Nov 19, 2011

Chemistry

Excluding SCC, I have been out and about as Petra only thrice this year. Ouch. Well, four times now as of last weekend. I did then rather enjoy things seen through pink lenses, and wrote effusively about the whole pretty pageant here.

Time has been the principal thief of opportunity. Work stuff is planted to rails of my metaphorical farm. The fallow, clovered pastures that Petra did once flourish and frolic in are presently under plough, upturned and nitrogen fixed for commercial purposes. 

I have come to think that work, the way I spend my days has a pretty big impact on my “Petra-ness” beyond simply being a time soak. The impact is behavioral too. Like any job with grazzilions of dollars at stake, the day is composed of a fair amount of adversarial posturing, the odd volley of tactical aggression, and an always-present sense of wariness about things in general. You know, the generalized chest-beating, loud tree-top howling and Samsonite-hurling that corporate Great Apes conduct in the service of the business.

Women can and do succeed in my role, in my industry, so the exercise of masculine traits is not a pre-requisite of success. A little more project nurturing here, a dose of quiet collegial grooming there, terrific female Great Ape behaviors, these work too.

And ya know, dear friends, I am not proposing that one behavior or another is the exclusive domain of one gender or another. I am merely suggesting that having spent about 99% of my life expressing male, those are the behaviors I reflexively lay hand to under pressure. I call frequently on those traits in part because there is so much newness in the work that I need to rely on a lot of background processes, reflexive stuff to keep my higher mind available for the work.

And so “Petra” has been a little less available to the whole me just now.

Darling friend Janie, of CD Janie blog-fame touched on a related topic recently in a series of short, revealing posts starting with Inner Voice deliberating on the process of going rapidly from femme-space to drab-world and back again. Go read. Janie is a star. Do come back then, will you?

These posts struck a chord in me. It seems that while there is a certain amount of biology that manifests itself in the life of the gender-curious, there is a pretty big beaker of chemistry in the mix too. My brain chemistry, just now, is wired more for my familiar male life than it is for wonderful explorations of the less familiar, the more feminine.

I will tell you this though:

Getting out for a gorgeous evening really has the effect of shaking that beaker up and generally catalyzing and effervescing things. I have spent this past week more distracted by thoughts of a dreamy nature than I have been in a good long time. I popped into a shop in drab mode and snared another gorgeous new outfit at a shocking price (pictured Harvest Gold Ann Taylor skirt for a dumbfounding $7.00, 8% of original retail and a smart top too). Chatted with the (typically) gorgeous sales assistant at length. She was in a sad state having just found out that she was on duty at Midnight, Thanksgiving Day for the increasingly insane rigors of Black Friday.

I wanted to touch her hand and say it will be ok more than I wanted to throttle the throat of the insensitive, short sighted lemming at HQ who thought that an upmarket woman’s boutique should follow in Wal-Mart’s less than stylish footprints. I drove home closer to the speed limit, leaving more room between me and the next vehicle, weaving less and exercising patience more. I found a tiny tributary of pretty thought to paddle around in and express in a product review for my friends at Guilty Pleasures.

Lovely things, lovely feelings. I hope that as more and more of my work becomes a little more reflexive to me, that I will have more room in my higher mind, room for Petra. It feels good when this part of me has room to stretch out and touch things as surely and gracefully as she can. I suspect that, with time, I will be able to employ my fortunate access to wells of feminine strength and wile more easily, more purposefully in my everyday life. Better living through Chemistry indeed.

Nov 13, 2011

A Cross Dresser's Exciting Three Way

Shameful really, what some bloggers will put in a headline to juice traffic a little. For those of you expecting a salacious tale of bedroom acrobatics, well I am not that kind of girl. Take heart though, the internet was practically invented for you.

For the rest of you, dear friends all, the 3 Way refers to the mirror, or rather I should say The Mirror. A topic worthy of a long post, long even by my lax standards. Perhaps a pee break would be indicated now before you settle in for a read. You see, yesterday, Petra curled her index finger and cast the rest of me a come-hither look that I had not the strength to ignore. So I (we???) went out last night and got in front of a few of them. Mirrors, that is.

I have blathered on here about how much of a high it is for me to be accepted in exclusively female environments – wig salons, shoe sale racks, the aestheticians counter at Macy’s, Nordstrom’s or what have you. Wonderful places where, freed from the presence of guys, women find their natural, unguarded selves, their truest voice. This is the voice I love best.

That voice can be found in the hushed, hopeful hall at the back of the shop, that well-lit warren of far-from-the-Office cubes, the runway of runaway shopping impulses, the Fitting Room area. First stop, Dillard’s at Atlantic Station for a quick run through their BCBG Max Azaria boutique. I have been lusting for some months now after a beguiling skirt of the clingy, flashy variety pictured here. The gorgeous sales assistant pulled the last one from an off the beaten track rack when I described what I hadn’t found.

“Oh yes! The foil skirt … we have one, hang on… yup, your size too!”

And then disappointment as she toddled the trophy back to me …

“O no! there is a tear in the waistband …”

I suggested that I should at least try it on for size, and think then about picking it up online.

“Oh yes, you will love it, cute, cute cute…”

There is an invisible membrane between public shopping spaces and private changing places, a membrane that repels the fellows. I love passing through it.

The door closes, the bag is hung, the jacket draped, something is peeled off and something new is pulled on. And if that something is not a total disaster, the 3 way calls. The Big Mirror down the hall. You see yourself walking towards it, running all the calculus, does it fit, what would I wear with it, is this really my silhouette, don’t I already own this ….?

You will have quietly resolved the thousand questions by the time you step up on the small riser, strike a pose, look left and right, up and down, front and back with the one question left … is this my skirt (dress, blouse, jacket, etc…)?

Oh my God but you rock that skirt … you like?”

“Like? I love it (hands smoothing skirt, a little shimmy, knees together…), shame about the tear…”

“You know that must have come from some girl who had no chance of getting it past her knees. Honestly you would not believe what gets ruined before it even leaves the store”

“Really? ,,, ouch ( reset the waistband, turn 90°, regard ass over right shoulder) … too too bad”

The second shop assistant walked in ..

“Uh huh, you like? … I thought it was too stiff for me….”

“Yes, o yes … ( hands on hips, standard female comic superhero stance)… Love it.”

More conversation of a similar ilk followed, I continued to flirt with the wounded skirt I knew I would leave behind, stripped down and dressed up again, waving so long. It wouldn’t be fishing if you struck every time you dropped a line I suppose…

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I went to drop a line down the road at Ann Taylor. The Friends and Family 40% off every loving stitch in the place sale was on last night. AT is always a top shopping experience for me. Quality, current, and classic, I believe that AT has the pulse of the maturing contemporary woman better than any other major retailer, at least in this part of the world. You would be mad to not be signed up for the email specials.

Love the shops too, wide open eye-lines, loads of space between the fixtures, none of that awkward butt-brushing, shoulder-to-shoulder rack rifling typical of most shops. Ann Taylor is just a stately place. And the fitting rooms? Bigger than many New York studio apartments. Yummm.

After the usual “Welcome to Ann Taylor” salute from the staff and a slow wander / ponder about, the nice assistant asked if she could set a fitting room for me, relieving me of the rapidly building pile folded over my arm.

“Thanks, of course. Let me see grab a couple of other things … see you there in a tick.”

“Take your time … I’ll just leave the twill slacks on your rooms door, ok?...”

OK, indeed. I grabbed one more pair of slacks, asked for the stacked platform giraffe print bootie and retired to my private space. While changing the tap-tap-tap on the door heralded the arrival of my shoes, but you know it is ok to pull the door open in a half-dressed state here.

“Here are the 8 ½’s, hope you like them!”

Out to the long hall, prowling, dead center the length of the walk up to the riser, pretty much convinced that the pants were not for me and my fellow shopper hailed me with a nice smile …

“Give me a zip up please, would you?”

A dark complexioned woman, nearly dressed, early 30’s with stunning grey/blue eyes, a rare sighting of one of the universes most extravagant displays of beauty, gestured towards her back. The royal blue knit dress with the dropped waist was a little full on her to my eye as I fastened her in, but she was more concerned about the short hem.

“O no, the length is great. Opaque tights and you are fine. And the blue, o my god it makes your eyes just pop! I think it looks great, but you … you not convinced are you?

“I just don’t know. It is my color, but…. I don’t know….”

“I like the cut … it’s not for me though, I like a higher waist line..”

I helped her then with the unzipping, and we each retired to our private reserves. The style chit chat continued over the tall walls, and we both made a few forays back out to the racks trading views all the while. There were a couple of men there, attending their wives, fidgeting uncomfortably, privately wishing the Mayans would move the end of the world up a couple of months and just end it all, now. Not us girls.

I saw the skirt at the cash desk, opined that I liked it, hadn’t seen it in my size and asked did they have one for me? Yes they did, and I settled into the work of imagining a top for it. My new friend pointed at the ruffled cami and said that would work. That was not available in Petra dimension, but I did spot the glitter, metallic thread long sleeve crew neck that I thought might just work.

I was completely on the scent now, arms and legs moving like a veggie dicer, off with old, on with the new, cinch the belt back on, and now triumphantly back to The Mirror. Perfect.

She did not have to say a word, just smiled and nodded. She was in fact trying the same skirt on, truthfully to lesser effect. I felt it was simply too big on her.

“What size is it?” I asked.

“Two”

“Petite right?” (She is about 5’ 2” tops, and the skirt hit at knee where mine was right where I like, about three above the knee.)

“It has a lot of stretch to it dear (hands circling rump) Try the zero, it will work and you will feel soooo good about wearing a zero, admit it…”

“O god, you know me too too well… and that top, I would not have picked that … great outfit”

I was finished by now, and glowing even before I realized the bargains I had won. The $130.00 skirt and the $80 top for a mere $58 after all the markdowns.

I waved goodbye to my stylish sister, and waded back out into the evening air, into the wider unsuspecting and mostly uncaring world. I was armed against worry in part by the bag hanging from my shoulder, striding happily along the busy sidewalks, happy couples and lurking lads, everyone looking everyone else up and down, top to toe. Atlantic Station on a Saturday night is very much a place for people watching, and some did watch me.

I was particularly charmed by the young woman who dropped her boyfriend’s hand for a moment to touch my hot pink flared-waist jacket and tell me she loved it. I told her she was sweet and that I loved her hair. She gave me a quick hug and a wink and carried on down the road with her flummoxed fellow.

A short drive home, a glass of wine, the slow disrobing, the long shower, the many layers of exterior washed off, folded away, leaving the more familiar exterior surfaces of the guy visible. The interior things have a longer, deeper impact though, feeling it very much this morning. I revel in my privileges, and feel tuned up, in touch, at peace.

Simply had to share that with you today. Thanks for staying with me.

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For those of you who are curious to read a little more about what is going in my fashion life, I have been busy as a beaver over at Guilty Pleasures. The audience there is a tad more … mainstream than you dear friends, but we all share an interest in the looks beneath that flatter the rest of the ensemble, and help us all feel as beautiful as we can.

I encourage you to visit often, and especially encourage you to check out the many fine vendors I have been delighted to work with. For the complete body of Petra Guilty Pleasures essays, simply click here. Recent posts include some terrific hosiery finds (including the wonderful Cecilia de Raphael’s, pictured at right), and a wild, happy variety of all the pretty things a woman needs.

Happy shopping friends.

Oct 16, 2011

Lasting beauty and beauty for the renting

Terribly butch couple of weeks here on the domestic front. Mrs. Bellejambes, self and our checkbook are making up for recent years of laxity in matters of home maintenance. We are pretty much recovered from recent rigors of the installation of new flooring, the annual autumn prune-a-thon (including another grizzly battle in our no-end-in-sight War on Wisteria®), and a fair old whack of exterior and deck painting too. Much of the work that requires actual skill was staffed out, dear friends, but all of it required a certain amount of heaving, grunting and sweating on my part. Not a pretty sight.

And then, late Friday night, close on bed time we heard a sound dreaded by homeowners, the near ballistic explosion and the subsequent demented rattling, sizzling cacophony signally a massive failure of garage door springs. It is an odd thing, I had not actually heard the sound before, but the very instant I did, in my PJ’s and at the other end of our home the following thought coursed through my mind:

“... well, that’ll be the garage and I wager that my Saturday is well and truly fucked.”

And so it was. All is back in working order now, but my hands look a bit of crime scene, knuckles scraped and nicked, and not all of the gunk out from under the nails. Perhaps then, using those same hands to type out a note or two in Petra guise will help put a more feminine finish on things in general.

Back we go, therefore, a few weeks to my last outings.

Much of what one actually pays for at Southern Comfort are the seminars. Measured this way, I did not get great value from my conference fees because of my schedule and my propensity to hang around bars for the chit-chat. I did however ensure that I had a good seat for Monica Prata’s session “Looking Sexy in Age Appropriate Fashions & Successful Shopping on Any Budget!

I met with Monica briefly last year at SCC, and developed an instant crush. Some women just have the whole woman thing knocked out so perfectly that one wavers between wordless adoration and wistful sorrow at how far away from that elite zip code one lives.  

Monica has it. And in a much more substantial way than all the glossy, shapely surfaces and finely tuned sense of style indicate. She is a Vesuvius of enthusiasm, really gorgeously alive, wired, colorful and compelling. And, O yeah, she works with special people, the likes of we. A tip of the pill box cap to the universe for this lovely gift.

In any event, Monica’s seminar was live audience participation “do this, and good god girl, do NOT ever under any circumstances do that" kind of material. A few brave and generous girls had dressed in some of the “don’t” looks to provide the packed room with living, breathing (gasping?) examples of fashion fails and fixes too. We spent time on shoes, and were cautioned against pointy toe pumps. You see, this sort of shoe, beloved of all, does make ones feet look a little larger than they actually are. Not the sort of feature the big boned Cross Dresser really wants emphasize, I think we will agree.

“Any girls in the room wearing pointy shoes?”

Guess whose hand shot proudly up? Come on down Petra! I scrambled up to the podium as Monica introduced me, asking me my shoe size.

“8 ½ darling”

“Well friends, Petra is a lousy example. Once you get above 9 you are into trouble territory and should really consider rounded peep toes or open sandals. Petra can actually wear these … and I love the way she rocks the Ombre skirt….’

My vanity was satisfied by the moment, but I did feel poorly about not providing full reinforcement of Ms. Prata’s curricula. Big hearted woman that she is, we remain friendly. For those of you who want to spend time with someone who will help you make what you have more wonderful than you have ever imagined, you could not do better. Look her up. She is based in San Fran, and has frequent travels to Chicago and New York in the service of making the world more beautiful, one curious person at a time. I can’t wait to see her again.

This is true in part because I do not think I will ever get my eyes looking so right as they did for Saturday nights gala dinner. I had high high hopes (and shoes to match) for the evening stemming in part from my shopping decisions. My own makeup skills were not going to rise to the occasion, and so I organized a little spa time with saintly Monica. Time well spent. Thanks darling, sincerely. I feel as though my peepers popped like never before. Beyond that, it is an entirely gorgeous experience just hanging around with you.

For the big evening, I had picked out a couple of party frocks from Rent the Runway (pictured on self at right, and on more poised models in prior posts here). RTR is a peak shopping experience. Loyal visitors here know that I do like a bit of shopping here and there, and this romp was a true topper.

The sapphire blue Christian Siriano color and feel was gorgeous, but felt to me just too simple a cut and finish for a gala night. I am glad to have slipped into it, and giddy that I peeled it off and tossed it dismissively on the bed, opting instead for the Christian Cota. A stretch silk blend in a shimmering copper tone, gathered and ruched in a thousand places, turning a tent worth of lifeless fiber into a clingy lighting rod of gorgeous sensation. Sweet merciful creation but I did feel a pang of loss when I put her back in the mailbox on Monday. Enjoy your life sweet, sweet dress, and know always that I love you more than all those other women that rent you.

I highly recommend the Rent the Runway experience if you are dressing for a special night out and if your finances are not precarious. The size range tends to stop at 12, so those of you possessed of a fuller figure may find yourselves thwarted at the checkout. With that said though, go ahead and sign up there for the email updates. It is worth it to spend a little time looking at what is current and beautiful. Lovely styles all around, interesting reviews (unflinchingly negative ones too in some cases… RTR really lets the reader participate in the business). Natural born journalist and consumer advocate that I am, of course I left a review. Spot the spelling error friends! I really must take better care. I do get a little gushy and rushed when writing about things I love.

Yes the dress fit like a glove, barely room for an impure thought beneath lustrous surfaces and my own ample padding. She is captured, in her natural environment, at a party in close proximity to a glass of wine and a smiling, happy womanly form. The scarf is a smart finishing touch borrowed from a dinner companion, Beatrice, who upon hearing of my fondness for savage animal prints insisted on an accessory fix and a quick snapshot.

When time allows, I will be back here to leave a note or two on the topic of some of the lovely people one can meet when dressed appropriately. Beyond the seminars, this is where the real value of Southern Comfort is.

Happy dressing and everything else in the meantime!

Oct 2, 2011

About Time

It is no small matter of pride, dear friends that I am able to present as female pretty much as well coming out of the long summer months of hibernation as I did before going in. The fashion flare remains intact, the make-up skills do not rust much and my walk works and struts with the same seismic intensity it had when I parked it way back in springtime of this year. My leg conditioning, however, was miles behind the rest of me. After three high altitude, pinched toe days at SCC my thighs, calves and hooves were in a state of outright mutiny. 

Napoleon Bonaparte was reputed to have said that an Army marches with its stomach. Petra is here to tell you that a Tranny marches with her feet. I have a long, happy and cool autumn winter season ahead of me now, and put myself back in stiletto trim. In the meantime, I will find and share this clichéd solace: no pain, no gain.

Enough of the pain then. Let us move on now to gains which net out to this: I got to be Petra … Panavision, Technicolor, Dolby, THX, IMAX, Blu-Ray Petra, my happy 34B self in a fully immersive 3D world for days at a time. I don’t know about you friends, but I really have missed me. It is good to be back. So many good things absent and unnoticed in the general busy-ness of the drab day-to-day.

I won’t dive into specifics here today with you. That will wait for another tide of time. For now, I have a bit of a reverie on time itself for you.

I have missed taking my time, sweet patient time, the time required to unearth Petra from beneath my more broadly known and gruff exterior. So much of what passes for progress in my day to day life is done by brute force, volume over value, donkey-work and doggedness in pursuit of keeping pace with or perhaps even a step ahead of the needs of the now. Petra however cannot be rushed. Petra requires forethought and finesse. Petra gets coaxed into the light. No amount of pushing or shoving helps.

God, but it takes time to become Petra, and the expense of time underlines just how precious time is.

Time is required to conduct the breathtaking archeology of transition, the adding of layers, sediments and shrouds, to reveal the person within.

Time is required to compose the elements of shape, color and scent, to orchestrate a harmonious whole.

Time is required, time to pause, breath and measure, time to not madly dash forward, time to be sure of the next step and the step beyond that one.

Time for the trivia too, are my keys in the purse, is the hair fixed just so, stop now before the lip line and gloss, did I brush my teeth since dawn?... good god I will be speaking with people after all, and look at you not a ring on your fingers, better set that right and slowly too. Be calm, move slowly, stay dry dear. The whole world is out there now, you can lock the door behind you and go out into it now, alert, attenuated and receptive.

No matter that I have been aching to be out, present and presenting as Petra forever now, stillness is required to do this fully and correctly. A stillness that I have not reflexively sought in the rest of my rushed everyday time.

I propose that the qualities of stillness, patience and mindfulness required to be Petra are very much the same qualities required to recall and write about those precious moments, minutes and hours. Or about anything else I suppose.

Since going back into a corporate setting in January of this year, I have missed that stillness. Not much room for considered, conscious receptivity to the moment with all the milestones to meet and millstones to carry. I have known at some level that this change in the nature of my days would be a price of the work I took on. It has, however, taken the time required last week to be immersed in the life of Petra to actually have benchmark against which to measure how far away from stillness I typically live.

It has felt good, great in fact, to be Petra again. It’s about time too in more ways than one. Time to not be rushed, time to coax rather than cudgel, to persuade, to not push and shove.

Wardrobe and words, make-up and metaphor each require time, time I do need to catch up on a little. Looking forward to it. Thanks for spending your time here.

Sep 27, 2011

SCC After Words

The fragrant dust of the 21st Southern Comfort Conference has been settling a few days now, and I feel a little more certain of being able to start to tell you all about it. I cannot promise a great post here, dear friends. I am as much out of practice at blogging as I have been, until quite recently, at spending long hours in tall pumps. Nothing for it but to start and try, yes? On we go therefore.

Roughly 850 registered attendees (including a surprising 450 first timers) gathered with countless supportive friends and family, and a vibrant number of peripheral participants at Atlanta’s Crowne Plaza’s Perimeter for what I believe to be the largest Transgender conference known to man, woman and everyone somewhere in between last week. I was able to extract myself from work long enough to enjoy a good part of Thursday, much of Friday and practically every loving moment of Saturdays glamorous finale en Femme.

A mad gusher of posts emerged from my first visit to SCC last year, which you may find here, here and ooooh, I can barely reach it .. just over here. The Sophomore visit, with so many elements and sensations so familiar, leaves fewer themes to exploit. Some things need mentioning though, and the important ones have to do with gratitude.

I have spent many years attending conferences of many types over long decades, and must tell you this: SCC runs a tight ship. Not an easy thing to make the trans run on time darlings, and dammit but they do. Hats off to Lexi, her Committee Chairs, and the 100 or so volunteers who just put their backs in to a big piece of work. A special call out is due to Blake Alford whose tribute in words and pictures to Transgendered soldiers, sailors and aviators past and present was without doubt for me the most stirring moments of a great event.

Close in the stirring moments parade came Friday evening at a commitment ceremony for four beautiful couples, amongst them dear friends Cindy and Joanne, both radiant in white. Such a privilege to witness such an open, loving embrace of all the differences an individual can bring to and enlarge a home with. I missed the tossed bouquet by mere inches.

These moments were however eclipsed in the few hours that Mrs. Bellejambes was able to spend with my sisters, brothers and I. Again, I am thankful for much. I hope a fraction of that feeling shows in this picture.

More ponderings to follow as time allows. Let me leave you with a finishing thought:

If, in your journey, you have not enjoyed the luxury of time spent with people with whom you share a difference, you should. Put your spare change in a big jar. Mark your calendars. Visit Atlanta next year for Southern Comfort. You might catch the bouquet yourself.

See you here.

Sep 21, 2011

Petra is back. Still working on the front.

Voyages en Rose has been exhibiting a very faint and irregular heartbeat of late. Seven posts in eight months, a lamentable showing. Circumstances have conspired however to shake me out of the doldrums and provided some newish feminine fodder, Dear Reader, for pondering and prosing on about.

The recent loss of our friend Ramona certainly brought things into focus. Beyond that, well SCC is in full gear by now. Hooray! I am very much looking forward to participating, starting tomorrow evening, to giving long overdue air time to this other, integral part of me. If you are attending, please reach out or drop a note in the comments section here. It is a wonderful thing to meet blog friends in the flesh, yes? That’ll be me perched on a tall stool or teetering on tall heels where the nice people fix cocktails.

There will in short, be much to write about over the next few days, weeks and months. 

The wardrobe made the migration from attic to its more airy and organized closets in la Chambre de Petra. I did a rather thorough audit of this and that, and am alarmed to note that a few of my more clingy skirts are rather stressed at the seams. Borderline unseemly in fact. I have, it seems, lost a tooth or two in my metabolic machinery, and put on a little curve. Ravages of time I suppose, and approaching 50 as I am, well it is to be expected. In fairness, this a long time coming. I am suitably warned. It is time for me to be more mindful of lifestyle. 

I will be forming a relationship with a consignment shop shortly I fear. In the meantime I will be on the lookout for skinny girls at our conference in the hopes of finding a more suitable hostess for some pretty things that deserve to be worn well.

Life has not been without writing from my adoptive female perspective though. Many of you know that I have been doing the odd product review or fashion editorial for a special friend, Ally, the proprietress of Guilty Pleasures. Ally has been a wonderful source of insight and support. I am quite proud and really quite giddy about the reality that I can and do write with authority about the most intimate fashion category, intimates. Every now and then a smart parcel from a terrific vendor shows up in the mail, and I do my best to find accurate, engaging and honest words about the bras or knickers or tights contained therein. Life is full of surprises. My drawers runneth over. If you haven’t visited, please do. Here is a link to the collected works of your faux fashionista friend. 

Also on the fashion front, I splashed out a little on the weekend on a vendor whose business model and fashion sense has had me drooling in recent months. Rent the Runway is thriving online enterprise where a gal on a budget can take temporary possession of a serious party frock for a fractional fee. Tomorrow, a big box of beauty arrives. There is no godly or ungodly way I could ever justify spending $1,000 ++ on a dress. I can justify the $140 rental expense though. More than this, I have decided that I cannot afford to go without the experience of wearing a truly wonderfully made, current piece of serious pret-a-porter at least once in this life. My little heart is going pitter pat in anticipation.

The Christian Cota (top) will be sported at Saturday’s Dinner Gala, and I plan on slithering into the blue Christian Siriano to attend a wonderful Commitment ceremony at SCC. There will be a good number of couples renewing vows, and celebrating enduring love on Friday. I will be especially happy and honored to see Cindy and Joanne P take new vows. Hopefully the mascara will hold. These will be special nights, deserving of a little extra care and preening. I will surely share notes on the experience and other findings from the life en Femme here shortly.

Happy dressing, and happy everything else wished your way.

Sep 18, 2011

Passing

Dear Friends,

First things first. All is well, genuinely so.

The genuinely good things will get only scant mention in this post though. I must share some sad news before all of that. The good things will follow not far behind this entry. All of you with whom I am close, and for those quiet, anonymous and not-known-by-name-to-me visitors may be fully assured that Petra has a bit of happy chatter in reserve. I am anxious in fact to unpack findings from my annual Summer Drabbatical, and sort them out here. I sense that the muse is back upon me. Thank you all for your patience in my absence. And now, as some say, to cases…

The last post on Voyages en Rose in May of this year mentioned a lovely visit with a very important person in my life, Ramona. Ramona passed away on September 1, after a valiant, inspiring and always hopeful battle with a determined foe. Would you mind if I shared a few thoughts with you?  

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I found Ramona at the time my life that I decided to unlock and take full possession of the contents of my own Pandora’s Box. I had long decades of closely guarded curiosity and compulsion about gender behind me and a furtive future ahead. I had an awkward assortment of garments to my name, and a handful of public sorties en Femme that were not complete disasters to claim. The taste of honey felt worse than none at all.

And so I called Ramona. And so everything changed.

Ramona had, through a seemingly random series of connected events, caromed into the business of helping people like me become acquainted with their inner woman. And my, but she was good. I spent a lovely evening in her care, and for the first time in my life, stepped convincingly out on the town. I cannot describe adequately the impact this had on me. The impact was visible on my surfaces yes, but the internal impact was the thing, the real thing. Tectonic forces shifted the continental plates of my whole self, fertile new plains of undiscovered land emerged, enlarged, virgin and fertile, ripe for exploration.

That exploration unearthed within me a much happier person, much better prepared for understanding and living within a complex and challenging world.

That exploration helped me develop the character to share with my wife truths that I did not have the character to share 17 years earlier when we first met, courted and agreed to be each others everything.

And not trivially, that exploration provided me with experience that was too big, too rich and too damned vivid to not write about.  Much of that experience has been documented here on Voyages en Rose over the last three years in something north of 200,000 words in 227 posts. 340 pages of 10pt thoughts not counting the smoldering 10X heap of deleted detritus and still-borne simile.

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I had long harbored suspicions that I could tell a story but felt as though the risks of working at the craft and failing were higher than the potential payoff of working at it, failing at it, and working again. Becoming “Petra”, I slid into a protective authorial prophylactic that shielded me (the broadly known me that is) from the full weight of those risks. And so I wrote, at a slight remove from responsibility.

The work of writing became a part of my emerging life. It then seeped into the rest of my life. White papers, commercial copywriting here and there, deeper more convincing thinking on the numbers that my clients businesses ran on. Words for money.

By late last year I had leveraged this newly found confidence and attracted an agent. I was offered a good contract to ghost a book for a notable executive on subject matter I had enough familiarity with to ghost well. At this exciting moment, a more sure and certain path opened up; a staff position in a less creative role with my biggest client. I opted for the staff position and returned the book contract. No great or at least permanent loss in my view. The path I am on will allow me to commit to independent creative efforts in a few years. I should have an adequately plump cushion beneath the high wire and my semi-retiring arse by then.

I have Ramona to thank for this entirely unexpected and exciting possibility. I have much else to thank her for, but of all of her gifts and her splendid friendship, this stands out.

And you, Dear Reader, if you feel your times here have been well spent, a quiet salute skyward might be indicated just now.

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In her last year, Ramona found the company of a remarkable partner, Gabrielle. Ramona was giddy, girly, head-over-heels besotted for Gabrielle. What a privilege Ramona enjoyed. Her best times came as her last times.

Gabrielle stands now as the principal keeper of Ramona’s memories. There is a long line of people flanking Gabrielle, all touched and changed in ways great and small by the happy accident of finding Ramona. Finding her, and is so doing, finding themselves.

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Ramona had never been much of church going lady, but this past spring, at Gabrielle’s urging, the two of them popped on smart Easter bonnets, attended a service at Atlanta’s First Metropolitan Community Church and were welcomed with open arms. Gabrielle had been raised, like so many Southerners, in a praise community, and wanted very much to find a place where the best parts of this tradition could be expressed joyfully and freely. More than this, she wanted to share the peace she knew could be found in the best of these places with the most important person in her life.

Ramona surprised herself, and me when she spoke about how much it meant to her to find and be welcomed by this community. When she faltered, they rallied to her side, held vigil and held hands with Gabrielle and others close to Ramona at the end.

Many gathered last Sunday, September 11 for a memorial service at FMCC. The choir sang. The piano rang. Moving tributes were paid. Many of us did our best to present in a way that would have made Ramona proud. She loved animal prints, and so I opted for the leopard sheath that I had worn on one happy day of shopping with her what now seems like forever ago, yesterday or so. I chronicled that day here. Ramona in fact took this picture, and then threatened me with the silent treatment if I did not stop dithering about which perfect skirt I would buy already. We had a busy day ahead after all.

Mrs. Bellejambes attended the service with me. When I told her of the loss and the plans for the memorial, without blinking she asked to attend. She never met Ramona, but recognized that an important person in our shared life had passed, and wanted to mark the moment with me. We will visit FMCC again, together. A final, parting gift into our home from an absolutely gifted woman. A woman I will miss dearly.

See you again here shortly.

May 22, 2011

Me, Women, and The Other Woman

The thermometer in Atlanta is cresting 90f (33ish for friends of the Metric persuasion). The population of Casa Bellejambes has swelled to a seasonal high with welcomed overseas visitors. My precious wardrobe has migrated to attic, summering privately away from our hustle and bustle for the dormant months. It is a sad ritual, the careful folding and hanging, the last look over the shoulder and, with a slight push on the door, the official end of the dressing season.

I did manage a last fling en Femme a couple of weeks ago, happy in tan faux-denims, a riotously colored blouse and a light ruffled collar and cuff jacket though, and it did me a small world of good. The same outfit from an earlier amateur solo photo session is pictured here. So nice to be able to take a short visit with a dear friend, enjoy a glass of wine, pound out a few chords on a beautiful piano and just generally occupy a sympathetic social space. I visited with the woman who really catalyzed my journey and was mid-wife at the birth of Petra, the loving and very skilled transformation artist Ramona. If you find yourself anywhere near Atlanta, and feel the urge to dress, I encourage you to reach out to her. I did, back in the day, to great and lasting benefit as earliest posts here and here testify.

Since the recent evening out, I have stormed a shop or two in guy mode and picked up a couple of nice new pieces in anticipation of the cooler days and smoother legs of autumn. The appetite for a good sale remains ravenous even as the thirst for dressing seems more or less quenched.

My apprenticeship at being womanly in the world has radically changed my view of how the world works for women, and works against women. Petra is very present in my day to day things even while her wardrobe is tucked away. Let me tell you here about Petra at the office.

I work very closely with a woman who represents my key vendor. We both have the same broad objective: move large truckloads of product profitably through my network of partners. It is a cooperative, strategic relationship, but there is money at stake for both parties and so the relationship is inherently fraught with tension. Getting along on a personal level helps reduce tension, and makes it easier to represent my narrow business interests.

At least once a week I hear something said in a meeting or on a conference call in the strange, foreign and exclusive language of guys. I can practically see the references flying over or bouncing off her pretty head. In prior times I took little notice at just how desperately the vapid lexicon of commerce leans on sports metaphor. Especially noticeable is the uniquely obtuse and impenetrable claptrap of American football. The campaign failed because we out kicked the coverage. We miss opportunities for market expansion by advancing the ball in i-formation. A strategic prospective client gave the Heisman. This language is now jarring to me. After the meeting, and sometimes employing a white board as a learning aid, I take a moment with her to decipher the code. She eats up this stuff. I am a trusted adviser.

How about travel? We had a three city tour some weeks back with the usual mad dashes between hotels, car rental counters, airport security checks and long walks on unforgiving tiles and moving sidewalks. I entirely understand why her bags are heavier and why luggage gets checked. And shoes? I have done the calculations that go into footwear choices not perfectly suited for the rigors of the day. I used to think of women as being poorly equipped to keep pace with me. I now think of airports as simply being poorly designed.

You see, my calves have felt sore, and my toes have been pinched. I know just how much a skirt can restrict the stride and slow the pace. I have vainly attempted to pull a buzzing cell phone from purse while hauling a bag, fearful of popping a blouse button or two. My pace now changes to accommodate these newly seen realities. I slow down and holster my impatience while in the company of my sisters.

It seems to go both ways. It feels as though I am approached by women a little differently, a little more easily, less guardedly. Quiet, inconsequential confidences are shared. I know more about the personal lives of women I work with just a few months into my newish work than I have known after years together in other settings. I see an ease in the body language and general comfort level of the women around me. When I say “you look great today”, I get a nice smile in return, and sometimes an editorial comment about what a steal the dress was or relief that somebody thinks it is office appropriate. In my more testosterone drenched years such compliments seemed to put people on agenda alert.

I can only conclude that having lived for hours and days at a time as a woman has made me a better man. A man who gets along better with women. Happy to report that, in much of my world, Petra is integrated, welcomed and essential.

And yet, where it counts the most, Petra remains The Other Woman. Here at home. Apologies, dear friends, for the downer note, but it must be said. Mrs. Bellejambes and myself have not made any progress with growing or really sharing the external life of Petra. This is all difficult, and more so for my darling wife than I. Can’t fault her in the slightest. All of my fine print written in invisible ink. She might not have signed the contract otherwise.

While I enjoy the complexity, she wrestles with complication. Where I see reward, she feels risk. And when, on those occasions where I have stood before her in my most womanly form, deep within she must be crying out for a strong hug from her man.

I know quite fully that this leopard will not change its spots (and you know of course how much I adore a nice leopard print), but I do wish for my wife that she had been dealt a simpler hand. I could not wish to be different than I am, there is too much wonder and beauty within to not nurture. Good thing, methinks, that I have learned to slow down and holster my impatience.

Happy times are wished your way.

Apr 9, 2011

Now, where was I?

Enlivened as I have been by a recent flurry of correspondence and some long overdue quality time spent on precious and dearly missed blogs I am newly pondering a couple of questions:

Just what do you make of a Cross Dresser who is neither cross or dressing?

Just what do you make of a Blogger without a post to lean on?

Perhaps an answer will emerge an uncharted paragraph or two south hereof, but the contours our findings are not yet in sharp enough relief to provide any certainty. Certainty is a little dull for my tastes though, and usually illusory too, so join me, my dears, for a random romp through things in general.

Let us start with the whole blogging bit. Many of us, bloggers of allsorts, view this labor as therapeutic. Therapy is intended to attain happy conclusions at some point. If not, perhaps the analysand is working with the wrong analyst. There must come a moment when the patient and physician look at each other a little blankly, declare victory and move a little awkwardly on.

Voyages en Rose managed to keep lively for a little more than two years which, as I look at the ebb and flow of blogs I follow, seems like a median life expectancy. For me, late last year I found neurons not alight and fingers hesitant at the keyboard. Seams of thought formerly rich with gems of observation and sensation yielded poorly, more gravel and less gold. Been there, done that made gains on the delight and delirium of discovery.

What I have written and posted here is a very real treasure for me, and, in its way, a complete one. I am happy to say therefore that I do not feel a duty to add to the blog. Relieved in fact. It has taken quite a while and a lot of distraction to become happily indifferent to my traffic statistics, and accustomed to an absence of life giving comments from dear readers. But I have.

I do miss the achievement of writing though. Much of this I put down to what has been for me a big discovery about the nature of time and task in a corporate setting. My new work requires parallel attention to multiples of concerns where before I was processing things in a more or less serial manner. I find that this fatigues the mind, or at least draws down the reserves of creativity I employed to fuel fits of productivity here.

This is an unexpected thing. Still, I am happy with the trade-off, comforted by the knowledge that I can and will at some point willingly (or otherwise, frog-marched out of the building with a cardboard box in hand) go back to my old lifestyle with the bank account fattened enough for autumns and winters of hoped-for decades of graceful aging and indulgent prosing.

So, happy as opposed to cross. Good outcome.

Now, about the dressing. Nothing conclusive really. It warms up early here in the heart of Dixie. Shorts are a required element of the masculine wardrobe. I am not a competitive Triathlete and therefore have no easy peg to hang clean shaven legs on. To paraphrase Sir Elton, the thatch is back. Bit of a fashion buzz kill I think we can all agree. Yes, I could go with slacks and a blousy top, but the trowelling of concealer shows much like pine pollen on parked cars in the warmth here. Summer’s heat cools my ardor quite typically, and this year is no different. Just a little more pronounced. This absence of urge to dress does not surprise me greatly.

I did work from home one day this week though, and spent a few hours in a favorite dress. This felt wonderful. Nicely natural, all the pleasant, special differences of feel and movement and appearance. Visitors here of the full time female variety know this to be true: It is a treat to wear a pretty dress. To stand a little taller in well made shoes. Everyone else who visits here knows this too I presume. As for people who don’t share our enthusiasms, well, I simply don’t know what they are not thinking.

To each of us our own delights I suppose. Perhaps time away from our delights makes them all the more flavorful when we taste them again. For me, I suspect that I will belly up to the style buffet again at the Southern Comfort Conference in September here in Atlanta. Perhaps we will meet there.

Here, Chez Bellejambes we will be hosting house guests soon. This will necessitate a certain amount of shifting of garments from guest room closets to the dark and lonely confines of the attic. There are hues and silhouettes in my wardrobe from precincts miles away from Mrs. Bellejambes' style sweet spots. Best to get them out of sight, if not entirely out of mind.

Which brings me to matters of the mind, where I will leave off for now. I will want to share with you some observations on just how the periodic transformations of my exteriors have more permanently transformed the workings of my interiors. This is a big topic that I feel deserves its own dedicated and well lit runway. I promise to lean into that post over the next week or two.

I will sign off today with genuine affection for and thanks to you, dear reader for your time here today, and in the past. Today, somewhere, elsewhere, somebody is freshly committed to giving their gender journey a name, a URL, and the sweat of their pretty brow. There is a gifted voice writing fresh and compelling stuff to dazzle and cheer the likes of we. Go find those new gems. Drop me a line when you spot one, would you?

Affectionately and thankfully yours, 

Petra

Feb 13, 2011

Easy as falling off a blog

In the last few years, I have embraced two pretty radical changes in lifestyle. The first was yielding to my lifelong desire to fully explore my gender complexion. The second, and rather recent change, involved taking a “job” after an interesting 3 year stint of independent, home office bound, pajama clad freelancery and tomfoolery.

Guess which change has been more disruptive?

Before leaning in close to give you a glimpse of the bosom of my thoughts on the matter, let me share a thought on disruption:

I am all in favor of it.

If my report cards are to believed, disrupting things has long been a core competency. I had teachers who, with a stronger sense of frontier justice, would have stood me up in the classroom corner from September to mid-June, and suffered fewer headaches. Summer vacation differed from the rest of the year only in so far as the disruption happened out of doors, barefoot, and without the hindrances of adult supervision. Even better, it was not subject to term papers and grading.

But, yeah, without a jot of doubt or a flicker of hesitation, the whole getting a job thing has been more disruptive even than the discovery of “Petra”.

Coming out of solo orbit and splashing down in the Corporate Ocean has been a bigger shock to the system than expected. Many muscles and reflexes are out of trim and the gravity of things feels new. I had forgotten how much of the workday gets lost in overhead – the meetings, con-calls, and sweet mother of pearl the fulminating email threads, spinning in ever widening gyres, ensnaring the innocently cc’d in a gooey, Ebola-like contagion of indecision for the lack of somebody, anybody’s willingness to just goddam well do it.

Oddly enough though, it feels good to be home.

After these days in my new corporate home, and the unaccustomed commute back to my home home, there has not been much left of me other than a desire for stillness. I have been finding stillness and resolved harmonies after the discordance of the day at the keyboard of my piano quite reliably lately. Hence my long absence from the keyboard that describes these Voyages en Rose.

I did however, at the end of this past week, satisfy myself that I could hack through the Gordian knot I was hired to unravel. On Friday, I was able to articulate the plan more or less convincingly to the right audience. This attracted positive notice.

I follow in the path of a parade of capable men and women who nimbly (ed. cravenly?) pirouetted around this problem, leaving it in place, fearing the loss of career velocity attendant on high stakes, high visibility failures. Perhaps I am bringing the required admixture of male and female, the correct tincture of masculine and feminine to the whiteboard. Perhaps I have not yet perceived the real contours of the challenge too. Perhaps I am merely perverse enough to try. I don’t know, or mind much today. I slept like a lamb two nights running, and felt today as though I had some reserves I could share here.

Haven’t much felt like dressing though. I have seen 3 of my skirts on new co-workers. A couple of blouses too, and at least one dress. I am happy to report that I am working with a stylish and attractive lot. None of them quite have my ankles, but that’s a long shot in any room. For the most part though, the gender puzzle which has been so much at the forefront of my consciousness in recent years is much deeper in background just now while I figure out all the other newness.

I suspect in time, that things will normalize. For now though, much of my mind and time will be fully stressed and stretched to cover my new responsibilities. In time, imperceptibly, the stress will diminish, the stretch will ease. One day then, with the problem atomized and right sized, there will be enough time and mind to drape the work, amply, elegantly. The cloth left over will be put to other uses. Stylish and flattering uses I hope. 

Just now friends, I don't have an earthly when that will be. Nor do I have much of a thought about what I will want to share with you here in the meantime either.

But you do know I will be back of course, yes? And you do know that I will share. Yes. Disruption is temporary. Change is lasting.

I do hope in the meantime that all of your changes are good ones too.

xxoo - Petra

Jan 16, 2011

Head over Heels.

As much as I love a good long day in a pair of smart heels, and friends, I truly do, it is at moments like these that I am thankful that I am not required to type with my feet.

Yes, from thigh-top to toe-tip, the legs are experiencing what Diana Ross might have called sweet love hangover. Noticing these sensations on my first tentative, padded steps out of bed this morning, and being of a curious disposition, I did in fact conduct a little research on leg musculature. It pleased me greatly to learn that the longish muscle that endows the upper regions of the thigh with its superabundance of fleshy, curvy, callipygian appeal is actually known (to people who did not drink themselves rotten in their freshman year and made it into med school) as the Sartorius.

This pleases me in part because knowing a new thing is good, but more because Sartorius is just an errant spellcheck away from sartorial. If I have a sartorial signature, it is brazen display of Sartorius. Irony walks with me.

I have not witnessed many sartorial or Sartorius displays recently. Three inches of snow in Atlanta last Sunday melted well enough on Tuesday that overnight temperatures seriously below freezing turned our roads into treacherous rinks by Wednesday. On these rinks cars more or less behaved like 7 year olds playing hockey, flailing about in blind mass pursuit of a puck, careering here and there, spinning out and taking the innocent down with them in a knotted mass of shrieking earnest futility. I stayed out of the dangerous game entirely.

Chez Bellejambes was well provisioned, lots of food and drink, an ample cache of aloe infused bathroom rolls and plenty to read. We weathered well. Cabin fever had well and truly set in by weeks end though. Yesterday therefore, I was quite delighted to brazenly bestir myself, emerging from the ice cocoon to take pretty wing in Petra mode for the opening planning session of Southern Comfort Conference 2011.

I plan on haranguing you quite regularly here about your schedule and intentions for September. You really ought to start putting a shekel or two aside here and there. Maybe fight the odd shopping impulse too. If you do these things then the expense of coming to Atlanta and spending a few days or more in the company of so much smart, beautiful, liberated diversity will be more manageable. I implore you, if you have not been able to attend a conference that caters to the CD/TG set to do so. It is an expense though, and we do live in challenging times. I get that. If you are thusly challenged, let me encourage you to visit this page and note that there are scholarships available. You may be in a financial position to qualify for support. Don’t be shy. Don’t be proud. Don’t stay locked within yourself. ‘Nuff said on the matter. Head on down to Atlanta.

But back to heels now which is where I started after all. In the evening I happily pried my tootsies into the purple pump referred to in the post directly prior to this one. The morning wardrobe was perched upon newly acquired and long sought black suede (ok suede-ish) booties purloined from Macy’s for a very faint song. Too embarrassed to say the price really. Well that moment passed quickly enough. $24.00. The purchase pathology is kind of interesting to me though, and I want to share it with you out of a sense of care for your financial well being (which ties back neatly to the whole SCC attendance thing … see how I did that?).

This particular look has been in my gun sites for some time now. A versatile autumn / winter style, matches well with the legging / tunic look, skinny jeans, opaque tights / tailored skirt ensembles. In short, while not an absolute need, this is a shoe that has been more than a want. And on a half dozen sorties through a variety of shops, Nordstrom Rack, Ann Taylor, and DSW included I tried on and discarded stacks of paired suitors like a high maintenance Disney princess. This one pinched, that one swam. This one too tall, that one too low. Too round at the toe there, not sure about that platform. Thwarted time and again.

I kept at the objective though and, finally, finding them just before Christmas, was relieved greatly. As is my habit, I updated my purchase tracking spreadsheet and noticed with no small alarm that these were pair #10. I had unknowingly perched myself on an irretrievably steep slope.

A couple of years ago I polled readers to determine just how many pairs of shoes we possessed. The analysis kicked out a behavioral singularity that graphically displayed a gradual erosion of will between pairs # Five and 10. Past the 10 Threshold and basically one is left only with bilateral amputation, bunions, or bankruptcy as a brake against the desire for more and more shoes. There are zombies amongst us. Take a look around you next time you are shoe shopping. They cannot count how many shoes they own. Or rather, how many shoes they are owned by.

What havoc hath I wrought, what a fool am I. Even with the clear foreknowledge, with certain statistical indicators of a ruined future, my guard dropped, and I blithely stepped past the pointed-toe point of no return. I had barely made a mental note of # 9 only a week or so earlier, the lavish lace classic court shoe from Ann Taylor marked down from $180 to a mere $48, so blind to the charms I have become.

Enough heels. It is time for healing now. Time to mind myself and stop with the shoes for a while. You may think this a fools errand, and you might be right. I feel however that no honest exploration of ones fuller gender complexion is complete without battling against the pretty tide of shoe lust. Pictures at 11 of course. And 12. And beyond.

On a more serious note, a couple of words about the SCC planning session and evening social follow. I made some new friends, people with dazzling lives and minds, diverse interests, abundant charm and beauty. There was time as well with friends that I have met now 3, 5, or 8 times here and there. These acquaintances become more easy and meaningful each time too. The slow sedimentary process of trust building takes time, takes patience. Precious things with a commensurate payoff. A payoff available in the living, breathing company of people. People gotta meet.

There was a very pleasant surprise seeing about 60 people showing up at 9:00 am on a weekend to indicate willingness to help execute this big complex undertaking. And it was comforting to see Lexi, Blake, Lida, Christy and the rest of the board and committee chairs leading the charge. I encourage you to save the date: Sept 21 – 25. Start planning would you? And if you have figured out how to save yourself from the syren call of the shoe shop, drop a line would you?

Jan 6, 2011

Five for ’10, Part III: The Joy of Shopping

The full time woman has, it seems to me, a life time to develop a signature look, a style sweet spot. I imagine that this is a gradual and glacial learning process, sedimentary layers of progress, a long slow bake of hits and misses. For women inclined to caring about style, the learning opportunities abound. Shopping in the company of friends, and talking about clothes is so much more a socially acceptable, indeed expectable behavior for the fairer sex than it is for the less fair.

Therefore I submit, dear friends, that those of us who come around to possession of a female wardrobe by, shall we say, less than conventional means, are desperately handicapped in the style sweepstakes. As with many things in life, overcoming a handicap takes thought, patience and determination, trial and error, and above all, practice, practice and more practice. 

I practiced like quite the possessed young thing this past year. The practice has paid off in what I have to say is the signature achievement of the year for me. I have become consciously competent at knowing what to wear.

Patience is the primary virtue now, and patience pays off at the sales counter. I was impatient once this year. I responded to a swoon impulse and came home with a tunic I love, but dammit, I paid full retail, I still feel poorly about that. The sting diminishes when I consider the following Top Five steals, staples and statements, my best shopping moments of the year.

Up Top: I have a couple of silk shirts for guy wardrobe, and I have to confess that I always feel just a little suspect when wearing them, as though I am engaged in something unmanly, engaged in something unsavory. I don’t have any hang ups about unmanly, but unsavory catches rather in my throat. Rather a shame really, because I quite like the feel of silk. Here the life of Petra is a real bonus. A silk blouse is cool, it glides, no preening, all polish. Mine, from Ann Taylor at a 78% discount from a $90.00 full retail tag down to $20.00. Well made, it will last years and not date. I already have it down to $6.67 / wear. Couldn’t help going back out the next day to grab the purple one.

Down Below: More purple. Purple is a color that feels the same way in my drab wardrobe as silk does. I have purple, I just don’t feel like I fully own it, it is a color that takes dominion over my personality, and so guy me shies away from it. Again, rather a shame, because it is a gorgeous color and suits my complexion well. And again, Petra to the rescue, loving the whole regal vibe that comes along the color of Queens. I extended my license to wear purple to my feet this year, finding in late spring in the clearance racks at Macy’s a terrific, classic closed toe pump with a 3 1/2” stiletto (just my style) marked down to $20.00 from $70 for a 71% win.

‘Round the Middle. It is tough to pick a single bloom from the crowded garden. I am ashamed to admit that I own 18 skirts and all but two of them delight me. As a garment class, my average skirt retails for $82.00, and was purchased for $19.00. I think in hindsight that my first move away from the severely tailored, classic pencil cut into a more contemporary, clingy, knit style skirt was a big step for me. This was the garment that convinced me that I could and should dress young. This revelation broadened my horizons considerably, So hats off to the I.N.C. grey and black bandage skirt, retail $79.00, discounted 72% to $23.00.

On the Legs. It took me until November of last year to finally get around to trousers. This seems, in an odd way, to be a slightly seditious form of cross Cross Dressing. In any event, I wrote about the whole happy ordeal here if you missed it first time around. Having a couple of pairs of smart strides broadens my potential range considerably. Clearly it is not possible to practically and convincingly inhabit la Monde Féminine in skirts and dresses alone. Finding a pair of classic, low waisted, 5 pocket style stretch denims on my first attempt was a huge win. Finding them at $15.00 down from an original sticker of $69.00 was practically a heart stopper.

On the Town. It is fitting that my last transaction of the old year should be the most triumphant one. The first (real) Little Black Dress. This is a real threshold purchase, right up there with first knickers, first breast forms, first wig, and other big firsts. The LBD is a totemic item, it is bequeathed with social significance. Light as a feather, yet possessed of a power to stop people in their tracks. This frothy number certainly stopped me in my tracks in late December at Ann Taylor. A strapless cascade of tulle ribbons to mid-thigh, a luxurious merengue of femininity, originally listed at $250.00. For reasons that passeth understanding a small clutch of these beauties survived a seemingly endless series of markdowns, all the way to a mere, laughable $30.00. I happened upon my LBD on a +40% off day, and so picked it up for pennies under a practically insulting $18.00. I won’t have much on when I wear this to a gala evening at SCC later this year, but the dress is bound to be the least costly part of the ensemble. I am still shocked, and delighted to have had such good fortune on such a seminal first find. O, it feels like a million bucks, and I must say, looks rather fetching too. On the model too.

I will close with this thought: Shopping is, for most people, in and of itself, a pretty shallow undertaking. I think though, that shopping has the potential to be something of value and meaning to, well, the likes of we if we apply a little care to it. Each of these Five top moments in wardrobe building were executed in drab, but called upon every ounce of feminine intuition and aesthetic potential that I am capable of finding. It is good to be able to touch those parts of the self, and cater to them, on demand, without all the overhead that goes into actually presenting as Petra. Not quite the real thing, but it goes a long way in between full immersions, yes?

 I hope you have great luck in the shops this year. Would love to hear of your best wins too. Comments welcomed always.
 
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