By Amanda J.
In my last post – ‘The Magic of a Makeover’ – I talked about the profound impact that a visit to Boys Will Be Girls in London had on me. In that post, I included a photo of me that is unrecognisable to how I normally look and I say that as someone who has spent hours pouring over it in absolute wonder as to how a 61 year old guy with long standing hangups about his looks and who hates having his photo taken & looking in mirrors could possibly be transformed into a woman he’d date in a heartbeat!
I also mentioned in that post that I love every single one of the 150+ photos taken at that session; there is not one that I have felt in any way tempted to delete (unlike most of the photos I have ever taken of my own transformative efforts at home) but not all of those photos are as unrecognisably me as the one I posted. To illustrate my point, here are two photos taken on the day and the differences between them are there for all to see – of course, the outfits and hairdos are different but the real difference for me is that, on the yellow dress photo, I can clearly see ‘him’ looking back. Furthermore, anyone who knows me in the real world would recognise me with little difficulty if I was to show them the photo. Those two photos were taken within 90 minutes of each other and yet, to me, they’re as different as chalk and cheese.
The fact that I can see ‘him’ looking back is purely down to camera angle, lighting and pose. Or perhaps I should say that they are the reasons I can’t see ‘him’ looking back on the red dress photo because the truth is that red dress girl is pure fantasy, yellow dress girl is far closer to reality. And we cannot go through life relying on flattering circumstances to shape how others see us – ‘sorry, can’t go out unless it’s cloudy because bright sunlight doesn’t flatter me’!
So am I horrified to see ‘him’ looking back at me on the yellow dress photo? Do I recoil in shock that my identity is laid bare for all to see? Has the whole purpose of the session, for which I paid nearly £300, been blown out of the water because, instead of seeing the woman I aspire to be, I’ve just seen the proverbial ‘man in a dress’? Not a bit of it! Let me explain.
I’ve just worked out that I’ve inhabited planet earth for just over 22,300 days. If, on average, I look in a mirror or see a photo of myself once a day, that’s an awful lot of times to be reminded about the hangups I have about my looks. I’ve never been told I’m good looking (except by my mother who doesn’t count!) and rejections to requests for dates in my youth were commonplace so I think I have every justification to feel the way I do about my looks. And yet the face that looks back at me from the yellow dress photo is exactly the same face and logic suggests that it should evoke exactly the same reactions from me. But it doesn’t.
I’ve already touched on fantasy v reality and that underpins all of this. Red dress girl, helped as she has been by sympathetic lighting, is who I wish I’d been. But the brutal truth is that from the moment that Mr Y beat Ms X to the egg, she could only ever be an ‘if only’ fantasy, never reality. But that simple truth is where yellow dress girl comes into play because the fact that I can see myself in her so vividly gives an unbreakable link between her world and mine. It will be she, not red dress girl, who may one day step out into the big wide world, she who perhaps one day goes into a shop to go through the dresses on the rails before asking to take one to the fitting rooms to try on and she who may even one day sit in a smart restaurant soaking up the delicious feeling of being called ‘ma’am’ by the maître d’ & waiters before popping off to the ladies’ room to check her lipstick (wine glasses do play havoc with one’s lippy, I’m told!).
And that is why I love yellow dress girl. She’s irrefutably me and if I can look at her and not stop smiling, it just goes to show that the only thing we should ever fear is fear itself!
yellow dress girl looks damn good and many readers of this are probably jealous. don’t be your own worse enemy
Emily, thank you for your kind words! I have to confess that whilst I still can’t quite believe that red dress girl is me, yellow dress girl gives the connection between the two sides of me that is pretty well essential for self-acceptance. Because the truth is that we have to be able to recongise ourselves to accept ourselves, otherwise we stay rooted in fantasy land and can’t see a way out.
And the only thing I’d really like to be envied for is for living within a short distance of ‘Boys Will Be Girls’ in London where Cindy Conti, the proprietor, worked her magic on me, the results of which are pictured above! I’d really love people to look at these photos and realise that, if I can do it, so can they. It doesn’t require expensive makeovers (although they are an amazing experience) but just to let go of the fantasy and celebrate what is within reach.
I think both pictures show a beautiful, confident woman.
We all know that each of us are our own worst critics. I have given up being critical of myself. I do the best I can, and then I go out and have a wonderful time.
Please, be very kind to yourself no matter what the light or visual circumstances. Go outside and meet people and have fun; you deserve it.
Jocelyn (a reformed self doubter)
Jocelyn, thank you very much for taking the time to comment. I very much appreciate your wise words and have added a further comment below which should put a little more context into this post.
I agree with Emily. Yellow dress girl looks pretty good. Sometimes we are too hard on ourselves and neglect the important stuff–we are who we are and let’s be happy that way.
Donna, thanks very much for your words of support. I’ve added a further comment below which should add a little more context to this post.
I see really very little difference between the two, you look beautiful in both, as Donna says we tend to be to hard on ourselves
And oh to be able to get that pro makeover every time we are out.
With that said I do what I can to present myself as feminine as possible and I know I don’t always succeed Im happy just being me
Rachael, thank you for taking the time to comment. As you quite rightly observe, we all strive to be the best we can and, in many respects, our critical eye is our greatest ally because, sometimes, that dissatisfaction is our impetus to see how we can improve next time. I’ve also added more thoughts to this on the comment I’ve posted below.
When I wrote this piece, I was trying to convey a simple concept which was how self-recognition is essential for self-acceptance. I love the ‘Red Dress Girl’ photos and yet if I’d been unconscious when the makeup was applied & the photos taken and then shown the photos, I would not have recognised it as myself. I might even have thought ‘I wish I could look like her’! With ‘Yellow Dress Girl’, there’s no such ambiguity – I know that she is me and she dispels any doubts I may have had about being able to achieve the level of femininity I previously yearned for. And because there’s no element of doubt with her, I can accept her unconditionally and love her for that reason.
What’s been interesting though is how others have reacted to both the post and to the photos and, of course, here I am showing them to people who have no frame of reference – I see someone I recognise on one but not on the other, you all see someone you don’t recognise on either and can give a far more objective comparison than I can. I think it’s absolutely right that we’re our own worst critic (because it drives us to strive to be the best we can be) but there does come a point when we have to take a deep breath, stop worrying and believe in ourselves. And for that, I am deeply grateful to all of you for pointing out that Yellow Dress Girl compares well against her red dressed counterpart!
What I would stress, though, is when I talked about seeing ‘him’, I was definitely not saying that I saw the archetypal ‘bloke in a dress’ as we uncharitably say in the UK. But what I do see is ‘me’ and that’s very important firstly because, in doing so, I can accept that I am her without any feelings of apprehension, shame or embarrassment and secondly because she is the important link between me and Red Dress Girl (and her sister, Black Dress Girl, who you haven’t met yet) which would be otherwise harder to accept.
Amanda, I understand exactly what you were saying. I can divide my photos into 3 groups. The pictures of Becky I love, the picture of Becky I don’t love and finally the pictures that look too much like him. As a guy with short hair & pale skin like you, I have never liked how I look. With long hair and makeup to bring out my eyes and my lips, i quite like how I look as a woman. For some reason as you say some pictures seem to catch the male more than others.
For the record, i think you look great in both pictures
Becky, I often wonder whether our subconscious knows far more about us than we think! It took me 6 decades to realise that I look far better as a woman than I do as a man! After at least 22,300 feelings of disappointment as I looked in the mirror, I’d pretty well worked out that I wasn’t a huge fan of ‘his’ face but would never have guessed the transformative effect of eyeliner & lippy!
Judging by the curveballs she’s been throwing me for most of my life, my subconcious knew all along and the relief she feels that I’ve finally cottoned on is palpable!
Thanks for the compliment too!
Amanda, both photos are very lovely! I’ll tell you something, since the photos lead your blog post I of course looked at them intently before reading, and what struck me the most was in your yellow dress photo the first thing I looked at were your eyes. The glistening.
What I saw, there, I have seen it 100’s of times and it is joy. Beyond the clothes, beyond the makeup. Presenting that joy, wearing it proudly is the best thing you can wear.
Christina, thank you for taking the time to leave such a lovely comment.
I know what you mean about the ‘joy’. It’s that feeling that’s impossible to describe and yet understood by everyone who’s experienced it. What I remember about that particular day is how completely calm I felt. Cindy, who did the makeup, treated me just like a normal person while she coaxed my inner woman out and I was finally able to release the pressure of secrecy with someone who not only understood (she is TG herself) but gently encouraged without any judgement. Ironically, because my eyesight is so bad without glasses, I had no idea how I looked until I received the photos from her the following day so what you see on the photos is the manifestation of all of the feelings, both tactile & emotional, that came out of that amazing day.