A rather intense week

It’s been a rather strange week. Not necessarily bad. For some reason, there are times when I guess that we all reflect a bit more about ourselves. I use the word “reflect” neutrally: not really “brooding” in the depressive sense of the word, but really just think about what makes us tick, and hopefully get an answer.

It started with my regular crossdressing last Sunday. I have been a bit negligent with my crossdressing; there have been way longer stretches between sessions, unlike what I expected during my New Year’s resolutions. Work has been particularly intense in the past 8 months, far more than I can bear; on the other side of the coin, my wife’s constant pain seems to be more under control, even without medication, as summer approaches and she gets psychologically better for that. Still, it means playing the chauffeur far, far more than I enjoy. My daily routine — if there is a “routine” — has been to work 16-18 hours a day on the days I can actually do so, to compensate for the ones where I lose half the day because I need to take care of something for my wife. 8 or more months of sleeping 4 or 5 hours a day, with the occasional nap here and there, and little time to do anything else but some daily meditation, starts to exert its toll: I’m getting tired. I’m not getting younger, either.

“Crossdressing day” has also been more stressy than usual. A couple of years ago, you might have noticed that most pictures and some of the videos were taken during daylight. It was customary to get dressed before lunch, and lunchtime would already be the first meal dressed. These days, there are endless chores I have to do for my wife, and then fall asleep utterly tired around 4 PM or so, just to wake up with a start, remember that I’m supposed to be enjoying some crossdressing for a change, and start dressing up crazily. Then, when I’m finished, it’s catching up with the work I was supposed to have finished during the week but never actually managed to do because there is simply too much to fit into 24 hours… I’m fine doing that anyway. When my wife is around the room, I don’t dare to “have fun” on the webcam, something I enjoy very much — but she utterly despises webcams and hates the whole concept. So I patiently have to wait until she finally goes to sleep, which often happens around 3 or 4 AM at the earliest. It’s only by then that my enjoyment begins. But of course, by then I’m also impossibly tired, and even though it’s customary to see the sunrise in the morning, it also means a terrible headache on Monday. Luckily for me, I don’t have a strict schedule to keep for work — I can certainly wake up at any hour.

But it somehow removes most of my joy of being crossdressed, which is to interact with people — both the faithful friends who also patiently wait for me to be available and total strangers whom I have never met before. Since I’m theoretically still forbidden by my wife to go out dressed, that’s all I can do.

I remember when I started crossdressing, very sporadically, I often wore a bra or some panties when going to work — especially during the winter, it’s totally unnoticeable. I particularly enjoyed wearing silky stockings as well. A lot of CDs do the same, and I understand that some don’t even bother to buy male underwear at all. 🙂 As I started to crossdress more and more, I felt some pity towards the CDs who could never manage to dress at all and had to be content with just some sexy female underwear. But these days I understand that, although for all purposes I dress a lot of times — trying to get back to my once-a-week minimum and hopefully increase even that — it never feels “enough”.

That’s also why I keep bringing some of my items on the long stretches of lone driving. Beyond a wig, my bra and boobs, panties, and possibly some quick-to-fit-and-remove accessories, I rarely use anything else. I miss my makeup; as you can see from the picture to the right, I hardly look good enough to pass 🙂

But putting on makeup for a trip is very hard. Granted, I could in theory get totally dressed before I went out; these journeys take place well before the sun rises, while my wife is deep asleep. But what aboutremoving everything? That takes time; at the comfort of my home, where I have everything in place, I still take at least an hour to be fully undressed and ready for some sleep. Nails (I always glue them) and makeup are the hardest things to remove; although I could spare some time if I didn’t need to fold my clothes and neatly tidy the place. Still, it means at least some 40 minutes or so in the bathroom. Where would I find an appropriate bathroom at my journey’s destination — usually a conference centre or a university? Clearly, this is out of the question. Very rarely I do the trip by night, finishing at a hotel, but the problem there is of a different kind: the hotel would be shocked, and since the room is usually booked by whoever got me to drive there, it means that tongues would wag… I’d certainly be thrown out in disgust. It’s completely different if I book my own vacations, for instance; these days, there are even choices of “gay-friendly” (or gay-operated) hotels in my country, so that would be fine. But the last time I could afford a whole week by myself, just for crossdressing, was… in 1995.

It was a bit with that in mind when I went to bed late Sunday night — or, rather, early Monday morning. Surprisingly, it was much earlier than usual. The sun was just rising when I dropped into the bed, and usually, at this time of the year, it’s bright and shining up in the sky. I had’t “visited” my usual sites where I hang out; just chatted with my best online CD friends, took the adequate amount of pictures, made a short movie, and that was pretty much all. There was the urge to sneak out for a quick drive… but I couldn’t be sure that my wife was deep asleep yet. My suspicions were correct: she was still vaguely awake when I finally slithered inside the bedsheets. So, well, it sort of didn’t feel “enough”, and this feeling remained with me during the whole week.

As a consequence, I think I wore a bra every day, mostly when going to sleep or take a nap. Sometimes I used one with my silicone boobs inside, sometimes without; I have a very old bra which I bought over a decade ago when all I had to “stuff” inside were… socks. Strangely enough, as I get older and get some sagging from my “male boobs”, I almost fill the cup of that old bra. It’s somehow a strange feeling 🙂 But silicone or not silicone, the point is that I had never felt such an intense desire of having a female body for so long; usually, this is the kind of thing I don’tobsessively think about.

Why did it happen now, of all times? I have no idea. I might be entering pre-andropause 🙂 More likely, it’s just a mix of pure coincidence and some results of my own Buddhist practice. If done correctly, what Buddhists call meditation is just getting familiarised with one’s own mind and thought processes, nothing else. You just observe what goes on in your mind: what you feel, what you think. And from that deep, profound knowledge of the inner workings of your mind, you’re able to work, subtly changing your mindset, in order to be able to discard the constant insatisfaction that we always have, all the time. I won’t go into details, but a side-effect of this kind of practice will expose your inner feelings to yourself (it doesn’t happen overnight; more likely after a few years of relatively intense practice). In a sense, your personality, your thought processes, your emotions, everything that you label “my self”, gets exposed, raw, naked — to be watched and observed by a cognitive mind and analysed ruthlessly. Most people give up on Buddhism at this point; it pushes oneself to look very critically at one’s self and one has no choice but to see what’s not so good about what we find. Most of us, by contrast, try to create shells to isolate that “self” and pretend to be someone different, wearing masks all the time, not being able to accept ourselves as we truly are. This is an annoying, uncomfortable feeling (and it’s supposed to be like that!); most of us don’t really want to work at our own faults, but prefer to find plausible justifications to act as they want (like everybody else does). However, you cannot avoid dealing with a change of mindset if you’re serious about Buddhist practice; it has little “religiosity” or “mysticism” (which might be appealing for some) but is just a very pragmatic series of exercises to uncover all those cognitive barriers that we create for ourselves to “shield” us from looking at our innermost core. Most of us don’t want to do that!

If, however, we take the plunge and gather the courage to persist in those exercises, it will reveal a certain naked truth about ourselves which is hardly ever pleasing. The nice news, of course, is that once you do that, you can change everything about your mindset and develop a completely different one. You don’t need “magic powers” or “divine intervention” for that; in fact, you don’t need anything external to yourself. Not even a good teacher will be able to “do the magic” for you; but the good teacher (i.e. someone who has undergone the same process and has a lot of experience with his or her own mind) is fundamental to point you in the right way. You can take a look at the results by watching how serious practitioners look like: always happy, always relaxed, always being cool, always making jokes, pretty much being unaffected by any tragedy that occurs to them because they simply are beyond being affected by “tragedies”. This is not just an act they pull together; it’s also not engaging in “positive thinking”, e.g. just imagining happy thoughts and hoping that this will somehow make you a happy person just because of that; and most definitely it’s not “dumbing” the mind, being in a state of semi-anaesthesia, and discarding emotions. It goes far deeper than that, and somehow we can sense that when we are in their presence: the most lively, funny, spontaneous, and emotional people I have ever met were very experienced teachers 🙂 And that’s simply because they took a very good look at their own minds, looked at what made them tick, and said: “Oh, it’s just that.” They stopped taking things so seriously; most importantly, they stopped taking themselves so seriously (which is so much harder). This is a guaranteed method to achieve happiness 🙂

But until that happens — and, as said, it takes long and patient years — a lot gets exposed that you tend to reject at the moment you first see it. Getting to grips with what one’s self actually is can be rather uncomfortable. You keep inventing new justifications for your behaviour. At the very least, you might encounter a trait of yourself that you truly hate but just say: “I cannot do anything about it; it’s just the way I am”. We constantly lie to us in that fashion. It’s not the “way we are”, and most certainly we can change it as well. A typical example: a neighbour, which we hate, is always turning up the music when we want to go to sleep, and all we want is to yell at them and tell them to stop it immediately. But, in truth, the problem is not with the neighbour; he’s just enjoying his music, and so are their friends. It’s not the loud music that is to blame: that’s just sound, it’s not even conscious. It’s truly just the way our minds perceive what’s happening that causes us this strong emotion of hate. We feel compelled to get furious and give our neighbour a piece of our own mind, but… that “compulsion” doesn’t really exist, it’s just our anger “taking over” and pushing us to act irrationally. But we can most definitely abandon this “compulsion”, and go over to the neighbour and ask him in a polite way to turn the volume down because we would like to have some sleep. He might refuse, or laugh at us, or shut the door in our face. That won’t make us less angry, but probably makes us even more furious — emotions are part of being human, we cannot avoid that so easily. But — and this is the point — we can most definitely choose how to act.

So, during this process, a lot of what we usually think of as “our personality” gets exposed. One other interesting side-effect, according to one of my teachers, is that it’s not unusual that our libido increases. Since the whole point of Buddhist practice is to enjoy the happiness that comes from being affected by our strong emotions and compulsive behaviour, a certain feeling of joy is natural. And because we associate bliss and joy to the intense pleasure moment of orgasm, it’s also not unusual that we somehow tie the two things together. This is more strange for males than for females; males tend to tie the orgasm to a physical act (watching porn is also a physical act). Females, by contrast, are pretty good at dealing with the concept of the orgasm as part of what the mind imagines (the physical aspect just reinforces the pleasure, but it’s the mind that is in charge). Now, this doesn’t mean that for all people picking up Buddhist techniques they start to become more interested in sex 🙂 Worse than that, if that’s the whole reason for doing those mind-familiarisation exercises (i.e. enjoy better sex), it’s almost guaranteed that it won’t work! As a consequence of doing those exercises for the right reasons, however, apparently some can experience intense pleasure, not unlike the pure bliss of a good orgasm.

In my case, of course, I’m not gone that far; I’m lazy and don’t practice enough 🙂 But certainly, the association of sexual pleasure with the pleasure of being a bit less conditioned by my own emotions is reasonable. With the handicap of having a low libido, it means that sexual pleasure for me is rarely a priority — and it totally redefines one’s viewpoint. I took several decades to understand why most people (almost all, in fact) are so obsessed with sex. Since my own experience has been always “nice, but completely overrated”, I had some difficulty understanding why so many are pining after the next night in bed with their partners. Of course, I have orgasms, too, and all of them are intensely pleasurable. “Low libido” just means that I’m not driven by the constant need and urge to have sex, unlike the majority of people with a normal libido. It’s something fun, yes; interesting, maybe (depends on the expectations I have about my partners!); intensely pleasurable, sure; but… not so important.

On the other hand, as a crossdresser very strongly attracted to my female image (not the image in itself; but rather the concept of “me as female”. I don’t particularly enjoy my looks, but I certainly love the feeling of being female), I have certainly shifted the whole “pining for sex” drive (or emotion) towards the “pining for crossdressing to feel female” drive. This is something that only another crossdresser can understand. In fact, it’s a bit different from transexuals who are constantly unhappy and deeply suffering because they’re in the wrong body; even when they crossdress during transition, that’s not immediate relief, because, beneath the clothes, they remain stuck in the wrong body for their gender, and only SRS will finally relieve the suffering. Crossdressers, by contrast, get a relief merely from the clothes (and of course the behaviour they adopt when crossdressing), even if they know it’s just temporary. Of course, we all suffer, too; mostly because we can’t crossdress all the time, and dream about a future time when that becomes possible. And of course many of us — I can’t say how many — often have the wish to have a better-looking female-ish body, since that will increase dramatically the crossdressing experience. But the difference is that a regular crossdresser will not really worry about being stuck in their male bodies most of the time; that is not a real cause for their suffering. Suffering from not crossdressing as much as they’d like, yes, sure, we can feel that every day; suffering from being stuck in a male body, well… that’s just how things are, and most true crossdressers don’t really “suffer” because of that. Similarly, someone with a very high libido might be pining for sex all the time, but not at the level of a mental disorder that makes them obsess with the desire for having sex to the point that they cannot function normally any longer. (Note that the comparison with transsexualism is unfair; transsexualism is not “a mental disorder” in the sense that it can be cured with therapy and medication; the only “cure” is SRS — therapy and medication can just temporarily relieve suffering until SRS becomes possible, financially or otherwise.)

For several years, thus, I mostly assumed that, like most of my “whims”, crossdressing is just one of them, perhaps at the same level I’m a cigarette addict: something I enjoy very much, that gives me intense pleasure, that makes me look forward to every moment I spend crossdressing, and that certainly makes me sigh during the night, in expectation of the next crossdressing day. But I certainly didn’t see it as affecting my own life. I can get frustrated for not crossdressing as much as I wished, but I separate my crossdressing moments from my daily routine at work or at home — it’s just something that I have to fit into my life, but it’s not the focus of my life. And, as said, there have always been more intense moments than others. Not so long ago I would get furious, even to an irrational level, when my wife, for one reason or another, made me postpone my usual crossdressing session. It was a Sandra with gritted teeth and a blazing eye that would roam around the place, consciously making the most extreme effort at keeping her temper in check, and barking only monosyllabical answers like “Yes, dear” and “No, dear”. These days are past 🙂 If I have to skip a session, I accept it with a smile. It’s all right. No problem. There will be other days. And if not, it’s all right too. It quickly would be wiped from my thoughts and I’d be doing something else, even enjoying myself in spite of everything.

This week, however, was quite different. All of a sudden, I was struck with an intense, almost overbearing need to crossdress. I’m not a person of very strong emotions, and thus usually well-balanced and controlled as a result. My Buddhist teachers, however, warn me that it’s far better to have strong emotions because they’re so much easier to watch; this means for me less opportunity to train to deal with them. And of course, it also means I’m far less prepared to deal with strong emotions because they’re so rare, and I so seldom have to deal with them — thus, I’m an easy prey to them when they happen.

Luckily for me, it was not a very busy week, because my mind was constantly thinking about crossdressing, all the time, day and night, and this certainly never happened before, not with this intensity and never for so many days in a row. I had to actively suppress thinking about crossdressing to do my work and home chores and interact with others; and my regular daily Buddhist practice was definitely much affected by that as well (we learn very early on that there are no “good” or “bad” experiences when getting familiar with one’s mind during meditation; all experiences are the same, there is no “bad meditation session”); the remedy, of course, is to practice more, not to let the mind wander idly to crossdressing thoughts. Still, those were always present, all the time.

While I expected to crossdress during the week, and had several opportunities to do so over the past few days (as said, this has been very rare in the past 8 or 9 months!), I forced myself to check that almost overwhelming urge and fought the desire to jump to the bathroom and start applying makeup. It simply wouldn’t do; I’m supposed to be training to override the compulsions of my emotions. Well, now I understood how certain people feel that have very strong emotions like fear, hate, jealousy and so forth, and cannot do anything but be driven by them, blind to reason. I was certainly been driven by my urge to crossdress, and now understood, perhaps for the first time, how terrible it is to be a slave of one’s own emotions all the time, and, as a consequence, be in a state of permanent insatisfaction or even suffering.

Even though I did not fully crossdress during the week, as said, I started to wear bras at home during the sleeping and napping hours. My toenails are painted. Exceptionally, I logged in to Yahoo just to watch a good online friend of mine who had her single opportunity to dress in several months, and I was eager to be online and share the experience. On a whim, I went to a shoe shop and bought a pair of heels. I think I have mentioned before that there hardly are any plus-size shoe shops in my country; so far, I was only aware of two, and I disliked their models and their insanely high prices. By chance, when shopping with my wife, I found a third shop, which has a very small collection of large-sized shoes, but at least they’re dirt cheap. Many of you (at least the ones with normal shoe sizes, or living in countries where shops carry all sizes) are probably very familiar with the experience of shopping for shoes, but it was a whole new experience for me. The attendant was pleasing and nice, even when I tried out a pair or two — and I should add that my male attire was not exactly ultra-formal, but I had been to a business meeting, so you can imagine how strange that might have looked. The attendant never blinked and never stopped smiling or stopped being helpful. It’s really true that business is business and that customers can be as strange as they want so long as they buy 🙂 It’s ironic that in my country there is such a strong anti-crossdressing stance — more so than anti-homosexual, who are tolerated and can even get legally married — but not so in shops: I always got the best possible treatment from shop attendants, even when it was absolutely clear I was buying things for myself and not for my wife, mother, or a female friend.

Then later on I accepted being interviewed for a research project about transgender issues. I’ve been aware of it for a long time (it’s being researched since 2006) but never “dared” to submit a survey, much less agree to get interviewed. But the urge to think and do things related to crossdressing made me accept. I most certainly won’t go to that interview crossdressed — my wife would have my skin for that! — but I’m toying with the idea! If there were the merest suggestion that my wife would go out shopping with her mother or sister or do something else that day, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second and grab my lil’ white polka dress and have some fun watching the students’ reaction (fortunately for me, it’s a university where nobody knows me 🙂 ). But I know this will not happen; still, it doesn’t prevent me from thinking about it all the time; and of course, I will still go in “male mode” and enjoy talking about crossdressing with a professional researcher in the area for a couple of hours 🙂 It should be fun!

And on an impulse, I did something very funny and daring. On my “male” account on Facebook, I suddenly posted an image of a very sexy girl in business attire as my profile picture. The funny bit is that this particular girl, even though half my age, has some similarities here and there; I’m pretty sure that I’d look like her (from the neck up at least) with the adequate feminine facial surgery (and it wouldn’t take much more than a facelift to get rid of my double chin; the chin itself would also need a reduction; and a good nose job). The rest is just a bit of makeup and some Photoshopping for that flawless skin that only models can have on pictures 🙂 Of course, absolutely none of my friends have any clue about my crossdressing (even though a few know that I always use a female avatar on the popular virtual world of Second Life), so they had no idea how strikingly similar this girl actually looks to me.

The reactions were interesting. Almost all males made silly, funny jokes, the kind that is to be expected — no surprises there. One actually said that he liked the picture; he just watched the picture and didn’t associate it with me whatsoever. One, however, was quite interesting. He’s a thinker, an amateur philosopher of a sort, and spiritually inclined; he was the only male saying something like: “Are you revealing your inner self? :)” (he added a smiley) and, after waiting for a reply that I didn’t write, he asked if there was some deep reason behind the picture which made me post it. I answered that he was asking too complicated questions 🙂

The women, however, did react in incredible ways. Except for one, who just laughed, the rest loved the picture very much and told me so. Many said things like “you look so much better this way” (true!) which was endearing to listen. One even went so far as to kindly ask me to remove the picture because she was feeling strangely attracted to it (she’s one who knows about my female avatar in the virtual world, but has no idea about my crossdressing; now I’m sure she suspects of something 🙂 ).

To make things a bit more mysterious, on the description field of the image, I added a list of plastic surgeries required to get a figure like that, and how much they cost (which took some time consulting several sites across the world). I’ll be keeping that image around during the weekend to see if there are any more comments, and then turn back to the “normal” image again.

What was the whole point of this? Well, I have been participating in several CD forums during this week, and we sort of discussed over and over again how hard it is to get accepted. This also inspired my answers on the academic research survey I had to complete before the interview due next week. And so I thought, what about making a simple test? I’m always claiming all my friends and family would never accept/tolerate my crossdressing. How right I am in assuming that?

The simple test on my Facebook page showed an interesting result: almost universal rejection by all males; but some interesting feedback from the women. This really confirms my long-lasting suspicion that women, in general, are more tolerant. Not all women, though; the one who just laughed (like the males) and made jokes is a Catholic fundamentalist. No surprises there, either: changing one’s sex is hardly something a Catholic fundamentalist is able to accept 🙂 so I wasn’t surprised by that at all. But it was interesting to see something revealed about the female psyche: unless it affects them personally (like, say, a wife suddenly knowing that their hubby is a crossdresser, plans to transition, and drop her and the children, and leave home…), women can separate much better the “inner mind” from the “outer appearances” and appreciate both at the same time. Even if all this was just a silly joke, it was clear that most of my female friends would remain friends — and appreciate the new body, the accessories I was wearing, the clothes I used, the hairstyle I got. That was the kind of comments I didn’t expect.

I know it was just a joke. It would be quite different if I posted an image of Sandra — a real image of Sandra, which would be immediately recognisable not only as being myself but, much more shocking to my friends, that I’m not just a guy who dressed as a drag queen for Carnival or something like that. Even on my worst pictures, at least on the recent ones, it shows that I do take care of makeup and clothes; some are clearly not something I have borrowed from my wife (who, being far smaller than me, hardly has anything that fits my size). So they would see that it wasn’t merely another practical joke; they’d see that I’d be crossdressing for a long time, and I’m sure the reaction would be far less pleasing and entertaining than the one I got with a clearly fake picture.

But it certainly gave me lots to think about, and definitely a topic to discuss with the academic researcher next week 🙂

Until then… I’ll have fun tomorrow dressing up as usual. If nothing happens!