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 here.
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.