King for a Night (part 2)
Who's That On Your Face?
Todd is my girlfriend with a boy's name. How appropriate, you might say, for my night out as a man. We've done some lame-brained Lucy and Ethel bits, but dressing me as a boy takes the cake. You see, I needed some assistance getting ready and she was the one anointed to flatten my chest.
Over the years, Todd and I have had many occasions that we call "We're Friends Now." You know, really intimate moments. For instance, when her bathroom was under construction, I washed her hair with a garden hose while her head was flung over the tub. She refastened my garter belt one night when I got the thing tangled and couldn't walk. I changed her sheets. 'Nough said.
Anyway, it stands to reason that the girl who once waxed my armpits and shoved her hand up my dress to untwist my slip would be the only person I allow to use my nostrils as a handle while applying my fake beard.
The day of my transformation, we purchased the tools of the Kinging trade. Our first stop was to buy false eyelashes to fill in my plucked eyebrows. We then bought food (rare roast beef, fit for a King) and booze.
I stripped down into a robe and sat in a chair in the middle of Todd's kitchen. She proceeded to spread Elmer's glue on my face in preparation for my goatee. Our ultimate "We're Friends Now" moment came when Todd appeared with a yellow dish sprinkled with leg hair that she'd emptied from her electric razor. She gently pinched the hair like salt, distributing it evenly across my face. And yes, she not only crammed her fingers up my nostrils, she clamped my nose and blew on her leg hair so it would land in all the right spots. All the while, Mamie, the family pooch, licked my toes.
The door burst open and suddenly there were men on the floor. Todd's boyfriend, Hayward, and our pal Glen bounded into the room with the tenacity of two 12-year-olds after a Little League game. They were assigned a role in the King's court. They were to be Phil's spirit guides into the world of Boy.
Bound and Determined
Totally naked except for a pair of Hayward's boxers with the name "Jake" printed on the waistband, I stood alone in the bedroom waiting for Todd to bind my breasts. I'd gained a few pounds and jumped up a cup size but Todd didn't know that. "This is going to be harder than I thought," she snickered, ogling my rack.
I still hadn't looked in the mirror.
By this time, we were sweaty and we smelled. But my BO somehow sent a signal to my brain and I started to feel masculine. Not that boys stink, mind you, but I've been around enough of them to know the stinky-sock-equals-guy equation. Todd wrapped the Ace bandage around my chest and pulled tighter. It was a warped, reverse version of Victorian gals holding on to the bedpost during corseting.
She secured my binding with a pin. I threw on a man's undershirt over the flesh-toned bandage and finally looked in the mirror. I felt naughty, scared and intrigued. I had, in the course of one hour, gone from wearing a hat, scarf, dress and lipstick to looking and feeling like the guy behind the counter at Jiffy Lube. It went beyond butch, beyond Elvis Herselvis, beyond my gender.
I put on clothes that disguised my skinny neck and child-bearing curves and wore shoulder pads to make me more proportioned. I slipped into big boots and emerged from the bedroom dressed as Phil.
I was met with a chorus of "Holy shit!" along with high fives and pounding thuds on my back. My gaggle of friends no longer treated me as Colleen. Mamie clicked across the floor and sniffed my crotch. Todd looked different to me. I don't know why. There was a knock on the door. Mamie barked.
Our friend Sarah knew our secret, but she'd waited patiently on the front porch until she felt we were ready for spectators. She walked through the door and looked around the room. Then we saw her eyes bug out and heard her jaw crack on the living room floor. Sarah was the first victim of Phil's folly. She kept looking at me and looking away. She walked into the kitchen and admitted to Todd that she had to collect herself.
Sean & the Mummy
Since Phil had never been to a strip joint, Hayward and Glen decided to drag me to Temptations for opening night at New Haven's newest adult club We were all carded. The door guard did a doubletake when he inspected my license, but asked no questions. Maybe he'd seen the ruse before.
I kept my head down as I inched my way through the crowd of men. I stood on the sidelines along the runway with the rest of the men and watched women take off their clothes.
Jody Wheat, our photographer, and her friend Ann appeared to be the only other females in the joint besides the dancers. I was numb to my surroundings. The woman in me that I couldn't suppress was neither disgusted nor shocked by the nudity. But I kept thinking the dancers were being pushed out from a Minwax conveyor belt backstage. They were hairless and shiny and buffed to perfection. Meanwhile I had my friend's body hair glued to my chin.
Phil wasn't turned on.
We left Temptations partly because we were bored. I wanted to interact with people and this wasn't the place. The patrons were either too busy stagging it up with their buddies or too immersed in private moments in the corner.
I needed more. We went to cafe nine, the friendly bar on the corner of State and Crown streets. A place where everybody knows my name... as, er, Colleen.
Freddy at the door usually gives me a gentlemanly kiss on the hand, but not this time. He politely asked, "You with Hayward?" and waved me in. I didn't keep my head down. Instead, I puffed out my chest. I had a beer with Hayward and Glen and we talked about chicks. Mostly they talked and I listened, leaning against the jukebox in a moody James Dean pose. I stayed in character, but the real Phil was still slightly beyond my reach.
Out from the kitchen emerged my longtime friend Jeanne. She recognized me, but was visibly shocked. Within minutes she recovered and put my hand on her ass.
Then, through the crowd, I saw Todd's head bobbing closer. Behind her, I noticed a guy in a hat. I thought she'd run into another friend and brought him along for fun. He looked like he drove an 18-wheeler for Oscar Mayer. It wasn't until I shook the guy's hand that I realized it was Sarah. She fooled us all. Even Jeanne.
Sarah, now "Sean," bought us a couple of shots and we bellied up to the bar. We traded Kinging tips and talked about porn stars and tools. She also stuffed her pants with an antler lopped off a toy reindeer. I had penis envy.
We thought we'd try one last strip joint before we called it a night. Club International was in the neighborhood, so all of us, except for Jeanne and Sarah -- oops! I mean Sean -- opted to go.
In the foyer, I stood next to a tightly wrapped mummy in a leopard-lined sarcophagus, leaning against the wall. It had huge bound boobs and a necklace. Being slightly bound myself, I had a lot in common with the preserved body. We walked through a smoky front room where women in various states of undress displayed their wares to appreciative customers. Then we arrived in an abandoned billiard room, where harsh lights fell on two pool tables.
We met Arielle. Our spirited and energetic sex object, all 95 pounds of her.
She had been told what the gig was about and immediately sprang into action. She guided me to the pool table and directed my body. Sit like this, she said. Put your hand here, she suggested. She led me. We role-played in a trashy, yet respectful, way. We were both doing our jobs.
She did hers well, because suddenly and without warning, Phil was born. Not that every guy defines his masculinity by posing on a pool table with an exotic dancer. But I did. For more reasons unknown. I didn't hear my friends' laughter off to the side and I wasn't inhibited by Jody's camera. Phil and I became one -- on the left side, corner pocket. Everyone saw the moment it happened. They said later that they saw my expression change -- they saw the last vestiges of Colleen leave, and watched Phil take over. We all needed a cold shower, especially me. I thanked Arielle, and the six of us stood outside under a lamppost, breathing in the fresh air.
For eight hours of my life, I defied a gender system that, though I'd never realized it before, had been tyrannizing me all my life. As a man, I felt invisible. When I walked into a room, I was no longer a vulnerable creature with boobs and lips, a commodity to be bartered for in one form of barroom commerce or another. Instead, I was the one doing the bidding. I looked at chicks; but that wasn't the cool part. The cool part was being a member of a club that I'd never been allowed into before. I bought the drinks, I took up space, I jockeyed for position with other incredibly generic boys. Dressed for anonymity, like all the other jamokes, I blended into the landscape.
Before I ventured to King, I'd done a lot of reading about how to "pass." One of the pieces of advice that struck me as almost tragic was this: Don't smile, don't talk with your hands, don't try to make everybody else feel comfortable. In short, don't take responsibility for social situations. That's what women do. There's a famous feminine saying: "When it rains at a picnic, women think it's their fault." I never understood how true that is until I lost my femininity for a night.
Phil has always been there. I just never let him come out and play before. Colleen has always appreciated the beauty, flamboyance and forthcoming attitude of women, but it was Phil who let me be at the receiving end of that, to enjoy it as the person for whom all that flirting and primping was intended.
There's probably a profound subtext there somewhere, but honestly, I don't know what it is. I don't know why clothes make the man (or woman). I don't know why posture, gesture and fingernails define who we are.
Gender issues seem always to come wrapped in a cloak of politics. As a human being, I empathize with and champion any movement that allows us to be more free, promotes social evolution and denounces bigotry in any form.
But what I did on Friday night was personal.
On one hand, it was starring in my own private Fellini movie. Everybody involved -- Jody, Ann, Hayward, Todd and Sarah -- agreed that the whole scene was surreal. Yet as the days tick by and the strangeness settles, I know now that I would recommend this experience to any woman -- gay, straight, young or old -- who wants not only to see but to feel how the other half (or less) lives. Phil taught me plenty; he is with me always.
The King is dead; long live the King.
By Colleen Van Tassell a.k.a. Phil McCracken