Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why I Blog

My newest follower, Sheila, just gave me an award.  Sheila has a lovely blog; you'll find it here.

The award asks four questions which, on their surface, seem innocuous but, as applied to me, are significant.  I've actually been wanting to talk about these subjects for a while and was looking for the right opportunity.  That chance just arrived, courtesy of Sheila.

Here are the four questions.

1. How long have you been blogging?

Just over two years now.  I started New Year's day in 2010, initially on (dinosaur) LiveJournal; my blog later migrated here because the picture-quality on LJ sucks.

2. Why did you start blogging?

The simple answer is I wanted to grow as a woman -- which may sound unremarkable if said by most people, but my circumstances are different.  I was raised as a boy and lived a full adult lifetime as a man.  Until recently, I was known to all as male.  Harboring the idea of being female and wanting to be feminine was a radical act for me.  A socially-transgressive, life-alterring, radical act.

Despite my public gender-identity, I've always had a kernel of femaleness inside me.  It was there before I even knew what gender was.  As a small child, I strove ceaselessly to get adults to recognize me as female and none did.  Their reactions were either confusion or condemnation.

Thus, I learned to suppress who I am.  For decades.  Of course, my true nature surfaced regularly, in hidden dressing sessions, secret feminine activities and concealed cultural preferences.  (I'm a big fan of chick-flicks.)  As I got older, I became less secretive and more open to those close to me about my core.  My closest friends grasped this aspect of me, even if it wasn't put in gender terms.  I often received comments like "how nice it is to have a man be interested in this" or joking remarks like "what a good wife" I'd make.  (I actually enjoy housework, grocery shopping and caring for others.)

Recently, I reached the stage where I no longer want to deny myself.  I no longer care about society's negative reaction to my lack of gender-conformity.  Having lost family members at early ages, I know our time here is short and uncertain.  I don't want to die before knowing what real life is like.  So I'm exploring life.  Life as a woman, or as close to that as I can come.

While searching for a way to do this, blogging emerged.  I quickly recognized it as a vehicle for my effort.  Blogging could, I hoped, bring me closer to my dream.  And it has.

Blogging has given me a forum for expression.  A place to explore women's clothes and female experiences.  Best of all, blogging connects me to you.  Real women, with active minds and life experiences, who inexplicably want to help me.  And are nicer than teddy bears.  Blogging has transformed my life.  For realz.

3. What type of blogs do you like to follow/read?

All types, not limited to fashion.  What I look for and care about is the blogger.  Her personality and personal qualities means more to me than her blog's subject-matter, which can be fashion, sewing, cooking, movies or anything else. 

One of my All Time Favoritest Blogs In The Whole World is ostensibly about motorcycles but really about the cheery, loving attitude of its creator, Fuzzy.  Fuzzy looks for the best in people; Fuzzy spreads good cheer everywhere she goes; Fuzzy takes pictures of naturally-formed heart-shapes whenever she finds one.  Fuzzy is the kinda gal you wish you had as your friend. 

And it was from reading her blog that I, amazingly, became her friend.  Fuzzy invited me to her wedding last month and I'm blown away that she likes me.  The real me, whom she sees with accurate vision.  I always hoped for (and never thought I'd have) a friend as true and wonderful as Fuzzy.  Blogging gets credit for that.

4. What is the one thing you'd like to improve on as a blogger?

Whenever I set a goal and reach it, I set another goal.  I've come so far so fast that I can't even predict where I'm going to end up.  I have a direction (toward further femininity) but am reluctant (from a lifetime of squashed dreams) to say out loud what my ultimate objective is.  Perhaps you can guess it.  *wink*

At first, the idea of doing an outfit post scared me to death.  I knew I'd look awful and worried about people's reactions.  Readers were caring and supportive, which meant so much to me.  That encouragement allowed me to try doing it again.  And again.  All the while, I improved my skills at selecting clothes, wearing them, photographing myself, applying makeup, finding a hairstyle, etc.  I'm now at the stage of looking "not embarrassing" in my outfits -- a goal I truly did not believe I'd ever reach.

A second goal I'm actively working on is learning how to interact with women -- as a woman.  This isn't easy and it isn't intuitive.  Women, in our time and place, are socialized from childhood on how to relate to others.  I didn't get that memo.  I was taught how to be a boy (e.g., reject femininity; be strong; endure pain; climb over others and show superiority).  None of those lessons are helpful in being a girlfriend to another woman.  You guys operate differently -- and I prefer that.  I enjoy the emotional openness and intimacy women have.

I'm learning this and enjoying it.  Women fascinate me on every level and having access to your thoughts, feelings and inclinations makes me feel more connected, less alone and more true to myself.  So, I guess my answer to the question posed is that my goal as a blogger right now is to learn how to be a better friend to other women.

Thanks, Sheila!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Topless In The Park

Twenty years ago, a woman enjoying the summer sun in New York was arrested for not wearing a top.  She argued in court that it was unconstitutional to allow men to be topless and not women.  She won that argument.  Ever since 1992, it has been legal for women to be topless in New York City, so long as they don't do it for commerce.

This week, a group of women sought to popularize the notion by reading books in Central Park while topless.  The article is here and a non-lewd photo is below.

Some Caribbean and European countries allow this.  What do you think?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Green and... Purple?!

I've never paired green with purple so, when I saw a dress in these colors, I was surprised.  Surprised at how well they combine.  I wouldn't have expected them to look good at all.

Styling such a dress, most people would tone down the contrast.  I, however, went the other way.  When confronted with something unusual, I double-down on its weirdness.  Be bold!  Confidence always helps an outfit.

Thus, I added green tights, purple flats and (a first for me) purple eyeshadow.  I have a green jade cuff-bracelet that I thought would help, so I dug it out and added it to the mix.

What do you think?  Does this color-combo work?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Kickin' It

I realized today that most of my outfits are fancy and formal.  I want a change of pace so, tonight, I tried something playful.  I took casual clothes and dressed them up as fun as I could.  Here's the result.

Oh, and I saw an ad in Glamour showing a woman wearing two different shades of lipstick.  Its whimsy appealed to me, so tonight I wore fuscia surrounded by orange.  What do you think?  Would you do this?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

At The Track

That's me!

Paul Fussell

Paul Fussell was a writer and public intellectual.  He died yesterday at age 88.  Fussell and his work are worth knowing about.

Fussell started his career as an academic, writing scholarly books, but he became popular with a book about war, "The Great War and Modern Memory".  From there, his writings addressed broader audiences and non-scholarly themes.

The book that made Fussell famous described war as a horrible experience.  Fussell had fought in intense combat and witnessed buddies die next to him; in fact, their blood and guts sprayed on him.  Fussell hated how people romanticized war when, in reality, it's an ugly affair.  People get killed.  Stupidity is commonplace.

I first discovered Fussell's writing in 1983 in his comical book called, "Class: A Guide Through The American Status System"  In it, Fussell skewered American society and pulled back the cover on our social hierarchy.  He reveals our undeniable class-system with sharp humor.

The tone of this and some other books he wrote earned him a reputation as a curmudgeon.  For smart people, disappointment at our social organization is often inevitable.

If you want a good laugh or probing sociological analysis of contemporary America, pick up a copy of "Class...".

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Store Changes

Retail stores often make changes to spur sales.  Sometimes changes work; sometimes not.

For example, J.C. Penney recently tried to increase sales by changing from offering low prices with coupons to offering "everyday low prices" without coupons.  JCP's customers, who like coupons, reject the change and the store's sales are way down.

Another change, for which I predict success, is Starbucks new offering of individually-brewed coffee using various beans from around the world.  Even better, they are making the coffee with the Clover machine which produces exceptional quality.

Today, I had coffee from Nicaragua.  It was delicious.  A rich, thick taste like liquor.  Tomorrow, I plan to try beans from Malawi.  There are about a dozen different types of beans available.

Starbucks started years ago as a business devoted to enjoying real coffee.  It later degenerated into a place where people get syrupy, coffee-flavored milk drinks.  This new change is a return to the company's roots.

Have any of your favorite stores changed?  For better or worse?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Peplum Is Back

I didn't know what the word "peplum" meant but I knew what it referred to.  I lived through the Eighties when peplum was popular.

Peplum is a style that adds an extra piece of fabric around the hips, usually ruffled.  Here's an attractive example, worn by Alexandra:

The current peplum revival emerged with Jil Sander's influential Spring 2011 women's collection.  Since then, it's been adopted by several high-end designers, including Giorgio Armani, Celine and Jason Wu.  Peplum styles are currently being sold by mainstream retailers like J. Crew and H&M.

A lot of women fear peplum believing it will make them look fat.  Actually, peplum creates the opposite impression since it emphasizes the curve of a woman's hips and makes the waist look relatively small.

Would you wear peplum?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Q&A, With A Twist

I am not a conventional blogger.  This is not a conventional blog.  So, when it comes to posing questions, they won't be twee and pedestrian, like "Vanilla or chocolate?"

You are invited to share your thoughts on any of these topics.

1. What subject is consuming you right now?  Will your interest in that subject ever wane?  If it does, how will you look back on this period in your life?  With contentment or regret?

2. Does spending a lot of time online make your life better?  Or worse?

3. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that (most) boys hang out with other boys and (most) girls hang out with other girls?  Why, other than to make babies, do boys and girls get together at all?

4. Is it healthy to pay a lot of attention to celebrities and their lives?  Should we live vicariously through the daily experiences of third-rate actors?

5. What is the real point of shopping for clothes?

6. What is the real objective of watching pro sports?

7. Do we need a soulmate to complete us, or can we be happy with a circle of friends?

Hey, if you wanted normal questions, there's no shortage of other places to find them....

Friday, May 18, 2012


Is it possible to be both feminine and bold?

I hope so.  I love feminine clothes, like floral dresses.  But I equally like bold prints and bright colors.  Which made this pretty dress jump off the rack and into my hands during a visit to a thrift-store today.

What do you think?

New Boots

I ride motorcycles every day.  Which means I wear motorcycle boots every day.

Motorcycle boots differ from normal boots in two important ways.  They are sturdier to protect your ankle in the event of a crash and they have rubber (not leather) soles.  When you put your foot down on the road, the ground is often slippery; you don't want your foot to slide and have an 800-lb. motorcycle come falling on top of you.  Rubber soles grab the road; leather soles slip.

For ordinary life, I wear boots that are inconspicuous.  They hide beneath my suit-pants or jeans and don't call attention to themselves.  This is good for when I go to court or business meetings.  The boots shown are my current pair.

Up until now, this has been the only style of boot I needed.  My experience at the track, however, has changed that.

Most of you know that I had to buy leather pants recently to be allowed onto the racetrack.  (Track rules require full-leathers.)  Leather pants are form-fitted and go inside your boots.  My current street-riding boots aren't designed for the track and look odd over leather pants.  To remedy that, I just bought a new pair of motorcycle boots designed specifically for racing.  These boots are extra-sturdy for protection and they look better with leathers.

I'll be wearing these when I go back to the track.  I'll also wear them on the street when I go out in full-leathers to ride my Yamaha aggressively.  There are occasions when I ride with friends and we push the envelope a bit.  On those spirited rides, wearing more protection is better than less since I might need it.

The new boots were expensive ($200) but, with protective gear, I always buy the best.  (My life was saved once by a top-notch helmet.)  On top of the protection, I also like how wickedly cool the boots look.  What do you think?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Transgender Musician

In the current issue of Rolling Stone, a popular musician named Tom Gabel (of punk-rock band, Against Me!) announced he's starting the transition to becoming publicly female.  Honestly, I've never heard of Gabel but I certainly wish him well on this difficult journey.

Gabel has chosen a new name, Laura, and plans to stay with his current wife Heather.  They have a two year old girl, with whom Gabel recently painted his toes.  Heather doesn't see any reason why they need to break up. 

I hope they can maintain their relationship but past history is discouraging.  A famous transsexual, Jennifer Finney Boylan, wrote about her transition and described how, in the years following it, her marriage changed and became unworkable.  While every relationship is different, the strong forces Boylan described will strain Gabel's marriage to Heather.  Similarly, Chaz Bono's relationship with his girlfriend, Jennifer, failed after his transition despite their fervent efforts to maintain it.

Gabel said in his announcement that he hasn't told his parents yet because he expects his father (who works in the military) to never speak to him again and his mother to cry uncontrollably with sadness.  As hard as it will be for Gabel to inform his parents, I hope they don't learn about this from reading the news or a magazine.

Things I Saw Today

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Riding At The Track

I've been eagerly awaiting the professionally-taken photos of my experience at the track last week, but they haven't arrived yet.  Those pictures will show you some of the excitement I felt riding that day.

While we're waiting, here is a video taken by my friend Jim.  Jim has a camera mounted on his bike.  The video shows Jim riding the 13-curve track we were at that day.  The track is named "Thunderbolt," to distinguish it from neighboring track, "Lightning."

As you'll note from seeing Jim pass slower riders, Jim is an exceptionally-skilled motorcyclist.  His bike -- a rare BMW sportbike that costs $28,000 -- hit 160 mph on the straightaway and could have gone faster if that stretch was longer.  At its end, you have to make two sharp right-hand turns that necessitate slowing down to get through the curves.

Watching the video, you get a sense of the lean-angles our motorcycles are capable of.  To get through sharp curves at high speed, you need to lean over as far as possible, even to the point of dragging your knee on the road.  Hovering inches over the pavement while hurling at ridiculous speeds is scary but, if you're brave, you can savor the sensation.  Seeing this visually gives you a glimpse of the ride, but it doesn't convey many other sensations accompanying it, like the visceral thrill of acceleration, harsh vibration, physical forces pulling your body, and occasional terror.  :-)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Gracey's Prom Party

I enjoy Gracey's blog, Fashion For Giants.  Gracey recently went to a 1980's-themed prom party and pulled out all the stops, as you can see by the photo below.  Gracey also invited her blog-friends to participate by sending in pictures which she posted on her blog.  Of course, I joined in the fun (go here).

Nature Walk

The weather in New York was beautiful today, so I suggested to Robin that we visit a place I'd never seen before, Sweetbriar Nature Center.  It's a charitable nature preserve where injured wild animals are rehabilitated.  The animals were amazing.

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day.  When I saw this picture, it made me laugh.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Halting In Halter

In the male world, there are no clothes with a halter-top.  So, when I tried a halter-top for the first time, it felt odd.  I'd never had clothes hang on me like that before.

Last night, I was walking through Kohls and a pretty dress caught my eye.  Its colorful print attracted me like a moth.  I circled around it, then decided I had to go back and look.  The closer I got, the more I liked the dress.

I returned to the store today and picked it up.  It was on sale for $23 which my budget can absorb.  I like the halter-top feature and the dress suits my style.  To enhance it, I added a feathery hair-piece and new orange lipstick (brighter than my first orange lippy).

What do you think?