I suspect, she said, that the reason I am charming — assuming, of course that I have an charm whatsoever — is not because I write earnest and dense blog entries that soberly illuminate the challenges I face in the world.
My blogvoice isn’t really filled with charm, even if it is tinged with insight and illumination.
No, in the end, charm doesn’t come from our virtue, it comes from our vitality, as Sebastian Faulks reminds me.
Our magic isn’t in our polish, it is in our spark.
Am I still sparking?
So TBB was out to dinner at a southern Chophouse last night. She tried to get people chatting as she had a few cocktails and dinner at the bar, but Monday night wasn’t primetime. As she watched from the corner of the bar, a beautiful girl in her twenties came in, with her boyfriend. TBB watched as men came up to her, drawn by her creamy young texture, so inviting to touch. She was bell of the bar last night, beautiful and gracious, even to TBB when they were both in the ladies.
The last time TBB was there, she was with her big boss, two grown-up women, who had a lovely evening. They joked with a gay couple and flirted with the bartender, who was working on a new cucumber cocktail for a citywide contest coming later.
Last night, as she left, that same bartender took a moment to take her hand and thank her for coming as she left. That touch meant something to TBB, earning him a nice tip because his feeling felt sincere and affirming to her.
It’s one thing to be young and ripe, a girl getting swaths of attention, but it’s another thing to be remembered, noticed and valued because you brought the energy. Last night, Anthony Bourdain ended his Layover in Atlanta with a trip to the Clermont Lounge, where the strippers are between the ages of 29 and 66. “Straight women don’t mind coming here,” said Blondie, and why would they? It isn’t a place that markets youthful flesh, it’s a place that celebrates womanly sexuality, where character counts more than perfection.
That’s what we need to count on, TBB told me last night, that our character comes through and charms others, because we sure as hell can’t count on our lush, fresh flawless perfection.
And, she reminded me, she learned that lesson from her friend Callan, who was always at the other end of the phone telling her to be more TBB, reminding her that she was beautiful.
Authenticity is the key, TBB told me again.
I phrase it a slightly different way.
“Do you think transpeople shape their own expression mostly to conceal the facts of their birth sex,” I used to ask people, “or do they dress to reveal the truth they know in their heart? Are they trying to fool others, or are they trying mostly to tell the truth about themselves?”
If your trans expression is mostly centred around concealing your biology and your history, about trying to pass as going through puberty as female, life will be frustrating and painful, because every revelation will feel like a failure. And a cycle of failure makes anyone crazy.
If your trans expression is mostly centred around revealing who you know yourself to be, centred around being as authentic, honest, open and beautiful as you know how to be, life will be more rewarding, because every revelation will feel like a success.
A local college started a speech therapy programme designed to help transwomen develop their voice. I talked about this at the initial meeting, and the director was resistant. He really wanted to help these transsexual women accomplish their fondest dream, passing as being born female.
About six months later he was back in touch with me. Working with these women, he had realized the wisdom of my position. Trying to help them pass just set them up for a failure cycle. It was teaching them to create a beautiful expression of themselves, a voice that centred on being womanly and authentic rather than a voice that would make them sound female born that gave them power in the world. “You see voice as a metaphor,” he had told me, different from voice as a technique, but what else can it be?
“You are most charming when you are Callan,” TBB told me last night. “I can hear it when the boy stuff creeps in, when you come from that place of pretense and protection.”
That matches what bereavement counsellor said, who saw me as more calm, more centred and more present when I came with my expression of choice.
For me, though, finding the touchstone moments where I had an audience that affirmed my expression often escapes me. We upstaters aren’t known for our support of performance, aren’t known for supporting unique, beautiful and energetic expression wherever it lies. And I certainly don’t come from a family that knows how to be enthusiastic about beauty, authenticity and exuberance.
In the end, though, my charm is not in my virtue, it is in my vitality. That is always true. Vitality is what sparks other people, shared life-force celebrating the gift of humanity.
And I just have to keep trying to reveal my own.