Monday, 31 October 2016

Nun better

    Ooh look, it's the last day of the month, and Jenny's feeling guilty again that she's not written anything! Truth is, writing for a living consumes all of my muse, and several times I've sat down only to have my inspiration evaporate. As though I have a certain number of words within me on a given day, and once I've used them all then that's it.
    We're not supposed to enjoy wearing the clothes, are we. It's the discipline imposed upon us by the medics, scared of regretters they insist that those of us who transition must not be cross-dressers, and certainly must not be doing it because they like the clothing. It's a completely crazy distinction, because the nature of our condition means that identities are fluid. Anyway, there's nothing wrong with enjoying wearing something, as many natal women will tell you.
    So I found myself last week in the odd position of breaking that particular Golden Rule. It was a Halloween party organised by a community organisation of which I'm a member, and I'd made my own costume. As realistic as I could make it, a mediaeval nun. I had an old Army tent that had gone into holes, made from dark brown canvas, the perfect fabric. A lot of research, and raiding my mother's worn-out-sheet box for some distressed white linen, and I had made a startlingly good costume. Tunic, scapular, St. Birgita's cap, wimple, veil, outer veil, and belt and crucifix. Sorry, no pictures, but it was definitely not the fake nun costume they were expecting.
    Unsurprisingly I have never worn a wimple before. It's a tapered fabric tube that ends in a face-sized hole. You cover your hair with the St. Birgita's cap - a fabric cap that starts on your forehead and ties at the back of your head - and put your head through the wimple so the wide end of the tube covers your shoulders - mediaeval nuns didn't have the big white collars, they came later - and adjust the narrow end so it goes under your chin and pulls tight somewhere on the top of your head. There are a couple of tapes you tie behind your head to pull it taught, and there you are, forehead covered by the white fabric of the cap and cheeks and chin by the wimple. The veils then fit over the top of your head and are then either pinned in place or in my case tied by another set of tapes behind the head. This would have been standard wear for any mature woman until about the 14th or 15th centuries, though it is a garment that has only lingered on in holy orders since then.
    The surprise for me was that not only was it a very comfortable garb to wear, it also felt secure. Your hair is out of the way, your forehead's covered, no worries about gaping necklines. It's almost like the security of retreating under the bedclothes as a child, you are no longer exposed having retreated inside the veil, and your view of the world is framed by it. Quite a powerful effect, and unexpected.
    The costume is now folded up in a drawer, and will no doubt be forgotten until some random time in the future at which it will be discovered and exclaimed over. As my friend Dawn used to put it usually when referring to outlandish frilly creations sported by our more adventurous friends, you wouldn't wear it to Tesco. But I'm not ashamed to say it was something the wearing of which I found surprisingly pleasant, even if it does stray close to that Golden Rule.
    The really amusing part is that also present was another friend who I also know through my church. an LGBT outreach that crosses denominations. Now all of them will know of my moonlighting in a habit, and I'll have to patiently explain that low-church rural Anglicans don't do that kind of thing.
    At least, not on Sundays.