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Friday, February 25, 2005

To be an Englishman..

I'm an Australian woman who has been living in London for two years. I have been seeing an English guy for six months and the relationship is going well, apart from one thing: he has started to wear my clothes and it is becoming increasingly embarrassing. Not to mention the fact that he stretches everything. (NB. Granny. Lovely detail.)

When I challenged him, he said that when people have been seeing each other for a while, they want to become one with the other person and that this manifests itself in wanting to wear each other's clothing. He says it is a cultural thing, something that English men like to do.

I'm not comfortable with the situation. Is this his way of getting "closer" to me, or will it lead to problems in the future?

No please don't send the answers to Granny; if you're inspired to advise the poor mazed Aussie, write directly to its origin http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,1424927,00.html.

Grannie's avoidance-of-writing-tactic of choice used to be her blog but for the moment now the book's finished (please agent, editor, please please please pronounce) the blog itself is the duty. For now she avoids it by trawling the internet editions of the more pc London dailies - along with reading other blogs, of course. Which is how she came across the above, the funniest definition of an Englishman since the case in the London lawcourts many years ago - pointed out gleefully by her then husband, the lawyer - in which a woman was suing for divorce on the grounds of her stockbroker husband's insistance on (illegal at the time) anal sex, claiming that 'all his friends in the City did it.' (So the French who called it 'le vice anglais' were right all the time?)

Which brings her neatly back to her father: not that sort of Englishman at all. Not that he didn't like sex, she knows that for a fact, but his was always strictly legal, maritally and otherwise. As for dressing in her mother's clothes - though it conjures up some delightful images - roll-ons? - her mother's apology for a bikini top consisting of an aged ill-dyed and fading bra? - her more correct tweed suits and felt hats decorated with a jewelled pin? - she thinks not. Transvestism for him would have been limited to Charley's Aunt, fancy-dress parties and pantomimes which he never much liked anyway - too vulgar he said. Granny and her siblings taken to pastiche Victorian pantomimes instead, Granny had to wait till her children were the right age to encounter the delights of principal boys and pantomime dames. Maybe that's why she so adores - maybe the more correct expression is fascinated by - drag queens; to her Beloved's bemusement, even horror. She never learned to take them for granted like everyone else.

She can't imagine Beloved in her clothes either - she did once have a friend who claimed her lover liked to wear her suspender belt and stockings in bed; but that's it for Granny's brush with transvestism. The fashion in her youth for women to nick their boyfriends' t-shirts and sweaters and wear them like trophies, doesn't quite count. Apart from anything else it was the only way then to get comfortable clothes. Fortunately the fashion industry caught up - to her father's horror. He never ceased to complain about women wearing trousers all the time and looking so untidy. Just as well Granny's mother didn't survive to see it. Judging by her worn-strictly-at home clothes of choice (rolled up shorts, nicked from Dad, said dyed bra, with her rather minimal tits falling out, a pair of fetching and tight bright red jeans all of which used to amaze Granny's visiting boyfriends, who expected a surburban lady decently covered in floral prints) she'd have jumped into the new easy look for ladies and run with it. But alas she died too early in 1963. Like sex for Philip Larkin, it was all too late for her. (Actually it wasn't too late for Philip Larkin to judge from later revelations. But poets are allowed to lie in the name of poetic truth. Aren't they?)

Back to Granny's dad. Up at his golf club where he played till over 90 (wonderful) he was known as Stuffy she discovered after his death - she doesn't know whether to be angry or touched by this -she doubts if the crass golfers meant is a compliment. Because her dad was stuffy. Boring even. Yet he was the image of a decent Englishman if ever there was one, of an old school Tory as opposed to the I'm alright Jack, over-incomed let's keep it that way variety. Who loved Shirley Williams and loathed Margaret Thatcher - both of whom he saw from day 1 of their parliamentary careers at very close quarters. Who went to South Africa under apartheid once in his life, was so appalled by it he refused to go back. Who called Jewish men 'Jewboys' without the least realising it was offensive yet welcomed a Jewish son-in-law ('He's a honey.' Calling someone a 'honey' was Dad's highest form of compliment.) Who despite some antedeluvian views on women - eg 'what's the point in sending a girl to university' - insisted on cooking breakfast and doing the washing-up to help Granny's mother out - who bought her the first automatic washing-machine on the market despite a very tight budget. Who taught Scottish Country Dancing, dancing in a ring with the correct laced up shoes on and his bottom sticking out, to the embarrassment of his twin teenage daughters, expected to do likewise, as demonstration for his pupils. And who - his one flirtation with the illegal - thought it perfectly alright to nick a Christmas tree from a local plantation. Some of Granny's dearest memories of her dad are these furtive expeditions, the car parked ready for instant departure just in case; dad sneaking among the trees with his axe over the shoulder. The triumphant drive home with the tree stashed on the roof.

It just about qualifies probably for that oddly English combination of convention and eccentricity.

Enough for now. More on dad among the politicians another time.

Sun and showers in the Canaries. It's getting a little warmer.

9 Old comments:

Anonymous Bob said...

I like reading your stories, grannyp! Thanks for sharing your memories!

2:57 pm  
Blogger Deirdre said...

Ditto! I think you should be kind to us blog readers and never write another book again, just focus on this instead.

The transvestite thing: I've never understood that. A woman can wear whatever she wants (I wear men's work gear every day, for example) and no-one says a thing - it's not regarded as a sexual statement in any way (I presume - it certainly isn't for me). But as soon as a man puts on a dress he's called a transvestite. Maybe it's all due to his intention - maybe men only wear women's clothing in order to draw in some sort of sexual aura or something? I have no idea. I think it's really sexist, actually, to assume that "women's" clothes denote a sexual identity and "men's" clothes don't. Maybe I'm missing something...? For my money, there's no question men should wear skirts - they look fantastic in kilts.

10:07 am  
Blogger granny p said...

Thanks Bob, and welcome. Deirdre you may be right! I've been fiddling round for new subjects anyway.
As for transvestism of course it's unfair on men - on the other it's much easier for them now to peacock up in ways that would have been called feminine once. Men wear skirts in lots of cultures - they can get away with them that way; David Beckham eg in his sarong. Odd that transvestites do though go for a parody of femaleness - there's a certain kind of butch lesbian goes for an equally parodic image of male; but then they want to be male full time and never revert to the female. Whereas male transvestites are almost always heterosexual ,, Don't understand much of it. Me I know I prefer being female; but I never - almost never - wear skirts!

2:04 pm  
Anonymous Bob said...

I don't wear women's clothing but I do use facial scrubs and moisturizers on my face and hands. I'm into wine and probably fall into the metrosexual world once in a while, especially when I get my nails manicured. :)

4:24 pm  
Blogger GeorgeMikey said...

I resent your babblings about english blokes wearing womens clothes.

I've got to go because my G string is cutting.

4:40 pm  
Blogger granny p said...

Manicured nails Bob??More than mine are. On the other hand I did once have a pedicure..very sensual for a while - boring after a bit.Decided I had too many toes.

Well well George Mikey - you can always borrow mine....it's virtual. No virtual y-fronts in exchange please. If I'm desperate to cross-dress I borrow beloved's...

4:49 pm  
Blogger granny p said...

Manicured nails Bob??More than mine are. On the other hand I did once have a pedicure..very sensual for a while - boring after a bit.Decided I had too many toes.

Well well George Mikey - you can always borrow mine....it's virtual. No virtual y-fronts in exchange please. If I'm desperate to cross-dress I borrow Beloved's...

4:51 pm  
Blogger Clare said...

Hallo Granny,

Oh, your comment on my blog made me jump - I've got a Granny P of my own, and I thought for a scary moment that she'd got loose the internet without us knowing.

Loved the stories about your father Scottish dancing with his bottom sticking out. I used to be called Stuffy as a very small baby - I don't know why, though.


11:45 am  
Blogger granny p said...

Welcome Clare. Grannyp for me first appeared in the Archers - well before your time I guess.So I was happy to nick it. Though funnily enough my grandchildren don't use it - just their versions of my name. We have a Clare in the family too..

5:30 pm  

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