Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Against the Etiquette"

This poem is spillover from the February 2, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] wyld_dandelyon. It also fills the "midnight" square in my 9-4-15 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [Unknown LJ tag], LJ users Ng_moonmoth and Lone_cat. It belongs to the Calliope thread in the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains some touchy topics. Highlight for more details, some of which are spoilers. It features references to (mostly past, with lingering effects) gender dysphoria, exploring lingerie, dealing with mixed feelings, Vagary walking in on Calliope in her underwear, Calliope's pissed-off reaction, and other angst. Most of the focus in on how she feels about her new undies, though, which is mostly positive. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

"Against the Etiquette"

Cal had spent years
hiding the secret desire
to dress in women's clothes,
indeed, to be a woman.

It was a guilty pleasure
only allowed on rare occasions,
hidden in midnight and shadows.

Cal was adept at being
Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hide.

Then the tornado happened,
and Calvin became Calliope.

Now Calliope had a gender coach,
and the latest assignment was
to wear pretty lingerie.

Thus far Calliope had
stayed mostly within the realm
of practical foundation garments,
avoiding the beautiful things
that she secretly craved.

They still scared her a little.

She had always coveted them,
and that gave them a certain power
over her that was frightening
in the depth of its intensity.

There was, too, the lingering worry that
someone would clock her and make trouble
over her transgression against the etiquette
of the gender assigned at birth.

But homework was homework,
and Calliope understood that
this step was necessary in order
to embrace her feminine side fully,
without allowing other people
to shape her expression.

So she bought herself
a pink stretch-lace thong
and a white silk negligee and
a scarlet satin bathrobe.

She chose three different fabrics,
specifically, so that she could
compare them and see how
each one felt on her new skin,
how different from the fabrics
that were permitted to men.

The stretch lace was scratchier
than what she remembered.

It made her feel the way
she felt now when people tried
to dismiss her for being a woman:
itchy and a little too tight,
but ultimately flimsy.

The silk was softer,
and the contrast between
smooth silk and slightly stiffer lace
and the diaphanous ruffled trim
was so exciting that Calliope
just stood there in front of
her mirror, stroking it.

The satin robe was
long and luxurious and
relentlessly, fearlessly,
unapologetically RED.

It made her feel like
she could step up and
stake a claim to her space
with actual stakes.

At last, she could finally be herself
and indulge in things like this.

The stretch-lace was abrasive,
the silk was sensuous, and
the satin was downright decadent.

They were nothing like the coarse cloth
of men's wear, and Calliope loved
the effects they had on her.

Naturally that was the moment
when Vagary walked in on her
and said, "Wow, that's hot!"

That was exactly why this sort of thing
was meant to be done at midnight.

"What are you even doing
here?" she snapped at him.
"How did you get in?"

"I'm here because it's been a while
and the bond was pulling at me, so
I picked the lock and came in," he said
with that sheepish, self-deprecating smile
that Calliope had privately decided must mean,
Please don't hit me, I can't help being an asshole.

She counted to ten, first in English, then in Greek,
and finally for good measure in Esperanto.

"I am wearing lingerie. It was not
intended for you to see," she said
through her teeth. "I will give you
three seconds to. Turn. Around."

Vagary spun on the spot as if trying
to elude the deadly gaze of Medusa.
"Sorry I'm sorry I thought you'd have
clothes on!" he babbled at her.

"Just stand there -- quietly! --
until the bond loosens up," she said.
In fact, she'd felt the damn thing tugging
at her too, she was just better at ignoring it.
"Then you can go find yourself a class on
respecting other people's property for
breaking and entering, and one on
privacy for being a peeping tom."

"Okay," he whispered in that
kicked-puppy tone which made her
feel guilty for holding him accountable
for his mistakes, but blast it, she couldn't
just let him get away with this nonsense.

True to his word, which surprised her,
Vagary stood there silently for twenty minutes
and then slipped away as soon as he could,
presumably to go take his classes.

God, what a pain in the ass.

He'd called her outfit hot, though.
That memory tugged her lips
up into a reluctant smile.

She liked fighting against the etiquette
of her childhood, which had never fit.

Calliope smoothed her hands
down over the rich slippery satin
and the frilly silk and even
the itchy stretch-lace.

It really was one hell of an outfit,
and she was happy that she had
bought it, even if it was embarrassing
beyond all expression to get caught
in it by her evil unboyfriend.

There was just something about it ...

Looking in the mirror, Calliope realized
that women's clothes made her feel powerful
in a way that had nothing to do with superpowers.

* * *


Calliope (Calvin Sanna) -- Calliope comes from Oklahoma; the father's family is Greek-American, while the mother's family is American. Calliope has light olive skin with gray eyes and short hair in shades of lighter and darker blond. Cal is demiromantic demisexual. She speaks English, Greek, and Esperanto.
Origin: Sucked into a tornado.
Uniform: Feminine-styled costume of dexflan and capery in dusty shades of pink, blue, lavender, and cream.
Qualities: Good (+2) Consideration, Good (+2) Flexible, Good (+2) Handiwork, Good (+2) Listener, Good (+2) Word Puzzles
Poor (-2) Distractible
Powers: Expert (+4) Air Powers (meta-power including Flight, Phasing, Sonic Blast, Tornado Straws, Whirlwind, Windtalking), Average (0) Empathy, Average (0) Shapeshifting
Vulnerability: Air Powers are opposed by Earth Powers. Some Air abilities do not work on an Earth-powered opponent, and vice versa, typically those meant to affect a person directly. Others gain an upshift on damage, typically attacks.
Limitation: So far the Shapeshifting only works to switch between Calvin and Calliope. As the power improves, additional shapes may be gained.
Motivation: Self-discovery.

* * *

"Colorful garments -- ball gowns, kimonos, evening pajamas -- made from yards upon yards of iridescent silk or velvet. I own an unjustifiable number of such outfits and jump at the chance to wear them. Against the etiquette about which I am otherwise all too conscious, I frequently, and unrepentantly, overdress for the occasion."
-- Julia Glass

Transgender people have more work in exploring their gender expression. Here are the typical steps in transitioning from male to female. Cal's superpower changed some but not all of that process. She still has to learn how to express her womanhood.

Crossdressing is a common way for transgender people to begin exploring their identity. However, not all transfolk crossdress, and most crossdressers are not trans. It can have other benefits too. Here are some tips on how to crossdress.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a famous story about changing between personalities.

Lingerie is an important part of crossdressing and transitioning. People can be very secretive about it, because involving others is risky and often unpleasant.

Calliope has the pink version of this stretch-lace thong. This is the white silk negligee. She has the red version of this satin robe.

Personal boundaries can be difficult to grasp for people who grew up without clear ones. Vagary doesn't mean to be a dick about this, but he has trouble seeing the lines that other people do. Understand how to respect boundaries and deal with someone who doesn't.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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