Thank goodness Halloween is here because I look better in drag

October 28, 2010

in therapy in session

Disclaimer: Objects in the mirror are both closer and farther than they appear.


Preamble: I have no idea what the point of this post is or whether there is any. Except to demonstrate the power of Picnik, the danger of believing in profile pictures in social media (Think Catfish), and the fact I look much better in black and white which is why I secretly long for living in Pleasantville before those stupid kids ruined it for everybody, and I will gladly trade places with Tom Baxter in The Purple Rose of Cairo, incidentally a movie I also watched multiple times hoping Tom would turn and address me directly, “Hey you!”


For our graduate production, my undergraduate class staged M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang. The play calls for an Asian man to live in drag, pretending to be a woman and fooling the self-delusional French diplomat (based on a real scandal!) None of our male classmates stepped up to the plate, and therefore we had a woman playing a man playing a woman.

Although I suspect that how we did it due to necessity was not optimal for the theatrical production, I later learned that there is a term for this: Faux Queen, aka Biologically-challenged drag queen, Female female impersonator, or Female impersonator impersonator.

When I was young, I fantasized about dressing up as a man because being a man gives you a lot more freedom (Think Mulan). I wanted to be a swordswoman in one of the Wu Xia novels or movies (Think Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), dressed up as a young warrior scholar so I could roam the world and right the wrongs.

To this day I look forward to rainy days before or after it actually rains. It gives me an excuse to walk around with an umbrella.

I was fascinated by Victor Victoria and (still) believe that Julie Andrews looked much better as Victor.

For the majority of my high school career, all girls school, hello! I did behave and dress more towards the male end of the spectrum: closely cropped hair, asexual clothing, and let’s not forget, aviator sunglasses. I was known to make young girls blush when they mistook me for a dashing young man. Well, I was relatively tall and lanky and handsome. In a manga-character-like, pre-sexual, innocent kind of way. For a bunch of high school girls with similar lack of exposure and access to the other sex.

When I said I peaked at the age of 18, until then I had been living an arguably cloistered life, I was not kidding. Being naturally feminine has never been my strong suit. And of course, who’s to say what defines femininity any more, and the distablizing ambiguity suits me fine.


CODA: You know, I’ve struggled with this post since Monday. Normally if I am having such trouble with the direction I have been going in a post, I’d scratch it. Just as I was ready to give up and start anew some other time, I realized that Monday was the day when I bought my plane tickets home. This rambling on gender roles and prescribed femininity came from my anxiety of going home home next week. As much as I feel unease sometimes in this country, I feel/fear that I stand out like a sore thumb (and to some extent literally since I am tall by the local standard) over there. Oh well. I will be a woman playing a woman. Thespians, we are good at it, eh?


Absence Alternatives November 1, 2010 at 11:04 pm

We should definitely get married and then watch PRoC (love how you shortened it) together 7 times, then we can each get one of those guys. Do you prefer the actor or the character? 😉

dufmanno October 30, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I’m always getting complaints that i’m way too masculine in my body language and speech and I start to get insulted until I realize that I’ve got them by the shirt collar shaking them in a corner while screaming profanities.
Sometimes it helps when I get a little perspective.
Anyway, you can all kiss my ass goodbye because I will now be on that picnik site for the rest of the year trying out different case scenarios for my head.
Also, Purple Rose of Cairo is second in my Woody Allen trifecta of Annie Hall, Radio Days & PRoC. Love it.
dufmanno´s last blog post…We’re Making Plans For Nigel

Meg at the Members Lounge October 30, 2010 at 4:29 pm

I seriously love that photo. I keep trying to do something interesting like it, but so far, no go. I gonna keep working on it.

I find the more I struggle with writing something the more I want to wrestle it to the ground
and conquer it. And what ends up happening is a simple word pops into my head, and my fingers start to fly across the keyboard and I begin to smile. I can imagine you smiled a lot after finishing this post!
Meg at the Members Lounge´s last blog post…I Can’t Help Myself Friday The Spooky Edition

Absence Alternatives November 1, 2010 at 11:03 pm

I was not sure when I hit the publish button. I worried that I might have shared too much, or I might have come off as self-indulgent (aka whining). I’m blessed that folks who left comments for me were offering words of encouragement, empathy and support.

SisterMerryHellish October 30, 2010 at 10:53 am

The thought of what it would be a man never entered my head until I started working. And then only in brief moments of wanting to take over the company in drag (because they’re all good old boys clubs, so it’s the only way) and then clean house before revealing I’m not only a woman, but the administrative assistant they used to metaphorically pat on the head and tell not to worry my stupid little girl head about how they run the company (into the ground).

Darling, I LOVE that pic of you! And I’d kill to be tall by any standards! Go home with your head held high! You’re gorgeous, you’re talented beyond belief and doggonit, David Sedaris is glad you’re alive!

And so am I.

Absence Alternatives November 1, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Me too! I sometimes wish to play “Victor Victoria” at work. What you described would make a great movie!

Unknown Mami October 29, 2010 at 9:25 pm

eres el mundo
y las paredes de los buildings mas grandes
son nothing but scenery.

-Luis Valdez
Unknown Mami´s last blog post…Fragmented Fridays

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Mami, this is lovely. Thank you!

p.s. Thanks to google translate. 🙂

Robin October 29, 2010 at 8:00 am

I think I have a stronger masculine side than a feminine side, hell most times I dress more like Ellen Degeneres/Tina Fey (see: jeans with converse) and ironically my husband has a stronger feminine side than masculine.

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 11:07 pm

That’s kind of the story of my life too…

Life with Kaishon October 28, 2010 at 11:39 pm

What a gorgeous picture. I have never seen that play. It sounds fascinating. Laughed out loud about living in black and white.

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 11:07 pm

As an accomplished photographer, do you have a preference? Is it harder or easier to take good black & white pictures?

Kernut the Blond October 28, 2010 at 11:34 pm

*that should read “…, and one here, …”

Kernut the Blond October 28, 2010 at 11:33 pm

You always seem uber-feminine to me!! I looked again at your pic to try and see the masculine side you see and I can’t see it at all. Really – you’re one hot chicka! 😉

Now, Julie Andrews, on the other hand, did make a better Victor.

Have a lovely time back home! And just remember – you have another home in the states, on one here, on the blogesphere 🙂
Kernut the Blond´s last blog post…Human or Zombie

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Thank you. 🙂

secret agent woman October 28, 2010 at 10:37 pm

My older son was just complain today that a teacher had told him he looked androgynous when he was in middle school. And he did back then- pre-pubescent with thick wavy hair in a long pony tail, with big green eyes and full lips. I explained that it wasn’t an insult, but he wasn’t buying it.
secret agent woman´s last blog post…Fall Tell that to the tomatoes

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 11:06 pm

It’s kind of like the whole naming thing: Girls now have taken over some previously male names, e.g. Jordan, Taylor, so much so that they are no longer “safe” boys’ names…

A Vapid Blonde October 28, 2010 at 9:43 pm

You are one hot bitch. I say that with all due respect. I always prefer black and white pictures on me , it softens my splotchiness.

Also I love, love, love that picnik picture of you. This halloween I am going as a sane person. We will see how that goes. I am sure I will fuck it up.
A Vapid Blonde´s last blog post…Fang Boobs- Pickles and Dignity

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Being called a hot bitch by you totally made my day! 🙂

I drink every year as I wait in the house for the trick-or-treaters. Keep me sane this way. I’m sure you will be doing the same? 😉

Libby October 28, 2010 at 8:06 pm

I have always preferred men’s clothes. I like my boobs though. And I think having a penis would be weird.

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Having a penis will make us vulnerable, I’ve always thought that. Poor men.

linlah October 28, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Anxiety brings out the anxiety. I’m glad you stuck with the post.
linlah´s last blog post…give me a home where the buffalo roam

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Thanks. Me too. 🙂

Mary Lee October 28, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Honestly, your artistic side is amazing!

You’ll be daughter instead of mother… sister instead of wife… roles you don’t get to play very often. All that womanhood will serve you well. 🙂
Mary Lee´s last blog post…Knitpicking

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 11:02 pm


I will also be shopping at the Menstrual Care aisle at our local drug stores.

pattypunker October 28, 2010 at 2:01 pm

please accept my overuse of exclamation points above as the pinnacle of flattery.
pattypunker´s last blog post…kiboshing

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Thank you.

“Overuse of exclamation points above as the pinnacle of flattery” I do this too!!!!!!!!!!!!!

pattypunker October 28, 2010 at 2:00 pm

just when i though m. butterfly couldn’t get anymore confusing, there was your class production.

serisously, let’s here it for androgyny! i say it’s the best of both worlds. can you say mick jagger!

besides tom girls make THE best women! and i have a double dutch crush on both your male and female sides. ♥
pattypunker´s last blog post…kiboshing

Erica@PinesLakeRedhead October 28, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Julie Andrews did make a very handsome Victor.
Erica@PinesLakeRedhead´s last blog post…90 Degrees in October

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Thank you! She as Victor reminds me of Annie Lennox…

Elly Lou October 28, 2010 at 10:31 am

I love the uke scene from Purple Rose of Cairo:

I think you’re the perfect vision of femininity: confident, strong, and unique. I sound like a greeting card today. Sheesh.
Elly Lou´s last blog post…Batteries Not Included

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 11:00 pm

The best kind. xxoo

p.s. THANK YOU for the blast from the past. Oh I love that movie.

Renee Fisher October 28, 2010 at 9:31 am

This was a brave post. Hopefully, we are all learning enough about gender to know that it’s one part genetic, one part cerebral, and all parts perfect. The variations seem to be endless. Other cultures throughout history have celebrated and revered such differences. We’re a little backward in this.
Renee Fisher´s last blog post…Why Ill be at The Rally to Restore Sanity

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 10:59 pm

Too bad the whole cross-dressing theatrical trend ended before the Brits came over here!

Tom G. October 28, 2010 at 7:27 am

I’m not sure what made this pop into my head, but when I was a sophomore in High School I had a wonderful young priest as a teacher. He was maybe in his early 30’s, and despite being a priest, was probably the hippest and coolest teacher we had. He spent most of the semester speaking out against stereotyping, and why it was dehumanizing. The one comment he made that has always stuck with me is that Christ in his divinity, was beyond gender, and was as much masculine as he was feminine.

For a scrawny little mop haired kid, I found so much comfort in that statement. I no longer felt like my sensitive side made me “weird” or a “freak”. That being emotional, and in tune to the feelings of those around me was acceptable. It was such a relief to know that I didn’t have to “act” like the stereotype of a teenage boy was supposed to be. I have always found it easier to connect with women, than with men. Most men are so afraid to let down their masks, to let you know them, and will pull away if you remove your own mask. I think women are so much more willing to make themselves vulnerable, and accept vulnerability in others.

Thanks for the thoughtful post. Sometimes the ones that are hardest to write are the best.
Tom G.´s last blog post…The post where I add another 10 years to my time in Purgatory

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 10:57 pm

No. Dear Tom, thank YOU!

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 10:58 pm

What the father said is kind of how I envision the angels too.

TechnoBabe October 28, 2010 at 7:06 am

When I was young one of the best times was putting on stage shows at different peoples houses. I was farmed out to different families so often and one way to survive was to organize and direct and write musicals. Black and white looks good because we see what is not the colors that distract.
TechnoBabe´s last blog post…Botox

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 10:57 pm

THAT sounded so so cool! I am being reminded of The Sea Gull and also We are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg. 🙂

MacDougal Street Baby October 28, 2010 at 4:53 am

Have you read Bill Bryson? Getting away/coming back to a land you are familiar with gives ample opportunity for critique. You’ll probably notice things you never did before.

By the way, you’re doing fine. Consider my dilemma. Every day I pretend to be a mother.

Absence Alternatives October 29, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Me too me too. Often I failed for instance this week when I forgot to come home for my child & he ended up sitting on the porch for half an hour until a neighbor lady noticed him…

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