuit ours. The company of women is infinitely more interesting and rewarding than the company of men. For me, by presenting as well and fully as I can as a woman, I get as close as I can to experiencing the world through a more feminine set of sensibilities. This is a real privilege. This makes me a happier, better guy.

I have been blogging about becoming that better guy for a couple of years now. If you would like to read a little more about my take on femininity, fashion and foundation garments, I would be happy if you would stay a while and browse here and there. Here are some links to prior posts you might want to follow:

Guilty Pleasures readers being fond of Lingerie, may enjoy
this essay: a year end review of a years worth of very rigorous hosiery reviews.

This is a good time of year to remember what a nightmare Black Friday is. Last year I hit the shops and lived to tell the tale
here. Take my advice – stay home.

this one for a small essay on some of the style icons that caught and held my attention on TV when I just a youngster (hint – there was a Josie and the Pussycats before Rosario Dawson).

Strappy sandals, honesty and openness with a beautiful stranger in the shoe clearance racks. Sounds like a little slice of shopping heaven over

Lastly, a small
essay on how technology, specifically the internet is helping people like me to find a way to express themselves more openly, with fewer negative repercussions.

And you, dear new friend, can help that happy process along too. In fact, your help is needed.

Cross Dressers, and Transgendered people in general do not have an easy time coming to terms with themselves. But many, and hopefully more each day, do. So if you find someone in your lives struggling with such issues or living out loud with their truths, smile and show some kindness. That will help. And please, by all means, whatever fashion tips you have for us are most sincerely welcomed.

I do hope that the time you have spent here today helps your best, most admired and most envied feminine characteristics surface when that moment arises.

Thanks for visiting.
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