I'm not averse to standing out for a good cause. A few years ago I dressed as a clown for Comic Relief (and so that I didn't have to do any work for the day). A couple of years ago I spent a day wearing an orange jumpsuit for Amnesty International (and to embarrass my sister and assorted Archbishops). Pictures of both are available on Facebook, if anyone cares to look.
This year for Comic Relief the staff and pupils at my school were invited to wear something red for Comic Relief. I had been planning to revisit my clown outfit, but found that it is with my parents at the moment, which didn't actually leave me with anything red in my wardrobe. Which was disappointing. Fortunately, some of the other male staff had already agreed to have themselves made up by the girls during morning break, so I joined in to raise more money. The girls had provided red lipstick, red nail varnish and glittery eye make-up (as well as red hairspray, which I declined on the grounds that my hair is already red, and that it would clash. Which would have looked ridiculous).
This was, of course, a lot of fun. The first thing we all did was to traipse off late to staff briefing, leaving the Headmistress standing open-mouthed mid sentence, which was entertaining. She later stopped again to tell me, "Nik, I've just noticed your eyes...", which someone later swears was accompanied by a coy flutter of the eyelashes. Not convinced myself, but hey. The rest of the day went in much the same manner - girls who I was teaching gawped for a while, a singer who I was accompanying at a recital that evening stopped herself mid-sentence to ask what was going on, and even my French housemate asked me somewhat tentatively when I was still wearing it the following day (funnily enough I don't own any nail polish remover myself).
But what really got me was my own reaction to the nail varnish. It turns out that hands are a body part which we see quite a lot, and almost every time I did I did a mental double-take, trying to work out whose hands they were. Putting on a seat belt, drinking a pint, but especially playing the piano or organ. At the organ, as well as getting a thumbs up from one of the RS staff for playing The Kinks' "Lola" as a recessional, I kept having short internal dialogues which went something like this;
"Playing a hymn, playing a hymn..."
"Oh. I wonder who's playing the organ. Must be my Mum or my boss."
"Oh no, wait, it's me. I remember."
It wasn't long enough to disrupt the playing (I don't think), just a very strong inability to mentally identify them as my hands, because they so clearly belonged to a woman. They're big and not especially elegant, but the red nails clearly marked them out as female. This sense of disassociation was obviously very unnerving, far more so than fielding questions from the girls about being gay or being a "tranny" (and yes, I did correct their use of language in that instance). I was slightly nervous about going to the pub after the recital, and about going to Tesco, but not enough to make me reconsider going. But briefly glimpsing the hands tying my shoelaces? Stopped me in my tracks.
There aren't any answers or questions here, just musings. And I'm not saying that it would stop me doing it again of course...but I really didn't like the lipstick. Felt all manky. And I had to take it off to play the bassoon anyway. Maybe I should just stop at the eye make-up.