Out and About with Michelle Hart – Column 19

In a big country

In 1485, Columbus presented his plans to John II, King of Portugal. He proposed the king equip three sturdy ships and grant Columbus one years’ time to sail out into the Atlantic, search for a western route to the Orient, and return. Columbus also requested he be made “Great Admiral of the Ocean”, appointed governor of any and all lands he discovered, and given one-tenth of all revenue from those lands. The king submitted the proposal to his experts, who rejected it. It was their considered opinion that Columbus’s estimation of a travel distance of 2,400 miles was, in fact, far too short. Three years later Columbus appealed to the court of Portugal once again, and once again the King of Portugal invited him to an audience. It also proved unsuccessful, in part because not long afterwards Bartholomeu Dias returned to Portugal following a successful rounding of the southern tip of Africa. With an eastern sea route now under its control, Portugal was no longer interested in trailblazing a western route to Asia.

Columbus travelled from Portugal to both Genoa and Venice, but he received encouragement from neither. Previously he had his brother sound out Henry VII of England, to see if the English monarch might be more amenable to Columbus’s proposal. After a carefully considered hesitation Henry’s invitation came much too late. Columbus had already committed himself to Spain. He had sought an audience from the monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, who had united many kingdoms in the Iberian Peninsula by marrying and ruling together. In May of 1486, having been granted permission, Columbus presented his plans to Queen Isabella. In turn, she referred them to a committee. After quite some time, these savants of Spain, like their counterparts in Portugal, reported back that Columbus had judged the distance to Asia incorrectly.

Eratosthenes had already measured the diameter of the Earth with good precision in the second century BC. Where Columbus differed from the generally accepted view of his time, his incorrect arguments assumed a significantly smaller diameter for the Earth, claiming that Asia could be easily reached by sailing west across the Atlantic. Most scholars accepted Ptolemy’s correct assessment that the terrestrial landmass occupied 180 degrees of the terrestrial sphere, and dismissed Columbus’s claim that the Earth was much smaller, and that Asia was only a few thousand nautical miles to the west of Europe. Columbus’s error was put down to his lack of experience in navigation at sea. Columbus believed the calculations of Marinus of Tyre, putting the landmass at 225 degrees, leaving only 135 degrees of water. Moreover, Columbus believed that one degree represented a shorter distance on the Earth’s surface than was actually the case. Finally, he read maps as if the distances were calculated in Italian miles. Accepting the length of a degree to be 56 miles, from the writings of Alfraganus, he therefore calculated the circumference of the Earth as 25,255 kilometers at most, and the distance from the Canary Islands to Japan as 3,000 Italian miles or 2,300 statute miles. Columbus did not realize Alfraganus used the much longer Arabic mile. No ship that was readily available in the 15th century could carry enough food and fresh water for such a journey. Most European sailors and navigators concluded, probably correctly, that sailors undertaking a westward voyage from Europe to Asia non-stop would die of thirst or starvation long before reaching their destination. Catholic Monarchs, however, having completed an expensive war in the Iberian Peninsula, were desperate for a competitive edge over other European countries in trade with the East Indies. Columbus promised such an advantage.

In a big country, dreams stay with you. Just like a lover’s voice, fires the mountainside… I thought that pain and truth were things that really mattered but you can’t stay here with every single hope you had shattered.

A few weeks ago Edna Jean Robinson asked if I would work one of the many charity events that happen within the community. Obviously I would never refuse such a request. The vast majority of the events I do perform in these days are charity events. I may even start working at Illusions again on a regular basis. It’s actually a nice diverson and a fantastic treat being able to work with so many incredibly talented entertainers like Candy Kane and Jenna Skyy. After the show I let Edna know how much I apreciated her allowing me to preform, and that any time she would like me to work again it would be my pleasure to do so. Edna is the entertainment director for all of the Caven nightclubs. All of the pagents, charity shows, and daily preformances are managed by Edna. While the task may seem daunting Edna handles it with ease. During our conversation she let me know that I was welcome to work the Christmas benifit on December 1st. Again I happily agreed to also work for her at that event. While I’m sure many of you would consider it something extraordinary to be on stage, which in some ways it is, it’s just a small piece of womanhood. Being a woman though is far more than slinky clothes, stiletto heels, and big hair. While it’s a lot of fun to dance around the stage with all eyes focused on you it just isn’t the reality of a womans world.

Like most women I spend my time far removed from the stage. I have a carreer and a home to manage. My own social event’s, grocery shopping, dishes to wash, and laundry to fold. Carrying laundry baskets around the house in a pair of jeans isn’t any girls idea of glamor or even passionate romace. Believe me! Some nights I just sit on the couch reading a book quietly. Other times I’m in bed watching a late night movie. I often tell the many people I meet how dull and truely uninteristing my normal life is and it’s almost always met with disbelief. There have been many nights when I really would rather have just stayed in. Over the past year I’ve detailed many of my adventures for my wonderful readers like you. Your digital diva has been there all along to coax your ship from it’s safe harbor. Like Columbus I had a few ideas in the begining and even though I absolutely believed they were correct, I found out that I was wrong. That ladies is where our astrolabe differs and will invariably send us in two completely different directions.

Many night’s I’ve had crosdressers tell me how free they feel, how easy it is for them to “express” themselves when we chat. They always ask me if I’m a preformer, how I manage to look so glamourus, and my personal favorite, am I “full time” as if it’s some far away and unreachable goal. Each one, with rare exception, has the same hurried look, the same mismatched style of hooker wear. Many have told me they enjoy the attention; that they would just like to be able to dance, that being “pretty” or “sexy” is their ultimate destination. I used to offer tips and suggestions, I tried to tell them ways to improve. Based upon some recent discussions with a close friend I discovered that my offer to help wasn’t as well recieved as I had hoped. I was too crass, too cruel, or simply not nice enough in my critique’s aparently. You see ladies, Columbus was rejected several times because he had flawed calculations which would have caused a calamity at sea. It wasn’t that those Monarch’s who refused him were evil or totally uninterested, it was his failure to see the larger world as it WAS, rather than how he believed it to be. Sadly I’m just as guilty. I always believed that the crosdressers who read these wimsical forays would relish the insight of a woman who truly would like to help them in their quest. What I didn’t understand was that guys who want to play dress up for the most part were never trying to look good or blend in. Being truly feminine, or being womanly isn’t their attraction. It’s that percieved spotlight, the desire for adulation or attention. Which I find truly odd since most are terribly shy, obviously fearful, and seem so uncomfortable with the slightest sign of interest.

I couldn’t understand why there was such a vast ocean between these two worlds. I couldn’t believe my own calculations were so far off. Every girl eventually has to aproach the Queen and plead fealty while proposing her own unique voyage. Even though she may have charted her own path it may take her years to become a woman. No matter how many letters of desire or interest people send me, and it’s quite a lot; I still struggle with my own self identity. Every woman does. We have to be so many different things to those who know us as we develop our individual style. When I first began this process I was petrified to walk out my front door and taste freedom and experience life as it was meant to be. I didn’t know anything about womanhood. Knowing you are one and knowing how to be one I found out later was quite different. I took my failures in stride though and sought out others who would help me sail to the new world. The sea’s have been rough at times and I know there will still be stormy nights ahead. Fortunately I knew that when I first set sail on this voyage. Even though there may be a great ocean that seperates men and women it should never prevent them from finding some common ground. For crosdressers it’s probably the most dificult, each day they try to keep one foot on the shore while they strech the other farther and farther out to sea.

The crossdressers I’ve met seem to be so enamored with a woman’s finery, her intimate’s, that they adamantly refuse to accept there are many other things on our minds. The topic of “underwear” is so prevalant in their discussions it’s almost unnerving. If that’s not the focus it’s wishing they could trade places instantly without consequence. Many have the desire to just be “one of the girls” in some fanciful conversation, one of their own design mostly. Lest your digital Diva be convicted of favoritism I could name quite a few in the transgendered camp who do the same. The reality is that women’s conversations are precisely that. Womens conversations! Whenever I’m with my girlfriends after work we usually sit together and the guys are off someplace else. Interestingly enough this is regardless of the venue. There are quite a few “straight” bars that I frequent, and as I’ve developed I actually feel more comfortable there because I’m just one of the girls now. Yes ladies I have an entirely seperate life beyond the village. Most women do. A few know I “dance” but that’s enough, they know what it means, it’s nothing more than a tiny blip in our conversations. If it comes up at all, which it rarely does. Believe it or not we just talk about our dates, kids, and social issues It would be rather boring to most men. while many may have the desire to be part of a group of women or privy to our intimate girl talk, they would never really enjoy it. It’s not sexy enough, it’s to “plain jane”, it’s just not that hot and steamy or anywhere aproaching glamourous.

Recently I met Cindy for dinner one evening a few weeks ago to pick up her computer so I could fix it for her. Her daughter came along and the three of us just sat there chatting about the little things in life. It was just a girls night out, nothing special really. Low heels, slacks, and a nice sweater. Thanksgiving was spent with Farah and about a dozen of our friends at her apartment in Addison. The Catholic Monarchs, may have been desperate for an advantage over other Europeans, but unlike them, during these small moments I wasn’t trying to compete with anyone. Women compare and contrast themselves with each other. Each of us giving small praise and admonishments just as Aurora did with my lipstick one night. She wasn’t trying to make me feel small. Aurora was helping me just as the Monarchs tried to help Columbus realize his calculations were wrong. Crosdressers still try to compete with each other as they vie for everyones attention. Yes there are times when women do seek attention, granted that attention is usually non sexual or even remotely close to it. We desire validation, compassion, understanding, and all those silly things men ignore at their peril. When women seek an audiance with the Queen it’s subtle, yeilding, or reserved. Men look only to command, to control, to force their will upon others. The crossdressers believe like Columbus that “they know” what’s right, while never willing to acknowledge that they are looking at Italian miles while women are all using Arabic miles like Alfraganus did.

Well here it is, the close of another long evening. The lights have gone up and the crowd has cleared. The fans and the other patrons have begun to go home or somewhere else. As the bartenders close up the girls are huddled around Onyx looking for their music or scattered about collecting their stage wear. Each one packing their bags or doing some last minute primping for events that may happen elsewhere. The only pressing concern on my mind is getting home where I can slip on a comfy pair of jammies and take off my heels. I know I’ll spend some time brushing out my hair, setting my alarm for work tomorrow, washing my face and then just a few moments of silence before I drift off into a world of cotton candy and unicorns. Those are just a few thoughts every girl has before the end of the night. As I step onto the side walk though, with the brisk late night air hitting me I curl up tighter into my fur coat. I stop and dig through my purse for a cigarette and as I stand there to light it, I silently watch the cars drive by. The reflections from the sourounding neon and headlights dance on rain soaked streets as I take it all in for just a few precious moments. Now my heels are clicking on the concrete while I walk to my car, it all feels so hollow.

You see ladies there comes a point where the flash bulbs stop, the aplause ends, the crowd has disapeared and then it’s just YOU. The sexy apeal and that suggestive wiggle of your walk has gone completely unoticed. The night has ended and all that’s left are the memories or the somber self critique of how well you did. There are no more cute boys or girls to flirt with, no more wonderful concoctions of alcahol to try. All that is left is to drive home and prepare for the dawn of a new day.

It’s often said that women have secret lives. Girls I’m here to tell you that it’s true. We do have secret lives. For those who don’t know it’s often just like tonight. Eventually the dishes need washing, the clothes need to be washed and a grocery list must be made. Trivial errands will need attending, and calls to girlfriends to set up a future date for coffee away from our men will be made. Small prayers to remember the return of a borrowed umbrella from Vida, or return a call to Angelica or let Celeste know you care are what’s truly on my mind tonight. Oh sure we’ll talk about clothes and makeup but mostly about our lives and what is going on within them. Ocassionally we might get a littly saucy and discuss the failings of boyfriends past but that’s almost never our real focus.

One thing we do though is support each other and share our feelings about the world we live in. Women do talk about everything but often we just talk about nothing and that is our great mystery. We have our own language and our own way of exploring the world around us. Columbus eventually learned the true diamater of the earth, I certainly hope my wonderful readers like you realize it really isn’t as dificult as it may seem.

Pull up your head off the floor, come up screaming. Cry out for everything you ever might have wanted. I’m not expecting to grow flowers in the desert;

But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime..

Come on out and join me, It’s a big country!

With love,

Michelle Hart

If you have a suggestion for a topic you would like to see addressed feel free to write me through my profile on URNA. Also, feel free to Post and Comments below. If you would like to know more about me or are just curious don’t be shy, reply.