Girly road trip 5: Getting old rocks!

Now that more of us are getting fully vaccinated, the small pocket of the world I’m living in is opening up a bit more (at least, In July 2021; nothing is guaranteed these days!). For the first time in far, far too long, I’ve been on a road trip with friends.

Everyone I know has had their own heavy shit to deal with, on top of living through a pandemic: jobs; income; living situation; giving or receiving care; bereavement. It’s been constant disruption and ongoing feeling of impermanence about everything. (I went through a lot of disruption a couple of years back; in some ways, it helped prepare me emotionally for life in the age of Covid.)

So when I had the chance to go on a fossil-hunting girly road trip, you’re damn right I took it!

Why yes, my pasty arms and legs *did* get burnt to fuck.

We went to Eyemouth to potter about the beach and cliffs and have a picnic in the sun and try to ignore the noise of young families playing on the sand (because nothing wrecks a day out like the sound of small children enjoying themselves, am I right? No? Just me? Okay then, moving on…).

I wasn’t sure what my fossil-hunting outfit should be, so I raided my wardrobe’s recesses for stuff I haven’t worn much (but can still fit into), which had a summery, casual vibe. My pallid legs are a goddamn battlefield of ingrown hairs, but there wasn’t much I could do about that.

Getting my rocks off…

Eyemouth is next door to St Abbs (where I visited on a girly road trip before). It’s pretty small: an old fishing village with a harbour, an abandoned fort, and a museum. It can make for a pleasant place to stop by and take in the views from the clifftops.

Every time I go somewhere with a cannon I must mount it suggestively IT IS THE LAW

Further back up the coast, at Barns Ness lighthouse by Dunbar, is a geologist’s wonderland of ancient rocks, layered and eroded by time. These rocks were last on the surface about 300-350 million years ago (give or take, but what’s a few million years between friends?). My travelling companions knew what to look for and pointed out the fossils that could be found here.

Forget trilobites and ammonites; forget mundane Tyrannosaur footprints or Liopleurodon bones – this is the opening of the gates to Carboniferous Park! [cue John Williams music] What you can find here are trace fossils – the remnants of trails made by tiny slithering things in ancient mud. And maybe imprints left behind by shells. But you know what, sod it: I found my own fossils and had a great day out with friends.

Eat your heart out, Laura Dern…

Catching up with people again after we’d all been frozen in social carbonite during lockdown was a funny experience: we’d all grown a bit older, but the time apart hadn’t changed the friendships and we had a great time catching up.

In 2021, I think I’m less bothered about things than I used to be. Maybe it’s an age thing; maybe it’s a result of the times we’re living through.

I’ve started growing my hair out (complete with funky grey streaks, like I’m about to fight in the Thunderdome). Partly because I’ve never had long hair and I want to see what it’s like (before it inevitably thins out and leaves my scalp looking like a cue ball); but also because just as I’m getting older, so’s my Twist stuff. The wig is starting to come apart a little bit more each time I take it out (I’ve had it since 2009!), and it might not be too long before I have to go out in Twist mode with my natural hair (I’m gonna dye that sucker; don’t expect to see Twist as a little old lady with grey hair any time soon!).

My workmates on video meetings have seen me grow my hair through various stages:

  • rakish “Harrison Ford circa 1980”
  • Frodo Baggins
  • washed-up 1970s rock singer
  • currently at Will Turner in Pirates of the Carribean length (“Ugh! Ponytail!”)
  • give it a few months and it’ll be interchangeable between boy mode and girl mode
  • if I get to 1980s-hair-metal-band length, I will have acheived my final form and will sing the song that ends the world (which could be any song, given my singing voice…)

Video meetings are also great because during the heatwave I’ve been able to work in my baking hot room in a skirt and nobody’s been any the wiser (or, in colder months, sporty leggings and pink hoodie). I don’t think I’d’ve had the confidence to do any of that when I was younger. I guess age helps me adopt a more laid-back attitude – a better perspective on what matters, what doesn’t, and when to just go with your sense of whimsy.

I’m slowly and steadily shedding my lockdown flab. I’m fully vaccinated. I’m making plans to go on more day trips and picnics with people. I have a garden with a firepit, and I’ve had friends around for food, drink, and toasted marshmallows. Everyone who’s important in my life is still in it. I’m going to carry on switching into ‘Twist mode’. Looking at what I’ve got, instead of what I might be missing, I can’t complain!

Where things go from here is anybody’s guess, but I’ve got a pretty decent starting point. I’m a 44-year-old guy and I reckon I’m having the bestest midlife crisis ever.

As David Bowie put it:
“Aging is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person you always should have been.”

“The sun has got his hat on…” (I take my hat off to him.)

So, creeps reap what they sow?

It’s been a lot longer than intended since my last blog post, but my outings this year have been of a purely social nature; no adventures; no grand photoshoots; nothing to report (at least, not yet…).

I usually do my longer more serious, introspective posts (which always give me the stomach-turning feeling that they’ll start up a shitstorm) at the end of the year.

2017 has certainly provided a bit of food for thought in the wake of this year’s eruption of sexual harassment scandals (ranging from rape and other sex acts, to unwanted physical contact, to verbal harassment), going back decades.

I could easily add my name to the #metoo hashtag (if I used Twitter), but I’d have to add it to a #I_am_hardly_blameless_myself hashtag as well.

2013_12_17_that_thing_by_tomfonder-d6y7pgt

#I_am_hardly_blameless_myself
To put it briefly, learning to socialise was a steep catch-up learning curve in my first year at university, and I found myself socially ostracised more than once because I had no idea what I was doing wrong (but I certainly knew that I was doing something wrong). Maybe I had a toxic personality; maybe it was extreme social immaturity. Whatever it was, if I could go back in time, I’d happily strangle my 17-year-old self and damn the time paradoxes.

Have I ever creeped women out? For certain (I had enough self-awareness to realise that my teenage attempts at flirting were about as welcome as being chatted up by Gollum). Have I ever said inappropriate things? Yes (thankfully I was able to channel these impulses into improv comedy instead). Have I ever touched a woman inappropriately? I’m sure I probably did – but I’m also sure that was the extent of it, though. It’s not like I was a rampant sex pest in the style of Pepé Le Pew; just an annoying teenage shit.

On meeting up with one of my university friends a couple of years back, she assured me that whatever I said or did (that had me twitching and gibbering to myself years or decades later with embarrassing memories) “At least you apologised.”

What changed? I learnt not to be a dick, through a process of trial and error, I guess. A year or two of solo travelling helped as well – going around the world with nothing more than you can physically carry means you have to sharpen your social skills pretty damn quick. I’d say I was in my early-to-mid-twenties before I was an acceptably functioning member of civilised society.

What about #metoo then?
It was also at university that I started crossdressing, and I’ve already written about the great fun I had.

But there were plenty of moments when guys – and it was only the guys – creeped me out: trying to lift my skirt at parties (several times – what were they hoping to see?); inviting me to sit on their laps (certainly not, if it’s going to feel like you have three knees); once asking if I ‘wanted to be fucked like a bitch’ (by a total stranger at a party – I assume he’s had a lifetime of going home alone at night); grabbed from behind and dry humped (three occasions); and then, of course, there was the whole ‘if a man is dressed as a woman then it must be funny’ thing to get over. I prefer to dwell on the good stuff that happened instead (all of these were in the late 1990s, so pre-Twist days).

More recently, however, sometimes people (men, women, or otherwise) grab or touch Twist (or ask bizarre questions) and I either don’t mind at all, or I don’t let it bother me.

Sometimes it’s just curiosity (“Are those tits real?” *poke* – “Would you really have done that if you thought they were?”); sometimes it’s just for fun (I tried very hard not to dissolve into giggles whilst being motorboated at a party once); hugs and touches are perfectly okay too (I’m not much of a huggy-touchy person myself but I won’t ever turn them down).

Some things are okay when I feel safe and it’s among friends. As for how other people might react to those same things, your mileage may vary.

14615864_331310427233389_4936048907611587462_o

This was bloody funny actually. 😀

So, is there anything I can conclude?
I can only speak for myself here: feeling sexually harassed was something I felt more acutely when I was younger, and more unsure of myself, and low-status. And it only ever happened when I was cross-dressed, so – and it’s important to note this – it’s not like I had to face this sort of thing all the time.

These days, as Twist, I’m a big girl and I can take a lot, and I’d let someone know if they’d gone too far.

What’s my take on all the sexual harassment scandals? These are only my current thoughts, and they may or may not change (and bear in mind that explanations are not excuses):

  • If a guy says they can’t remember something they did years ago, it’s probably true.
    But – in my last year on university, a woman I met with some of my friends said I’d made a highly inappropriate remark to her way back in my first year. I had no memory of this at all, but I said that it sounded like the sort of thing I would’ve said, and apologised to her for it. If you can recognise you’ve screwed up, it seems like the least you can do.
  • Some guys have no idea they’re doing something wrong.
    Maybe it’s immaturity; maybe they can’t pick up on social cues; maybe they’re used to a touchy-feely or bantering culture (I always blame things on stupidity before I blame them on malice). I suspect a lot of people don’t realise that others won’t think the same way they do – while guys might be flattered or amused by (sexual) attention, it doesn’t mean women will be flattered or amused by the same sort of attention (depends on the person, I suppose?). Never underestimate how stupid young men can be.
  • Mixing sexual relationships with work relationships sounds bloody dangerous at the best of times.
  • Age-wise, if you want to avoid being skeevy, a neat rule of thumb I heard is:
    don’t date anyone who is younger than [half-your-age, plus seven years]. Even better, don’t blithely assume that you’re date-able.
  • Anyone shown to have abused their high status deserves to be publicly brought down. Justice must be seen to be done, and nobody is above the law.
  • Guilt and shame work best when they’re self-inflicted. Unfortunately, some people have egos too big for this to work, and need the evidence of their wrongdoing screamed at them from a thousand directions.
  • Lastly, and probably least popularly, there is a damn good reason why the law has presumption of innocence. Mob justice is ugly, fickle, hasty and forgetful, and it can turn against the innocent as well as the guilty, no matter if we like them or not. (The two links in this bullet point give different views on the matter; I recommend reading both.)

I’m a long-term optimist. It’s not going to be quick; it’s not going to be an even improvement, everywhere, for everyone – but things will improve.

Also: I’m really fucking glad I went through my teens before social media was invented.

*

I have a few Twist things planned for 2018 (if I can summon up the courage), and I still have a backlog of photos to add to the gallery.

More blogging later! 🙂

Hooked on a feline

On another old photoshoot, I had the idea of finding everyday locations that might be a bit science fictiony when seen from a certain angle, and try to get some sort of action heroine shots. This is trickier than it sounds, because it turns out these sorts of places employ security guards…

catsuit

This is more uncomfortable than it looks…

Nothing says ‘action heroine who’s got her shit sorted out’ like a catsuit. This sort of thing also tends to attract a lot of attention, so I reckoned it’d be best to get the photos done very early on another summer morning. I’d given thought to the science & engineering campus for the university as a location, but plumped instead for the back of a cinema complex, where there were lots of grilles and vents and a very long staircase that brought to mind (my mind, anyway) classic villains’ lairs from old James Bond movies. We weren’t supposed to park there, but who was going to notice at 5am?

Right after this photo was taken, we were asked to leave...

Right after this photo was taken, we were asked to leave…

We barely got started – maybe half a dozen photos to get lighting and poses figured out – before a side door opened and a chubby, spotty, greasy little teenager in an ill-fitting suit waddled out with a walkie talkie. His face was flushed, like he’d just interrupted a late-night chip supper to deal with us.

“Ye cannae be here!” he squeaked in a breaking voice, “It’s no’ allowed!”

In my heels, I felt like I was twice his height. I figured he must’ve been the cinema manager’s otherwise unemployable son or something. At any rate, I could see why he was picked for the Z-shift on the duty rota.

“We’re just taking a few photos,” my girlfriend explained.

“Ye’ve got tae go! It’s private propurrty!”

Discretion being the better part of valour, I just rolled my eyes, grabbed my coat and headed to the incredibly long staircase down to the car. Halfway down, I had that hairs-raising-on-the-back-of-my-neck feeling; I was being watched. Sure enough, I turned around and saw the wee man staring at my backside.

“I’m not who you think I am!” I told him.

I was quite gratified to see his jaw open and shut like a gasping fish as he stammered silently for a moment before waddling back to the safety of his CCTV control room.

Okay, strike one location. I had another idea: there was a water treatment facility by the shore, and from some angles it kinda looked like a nuclear reactor. It was also next to some industrial wasteland, so there would be a ton of scrap metal to strike adventurous poses on. I had visions of photoshopping in attack helicopters and explosions (still haven’t gotten around to that yet).

Despite appearances, this isn't a nuclear reactor; it's a water treatment facility...

Despite appearances, this isn’t a nuclear reactor; it’s a water treatment facility…

We tried not to breathe in the stench from the sewer water, and got a number of shots in…. before a marked security car crawled past. The driver scowled at us. Or maybe it was leering. It was hard to tell. Unlike a cinema Z-shift team, this guy looked like he strangled kittens for fun. We were glad when he drove on, out of sight.

Action heroines always seem to end up mucking around industrial waste grounds...

Action heroines always seem to end up mucking around industrial waste grounds…

Anyway, we were on a public road, and we weren’t breaking any laws, so we stayed to take a few more pictures across the road in front of the waste ground (I decided it was too muddy and potholed to actually prance around in there). That’s when a second security car crawled past. The driver looked like Spike the bulldog from the Tom & Jerry cartoons and got into the security business because he was attracted by the prospect of beating the crap out of people. He stared at me with – well, kiss-kiss-bang-bang eyes I guess…

As soon as he drove round the corner we decided this location was bust too. Time to move on again.

There was an old observatory on a hill with great views over the city centre, right next to the cinema we’d started at. So we went back, and I had to totter up the slopes and steps to the top, regretting my choice of footwear with every step.

More from the amazing adventures of Spinal Twist...

More from the amazing adventures of ‘Spinal Twist’…

The observatory itself was hidden behind a wall, but there were plenty of other points of interest on top of the hill (I used the location for other photoshoots later in the year). Best of all, there were no CCTV cameras and no guards to stop us; as far as I know it’s a public park.

Nothing like a stroll in the park to get you going...

Nothing like a stroll in the park to get you going…

Sorting out my hair, because that's what people will be looking at first... right?

Sorting out my hair, because that’s what people will be looking at first… right?

...when the revolution comes...

…when the revolution comes…

We got the photos I was after, but I wanted just a few more at a more rural-looking location, like the sort of quaint villages you’d see in the 1960s Avengers TV show. Edinburgh has that too, with a church next to a loch.

I live in a city with quaint villages right in the middle of it...

I live in a city with quaint villages right in the middle of it…

All I need is a Jaguar E-type and my image is set...

All I need is a Jaguar E-type and my image is set…

After the village pictures, we ventured down to the loch, past a bevy of swans which all stopped and stared. Just for that moment, it felt like something from one of the more surreal episodes of a sixties adventure show (“I shall conquer England with my army of robot swans! Muahahaha!”).

That swan honked at me. The sexist pervert.

That swan honked at me. The sexist pervert.

I expected the swans. I didn’t expect to interrupt a guy in a tent at the side of the loch, fishing. He certainly didn’t expect to see us, that’s for sure. I bade him good morning, and his mouth fell open, dropping his pipe onto his lap. Poor sod. He just wanted a quiet bit of fishing before breakfast time, and, well, Twist happens.

Four-inch heels are completely impractical for being a cartoon secret agent...

Four-inch heels are completely impractical for being a cartoon secret agent…

I was told to stand like this. I have no idea why.

I was told to stand like this. I have no idea why.

*For newer readers, I’ve written previously on the subject of catsuits, objectification,  sexualisation, and feelings of empowerment before – in short, I liked prancing around like this because I thought it might look cool, rather than to look sexy.

…but I’m keeping my name…

In a bit of personal news, I just got married. So Twist is now a married man. However, you can rest assured that as ‘Twist’ I will still be ‘Miss Twist’…

Posing with a posie

Posing with a posie

In all honesty, I don’t think there’s anyone else I’d want to keep having adventures with. If it wasn’t for my wife, Twist would not exist. Nor would there be all the photos you can see on this blog.

...oh, wait, I'm not supposed to do that, am I?

…oh, wait, I’m not supposed to do that, am I?

The week before we ran off to tie the knot, we did an early-morning photoshoot; just a handful of photos outside a nearby convent (HA! The irony…). This was the quickest shoot we’d ever done. And when we nipped back to the car, a dog walker saw us and gave me a big cheery smile.

“Congratulations!”

“Yeah, thanks man.”

He just stared as we got into the car and drove away. We giggled like idiots; really happy idiots. 🙂

I'm not a blushing bride; that's just hayfever.

I’m not a blushing bride; that’s just hayfever.

It’s fun doing this sort of thing. 😀

(Just don’t ask who wears the trousers…)

The Swimsuit Edition

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m deeply shallow and vain and a show-off. In anyone else, this is considered a virtue and called ‘confidence’. Read this as you will, but it takes confidence to prance about cross-dressed in a swimsuit…

*waves*

I wanted to do some beach photos for the calendars I made for my friends. I wanted them to look sporty, or glamourous, or a bit retro. Only two things stood in my way: a lack of swimsuits, and no idea where to go.

Procuring swimsuits was easy enough; cheap supermarket ones would do. There was no way I could pull off a bikini (by which I mean wear one confidently), so I found a terrifically ugly one-piece polka-dot affair, one with a magenta stripe, and cheapest of all, a simple black number. Surely, even without the benefit of Spanx, one of them would work out? (In the end, I found a use for all three.)

Choosing a location was a different problem. I wanted something on the east coast partly because of proximity, but also to get a sunrise shot – even if, at the latitude on which I live (further north than Moscow), a summer sunrise occurs at 4.30am.

It took a few weekends consulting Google Maps and driving around to some bleak, desolate, rocky coves that would only interest geological field trips, but I homed in on Tyne Sands near the town of Dunbar. Then I had to make sure the skies would be clear… and I decided to check the tides for good measure. These weren’t just swimsuit photos; I was going to science the shit out of this.

sunshine and sea

For the sake of glamour, let’s pretend this was taken somewhere warm and tropical…

All I do is beach, beach, beach…

Just a few weeks after standing at a local roundabout dressed as a bunny girl, I found myself taking off my clothes on a freezing cold deserted beach in the pre-dawn light at about 4.20am. I should get my head examined.

The first plunge into the water was agony; you won’t see any photos of that. But after a few minutes, I got used to it. And then the sun broke, a deep red. Even here, there was something incredibly life-affirming about staring at the sun as it crept over the same waves that were lapping around my knees.

Still, I wasn’t here to have fun. I tried to remember to suck in my gut, and pose properly, but I couldn’t exactly splash back to the sand and check the photos my girlfriend was taking, and then splash back for some more. A lot of it was down to just hoping for the best (in retrospect, I wish I’d gone a little bit further into the waves).

So much for the sporty shots. I changed into the polka-dot affair, and had to tuck my bra-straps into my bra in order to wear the halterneck properly. If the crew of the two distant fishing boats happened to be up and awake and looking at the beach through binoculars, then maybe they’d’ve freaked out. But I’m pretty sure they weren’t.

If modelling involves putting on a look of studied indifference, then ...I'm still practising...

If modelling involves putting on a look of studied indifference, then …I’m still practising…

The purpose of the next set was to go for the retro/glam look. I’d already sketched out poses and ideas for all of these, so it was just a case of finding a suitable stretch of beach. Happily, the sun was at just the right angle and direction to provide a good, golden light. I brought props: a beach towel; an empty wine bottle and glass; a can of Red Bull to make do for the wine; and a book (Backwards In High Heels if you must know) – all to cultivate the impression that I’m a classy fucker, me.

(That’s Red Bull in that glass…)

If you get up early enough, you can have a summer beach all to yourself...

If you get up early enough, you can have a summer beach all to yourself…

I love this dress; it’s great for making quick changes…

I had one more swimsuit and one more set of photos in mind. I wanted to do a set of astrology-themed pictures, and decided that sitting in a rockpool with a toy crab would work for ‘Cancer’ (in the end, the toy crab turned out to be too small and washed out in the sunlight, so I pulled a funny face and Photoshopped one in, instead).

The rocks were on the other side of the river, so we had to pile into the car, drive around, park next to camper vans full of slumbering surfers, and head through a patch of forest to the river mouth. The tide was far enough out to pose on the rocks and seaweed for a bit (for some reason, it didn’t feel like I was in Scotland any more; it also felt like I was on a mini-holiday).

On the way back home, we stopped at the small town of Haddington and got a few green, leafy shots by the river and the church (it was still early enough that nobody was about).

Obviously, I’m not going to share absolutely all the photos that were taken – but if you ever want to feel glammed up and have a beach to yourself, then first thing after sunrise on a summer morning is the time to do it.

On the rocks with a Twist?

On yr rocks, checkin out yr rockpoolz...

On yr rocks, checkin out yr rockpoolz…

And yes, the sand got EVERYWHERE. :/