Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Baton Twirling

I just added a new item to my Bucket List -- I want to learn how to twirl a baton!

I saw some girls doing it on TV and got inspired. Twirling involves coordination, skill and also includes dance (which is my all-time favorite activity). Looking into twirling, I discovered that twirlers are called "majorettes"

Did you ever twirl a baton? Was it fun? Was it hard?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

M&M Weekend

I spent this weekend hobnobbing with Meghan and Megan Mae in Philly.  We had a blast.

On Friday night, we had one of the best meals of my life -- a seven-course tasting feast at a ritzy restaurant. The food was incredible. M&M took pictures of each dish, as is the custom of their generation. I ogled the food without photography, which is the custom of my generation. We savored the dishes and were visibly in culinary ecstasy.

Saturday, I suggested we visit Longwood Gardens which was a smart choice. Four acres of orchids, poppies and amazing flowers. An explosion of colors and fragrances. The perfect setting for conversation. We enjoyed the day and ended it picking out pretty clothes at a consignment store.

It was fun to see through Megan Mae's fresh eyes. For example, this was her first time flying in an airplane so she didn't know the importance of boarding passes. I clued her in to that. Her experiences reminded me of my youth (decades ago).

We took lots of pictures. There are a lot, so I'll show more later in a second post.

Did you have fun this weekend?








Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Real Fashion Police

A controversy is brewing at a Catholic high school in Pennsylvania over prom dresses. You can read about it here.

A few weeks before the annual prom, school officials instituted a new policy requiring girls to submit photographs of their prom dresses before the prom. The purpose of the pictures is for school officials to review and approve or reject each dress. Officials say that "dresses cannot be too short, too low-cut, expose too much skin around the midriff or be ‘inappropriately revealing.’" Officials also say that all students and guests "must dress in gender-specific formal wear," meaning girls cannot wear tuxes and boys cannot wear dresses. (I'd be screwed.)

240 students have signed a petition against the new policy, some noting that they've already bought their dresses and will be stuck if their choices are rejected.

What do you think?

(The picture on the right is from my best post of all time.)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Carried Away

Sometimes I get carried away by my enthusiasm. I'm so eager to play that I don't know when to stop. I hope you'll forgive me if I exceed your fashion-tolerance.

Two days ago, I was walking in town during my lunch break. I've been working too hard and need a reward. Without planning, I veered into a local boutique and perused their sale rack. I spotted a snazzy blouse and some fun socks. The purchases were the impulse for today's outfit.

I was planning to tone the pieces down with a black pencil skirt, but I've been advised to conceal my cylindrical shape by adding skirts that flare. I thought about wearing a pink tulle petticoat underneath a black skirt but I like how nicely the tulle's color goes with the blouse so I jettisoned the skirt and wore the tulle as a skirt.

What gave me the courage to do this? Just this week Suzanne posted a nice article on how gals over 40 can wear tulle skirts with confidence and brio. I'm treating that article as an official stamp of approval from a Fashion Goddess.

What do you think of this?  Is it too much?  Or, as Mae West said, just enough?!






Friday, March 20, 2015

What is it...?

I have many questions about female life. I thought it'd be valuable and fun to pose them to you. This is the first of several posts in which I will ask your opinion on a subject that perplexes me. In the past, you guys have been deeply informative with your responses. Thank you for that.

Some of my questions, like this one, don't have an easy answer. You may not know why and that's okay. Just toss out whatever is in your head.

Question: What is it about hoop earrings?

From childhood, I've been attracted to hoop earrings. More than to ordinary earrings. If we're being totally honest, the bigger the hoop, the stronger the attraction.

Is it their cultural association with pirates and loose women? Or something else? I believe there's something about their appeal that goes beyond cultural significance.

Researchers have posited that hoop earrings -- because of their shape -- remind us of a woman's breasts and that is the source of their allure. Studies show people react subliminally to hoop earrings, more than other earrings. Something primal is going on. What?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Road Trip!

My friend Meghan blogs at Cirque du Frock. I've met her in person three times so far. I first visited Meghan in Philly where she lives. We later saw the musical Kinky Boots in NYC. Third, she attended my birthday party last year.

We both have a mutual friend Megan Mae, who blogs at Megan Mae Daily. Megan Mae lives far away in Tennessee. She's just summoned the courage to get on her first airplane flight -- she's traveling to Philly to visit Meghan. Fortunately, they both invited me to go down there and join the party, so next week I'm jumping in Gina to do that.

I'm eager to meet Megan Mae for the first time. If you've ever read her blog, you know how special she is. I like her and always enjoy seeing Meghan. The biggest difficulty will be figuring out how to call one of them without the other turning around. Someone needs a nickname!

I suggested to M&M that we attend a flower conservatory, Longwood Gardens, so that is now our plan. I even bought tickets in advance to guarantee our admission. The Gardens are displaying a huge exhibition of orchids right now.

The gorgeous flowers shown above are famous blue-poppies.  Once considered a myth, blue-poppies (Meconopsis ‘Lingholm’) thrive at the conservatory. They are native to high elevations in the Himalayan Mountains and rarely seen elsewhere. We're gonna smell 'em!

Making friends opens new doors. I love that. Do you ever travel to meet friends?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Riding Along The Edge

I have a tendency to push the envelope to see how far it will stretch. I try new things as experiments. Of course there are fiascos, but there are also successes. And there is always learning.

Here's a second outfit made from clothes I thrifted in Atlanta. The top is very feminine. It called out to me from the rack. "Ally!" it said, "I'm over here!" I almost put the top back, believing it's TOO feminine but is there such a thing? That would be like being too wonderful or too tasty. I have a strong urge for feminine apparel and this example appeals to me. Besides, now I can serve cocktails at a Vegas casino...

In person the top looks much more puffy and frilly than in these photos; the fringe along the neckline and sleeves are more pronounced than you can see here.

I recognize that most mature women would not wear this top. But I'm not them. Despite my age, I'm terminally immature and my desire to swim in the ocean of female life cannot be discouraged by mere propriety. So if you visit my blog, you'll see crazy adventures in fashion. If nothing else, it's entertaining.




Saturday, March 14, 2015


Shame is a powerful emotion which can cripple a life. Its force can distort one's self-image and sap one of all confidence.

It is important to recognize that there are two kinds of shame -- personal shame which is feeling bad about yourself, and social shame which is other people judging you negatively. Often people suffer social shame and internalize it as personal shame. If others are judging us, we have a natural tendency to believe them.

Fortunately, that didn't happen to me.

The worst insult someone can hurl at a boy is that he's not masculine -- that he's effeminate. Calling a boy a girl in derisive terms (e.g., "put on a skirt, Nancy") is a common schoolyard taunt. Beneath the attack is insecurity about the taunter's masculinity and hatred of all femininity. Boys quickly learn that appearing to be like girls makes them vulnerable to such attack. They also learn that there's something shameful about being female. This social education, sadly, often leads to misogyny and lack of respect for women.

From earliest memory, I knew I was different. I knew I was female despite everyone telling me otherwise. Social shame imposed by my parents and others didn't dissuade me from my core belief; rather, it taught me that people are capable of mistakes and also of cruelty. The power to conform in our society is Procrustean.

I never internalized the social shame thrust at me. I never felt personal shame about wanting to be feminine or identified as female. Naturally, I learned to hide my nature as protection against abuse, but I never became ashamed of it. When I can reveal my true self, I do. Only late in life (my fifties), however, have I felt safe to be open about this publicly.

Due to society's intense pressure on women to appear attractive, many young girls feel ashamed of their weight or their looks. That reaction to social shame is so common as to be almost universal. It doesn't, however, make it right. Judging female appearance can have terrible effects on girls and erode their self-confidence.

Have you ever felt ashamed of yourself? Have you felt others judge you based on your appearance or another feature that causes you to stand out? Were you able to overcome social shame and avoid it creeping into your soul? How?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Well not actually, but Winter ended today in New York. The temperature reached 60-degrees. Warmth is melting snow and hearts. February was rough.

During my recent trip to Atlanta, Jen and I went thrifting. I found pieces for two new outfits. Pretty outfits. Anticipating Spring, I snapped up bright colors and light materials.

What do you think?!  Are you ready for Spring?




Saturday, March 7, 2015

View From The Other Side

I'm constantly amazed at how differently people perceive things. We see through the "eyes" we have and few people see events the same way.

Jen just posted about her experience of my visit (here). I highly recommend taking a look at what she wrote. I'm impressed at how closely Jen observed me and our time together. She saw stuff that I didn't think anyone does -- because, in my past experiences, nobody has. This heightened perception only deepens my respect for her.

Life is hard, but friends make it sweet.

Friday, March 6, 2015

True Friends

In my journey toward an authentic life, I carefully study and learn from experiences and friends. No friend has helped me more than Jennifer.

I met Jen six years ago when we were both frequent visitors at a website. I didn't have a blog yet and didn't even know about blogs. (I discovered them in 2010 and started mine then.)

From the outset, Jen was exceptionally kind and supportive. Naturally empathic, she picked up the weak signal I was transmitting to the world and amplified it. Jen sees and accepts me as female -- which is a much bigger deal than it sounds. She was the first to encourage me to express my true self. Jen asks sincere questions, listens closely to answers and supports me in my struggle.

I visited Jen and her family in Atlanta last weekend for the first time. I felt tremendous anticipation about the event and listened to a song by Little Feat ("Oh, Atlanta!") for days beforehand.

There were two notable aspects to my trip. The first was my discovery of Jen's life. The second was a profound realization about myself.

A true friendship goes both ways. You give and you receive. Only a selfish person accepts kindness without trying to repay it. I am not selfish. In gratitude for years of warm support from Jen, I'm eager to become a good friend for her. To do that, I need to learn what her life is like, what her needs and desires are, and how I can help. Real friends search for ways to help.

I was thrilled to see how Jen surrounds herself with love. Jen has a wonderful family any of us would jump to join. Jen's world is full of happiness and emotional connection. Jen is married to Jason, a bright and interesting man, and they have an adorable young daughter, Juniper, who is perfect in every way. Jen and Juni are deeply connected as a result of Jen's attentive, talented parenting. Watching the two of them together gives one hope.

Normally when I visit blogger-friends for the first time, I get a hotel room and see them in public places; I understand people worry about strangers. Jen insisted I stay at her home which was not only a vote of trust but opened a gate for us to interact all day long. The opportunity enabled me to get to know Jen's family and life quicker than otherwise. By the end of my four-day visit, I felt like a part of their family -- I'm the adopted aunt from New York. I can even tell you what kind of cute pajamas they wear!

With most couples you know, there's one person whom you like. You tolerate their partner because couples come as a packaged deal. Jen and Jason are rare in that both of them are independently attractive friends. Both are smart, caring, and full of entertaining interests. Spending time with them is a delight; when one is called away by duty, the other fills in with equal charm. There wasn't a moment of my trip that wasn't fun.

Jen and I went thrifting and found lots of nice clothes. Shopping with a girlfriend is bliss for me; we chatted endlessly. We also had several terrific meals with Jason and Juni. During free time, Jen told me about her past. She showed me her high school yearbooks (complete with stories about mean girls) and I swooned when she pulled her wedding gown and formal prom dresses out of the closet. From the visit, I got a full understanding of Jen's environment and life. I'm grateful she opened it up to me.

One of the most valuable things Jen does for me is nudge me further down the road toward a female identity. I want to go there but often I'm scared or anxious. Despite having conquered many challenges in life (e.g., male sports; hard court battles; motorcycling racing), I get transported back to my childhood when I consider acting female -- I vividly remember being smacked, criticized and berated. Parents, teachers and classmates united in forcing me into boy behavior and appearance; my constant pleas to be accepted as female were cruelly rejected.

So the very notion of acting female makes me flinch in anticipation of opprobrium. I have to consciously overcome that learned instinct and realize that, at this stage of life, my personal fulfillment is more important than criticism from others.

Jen helps me with this. She makes me feel safe. So when Jen urged me to bring female clothing down to Atlanta, I did. I laughed when I thought about a TSA baggage-inspector finding a wig and girl-clothes in a man's suitcase.

As scary as it felt, I knew it was okay when Jen asked if we could dress up. Her offer to do my makeup was the highlight of the trip. Not only did that experience fill me with trust, it showed me a new possibility. Jen's skilled makeup-application exceeded my pathetic efforts by such a degree that, for the first time, my faced looked normal. She chose colors that work with my skin and did things I don't grasp. The experience opened yet another door for me, the importance of which cannot be overstated.

There's an ancient proverb, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." Jen has taught me innumerable, valuable lessons. My gratitude for that is endless.

One final point. During my visit, Jen always addressed me as Ally and introduced me to her friends and family as Ally. Jen uses female pronouns talking about me, even when I'm standing next to her in male clothing. Any confusion this causes is quickly explained away by reference to my transgender nature. In the past, the concept of transgenderism wasn't well-known but it's becoming more common as celebrities like Laverne Cox and Bruce Jenner get discussed in the media.

Some well-intentioned friends have suggested that if I present myself in public as female, I become female and they imply that if I don't, I am not. This thinking reflects a fundamental misunderstanding. I am female, whether dressed in pants or a skirt. I am female, regardless of perceptions by an observer. I have only one self and it has never changed. I know this fact to be absolutely true. Spending a weekend with Jen helped me realize the relation between my inner self and public life. While I can publicly express myself in feminine or masculine ways, my inner self never changes. And I should respect that. We should all love ourselves for who we are.

Thanks, Jen.

Do you have a friend in your life who helps you a lot?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Fun and Serious

One of my best friends, Emma, has a blog (Verbal Melange) through which I met her. Emma is exceptionally bright and very sweet. She's also about to get married.

After holding back for a year, Emma finally came forward and asked to participate in the pink boxing gloves project. She explained that she was reluctant to join until she got a mental grip on the symbolism of the gloves. An insight popped into her head recently and she became eager to display it.

Emma was pondering female strength -- what is it? Where does it come from? What does it represent and mean in our lives?

These are serious questions and Emma tackles them with intelligence. At the same time, she illustrates her insights with a very funny, whimsical photo of herself wearing the gloves. The picture is below and the insights are on her blog. Go visit! Now!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Trip To The Twilight Zone

I had a wonderful visit with Jen and her family in Atlanta last weekend. It was so good that I'm not going to write about it until I have time to do the trip justice. The visit was special and warrants my best effort.

We took lots of photos that I want to share with you but my camera is in my luggage which was mistakenly sent to the wrong airport. It's whereabouts are currently unknown. I'll let you know when the bag and camera are found. (These pictures were taken on Jen's phone.)

In the meantime, let me describe the outset of the voyage which was unusual. You can hear Rod Serling's voice saying, "When Ally embarked on her flight in New York, little did she know that her final destination was... the Twilight Zone."

The three major airports around New York City are crowded and difficult to get to. There's a tiny airport out east on Long Island which is uncrowded and easy. For those reason, I chose to fly out of Islip. A downside of that choice is there are only a few airlines there and only one goes to Atlanta.

That airline is cheap. I learned why. The first leg of my flight was on a plane from the past. Literally. It was 80 years old, stained and banged up. It was kept together by duct-tape. Really! The cabin was full of strips of duct-tape covering holes and dents. I didn't realized the FAA allows duct-tape to patches holes in aircraft.

Normally when you fly, you walk through a tube onto a large plane, the jet engines start, you climb smoothly up to 30,000 feet and then the unremarkable process is reversed. By contrast, my plane was tiny and powered by two propellers. No jet engines. We walked out onto the runway (not through a tube) to reach the plane and walked up its rickety stairs to get inside. I felt like a character from "Casablanca," hoping to get inside and take off before the Nazis started shooting. It felt so weird.

I noticed there were only 8 rows of seats in the plane. And only one flight attendant. The attendant was an attractive middle-aged woman who I suddenly realized has only one eye. My airline was so cheap they couldn't afford a stewardess with two eyes. My attention was transfixed on the attendant's face because her painted glass eye kept roaming around in unexpected ways, like a kitten darting after shadows.

I sat next to a propeller. I could have touched it if the window was open. When the plane started, a roar came from the propellers that was overwhelming. It was impossible to hear anyone talk. When the one-eyed stewardess came over, leaned close to me and moved her mouth, I heard nothing and tried to read her lips. There was no food or beverages served; I was relieved they didn't ask me to load luggage onto the plane or wipe snow off its wings.

Back in the 1960's, famed comedian Bob Newhart did a routine about flying on the "Grace L. Ferguson Airline and Storm Door Company." My flight to Atlanta reminded me of that. Bob spoke about arriving at Miss Ferguson's home, being told to weigh his luggage on the scale in the bedroom, and proceed to the backyard for boarding. The pilot came out of a bedroom holding his head, muttering "Have you ever had one of those hangovers that lingers for days?!"

The happy news is I survived. We flew at 1,000 feet the whole way because the plane couldn't go any higher. The whole experience was surreal and as I stepped off I thought I was entering the Twilight Zone.

Have you been on any memorable flights?