Obsession with self-image leads to loss of confidence?

Sandra-Lopes-Portrait-Wavy-Red-Hair-End-2013I’ve been re-reading one article from about this time, two years ago, and I wondered if there isn’t something seasonal going on…

Recently I have been going through another self-analysis about my crossdressing issues, and I saw the echoes of my own thoughts two years ago — and perhaps, who knows, from earlier years as well.

It all started when I looked at one of my winter tops. It’s wooly and pink, with a V-cut, and I bought it years ago thinking it would look good on me during the cold season. I’ve actually worn it a lot in the past, and, specially on my earlier pictures (those horrible ones from 2006 and 2007!!) I liked it very much.

As time passed, I learned to understand better what fits and what doesn’t, and, to be honest, that particular top utterly sucks. It’s all wrong for my body. So I stopped wearing it. But for some reason I haven’t given it away to charity yet.

I dislike winter clothing. I do have three wooly tops, all of them warm and cozy, but they certainly don’t flatter my figure. Still, on the coldest days, I have now option but to wear them. In the past couple of years, I tend to wear a belt over them, to emphasize my waist.

But times change. I’m getting more of a perfectionist. I’ve been following with some interest the adventures of self-exploration of the “newbie crossdresser” Meghana Kavya. As I write this, she has just completed her first year of crossdressing. You can see how fast she progressed in those twelve months (the first thing she learned was how to smile!… and to pick the exact hair colour and style for her complexion); I haven’t done so well in almost two decades.

Of course, at this point, some of you will say that I’m always complaining, I look great on the pictures and videos, blah blah blah… but I have to reinforce the idea that the trick of looking good on a picture/video is having a bad camera and bad lighting. And a bit of makeup in the proper places. And, of course, just publishing the pictures from the best angles. Sure, I look awesome on a 240×160 webcam stream with washed-out colours. But in “real life”, in normal lighting conditions, I look beyond terrible — I look like a clown in a dress. It’s pointless to say otherwise 🙂 because only my wife knows how bad I really look.

And the opinion of other CDs/TGs do not matter much to me: we’re good at pretending not to see what’s wrong, and focusing on the things that look right.

Well, of course, at that stage, one has two options. The first is getting incredibly frustrated and giving up the effort, and entering depression. The other, which I have done so far, and hopefully will continue to do so, is to tackle all issues, one by one, and try to improve my look, point by point.

Recently I’ve replaced my corsets… they were getting old. I had bought one well over a decade ago (not the first, either, but it lasted long). It was a standard issue with very sturdy whalebones, coming from an online crossdresser shop, and, as such, designed to fit longer torsos best. With all the wear and tear, the cloth protecting the whalebones was in tatters, and boy, do these things hurt when they press against your skin! I had duct-taped most of the spots, but, well, it was simply not working any more. Also, for several reasons, I lost some weight and this corset was now too large for me.

So a few years ago I bought a pair of corsets (in black and white) from Corsets Boulevard. They are a British company doing many designs (I seriously suspect they sell to other brands as well) and used to have only an eBay presence, but now moved to their own web-based shop as well. Being inside Europe, of course shipping costs are much lower, and, even better, there are no risks of paying absurd custom taxes (yay for free trade!). Corsets Boulevard’s prices are reasonably average — much cheaper than what you get on “crossdresser sites”, and the quality is also average-to-good.

Unfortunately, I had ordered corsets for a shorter torso, stupidly believing that the length they listed was enough. It wasn’t. I still used them because, well, at least they wouldn’t hurt. But you got that horrible shape where the whole belly sticks out, and nothing really fits correctly — and, worse than that, a corset that doesn’t fit well tends to get deformed, as the metal whalebones will stick to the “wrong” shape.

I was planning to wear only those corsets, but I quickly found out that I had no chance but to start using my old Veronica 2 again. For those who don’t know, this is the “space age” garment for us crossdressers. Espy Lopez, the owner of Classic Curves, has an innovative design which uses a bit of high tech to achieve impressive results. You send to her your “male” measurements, and a hint of what kind of measures your “female” side should have. Espy’s computers will go through both measurements and manufacture special pads that will give you exactly what you wish. There is nothing that comes even close at that price range (there are higher-end padding systems, using silicone molds) and the best news is that Classic Curves’ garments tend to last… a decade. Espy confided in me that most of her customers only return to shop again after 8-9 years on average — that’s when the garments start showing signs of wear and tear and need to be replaced.

What the Veronica 2 achieves is impressive. It’s not just “having a bigger bum” — there are plenty of things doing the same, and many are cheaper. No, what it does is to give you a correctly proportioned lower shape — hips and bottom. And, in some cases, if you’re thin enough, you can even forfeit your corset. If not, both work well in tandem — Espy allows you to send you measurements when wearing a corset, her software will take that into account, and you can wear both together. This is what I’ve been doing for the past few years. As a bonus, the strange “bulge” from wearing an improperly fitted corset will disappear — the Veronica 2 will also handle that.

There is now a little secret that I have learned long ago. A lot of people ask me to stand up and are utterly impressed with my hourglass shape. No, I’m not a 90-60-90 (36-24-36 for you Americans!), not even close. But I don’t need to be. You see, it’s a long-established fact that what matters is two things: your breast size should be the same as your hip size, and the difference between either and the waist should be around 30 cm (12 inches). If you do that trick, you will seem to have the “perfect hourglass shape”.

This is actually what lead me to buy bigger breastforms (even though my wife raised some eyebrows). I wasn’t actually planning it that way, until I read about this visual trick (by the way, there is an useful Body Type Calculator online if you wish to experiment with it). My hip size with the Veronica 2 on is 114 cm (45″), and the corsets bring my waist down to 84 cm, (33.5″), which is already the correct proportion; all I had to do is to bring my bust size to 114 cm as well. That’s my trick!

Once I figured that out, I had to patiently learn that not all clothes will actually show off your hourglass shape — and if you have one, girl, flaunt it! So I had to go through many of my clothes and get rid of everything that was cut in a straight line. Instead, I opted for cinched clothing (or, well, anything that clings to the body). This is a rather common mistake — most shops, in fact, tend to sell clothes with straight lines, because, well, most women (and almost all models!) have straight lines and/or wrong body shapes to conceal. We need to dress to reveal our hourglass shape!

Over the years I learned a few tricks as well. Skirts are great because they almost always emphasize the waist, by creating a line; if not, you can always wear a belt to achieve the same effect. Still, some clothes will simply not fit well, and that’s a fact. I patiently learned that, and, to my regret, had to get rid of a lot of wrongly-shaped favourite clothes… I guess the last one to go will be my faux fur winter jacket. It makes me look like a fluffy ball with some legs sticking out of it — even when wearing it with a belt.

Corsets out of shape… will not shape you well. It should be obvious, right? So recently I bought a new corset from Corsets Boulevard. This time I went for more higher tech: a waist training corset with spiral/steel whalebones.

Now, for the past decade or so, I’ve stayed away from waist training corsets. I first came across them as basically fetishwear — waist training is one of many fetishes, and although obviously I have no objection in having a nicer waist, it was not exactly something I had in mind; I preferred a corset that was for everyday wear. But I reasoned that the problem with “regular” corsets is that they might not be strong enough, nor hold the shape so well. Waist training corsets are supposed to be really re-shaping your body, and people taking it seriously will wear them some 20 hours per day (yes, even when sleeping) and achieving permanent results after 2-3 years.

That sounded extreme, but, well, Corsets Boulevard has a few selections for people with longer torsos, so I ordered one.

I can only say that after having worn it practically every day (yes, I bring it with me to the office, since late in the evening nobody is around to see me 🙂 ), there is a huge difference in how the whole system works.

First of all… with all my previous corsets, the biggest issue was lacing up. At some point, if you don’t have any extra pair of hands around (my wife refuses to help me to dress!), you will have to struggle to keep everything in place while you tie things securely. There will be a moment when, well, you simply cannot hold it in place, and it will give way. Of course you can always do what is recommended, which is to fasten it more loosely at the beginning, let your body adapt to the shaping, and tighten it after an hour or two.

Well, the waist training corset is rather interesting, because once you wear it, it stays in place. Literally. You don’t even need to lace it, it will hold in place. And the metal spring whalebones keep an awesome shape, at least after several weeks of wear — of course, it’s the test of time that matters: how will it fare after a few years?

Where is this all leading?

On one of the first days that I wore the new corset with the Veronica 2, I was wearing a very casual top and a relatively plain skirt. Both are close-fitting and show off that lovely hourglass figure quite well, at least from the front and back (it’s from the side that I look worst). My wife raised a critical eyebrow and said, in a low voice: “no woman has that amount of hips.” Note that she’s quite curvy herself, even though she’s petite, but now that she lost a lot of weight, she has a rather nice hourglass shape too, and very very long legs. But what she really meant is that very curvy women really don’t “show off” their curves in such an obvious way. Also, I believe she was also referring to the comparison of my usual pear-shaped male self to my curvy female one — the difference is definitely astonishing and difficult to believe. It’s just my arms and shoulders that betray me at once.

Nevertheless, you can imagine that this comment gave me a huge boost in my self-confidence towards a feminine figure. It’s a pity it requires so much padding and shaping.

Then, not many days after this delightful episode, I decided to wash my new wig, doing it as I usually do in recent times — in the shower, with tepid water, and using a special shampoo (for extra dry and brittle hair, as recommended by my hairdresser). I had bought a conditioner as well (another recommendation — in this case, my hairdresser actually sold conditioners designed for wigs) so I decided to use it as well.

Imagine my surprise when the wig dried and became all frizzled!

Well, I thought this might go away with some combing, but clearly it didn’t. At this point, I was a bit worried, since the wig is brand new — did I completely ruin it? Is this reversible? Is the wig, after all, made of a terrible fibre, which cannot resist its first washing? Ack!

Immediately my self-confidence dropped quite a lot, specially when I had no choice but to wear the wig as it was — to my horror and despair. Arrrgh. And I even went out in it, and somehow even managed to attract the attention of a new fan, but it was a deep blow. The pictures I took are among the worst in my entire gallery, even though, as usual, a bad camera and terrible light tend to hide the imperfections. Still, I know how the wig looked out that day!

With all these ideas floating around — the issue about how a simple corset change boosted my image, and, as a result, my self-esteem and confidence; then how the wintery clothing tends to unflatter me; and finally the issue around the new wig — it all seemed like puzzle pieces coming together, even though the image is still fuzzy.

On a recent academic paper discussing transgendered issues (courtesy of the amazing Meghana!) I came across an interesting sentence, which I’m quoting by heart — at some point, researchers were discussing if MtF transexuals with or without an obsession with their self-image were “truly” transgendered, or if this obsession has any relevance at all (I’m not going to quote the whole context, it would make another 5,000-words-article…). The author of the article obviously pointed out that mainstream genetic women are also “obsessed” with their self-image, because our male-dominated society “expects” them to look good — and so they have no choice but to worry about the way they look, all the time. But that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy it. In fact, this researcher was saying, the implication that MtF transgendered people who worry about their self-image are not “real” women would mean that genetic women who worry about their self-image aren’t “real”, either, so this argument was stupid from the beginning. The point is, there is certainly a societal conditioning that pushes women in taking care of the way they look, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always a burden; it can be enjoyable as well (and it is, in many cases).

The “quest for looking perfect” is thus something we share with (many) genetic women. The trouble is that we start with a far larger handicap: even the ugliest woman in the planet has at least the right genes and the right hormones, and while she might lack everything else, we MtF crossdressers have all the problems they have plus the fact that we have to deal with our bad genes and hormones on top of everything.

But the reverse is also true. When, here and there, some minor detail is accomplished to perfection, we get a huge boost in our confidence. I’m now quite positive that my 114-84-114 hourglass shape is a plus — something I can be proud of, in the sense that I don’t need to be afraid that my body’s shape looks “wrong”. Again, as said, except for the arms and shoulders, which cannot be corrected — only disguised — I’m in a pretty shape, literally speaking. Of course it takes some heavy-duty shaping and padding; it’s not that comfortable after, say, 12 hours or so of continuous wear; but, just like wearing high heels for over 12 hours is not a huge pleasure, but we can endure it just because we love them, the same applies to all my “shapewear”. It’s something that boosts my confidence.

The hair is definitely another bonus. My hair story has obviously a happy ending: I went to my hairdresser in despair, like I always do when I have a “hair problem” that I can’t fix; she can fix pretty much everything. But I saw that she raised an eyebrow and saw a challenge there.

You see, the problem with these Chinese manufacturers is that you cannot really know what they are producing, because they’re not encumbered by such strict legislation as we in the West. So they can write a claim of “100% Remy human hair” but just ship cheap synthetic fibre instead — nobody can really do anything about it. Regarding this wig, my hairdresser suspected it was a blend of a rather good fibre and some human hair, which at least made me more comfortable that it wasn’t a complete waste of money (the wig was rather cheap for a human hair wig, although above average for a synthetic fibre one). We both suspected why the box had a warning not to use heat with the wig.

A parenthesis to explain things to those unfamiliar with the vast variety of wigs around there.

There are many ways to classify wigs, but, for the sake of simplicity, let’s split them in two main groups: human hair and synthetic hair. Human hair wigs are really made of human hair, and not merely a “brand” or something like that. Originally, the hair came from women in India who gave their long hair as offerings to Hindu gods; the monks soon figured out they could finance their temples if they sold all that hair (which would usually be thrown away) to a booming industry of wigs. Nowadays, of course, they get paid for their hair, but they’re still being underpaid.

Indian hair is by far the most available type, and the cheapest. Indian hair is also a good choice, since it tends to be strong, long, and straight, and, as such, it can be easily died and restyled. This is done industrially, so human hair in a wig won’t lose the colour, but in theory, if you wish, you can dye it. It will be harder to dye Indian hair in very light colours, of course, but it’s still possible.

Synthetic hair is made of plastic fibres. The technology is incredibly advanced these days, so we’re not limited to “Barbie doll hair” any longer 🙂 The newest fibres are at least as thin and resistant as human hair, and cost a fraction. The biggest advantage, however, is that synthetic fibre has memory. This means that you can pre-style the wigs at the manufacturing plant, and it will keep the style, even if you wear and wash it repeatedly. Because of that, they’re quite popular!

There are also blends of both, which will be cheaper. They usually use lower-grade human hair, and at this stage, things start to be complex 🙂

There is not just one type of human hair and one type of synthetic hair. There are tons.

Human hair, first of all, has different origins. Typically, as said, you get it from India. But China, Malaysia and Mongolia are also producers of hair with similar quality. Then you have Brazilian hair, which has different characteristics — a natural wave, which makes it popular with Afro-Americans — but it’s more expensive than getting Indian hair and, at the factory, put some wave into it. And finally you have European hair, which is the lightest and thinnest, and, in most cases, it’s also the one that can easily get blonde dyes — because most of it comes from Russia and many Slavic countries. It’s incredibly expensive, though, because there aren’t many donors.

Then, human hair can be differently picked. You can get it from a single donor. Or you can get it from different ones (after processing, you won’t be able to tell the difference). The hair might be intact, i.e. not cut down, and this is usually referred as “Remy” hair. It might still have the cuticle — a natural protection layer which grows on top of the hair — which will mean that the wig will last longer, at the cost of some tangling; or the cuticle might have been chemically removed (less tangling, but also a shorter lifespan).

It can also be differently processed. You can get it completely unprocessed: this is known as virgin hair, which is basically what you get after cutting the donor’s hair and weaving it directly on a cap. Virgin hair means that the hair has the natural colour of the donor — usually, dark or black for Indian/Chines/Mongolian hair, brown or dark for Brazilian, and fair or even blonde for European hair. You can then dye it whatever colour you wish. Most hair, however, will already be pre-dyed industrially, and this dye will not wash away (but in certain cases, you might be able to dye it again on top of its factory colour).

And on top of all that the hair can also be twisted and pre-curled or pre-waved or pre-straightened. For instance, Afro-Americans are fond of “Yaki” hair, which gets a “kink” at the factory, that will make it look more similar to African hair in texture and appearance. By contrast, there is a “silky straight” industrial processing which might leave the hair with a very soft wave, more analogous to Caucasian hair. As you can see, there is a lot that can be done with human hair, no matter what race/colour the original donor comes from!

Confused? Then don’t let me start on cap construction…

Synthetic hair fibre is also not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are dozens of fibres, some of which quite expensive. One huge advantage of human hair, if you wish to restyle it, is that — like human hair — it responds to heat quite well. This means you can either straighten it out or curl it with irons. Synthetic hair do not tolerate heat — you will ruin your synthetic hair wig with heat: sometimes even washing it in hot water will be enough to destroy it. Except, of course, for the amazing Japanese, who invented the fantastic Kanekalon® fibre around 1998 or so, which is heat-resistent. Many other companies have also responded to this ultimate synthetic fibre and are now releasing their own “heat-friendly” solutions as well. So in theory you can also restyle your synthetic wigs in the same way as human hair wigs. But, of course, Kanekalon synthetic wigs tend to be more expensive… sometimes as much as low-end human hair wigs.

And this is where there’s a catch.

So, when shopping for a new wig, because the older one was looking so terrible that I was almost ashamed to go out with it, my goal was to find a direct manufacturer of wigs — going to the source, so to speak — not only because of the pricing issues, but mostly because many manufacturers accept custom orders with just a small surcharge. And in my case, I’m fine with that surcharge, assuming I get exactly what I want (if not, it was a waste of time and money).

Also, in my case, I can rely on a local hairdresser to style the wig. So it doesn’t need to be “perfect”, because my hairdresser can trim it or change it to better fit my face, desired look, and so on. Many crossdressers might not be so willing to do all that, so, in that case, I’d suggest them to opt for a synthetic wig from a well-known brand (because they will have professional stylists doing the design, and the overall look will be modern and mainstream — and not look like a certain horror movie of the 1980s!).

Tracking down manufacturers is not easy! Many of the ones posing as manufacturers have actually overseas facilities in China, where the wigs actually get produced. So, after searching and searching and searching, it looked like there was no option but to order from a Chinese manufacturer. Note that I have nothing against them; my previous wig was also bought from China.

I could have opted for the same supplier (PinkLaceWigs), of course, but I didn’t. Instead, I went for OrderWigsOnline. Why? Well, OrderWigsOnline claim to have 100% Remy human hair in full lace for about the same price that other manufacturers sell synthetic fibre with front lace. That was what caught my attention.

One ought to be wary of such prices, right? Right!

So I checked them out. First of all, they have a friendly attitude, and even if their website doesn’t have the best-spelt English I’ve read, it looks like whoever is in charge of it is trying to do the best they can. One thing that comes up immediately are the reviews — they encourage their happy customers to send pictures of them wearing the wigs they just bought. Why is this important? Even though it’s obvious that they will only pick the best reviews, at least you can see how the wigs look like on the head of a real person in subpar lighting conditions — not on how they look on a model in a studio. That makes a whole lot of a difference!

Secondly, I’ve noticed that OrderWigsOnline actually feature a glueless cap — which they call it “RPG glueless cap” and warn you that they have a link to RPGshow, a popular supplier of human hair wigs with excellent reviews. This made me raise an eyebrow. Even though the Chinese are often not so strict with licensing, copyrights, and patents, it sounds a bit strange that you’d be calling your own product by the name of a competitor and link to them instead!

Unless… you’re the manufacturer for the other brand.

And this seems to be the case. You can check the colour numbers and cap constructions. They not only are the same, and similarly named as RPGshow, but they also look suspiciously like the codes from my former supplier, PinkLaceWigs!

Digging deeper, this should not be a real surprise. They have an area where they clearly invite other companies to act as online storefronts for them. This is something quite logical: OrderWigsOnline, or the company behind them, are good at one thing: manufacturing wigs. Others are good at establishing online presences, doing SEO, doing the social bits, creating promotions and so forth, engaging the community, presenting a business in their own country, and so forth. OrderWigsOnline just handles the manufacturing and shipping on their behalf. That’s quite clever of them!…

So, you know. If you wish to have your own wig shop online, and make some money, and establish a reputation in your own country, the answer is simple — create your online presence and become a partner of OrderWigsOnline (in fact, I’m tempted to convince my own hairdresser to do just that… she runs a salon for children with alopecia or women who underwent cancer treatments and lost their hair. Selling wigs to the TG/CD community is just a side-business for them, and they know they need to deal with lowering prices and Internet competition).

All the above persuaded to give them a try. Even though I frowned upon a warning somewhere on their site where they said that they would ship to the US with a label saying “synthetic fibre hair” because of increased customs on human hair. This is highly suspect! But still, their prices for alleged full lace human hair wigs are lower than what most sites charge for synthetic front lace wigs, so I was still willing to give them a try.

My first impression with the online communication was terrific. I had suffered a lot when ordering from PinkLaceWigs, because they took eternities to answer. OrderWigsOnline answers quite quickly, and they ask you to confirm your order… which was actually crucial in my case, because my measurements for the cap were quite wrong, and I wanted a lot of volume on the wig, so they suggested — after the order was placed! — to increase the hair density from 100% to 130%. And boy, was I glad that I accepted their suggestion!

Delivery wasn’t fast… it was blindingly fast. Remember, this was a custom order. The whole manufacturing process took merely three weeks (they have a slight bug on their website which lists the order as “pending” instead of saying “in production” or something similar; but they are quite open to admit that). And shipping was amazing — it took merely four days, from a remote city in China to Portugal, going through almost a dozen airport hubs (!!!), and arriving a few hours before the estimated delivery time. All that for very reasonable shipping rates and without going through customs. Wow!

I was expecting the wig to arrive by Christmas or later, but no!

Ok, when I got the wig, I frowned again. It’s true it says “human hair wig” all over the place, but when seeing the instructions, it says to be careful about applying heat. Now this is, again, very suspect, because human hair handles heat well.

When getting the wig out of the package, I felt a pang of disappointment — it was too short! And even in spite of the order for more hair density and volume, this seemed to be one of those very thin wigs that will look like you are suffering from terminal hair loss! Agggh I could have killed myself… until I tried the wig on.

What happens is that the vacuum packaging sort of made the wig look much smaller and less dense than it actually was! And the hair fibres are incredibly thin and light — in fact, my natural hair is also thin and light, and I could almost swear that this wig was even thinner and lighter. Amazing! The hair stretches also a bit when pulled, and I was a bit confused about what kind of fibre this is. No other wig I’ve owned — and I still have a very old low-quality human hair wig, bought 15 years ago — has this kind of hair. It seemed amazingly realistic, and definitely much less shiny than most wigs I have, even though there is definitely a bit of shine there. The wig came pretty much unstyled (my choice) and with gorgeous baby hair. Besides that, I could say that the French lace is at the same level of quality than my previous wigs, and that the knotting is not overwhelmingly invisible, but definitely above average. It doesn’t shred, either, even when combing vigorously.

Wearing it was a delight. It has about the same volume than my synthetic wig from PinkLaceWigs but weights half as much, and it flows incredibly naturally. So, I said, I have no idea what this magic fibre of theirs is — it cannot be Kanekalon®, since that would be too expensive — but I was reasonably content.

New wigs always look good! Even one insanely cheap one I had bought in 2006 (just 1 dollar plus shipping!) from China looked good enough when I first tried it on. So I waited until I used this wig quite a lot of times just to get a feeling of it.

At some point, it was time to wash it. Now I have tried several techniques for that, and my best results are using tepid water and washing it just like I do with my own natural hair. In fact, I sometimes put the wig on and go under the shower 🙂 (it’s so much easier that way). Wig shampoo and conditioner can also be used on one’s own hair, of course, even though I don’t need the kind of “extra brittle and dry hair” type that is appropriate for wigs — my hair is fairly “normal” these days, and this is overkill. But, well, it’s the easiest way to wash it 🙂

(The alternative of taking a shower wearing your wig is to wash it using the shower head.)

Very, very old and poor quality wigs will usually not tolerate even tepid water, but all the wigs I have bought in the last decade worked well that way. Except for one… the ancient human hair wig from (literally!) the last century.

After washing and setting it to dry, this wig, if possible, became even more silkier and lighter! BUT… and this is a HUGE but… it became completely frizzied!


What went wrong? Well, I thought that I had ruined it somehow. Perhaps I should have avoided even tepid water, and use room-temperature water instead. Perhaps I should have combed it even more thoroughly after washing it. Perhaps I used the wrong kind of wig conditioner? Whatever the reason, my wig now looked a mess, and I was stumped at what to do with it.

Would heat make it worse? Or better? If it’s a human hair wig, it should be able to get straightened with a flat iron? But if it’s not, the heat will completely ruin it! I was wary of trying anything!

Luckily for me, when anything goes wrong, I have my faithful hairdresser to help. She had already seen the wig, and sewed a pair of extra combs at the nape side (it comes with three combs at the front, but on the glueless cap I bought, it just has the elastic band at the nape side), and was curious about its fibre as well. She thought it might be a blend of human hair and synthetic hair, but wasn’t sure; I was quite happy to hear that, because, well, getting 30% of human hair for the insanely low prices is even better than nothing.

So, when I showed her the ruined wig, she was thoughtful, and said that perhaps the blend of human vs. synthetic is different than what she thought. But she promised to look into it. I had authorised her to use irons if needed, testing it out on some unnoticeable area.

I came back next day… to a big surprise. Not only did the wig look like new (again), but now it had the most sexy waving imaginable. She saw my surprise and laughed. “What did you do?” I asked, being completely astonished. I mean, I’m used to see her work her magic on my old wigs, but this time she had clearly excelled in her work.

She admitted that she didn’t do anything special. She just washed the wig in cold water (cold, not tepid!), put some curling rollers, let it dry overnight, and there they were, instant waves!

And she charged me twice the usual amount “because it’s a human hair wig”.

Ha! So, well, it might be the lowest end of human hair — and that’s perhaps a reason why it doesn’t stand heat, even from washing in tepid water — but it seems that my Chinese friends are actually not lying, and really putting some real human hair into their wigs.

BTW, the waves/curls stay for a while; I’ve worn the wig a few times, combed it (since it’s new, it doesn’t tangle yet), and the waves haven’t disappeared yet. Eventually, they will, but now I know how to get them back! This is to be expected with human hair: unlike synthetic hair, which has “memory” and will not easily submit to a different style (even though some curling at the ends will disguise splits and make the wig look nicer), human hair should be easy to style differently, even though, of course, like natural hair, the style will fade and disappear — meaning a higher maintenance in exchange for a larger variety of style options.

Now I’m curious to see what will happen with the next hair washing — this time, I’ll do it the old-fashioned way, with cold water inside a basin, and letting it dry without heat. I might get some rollers too, or simply use old socks. My hairdresser encouraged to do so on my own, because her salon wants that wig owners gain some confidence in maintaining their own wigs (it’s a good self-esteem booster), and, of course, she’ll always be available if anything goes wrong.

And then it’s the test of time. My wigs usually last 12 months looking reasonably well, and perhaps another extra 6 months while they’re still looking tolerably fine. The one from PinkLaceWigs, even though I liked it a lot, lasted a bit less than usual — I stretched its use for a bit longer, but it was seriously damaged for the last 4-5 months of use (I would be embarrassed to be seen in public with it!). On the other hand, I still have my 15-year-old human hair wig, even though I dislike it — it’s too heavy and has a very old cap which never looks natural enough, even though it has been “improved” with some restyling and extra combs.

If I can get a year out of this wig from OrderWigsOnline, I’ll be quite happy. If I get more “surprises” that constantly require returning to my hairdresser, well, then it might have been very cheap to buy, but too costly to maintain. We’ll see.

Now I can close the long parenthesis (note that part of the above text comes from my participation on Susan’s forums — if you don’t know them, check their forums, it’s very likely the largest TG/TS/CD community out there, with almost 9000 members and with over a million articles), and I think the stage is set for you to understand what I’m hinting at.

Over this long process regarding my hair, and, to a degree, the corset (to a minor degree, this applies also to my quest for the “perfect foundation” — something that looks natural, covers the beard shadow, and resists my constant upper lip perspiration), you can see, even from this textual description, how my mood swings.

If by some reason “things go wrong”, my self-image as a woman is shattered. The illusion is broken. And this makes me think that there is really a limit to how I can look like — there is no further improvement possible — I will always look like a clown wearing a dress.

But now and then something happens that does the trick to re-establish the illusion. My new profile pic, which I have also posted at the top of this article, is a great example. Not only I look like I’m 30, but there is a softness in my whole expression, and it looks stunningly feminine, even for me. I’m quite sure that some of my friends (and even family), looking at this picture, would ask: “You never told us you had a younger sister.” It’s the kind of picture that will raise eyebrows and baffle people. In fact, I can even imagine that some colleagues, who haven’t known me for long, would be confused and ask: “you used to be such a lovely girl, why did you transition to become an ugly man instead?” because, well, that’s just the kind of picture that will break the barrier  between genders, and confuse everything.

And that’s what I’m supposed to be aiming at. If I can get everything “just right”, then this image certainly works. The trouble is that I need a lot of conditions for that to happen, which obviously most of you won’t see. It has to be the right hair, the right makeup, the right outfit, the right lighting, the right angle… so many things have to be “right”, and then, as if by miracle, one picture in a thousand just happens to look perfect (without serious Photoshopping!).

If I twist the neck just a few degrees, the illusion is dispelled, and I look ugly as usual.

So remember that when you comment, “you’re always complaining, but you look great!” NO! All these images (and even videos) are staged. Just search through Google for images of celebrities, taken outside professional studios — they will rarely look as good in plain daylight, with loose clothing, no makeup, and casual hairstyling (there are exceptions, of course; Angelina Jolie will look great no matter what 🙂 ).

I spend the whole week pining, imagining in my mind what I will wear and how I will do my makeup, in the hope of catching a mere glimpse of what I wish to achieve with my image. And sometimes I get that glimpse. Sometimes it’s just the hair falling “just right”, or the eyes looking great, or — finally! — noticing that a certain clinging outfit will enhance my (padded) curves beautifully instead of toning them down and making me look ridiculous. This gives a huge boost to my self-esteem and self-confidence.

Then I do a reality check, and see how many pictures I have to discard just to get the one that looks right. I catch myself looking at my reflection at the window and think, “ugh, who’s that ugly creature looking at me with a frown?” I throw a glance at my hands and wonder how suddenly they have become huge, soppy manacles, instead of the elegantly manicured fingers I’ve taken pains to accomplish.

This is the problem with becoming obsessive with impossible-to-achieve goals. What I’ve learned in my life so far — a recommendation that I’ve often given to fellow transgendered people — is that if you set too high goals and expectations, you’ll always be unsatisfied. If you don’t reach those goals, you feel somehow that you’re unworthy, incompetent, or that anything with you is wrong or at fault. In fact, the only wrong thing is to set those impossible goals in the first place. Unfortunately, I tend to fall for that error over and over again: in my mind, I picture the television show The Swan from a few years ago, and just imagine that, given enough money, I could look exactly as I wanted, because that’s the promise of hard-core surgery and professional makeup and styling. It works, if you’re filthy rich. If not, you’ll stay ugly. The old cliché is still true: “There are no fat and ugly women; there are only rich and poor women.”

But when you work not towards the ultimate goal, but towards small steps along the way, things are completely different. There you can reach some achievements. As I’ve learned, there are hundreds of ways to cut a dress, and only some of them will fit your body perfectly; once you figure out the right cut, your dress will always look great. That’s an achievement. That generates real satisfaction for a moment, and encourages you to do more — at least it works for me that way. Getting the hair right is another of those small goals. For years I have struggled with the breast size and placement as well — it took me years, always fearing they would be either too small or too big, until I got them just right (and I can still downplay or exaggerate them by playing with cleavage and special bras!). It took me years to figure out the ratio and proportions of corsets and padding; now I got them right, and even though I’ve ordered new ones, I know I won’t be wrong. I tended to use too many bracelets, too many necklaces, and so forth, and with some tips from my wife and some close observation, I now know how much is “enough” and how much is “too much” — even though often I deliberately go for “too much”. But it’s my choice; it’s not trial-and-error any longer. And on the makeup side of things, I cannot say that I have perfected all techniques, but I have learned many, and they look great. I could exaggerate, if I wished, but I don’t. I can downplay the makeup too, and it looks terrible on me, but at least I know what I want. I can even make people forget about my ugly nose, just by doing the eyes and lips right. And so forth: small achievements. Tiny things. Achievable goals. Steps towards a better image. It’s all of those that give me confidence.

And, as seen, sometimes they also work all together and accomplish the “perfect” image — captured from a special angle, with the right lighting, and just the right expression. I can be a beautiful woman for merely an instant; and I strive to capture that instant and extend it for as long as I can. But it’s just because I know I can achieve those small instants that I keep going on.

At the end of a long night, when the dressing session is over, and I remove all makeup, and stare at my ugly self at the mirror, I always tend to think that I never bothered looking as an ugly male. I’ve been used to it all my life. Beauty, in males, is definitely unnecessary. Males are so lucky. The more time passes, the less I worry about my male image — twenty years ago, I over-worried about the kind of suits I bought or what shirts were fashionable. These days I don’t even buy male clothes; I let people offer them to me as gifts for Christmas or birthday. Whatever they give me is fine to me; I totally and completely don’t care. Even when my wife grumbles that I have mismatched colours or a jacket that has holes in the pocket, I shrug it off — who cares how I look like as a male? I certainly don’t. So long as I keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer, I’m fine.

A pity I don’t have that same attitude when dressing up as a woman. They have it so much harder — even genetic women, of course. It’s just that I have an extra handicap that even the ugliest genetic woman doesn’t have. They just have to enhance their femininity, what little available; I have to start from scratch with the wrong set of genes as a huge handicap. And have to be content with those instants when things sometimes “just look right”.

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