Ask Aunt Fran: The casual look

Hi. Welcome back to Ask Aunt Fran, where I take questions that friends and family and strangers ask me about my gender transition and answer them best I can in the hope of fostering some sort of understanding of something that’s still not readily understood.

Anyway, if you have a question, please pass it along, either to franoramaworld@gmail.com or my personal e address, if you know it. And remember: I’m no shrink or doctor. All answers are based on my personal experiences unless noted. And all transpeople’s experiences are different. Your mileage may vary …

This question comes from Drew Cucuzza, one of my dearest friends and a charter member of two of my fan clubs — both as entertainment editor/music writer at the New Haven Register through most of the ’90s and early 2000s and as a gender-traveler in recent years. Drew turned me on to all sorts of cheesy music back then, has forgotten more good music than most people have ever heard (I’ll always be grateful to him for letting me borrow his three Sonny Rollins box sets in ’99 so I could listen well before I interviewed the man, one of my favorite interviews) and taught me the true meaning of the word “interesting.”*

Anyway, very late at his latest edition of his annual Rockin’ Drew Year’s Eve party (it was quarter to three, no one in the place ‘cept him and me — though I did pass on the one more for the road), he asked me a multi-question question:

“So much of how your identifying with gender has to do with clothing, hair, makeup? How do you dress when you’re home and casual? And what do you wear when you’re not in public? How do you differentiate (genders)?”

Hmmmmm …

As Roseanne Roseannadanna once said, Y’know, Jane, you ask a lot of questions!

*****

So … Let’s pick this one apart …

First of all, the look has a lot to do with how I identify with gender — yes: clothes, shoes, makeup, etc. I hope I don’t sound shallow about this, but the way I look as female, whether casual or dolled-out, is a reflection of how I feel inside — or sometimes, when I’m at my worst, how I want to feel. When people tell me I look beautiful (and after a lifetime of feeling ugly, I’ll never get sick of it), it’s usually because I feel beautiful inside. But sometimes it’s because I will myself to be beautiful.

Billy Crystal’s Fernando (Gawd — two old SNL references in one post? That’s a record) wasn’t kidding when he said, “You look good, you feel good.” And for me, when I look good, it makes me happy. And yes, it sometimes works its way from the outside in as well as from the inside out.

Case in point: Third weekend of this past October, both Friday and Saturday nights. I felt myself trapped in the same rut I was in the year before at that time: the twin towers of anxiety — unemployment, with no job prospects anywhere; and the struggles of trying to get my family on board with me. I was depressed like I hadn’t been in a year (which was one of the lowest points of my life, the fall of 2009), wondering yet again whether life was worth living.

Thankfully, because of the hormone therapy I started last April, my black moods now only last hours, tops, instead of days or weeks. And on both nights, I settled in to screw around on the computer after dinner, and both nights I told myself, “You’re not gonna do this shit again (like last year). You’re gonna get your ass up, step away from the computer, you’re gonna jump in the shower, you’re gonna doll up and you’re going out.” And I did it both nights, and while I wasn’t exactly Miss Sunshine, I found myself in a much better place than had I stayed in my room all night.

Most days I’ll finish doing my face and I’ll stop and look and smile and truly mean it. And I’ll go out to the full-length mirror on my closet door, give myself a look over and smile again. Like anyone of either gender, when you know you have it together, you feel you can take on the world. If my hair’s just right, or the eye shadow, or the outfit or the shoes, I walk out of there with an extra degree of confidence.

*****

Now to the home front. The casual Fran. What do I wear at home?

Why, of course, my red taffeta dress, matching gloves, clutch and pumps, straight out of a Douglas Sirk movie. Isn’t that what everyone wears? Such a smartass. (Though that would make for an incredible Christmastime outfit …)

The only times anyone sees me in boy drag anymore are when I’m home and out riding my bike.

Obviously, it would be dumb to doll out to go sweat myself up on a strenuous bike ride. When I’m riding, it’s simply one of my many T-shirts and a pair of gym shorts, a doo-rag and the only boy shoes I’ve needed the past 10 years, black suede Merrell Jungle Mocs. (And when it’s colder, I’ll layer one with of my football jerseys, sweats and a fleece.) I sleep in a T-shirt and underwear (is that TMI?), so it’s just an extension of what I roll out of bed in.

Essentially, it’s the same as any genetic girl throwing on a T-shirt and sweats or jammie bottoms to putter around the house. Just that I look a lot more like the boy I grew up as.

But sometimes, if I know I’m not going out riding, I’ll jump in the shower and whip myself into my better half and then go back to my desk and do some work.

There are many days like today when I’m very casual: a loose top, jeans and flats. While I’m making up for lost time — and any day where I don’t get to rock cute shoes is a wasted day — I don’t obsess over what I wear. Seriously. In that way, I guess I’m still a boy. Just in cute shoes.

Unless I’m going somewhere special, i.e. a wedding or a party or dinner or a show, I don’t put much thought into what I’m wearing. Often, I don’t know what I’m putting on until after I get out of the shower. It could be the top I choose first, or jeans vs. leggings vs. tights and a skirt vs. leggings and a skirt, or a top vs. a dress.

Sometimes I’ll have a pair of shoes in mind first; sometimes the outfit dictates the shoes. Sometimes I’ll call an audible and change what I’m wearing in mid-dressing, but not often. And then the necklace, earrings and hair accents (often a headband) fall into place, followed by the eye shadow and lipstick. It’s a very organic process.

*****

And as for differentiating between genders when I’m just putting around? Well, there are subtle differences and reminders these days.

For one, there’s nail polish, which stays on for days at a time, even in boy drag. Most of the time, it’s a very subtle pink with diamond dust for sparkle. Sometimes I’ll be rocking the red or purple (both metalflake), sometimes even black. But that’s different than my past life, that’s for sure.

Also, my eyebrows are a lot thinner than they used to be. I go to Manchester Beauty College, in the strip mall on Blackstone between Dakota and Ashlan, a block up from the Manchester Center, where I get my brows waxed and tweezed every three weeks for $5. There have been a couple of clunkers, but most of the time, the students do a good job. And sometimes when I’m puttering around the house, I’ll slip on a pair of flats.

One thing I usually don’t do as my better half is wear T-shirts. In boy mode? Fine. In girl mode? Uh-uh. Not yet. I’m still too big to wear T-shirts and look good in them, even casually; I need to lose a bunch more weight before I can rock that look.

So I hope that answers the many-questioned question of Drew. Casually or not, I basically live and flow and dress like anyone else, regardless of gender.

* As mentioned, Drew was the head of my fan club when I was the entertainment editor in New Haven, and he would call me on Fridays, after the Weekend section was out, and leave a message complimenting me on a section well done. Not being one to take compliments well, I would say things such as “Come on, it’s not that good …” And one Friday, exasperated, he replied, “Look, Franner — if I thought you sucked, I would’ve told you you were interesting.” Since then, when someone has used the word “interesting” in my presence, I’ve wondered whether they’ve meant the literal definition or the Drew definition …

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9 Responses to “Ask Aunt Fran: The casual look”

  1. Lexy Wilcox Says:

    you’re far from interesting, sista! keep up the good writing! volunteer some of your writing time for local orgs? get yer foot in a door or three? i can’t be the only one who enjoys reading your stuff!

  2. It's Drew! Says:

    Let me tell you, that ceratinly wasn’t “interesting”! Great Douglas Sirk reference. Thanks, Frannie and I’ll get this month’s Fan Club newsletter out by the end of the week, I promise!

  3. franoramaworld Says:

    You better — that’s why I’m paying you the big buck … 🙂

  4. ERic Says:

    Drew, Please add me to the Mailing list :). An old quote just went through my head “He’s not just the president, he is a member” or is that client? hmmmm

  5. It's Drew! Says:

    Eric, just wait ’til you see our new line of caps, tee shirts, mugs and drink cozies!

  6. franoramaworld Says:

    And remember: Franorama World (TM) and Ask Aunt Fran (TM) are registered trademarks of Franorama Enterprises …

  7. Jody Says:

    >>And remember: Franorama World (TM) and Ask Aunt Fran (TM) are registered trademarks of Franorama Enterprises …

    Just what the local-merchandise lineup needs at Twee.

  8. that Craig guy Says:

    Su-pah!

    hee, hee.

  9. Sara Peterson-zizzo Says:

    Fran ,

    Fun reading! Interesting is very Minnesota for telling someone “you might not like it so much.” Just like the word “different”. That’s different is, well i guess you could say–Minnesota nice

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