Monday, November 23, 2015

What's Your Superpower?

We all have a superpower. An ability that sets us apart from other mortals. We have a talent that's truly extraordinary.

For some, like Sheila, it's the ability to walk into a store, find the wildest, most eclectic items of clothing, and put them together into a cohesive outfit that stuns and impresses. For others, like Jodi, it's exceptional physical capacity; Jodi can run and swim for days. For a few, like Zoe and Fuzzy, it's an innate spirit of adventure that propels them on journeys the rest of us only dream about.

For me, it's a deep understanding of how both men and women think. My peculiar circumstance gave me this gift, which some consider a curse.

I was raised as a boy and have lived an adult lifetime as a man. I know male behavior, male society and male culture. To fit in, I learned how men think; what they like, what they fear. I know how to behave standing among men at urinals, how to make men relax in my presence, and how to achieve goals esteemed by male society.

In addition to this, I have some understanding of female life. Of course I haven't lived publicly as a woman but I've paid careful study to women and their lives for five decades. Every time I'm with a woman, I try to see what she's seeing. I ask her what she's thinking. I listen closely to her descriptions of life experiences. Some women are surprised at this heightened attention; most are flattered by it. My relationships and friendships with women have been mutually-satisfying due to it.

So, to a degree beyond that possessed by most people, I understand both male and female life. Sometimes I find this amusing; sometimes it's sad. There is a wide gulf between the sexes because our society, despite its proclamations of equality, is highly gender-segregated. For example, you may not notice this phenomenon because it's so common and feels so natural but as soon as a social group meets, men head off to talk with other men and women gravitate toward other women. Most people feel more comfortable in the company of their own gender.

This is my superpower. What's yours?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Winter Sweaters

When I was young, everyone wore sweaters in Winter to stay warm. Sweaters were a fun way to express your style. You could find one in every color and all kinds of materials.

I had a lot of sweaters back then. They were my quiet way of playing with fashion. I couldn't be criticized for them because sweaters are largely genderless. Wearing a nice sweater is not reason to attack a man's masculinity the way wearing a pink shirt or tight pants might be.

About 10-15 years ago, I stopped buying and wearing sweaters. I just realized this and pondered why. It's because of the popular emergence of fleece, a material that's inexpensive and warm. I have several fleece sweatshirts that are light-weight and very warm. They completely replaced my wool sweaters.

But now I miss sweaters. The feel of them. Their variety. Yesterday, I decided to buy a few new ones because the few old ones in my closet are in bad shape. I shopped at my favorite store for menswear (Brooks Brothers) and found this attractive herringbone sweater in real lambswool. What do you think?

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Holidays

It appears the holiday season has arrived. We're only a week away from Thanksgiving (and Black Friday) and any visit to a shopping mall will expose you to cynically-early efforts to seduce you into spending money.

My favorite holiday activity is sending out greeting cards. I've started assessing how many I need this year and who'll be lucky enough to receive them. I send out a lot (around 100) and hand-write them so the work takes some time. I'll probably start next week with that. How 'bout you: do you send out cards?

A second-favorite thing is getting presents. Who doesn't like presents? I've learned a trick -- when people ask what I want, I request stuff I crave but never get myself. I'm naturally ascetic and rarely buy myself nice things. It's good to receive those things as gifts because I savor them. A few years back, I asked for and received ridiculously-expensive caviar which was fun to try.

This year, I'm asking for two things I've always wanted to try but have never sprung for due to their high cost -- truffles and Iberian ham. Have you had either?

Truffles are underground fungi prized for the strong flavor and aroma. I've never had one and am dying to see what the fuss is about. Truffles are extremely expensive (thousands of dollars per pound) so they're usually shaved to spread flavor as efficiently as possible. They're available in paste and sauce from Dean & Deluca, a famous gourmet-shop in NYC. (Be warned that most "truffle oil" does not contain actual truffles but, instead, uses synthetic flavoring to mimic the taste.)

Another food I want to try before I die is Iberian ham (Jamon iberico). It is the best ham in the world, made from pigs raised in Spain on acorns and olives. The pigs are coddled and pampered which produces fine-quality meat. There is only one company legally allowed to sell this ham in the U.S. and the ham's price is high (around $96/lb.). You can get it in a sampler, again from D&D.

What do you want Santa to bring you this year?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!

Have you ever stumbled upon a pair of shoes so lovely you had to have them? I just did. Browsing a thrift-store, I saw these beauties for only $4.99. I couldn't resist even though I have no idea how to style them and, honestly, they're too small for me but I play through the pain.

What famous movie do these shoes remind you of? Okay, that's an easy one. Do you have a favorite quotation from that movie?

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more. [pause] We must be over the rainbow!"




Saturday, November 14, 2015


At impressionable ages, we're affected by the culture around us. In my childhood, I was deeply affected by a television show called "Bewitched." It was hugely popular in the 1960's and later syndicated so you may have seen it. Have you?

The show is noteworthy for several reasons but what hit me was its surprising presentation of women. The show centers on a woman, Samantha, who is ostensibly a suburban housewife. Her character is contradictory -- on the outside, she looks like a traditionally feminine housewife but, in reality, she's a witch with potent powers (to move objects, cast spells, change people's minds). Samantha struggles to conceal her powers, especially from her husband, because displaying power was considered unfeminine back then. While her husband knows she's a witch, Samantha promised him to refrain from exercising her powers except in emergencies.

Thus, while Samantha is frequently in control of domestic situations, she pretends not to be. When aware of hidden realities, she pretends she's clueless. In essence, the scripts frequently plume the conundrum that women of that era faced -- how to reconcile their natural abilities with restrictive social expectations. Not insignificantly, Samantha uses a male nickname ("Sam") which hints at this.

I'm sure many kids, mostly girls but also me, learned about gender from this light-hearted comedy. How should women behave when they possess real power? Flaunt it? No. Display it openly? No. Use it for good without taking credit? Yes. There are important social lessons being taught by this show.

The first season (which is the best) is now on DVD and I've been re-watching it, this time with wiser eyes. In addition to the show's social dynamics, I'm reminded of how mesmerized I was at Samantha's extremely attractive femininity. Truthfully, I still am. Sam wears beautiful cocktail dresses (even when doing nothing at home), always has on false eyelashes and full makeup, and stands tall in high-heeled pumps. She's effortlessly gorgeous in a traditional way. And that effortlessness took hours of work by costume-designers and makeup-artists. I'm attaching some pictures below which demonstrate this.

Did you watch the show? What did you think of it?






Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Please Invite Me

I'm all dressed up and looking for a party. Can I come to yours?

I spotted this party-dress in a thrift-store and instantly wanted to wear it. With or without a party. So I put it on today even though it's the middle of the week.

Can I attend your party? I promise not to drink or flirt too much...



Monday, November 9, 2015

Pants? Pants!

When I get a chance to wear women's clothing, I choose dresses and skirts. Appearing publicly as a man, I'm confined to wearing pants. In the past, it never occurred to me to wear women's pants; the very idea sounded backward. But I was wrong.

Women's pants differ markedly from men's pants and can be very attractive. They have different fits and a wider range of colors and prints. In some outfits, pants look as good as or better than a skirt.

I learned this fact from my friend Vale, a fashion-blogger in Italy. Vale's full name is Valentina and she lives on the Adriatic Sea. Vale possesses movie-star glamour and she dresses in trendy, colorful clothes. At first, I was sure she's a professional model. And her blog is as polished as any fashion magazine. No wonder it gets dozens of glowing comments.

Vale demonstrates many times that women's pants can be very appealing. My jaw has dropped at how amazing she looks in stylish pants. That reaction planted a seed in my head -- maybe I should try wearing pants. So...

For the first time, I started looking in the pants department of thrift-stores. Saturday, I found a cute pair that please me with their sleek fit and colorful material. I'm sure there's a name for pants that taper downward and are fitted at the ankle but I have no clue what it is. Anyone know?

Do you like to wear pants?