Tornabene: I am a lucky woman. I like my days. I am a journalist by trade and a housewife by inclination. I have a husband called Frank who is too good to me. I have a pseudo-Tudor house in Long Island, New York, which warms my soul. I like to read and putter and talk to myself. Nevertheless, one fall morning-- precisely one month before my thirty-fourth birthday and two months before my tenth wedding anniversary-- I put on a size 9, pink cotton button-down shirt, a size 11 camel-coloured wool skirt which didn't reach my kneecaps, and enrolled as a junior in a high school somewhere in the United States...As someone who remembers adolescence as basically agony for most of the time, I found the book very compelling and insightful. I abjectly failed to understand the behaviour and motivations of teenage girls even when I could study them, as it were, up close. Who wouldn't want another go at high school, with one's adult confidence and experience and maturity to draw upon? I know I would!
The only weakness in Tornabene's book is it's age. It was written in 1969, and a lot has changed since then: video games, drugs, taking weapons to school, social media and cyber-bullying are just some of them. These changes will be more pertinent in some places than in others, and some of the things which seemed edgy and daring at that time are now more or less quaint. Any takers for a modern update?
Anyway, why not get a copy of Tornabene's book and read it?
A few years ago my children and I were at a fete. It was a lovely sunny day, and there was candyfloss and hotdogs and stalls selling trinkets. Various performers wandered freely among the children, making balloon animals, painting faces, or wearing the costumes of characters from Alice in Wonderland. The White Rabbit scurried about looking late, and the Mad Hatter spilt his teapot everywhere. But the most interesting character, we all found, was the Red Queen. Instead of running around, she stood absolutely still for minutes at a time (indeed I thought at first she must be a mannequin herself), but from time to time she would deliberately make a tiny movement or gesture. You've seen, no doubt, performers who act in this way in the streets of many large cities.
There was magic there, of course. There was a bubble of illusion, in which we willingly complied. Anyone could have stepped forward and just poked her in the arm: the illusion would have been completely ruined, of course, and therefore, no one did. The bubble was willingly maintained by all who were involved.
But it wasn't a queen from a children's story. It was an actress in a red dress. And I found myself wondering what pleasure she got out of it. It's fun, of course, to amuse the audience and get applause. Even I have trodden the boards at my local am-dram company once or twice. But perhaps there is more to it? Perhaps there is the pleasure of dressing up in costume and being someone different, just for a while, especially if that someone is beautiful and magical and interesting.
I did not poke her on the arm to ask her, but appreciated the moment and moved on.
Both Tornabene's book and the Red Queen have direct relevance to my view of crossdressing. Lyn had what surely must have been a bit of a spicy thrill (though she somewhat plays this down in the book), acting in the role of someone she is not. There must have been moments of almost discovery, and moments of exultation in successfully keeping her secret in front of everyone. Even better, she had plenty of time to enjoy it: a whole term, not a rushed afternoon or even a long weekend.
Likewise the Queen, I feel sure, was, at least partially, enjoying the pleasure of stepping out of her normal life and being someone special for a few hours. She was also fortunate to be beautiful enough for others to want to admire her while she did it.
I am aware that my crossdressing is about escaping for a while from my normal life, to an extent, and being someone who doesn't have my problems for a while. To actually pass in public for five minutes is something which I have barely done, let alone for longer, but I completely understand the compulsion among many crossdressers to actually achieve that.