Thursday, 3 July 2008

Sparkle, people and bananas

Sparkle has been and gone.

For me, the weekend was mixed.

I arrived in Manchester at about noon on Friday 27 June. The drive there was pretty smooth. There were the, what seem to be, usual doubts about whether all the effort made any sense at all.

I have a really nice lunch with S, my eldest daughter at a cafe not far from the hotel that I was booked in to. The evening before I had painted my nails a pretty bright red. At the time it seemed a smart move. I’ve discovered that nail polish is best applied a long time before it is needed. I remember after finishing the first coat a few of the thoughts that then crossed my mind included stuff like how wise it was to have painted nails when stopping for a toilet break or for petrol on the journey. And what about lunch with my daughter?

In fact there are no problems.

On the journey the trickiest moment is a lady that tries to convince me that I should sign up for a new credit card. I talk with her with my hands in my pockets and manage to remain unconvinced so there is no need for me to sign anything.

Lunch is fine as well. S doesn’t mind the nails at all. And I become less and less concerned about what other people noticed about the colour of my fingers. This is one of the positives of the weekend.

After lunch we walk back to the hotel. She needs to organise a few things so I start to do the makeup thing. Up to now S hasn’t seen me in makeup with a wig. When she gets back to the hotel she has. And, so far as I can tell she is fine with it. Another positive.

We walk into central Manchester along with Billie. Stop in at a Curry’s Digital store in the Arndale centre and have coffee at a nearby cafe. People notice, but no one is impolite. A tgirl that is sitting across the way smiles and waves a little as she finishes her coffee and leaves.
We talk about all kinds of stuff. It’s relaxed. Another positive.

A walk back to towards the hotel. S catches the bus back to pick up the keys for her new home for next year. This weekend she is moving from last year’s house to next year’s house.
Billie and I head for Canal Street where the main Sparkle stuff happens.

We spot Emma at the AXM bar and start to chat and head into the bar for a drink.
Laura and Didi arrive while we are chatting. We chat a little with a tgirl and partner that arrive.
There are a lot more tgirls than I have ever seen before.

We head for Chinatown. Laura, Didi, Billie and I have a pleasant meal at a restaurant there.
Didi and I talk about families and kids. She is separated and soon to be divorced. Wonders how the kids would cope with the concept of Didi.

Back to the hotel for a while. Makeup comes off. Another shave. Makeup goes on. Black hair again. A short skirt and not at all sensible heels. Then back to Canal Street.

The evening includes wayyyyyy too much walking for a girl in high heels! AXM bar .... then another ... another ... another. I’m careful about how much I drink. Walking is hard enough in heels even when totally sober.

We visit Eden. It’s on the other side of the canal .... yes there is a canal that runs along Canal Street. The trip across the little wooden bridge needs to be done with care – high heels and gaps between wooden floors do not make a good combination.

The evening is mixed. I’m taken aback by the behaviour of some people. On reflection I think that this is unreasonable of me. But feelings and reason do not always coincide.

I spend a few minutes pleasantly talking with a guy from Switzerland. His English is a lot better than my French. It takes a while for me to get to pronounce his name correctly. And now I don’t remember it. He’s in Manchester for a few days attending a conference of some kind – he’s studying something, but I didn’t find out what. He’s married and has a young child. Back in Switzerland he’s seen hardly any TV’s. He’s happy that the UK seems different in this respect. That tgirls can wander around and not have to be closeted up. Canal Street in Manchester is a bit different from the UK average, though. And during a Sparkle weekend it’s a bit different from anywhere.

I meet Angel from Kent. Her first Sparkle, but has been to Pink Punters many times.

At 2:00 am Eden closes so Didi and I walk over to Napoleon’s.

I chat a bit with a guy and his partner. Then a while with Laura. There are a few guys that look as though they are making passes. But they aren’t offensive and don’t mind a polite smile followed by a polite kind of no I’m not interested.

A guy wafts a small bottle towards my nose. I gently wave it away. Laura does the same. Amyl Nitrate Laura thinks.

My life has been fairly sheltered, I guess. I remember working in Amsterdam years ago and being offered something or other as I walked down a shopping street. Drugs have never appealed to me.

My feet are sore. My feet are very sore. Makes me smile to think about it now.

It’s 4:00 am. On the walk back to the hotel a security guy at a club that I walk past says “Hi ... you’ve lost something”. “What?” I ask. “Your smile” he smiles. “Ahhhh my feet are agony! You should try these heels.” He laughs and says he did try his girlfriends once. Fifteen minutes was enough. He has no idea how she manages to wear them all day. “You need more practice,” I laugh. My feet are still sore but I found the smile again.

Five am and I am removing makeup. Then sleeping. And then it’s 9:00 am and I’m awake again.
Saturday is another mixed kind of day.

At times I am amazed at people. Both positively and negatively. Not always reasonably.
Laura and I walk into Manchester and call in at quite a few shops. She buys a belt and a skirt. I’m wearing black girlie trousers, flat shoes and a yellow top. Long black hair.
At one point we are standing by a shop. A piece of a banana hits the side of my face. No big deal and no one seems to notice. We are headed across the street so I just wipe the side of my face and outwardly ignore the incident.

Inwardly, this one event has made me think more about myself than any other happening of the weekend.

Back to Canal Street. A coke. Laura has a bite to eat and we chat pleasantly. A drink at the AXM bar.

On the way back to the hotel a Sparkle photographer asks if he can snap me. So who knows ... maybe I’ll be on the website sometime?
Hotel, shave, makeup, dress.

A very nice meal at the Velvet restaurant on Canal Street.
Then to the park to listen to some music and watch the Miss Sparkle prize giving. They do look great!

A relatively early night.

Sunday I drive over to see S and help a bit with moving stuff from house to house. S and U disassemble desks and we load them into the car to transport to the new house. Then bookcases and bits and pieces of other things.

Out for a pleasant lunch.

U likes Indigo Girls as well as Simone White. S is appalled. If Indigo Girls play in Manchester then I promise to take them both!

The drive home. Getting back later than I had originally planned and the sore feet mean that I give the St Trinian’s theme night at the Surrey Swans a miss.

Since then I’ve thought about the weekend.

The highs and the lows. I’ve thought about myself. About other people. About cross dressing. Transexualism. Transvestitism.

The highs of the weekend were definitely the people that I talked with.

I think that the weekend would have been better for me if I had approached it differently. I don’t think I made the most of the events that were organised. I didn’t take the opportunity to spend time getting to know enough new people.

A few times I have wondered about things. Some of my wonderings, in the order that they spring to mind are here.

Is it all worth the effort? The dressing. The makeup. Pieces of banana in my face.

At the moment my answer to this is that it needn’t be effort. It isn’t something that I am obliged to do. The whole expression of Andrea is really an expression of me. When I dress and wear makeup I am still me. People use the name Andrea, and in some ways I feel different. There’s a sense in which some of the burdens of the day are left behind. But under the foundation and mascara it’s still me.

The piece of banana? I think mostly I feel a sense of dismay and sadness. Of course, I don’t know who it came from and what, if any, their motivations were. But the explanation that springs to mind is that it was a gift from someone that is tgirl-phobic. I’m not willing to allow tgirl-phobic people to dictate the way that I dress or whether or not I wear lipstick and nail polish. It’s not my aim to upset people or to make them angry or to offend them. But nor am I content to hide away. On balance I think the experience is making me more rather than less determined to allow Andrea out into the regular everyday world. One day I hope that it won’t be at all unusual to see a tgirl just being herself just about anywhere at all.

I think that many tgirls go through periods of self doubt. I remember on my first trip to a pub dressed in a skirt when I was asked if I’d been through many purges. At times I can understand why people do. I’ve been through some self doubting myself over the past few days.

Deep down though, I think that a purge of makeup and skirts would be an act of self denial. The Andrea in me isn’t just painted lips and fingernails. Andrea isn’t about to disappear any time soon.

And so ... there is a garden party in Swindon on Saturday, a meal in Reading on Tuesday and, maybe, a night at Pink Punters on the Friday. Quite a busy week.

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