Dec 30, 2010

Five for ’10. A Look Back Blogwise

It is a well accepted convention in the worlds of media, journalism and here too in the treacherous mountain passes of Blogistan to pause for a moment in late December, and look back over the year. I will vary only slightly from the convention in so far as I will pause for a moment, then flick my hair over my shoulder and put one hand on hip, before looking back.

Now, where the hell was I?

Ah, yes, Dear Reader, in the spirit of providing you with a retrospective view of what I feel to be some of the highlights of this years fun and games here at Voyages en Rose, and furthermore with the view of saving me the heavy lifting of actually writing something new of value, I present the following posts for your grazing and mulching pleasure.

I have pulled these stalks from the stubble field of the past year because I quite like the writing and thinking in them. I think they either have a smart observation or two, or are simply well executed works of word-smithing. Perhaps even both.

In The Cross Dresser on the Ramparts of Change I take a big old swing at placing my personal habits in the context of the ongoing sexual/societal revolution that has been a pretty constant feature of my nearly half-century life.

I wrote Things I like. Perhaps you do too for an audience not interested in matters of gender, presentation and the like. I had a guest post up on Miss Neira’s fashion blog that I expected would drive a little traffic here, traffic that was unfamiliar with matters familiar to you and I. This piece was intended to establish some common ground between me and new visitors. I think it did, and happily, I made a couple of new friends in the process.

I built a metaphor for Cross Dressing Character and exposed it to a sustained blast of 12 g-forces that surprisingly did not shatter its constituent letters and splatter the authors face with goo. That the metaphor is stolen from Shakespeare particularly tickles the author. The author will now stop referring to herself in the 3rd person.

Next up, 5 (un) Easy Pieces is a big departure for me, and an attempt at a structured, poetic exploration of my own long, troubled and really, only recently easy life of Cross Dressing. I am happy with the finished piece, but remember the making, editing and polishing process as some of the most involved, demanding, time evaporating and rewarding moments of my life. Very proud of the piece still.

Lastly, may I commend to you a 2 piece suite that goes to the core of “why”, or at least a part, a knowable part of the why I do as I do themed “The Art of Cross Dressing". (Part 1 and Part 2). The Rubik's Cube is not fully solved, but I do have the pink side pretty much fixed up.

All of this stuff is fairly ponderous. It is the stuff that happens in my cerebral precincts. There is more to life though than the life of the mind though. My next Five for ’10 list will feature the most memorable moments, out in the big wide open, en Femme, amongst friends and the unsuspecting both. The visceral stuff. I am going to have a lot of fun rebuilding those moments in my mind, and look forward to sharing them over the next couple of days.

Thanks, and thanks eternally for your many visits here. You make the writing worthwhile. This I value greatly.

Happy New Year.

Dec 27, 2010

Crossing T’s

Here we are at the start of a lower case “t” transitional week, the strange time betwixt holidays high and a new year nigh.

Christmas was lovely and white here in Dixie, a light blanket of snow lays still on the ground. Enough of the stuff to make a displaced northerner feel nostalgia, but not so much as to make travel a travail or render high heels impractical. For those of you presently ploughed under in the North East, or perhaps recently liberated from a miserable airport in Europe, I hope you are warm at home, or wherever you planned on being.

The big day was quiet and enjoyable Chez Bellejambes, although I must confess that I earned a few Cross Dresser Demerit points with the gift giving. The big hamper of things I picked up for Mrs. B certainly had all the color, cache and cut characteristics desired, but I was positively spastic on sizing. I am a little ashamed, really, someone with my eye and experience should do a little better. We will therefore sally back into the mall melee sometime this week to remedy things. It stings a bit, you know.

General busy-ness with the holidays have kept me away from the blog too, and also from activities that would create compelling new stories to share with you. I did keep a little busy following the ongoing series of guest posts at T-Central featuring the perspective of Cross Dressers and their loved ones. Following my own post, old friends and new names Sally, Aeify, Alice, the indispensable Stana, and most recently from The Wife, of The Cross Dressers Wife fame, all published great efforts. I believe there are another couple of essays yet to come in this series, which I look forward to as much as I enjoyed the warm, welcoming, inclusive and positive tone of the earlier posts.

Going by the comments the essays spawned, it would be fair to say that a few T’s were crossed though. My word, but things got a little heated. If you did not follow along, go spend some time while you have it. Passion is something that is not lacking under our big tent. Strongly held opinions neither. I stayed away from the fracas in part because life is short, but also because of other demands on my time.

Par example, my budding fashion journalistic career. There are a few new posts up at my other home, Guilty Pleasures, which is a lingerie blog for the more mainstream (i.e. non-part time) woman. Recent posts include a brassiere review for newish vendor Top Secret Society, some chit chat about luxury French hosiery brand Gerbe and, most recently, a roundup of Leopard print tights featuring purring entries from Hue and Wolford (ed. amateur model and critic pictured left). I can provide assurances here that none of my academic or vocational advisors ever suggested that I give this line of work a serious look. Well, none of them had my figure either, so there. This work, dear friends, is a blast and a privilege. Perhaps as well, a little cheekily, a little seditiously, these posts auger a day in the future where gender norms and standards of presentation are a little more fluid than they are today.

Other busy-ness comes from clearing the mental deck for a really new and challenging year. It is official that I am going back in to a formal workplace setting after a multi-year, pajama clad consultancy / sabbatical phase early in January. No details here other than to say that the work is something I am genuinely interested in and skilled at, that the work is with people I genuinely like, and that the work is something that I am still young and energetic enough to do well. The office is really close to some terrific shops too.

Part of the mental prep for this new undertaking will include taking stock of yet another year of integrating Petra into the whole me, and vice versa. Much of that work is done via this blog, and so figuring out the extent to which I will be able to do both the blogging and integrating in the upcoming year will occupy much of my thinking this week.

I will have fewer luxuries of time and opportunity in 2011 for the exterior life of Petra. And as much as I have had great good fortune in expanding my range in this past year, the best gains have been in the interior. I understand and love myself better here now than a year or so ago. With that said, I am going to have to be circumspect in my behavior in my newish setting. For example, it will be helpful to periodically stifle the urge to say things like “killer bag, where did you get it?” to smartly turned out clients and colleagues. A fine line exists between personality and liability and it must be walked carefully.

But you know, dear reader, that there is no on/off switch for this stuff, is there? And if there was, I am not sure I would want to fiddle with it all that much. I like the colors, textures and sounds too much. They are integral to me. Subtle adjustments to some of dials can be managed though, and I suppose must be. While I figure out how to tune things for new realities, I do hope you will tune in here time to time to see how it is all going.

I will get a Best of Petra / New Years Frockin’ Eve retrospective of the year posted up before we all turn 2011 later this week. In the meantime, thanks for your shocking, flattering and more welcome than words can render visits here to Voyages en Rose.

Dec 17, 2010

Meet the Frockers

Yes friends, here we are deep into the manic month, dreaded and delightful December. The dread has much to do with just how many things need doing, and the generally worsening weather in which they get done.

The delight is abundant though. Contemplative finishing stitches are put on the waning year, loved ones are loved, and one receives a little love in return. Sometimes too in December, we get to witness, or precipitate a random act of kindness, stranger to stranger, the little miracles of humanity that seem most important when the Sun is at it’s furthest remove. Watch for it. Heart warming stuff is nearby, and is a pleasant relief from other year end rituals like spittle flecked, profanity laced shouting matches over possession of the last damned parking spot within marching distance of the mall.

It is a lovely time of year too for people with an eye for style. Women do make an extra effort with themselves even with all the chaos. Whether it’s an office party, a dinner party with friends, or a seething, sullen and uncommunicative custody hearing, you just know that looking a little better, newer, more special is OK, welcomed, even expected. The bigger and later in the day, the bigger the effort, the better the looks.

Most chaps out there look forward to a little harmless ogling. Me? I take notes. There is so much more to pay attention to, to be mesmerized by. The color, shape, glitter and glamour dials get cranked up to 11 (one louder). Nails are brighter, eyes smolder like a tire dump fire, hair is teased out and pumped up, perfume descends like sunset in the desert.

Accessories too, the sparkling little clutch with room enough only for lip gloss, a credit card and a condom is held by a bare arm, draped in a diaphanous tasseled shawl. Rings and bracelets catch light even in dark rooms, subtly and not-so-subtly saying to the world “yes, I am all that, and at least one person agrees with me…”

Comfort falls by the wayside as far as shoes go too. Strappy sandals, beguiling d’Orsays, glittering, beribboned, velvety, metallic, anything but dull, and anything but flat. You see, one wants to drive the height up a bit and really look people in the eye, perhaps from an unexpected angle. Indeed, with the shoes and hair done just so, a 6” change in altitude is not out of the realm of the possible.

This sudden change in presence draws attention to plunging necklines, fabulous necklaces, polished pendants poised just so, nestled warmly upon more brazenly displayed busts, pushed up, powdered, perfumed and proud.

All of this is lovely yes, but for me, the High Holidays are also the time of High Hemlines. And for this, here in the Church of Petra, can we get an Amen? Hell yes.

I was out this past weekend to join friends at the year end
Tri-Ess / Sigma Epsilon gathering. I went high of hem, and had a high old time. It was party number 2 of a longish day, requiring a drastic change of appearance during the intermission. I would have like to have taken more time with the maquillage, but December schedules do not always allow the luxury of time.

My party frock for the evening, a foxy little number from Macy’s, picked up for a relative song had been quietly waiting on the sidelines and hoping to be called up to the big leagues since early October. I had such fun with her in the fitting room (story
here), I was very much looking forward to her debut evening.

With coat off and over my arm, I followed the wrong party sounds navigating my way through the hotel and wound up in an impromptu chat with a couple of gentleman loitering outside what I took to be a Korean jewelry merchants soiree. My silver accessories attracted positive notice. I did take a look back over my shoulder once they had steered me in the correct direction and can claim a little giddily that the rest of the visible me did too. That’ll straighten your shoulders in a hurry friends.

I soon found the right room. This was only my second social with my local support group, and so most of the faces were new to me, and vice versa. The average attendee, there with a supportive spouse, was an empty nester freed up in later years to better explore themselves without the prying eyes of kids about the house. The ladies of this great generation did go all out for the evening. Lots of glitter in evidence, a very happy celebration.

There were a handful of late Baby Boomers like me in attendance, and a even a young 20 something with a complexion to kill for (I am mad jealous Grace), but I felt as though I was amongst the youngest in the room. It was nice to say hello to a couple of friends I had met at SCC this past autumn too, Phoebe, Heather Anne and Megan amongst them.

Here is a little observation for my fellow denizens of the online world. We (or perhaps, just me) think of the CD/TG world as being a sub set of people who spend countless hours browsing blogs, social networks, chat rooms and the like to learn more about and participate in our gender driven lives. As it happens, there are a lot of nice people out there who managed to get to a comfortable place with themselves (and with their partners too) without much reliance on the Internet. Who knew?

Fellow bloggers will know just how much a nice comment on a post means. Well, to be told in person that ones blog is read and enjoyed goes even further. I was actually recognized as Petra of Voyages en Rose infamy. Some top moments of the evening were provided by people who tottered over to introduce themselves. I enjoyed a good long chat with Milla and Teresa, (killer pant suit Teresa) in from neighboring Alabama who said some wonderful warm things the writing found here. This is a conversation starter absolutely certain to engage my full attention. I was late (and unprepared for) the gift exchange, but new friends are no doubt the better gift.

I was a little surprised, and shouldn’t be in hindsight, that in another conversation, I was asked if I was the person behind “that blog with all the pantyhose posts”. Guilty as charged. You are what you write, I suppose. For the record, this evening I was sporting a lovely pair of
Gerbe Sun Satin 8’s, and yes they felt great. I will be doing up a full review of these fine sheers on a more mainstream lingerie/fashion blog in the not too distant future.

It was a lovely evening. Long time readers know that I put pretty good care into wardrobe, and am not shy about clingy, fashion-forward looks. This evening however was really the first time that I dressed for display. One wants to look good always, yes, but typically the Cross Dresser dresses to blend in, to be noticed perhaps, but not to stand out. A holiday party is a nice change from the typical routine. Standing out, standing tall, shining brightly and revelling in the effect is special. I better understand today just how this time of year is celebrated by the beautiful women in my life. Such a feminine privilege, the opportunity to really go all out for a night out.

I do hope that you all get a chance to get dolled up a once or twice over the busy holidays. It is a nice gift to the self, and to all the people around you too, regardless of how you appear every other day of the year. If you have seen and met some nice Holiday Frockers, I would love to hear from you, an consider your comments to be a real gift.

Dec 8, 2010

In Praise of Bolder Women

Admiration of women is, it seems to me, a common thread that ties together the various and diverse patches of our big, fluffy and sometimes frayed T-Quilt. Putting aside, for the moment, screeching cabaret Drag Queens and demented, homicidal Hollywood archetypes (distant cousins, yes, but let us acknowledge their presence) women will typically find amongst the CD/TG set their most sincere admirers.

Never too far from admiration is a desire for acceptance. Whether your embrace of the feminine is periodic or permanent it would be rather a pyrrhic thing to be free to present sometimes or live always as female, and not enjoy a warm welcome from women. I am fortunate. I have been warmly welcomed. Life has been enlivened by many generous and genuine encounters with women while en Femme, vivid moments free of friction. Invariably, these are the best moments of the day.

This admiration of and desire for acceptance from women is heightened at home for those of us in the dedicated, delicate, exclusive and sometimes exasperating relationship of marriage. Clearly, if the admiration was not there in the first place, we would not have popped (or responded positively to) the question, yes?

Fear of spousal withholding of acceptance is a fear that keeps many bottled up, locked in, tamped down. Keeping secrets, as I did for some time within my happy home, is a pretty natural response to that fear that we will not be accepted. Sooner or later, once we remember what exactly made our partner so admirable in the first place, once we reckon on the cost of dishonesty, once we know we will explode if we do not share, we face the fear down, share, and hope for some degree of acceptance.

I have been well accepted at home. Not a bed of roses entirely friends, but not a bed of nails either, and closer, by far, to roses. There remains much to be figured out. If we work hard and carefully for each other for another hundred years or so, I think we can get there fully. Bold as Mrs. Bellejambes is, and as much praise as I could heap on her though, this post is about a few other bold women.

I want today to direct your attention to a handful of Wives and SO’s who not only tender the best level of acceptance they can to their CD/TG partners, but go a little further and share their experiences online. Spouses of CD/TG’s share all of our issues, and more besides. Those who share their learnings online deserve special regard. Here are a few blogs that I hold in high regard, each replete with a mix of triumph, tribulation and trivia, the stuff of a full life:

The Wife behind
The Cross Dressers Wife has been airing the pretty and sometimes wrinkled laundry of her complex life here for close to a year now. Always delighted to see a new post show up in my Google Reader.

Lynn D’s
Fun Finding Her She Me. Ms. Lynn is not always active with the blogging part of her life. Like all of us, other demands intrude to the exclusion of blogging. When she does blog though, good-spiritedness and a willingness to make things work without an owners manual shines through.

Love is the theme of A Perfect Luv. This is a lasting theme, as I hope Ms. Perfect’s blog to be. This blog is unique in so far as Ms. P seems to have started her voyage with her life partner with a higher degree of interest in and receptivity to Cross Dressing than women typically exhibit.

A very shiny new star glitters in the Blog firmament courtesy of Casey at
Yes, She is My Husband. This is a ground floor opportunity to see a skilled writer find a voice in the midst of a whirlwind of change.

No list of this variety would near completion without mention of Helen Boyd’s
enGender. Ms. Boyd is a well recognized Founding Mother of the digital gender-afflicted SO world, and the wildly successful author of My Husband Betty.

This list is no doubt incomplete. Bold women abound. If you are such a bold woman, and a partner to a someone who is discovering more about themselves through exploration of gender, your visit today is very welcomed. I hope the time you spend here feels well spent. If you are a partner who blogs about your experience, I want to know you better, and to share your experiences with my wonderful partner. Please reach out, name names, and introduce yourself in the comments section.


Dec 7, 2010

Vitamin T

Most visitors here will be familiar with the indispensable resource that is T-Central. Certainly, people who have found themselves here today after a visit to T-Central already are. If you are here from there, welcome! Make yourselves at home.

For those of you not on intimate terms with T-Central, well, dear friends, I don’t want to sound harsh, but really, I thought I knew you, how could I be so very wrong?

A team of volunteers labor ceaselessly (and largely thanklessly) there. They collect and maintain current feeds from literally hundreds of blogs focused on matters of gender. The assortment is amazing. It can seem like a too big buffet table at first glance, but it is worth a close look. You are sure to find something to your taste there.

One of the site moderators, Calie, lives a full enough life already, maintains a superb personal
blog, and just because somebody had to do it, has indexed the worlds most comprehensive list of songs that could be thought of as T-Tunes.

On top of all that, this friendly force of nature is curating a series of essays for T-Central this week authored by self described Cross Dressers. There are bound to be some really heartfelt, educational, and artfully crafted efforts posted up over the next week or so. In the meantime, there is one from me.

Go ahead, visit, visit often, and enjoy the fruits of this good labor.

Dec 5, 2010

Give a little. Get a little.

It is, dear friends, the giving season. Of late, much giving has been required of me and, as a result, certain aspects of my life have been getting a little less attention. It has been over a couple of weeks since I have posted up to Voyages en Rose. This is the longest authorial hiatus since the pronounced quiet of my Summer ‘09 Drabbatical©.

It is never just one thing of course, but work has much to do with it. Coming up on three years of independent, freelance, pajama-clad consultancy, my client dance card is filling out nicely. I am a slow learner but have, it seems, figured out how to make this lifestyle work for me and the bank.

Here is the thing though: The moment that the clay starts to round into shape is precisely the moment that the universe and I conspire to hit the brakes on the potters wheel and start peddling in the opposite direction.

My favorite client and I have decided to deepen our relationship, to go steady. It is a big, interesting job with a big, challenging revenue number and plenty of financial upside. I like the people, there is an enjoyable amount of travel required and nobody gets hurt when we succeed. Ramping up for this effort has eaten into Petra time.

I was anticipating this, and a few weeks ago started to empty my purse. First thing out,
Twitter. That saved me a couple of hours weekly of poking about in the global yard sale of random bric-a-brac that this interesting community represents. Next up, Facebook. Here, good number of old friends and I commune, and I do find much to gaze and graze upon there, but as it happens, nothing essential to my survival. Soon, Pink Essence, Chictopia, Stylehive, local Yahoo! groups and the like spilled out too without a drop in quality of life. The endless river of inbound emails from favorite fashion retailers no longer merit reading, and now get the "select all, mark as read" treatment.

Done, thusly, with the metaphorical emptying of the purse, I must share with you a thought I had while emptying the actual contents of my purse a couple of weeks back.

It was a lovely crisp autumn day in Atlanta, Petra was out and about, resplendent in pink, having enjoyed a nice lunch at
The Heretic and the gorgeous musical stylings of Miss Edie. I had enough time before a Very Serious Conference Call© to browse a couple of shops. I did, and finding nothing, I strolled along the crowded sidewalks back to my car.

Three minutes and two unhinged fingernails later I was still furiously rooting around in my purse not finding my damn keys. Purse on the hood (bonnet to mes amis de l'Angleterre), hands on hips, windblown hair strands adhered to my glossed lips, in a moment of mounting despair I heard a voice from deep within the recesses of the wig cap:

“What the hell are you doing?”

A part of this inquiry was rooted no doubt in the practical. If indeed my keys were lost, the day would spiral out of control entirely. It was time for a deep breath, and a methodical, bit by bit emptying of my big black shoulder bag. The keys were found, the last thing exhumed of course, from the closed interior pocket I had pointedly used in the first place to avoid such heart flutters. I swear to the heavens, I am a natural with bra clasps, delicate jewelry fasteners and back zips but I turn into Helen Keller with hand prosthesis around a purse.

But the question lingered in the crisp and beautiful air.

What the hell are you doing?

I was, in hindsight, not doing much. Not attracting untoward interest and not feeling in any way self conscious. I was loving the look, the feel of things, and was meeting the worlds eyes with my own squarely, yes. But the phase of the moon or who knows what had turned the voltage of the moment down just a bit, a noticeable bit.

The responsibilities of the day were calling for my attention. At that moment.

In this moment, I can see on one of my monitors a vain collage of snapshots of ... well, of me. Smart skirts, silken blouses, proud postures. It is still a source of amazement that I can look this way. Honestly, startling is the word. My appetite however for the work to achieve this look is lessened just now. And now, my principal resource for this dreamy life, time, is lessened too.

I must say that I feel OK with this. For starters I am man enough (woman enough?) to know that there are tides beyond my contol. Que sera sera and all that jazz. Beyond that, I see two other influencers.

One, methinks, is the impulse I mentioned earlier in this post. I am discomforted by comfort. I welcome “problems”, and love to solve them. The problem of “Petra” has been pretty well knocked down, largely solved over the last couple of years. This part of my life is naturalized to a large enough degree that I callously missed my own 2nd Blogiversary (ed. sorry honey, I will make it up to you on Valentines Day…). For the curious amongst you, or for budding literary agents, click here if you care to read the Overture movement of Voyages en Rose.

The other influencer is that Mrs. Bellejambes and I have not yet figured out precisely what to do with all of this. The life of Petra lurks quietly around us, but this life does not yet pull up a comfy chair at our marital table. Mrs. B has been terrific, but she harbors very sensible concerns about prospective downsides. “What if …is a good question too, and she has a few questions of that sort. What if we take in a movie together and bump in to friends? I can take my lumps, and be that Cross Dresser, at some cost. In a way, I have spent a lifetime preparing for that moment. Mrs. B however, has not spent a life time preparing to pay the cost of being publicly married to a Cross Dresser though. Different stakes on the table for her, and fewer obvious upsides.

We have not gone out together, other than the brave evenings she took with me in the safe confines of this past Southern Comfort Conference. As such, my orbits have been Mercury solo missions. We are not Gemini, and we might not get there. In fairness to our mutual commitments and to the really enviable possibilities we enjoy, that mission may not be the appropriate one for us, for me. We have not fully mapped it all out, and we will wrestle surely with our limits, but I must know now, for myself at least, that we may simply reach a truce and not reach the stars. This is not a fully shared enterprise, and that likely (unavoidably?) takes a little edge off the appetite.

Surely though, the occasion for all of this exploring and discovery has been in part enabled by the luxuries of time that my lack of formal employment has provided me. I will not cite the Devil, but I must say that through some agency, pretty work has been found for idle hands. With formal employment back in the mix, I have less time on hand now.

I think now that much of the interior that has been enlivened by and matured through this wonderful exploration of the self will emerge in my work and in my interactions with people. Perhaps too in my patience with the patently suicidal drivers I expect to hover near me on my new commute. This splendid and loving relationship with my “Petra-ness” has changed my outlook entirely, regardless of how “out” my look is. I feel ready to apply much of what I have learned to great effect in life.

So, there we are for now. More here when I have more. Thanks for your continued support of my various voyages.

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