Cross-dressing has probably done wonders for my health – at least, it’s improved my diet no end.
A couple of years back I got a couple of tight, slinky, stretchy dresses. I tried them on and was horrified by the vision grimacing back at me from the mirror. All my flab conspired to make the dresses look appalling. Or rather, the dresses conspired to make all my flab look pitifully obvious. It was bad because instead of looking feminine, I looked like a chubby dude in a lycra tube. That certainly wasn’t the look I was hoping for. I resolved to lose weight before wearing them again. Those dresses would be my motivation and reward.
Following on from the nagging feeling that my cross-dressing perpetuates sexual objectification, I also want to consider the idea of body shape. Am I reinforcing the idea that women should be slim?
I tell myself that I have good reason to keep the fat off: men and women lay down fat differently.
If I eat too much and don’t exercise enough, I’ll find my waist expanding. This is a problem for all sorts of sensible medical reasons, but where cross-dressing is concerned, it means it’s harder to squeeze myself into a ‘feminine’ shape; I have no hips to speak of, so making my waist as slender as possible is the next-best thing. If I want to wear those tight dresses whenever I want, I can’t just crash-diet every few months; rather than diet, I have to change my lifestyle.
For me, I cut down on carbs (rather than cut them out) – less bread and pasta, fewer crisps and nibbles, less beer. Lunchtime sandwiches were replaced with carrots and houmous. I’ve never been much of a driver and I live in a city that’s convenient for pedestrians, so I get my exercise by walking everywhere. I tightened my belt (and even tried a corset under my clothes for a short while) to stop myself from overeating.
It took about a year before I felt ready to wear one of those dresses. By that point, I reckoned I’d put in enough of an effort for it, and wanted to show off. My friends reacted favourably, so I wanted to get more tight, slinky dresses… which meant keeping the flab off.
At this point, I got an inkling – but only an inkling – of the hell many women must go through when they’re surrounded by gossip magazines, fashion articles, mannequins, actresses and singers and keep-fit videos all selling the idea that they have to be thin in order to fit into the latest dresses or beachwear.
I’ve found body-shaping underwear is a huge help (think of the massive underpants sported by Bridget Jones – cross-dressing isn’t necessarily sexy or comfortable), but just occasionally I’ve worn something where I don’t want any VPL showing through, and like Luke Skwalker facing Darth Vader without old Ben Kenobi to help him, I’ve had to cinch my waist without the benefit of Spanx.
When it works, and your efforts are appreciated, you think ‘Great!’ and want to do it again. So you go back to watching your waist even more closely, and start to fret over even the smallest amounts of flab. I think I can see how eating disorders might develop all too easily. It’s insidious. Happily, I’m not even close to having an eating disorder, and I won’t be so crass as to pretend to have any idea what it must be like.
While I do have this niggling concern about the image I project when I cross-dress, from my own perspective, it’s been good for me, since my diet is far healthier than it used to be. I’ve learnt not to guzzle down huge portions of food, and to regard junk food as a special treat. But damn, sometimes I just want to go nuts and wolf down a fat pile of chips…