Saturday, July 23, 2011

One and Only Paris Photography

One of the joys of the Net is stumbling on sites that delight you.  I'm not sure how I found this one.  It's the blog for one and only paris photography

The authors of the site say "Photographers in Paris have it made. Couples look great wrapped in the world’s most romantic city. We’re an American/French couple who are engagement and wedding photographers in Paris. This blog is meant to show our latest work."

The photography is gorgeous.  Paris is so amazing even someone like me could take good pictures but combine Paris with beautiful young couples and talented photographers, well, the results are stunning.

Despite growing up on the south side of Chicago and being very practical in almost all areas of my life, I'm very much a closet romantic and dreamer.  Pictures don't get much more romantic than this.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


LisaJohanna is a great looking 27 year old crossdresser from London.  I think I first saw her picture on the Passable Girl blog.  I've also included her in one of my previous posts.

She has a lot of great pictures at her Flickr site.  She's very pretty.

I'm not sure how I stumbled on to her blog, but I'm very glad I did.  Besides being a great looking girl, she's also thoughtful and funny.  Both her Flickr site and her blog are well worth checking out.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


The other day my wife visited her mother with our 11 year old daughter, my wife's sister and her sister's 13 year old nephew.  My wife and daughter didn't get home until well after 10:30, past my bedtime.

The next day, I finally caught up with my wife and asked how their visit was.  My mother-in-law lives in a condo development with a nice pool.  Everyone swam for a while, had dinner then hung out with my mother-in-law while she packed for a trip.

My wife told me that our nephew Michael started playing around, putting on his grandmother's clothes and high heels.  Michael's mother laughed a little nervously and told my wife she could never tell her husband about this, he would just go crazy.  Michael is a gentle young man, not effeminate but gentle and many of his friends are girls.  His dad isn't a super macho guy but he would be very unhappy to know about Michael dressing up, even for a lark.

My wife said Michael really seemed to enjoy dressing up.  He played around with feminine gestures and was quite good in his feminine imitation.  My sister-in-law whispered to my wife, "Maybe he'll be a transvestite when he grows up."  My wife smiled and said, "I think they call themselves crossdressers.  And maybe he won't wait until he grows up."   My wife said all of this in a joking manner but there may have been a bit of truth in what she said.

My wife knows that I enjoy crossdressing.  Of course, she probably would have told me the story anyway, but knowing that I like to dress made the story even more interesting.

I don't think my nephew is a crossdresser, but who can really know?  His mother is tiny and he's an only child, so unlike me at that age, he doesn't have a chance to experiment with his mother's or sister's clothes and shoes.  This may have been an opportunity for him to dress that he doesn't often have.. 

When I was about 11, my younger sister and I played around one day and dressed me in her blue dress and my mother's blue pumps.  It was wonderful.  I had to pretend not to like it and just treat it as a joke, but it felt great and I thought I looked so cute.  Even at 11, the heels did great things for my legs.  We went to where my mom was cooking so she could see what I looked like.  She laughed a little and said I looked pretty.

It was such fun to dress up.  I had played around a little, secretly, of course, but no one had seen me dressed as a girl.  I know now that although I knew to keep my desire to dress a secret, there was something great about having other people see me dressed as a girl.  Maybe it was part of my unknown desire to show others a side of me that I wish I could let out.  I enjoyed that day very much and, as you can tell, still have very fond memories of that day.

I wonder if our nephew had a similar experience the other evening, enjoying the feeling of dressing up and also enjoying the feeling of being able to show his secret side a little bit.

Or maybe it was nothing, just a little bit of fun.  I'm fine with it either way.  It did make my wife and me wonder a little.

I told my wife that if he is a crossdresser, maybe things will be a little easier for him than it was for me when I was growing up.  My wife, who does not like my crossdressing, smiled with clenched teeth and said, "Well, you can think that if you want, but I don't agree with you."

If Michael does crossdress, I do hope things are easier for him.  Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but I hope that young crossdressers find things a little easier than people my age did.  I hope they understand that they're not the only ones who feel the way they do and know that they shouldn't feel guilty or set apart from other people.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt

I just finished reading The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt, a memoir by Jon-Jon Goulian.  Goulian is a man in his early 40s who has been dressing in a girlish / androgynous fashion since his late teens.  He dresses this way because he likes the way he looks.  He emphasizes that he is not a crossdresser  "Stockings, wigs, pancake makeup and whatever else cross-dressers do that I don’t do — keep it away from me,” he declares.

So he's not a crossdresser.  Well, not as he defines it.  Still, a book published by a mainstream press about a guy who dresses in women's clothes.  Sounded like something worth reading.

I'm not sure what I was expecting.  From what I had read about Goulian. I was ready to dislike him.  He was born into a privileged life, growing up in La Jolla, California, his mother a successful lawyer, his father a doctor.  He went to Columbia then spent three years in law school, after which he decided he didn't want to be a lawyer.  His parents, while admittedly puzzled and worried about his future, seem loving and accepting of his trying to figure out who he is.  It just seemed that he had been given every opportunity, opportunities millions would kill for and had done nothing with those opportunities.

Then I found out that he was given an advance of more than $700,000 for this book.  I gather from bits and pieces I've seen on the Net that he's a minor celebrity and makes the rounds at parties in New York, but $700,000 is a lot of money for an unknown author.   I was really ready to dislike him.

After reading the book, I don't dislike him.  I feel sorry for him.  While there are parts of the book that are amusing and well-written, what comes through is a person who is afraid of almost everything, someone who's lived a life with little challenge or achievement.

I knew early on that this wasn't going to be memoir that explored why he (and we) crossdress, the special feelings that dressing give us and the complicated relationship many of us have with our need to dress. 

The whole dressing up thing seems to have just happened.  When he was 16, Goulian did relatively poorly on an achievement test.  This failure, added to the pressures of being the youngest member of a high achieving fashion, seemed to cause him to decide to stop trying, in all areas of his life.  One way he manifested this was to start dressing in girls' clothing.  He didn't try to look like a girl, but just wore the clothes because he thought they made him look pretty.

He didn't wear his feminine clothing in secret.  He wore his tank tops and stirrup pants and Ugg boots to school, sometimes adding a little lipstick.

Now I would have expected more about his friends' reaction to this change, but he doesn't dwell on that.  His friends are confused and puzzled by his behavior (including his decision to stop playing soccer after 10 years of being one of the stars of his team), but they don't shun him.  Or if they do, Goulian doesn't mention it.  The attitudes of his friends seem to be "you're pretty weird, dude, but whatever" 

He seems very brave in some ways, determined to be himself.  In other ways, he seems determined to sabotage his chances to succeed in any of the usual ways that would have been recognized by his family. 

There's lots more, some of it funny, most of it sad.  I think I would have liked this book better if I read it in small chunks.  The stories in bits and pieces are amusing but after a while, you just want the guy to grow up and take responsibility for himself.  His inability to deal with growing up is exemplified by his name - a man in his 40s who calls himself "Jon-Jon"

After I read the book, I read a review  (New York Times review of The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt) that's much better than this one and hits the nail on the head "Mr.Goulian has written a talky book with a terrier yap, one that reads like a skittish celebrity memoir with no celebrity attached. It’s a shallow, callow thing. If you dropped a penny into its well, you’d hear it click and rattle at the bottom."

So why read the book or write about it?  I'm glad I read the book.  I'd have been curious to know what I was missing if I hadn't.  It's not about crossdressing; that's a small part of it.  I think Goulian wants us to think it's about carving out your own path.  I felt it was more the story of someone who has been living with low level depression for most of his life and is seeking to be exciting, different and entertaining as a way of dealing with that.  He's an artist who doesn't seem to have the discipline to actually make art.

Reading the book and thinking about it also gives me another opportunity to reflect about how I feel about my crossdressing. 

One of the joys of crossdressing is giving myself permission to try to look pretty, to be different, to give myself over to feelings that I usually keep bottled up.  I should sympathize with Goulian's different but related feelings.  However, I found myself, at least initially, feeling like he was just too flamboyant, too interested in drawing attention to himself.

Yep, I know that feeling that way is inconsistent with my belief that society should accept and embrace our differences and that the way we decide to dress and act and be should be up to us.  Feeling that way about Jon-Jon Goulian is a lot like the way many "unsophisticated" people feel about people like me.

So, reading about Jon-Jon and examining my initial feelings about him was a good way to remember that I'm not all that accepting of diversity (especially when it doesn't fall within the apparently narrow bounds of what I consider diversity).  It also reminds me that people who don't know us don't necessarily hate us - they just don't know us.  They're not able to get past that initial reaction of "that person is weird and creepy"  Maybe they will get past that feeling at some point, but if I, who should be more sympathetic of people who are a little different, felt that way when reading about Goulian, get stuck, then maybe I need to be a bit more understanding of those who need a little more time to "get" us.

There are some funny bits and pieces but most of the good stuff can be found in reviews in places like the New York Times or NPR A Party Boy Reflects On Life, Lip Gloss   

It's not a bad book, there's just not as much there as I was hoping for.  Maybe that's how Jon-Jon Goulian's friends and family feel about him.