I am continuing my look-back to exactly ten years ago, to the weeks I spent pushing myself out into the real world. If I was going to live the life I wanted as a woman, I was going to have to take serious steps, I realised.
So a few days after leaving my own home for the first time, as described in my last post (Getting out the front door), I decided to investigate two recommended resources for makeup and hair: Mac and Trendco.
Some weeks before this I had visited Doreen's Fashions, where I bought the hair I wore for the Drag Race (The Great Drag Race). I had also bought my first pair of breast forms there. Doreen's was once an excellent resource for the trans community in South East England, a shop in London that specialised in catering for trans and related fashions. It closed its doors on the Lea Bridge Road in 2014 citing new parking and other restrictions, but I suspect the rise in internet shopping by trans people had something to do with that too. Their charmingly old-fashioned website is here: https://www.doreenfashions.com/.
In my previous trip I had taken the London Underground and suburban trains for the first time. This time I was going to take them again and go all the way into Central London for the two appointments I had made with Mac and Trendco. Despite my success in my previous trips, this was still my early days and I was very nervous. I actually walked to the next station down the line just in case I was spotted by any locals who knew the male me. But once I was sitting in a quiet corner of the underground train my confidence improved as we trundled slowly from the suburbs to ever more crowded parts of London.
I had made an appointment with Mac Makeup in Kensington Church Street and a wonderful young assistant, Tabitha, had been supplied to me as she had already had many dealings with TGirls in another branch. It was lovely to sit in the chair in the makeover section and have her chat to me about how their products worked, as opposed to the Kryolan and Dermablend products that the Boudoir had recommended to me. Mac products are very expensive, though, and frankly the super makeover she gave me would have cost about £200 to replicate at home. I did buy one or two items, notably the pore filler which is useful for those with larger, more male-type skin pores. Tabitha was great, knowledgeable, friendly and ideal for putting me at my ease.
Trendco was at the other end of Kensington Church Street and I walked there up the hill, feeling very happy with my experience at Mac. The assistant at Trendco (I'm fairly sure it was Michael) suggested a style different from the others I had picked at the Boudoir and Doreen's. Again, he was very helpful, knowledgeable and never pushy. In the end, I bought a shorter style. The result of my new makeup and hair sessions left me looking like this. Pretty good, if I'm allowed to say so myself.
I went home by public transport positively buzzing. Two great experiences and an explosion in confidence.
That was 6 July 2010. The next day I had agreed to meet Emma Walkey as she was coming up to London again. Unlike our evening out the previous month, which I narrated in the first post of this series (Dining out: my baptism of fire), for me this was a trip from home by public transport again. Yes, I was still nervous, but I knew I could do it now.
I met Emma at Euston station - I think it was the first long-distance rail trip she'd done as Emma as she'd come all the way from Manchester. My memory of events is fuzzier than in the previous trips, which actually shows that my new-found freedom and confidence were becoming a given, so impressions are less burnt into my memory. We had a coffee at the café outside the station, travelled by Underground to Soho, which is the bustling heart of London's restaurant scene, and had lunch at Bistro One in Brewer Street.
And we went to the Victoria & Albert Museum, which is Britain's main museum for the decorative arts. Emma will have to remind me if that was to see the special Grace Kelly exhibition or if that was on another occasion. The best thing about that museum is the overblown Victorian tea rooms! But there was also an ice cream stall in the courtyard, which we enjoyed as it was a hot day. Another successful and fun trip out with both of us gaining hugely in confidence (and probably weight as well!).
When you know you need to do something, be something, you push yourself through all the barriers. I had needed courage in spades over the previous weeks, but it was paying off and I felt overdosed on adrenalin for sure, but also overwhelmed with joy.
There's one more major event to descibe from that incredible summer of 2010 and that will be in First Steps 5 in a few days' time.
Add: see Emma's comment below. My fuzzy memory wasn't wholly wrong: she had tickets to see the Victoria & Albert Museum's fashion department's special exhibition on Grace Kelly's outfits. Some truly gorgeous, stylish dresses - the Fifties were a special time for female fashions and Grace Kelly was a - maybe even the - Fifties icon. We were certainly noticed by the tourists but this bothered me a lot less by now than it would have done a few weeks before. Thanks for the recollection, Emma, and thanks for a fun day and for being such a great friend.