Unlocking The Door To Collecting Bowie

In the summer of 1993, I began corresponding with Marshall Jarman.  As mentioned in previous entries, Marshall was a Bowie and Prince mail order specialist.  Over the ensuing seven years, I would write him letters, he would respond in kind, send me catalogues and flyers before I would place orders and then send money before I would receive brown packages from him full of Bowie goodness.  It was a simple process.  His prices were always generous and you knew where you stood.  Enter the internet!

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With the advent of online shopping and auction sites, music fans embraced new methods of obtaining their guilty pleasures in quicker time and less effort.  I tried to move with the times but I was a lonely kid who didn’t fit in with Australian culture so I preferred sending and receiving letters with no just Marshall Jarman, but other music fans in England.  Every so often, I would place pen pal adverts in the British music papers then begin corresponding with other people some 11,000 miles away.  We’d swap mix tapes, photo’s, life stories and sometimes even sweeties.  It was my way of escaping a culture I have never particularly enjoyed here in Australia.

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Marshall’s catalogues always made for riveting bedtime reading.  I loved and adored them, sifting over the monumental items he always had on offer for sale.  His bootleg lists were something else all together.  I often wondered where he had actually managed to get hold of most of this?  He once had a copy of “Liza Jane” going for just £350.  Being a teenager and not having regular work, £350 was a lot to spend at the time so I decided against buying the 7″ single and plumped for some bootlegs instead.  Also, the exchange rates were not the best.  At this point in time, one Australian dollar would buy you just 35 British pence! To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how I would have protected such a rare and sought after record?

In future blog entries, I will delve a little deeper into the actual detailed content of Marshall’s catalogues.  They made for a fabulous reference point check when I went to local record fairs and the like.

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As 1995 rolled around, Bowie was touring again and that meant loads of new bootlegs.  CD and video bootlegs were my preferred choices as the vinyl bootlegs were funnily enough, easy enough to pick up in Australian record stores.  Bowie was doing lots of TV appearances between 1995 and 1999 so that meant a regular VHS tapes would appear in my post box.  Marshall would sell the videos for around £15 and they often had nice artwork and contained around 3 hours of footage.  Bargain!  The outside and earthling era was a great time to be a Bowie fan.  Why you ask?  Well, he didn’t give a shit and was, once more making outside of the box music.

The concerts of the era included obscure song selections and fascinating re-workings of his better known material.  During television interviews, he was so incredibly intriguing and I would watch the VHS tapes over and over and over again, often wearing them out so I would make spare copies just in case.  My high school film & television unit had double VHS recorders and my teach would let me make copies of the videos I received for prosperity.

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I only have a small handful of MJ’s catalogues left these days.  I’m glad I kept them.  They are a fascinating insight into collecting Bowie memorabilia during one of his most curious periods.  As the new century dawned, MJ moved online and he vanished in some ways into the World Wide Web along with a new generation of Bowie dealers who had sprung up out of nowhere.  With that, prices began to creep up year by year and it seemed that with the passing of time, collecting Bowie started to lose it’s appeal for some of us.  For a seven year period mind, Marshall Jarman’s mail order business dealings were a major highlight of my days.  Next time I am in England, I will have to track him down and have a beer.

When Bowie Records Weren’t Sold For Crazy Prices!

As hard as it may seem to believe, there once was a time when Bowie fans didn’t take advantage of each other.  In 25 years of collecting, I have seen a lot of crazy things.  However, nothing like some of the seriously unjustifiable prices that are being asked for certain releases over the past few years.  Today, it feels as though there is only an interest in buying as many copies as you can, keeping them sealed so they can be sold on for amounts that are nothing short of extortionate prices.  It wasn’t always like this.

In 1994, I bought a copy of The David Bowie World 7″ Discography book to help me in my search for elusive singles.  Soon after, I began writing to the author, Marshall Jarman and he would send me letters and catalogues.  His prices were always incredibly reasonable and he was always a thoughtful dealer to buy from.  He specialised in Prince as well as Bowie.  If an item had sold out, he would let me know when it was back in stock.  There were in fact, other dealers of a similar ilk, though Marshall became my favourite and I bought a good deal from him over a number of years.

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In 1993, Bowie released the soundtrack to The Buddha of Surbubia which sold out not long after release and then became a deleted item.  There was little to no promotion for the release.  It came out a few months after Black Tie, White Noise.  In today’s collecting climate, copies would be selling for £300 plus due to the “supply and demand” line todays rip off merchants try to tell you.  With Marshall, the price didn’t change.  £14 before being deleted and well, £14 after.  This is why so many collectors hold Marshall in such high regard.

The Let’s Dance yellow vinyl that came out in 2015 is a prime example of collecting in 2017.  It sold for $25 upon release and now sells for anything between $400 and $900 depending where you look.  People argue these prices are fair and reasonable because the release was limited to 550 copies.  I call bullshit!  Firstly, it wasn’t numbered so there is no genuine proof that it was limited to just that amount and secondly, I know of a number of collectors who managed to buy upwards of 20 copies each.  So why do people pay $900 for a 7″ single that sold for $25 upon release?  Desperation?  The need to own everything? Keeping up with other collectors?  It’s not that scarce.  Only three days ago, I found no less than 13 copies available to buy online.  Copies turn up on a weekly basis.  Still, if people are prepared to pay 36 times the price for a 7″ single that is readily available from multiple sites then who am I to complain?

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I guess I am a bit old school in collecting Bowie.  And I don’t have much time for the selfish and greedy collectors out there who do in fact buy up multiple copies to only sell on for highly inflated prices.  And why buy records with no intention of enjoying them?  Why stick them in a cupboard for six years because you only want to make a profit?  It’s utter madness.  In times like these, I thank my lucky stars I was a serious collector during the 1990’s when Marshall Jarman ruled the roost.  He even put me onto fabulous fanzines like the sorely missed Crank’n Out, published by Steve Pafford, who has since become a dear friend who I admire greatly.

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Every few months, Marshall would send out his latest catalogue whilst in between, there would be regular envelopes containing his latest bootleg releases that were available.  This was a time where there were no downloads available and not that many shows were available to hear outside of the infamous inner circle.  I’ve met a handful of serious European fans who have played me soundboard recordings of concerts that very few had copies of.  I’d never be allowed to listen to full shows but it was still a privilege.

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Over the coming days, I’ll share copies of Marshall’s catalogues.  They make for a fabulous reference point on prices for multiple items and they give you an indication of just how mental Bowie collecting has become in 2017.  I know one thing.  Like fuck I will be forking out $900 for a yellow vinyl of Let’s Dance any time soon…..

Our Hash Tag Culture Gone Wrong

There have been a lot of #tragedies over recent months, perhaps even years?  One thing I have learnt is that many people have been #heartbroken or #devistated in this time.  We have all (definitely not this little duck) been #prayingforrecentkyattackedcity in an effort to make this #betterforallofus.  Has any of it worked? #notfuckinglikelymate!

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What this hash tag culture has done in fact is made it acceptable to think that we are #doingsomething or #contributing to the cause by hash tagging our thoughts away.  Can you see how utterly contrived and daft it all is yet?  Hash tagging on social media in response to a tragedy is fundamentally a way to make yourself feel important and garner attention in by the way of likes and comments about how #amazing and #thoughtful you are.  Give me a #fuckingbreak!

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People are like sheep.  If they see people are #heartbroken over a terrorist attack they feel compelled to join in on the fun.  Effectively, you aren’t #heartbroken at all.  You have just lost touch with reality.  Why? Well, it’s kind of like this.  If you were genuinely #heartbroken, you wouldn’t be able to emotionally control yourself for days, possibly even weeks.  A #brokenheart is not something many of us feel all that often but as I said before, it makes us feel good about ourselves if we show we care doesn’t it?

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My mother always told us when we were kids that actions speak louder than words.  So next time you see a story on a homeless person being attached, don’t hash tag how #devoststed you are at the news, physically go out and help homeless people.  But them food, coffee, talk to them.  Be that physical stepping stone for them to get back on track in life.  Let your actions override your hash tag culture bubble that you choose to live in.  A recent study by Melbourne University found that over 90% of us have never stopped to help a homeless person.  We tend to think we are above that ourselves but in reality homeless people are no different to you, me or the Queen of England.  So put your hash tag away and actually do something!

Since 9/11, America and her allies have been on the offensive.  Invading, raping and pillaging a greater number of countries than had ever done before.  Since that time, there have been an increasing number of terrorist attacks around the western world which has led to an ingrained culture of #prayforlondon/paris/madrid/brussels/bali/you getthejist of it.  Once more, the narcissistic “look at me” social media culture shows us all up for actually thinking we give a shit.  We don’t really.  After sitting around the television telling all our social media buddies how #devistated we are, we get back to life as normal.  Back to posting selfies of ourselves on the lash or endless photos of our dinners and coffees.  We could use this time to write letters to out governments, petition friends to boycott products and companies that support the enemies within.  We could actively do any number of things to improve the world we live in.  But most of us #dont.

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Isn’t it time we ceased all this #pretendingtogivetwofucks and got back to being actively thoughtful and helpful people?  Our society is engulfed in greed, hatred, selfish attitudes whilst lacking genuine compassion and kindness.  We like to think we care but do we really give a flying fuck anymore?  It’s time we put this pointless and wasteful hash tagging culture to be bed and started becoming better human beings.

25 Years A Bowie Collector!

The journey has been eventful.  It’s been exciting.  So to, has it been emotional.  It’s been a great many other things as well since I began collecting Bowie memorabilia all those years ago.  I had no idea that in 1992, I would spend so many hours in record shops and sifting through online record retailers, hunting down the rarities that mean so much to us Bowiephilies.

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I fellow writer once told me to immortalise my passions and desires through a blog.  That was some 15 years ago.  Being a little shy to fully express myself all those years ago, I hesitated for a good 10 years before I finally took on his advice.  And here I am, writing all about my passions, hobbies and interests.  Ohh, and my love for David Bowie!  To celebrate 25 of collecting Bowie, I thought I should document how I became a collector, why I followed this pathway, what I prefer to collect along with the experiences collecting has brought my way.  My obsessive nature was always going to dictate my passion for collecting.  Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means a completest.  There is something quite cool in my eyes about not owning everything.  Room for constant improvement shall we say?

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Earlier tonight, I fetched my collection of Bowie 7″ singles from my storage space.  They’ve been safely locked away there for over 18 months now whilst I moved around and travelled constantly.  Now that I have settled a bit, I thought I should get them out to enjoy once more.  There are just over 230 singles storied away in a long box that I made myself in 2006.  It holds them well.  Snuggly would be a more precise descriptive term.  I’ve owned more over the years.  Sold some here and there for a variety of reasons.  Traded others.  At the end of the day, you can always buy them back for the right price.  Most definitely not those obscene prices people ask for a yellow 7″ of Let’s Dance!  I find myself arguing the merits and legitimacy of the “550 or 500” pressed theory that people use to justify its scarcity and price.  Scarce you say?  Well, I found no less than 13 copies for sale today alone so it most certainly isn’t that scarce.

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For me, I’d prefer to persue the RCA era singles from the 1970’s.  Besides, they are far better to admire and look at whilst a great deal cheaper.   The Berlin era singles are my more preferred options when collecting.  The Japanese Sound and Vision hits all the right spots for me.  As for RCA era singles I have never owned that I would like to one day own? The Spanish Boys Keep Swinging picture disc most certainly springs to mind.  I’ve owned some of the pre-RCA era singles too however, like their 1980’s and beyond counterparts, they miss the romance that Bowie singles on the RCA label, orange labels may I also add, had.  The first single from this era I bought was a German pressing of Golden Years.  I still have that one too!  It cost me the princely sum of £8 from Marshall Jarman in 1994 via mail order.  From that moment on, Bowie’s RCA era singles were my main squeeze, man!

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When people ask me why I collect Bowie on such an obsessive level, I don’t really have a direct and sussinct reply.  I have collected other things in my time so “collecting” is in my blood.  But I guess deep down, I just enjoy the challenge of it all.  As I mentioned previously, I will never own it all, but that won’t stop me trying to obtain the various items that I do admire and cherish.  It could also be worse.  I could be an alcoholic or a drug addict which is what I always tell my mum when she questions why I still spend so much time and money on Bowie collecting.

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Over the coming months, I will attempt to open up more on collecting Bowie.  There are so many elements to it that it will take me dozens of blog entries just to scratch the surface of it all.  There are a great many Bowie collectors who put me to shame when it comes to the sheer volume and size of what they own when matched up against my collection of treasures. Over the weekend, I’ll go into some more details regarding Marshall Jarman and why he inspired me to become an avid Bowie collector through his catalogue releases and letter exchanges that took up my life for the best part of the 1990’s.

I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise you, it won’t be boring……

Star Wars: Identities or Frauds?

Much has been made of the Star Wars: Identities exhibition at London’s O2 Arena since it’s opening in November 2016.  I’ve been a massive fan of the concept since I saw Return of The Jedi in 1983 whilst living in rural New South Wales.  Wellington (not the New Zealand city) was a very small country town so when a major film like Star Wars rolls into the town’s only cinema, it was always going to be a massive event for people from all walks of life.  My parents were always short of money so when it came time for birthdays and Crimbo, i’d be the kid receiving the not so well known character figurines that are now worth huge money on the collectors circuit.   Sadly, they all disappeared when we moved from Sydney to Brisbane all those years ago now.  I often wonder where they ended up.

I digress.

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So last month, I felt it was time I made my way along to see Star Wars: Identities for myself.  There had been a good deal of negative feedback for a myriad of reasons, chiefly the admission price and also the lack of material on show.  Now, granted there isn’t a helluva lot on show but after all, it’s the quality and not quantity that matter most.  And that is precisely what I love about Star Wars: Identities.  Some of the displays are just stunning.  You are able to see original costumes up close, you learn of Jabba The Hutt’s early incarnations and also that of Yoda through a series of early sketches when the concept was first put to paper all those years ago.  Chewy is taller than I expected and you get a fabulous idea as to just how thin Fisher, Hammil and Ford were in 1977 as young actors coming of age.

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After what I thought was an hour since entering a galaxy far, far away (couldn’t resist), I looked down to see it had been almost three hours.  Time flies as they say.  The most charming aspect of Star Wars: Identities is that it allows you to genuinely step back in time to your youth when time was or at least it seemed to be much more enjoyable.  The original trilogy is where my heart lies, regardless of how good the prequels and squeals may or may not be.  George Lucas will go down as the greatest story teller of my generation.  Why you ask?  Well, the learning experience you take from Star Wars: Identities is that we are not too far removed from the characters ourselves.  At various intervals, you can stop and take “identity” tests and by the time you finish, there is an opportunity to find out which “identity” you belong to.  It’s a pretty cool extra that I didn’t expect to encounter.

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The final room is where my biggest thrill came.  This is where you are introduced to the costumes from the dark side of the force.  And standing to the northern end of the room is Darth Vader.  It’s a menacing experience standing so close to Vader.  You almost feel as thought he is going to pull his saber out and cut you down in a heartbeat.  Naturally, he doesn’t but my goodness it was so cool being able to see the in depth detail to Vader’s attire, along with all the other identities from the film saga.

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I should mention that you are administered with an audio guide upon entry.  It lends a great deal of help throughout explaining the backgrounds behind characters and providing you with a most sumptuous soundtrack to the exhibition.  Despite the limited number of costumes on show, Star Wars: Identities is well worth the 20 quid to get in the door.  What’s more, I went around lunch time during the middle of the week when there were very few others around.  It gave you the space and freedom to properly explore each dimension of the rooms.  You can also take photo’s along the way which made for a nice experience knowing I didn’t have to hide my phone from the prying eyes of security.  And well, I took way too many pictures for my own good.

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Once you leave the exhibition itself, you are naturally led through a store that is lined with Star Wars merchandise.  This is the only let down of the whole experience because everything was overpriced and not really the best quality.  The upside was being informed that the exhibition will tour the world once the London run finishes in early September.  One would expect visits to LA then perhaps Tokyo, somewhere in Europe and perhaps even Australia.  If you can’t make it to the London showing then please, find the time and make the effort when it heads to your neck of the woods.  It’s an exhibition worthy of seeing, perhaps more than once.

Dali In Spain

In 1960, Salvador Dali proposed a concept of putting something back into his birthplace, Figueres, Spain.  In 1968 plans were underway to turn the local theater into his very own world of surrealism.  On September 28 1974 the dream was realized as The Dali theater and Museum opened to the public and developments continued until the mid 1980’s when the final product was completed.  What makes the Dali theater and Museum even more extraordinary is that Dali himself is buried underneath the Theater!

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This is why I have been wanting to visit this surrealist state of art for many years.  Dali has, for a long time been one of my idols.  His ability to see beyond the norm and transcend the mind into a natural state of concepts and challenges has always been something I have tried to do in life myself.  Always outside the box.  The only way to live if you ask me.  As Dali himself was quoted in the 1980’s…..

I want my museum to be a single block, a labyrinth, a great surrealist object. It will be [a] totally theatrical museum. The people who come to see it will leave with the sensation of having had a theatrical dream.

And so he did.

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The journey to Figueres is around 90 minutes north of Barcelona via train and costs around 9 Euro’s.  The town itself is rather small and quaint.  It took me around 15 minutes to casually stroll along the side street before the majestic Theater stood before me.  Thankfully, the tourist season was not yet in full swing so I was able to buy my admission ticket within minutes of arriving and inside I went.  What was I expecting to find inside the walls?  I had no idea!  What did I find inside the walls?  A world of surrealism unlike anything else I had witnessed before in my 40 years on planet earth.  It truly was a spectacular venue to get lost within the walls.  Unlike other museums, there is no real direct way to approach the venue.  It’s massive and there are stairwells and side rooms and corners to lose yourself in all over.  Don’t pay attention to the map.  Just simply wander and explore.  Allow yourself to be lost.  And allow at least 5 hours to truly encapsulate yourself within the experience.  Truth be told, I was inside for almost 7 hours.  Effectively, my whole day in Figueres was all about Dali.  So now, I have a jolly good reason to return one day soon.

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It’s about this point in the blog where I could easily wax lyrical on the items on show to enjoy or, I could give you a short history of Dali and the impact of his works on this modern world but that would simply spoil the delights of what you find inside the Theater when you visit.  You are best to just walk in, allow yourself (and your mind) to open up and see where it all takes you.  Each room, be it large or small has something incredibly unique on show.  I’ve been to numerous Dali exhibitions around the world and aside from the Berlin Museum, no other Dali exhibit really left such a striking impression that this beautiful gem has in my mind.

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If you go to Figueres with the intention of seeing this beautiful Museum, stay the night and take your time.  The town has a lot to offer and the people are just lovely.  The food options are cheap and varied.  You can secure a two course lunch and a couple of beers for around 15 euro’s which is fantastic value for a hungry traveler. On my way back to Barcelona, my debit card got stuck in the ticket machine and the station manager went our of her way to rescue the card and, after 45 minutes of trying every trick in the book (Spanish ticket machines are huge) the card was returned and I was able to breath a sigh of relief and board a later train back to Barcelona.  I should mention too, the trains in Spain are always first rate.  Modern, clean and comfortable with phone charge sockets, pull down table and plenty of leg room.

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The Dali Theater and Museum is one place you need to add to your bucket list.  You will be worse off for not having been there in your life.  Expect the unexpected when you enter as you will soon be immersed  in one of the worlds greatest minds.

Why All Men Need To Cross Dress!

Until you do it, there are no words to describe the feeling you experience.  The problem is, our society makes us feel bad for entertaining the idea let alone actually following it through.  I’m talking about cross dressing and why all men should try it at some point.  It doesn’t mean you are some kind of odd ball.  Hell, you’d be surprised how good you will feel when you slip into some feminine clothing.

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I became intrigued by cross dressing as a teenager watching music video’s for The New York Dolls, Bowie, Prince, Suede, Queen and Bauhaus.  A constant flurry of men in make-up, dresses and flamboyant shoes and boots.  It was all so glamorous and my natural instincts drew me deeper and deeper the more I saw.  It was also the outrage that cross dressing men caused that fascinated me.  In 1992, U2 made a fabulous music video for their tumultuous song, One.  The original and soon to be banned clip had all the band members dressing up in drag.  It was directed by Anton Corbijn and focused on bringing the issue of AIDS in the homosexual community to the fore.  Sadly, most television networks decided it was too extreme to air on television.  I only saw it twice upon release however, it had a lasting effect on me which stands to this day.

By the time I was 16, time spent with my new found circle of friends meant I could sneak away on weekends and dress up in the safety of familiar minds and attitudes.  They introduced me to nightclubs, gay bars and an underworld of mixed lifestyles I had previously not had any inkling of any existence in a sleepy town like Brisbane.  At the time, Brisbane itself was still an extremely homophobic city and it just wasn’t safe to dress up and walk the streets on your own.  I was bashed unconscious a few times by small minded red necks.  Often only when it was just me or perhaps one or two others and a much larger group of thugs looking to beat some faggots up.  I’m not even gay but for these jerks, anything different was too much for their pea brained minds to comprehend and when you don’t understand things, you grow a fear towards it.  And when you fear things, you lash out.

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As soon as I turned 18, I began a spell being a DJ, dressing up in even more flamboyant attire and putting on my own punk, gothic, indie, Brit Pop and Bowie nights.  I was able to use the role of a DJ to express my sense of cross dressing and take it all to new extremes the more confidant I grew within.  During this period, I began to meet even more men who loved to cross dress as well.  Many of them were straight guys, often in relationships, married and even with kids.  They were Police officers, Doctors, lawyers, students, dole bludgers and factory workers.  They came from all walks of life and loved the sense of expression they could get from dressing up.  For many of them, they had to hide their interest in cross dressing from family, friends and work colleagues because life wasn’t too kind to people of our ilk during this period of time.  Marriage equality was a pipe dream in 1995.

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I was already a rugby league referee during this period of life so hiding my passion for cross dressing was important.  I’m sure some of my footy buddies had inklings at the time though being as young as I was, I didn’t have the full mental capacity or self confidence to open up to these types of somewhat conservative people.  I genuinely feel if more men cross dressed at some point in their lives, they may have a deeper understanding of femininity and, in turn, be less inclined to be hurtful and disrespectful towards woman.  Cross dressing gives you a feel for the beauty a woman feels when she applies her make-up, slips into that size 10 dress or spends hours at the salon searching for “that” new hair style.  There’s no shame in it.  It won’t make you crave the company of men, it won’t make you a freak of nature and it won’t make you less of a man than you already are.

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And girls, encourage your man to experiment and explore his sexuality.  After all, don’t you always wish your man was more in touch with his feminine side and showed a deeper understanding of your feelings and emotions?  Perhaps a touch of cross dressing will give him the inspiration to be a better lover and human being?