Search This Blog

Monday, 17 January 2022

Meh.

 Saturday was the first time I had an opportunity for Susie time since (counts on fingers) probably the end of last September.

Unfortunately it was a all little bit... meh.

To be fair, it was a something of a last minute opportunity when L checked the weekend weather report and decided that she should chance having another day out on the Saturday. She was also getting a bit stir crazy not having a day out for herself since last year. 

But really, it turned out to be too cold, both outdoors and in, to really enjoy the time as Susie.

The first indication was when I stepped outside for a walk first thing in the morning. I knew it was likely to be cold, but a couple of yards up the road proved the pavements were a lot more icy and treacherous than I expected, despite  wearing a rather more sensible pair of thick soled hiking boots than my normal flats. That curtailed any plans to go for an extended walk in my usual nature reserve or canal path routes. The thought of taking a fall and not being able to get home easily, or worse being stranded while dressed en-femme was off-putting, to say the the least.

Luckily the main roads proved more tractable, so I had to settle for a briefer walk down to the village high street and a stop to get some cash out of the ATM. I had intended to drop into Tesco on the way back, but then discovered I'd forgotten to pack my normal mask and the only one I had with me completely fogged my glasses after two breaths, making it completely impossible to see where I was going. So scratch that as well.

Back home, since we only turn on the heating in the evening when we settle down to eat and watch TV, it was too cold indoors to do much more than stay bundled up in jeans and several layers of woollies and a coat and settle down to read or watch the snooker on TV. Practical but hardly pretty, and to be honest not that far away that it felt much different (apart from the more obvious bulge on my chest) from my normal male outfit of several layers of baggy sweaters for warmth. 

So, all in all a bit meh. It did make me wonder what I was doing, or whether it was even worth all the hassle of getting ready and then having to undo it all later on. 

I suspect Susie is more of a warm weather girl. Or Spring and Autumn at least, apart the height of mid summer, when, like the Wicked Witch of the West, her face is likely to melt and look like a sad panda painted by Salvador Dali or Francis Bacon.



Saturday, 15 January 2022

Adventures in portraiture

 While looking up something on Google, I came across a reference to thee work of  Yasumasa Morimura, who Wikipedia describes as a contemporary Japanese ‘performance and appropriation artist’. (I didn’t know that was a thing. “Appropriation artist” sounds more like a euphemism for someone involved in stealing.) And may be, in a way, it is. Morimura’s art consists of transforming himself, using props, costumes, makeup and lighting into facsimiles of iconic and famous artworks and photographs.  

as Monroe
 as Girl with a Peal Earring
as Greta Garbo
You can find a whole lot more of these with a Google image search.

There’s actually a whole internet meme for this which seems to have sprung up in the boredom of lockdown, where people dress up and pose to recreate famous paintings, which you can find here here, and hereand even album covers. People can be wonderfully creative sometimes.

Many of these are inspired, and a couple of my favourites are shown below.
Lady with an Ermine
Psyche raiding the fridge/entering Cupid's garden
















Anyway, it seemed far too good an idea not to  steal, and already armed with FaceApp (which is a bit of a cheat, I admit), another app called DeepArt Effects and GIMP, I thought I'd have a go myself. At least it would provide some distraction until the next time Susie has a change to come out of lockdown.

(One of the things I've always wanted to do was a double portrait, cis-me and Susie side by side, perhaps on the sofa or some other domestic setting. Sadly, I didn't get to that, and I'm not sure I'm ready to have my undisguised picture up on this blog, so this may have wait until later)

My choices were a little left field from Vermeer, da Vinci and Waterhouse (although I've wanted to be The Lady of  Shallot  since I saw the real painting in the Tate)
Not sure this one works as well as I hoped or intended. The alignment, contrast and matching of colour and lighting (one of the really tricky parts) is a still somewhat off. I'm sure there must be another app for this, but this was best I could do manually.

This one was a little more fun after I'd pulled some strange faces in front of the camera. Perhaps I shouldn't have sucked my cheeks in quite so much. You can compare it to Gil Elvgren's original below.
Shame I couldn't take this one all the way to the outfit (or that décolletage, or even the legs for that matter) but it might be fun to try sometime.







And who doesn't want to be Uma Thurman sometimes?
Shall I throw this open as a challenge? Why not? I don't know if you can include images in Blogger comments (I suspect not), but if you want to have a go and share the results, I'd like to see them. 
Have fun

Susie

Friday, 14 January 2022

Monsoon Sale

While I probably shouldn't be encouraging this in these cash-strapped and financial uncertain times, someone over on my Facebook page mentioned that Moonsoon currently have a sale on. Dresses, coats and tops at half price and in many cases significantly less.


Happy hunting

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Art and artifice: The Book of Dolores

I do hope you had a happy Christmas and wish you all best wishes for the New Year.

As usual, I am not able to spend any of the holiday period as Susie. However, given the two alternatives come down to spending Christmas as Susie on my own, or sharing the time with my partner, then the choice becomes a bit of a no-brainer. While I enjoy the time I can spend as Susie when L goes away for a few days, there comes a point when the house starts to feel a bit lonely.

Here's a thing.

I discovered the work of American writer William Vollmann back in the late 1980s via his Pynchonesque debut novel You Bright and Risen Angels and the collection Rainbow Stories. He followed this with a massive and ambitious 'Seven Dreams' book sequence on the history and colonization of the Americas, though my bookshelves suggest I only made it as far as the first volume, The Ice Shirt.

 I'm not sure what prompted me to remember his name and run it past Google the other day, but it turned up a book of his I'd not previously heard of, although it was published back in 2013.


This is The Book of Dolores, a book of paintings, sketches and photographs of Vollmann as his female alter ego, Dolores, who he describes as 'a young woman trapped in this fat, aging male body'

Vollmann's interest in cross dressing in the 1980s while researching an Inuit myth in which a brother transforms into a woman, and later writing about cross dressing clubs in in Japan which led to his realisation that "I had always imagined femininity as what you’re born with, what’s between your legs."  "And then I realized: no, it’s a performance. It’s about how you move, all the things you do to get ready."

Vollmann himself started seriously cross dressing as Dolores in 2008, while writing a novel about a Mexican transsexual sex worker of the same name. 

Stephen Burt, who also sometimes presents and writes as his own female persona Stephanie Burt, reviewed Vollmann's book for The New Yorker 

"His Dolores imagines herself as pretty but gets caught up short by her unattractiveness in real life. Yet she doesn’t necessarily look bad, except when she puts on a scowl; she just looks bigger than model-sized, and grown-up." and notes that when speaking of Dolores Volmann "gives her, always, the grammatical third person when he write of her like this. “How many times has Dolores imagined herself to be pretty, only to inspect her portrait with her spectacles on?”'. Burt sees this as a separation of Dolores as a construct, a self-portrayed doll he can control, rather than part of Vollmann's psyche. 

This is all rather  troubling. I'm aware in my own posts and comments that I invariably talk about Susie, my other half, in the third person, as someone separate. This maybe because I nearly always write about Susie when I am back in my male mode. Or maybe it really is that I consider Susie as someone separate and not really a part of me. But that doesn't feel true either. If so, why is she a constant - and sometimes very insistent - presence in my head most of the time - even when I'm asleep? She definitely feels part of me, and an increasingly important part of me at that, if not a fully integrated one in that she lives a separate life and has a separate set of friends than my male half. I rarely if ever think about my male side when I'm Susie, only the other way round, but I wonder if that's down to the fact that circumstances dictate I live 90-95% of the time in male mode.

Joshua Cohen in another review in The Observer notes "The strangest thing about all the Dolores images is that, unlike any images of Mr. Vollmann as a man—as a white male author depicted on book flaps—Dolores is smiling" and wonders of Vollmann has "the idea (which only a man could have) that women should smile, or else he’s truly happier as a she." 

This feels truer. There are a couple of pictures of Susie where I'm looking pensive but mostly she's smiling which is a reflection of how I feel at those times. It's harder to judge in photos of me in male mode since I never take selfies in those periods, and the few I have of me are either official (ID, passport) or social occasions where the smile is expected or forced. I have one, taken by someone else, where the smile is real. This was from a convention where I finally met up with a group of people I had corresponded with for decades but either never met or hadn't seen in many years. It's about the only photo of me after my 40s that doesn't make me cringe.

I can't make up my mind about Vollmann and Dolores. I have to confess  that I've not read the book itself - it's a little hard to find and only seems to be available in the U.S. and only the introductory 20 pages (tellingly titled 'Constructions') are available from the Amazon preview - and my thoughts are based on those reviews I've been able to find. Vollmann himself seems ambivalent, while suggesting Dolores is a part of him rather than merely a dress-up doll and photographic mannequin, "I do not exactly cherish Dolores, who is, after all, an aspect of myself" while others, in particular Stephanie Burt, seem less convinced. 

As Susie, I feel perhaps closer to Burt, who is more comfortable with her female alter-ego, than to Vollmann and Dolores. But Vollmann and I are closer in age and he hits the mark when writes about the self deception  that can happen when making up and adjusting the wig in front of the mirror "perhaps because she is newer.. she appears to be blinder to her faults than I", and then the disappointment of Dolores vainly taking off her glasses (we are both very short sighted) to primp and pose for the camera and then replacing them to examine the result only to find "she did not look as pretty as she felt" and wishing "If only the camera envisioned as she did". 

"To see ourselves as others see us" wrote Burns. But would that be blessing or a curse I wonder? And if we did, would we still have the confidence to venture outdoors in a smart coat and heels again?

I wish you all the best for 2022.

Susie


 





Wednesday, 22 December 2021

Happy Holidays

The holiday season is almost upon us. 

For some us us who can celebrate and share the time as their preferred/true self with their families and friends it can be a time of joy, but for others who are unable to do so fully it can be a lonely time that hits especially hard.

If you are in the latter camp, my sympathies and especial love and wishes to you all. Although it may come of scant consolation, I know something of how you feel.

 I would happily forgo a raft of presents and treats at Christmas for the one unspoken item that has topped my wish list for the last few years: the chance to spend the day quietly as Susie together with my own partner. Or failing that, opening a present from her that is specifically intended for Susie. I know that won't happen, and that it is unlikely ever to happen, but if Christmas is not about dreams and wishes, what else is it for?

In the event, Susie will remain an unacknowledged and largely unwelcome presence in the background of this relationship over Christmas and the New Year as on any other day, however much I might wish for that situation to change. But I do have the secret satisfaction that one trace of her will be there on the day as, in something that's almost become a tradition, she has done all the present wrapping again this year.

***

I've noticed a couple of people using FaceApp images in their blog posts and I was intrigued to try it out.  As I don't have a smartphone and there isn't a version available for Windows, I ended up downloading the BlueStacks Android emulator on my PC so I could download it and give it a try -or at least the free trial version.

Naturally one of the first filters I tried out was the gender swap option. It's interesting how different FaceApp's female version my normal male self is from my own transformation to Susie. 

(I normally wear glasses, but I'm vain enough to take them off when I'm Susie, at least for photos, although maybe I don't have the right frames. Interesting that FaceApp also thinks I should be a redhead. I'm not even sure how I knew that.)










Then I tried playing with some of the other filters, the most interesting of which was 'age'.

So I now have an idea of what what I might have looked like if I had been the person I wanted to be as teenager.


butter wouldn't melt...


xx Susie

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Domestic Bliss?

While giving the bathroom and the stair carpet a thorough clean before my other half* was due back yesterday, I was struck by two thoughts: 'Why is it you never have a maid’s outfit when you really need one?'**, and 'where does all that hair come from'? What remains of my own hair is nowhere near that profuse or long and we haven’t had a cat in many years after our first feline housemate died. 

[* my other half as a couple. My other half is, of course, Susie. Which is useful in shops when I  can say honestly that I am buying something for my other half and not specify which one I mean.]

[** I still haven’t quite laid that particular adolescent fantasy to rest. Sad, isn’t it. ]

But it also sparked one of those curious random flashback memories from my first time living alone.

If you show even a trace of domestic competence as a male, such as cooking, cleaning, washing or mending clothes, have you ever had someone tell you, even in jest, “You would  make someone a good housewife”? And how did it make you feel at the time? 

Times and attitudes, of course, change. That sort of comment would seem out of place now. Nowadays we are probably more likely to regard a man who can’t even boil an egg, or load a dishwasher or a washing machine with scant sympathy or even scorn rather than expect them to know nothing about such things and to rely on or expect a more domestically competent member of the other sex to always do it for them. 

But the memory of this instance, in my case, dates back to the mid 70s, when some people actually regarded Alf Garnett as a role model. It was said, I think, by one of my landlords after I first moved out to live on my own. Or maybe by a flatmate. I’m not sure. I’m not even sure what prompted it. I can’t even remember what I was doing at the time: sweeping the communal stairs or cooking something that didn’t involve merely opening tins or (throwback horror) Pot Noodles.  I certainly wasn’t wearing a pretty floral frock at the time. Or even an apron. (While I grudging acknowledged that side of me existed and had been there for  as long as I could remember, I was trying as hard as I could to ignore it.)

It obviously jostled a nerve, otherwise why would would it have lodged in my memory to reappear many years, decades even, later. How would I have felt about it at the time (or even now)? Defensive perhaps, even secretly smug (my parents both worked; I learned to cook and clean at an early age). Maybe even secretly thrilled at the idea. 

It was that fantasy vision of stereotyped domesticity  that would come back to bite me some years later when my first girlfriend saw me dressed for the first time, ironing a skirt in her parents house that we had moved into to look after for a week when they were away on holiday. My girlfriend knew I dressed. I had already told her in a long heart to heart early in our relationship. She had just never seen it up to that point. She had even suggested I should take advantage of the family home as a safe space away from our prying landlord to relieve my obviously pent-up desire and frustration to dress and live as a woman (but only indoors) for that week. But seeing me, made up, legs shaved, wearing  a blouse, skirt and heels and standing  ironing a blouse, broke something in our relationship. From that point she could no longer see me as a boyfriend. That other image would always stand between us. We survived the week, though I stepped dressing before it finished, but two months later she was gone, leaving an empty bedsit flat when I returned from an overseas business trip. 

My current partner also knows I dress. In fact she knew before we moved in together. She’s never seen me dressed as Susie (although that name came many years later) and has made it clear that she doesn’t want to, or even talk about it. We have a fortuitous arrangement where they are a number of days where she wants to go out alone or with friends and thus give me 'time to myself’. Perhaps not as many as I’d like, or for as long (and for that reason I’m both putting off and dreading retirement, but for how much longer I don’t know). Neither does she really want to know what I do on those days. But we’ve survived thirty years together, which is better odds than I might have expected from past experience. 

Monday, 20 September 2021

Getting out and about: Belonging and blending in.

Several t-girls, including Lynn and Hannah have written about passing - or more probably not exactly passing, but at least being taken for the way you choose to present when out and about.

You’re good girl. You’re a good tall girl. You’re a good sturdy girl” (Self Esteem, “I Do This All the Time”)

While the above quote may seem a bit of a back-handed compliment to a self-conscious cis-girl, I suspect quite a few of us would gladly take it as an affirmation.)

At a bit over 6 ft I realise that I am unlikely to pass unnoticed, especially in the street or in shops. There’s little you can do about that, except avoid adding to the problem by wearing heels. (I tend not to and elect for flats when I’m out, and on the basis that if I look at what other women are wearing it also tend to be flats, trainers or low-heeled boots. And the few times I’ve been out in even low (one inch) heels I became acutely conscious of the sound of my steps on the pavement, even if heels do force you into taking smaller steps in a more feminine gait - something which you have to remember and concentrate on when walking in flats .It’s a bit of a trade-off, especially for us girls of height.

What’s the answer? Perhaps to slouch a bit to try and minimise your height? Absolutely not. Don’t. Again, take note of other women around you and how they hold themselves. Men often hunch or slouch, usually leading their walk from the upper body or shoulders. Women, with a different weight distribution and centre of gravity, walk from the pelvis with their shoulders straight, and lead with the foot first. It takes conscious practice and it’s often easy to forget, especially if you get to the comfortable point of no longer thinking about how you are dressed and start to fall back into more male mannerisms. (My default look these days tends to be skinny jeans or leggings and a sweater, partly for comfort and partly for anonymity and  not to stand out, although there will always be those occasions when you see someone wearing something particularly stylish and think “I wish…”)

Confidence is a preference” (Blur, ‘Park Life’)

As Stana, Kandi and many others have said when touching on this topic, the main key to not drawing the wrong attention to yourself is to act as if you belong – “nothing to see here-  just another woman going about her business - glance away and carry on.” Getting to that point does take a bit of confidence. I gradually build mine starting with greetings exchanges with early morning joggers and dog walkers in parks or the local nature reserves (again, a reason not to conspicuously over or underdress unless you want to try pulling a 4 in stiletto out of the grass or a muddy path).

 Initially I would try and limit those encounters to a brief “Good morning” to older women out walking their dogs As confidence grew that people seemed happy to take me as I presented I gradually expanded those encounters to the point where a man walking his dog greeted me as “love” and I treasured that for the rest of the day. At point I felt confident enough to take Susie into indoor spaces: a small art exhibition in a village hall, an afternoon at church sale, browsing in charity shops or the sale racks in Sainsburys, or a quick drop in the library.

Actually my first excursion into a public space was my first appearance (and so far only, but more to do with the lack of places to change in central Oxford) as Susie at a meeting of the local trans support group in the upstairs room of a pub in central Oxford. Both scary and exhilarating – especially that first walk along the High Street to the venue, but the reception was worth the first night nerves.

Which brings me to another point. Safety. My first tentative ventures outside were alone and at night. I really don’t recommend this. It can be very scary. Remember how you might look to others and don’t put yourself into unsafe places or situations. (Although I can guarantee that after the first time you feel you are being followed with your keys gripped tightly in one hand you will have a much starker idea of what most women have to deal with every day. You won’t forget that easily) Then there’s the additional issue that if you are identified as trans or a cross-dresser out alone you may make yourself even more subject to abuse or attack.  As a first timer you may think that you may be less likely to be ‘read’ after dark, but it’s not worth the danger. Just don’t. If you really have no other option, make sure there is someone with you.

After that experience I swapped late walks for morning ones. Early enough that I could leave and usually return before the neighbours were up and about, though sometimes a little touch and go on the return, but not so early that it wouldn’t yet be light and that there wouldn’t be a few people around (at bus stops, jogging, or taking dogs for an early walk).

Building confidence in being out is still a work in progress. I would still like to visit a proper tea room rather than a supermarket cafĂ©, or go shopping in town or visit a museum, and I would love be able go out with a trusted friend (male or female) maybe for a drink or a meal. 

xxx