Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Thursday, 18 March 2021

I'm not holding my Breath

Lets' be honest, I'm not posting much simply because not much is happening in my life ~ which makes me pretty much the same as everybody else in the Country! Generally, like most people, at the moment my life consists of work, eat, sleep, repeat. Maybe there is the odd  interlude of some shopping but that's about it. Mostly I try not to comment on the big news stories, or the political situations ~ I'm quite sure there are other much better informed commenters than me to do that. However I am now going to make an exception.

Following the tragic death of Sarah Everard, and the arrest of a serving Policeman in connection with her murder there has been a lot of discussion about male violence against women, about attitudes that make it seem OK for some men to abuse women, about the impact of pornography, social media and single sex spaces. Much of this I am simply not qualified to comment on, but what I am qualified to comment is on my own personal experience ~ experience gained while being identified as a woman, and as a man.

I remember one day talking with my wife and daughter about the verbal sexual abuse they got on a regular basis, at the time my daughter was in her mid teens, they both told me that yes they regularly got cat called, and worse, that they felt uncomfortable or even unsafe walking around the suburb we lived in on their own. While I knew them both to be totally honest I found it hard to believe what I was hearing ~ I just didn't see any of this. I was soundly told "of course you don't see it, they don't do it when you're around!" At the time I appeared to be a robust respectable middle aged man, perhaps a bit fitter and more physically powerful than most, I appeared self confident, a pillar of the community ~ of course they weren't going to behalf like that when I was about.

Looking back further I only recall two incidents when I was of aware of a man behaving in what was to me an unacceptable way towards women in my presence. One was when I was giving a lift home to a member of my rugby team, he was a little drunk and was handling it poorly. Leaning out the window a cat calling at women we passed ~ a couple of times I had to tell him to behave, when he failed I stopped the car and threw him out. I didn't give him a lift again! The other occasion was when I was doing casual work for a removals company ~ all the staff were casual and most of us were just earning some extra money as we tried to establish ourselves in some other field (in my case music) a lad in his mid twenties, not much younger than I was at the time, started working there he was a good worker, strong and with some experience. One day he was assigned to work with me and another chap, as I was the driver I was in the role of supervisor, the job was fine, but as we were driving this lad again wanted to shout out a women as we drove past. He was incredulous when I told him to stop. Quite clearly this behaviour had be modeled to him, and shown to be socially acceptable, even entertaining!

Both these occasions had commonalities, the guys involved had no concept that what they were doing was wrong, nobody had previously told them it was not acceptable! I am also quite sure that if I had not been perceived to be physically dominant my approbation would not have had an impact; both would have said it was simply banter, a bit of fun, and that is all they would have seen.

Policing of the vigil on Clapham Common
Clearly it is up to men to stop other men behaving like these two idiots, it is also up to men to stop modeling bad behaviours, it is up to all of society to agree on and make it clear what is and what is not acceptable. This is not without risk, and that is why it is essential that politicians, police and community leaders take a lead ~ unfortunately I look at our politicians and see too much misogyny, too little or no  understanding of what it means to be frightened to walk down your own street at night, too little or no concept of just how much impact their own careless words can have on uncaring men, and frightened women alike. I look at the Police and see little trust in them, regardless of the fact that the main suspect in the murder of Sarah Everard is a serving police officer and the clumsy handling of the vigil in her memory, the record low in clear up rates of rape and sexual assaults have led to less trust in the Police, we know women are under reporting sexual assaults, just as trans people and others are underreporting hate crimes, simply because of lack of trust and lack of confidence that anything will be done. The Police as an institution need to up their game. 

After I transitioned my personal experience changed dramatically. I was no longer perceived as that powerful white man, I am by no means young or pretty, yet I have been subject to all sorts of abuse, from kerb crawlers, to more simple catcalls, I have been flashed and "felt up" ~ if anyone is unsure I can assure them that none of this is pleasant or funny! At first I thought I was getting my unfair share of this sort of thing because I am trans, but it has finally dawned on me that it is because I am a woman, and this is part of what to means to be a woman in 21st century Britain!

I don't know, maybe if you have lived with this sort of thing all your life you get used to it, maybe it just becomes part of life, but not having experienced any of this type of abuse until I was in my 50s has been a shock, not just because of what it means to me, but because I am now properly aware of what other women have had to put up with all of their lives. I wonder how many men are like I was and simply can't understand just how prevalent and how horrible these behaviours are? But I am hoping that just as with "Me Too" and "Black lives Matter" society is approaching tipping point that will change thing, make the whole of society safe for everybody, open to and for everybody. I am hopeful, but I'm not holding my breath!

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

A Matter of Choice

 Inspired by both Stana over on Femulate and Crysti I have been thinking back to my cross dressing days and how things have changed since then. It all seems like a long time ago, indeed it almost feels like all that happened to different person ~ maybe it did? On checking I see that is now over six years since I went full time, that of course also coincided with the end of my cross dressing! In all honesty I can say that at no point since then have I even considered surreptitiously sneaking into a Charity shop to see if they had some cavalry twill trousers or a pair of brogues in my size!

Very pretty, but not that practical
Although all of this is a timely reminder of just how much better I now feel about myself, and about how I relate to other people, I've already strayed from where I had planed to be ~ on fashion! Something else that doesn't seem to occupy as much of my time or concerns as it used to. Regular readers will know I have a weakness for shoes, not trainers or practical sturdy walking shoes, indeed not even for the footwear I wear most, steel toe caped work boots! NO, it's the pretty impractical and probably very bad for my feet shoes I still have a weakness for.

They can be very pretty, but I wonder if there is more to it than that, when I was young dress codes were very different, my father and grand father always wore a collar and tie ~ for work my father had separate starched collars, black jacket and pin striped trousers. Even at weekends they would still be wearing ties and quite possibly suits, but may have been a bit more casual with "soft" collars. My Mother always wore heels, and my memory tells me most often a dress ~ a skirt and jumper might have been a bit casual for her. I certainly do not remember my mother possessing a pair of trousers until I was in my teens and I'm quite sure neither of my parents ever had a pair of jeans! Up until the 70s men's and women's clothes were very different, I suspect for those of us past a certain age there is still a natural association between certain items or styles of clothing that are very gender specific, if you are a woman you wear a dress, if you are a man you wear a tie and never shall the twain meet!

Only on special occassions
My memory is that it was not until the seventies that we started to see jeans, sneakers, or tee shirts coming to suburban UK and it was a good few years before they became as ubiquitous as they are now. The clothes I wear most of the time now are very little different from the clothes I wore most of the time before I transitioned, like most people I know I can generally be found wearing jeans and jumper or tee shirt. It's still nice to dress up occasionally, but for me putting on a dress is very an even, where for my Mother it was her everyday garb. Where I wear trainers or comfy boots, my Mother would have been in heels.

On reflection I think I am glad that those fashion essentials are now a matter of choice,  and saved up for special occasions only! 

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Back to Normal

 Normal service is resumed! I'm going to be talking and watching a lot of sport today!

The second test against India started this morning and then this afternoon there will be two games in the Six Nations, with another tomorrow, so even though tomorrow I will be picking up a "new" washing machine this weekend I shall once again mostly be watching sport on TV

Courtney Lawes, back in the England starting 15

Last weekend I made a few observations, and I don't think I was too far out after the first round of matches. Ireland were perhaps better than I expected, even with only 14 players they were only two missed touch kicks away from winning, but to be fair wales did do their best to lose that game. I think Wales will struggle against a confident Scottish team, both teams are missing a few starters through injury, but I think Wales will feel the absences more, especially Lydiate. Last week Scotland controlled the game against England, their kicking was clever and ran the England Back three ragged, and their intensity and speed of play left the England team on the back foot and without the ball to play with. At the moment I can see Scotland in contention, if not for the championship or grand slam then at least for a triple crown.

France should be able to beat Ireland even though they were barely tested last week, they have so much talent and so much strength, Ireland's attack have little to bring to the table against the exciting young French team. Indeed, France must now be favorites to win this year's championship. Likewise England should not be troubled by Italy, indeed if England do not win at home by a substantial margin there will be calls for Eddie Jones head on a stake outside Twickenham.

So predictions for this weekend

England to beat Italy quite easily, but the backs need to score a hatful of tries to settle nerves.

France to beat Ireland, it may well be Irish kicks against French tries.

Scotland against Wales is the game to watch Scotland have home advantage and their tales up, but Wales have a wealth of experience, but I think that Scotland will just be too clever and too adventurous for what has become quite a boring Welsh team, so Scotland to edge it!

Meanwhile, is Joe Root the most complete cricketer around?

Now I'm off for a coffee

Monday, 8 February 2021

Time for a Change

I don't often do this, indeed I think this might be a first, but today I am posting a bit of a political statement. I have tried not to let this become a "Transgender Blog" because that is just one aspect of my life. I generally try to keep it light and not dwell unduly on the attacks being made on trans people here in the UK ~ of course this impacts on me, that's one of the reasons I am active in local trans and LGBT+ groups. I had originally written this with the hope of it being published elsewhere, hopefully where it would get a wider readership. Anyway, enough preamble I think the rest of this is pretty self explanatory, and normal service will be resumed soon!

Time to Set the Agenda

Yet again this morning I find my social media flooded with news of the transphobe and bigot in chief spreading her particular brand of vitriol and hate. This is not that unusual, it feels like most mornings I will be greeted with the news of what some transphobe has said, the latest article or opinion piece proposing reducing the rights of trans women, or some setback in the courts or the USA. It all gets a little wearing. Indeed, towards the end of last year I just found myself running out of enthusiasm for the battle, I was exhausted by all the hate and attacks we have had to endure since our Government first thought it might be a good idea to make our lives a little better! If I felt like this I hate to feel how those more engaged than me must have felt, I can only assume that they have been feeling wiped out by the continued strain.

So, why am I seeing all this? Am I a member of Mumsnet? A subscriber to the Guardian? Do I make a point of following transphobes on twitter? No to any of the above! I see all the hate posts because they are being shared by my fellow trans people ~ I am sure that they share them with the best of intentions, know your enemy so that we can counter their attacks. But in many ways that is the trouble. We get ground down by seeing the attacks, yet we are impotent in refuting their bile. I see my friends and fellow bloggers writing at length rebutting the diatribe by JK Rowling or taking apart the latest bit of nonsense from Posy Parker or Graham Lineham. Then there is the alarm around hate groups like LGB Alliance, Fair Play for Women etc. etc. no wonder we’re exhausted seeing all this feeling we have so much to deal with, we become overwhelmed!

Yet of course we are not dealing with it, the only people who read our blogs are people who agree with us, our rebuttals, our polemics, and our social media posts are only read by friends and allies, we are in effect shouting into the void. We read the attacks on us, but our attackers never even see our replies, and if they do it won’t make any difference ~ you can’t enter into rational discussion with irrational people, and our haters are irrational.

But if the mainstream media won’t publish us, and our blogs won’t get read what are we to do? How are we to undermine the attacks we have to endure? How are we to demonstrate to Government that their fears are unfounded?

Well here’s a plan, a cunning plan! We don’t! (I think that’s enough exclamation marks for now)

It is time for a change of tactics, time we stopped being on the defensive and went onto the attack ourselves. As I see it the trouble with what we have been doing is twofold, first off we are on the defensive all the time. We feel we are being forced to justify ourselves, our very existence. We feel we need to counter the arguments of our attackers showing them to be unfounded and illogical. We end up being engaged in a culture war that for the vast majority of people is seen as being irrelevant and as a “Toxic Debate” rather than the fight for survival it feels like. Joining in the argument gives it credence, it suggests that there are two sides and that reconciliation is possible ~ it’s a bit like trying to engage in rational discussion about racism with the KKK.

The second is much more important, all the time we are defensive, all the time we are responding, we are allowing a very small, highly toxic, highly vocal, but very small minority to set the agenda. Sure they are well funded and have much of the main stream media on their side, but being on the defensive only plays into their hands ~ we end up playing their game, with their ball, to their rules ~ we simply can’t really expect to win in those circumstances now can we.

Let’s face it the big issues that we face in our lives are not really related to the things we are accused of. Most people are rational enough to not want to force trans women into men’s loos, and would not expect trans masculine offenders to be put in women’s prisons.

I believe it is time that we simply stopped engaging with our opponents, that we stopped responding, instead we need to move the spot light off of ourselves and on to Government and their apparent inability to defend us as citizens. In short it’s time that we started to set the agenda. We need to think about the things that we want ~ reform of the GRA was not really on the agenda before the Government itself decided to put it there, neither was access to single sex spaces until others tried to stop it, so what do we want? What do we really, really want?

I believe all that most of us want is to just quietly get on with our lives in peace and quiet. But until a few things change that’s not going to happen. Those things are simple we need respect and recognition. We need to have non binary identities legally recognised. This means we need to push for a change on all ID, including passports and birth certificates, to either exclude gender or have a third gender alternative, an X as well as the M and the F. Personally I am not at all sure why we need to have our gender legally defined at all, why does anyone else need to know? With NI numbers and biometric passports, now that we have equal retirement ages and entitlement to benefits, in these days of equal marriage why does our gender need to be legally defined?

We need to be able to live how we identify, I think that this does now mean ensuring that a legal change of name and legal gender are timely, administratively simple, and financially accessible.

But I suspect that more important than this to most of us is proper, appropriate health care. We need to press for better funding for gender identity services, we also need to press for an appropriate approach in all aspects of our health care; an approach that ensures the correct people are called in for the appropriate cancer screening, we need assurance that if we are going into hospital we will be in the appropriate ward, we need to be assured of being treated with respect at all times. Often our doctors are the only ones who know our history, certainly they are the only ones who need to, yet I often hear about inappropriate behaviour from nurses, receptionists and of doctors themselves ~ some of this may take government action, some of it will need policy implementation from the NHS, and some of it will require training, but all of it requires action.

For all of this we need to get our political masters on side, not just a few front bench spokespeople, but the whole lot of them. A while back the LibDems adopted a definition of Transphobia, and it now looks like the SDP after their recent internal spat will be doing the same, the idea is that once a party has agreed a definition of transphobia they can then discipline members for breaking their code of practise. This is great progress, but the LibDems and the SNP are third and fourth in the political batting order, both with no real chance of forming a UK administration so we need to persuade the Labour and the Conservative parties to follow the example (the recent launch of Labour Trans Equality are asking for exactly this).  If we can rid these parties of transphobes then we will be sure of allies in high places, and the marginalisation of the opinions of our opponents. Transphobia will no longer be the last sociably acceptable resort of the bigot. There is a definition already up and running after much debate within the Trans Community the group Trans Actual have worked out and published a definition of transphobia, complete with some examples, political parties, NGOs, Local Authorities can all just agree to adopt this, then they will know what transphobia looks like, and how it impacts people's lives.

To sum up we need to learn from Trump, we need to learn from the “Leave Campaign”, we need to learn from Community Security Trust (in their campaign against antisemitism) we need to learn to take control, we must stop responding, instead we need to take control, we need to be the ones setting the agenda!

Saturday, 6 February 2021

This weekend I will mostly be watching TV

I know that I am a woman of many parts, and I hope that is reflected here ~ none of us are just one thing, we all have a variety of interests, activities and relationships that come together to make us the complex fascinating people we are. But this is where I go of on one of my slightly more odd directions. 

I'm very pleased to be able to say I'm writing this while watching live test match cricket on free to air TV. The fabulous Joe Root has just got out after scoring a magnificent double century; if I'm beginning to lose you, enjoy the fact that he has adopted the number 66 and is a very good looking young man. You can also be reconciled that I'm not writing about cricket, no, something much more interesting ~ Rugby!

Today is the start of the Six Nations Championship, and I do like to stick my neck out with some predictions, that's particularly difficult this year as not much rugby has been played by quite a few key players. It would be very easy to say expect business as usual, but I'm looking forward to something a bit different this year.

Scotland are looking good! Finn Russel is over loaded with talent, if he can keep his temperament in control and make use of all the tools in his bag he can take apart the best of teams. With Stuart Hogg at full back and Cameron Redpath in the center the Scottish back line is looking more exciting than for a long time. With the Gray brothers and the Fagersons looking better than ever Scotland are my team to watch, but they have to play England at Twickenham as their first game, and that's a big ask.

France has shed loads of talent, and as they showed last year they can put out their second team and take on anyone in the world. Even with key players missing they are world class, and entertaining with it. It looks like the coaching team has come up with a consistent game plan and a way of imposing some discipline without stifling the players' self expression too much. If France can hold it together for five games then should be champions.

Kyle Sinckler (currently on a ban)
England are England, whatever they say about playing more entertaining rugby and using more attacking alternatives they will be pragmatic, they will use their forward power and destructive tacklers to grind down the opposition, and then take advantage of the cracks that will appear. The players I'm looking forward to seeing from England are Kyle Sinckler and Ellis Genge when you realise they are both props that will tell you a lot about both English rugby and me.

Wales and Ireland have both got to work out who they are! Both teams looked a bit shapeless to me before Christmas, they either have to try some new players and new ideas or go back to the old guard and abandon World Cup hopes. I think they will both be using this championship to sort themselves out, accepting that they will not be contenders.

Italy are no mugs but have simply failed to improve at the same rate as the other five nations. While I think we can expect some odd flashes of brilliance from Italy they just don't have the playing strength in depth to consistently compete at this level. Any team can beat any other in this championship but if Italy can win one game they will consider it a good year.

Who's going to win? England! in many ways I'd like to see France win, they play wonderful rugby, their players understand that rugby is a form of self expression and creativity, they have a strong pack and talented backs, but I think England have the temperament and the strength in depth to play out the five games, grinding down their opponents. England are relentless, and ruthless where France can still be reckless.

What ever happens I will enjoy it all! This weekend I will mostly be watch sport ~ and by sport I mean Rugby and Cricket!

Thursday, 4 February 2021

Work, eat, sleep, repeat

My First Love
I've not been posting much so far this year, even though it was a promise to myself that I would start writing more again, largely because there hasn't been that much to write about. I do have to constantly remind myself that I am one of the lucky ones, ~ I can still go out and do one of my jobs (when it's not raining) so I can do something I love as well as see people. But even I am beginning to find it all a bit of drag.

Like so many others I have been eating and drinking a little too much, my regular evening these days is just sitting in front of some mindless TV with a glass (or two) of wine. ~ Well it's not good enough! Last night I rediscovered my first love, so I am determined that I will now start doing some regular practise so that when we are allowed collective music making again I won't embarrass myself too much! 

Having said that, this weekend I do have three Rugby matches to watch!

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Little Things ~ My Office Today


Well more strictly speaking these were all taken on Monday.

Lets Face it a snow duck is always going to cheer us up!

Winter Aconites

I was especially pleased too see these snowdrops, I planted them in the green a couple of years ago, last year they did come up but didn't flower. I always feel as though snowdrops are reassuring me that spring is on it's way, and that I should feel encouraged.


Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Dressed in Black

As a musician I tend to wear a lot of black, All black is pretty much standard concert wear, indeed we often refer to "Concert Blacks". Just like my Mother I like black, she tended to mostly wear black and white, with the odd splash of grey as relief, I'm not quite as monochromatic as that, but I do wear a lot of black.   

Sorting out my laundry yesterday I noticed that the last few days outside of work I have been exclusively wearing black. I'm not sure if this is a reflection of my mood in lock down, the miserable weather  or lack of imagination. It did remind me of the old song by Mungo Jerry. While growing up most of my friends would have lusted after the Long Legged Woman Dressed in Black for me it was an aspiration to be her!

Mungo Jerry "Long Legged Woman Dressed In Black" 2014 - YouTube

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

This and that (but mostly this)

Not Dress up Friday,
just Tuesday evening
Oh dear, I failed! Dress up Friday just didn't happen. With the weather here being more than a little unpredictable I ended up working on Friday, and by the time I had finished I didn't have the energy to dress up, I just had a shower changed into my PJs had something to eat and went to bed. 

I think few of us have not been considering how things have changed for us over the last year, one question I heard asked on the radio this morning was "who have you missed over lock down?" I suppose my first thought was of course my daughter, my friends, my bands and Orchestra ~ but I think that maybe on reflection the person I have missed most might be me! I know I've been in my own company pretty much all of the time so how could I miss me?

Well, what is it that makes me me? So much of this is similar to what I was saying the other day about missing performing, the things that make me me, Pride, Concerts, meeting with my friends, making music, presenting, even taking part in communal worship ~ all this has gone by the board, I am left with just the one crucial part of my make up, my gardening. This is more than a job, it is more than a hobby, it is part of who I am. The lock down has made me realise just how important it is to me, and I am now determined to get a plot of my own to cultivate. It is crucial to who I am, but not the whole!

Another Paula
Tomorrow the USA inaugurate their new President, Joe Bidden has already announced some real, significant changes, not just in policy but also in culture, a kinder more inclusive culture. Most of us will have heard about the appointment of Rachel Levine  but perhaps more encouraging for me is that the Inauguration Prayer Service will not only be multi faith but will also be fully inclusive, with five LGBT+ faith leaders taking part including my friend Rev Dr Paula Stone Williams. I have never before taken much notice of US inauguration ceremonies, but tomorrow I may just see if I can catch a bit of it.

I have just heard that another friend of mine has been called in to have her vaccine, on reflection although there is a lot that's wrong with the World, the Virus, division, a lot of bad people doing bad things, but maybe we do have some thing to look forward to, if these vaccines can reduce our fear, and Joe Bidden can help bring in a kinder more inclusive politics around the World, then yes, definitely we have something to look forward to. 

Thursday, 7 January 2021

A Bad Year for Show Offs

A few years ago I went to the Rodin
exhibition at the Royal Academy. It
Truly was life changing
In my last post I mused on the opportunities I have had recently for introspection, I suspect that a lot of us have been looking inwards and trying to analyse a lot of feelings in response to this strange year. Now I'm no stranger to a bit of introspection, I don't think anyone would go through transition without a lot of self analysis! Well I thought I had sorted all that out and could just get on with my life, but of course 2020 had other ideas, cutting me off from so many of the activities I love, the occupations that define me, and the affirmation of friends and family. So what have I learnt;~

  • I am a performer! That may sound like a statement of the blooming obvious, but reflection has shown me just how much I have missed my musical performances ~ I enjoy rehearsals, but they are a means to an end it is the performances that I miss. Rehearsing or practicing is very much about the players, the techniques of the instrumentalists, melding them into a single statement rather than a selection of different ideas ~ it is the performance that then becomes a conversation between the performer and the audience. Of course this is more obvious in other performance arts than orchestral music, but it is very much there, and I have missed it. But dare I say this too is pretty obvious, it is what I do!

A bit of a show off

I have also found that I have missed the speeches and presentations I make, these are mostly for groups I represent, Croydon Pride, TransPALS, and others. I rather thought that I was doing this because I was the one best placed to do it, I even tried to tell myself that it was a burden, but on reflection I love it! In short I do rather like to be the centre of attention (as long as it's in a good way!) and that hasn't happened much in 2020

Two years ago I managed to do my Stand Up routine, while I have no plans to repeat the experience I'm glad I did it, the experience was interesting ~ if a little terrifying, and has made me realise that if I wasn't playing music then I would still have to get on a stage somehow, who knows I might even have tried drag!

  • I need people! Maybe this is linked to being a performer, but I miss the companionship, and the comradery. Most of the year I have been OK as I have been able to work which means going out and seeing people, being active and doing something I love. But without people I find myself wondering what my purpose is, the old "what am I here for" question. In a way it is a sort of validation that comes from others. I remember when I first started my transition it was imperative to me not just that I understood myself to be a woman, but that others also saw me as one. I am sure that this is as a  type of validation that I can only truly get from others  ~ maybe that makes me shallow, maybe it makes me insecure, or maybe others are like this too but don't show it as much. I used to suffer with (sometimes) crippling imposter syndrome ~ particularly when on stage ~ I have not had that for some time, but however much I tell myself I am fabulous I still need others to tell me as well.
  • I like dressing up, ~ well dur! In more normal times I will be out rehearsing up to six times a week, with a few performances thrown in as well. I will meet friends for a drink or dinner out. Again most of that has gone out of the window this year, but as I have said before I have been able to carry on working. I would normally get home have a shower get changed and go out. This year it has been more like get home shower and put on my pyjamas! 

All dressed up, but at least I had somewhere to go

My work clothes aren't exactly fun, or glamourous! Every now and then it's fun to dress up a bit! I always think about what I am wearing, whether it's a costume to help me to play a part, Gardener, Office Manager, Musician, Politician, looking the part helps me to behave in the appropriate manner; but it is also fun. I have missed the posh frocks I wear for concerts and receptions, but I have probably only worn any sort of dress four or five times this whole year.

I think I may reintroduce "Dress Up Friday" since we are all dressed down all the time now we don't need a special day to be allowed to dress down, but some of us do need an excuse to dress up!