As eluded to in my last update, as day moved into evening on Saturday 18th October a gala dinner beckoned.
As also indicated in a previous post, this weekend away was anchored around a stay at a hotel event organised by online support group Transliving exclusively for Transgender guests. The reason why I originally booked this event, way back in March, was partly to meet friends I had made online and partly the thought of an Andrea-adventure away from home… although as my confidence has subsequently shot sky-high and I have done so much then this weekend really rather mushroomed compared to my original expectations. Another thing that attracted me was the main and, as advertised in March, the only fancy-dress evening, where the theme was Snow Queen – I am really not normally one for fancy dress (and in fact, as an adult, I have only ever done it one other time, where I dressed in a tiger suit… but that is another, irrelevant story consigned to my past) but this rather girlie theme really rather grabbed me, the thought of being able to dress up like a princess truly had me instantly excited!!
(As time went on, other fancy dress themes came up for different nights but they really did nothing for me whatsoever, and I started to think their purpose was to cater more for the TV/CD element of the gathering… and although that is fine for them, it is SO not me – the first theme was Bond Girls, which does not appeal at all if only because of the sex-object nature that it conjures up, while the theme on the last night was “Military”… oh please).
So, back to the Snow Queen theme. Well, as some of you who know me are aware, I generally tend to try my hardest to do everything as perfectly as I can… which is a typical Virgo trait for any of you who believe in astrology… and this approach really had to apply to this Snow Queen theme too – I had no desire or view that I could possibly win such a competition, but I was going to have a good go to come up with an outfit that made me look the part… at least that is what I hoped! I certainly did not want to make a fool of myself. I did not want to spend a fortune on such a costume because I knew I would hardly get much wear out of it… and so, within a day of booking my Eastbourne break, I was already on good old eBay searching for a dress as the base component for my costume. I had an idea what to search under, and it was not long before I saw the exact style that I wanted, in pure white – it was available at the time from two sellers, and so I watched them both, one had a few bids on it and soon enough was out of my grasp, but the next I won! It didn’t take long to ship over, and once I tried it on I just KNEW it was right, it felt so special… and my mind was soon spinning with all sorts of ideas as to how to accessorise it – I Googled Snow Queen, which came up with a bewildering assortment of looks, but I zeroed in on the image I wanted, and spent the next few weeks searching for all kinds of things, a jacket, shoes, princess-type gloves, make up, a new bra that wouldn’t peak above the line of my dress, jewellery, snowflake stickers for my nails… and of COURSE a tiara, in my mind every princess must have one of those. I’ll just put a photo here of my shoes, as to paste all the other items will just spoil in-advance the finished look… although if you have been reading Kirsty’s blog then you’ll already know what it is like. So on the whole I managed to get everything well before we went away… although when I started to Google snow queen make up I realised that there were a couple of things I needed… and another idea sprung to mind.
Kirsty and I decided that we would get dressed for dinner as snow queens, because we knew that it would take a while for our transformation into princesses to be completed. And we were SO right. I suppose I should have had a complete practise run with the make up, but I just did not organise myself well enough… so that took an age to do, especially as I decided I would try and glitter-paint a snowflake on my cheek! Once that was done I started getting dressed and once the dress straps were on my shoulders I really started to get excited. That is when I summoned my good lady in waiting, Ruth, as I knew that the zip on my dress was very stiff and I might need help… and it was a good job she came to assist, because even with both of her hands and one of mine it took a wee effort to sort me out. Ruth was prettily attired in a blue dress with a nice subtle pattern and, once I was sorted out, I showed her one or two more components of my costume… and as she left, after gushing comments, that is when the emotions really started to kick in big time! As I donned the final items of my costume – gloves, shoes, finely adjusted my make up and applied lip gloss – I started to get ever so teary-eyed, because there in the mirror staring back at me was a princess! One that I didn’t think looked half-bad at that. And as I slipped into the piece-de-resistance, a lovely fur jacket tied with pompoms, and I looked at myself again I started to cry. I have NEVER dressed, or even LOOKED at myself, and felt so special, and as pretty, as that moment. I was SO overwhelmed with a tidal wave of wonderful emotion… and of course, emotional wreck that I am, I am getting teary-eyed even thinking/writing about it now.
I packed my creamy-white clutch bag with essential items, exited my room, and down the hall at the far end was my lovely BF, looking very elegant in her own dress. As I walked towards her, Ruth exiting her room, a few tears dribbled down my cheek, I was all choked up with emotion and my voice was trembly. Kirsty, with her ever-incredible sense of humour, said “Surely I don’t look that bad?” I assured her that she looked lovely, that it was the special feelings that I had inside, like I was going to my first prom. I only wish that I had a photo of that moment… though it will always remain in my mind, a treasured memory.
(Must pause here to mop cheeks)
Of course, we were late for dinner… again… but why break the habit of a life time, especially as we were snow princesses for the evening. We all daintily entered the dining room, and were slightly alarmed to note that, as far as we could see, there were no other snow queens to be seen. SURELY there must be others competing, as it was the main theme… and as it turned out there were, but they just got changed after dinner, so I think we deserved to get a prize just for the amount of effort we took getting ready! As soon as I sat down I took my fur jacket off, in order for this snow princess to avoid melting in the heat of the hotel dining room, and we commenced eating the courses of our gala dinner. I think the word “gala” translated as “having one more course than normal” which was a starter of scampi (which I expect was cooked from frozen), a rather bizarre dish for a gala dinner. Anyway, the food was nice enough, especially my salmon… and luckily I took up Kirsty’s suggestion of using my napkin only minutes before I clumsily dropped some of my dinner on my lap! Here is a photo of the snow princesses at the dining table. As dinner ended I inspected myself in a compact-mirror like all girls do to make sure they still look reasonable… and noticed a minor disaster to my look! My blue glitter eye make up in the heat of the hotel had decided to shift up my eyelids, and I had mascara type flecks above that too!! Quel horreur! So I hurriedly returned to my room to make urgent repairs.
At around 9.00pm there was some vague announcement made that the Snow Queen competition was commencing and so we all headed downstairs to the dance floor where it was to be held. We sat for some time, waiting for things to get organised, and thankfully noticed several other snow queens already on the dance floor, boogeying away… so at least we would not be the only two competitors… and then I started to look at the other costumes and wondered how well we would be judged. Some did look reasonable… and some not, in fact one which I will not describe looked truly dreadful and not remotely queen/princess-like at all. And I suppose it was at that moment that I started to realise that the people in this room were really rather a mixture, not just snow queens but everyone there. I knew that there were some full-time TSs there, and some (such as I) intending to become full-time… and some who were at the very opposite of the spectrum, someone wearing a blue-tinsel wig, another wearing bizarre lamp-shade shaped skirts, others wearing skirts that were far too short, and so on.
The competition was started and the girls on the floor lined up, and so Kirsty and I hesitantly yet hurriedly joined them – I am really not an in-the-limelight kind of girl, and so I suddenly felt dreadfully nervous and somewhat out of place, I had loved getting ready and seeing my finished look… but now I was actually being judged! Kirsty in her blog said that she hated this part… but I soon realised that this would probably be my only opportunity to be involved in a cat-walk type scenario so I gave myself one of those “YOU CAN DO THIS” mental-kicks and I got into the swing of things… but in my own way – some competitors I felt looked rather odd, with very unladylike walks and brash interaction with the crowd, but my modus operandi is always to be as ladylike as possible and so I walked as slowly and elegantly as I could, with no interaction to the crowd but focussing on the judges and trying to exude confidence and yet at the same time the softness that is simply me. After a few circuits of the dance floor we were all lined up, pictures were taken, and then after quite an amount of judging results announced, in reverse order as is usual. Third was announced, and then second, and I thought those runners up looked reasonable… and then it was ME that was announced as the winner!!! ME!!!
I have NEVER won anything at all in my whole life! To have put so much effort into something, been SO pleased with my resulting look and having felt so special, to actually win this was just unbelievably amazing!!! I walked to the lead-judge, and was handed my prizes, sat on the stage, and had my rather beautiful sparkly tiara replaced by some ridiculous feathery affair not befitting of a queen at all. Chop off their heads, I cry! Not really, of course, but to then hear my name again as the winner just seemed utterly bizarre. There were quite a lot of people taking pictures (annoyingly, NOT the person who had been entrusted with my camera – hmmph) and then the first thing I had to do was rush to my BF and have a big hug… and of course tears were forming again, I was still in utter disbelief. Here are photos, one of me having just been crowned and one of my BF hugging me as I hold one of my prizes, some bubbly, trying to hold the tears back.
Kirsty and I sat down to catch our breath… and were soon on the dance floor again, for a photo shoot was to be taken… which I initially found rather exciting… until the variety of competitors and poses were truly encountered in all their horror! The first shots were on the fire escape, we were lined up on the stairs leading up to pavement level with me at the bottom. Then we were led to the steps in front of the main hotel entrance – the first couple of shots there were okay… and then we all had to line up showing “a bit of leg”! Uh, excuse me, but we were supposed to be princesses! DEFINITELY not the right type of behaviour, even for ladylike me never mind a queen. There were a few cars driving by, one or two tooted horns or made more than one pass… and that is when things really started going downhill, when one or two of the “girls” shouted back in such ugly, deep, bellowing tones with such brash responses that I suddenly felt totally out of place and wanted to run off to forever-after-land with Kirsty. Then we were dragged off to Eastbourne bandstand, above the pebbly beach, to get more pictures taken… with yet more loud, manly exchanges between some competitors that just irked me something awful. On the way back we passed a fellow, who I will hopefully not too unkindly describe as simple-but-nice, who said “Hey, you’re all princesses” and kept asking what it was all about; I just couldn’t engage with him.
Near the hotel Alison (photographer) had an idea to take an Abbey Road-style photo of us walking a zebra crossing. As we were standing before the crossing a woman called Sarah approached, walking her Black Labrador Pilot. She entered into some light-hearted conversation and seemed very pleasant, soon asking questions about who we were, what the event was, etc. Once most of us had crossed the road (I was the last) Alison asked Sarah if she wanted her photo taken – she didn’t seem sure, so I trotted back to her and, with a friendly word and arm around her shoulder, she seemed more comfortable. Once we were back with the others, some of the guys/girls started going on about how their dressing was a relief, a “chill-pill” (ugh), making it sound like a hobby… OH NO, and as soon as they started to lose interest in the lovely Sarah I HAD to just latch onto her and stress that, unlike those who expressed these trivialised CD/TV-type views, for the likes of me (and Kirsty and Ruth) dressing is such a minute part of the equation, that it is a way of life, that we can only be happy if we are presenting as our true selves because otherwise there is a conflict with our inner gender – we ARE women, and have a desperate need to be so. I ambled slowly back to the hotel steps… and must have stood there with her for nigh on 45 minutes chatting to her – I rushed into the hotel for a minute to get a cigarette for her, but otherwise we talked the whole time, some of it was about my gender-journey towards full transition and happiness, and my worries along the way, but there was also chat about her, she had lost a good friend recently and had just had an argument with her partner who generally seemed rather insensitive – in other words, an archytypal man! Sadly we eventually parted, but the conversation had touched me and I felt we both got something valuable out of it.
I entered the hotel and sat with my friends, with a few blessed moments out of those sky-high heels. After a wee drink Ruth offered to take some photos… and that was the kind of photographer that I wanted, someone friendly who didn’t want racy poses but just nice memory-shots, with gentle encouragement when she felt she was getting a better shot. The one above right is me in my full outfit, feeling relaxed well after the competition was over, and below is one of my BF Kirsty and I, not a full-length shot as Kirsty has that on her blog so I thought I would add some variety here. But all of the photos of us together just flood me with amazingly happy memories… because, Snow Queen Andrea and my princess Kirsty, our friendship and the special times we have are what dreams are made of… and sometimes dreams really can come true!
Fingers crossed that my ultimate dream does too!