Confessions of a Cross-Dresser!
I was about 8 years old the first time I wore a skirt. To tell you the truth, it didn't even cause me a dilemma. I did it voluntarily. There was an excitement about it that made it an easy step to take. There was no fear of ridicule from my peers. All the guys knew that it was going to happen, and they were extremely supportive. One or two close pals even helped me to pick out an appropriate outfit. It was a floral blouse, with a wollen cardigan on top of it, a woollen skirt with a small chequered pattern, a pair of thick nylon tights, courtesy of my Mothers wardrobe, and an ill-fitting pair of high-heels. Naturally, I had padded out the bodice of the blouse to give the effect of a rather large bosom, and applied a graying wig, to give the effect of maturity. Sadly (perhaps fortunately!) I didn't have fine feminine features, like this one here, from "The Crying Game", so glamour wasn't really an option. No. Not for me, the tacky pinks and purples, the coloured wigs, and the glitzy attire of wannabe divas! Oh no. I was presenting myself as a Lady!
As I prepared to put myself on display for the first time as Petra Pendleton (a name of my own invention), I found myself wondering how my parents were going to react. I had been keeping it a secret from them for quite a while. My Mother had caught me once, browsing the pages of her "Kays" Catalogue, looking at the womens casual outfits. If I had been browsing the underwear section, she might have just put it down to boyhood curiosity, but the fact that I was looking at cardigans and skirts may have caused her some concern. As I applied my lipstick and blusher, I knew that she would at last have her curiosity satisfied.
My partner, Paul, arrived. He was more nervous than I. He looked me over and tried to smile. "I can't believe we're doing this." was all he could muster, as he fumbled with the buttons of his tweed jacket. I tried to relax him.
"Don't worry, Paul. Just say all the right things and we'll be fine. The moment has finally arrived and there's no going back. Be brave."
"And now, ladies and gentlemen!" I could hear Mr McCabe giving the introduction. "The final comedy item of our 1966 Cub Scout Concert. Will you welcome on-stage, with their sketch entitled "The Golf Lesson", Paul and Petra Pendleton!"
Humble though I am, regarding my acting ability, it would be fair to say that our sketch brought the house down. I can't remember now from where the golf sketch originated, but I had seen my father perform it with another actor at a Concert Party performance, and I do remember laughing hysterically at the outfits and the content. Dad had been the one in drag on that occasion, and I had modelled my performance on his. It was a sketch full of puns about "addressing the ball", "time for tee", "are you ready to drive off? Drive off? But we haven't even started the lesson yet!" You know the kind of thing.
Paul, incidentally, was actually my brother, who turned to sport as his main vehicle of recreation not long after that theatrical venture, whereas I had been bitten by the show-biz bug. Needless to say (or maybe I do need to say it, lest there may be an impression that I had alterior motives for dressing as a female!), my adventures as a cross dresser were strictly confined to the stage.
Life is a Pantomime.
My Mother made dresses for my Dad!
It's absolutely true. My Father was not the slimmest performer in the local Pantomime society, but he was probably the funniest, which is why he invariably played the Pantomime "Dame" on many occasions. Mum took great pride in creating outrageous outfits for his characters.
Pantomime is essentially a British Theatrical tradition, performed around Christmas, and aimed mainly at children, which I always found a strange concept. Imagine trying to explain to children why the leading "boy" is usually played by an attractive "leggy" female, and why the funny Woman is played by a, usually highly unfeminine, man! Despite that dilemma, it remains one of the most popular types of musical theatre in Britain and Ireland.
A very good history of Pantomime can be found at the following link.
There is also an excellent Hub from 2 years ago, created by "scotslass", at the link below.
I suppose it was that first outing at the Cub Scout show that set me on the path to a theatrical career peppered with a plethora of padded bras and pantihose. I first played "Grizabella", an Ugly Sister to Cinderella, when I was 23, and followed it up as "Widow Twankey" in "Aladdin". But it wasn't only Pantomime that afforded me the opportunity to make like a lady.
"Sugar" was released as a stage Musical, based on the hilariously funny Movie "Some Like It Hot", which featured Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis dressed as members of an all-girls jazz band. Both performances were of the highest calibre, not even to be upstaged by the wonderful performance of Marilyn Munroe as Sugar. Several years ago, I had the great pleasure of recreating the Jack Lemmon role and, for the first and last time, appeared live on stage in a female swimsuit. A skirt kind of conveniently hides the most obvious difference between the male and female physique. Not so, with a swimsuit. I wouldn't go as far as to say that the...erm... "tucking in" procedure was pleasant, but it was certainly memorable.
Keep out of my drawers!
As a result of all of these cross-dressing escapades, I now have a drawer full of articles of clothing that one wouldn't normally expect to find in the bedroom of a respectable married gentleman (which I most certainly am!). Padded bras, pantihose, assorted bloomers, wigs and junk-jewellery. There's also a box full of suspiciously large sizes of high-heels, sling-backs and sandals. If a thief ever breaks into the house, I'm sure he'll wonder at what sort of antics the owners get up to in their spare time!
To this day, I still don the dresses, the wigs and the make-up at Christmas time, to perform in our local theatre as the Pantomime Dame. It really is a wonderful way to spend the holiday season, made so worthwhile by the pleasure and amusement that it brings to so many children, at what is very often their first experience of live theatre.
You might think that at my age (50 something), the novelty would have worn off, but I won't be hanging up my stilettos for a few years yet. Not until I've had the opportunity to play the one cross-dressing role that has so far eluded me. I'll "put a little more mascara on", take to the stage and let rip with "I Am What I Am". No self respecting female impersonator can claim to have reached the pinnacle of their career until they have played "Albin" in the "La Cage Aux Folles"!
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