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Secret Origins: The Outfit And The True Self - The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal
May 6th, 2010
08:15 am

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Secret Origins: The Outfit And The True Self
I remember the first time I wore The Outfit.

In the years to come, dressing up as Frank N. Furter would take on an almost iconic quality - the same black teddy, silk underwear, stockings, high heels, and of course the makeup and wig - but that first time, I had a pit crew of friends assembling me by hand. A team of girls were in my bedroom, slathering me in makeup, telling me how to dress, crying out for lipstick as they put together a Frank.

Why did I need a team? Because it had never been done before. The Rocky Horror Picture Show had been playing for three weeks at the Sono Cinema, but sales were slim. The owner of the Sono, knowing I had RHPS experience and absolutely no sense of shame, asked me if I would lead the stage show.

I said yes. And then regretted it.

I didn't know what would happen; my friends were having a laugh, yes, but what about the strangers? I was going to dress up as a woman and sing. There was a good chance that people would think of me as even more of a freak than I was - some ugly faggot moron in a dress, ready to be beaten up, then mocked for not being man enough.

I had just started getting laid. Was I shovelling black mascara on the grave of my new-found sexuality? I had no idea.

My mother, of course, was horrified. We weren't doing a full-on Frank - for that, you needed a glittery vest, fishnet stockings instead of pantyhose, a better set of gloves. This was a scrapmakers' Frank, a loose interpretation. And I had to keep asking, "Mom, do you have any bright red lipstick? How about some dark pantyhose? Do you have mascara that's tear-free or something?"

She shoved the mascara into my hands. "This is my mascara," she said firmly. "I am now going up to my room. You will not bother me again, and in return I will not ask you any questions about what you're doing tonight."

That sent a chill up my bones. And I was chilly enough; this flimsy teddy exposed too much skin, I teetered unsteadily on unaccustomed heels. I'd finally discovered why lingerie was sexy: it itched. It was uncomfortable. Hell, I'd fuck anyone if it meant I could take this goddamned thing off.

My friends ushered me out to the car under a coat, like friends ushering a celebrity out from underneath the flashing bulbs of the paparazzi. But there was nobody waiting at the Sono Cinema; I got there very early, sneaking in before the crowds to hide in the small dressing room in back. Well, not so much "a dressing room" as "a combination fire exit and storage closet."

People trickled in. The whole time, my guts were churning ice; this could be the end of my reputation in Norwalk. This is the kind of thing you can't take back - being not just a girl, but a pretty pretty girl, in front of a crowd of people. And the movie took forever to start, as the other players came in back and cheer me up - and then when it starts, it took so long for Frank to arrive. And I kept thinking, can I get out of this? Is there a way?

Then the argument came. If you're into Rocky Horror at all, you know the one.

JANET: I'm cold, I'm wet, and I'm just plain scared!

BRAD: I'm here - there's nothing to worry about.

STEP.

I strode out to the center of the stage.

STEP.

Frank's heel was above me, wide as a billboard, stamping on the elevator floor.

STEP.

The crowd was shouting "STEP!" along with each of his bootheels - along with each of my bootheels. I was there now, they were chanting to my rhythm....

STEP.

...and I turned.

And became something else entirely.

To this day, I tear up when I think of the sheer power that overcame me. It filled my chest with lightning, my arms with fire - all the fear burnt off of me in that moment, as I tore loose my gown and revealed my negligeed self to the world, wig jiggling loose on my head, and the crowd whooped and gasped in cheer as Ferrett died and someone else burst from the wreckage.

There was no fear. That crowd was mine. I owned it, like I owned this teddy and I owned this lipstick and I owned this whole fucking theater - and I was not Frank. I'd seen other guys try to do Frank, and they always failed - you can't channel Tim Curry's rampant power by sheer imitation. No, what was there was not a mask.

It was another side of me.

I was soaked with sweat when I finished, and hard as a goddamned rock. But I knew that I wanted more, because suddenly I was fucking legend.

...maybe not. "Legend" is a big term for a guy with a small cult following in a local RHPS. People knew me in town, sure, and I had fans - a weird thing, to have fans - but was I legend? Who knew? All I knew is that when I was on stage, in The Outfit, I was fucking untouchable.

You wanna know how I got up over a hundred sexual partners? It wasn't me. It was Me. I would do fucking anything in that outfit - I would flirt outrageously with girls I'd never met, playing with their hair if they played with mine. Which was often. (Occasionally, and accidentally, in front of their boyfriends.) I wound up with more dates than I could handle. In the outfit, I looked like a freak to Middle America - but I was something greater than myself, not hiding but shining through.

When you stood up there in The Outfit, you got backed into two choices: cringe and wither in front of the crowd, or say "fuck it" and ride the experience. I rode.

And you can't fucking explain how that feels. Not to someone who hasn't experienced it. You don't know what it's like to step forward and just Be, unless you've done it.

When I think of me in The Outfit, I'm always reminded of what I saw during the Cleveland Air Guitar try-outs. One of the judges - a world champion air guitarist, if such a thing can be said - was talking about someone's performance, and he said, "One of the questions I always get is, 'do you get groupies, playing air guitar?' And I'm ashamed to say it, but...

"...yes. Yes, we do. There's something inherently attractive about someone who's willing to get on stage and let loose, and if you perform in any capacity, you will find someone who wants you."

Thing is, at Penguicon 2008, there was a drag party, and I promised some friends I'd do Frank again. So I got out the old outfit, and some heels, and dressed up - and even though it was twenty years and fifty pounds later, you know what? It was still there. Part of it's the heels, of course - you have no choice but to strut in heels, really, and your posture is so much better - but part of it felt like an untapped reserve, fallow until I was ready to call upon it.

I had no fear.

No fear at all.

And this year's Penguicon, they had a drag show, and I didn't bother to go because, well, The Outfit's just so much effort. But I watched them all come out, men as women and women as men - some nervous, some experienced, some crazy. But the ones who weren't nervous amazed me.

I saw them. They all felt that power. They all knew what it was like to have a crowd fucking chanting your name because in this moment you are a rock star, you're unstoppable, you're the fucking bomb, and each of them were me and I was them and goddamn I ranted and raved. It wasn't just me, it was some Jungian well that they all could draw from, and I just bathed in that power and exulted and cheered because this strange orgone was flowing through all of us, a link between me and my trembling twenty-year-old self and a guy in a beard and a dress owning everything in that room and me too.

It's a weird thing to say in public, but it's true: In the right women's clothing, in some ways, I'm more me than the guy here in the jeans and T-shirt.

I remain unashamed.

(52 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

Comments
 
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From:fallconsmate
Date:May 6th, 2010 12:18 pm (UTC)
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just very fucking cool. :D
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From:jer_
Date:May 6th, 2010 12:39 pm (UTC)
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As one of the nervous ones, I can say that I wish I knew how to tap into that other 'self' to any real degree...but I survive only on commitment...we call it commitment to the joke when Dawn, Greg, Josh, Carrie and I are messing around, but really, it's commitment to the scene...so I guess you'll have to come next year and show us how to unleash that link to our id. :)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 6th, 2010 01:04 pm (UTC)

Great Article!

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I now have a sense of what it must be like to be a rock star!

Many thanks and love,

Dad
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From:kibbles
Date:May 6th, 2010 01:04 pm (UTC)
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It *is* the heels.
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From:ailsaek
Date:May 6th, 2010 01:06 pm (UTC)
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Yeah. Yeah, I remember how it felt. I'm married and staid and old now, but I remember.
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From:theferrett
Date:May 7th, 2010 03:22 am (UTC)
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I don't think you can forget. The memory fades, maybe, but it doesn't go away.
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From:jacylrin
Date:May 6th, 2010 01:14 pm (UTC)
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I can own a number of things. Heels are NOT among them. I get medical dispensation, tho ;-)
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From:lyssabard
Date:May 6th, 2010 01:14 pm (UTC)

Don't Dream it, Be it!

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Just so you know, I have always wanted to hear this story from you, and I am not disappointed.

When I was 18? 19? I attended my first RHPS. It blew me away and I started going as often as I could, usually dressing as Riff, and wishing that I could join the cast. However, as I was out of town adn didn't drive, this wasn't possible, but I credit those years with my own sexual awakening and identity, for opening a world of self exploration of all those sides of myself, and building the confidence to embrace everything that I was, queer, kinky, etc. Oh, and a big goofy geek. :)

Years later, I finally have a local group and a chance to get into things and maybe finally join a cast and play Riff. (My goal, anyway.) It's exciting and nostalgic and right now, it feels like the affirmation of myself as an adult.

Sometimes the mask hides who you are--but more often, it lets that side be free.

And now I so want to come visit and meet your Inner Frank. :) (And sit on his lap and...) ;)

Thanks for this, love.

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From:theferrett
Date:May 7th, 2010 03:23 am (UTC)

Re: Don't Dream it, Be it!

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I knew I had to write it eventually. That leaves two of my great stories to tell - my second suicide attempt, and the White Room. I don't know if I'll ever get around to them, but I wasn't sure if I'd ever get around to this.

Miss you, love you, and some day we'll RHPS together.
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From:jfargo
Date:May 6th, 2010 01:19 pm (UTC)
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Awesome, man. I get this. Sometimes I can tap into another Me as well in a similar way. He's not nearly as cool as You, I suppose, but he's the Me I want to be when I grow up.
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From:theferrett
Date:May 7th, 2010 03:24 am (UTC)
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If you really meet Him, He is gonna be SO much cooler than Me. That's the glory of finding the inner Me.
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From:atdt1991
Date:May 6th, 2010 01:34 pm (UTC)

It's simple, really. See, you're a hot dog.

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Though I went to Rocky many times as a teen and adult, and even to the play (we may have caused some mayhem, ahem), I did not get on stage.

While I flirted with performing for the drag show. I just don't know whether I would glow under that exposure or wither with memories of some of the "on-stage" style abuse from a former teacher. I'm pretty sure I could let it go, but I am just as glad to cheer on my friends.

Y'know, I say all that, and then as I am thinking about what icon to use, I come across the grinning boa - a photo from the Confusion where we roasted Chuck. In order to do it, I hopped into a wheelchair, orchestrated adoring fans, put on a long wig, thong, robe, bustier and boa in order to "be" Chuck "being" Dr. Scott.

It wasn't exactly the same, but it was for a large audience, and recorded for posterity. In hindsight, I think I did all right.
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From:reasie
Date:May 6th, 2010 01:44 pm (UTC)
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Aw yeah. Just like challenging a duke to counted blows at the barrier when you have no arm protection but a little elbow cop. been there, done that, got the tourney prize.
:D
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From:pachamama
Date:May 6th, 2010 01:46 pm (UTC)
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All I keep thinking is God, I so wanna see the pics!! Are there any floating around you could post?

Edited at 2010-05-06 01:47 pm (UTC)
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From:molehill
Date:May 6th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
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Ditto, that.
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From:ravynnfyr
Date:May 6th, 2010 01:47 pm (UTC)
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I knew I loved you for a reason. :)
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From:angela_n_hunt
Date:May 6th, 2010 02:02 pm (UTC)
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There is a reason why I have an alternate persona named Andrew. I've never been able to explain it to people. I am now going to point them at this.

YES.

Rock it, babe. :)
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From:gows
Date:May 6th, 2010 02:19 pm (UTC)
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Been there. I know that feeling.

And God it's good.
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From:theferrett
Date:May 7th, 2010 03:25 am (UTC)
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You only have to have it once, and it transforms everything after that.
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From:kilbia
Date:May 6th, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC)

I've sort of lived that

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My belly dance teacher spoke to us early on about the importance of creating a dance persona to inhabit on stage.

In donning the dance persona, she said, we became better able to leave mundane concerns offstage. Katie looks in the mirror with resignation that yeah, she's fat, but at the same time she knows how to fix that and just hasn't yet done it. Katie still has fears of being out there in front of a crowd and provoking reactions of disgust. Beltiya, on the other hand... her name means "goddess", and her whole raison d'etre is to get out there and soak up the worship. Beltiya looks in the mirror and says "hell yes I am goddamned fucking gorgeous, and everyone is going to see that tonight". (Katie hopes that Beltiya will someday inspire some other plus-sized woman to give belly dance a try.)

Moreover, Beltiya doesn't have worries about her day job or her mother-in-law or whether the milk in the fridge will still be good tomorrow morning. In fact, those things are so beneath her, she also really couldn't care less if Katie's worried about that. When I'm in the Beltiya persona, all those worries are shoved outside of myself, and all that matters is the performance. And people *do* respond positively to that - much to the disconcertment of the Katie who reasserts herself once the show is over, 'cause damn Beltiya is physically demanding. =)

So yeah, I know where you're coming from. Also, my Captcha prompt today was "in split". Too perfect.
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From:almalthia
Date:May 6th, 2010 02:42 pm (UTC)

Re: I've sort of lived that

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I would love to take up belly dancing .. I've considered it time and time again and have just never gotten off my ass and done something about it. You've lit that fire in me again .. I need to do some research and see if there is anyone local.
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