Being beautiful

You should not let your makeup routine get into a rut. I have been doing the same thing for years. My mascara brush was coming apart. My lipstick was down to the metal. And I have had a lovely time chatting about shades with Sienna. The shop was nearly empty and she gave me the time I needed, about twenty minutes.

There was a rich deep pink lipstick which made me feel absolutely beautiful. I used it until it broke, then I carefully brushed it on until it nearly ran out, and now I wanted to replace it with exactly the same shade. I had the idea the shop assistants would be able to do this. I had gone to darn a thin patch in the elbow of my favourite silk/cashmere jumper, and the shop assistant had found the thread of exactly the right shade, far closer than I could have seen myself. Sienna did not seem particularly good at this, smearing all sorts of colours onto a tissue, but we found a rather gorgeous shade called Deep Rose, which fits my skin tone perfectly. I also got one which is almost my natural lip colour, but adds the slightest sparkly sheen.

Ooooh!

I want to be smoking. I want a particular woman to fall into my arms whispering “How could I have been so wrong about you?” (It isn’t going to happen, but a girl can dream.) I want to project confidence and presence.

Sienna had very heavy foundation. I have not used foundation since the time I was getting a lot of electrolysis: it can cover beard shadow if you have dark hair under pale skin, but not actual stubble which just pokes through and looks much worse, and shaving closely every day while having four hours of electrolysis a week is impossible. We talked of eye shadow. I said I wanted the kind of mascara that I could wear to the office and into the evening, but went for a Maximum Volume one which would triple my lashes. Not for the office, I suppose, but well.

I talked of no-makeup makeup. Round about the nineties, I pontificated, it was a thing, the no-makeup makeover that took an hour. No man would see that you had makeup on, and women might be unsure, but they would see your face slightly more defined. Sienna appeared interested.

When I was transitioning, a rumour went round that Boots shop assistants were taught specifically to deal with nervous incipient trans women, to put us at our ease and make us feel comfortable. The one I spoke to denied this, but was completely professional with a touch of the kindness I was starving for, giving me three samples of foundation to take away and experiment with in private.

The first perfume I bought was Amarige by Givenchy. I have a bottle of it now. I wore it to the trans club, then next day even after showering, when I went to work I could smell the faintest remainder of it on my wrist. Throughout the day, I took surreptitious sniffs at my wrist, which reassured and calmed me.

I will wear that, too.

Values

What are your values? Acceptance, Adventure, Assertiveness? Safety, Sensuality, Skilfulness? A choice of 58 with helpful explanations of each might help self-knowledge.

Authenticity: to be genuine, real, true to myself. That fits. Ploughing my own way, now, seems the most important thing in my life. And yet, Conformity: to be respectful and obedient of rules and obligations fits too. Only when under pressure, I think. I use fitting in as a way of seeking safety. Safety: to secure or protect myself or others. I seek that a great deal. Can I claim Courage:to persist in the face of fear, threat or difficulty? Sometimes I have shown courage, sometimes I have run and hidden.

I feel Conformity and Safety are introjected values, I would show more Courage if less badly hurt. Courage calls to courage everywhere– odd, I remembered it as Courage speaks to courage, that is, courage recognises courage in others. “Calls” could have different, valuable meanings. I have shown courage and dedication. I don’t feel courageous, now.

Beauty: to appreciate, create, nurture or cultivate beauty in myself, others, the environment etc. Definitely. It makes my heart sing. I devote time and effort to it. Freedom: to choose how I live and behave, and help others do likewise. No question. These are what I observe in my actions, and feel in my desires.

Humility: to be modest, let my achievements speak for themselves. Hmm. Sometimes I am, sometimes the opposite- not Boastfulness necessarily. “Let your light so shine before men” does not sound modest. I don’t know if either is a Value I would claim, or if there is any consistency. Self-regard, knowing ones value and achievements, might just be arguable as a value.

Honesty? Um. If it were not so important to me I might not hate and notice so much when I lie.

Flexibility. I would like more of that, perhaps just to get me out of problems. I imagine I could have been OK, with hindsight, had I been “flexible”. Possibly that is a mirage.

Mindfulness: to be conscious of, open to, and curious about my here and now experience. Yes, I think, of course, and then reconsider Self-awareness, to be aware of my own thoughts feelings and actions and wonder whether I am so ignorant of the former I confuse it with the latter, so internally focused that the Outside seems illusory. With my mantra I am here. This is. I am I am turning outwards.

Spirituality: to connect with things bigger than myself. Being materialist, I think my Inner Light is myself, though a greater self than the ego or monkey-mind. And Spirituality is Here, This life, focused. I am Spiritual.

Open mindedness: to think things through, to see things from others’ points of view, and weigh evidence fairly. Definitely. I am certain of some things, yet eager to understand more, to see more clearly. This blog records growth in understanding.

Which on the list are not importantly to me? Adventure. Fun. Excitement. I get excitement from ideas, but am not seeking new experiences other than new encounters with different people. Equality. Fairness. Reciprocity. I am not now seeking equality. Do I value myself sufficiently? From seeing myself as worthless I come to value myself. These may be values I have not articulated to myself, or recognised, working unconsciously within.

Not Power: taking charge, leading, organising either. I know that proposing a decision can be a service, relieving others of responsibility, but I don’t want my way. Or perhaps I do, just don’t see attempting to take power as the way to get it. I don’t perceive myself as ambitious.

Not Skilfulness: to practise and improve, and apply myself fully when using them. I like to write. Yet my revision is only of the odd sentence, not rewriting the whole structure of a piece to improve it. I am not developing. So, not really, as it happens. I devote my energy elsewhere. I don’t play the piano any more.

Do any of these values speak to you?

Weird London

It is always lovely to go into London. With time to kill, I wandered down south of Euston Road towards the British Museum. First to St Pancras Church, which has two huge sculptures temporarily displayed in the narrow patch of grass between the church and the pavement. One appears to be two men wrestling, with Rodinesque muscly bodies, until you see they share the same head. Inside, the church was dim, like a hall, but has two organs, one against the West wall and one, moveable, near the Sanctuary. There is a notice, do not touch the organ without express permission. In a chapel in the north-east corner, there was a Madonna icon in which the child was off to her left, and low down, and tiny, and seemed odd, but it was the only thing in the church I found beautiful. Some men passed through the chapel, glancing briefly at me. In the nave, a man stood, then ran suddenly a few yards west, then stood again, then ran back. He was still there as I left.

South through the University. I wandered into The English Chapel. It was built by the Catholic Apostolic Church in the neo-Gothic style in 1851-4. I like fan vaulting, but find it pointless- church architecture should have moved on by then. They believed Christ had appointed twelve further apostles, and were a worshipping group until around 1905, when they did not appoint a successor apostle. So now it is a trust owning property, and part of the church, the West chapel, is let out to Forward in Faith for daily services. There are no pews. A man knelt near the west-facing altar. The priest came in from his office and spoke to me, though I said I was half-touristing, half-praying: using the beauty as an aid to contemplation. The stained glass windows, replaced after being destroyed in the Blitz, are lovely. He explained that around the stalls carved into the walls are the heads of English monarchs. One wears a wimple. They were out of fashion when Mary became Queen, and I asked him who she was. Matilda, possibly? He did not know. I spent some time contemplating the carvings, then walked on.

At Friends House I met someone about Outreach, then had lunch downstairs, where I recognised several people. Should I say hello? Someone I know, to my shame, only as “X’s partner” said hello, so I joined her. She has been researching in the Friends House library, and came across a 19th century classification of beauty in three classes: active sublime, passive sublime and “sprightly”. “Your necklace would be ‘sprightly’,” she told me. Well, it is irregular blobs of blue/green glass, so yes. A certain kind of tree is “active sublime”, a certain kind of owl “passive sublime”. Possibly “active” in the kinds of feelings aroused in the beholder. I don’t want to know the classification, it would just be another way I judged myself- I must spend more time with Active Sublime, even if I preferred Sprightly.

A paid worker was kindly eating with a volunteer.

A man talked at me for half an hour about something which stressed him, which was not really why I had wanted to see him, though I had wanted to get to know him a bit. Because I was trying to get a word in, I was much blunter than I would otherwise have been: “Why did I not get an interview for that job?” He gave what would have been an off-the-peg defence to a discrimination claim- because I did not fit a particular essential criterion. Because of discrimination, the selection has to be completely objective and it was, he told me. But, I was not making a claim, just asking.

Signs on the railings said “Please do not smoke in this area or sit on these steps.” Guess what someone was doing. And I saw this sign, which looks official but is a stencil, a graffito stating hope not reality. Those metal gates did not look welcoming. The area is beautiful, but not welcoming.

Beauty of the shopping centre

The shopping centre is open. There is not enough parking mid week, and long delays getting out of the car parks. And it is by the Lake, where you can walk. Two rows of shops face each other, and I could not find a shot with any attractiveness at all, but where you walk to the Lake, by the coffee shop, under the House of Fraser restaurant, it pleases my eye. There is an effort made.

I like these curves. It’s not just a shelter from the rain. More appears as you walk round, moving towards the lake. I like the lines.

The board walk, benches and shelter- as if it rained a lot round here, the water company increase prices and say we are in drought- move us from joyless spending and acquisition to the beauty of the lake. There are paths, and some wildlife might not yet have been scared off.

The curves together are lovely. The colours are autumnal. I like this view, and worry that I have damaged my camera sensor. I must have had the sun or a very bright light in shot.

Trying to find a shot of the front of the shops, which are just standard dull shopping centre, I hovered behind someone emptying a bin. I explained what I was doing, and she enthused about the goose, the way its head is carved, its feet folded up beneath it. It is beautiful, and it is a pleasure in her job: she sees it daily, and has got to know it. “Come and find me, and show me what you took,” she said. But I only took the sculptures.

We are on the board walk. The wild ground is rigorously fenced off, behind fences and bars.

In the shrubbery

Beautiful, mature tree. Beautiful old rhododendron. They tower up, and spread out. Any toddler could delight in this: the ways in would let no-one else stand upright, but the den opens out into a wide high space roofed with green. I love it, too. I am glad I crawled in here.

Orthodox Jews- I saw a boy skipping along beside his father, both in skull caps- cannot walk far on the Sabbath- today- but if they have an eruv, they may move within that area, and carry keys, though not mobile phones, which are mukhtseh. My barrier reminiscent to me of an eruv is made of string, tied to the trees and saplings around the den. I also have thick grey twine, in a great fankle, hanging from the string, like barbed wire. More like barbed wire is the holly west of the den.

I have a long roll of thick white paper, to do with as I wish. I use the masking tape to suspend strips of it from the string. There is now a wall between me and the most open way into the den. Other masking tape forms a barrier at the back of the den, towards the fence. I can sit on a bottom-sized lump of concrete, leaning against the tree, with the rest of the roll of paper as a mace. I sit, half-brandishing my mace.

The incurious or unobservant would still not see my den through the foliage, walking down the path, if thinking of something else, but anyone aware of their surroundings would be more likely to notice, as the white paper is striking in the green and brown life. The walls I have created would not stop anyone.

I can’t remember what the exercise was. I have expressed myself, here, and my situation. It is fun to play with symbols. After explaining it to the group, I burst out of my space, through the wall- though that may just be what I want to appear to want.

in the den

Living with past and future

The lake is surrounded by willow, a protection for the wildfowl from galumphing humans; but here there is a gap, with a bench. The bench commemorates a woman’s life, and stuck between wood and metal there are cards and prayers for Mother’s Day. We sit in the sun looking over to an island, where the birds preen and wheel. Two geese fly low overhead, honking.

What is the correct attitude to the traffic noise? It does not overwhelm the noise of the birds. The road is hidden by more willow and oak. It is “A sign of the energy of our civilisation”? Try to ignore it? There is enough beauty here, it is not important?

I was upset this morning, at something that happened nearly ten years ago. I was in conflict; I was right; I lost. I was bullied and humiliated. And on Sunday, the day after that last job interview, I showed courage. I could just have stayed at home, but I cycled forty miles, the furthest I have gone in a day this century; though I feared an encounter, I wanted it, thinking it a good challenge. She would be fascinating. I was disappointed she was not there. Then I cycled home, enjoying the sunshine, knowing the labour of miles still to go.

That same day was the “Becoming Friends” discussion group at K, on Advices and Queries. Are we, really, good enough to be Quaker? One suffered because of his integrity. I wish I knew him better, he has done well since. I thought of other conflicts- I was in the right; one I fought so hard, and Won!- the other I just gave up.

The jobs I have applied for this year would have been beautiful. There is something worthy of my love and creativity, in this job too. Oh, I am so tired! Can I bring myself to apply for it, the closing date is so soon! And it terrifies me. I would see that man, and he would understand, and I would not, he would see through my masks and I would be useless and humiliated. Needing to pretend, and my pretence stripped away! The tensions, and not knowing! And the other man, my friend, the weight of his love and fear, and their love for him…

Or my talents have value, I could contribute, I would live with the uncertainty and some things I did might be worthwhile-

I have not done mindfulness meditation because I fear it. The weight of my feeling- rage and terror, frustration resentment and shame, would overwhelm me. Now, with my friend, negative and positive, fear and painful wonder, alternate in my mind.

Walt Whitman:

Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of every [one] hearty and clean,
Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be less familiar than the rest.

Monet, Branch of the Seine near Giverny

Beauty contests

Beauty contests are misogynist- what about trans beauty contests?

Well, like those for cis women, they objectify women, judge us by our looks, and let men ogle women- with the added frisson that men can go- ooh, yuck- It was born a man! Not cool. Cis women’s beauty contests stopped being televised in the UK around the same time as the Black and White Minstrel Show.

Here’s the Daily Express on Pammy Rose. You would hope we would be beyond this: Pammy was “born a man”, apparently, rather than a baby; they tell her former name, and show pictures of her as a child; she felt like a woman in a man’s body; she wants to be a voice, representing trans people; she was bullied as a “freak” and a “tranny”; the first prize is a “sex change”.

Yuck.

There’s the Express with this oleaginously supportive “good news” story, with at the side a video of a bikini babe’s beach workout turning out badly, and another bikini babe’s zip wire jump turning out badly. I wonder how. Trans women are so courageous! It’s better than saying we are a threat, and should not be allowed in lavatories, but only just. I hoped we were beyond this, being judged for our looks, being stared at. The scrutiny is frightening.

She’s not a voice for me. The contest site is mostly photos. I came third in a beauty contest once, but it was just a bit of fun for ourselves, at a cross-dressers’ weekend away. I don’t really blame her, I suppose, it might feel empowering, she must advance her interests as she sees fit, but she is still being seen as a freak.

Here’s The Telegraph laughing at the winner Jai Dara Latto being forced to hand back her crown, accused of being a drag queen, a gay male rather than a trans woman. Rachael, the organiser, said,

Underwear is very important to transgender females – one of the first thing people do is change their underwear as it makes us feel like we are finally a woman. Oh, God! Like the Express, the Telegraph had pictures of Caitlyn Jenner.

It is not that Jai was “a drag queen”, something qualitatively different from “a trans woman”, but that she was not full time, contrary to the rules of the contest. Not fully committed, she allegedly spent some time presenting male. You might not want a man winning a trans woman’s beauty contest; and any other rule to exclude males might be subverted; but the Telegraph says it is about underwear.

It is exactly the same as cis women’s beauty contests. Both objectify women. I feel sick. Yet- here’s Pammy, making her way as best she can in the world. I wish her well.

 

Beautiful

I got this wig about three years ago. Initially, I was amazed that it was real hair and lace fronted for £30. Lace fronted means that the parting is quite natural. A monofilament wig, where individual fibres emerge from the cap, through which the scalp can be seen, can have a parting but has a tell-tale dark line at the edge of the cap. A lace fronted wig has a natural looking parting.

Unfortunately the lace in this wig, while it is skin-tone. is skin-tone for a black person or dark-skinned Asian, rather than for me. Under the parting, the weave of the lace shows dark over the scalp. Standing close to the mirror in the hotel bathroom, it is unpleasantly obvious to me. Originally, the lace protruded beyond the hair line and I had to cut it off, after buying it. Cutting it, I saw the lace was always visible, and so the wig has sat in my cupboard, almost unworn.

I tried it on on Tuesday, and noticed how it made my eyes glow. The colour is perfect for me. Possibly the way it hangs contributes to the effect. Even, possibly, H’s comment that she had only just noticed how intense the brown of my eyes was, brings them to life for me.

I feel beautiful. I have felt that I look feminine, or female, or womanly- subtly different things- but now for the first time I know I look beautiful, and it is a glorious feeling. I asked S about the hair colour, and she said how beautifully it set off my eyes, though may have been prompted by my widening my eyes. Suddenly I love mirrors-

though only if they are far enough away, that I do not notice the lace.

I could have the wig cut, to have a short fringe over the lace front. It would not have a hair-line any more, but it does not really now. Though some of the front hair has to be used to create that fringe, I am not sure about the shape.

Another option is just to leave it, and have the parting with its strange criss-cross pattern showing. Anyone who notices it and realises it is a wig or just thinks it looks strange, can. Few people make personal remarks. Self-consciousness arises within me, and I may be able to create in myself self-confidence. I am beautiful, and if I know that it changes my whole mien.

Photos when I get one which does me justice.

Rossetti, Venus Verticordia

Kissing beauty

I danced and mimed my way around the circle, showing my interactions and appreciation for the people. Four years later, Denny (whom I did not remember) said that this was his main memory of me at that camp. I had not remembered the moment, but his mentioning it brought it to mind and I think of it with delight; and his memory and desire to share it with me delights me too. We looked at Susie’s bronze head together. Perhaps drawing the hair back into a bun makes it technically easier, but the face is absorbing: it could have so many different emotions in it, and I love the steady level gaze. The house is beautiful, and has so much beautiful stuff.

Some people reading this may recognise the persons involved. Please remember that I write about myself: what I choose to say is a judgment on me, and “he is a useless tit” means I am the kind of person who could only see X as a useless tit. And the story is well-kent in our circles.

My impression of K was very different. Four years ago, the only other time we met, I was kneeling over my tent and he came up behind me and offered to assist. I turned and said that would be lovely of him, and he suddenly remembered he had something else to do elsewhere. I thought it is because I am trans- seeing me from behind in that silk top and crinkly skirt, briefly, is a different experience from seeing my face and hearing my voice.

Then on the last night F chose me as her confidante, and I sat in her caravan in the rain at midnight hearing how K had kissed her, and she had fallen for him, and she wanted to travel two hundred miles to see him. I heard after that they had been in a pub with others, he had said he was not interested, and she had poured his pint over his head.

“Good for her” say the women I tell this story to (apart from the ones who say, smiling, “Oh, I heard about that.”)

A year later, F again chose me as her confidante. I wish she hadn’t, as what she told me inspired dislike and pity. I still wish her well but would not want to spend time with her. But when I met K on Friday, that kiss was all I knew of him, from which I had extrapolated a fantasised person with a particular character.

He is very beautiful. His eyes, mussed hair, biceps and lithe physicality are all beautiful. He spoke of how he is failing to dump his former girlfriend, who is negative and clingy. This did not endear him to me. So I told him of the kiss with F, and how that was my impression of him; and he told me that she had kissed him, not the other way around.

Possibilities: she moves on him, he moves on her, the moment- by the campfire at midnight, singing- overcomes both. Recollection is unreliable. He knows he is beautiful, and finds this a burden: it is a burden if he has sympathy for the women he unintentionally ensnares. I am glad I told him of my impressions. I have a great deal more sympathy for him now, and am willing 60% to believe him-

perhaps because he is so beautiful

Frank Dicksee, Romeo and Juliet

Everything is alright

There is beauty in the buildings
The cracked brick, the stained concrete
-shaped stain, stippled stain
The tree growing on the roof, by the chimney
And the mark on the wall, where the roof once was
It takes effort to spawn ugliness,

Effort of which few are capable-
Here there is purpose and strength
And in ruins, purpose fulfilled,
And the constant purpose of the plants and animals.