• Stephanie Ashton

Souvenir

OMD, Architecture & Morality, 1981


This weekend was so blog-worthy that it was typed on an iPhone flying over the North Sea, tidied up on an iPad on the train, and finished on my laptop whilst my cat protests at me for being away for two days. What was the cause of this burst of activity?


Seven days ago, I had no intention of doing anything this weekend past, other than maintaining a state of a general calmness. Alas the fates really do not like me being idle and so when a lovely girl-like-me suggested meeting up, well how could I refuse? Actually, that bit of the story may not be entirely true as I possibly suggested meeting up first, but the idea flourished quickly into a full-scale event so let’s not split hairs.


Within hours of agreeing to meet my friend Emma, I had arranged flights, accommodation, and all the logistics necessary for a weekend in London. And so off I set once again to party in Blighty’s capital. I know all too well that late planning normally leads to some disaster or another having done so many times before. So yes, I set off poorly prepared in many respects, but fate seemed to be driving me and had big plans ahead that it did not want me to miss.


Having reached the end of another working week I grabbed my things on Friday and set off on another adventure. I landed in Heathrow slightly later that planned on Friday, but a quick train ride to Paddington followed by the tube saw me safely installed in my hotel on the edge of Soho with plenty of time to spare before going out. Then things got a little tricky. Showered and cleaned up, I started to do my make-up. Due to the extreme heat in London last week my room was like a sauna and despite the air-con fan being on maximum, trying to apply my make-up was impossible as I could not stop sweating. Following a cold shower and lying on the bed calmly I tried again and did succeed, but still it was not easy. I don’t like wearing Kryolan as a rule for nights out due to its cakey nature however, I was now regretting having left it at home this trip as it is very good even in high temperatures.


My next piece of joy was the discovery that I had brought the wrong foundation. In my possession was Illamasqua 4.5 that is pale, and I wear in winter, instead of the 6.5 that is the tone I use when tanned. Oh joy. Late planning always leads to these little quirks. So, after a little make-up difficulty, I chose a nice floral dress to wear with low heels, black jacket and bag, and a shortish wig to avoid dying from heat exhaustion. My friend was having similar fun and games and so I was fortunately not to be late for our meet-up.

Emma and Steffie, Balans Soho

My new friend had cunningly chosen to stay at the same hotel as myself and so we set off together for the Ivy in Soho. As always, the Ivy was wonderful with friendly attentive staff, and nice food and drinks. Following a leisurely meal we opted to leave as we were overheating, and made a quick trip to Freedom Bar, Balan’s, and a quick stop for a free drink with a friendly hotel receptionist I know; all the fun of being a Soho ‘socialite.’


Thus far you would say it was a typical tgirls night out; travel, meet a very pleasant friend, poke humour at how funny it is to be a dresser, drink and dance, and then home. However, the night took an amusing turn as can happen in Soho. Whilst attempting to talk our way into Bar Soho after last orders, two young and rather outrageous drag queens passed by, grabbed us, informed us that Bar Soho was rubbish, and that they would take us somewhere much better. So, having been ‘kidnapped’ by two queens (I’m sure I protested a little bit?) we proceeded to G-A-Y on Goslett Street. Okay, so this is somewhere I would never normally go, but I have to confess there was a good crowd and it was very lively and entertaining.


As happens in these fun situations, in the blink of an eye it was 3 am. My friend, now possessed with the ‘free-tranny’ spirit, was determined to stay out so I said go for it girl whilst I tottered off home to my bed. You see, during my last adventure in London I got so drunk I passed out in the hotel bathroom and nearly split my head open on the bathroom sink. Ouch! When I woke up in a pool of blood my first thought was “well I’m back again, so it must be someone else who has died, given all this blood everywhere!” So, having scared the living daylights out of myself last trip, along with giving myself a big bruise on my head, I have consciously decided to proceed more judicially going forward.


Hence why I opted to leave the club at 3 am whilst I was still sufficiently mobile. As it was, there is no doubt I was mildly trollied, but I did make it home safely, removed my make-up, had a shower, got changed into my rabbit PJs (what, they are lovely?!) and even looked out my clothes for the next day. Which is just as well really because I didn’t wake up on Saturday until 11:30. My word! I must have been tired.


The weather on Saturday was much cooler with a freshening light drizzle. When I woke, the hotel bedroom now felt like an Algerian prison cell in July as opposed to the Seventh Circle of Hell, as it had the night previously. My head and stomach were in a strong dis-agreement about who was sicker, but I knew it was necessary to force myself into the cool air of the street and force something into my stomach. So, out of bed I hopped (bunny PJs you see?) and proceeded to McDs for no better reason than that it was literally paces from my hotel. Normally I would never go to a McDonalds but given my state on Saturday morning the Golden M was simply too attractive as an option.


A short while later, I was much improved having taken on food and water. I went back to my room, put a soppy film on the television and proceeded to do my make-up. Due to the horrendous lighting in the room I rather amusingly did my make-up sitting on the floor behind my bedroom door, as it was the only place with a decent mirror and light stronger than a candle. Happily, I found my Mac foundation in my case and so my make-up was much nicer on Saturday. I just took my time whilst enjoying listening to the British tripe on the television. It was only my eyeliner that was thrown away in disgust when a blob fell on my dressing gown. Pooh.


Having changed into black jeans, an animal print halter neck top, nude loafers and matching KG bag, I was soon out of the hotel room and shopping in Covent Garden. I remember a time when leaving the room might have concerned me, but these days I feel no different in boy clothes to girl clothes; its just me. Shopping in Covent Garden is great in my opinion; in this part of London people are so busy going about their business they are way too interested in other things to be bothered about you.


With no small degree of self-amusement at how well I was passing, I just went about my business calmly and with confidence. With a list of shopping objectives, I nipped to Kryolan, TK Maxx and other fun places in that area. All in all, I was having a very agreeable time but in the knowledge I had yet to face the dreaded Oxford street.


Shopping girl

You see, I hate Oxford street with a passion. It is so stupidly busy I will do anything rather than go there. That said, there are some shops I really like on this infernal street and so with gritted teeth I set off for Lipsy, Selfridges and Debenhams. After a quick cab ride with a driver who must have looked at me in his mirror 1000 times, I arrived at the far end of Oxford Street. Now, this is point where the fates decide that my day is going along too swimmingly and needs a spark. Enter stage left my ex-girlfriend I have not seen or spoken too in nearly 2 years.


Yes, in a city of 11 million people I manage to run into my personal Kryptonite, standing in the Coast concession in Debenhams. Amusingly she was looking at a dress I ordered online last month. Myself and my ex-girlfriend (ex-gf) had been together for 8 years but the relationship ended so badly it is beyond belief. Indeed, if it had been boy-me on Saturday in Debenhams then I would, in all likelihood, have preferred to jump over the handrail from the second floor and fallen to my death rather than confront her. I know my ex-gf and her life is going to be wonderful, all smiles, rainbows, riding dolphins and generally bloody perfect. However, girl-me has zero fears because my life is going great too, thank you very much. I make sure I look perfect in a nearby mirror and then confidently walk over and say, “Hi babes.”


Now given that my ex-gf had never seen Stephanie its fair to say she was shocked. I imagine the next 10 seconds in my ex-gfs head went something like this: “Who is this? I sort of recognise…is it…oh my god…no it can not be….it bloody well is….it is my ex-boyfriend of 8 years…dressed as a woman!” Fortunately, the first words that came out of her mouth were lovely. She simply exclaimed “oh my god you look amazing!”


Now this was a surprisingly sweet statement for two reasons. Firstly, the last time we saw each other, my ex-gf was throwing my things at me shouting “You are a dirty (not true) lying (maybe true) cheating (that was true) F$&ker!” The second reason I found her positive response shocking was her apparent 180-degree U-turn on her previously stated view on cross-dressing. Previously, when I had tried to communicate openly my desire to start dressing again after a break of 2 years, she had been quick to tell me that it was wrong, disgusting, and an embarrassment for her and her mum. This last point in her statement had always left me bemused; to the best of my memory I did not, had not, and was never likely to want to marry her mother. Yes indeed, when I had told my ex-gf about cross-dressing and Stephanie, she had told me I was mentally ill and needed help. How supportive.


In any event my ex-gfs opening gambit had been friendly, so I responded by telling her she looked great, we burst into conversation and quickly left together to grab a coffee. All the time, my ex kept repeating “god you look really good as a girl! Why are you dressed like me?!” After explaining the concept of heroine worship, which appealed to her no end, we jumped in a cab to Balan’s Soho, where we got into a lot more detail about what each other had been doing, naturally aided with cocktails.


As happens when you meet someone you haven’t seen in ages, my ex-gf wants to know 'what I’m all about.' We chat for a few hours, we are both engaged and enjoying talking to each other again, sharing personal in jokes from before, and its just really nice. In the proceeding conversation my ex tells me that the seemingly amazing boyfriend who followed me is no more, and that life is maybe not all a bed of flowers. I feel genuinely sorry for her but am conscious that I am being told these things for a reason.


As time moves on my ex-gf announces that she is going to a club in Camden with 3 other cis-girls, and would I like to come along. I did have a moment of “oh no…where is this going” but given that I had no other plans and now the chance to go on a girls night out, the answer that came out of my mouth was immediately “Yes I would love too!”


Steffie sweating through her make-up in the Electric Ballroom. How nice

So why was I cautious of going on a night out with her? Well, the simple truth is that there is no way I would ever want to get back into that torturous relationship we had together previously. The relationship had been so bad in the closing months I was just relieved when it had ended. You see my ex-gf is Capricorn and I am Gemini; that is an insanely bad combination if you believe in the stars. I certainly do because when we had been together, we loved each other just about as fiercely as we drove each other to absolute distraction. Having escaped this relationship once, I would rather jump in the Thames than take any chance of re-igniting this bad romance.


Nevertheless, three other girls appear and off we go to the well-known electric ballroom in Camden. The other girls are all lovely and not one comment is made about me being trans, and everyone refers to me in the feminine. I felt very welcome in the group of girls in the moment which was fantastic.


As usual on arriving in Camden my first thought is “what the hell am I doing here” as it is not the most welcoming part of the city for LGBTQ+. That said, in the next three hours I was the one who got hit on twice, whilst the other girls didn’t even get so much as a wink from a tramp. And can you imagine how damn awkward that was, when sitting with the last genetic girl you were intimate with; “Sorry you can’t get a boyfriend dear; they are all after me now, your ex-boyfriend !”


Once the Karaoke anthems night got going it was great fun and despite being in 4” heels I danced with the girls for hours. We had nice ‘girly’ chats when taking a drink, of which the most amusing thing for the girls was how smooth my skin was, and how good my wig felt. As the night went on however, I could tell that for my ex-gf it was turning into a surreal experience. Sure. it was nice for her to have me around again and we had a lot of fun as we always did. However, I could tell that for her there was also a sadness and she asked me more than once if I would ever go back to living as just a boy again. Yes, I had thought as much; she wanted me there because she really wanted boy-me back for good. Hmmm, not sure that’s a good idea darling; not unless we are given two free body bags for when we kill each other six months from now.


And how did I feel? That is a very interesting question which I thought long and hard about before writing this blog. As you can see, I proceed in normal life quite happily as a woman and never have any doubts. I would love to transition and make no secret of it. And yet, I must admit that in my ex-gfs company I did feel slightly odd. My ex-gf had never seen Steffie and had rejected the notion of her very existence. So, it felt strange that I was now in her company dressed…and…in a style surprisingly like her. On Saturday night my ex-gf was being genuinely nice about how I looked and behaved, but I know full well she wants a tough straight acting man and really wants boy-me back again.


From my point of view when we had been together, I was madly in love with her, but that had been an experience as a boy. It started to feel like being girl-me in her company was eroding our fond/romantic memories for each other. It left a very strange feeling hanging over us towards the end of the night and I have concluded as fun as this night had been, probably best not to repeat.


Why? I am on a journey as Steffie now and quite clear in my mind where I am going. As fun as Saturday night was, and it was HUGE fun, I have committed a lot already to being Stephanie and do not want to waste any more time with distractions that stop me reaching my goal of being her full time. The memories of the relationships I had as a boy are best left parcelled up and do not need to be revisited, which is a process that started to occur on Saturday night. I need to keep going on my own journey as Steffie and I really don’t want girl-me to have to delve into every relationship boy-me had, or need to either justify my current actions or feel strange about it.


Simply put; the relationship with my ex-gf was then and this is now. I fully understand and respect that she never wanted to be with another woman and has no interest in girl-me. That is sad but the truth, so best to leave things as they were before we met. In more general terms, the people in my life have two options going forward; get on-board with Steffie, or we just leave our relationship right now with whatever nice memories we hold. In the case of my ex-gf that is some wonderful memories of two people who were once quite literally 'madly' in love.

Steffie and Ex...Not the kindest picture but thats the after effects of pornstar martinis !

Final Remarks


Our girl’s night out ended in China town with myself and my ex-gf sharing an extra hot prawn curry. It was wonderful to see her again and how often I have reflected, if only we had been friends rather than lovers, we would have been the best of friends forever. There is a chance we could still salvage a friendship even now, but the truth is I have changed into a person she no longer understands, and I know that ultimately she wants boy-me back again in her life which is not going to happen.


And so Saturday night was a one off and I doubt we will be meeting again. It was a brilliant experience and glad that we met, but it is best consigned to wonderful memories that bring a much happier closure to our love story. A souvenir.