Ollie's mum has a new friend called Alison. Together with her daughter, Hannah, they are spending a lot of time with Ollie and his mum. Ollie finds himself playing with Hannah's games; something which led to him wearing his first leotard and his very own pairs of tights.
I did not want to wear tights again. Even though mum had said she would buy me some in different colours, as we got ready to go out the next day I hoped they had been forgotten about. The navy blue pair was safely in the laundry basket so I put my jeans and jumper on and mum didn't make me change. That was a big relief and I started to feel a bit more relaxed again. Maybe it was just one of those things. After all, it had been my fault, sort of. I had said to Hannah that I wanted to wear them and because I hadn't explained what I really meant, she had acted in a really sweet way. Although I didn't really understand why my mum seemed happy for me to wear girls' things, l decided I could put that behind me now. Hannah could be a really good friend, I thought. We sat in the back of the car and chatted and sang along to the songs on the CD. Hannah was great fun to have around. Being an only child meant I didn't come across girls much and at school I didn't have anything to do with them. It was only in the last week that the girls in my class had spoken to me and that was to make me feel better about wearing my leotard. As we drove along I thought about the difference in the way I had been treated by girls and boys; Hannah at home and the other girls at school had been really sweet, and the boys, including my so called best friend Josh, had given me the cold shoulder. I decided that I needed to be more friendly and welcoming to Hannah. Maybe my mum was right and I was ungrateful. Hannah had some magazines with her and picked one up to read.
"Sorry, Ollie, I've only got girls' magazines," she said.
"That's okay," I replied. "I'll read one of yours." So I did. Mum and Alison exchanged looks in the front and Hannah and I settled back to read and I felt great inside because it felt as if everyone was getting on okay and it wasn't me spoiling it.
The day got better because Alison and mum decided that we didn't have to hang around with them. They thought it would be better to shop without us. "Hannah needs new underwear and a few tops and we don't need you for those," Alison said. "We'll meet you later." They even gave us money for lunch! The only slight problem was that mum asked me in the street what colour tights I wanted. She spoke far too loudly for my liking. I hesitated. I thought I could forget about them. I looked around to see if anyone had heard but mum asked again in an even louder voice I replied really quickly, "Can I have a black pair, please?"
"Of course you can love," mum replied. "I'll get you a couple of pairs. Any other colours?"
"No you choose," I said quickly.
Mum mentioning tights again had shaken me up. I had hoped they were forgotten about but I didn't want to spoil the day and we were having such fun so I put it to the back of my mind. Wanting to spend some more time with Hannah, we raced off.
Spending time with a girl was different. We went in shops I had never been into before, clothes shops and shops where they sold 'accessories' as Hannah called them. She knew such a lot as well about colour and style. There was a lot of that sort of thing in her magazines so I could see why she knew all about it. We looked at a lot of earrings and she held some up against her ears.
"I really want to have my ears pierced," she said. "Mum says I have to be ten before I can have them done. What about you, Ollie?"
"Oh, I don't know." Some older boys at school had an earring but nobody in my class did and I had never really thought about it. I knew that Mr Thomas wouldn't approve. I had heard him dismiss boys who had earrings as girls. We also went to look at CDs and I got a commentary on who was 'in' and who wasn't. I didn't really know much about it but Hannah knew loads. She also told me who was 'hot' and which posters she had on her bedroom wall. All in all I learned a lot from being with her. She bought a CD of the latest boy band. They were 'in' and 'hot' and I got carried away by her enthusiasm and bought a poster of them. We debated whether the poster of them all in black was better than the one of them shirtless and in the end I chose the shirtless one. Hannah approved of my choice. That felt good.
Later, when we met up with our mums Hannah asked if we could have our ears pierced.
"When you are ten. I've told you before," Alison said but my mum replied, "When your hair is a bit longer, Ollie." Hannah was disappointed with her response but I wasn't. I didn't want an earring but mum had never talked about me having longer hair before. She had always made me keep it quite short, like most of the boys in my class. I tried to comfort Hannah, though. "It's not long to wait. I'll be ten in November and you'll be ten soon after."
"I suppose you're right," she said. "But that means you can have your ears pierced before me."
"I promise you that I won't get it done before you," I said. I had really come to like Hannah and I found myself wanting to please her.
"Great, we can get it done on the same day," she said cheering up.
"Okay," I said. At the time keeping her happy was more important and it was only later that I realised what I had agreed to.
Back home that afternoon, Alison got all her purchases out for us to inspect. She had new underwear and a few new T-shirts and tops. The underwear was all in pastel shades, quite unlike the pants I wore. The best thing we all agreed, though, was a new top for Hannah, orange with a large silver star across the middle filled with other stars of decreasing size in alternate orange and silver. The effect was dramatic. I wanted to remain in mum's good books so went over the top in praising it in front of Hannah. She loved it and wanted to put it on right away but was told to wait. My mum then produced my tights. Two pairs: black and lime green. The black didn't look so bad, but lime green? I was going to ask why mum chose that colour but Alison said, "wait for your surprise," and another orange top with a silver star was produced. "It's for you," mum said.
"And to complete the picture…" Alison said as she produced a pair of lime green tights for Hannah. "You really will be the terrible twins, now!" she declared. I didn't know what to say at first. I was taken aback because I knew that the top was a girl's one, not to mention the tights, but Hannah was immediately enthusiastic and said we should try them on, giggling excitedly. I was going to protest. I had agreed, sort of, to the tights but no one said anything about girls' tops. My mum glared at me to warn me against saying anything to disrupt the day so when Hannah insisted we tried them on right away I went along with it. We ran upstairs to my room and got changed. Hannah was an expert at putting on her tights. I took longer but managed on my own. "Shouldn't we be wearing shorts or something?" I asked as I looked down at my legs trapped by the tights.
"No," Hannah said. "Tights and T shirts are just great for indoors," and she raced downstairs to show off her new outfit. I followed more reluctantly but also aware that my mum was watching me and warning me against making a fuss. It was hard to see that I was wearing anything other than girls' clothes. To make matters worse Alison announced that we both looked really pretty in our new outfits. I had never been called pretty before and I didn't like it. I could feel a sulk coming on but mum was watching me closely and Hannah decided that we should dance along to the her new CD and as usual I joined in, partly because I didn't want to be in trouble and partly because Hannah's sense of fun made you want to join in with her. We spent the whole evening singing along to CDs choosing songs we liked and working out dance routines to go along with them. It was such a good evening. After a while I forgot how I was dressed. It didn't seem important and none of the others thought there was anything wrong with the clothes I was wearing. Nothing could spoil the evening. Not even Alison's remark that we looked like twins upset me.
The next day mum told me to put on the black tights with an old red sweatshirt of mine. Hannah wore another of her new tops and a denim skirt. I was going to ask mum, quietly, if I could wear my jeans over the tights but when I saw how Hannah was dressed I decided I was getting off lightly. The last thing I wanted was to be put in a skirt and I worried for most of the morning that this was yet another surprise they had waiting for me.
We put up my new boy band poster replacing an old Star Wars one which we threw in the dustbin and later we read some more of her magazines. We went through the fashion pages and Hannah suggested outfits we could both wear when we pretended to be pop singers. I didn't like some of the things she chose but there were a couple of outfits I thought I might wear, as long as it was all kept private at home. Hannah offered to leave a few old copies behind when she left so that I could read them in the week.
Sunday evening came too soon and I realised that I would miss out on the next weekend as it was my weekend with my dad.
"That's a shame, Ollie, as we were going to invite you around to our house for a change," Alison said.
That made me even more disappointed as it would have been great but my mum came to the rescue by saying she would sort things out with dad.
"That's settled then," said Alison.
"Oh, its going to be such fun, I can hardly wait," Hannah said jumping up and down and, because I was so excited too, I joined in and we were giggling and holding hands and jumping up and down and it was only when Alison said they really had to go that we stopped.
Later that night, when I had had a bath I was snuggled up close to my mum in my pyjamas. I felt strange. I had enjoyed the weekend. It had been such fun and Hannah was great to be with but when I thought back over some of the things we had done I was embarrassed. I behaved differently when Alison and Hannah were about. Not like the boy I used to be. After they had gone and I had some time to think, I started to feel differently. I could hardly believe that I had spent much of the weekend wearing tights. It was as if I forgot about how a boy should behave when they were here and my mum didn't seem to want to remind me. When they left I remembered to be boy-like again. I was thinking about this and, with the leotard incident of last week in mind, a thought occurred to me.
"Mum, I don't have to wear tights to school, do I?" My mum looked at me.
"Oh Ollie, we didn't get you any in school uniform colours," she said. I was relieved. "I'll get you some in the week," she continued.
"No, its okay," I said.
"It's no trouble," she said and I let the matter drop in case I put any other ideas in her head. Lying in bed that night I could see more trouble ahead as I stared at the poster of the shirtless boy band and wondered why I had bought it. What had I been thinking of?
It was a thought that returned in the morning when mum put clothes out for me. My uniform was there as usual but the underwear was different. In fact, it looked exactly like the underwear I saw Alison had bought for Hannah. The pants (knickers?) were pastel yellow with a vest to match. In the centre of both was a design of buttercups and daisies. And instead of my grey school socks there was a pair of white ankle socks also with a delicate flower design on them, obviously for girls!
"Mum," I called down the stairs, "I've got Hannah's underwear by mistake."
"Don't be silly. It's for you. Go and get dressed," she shouted back.
"But I'll be laughed at," I shouted down.
"Why? Do you intend taking your trousers off in front of everybody today?" she called back. "Now hurry up, your breakfast is waiting."
I felt trapped again. The underwear was obviously for girls and, it seemed, had been bought especially for me. The thought that Alison and my mum seemed determined to turn me into a girl went through my mind but I dismissed it because… well, that would be ridiculous. School was becoming hazardous with the sorts of things mum was buying for me, though. Someone was bound to see my socks and laugh. I then had an idea! Mum, or mummy as I would call her to get my own way, was right. I would not be taking down my trousers at school. There was no PE! I put on the knickers and vest and raced to the kitchen shouting,
"Mummy, can I wear my black tights today?" I stopped dead. "Oh, hello Mr Thomas," I said. "I didn't know you were here."
"I've just brought the pie dish back for your mum…your mummy," he replied. He looked at me in my underwear taking in the feminine nature of it. "I won't stop," he said and went. Once again, I was left feeling he disapproved of me.
Mum smiled at me. "You look lovely, dear," she said. "Now go upstairs and finish dressing. And don't forget to wear those lovely new socks."
I managed to get through school without any problem. I don't think anyone saw my socks. I did my best to keep them hidden but I did notice that Chloe had a pair exactly the same. I spent most of my playtimes with the girls. They invited me to play when they saw I was on my own a lot and after a while this seemed the best thing to do. They were good fun, the girls in my class. Not as much fun as Hannah but fun nevertheless and the boys pretty much ignored me now, even Josh.
Later in the week when we had PE we had to choose groups to work on a dance together and Chloe and her friends chose me. I was so grateful because none of the boys wanted me and I was scared I would be left on my own at the end. As it happened my group were all in leotards and looked brilliant because we were all wearing the same thing. The other groups were jealous. Mrs Vincent said we were the best and nobody seemed to notice much when she said 'Well done girls" at the end. I noticed, though. The truth is I worked better with the girls. If I had worked with Josh I wouldn't have worked so hard. He was in a group with Jordan and they got told off a few times for messing around. Being a PE day mum had left out boys' underwear for me to wear which I thought was silly really when you thought I changed into a leotard but I didn't argue. I was grateful. I didn't really want to have to face another lot of name-calling. The boys seemed to be used to the idea of me wearing a leotard now. They didn't keep teasing me about it but then they ignored me pretty much all the time, in the same way they treated the girls, in fact. I had a whole week's worth of new girl socks to wear, though, and I thought I had been very careful about keeping them hidden under my long trousers. The next PE day, though, I saw Josh looking at me as I put them back on. This pair was white with butterflies on the sides. "Nice socks," he said and I waited for the jokes to follow but he didn't say anything more. He didn't even sound sarcastic.
"Thanks," I said.
Friday after school I had a hair appointment. I was quite pleased when mum reminded me. I was still worrying about her comment about letting my hair get longer before I could have an earring. If I was having my hair cut she couldn't be planning on my having long hair. Sitting in the chair at the hairdressers, though, I noticed that my socks were on show to anyone who looked down. I couldn't hide them. They were a white lacy pair. The most feminine of all my new ones; the very reason I left them until the last day of the week. Mel, my hairdresser, usually asked me what I wanted even though she always knew anyway because mum always told her. Today, she didn't even ask. I sat in the chair feeling really pleased that I was there. I had convinced myself that I wouldn't be coming back here for a long time.
"Now, Ollie, mummy has told me what to do," Mel started. Mummy? All the people around me were talking to me in a way they never used to, as if I had changed in some way.
"I think she wants me to have the usual style," I said.
"She told me you would say that," Mel laughed, " but I know what you need. Just sit back." I did as I was told and Mel set to work, a job which didn't take long because it soon became clear that long hair was on the cards, after all. Mel chatted away, "What people don't always realise is that you can't just let hair grow long or it gets out of control. You have to train it into the right style. That's why I'm taking just the tiniest bit off at the sides and back so that when it grows it will start to take the right shape. Your mummy knows about these things. I love your socks by the way."
By the time mum came to get me my hair was more or less the same length as before, although it looked tidier and I now had a fringe. Usually my hair was cut so that you could see my forehead. This was the bit which seemed to grow the fastest. Mel was talking to mum, "The face now has a more oval effect, I think you'll agree. If you find the fringe is growing too quickly just pop back and I'll tidy it up. Don't worry about making an appointment."
"Oh Mel thank you. You are an angel," mum said.
"Judy, it is no problem at all. I think you are being wonderfully supportive. Not every mother would if they found themselves in your situation. I really admire you.”
I didn't know what they were talking about. Coming on top of the other changes of the last two weeks I was a bit nervous. I kept looking at my reflection in the mirror. Mel was right. The style did give me a rounder face. In fact, with the fringe I looked more like a girl. What will they say at school?
Mum reminded me, not that I needed it, that we were staying with Alison and Hannah for the weekend. I was quite sad that I wasn't seeing dad but the thought of seeing Hannah again was quite exciting. 'I can't wait to show her my new hairstyle,' I thought.
"Ollie, That hairstyle really suits you," Alison said as soon as she opened the door. It felt really good to get praise from her. Hannah was equally as enthusiastic which just made me beam. Any doubts I had about it disappeared. "You'll look so good when it grows longer," Alison continued.
"Oh Ollie, I love your hair," Hannah added. "It's the same style as mine."
I realised she was right. "But your hair is much longer," I said.
"Don't worry, yours will soon grow," mum said. I didn't reply but followed Hannah up to her room. I went slowly trying to work out what was worrying me so much. I really like spending time with Hannah but I always had the feeling that I was about to be tricked into doing something else I didn't want to, not by Hannah, but by Alison or my mum. Leotard, tights, a girl's top, girls' underwear, a new hairstyle- the list was growing and I was growing more uneasy. At the same time I wanted to do things to impress Hannah and our original agreement to only do things boys and girls would both do seemed to have been forgotten. Most of the things we did together seemed to me to be more girl stuff than boys' stuff. At least no one at school could see me.
Hannah's room was completely different to mine. Her posters were of pop stars mostly but there was one of a star of the Moscow ballet. "He's gorgeous," Hannah told me. All the girls at my school have him on their bedroom walls." I tried to think of something to say that would be complimentary so I said, "He looks good in his tights and he looks so strong!" Hannah immediately said, "You can have this one. It'll be easy for me to get another," she said.
I didn't want to take it but I knew if I didn't somehow that would become an incident so I thanked her and rolled it up and put it near my bag.
The next change in my life was waiting at the end of the bed. There were two nightdresses and two pairs of slippers. They were identical. The slippers were soft white towelling with thin lines of blue sewn into them as if a skater had danced across the material. They were the type you slid your feet into. The nightdresses were pastel blue with 'Swan Lake' written across the chest and a picture of two dancers from the ballet. Not for boys!
"These are new," Hannah said. "Mummy wouldn't let me wear mine until you came and I can't wait," she said. "As soon as we have had a bath we can get changed." I was not impressed but knew that by the end of the evening I would be dressed in a nightdress and those slippers.
I suppose I should have just given up without a fight but my boy dignity wanted to protest, not to Hannah, who seemed to think I was the greatest friend in the world, but to my mum. I went downstairs and found her in the kitchen. I wanted to catch her on her own but Alison was there. I was breathing heavily and about to say exactly what was on my mind when, as luck would have it, Alison announced that it was bath time. Now I would get to talk to mum on her own. Except, Alison took me by the hand and led me from the room. Her grip was quite firm. I had no doubt that she meant business.
"Didn't you hear me, sweetie?" she asked. "I said, 'It is bath time."
"Not for me, surely," I protested and turned round for help from mum. She wasn't following. "For both of you, silly," Alison continued. "Hannah will have run a nice bath for both of you." I was horrified. Surely she wasn't expecting me to share a bath with a girl! Hannah was already in a bubble, scented bath when Alison practically dragged me into the room. She gave no sign that my resistance was giving her any problem and her grip didn't weaken. I called desperately for mum but there was no answer. Alison didn't weaken at all. She had my jumper and shirt off over my head in seconds and grabbed my hand again so quickly I didn't have time to escape. She stripped me of my trousers and underpants in one action and only then let go of my hand. By this stage I was so stunned that I didn't move.
"Take your socks off before you get in, " she said.
I was so humiliated I moved really slowly but took off my socks just as I had been told. I then got into the bath because it seemed best to hide my nakedness under the bubbles. Hannah smiled at me but I was so shocked I just burst into tears. How could she do that to me? And where was my mum?
Hannah tried to comfort me but I was so upset. I was being treated as if I was someone I wasn't and I seemed powerless to stop the changes. Hannah picked up some bubbles in her hand and blew them at me. I didn't react so she did it again. I smiled despite myself and after a couple more times I decided to do the same back. This turned into us splashing the water at each other, something my mum would never allow, and soon we were having a great time. We didn't even notice that mum and Alison were watching from behind the door. When we noticed, they laughed and came in each with a huge towel. We were lifted out of the bath and wrapped up. My mum hadn't done this for years. I always bathed myself. In a way it was quite nice. My mum obviously loved drying me all over. I hated being naked in front of Hannah. She didn't seem to mind at all. She wasn't at all shy about her own nakedness. I was too shy to look anywhere and I concentrated on trying to keep myself covered up. I couldn't, though, when Mum was lifting my arms and pulling me about to dry me. She finished by telling me to put my arms in the air and she dropped the nightdress over me- the very nightdress that I had gone downstairs to complain about. It reached my knees but was a perfect fit. Alison was very good at getting clothes that were just the right size. No way was I going to be able to use an excuse like 'It's too small." I wasn't sure what was worse, being naked in front of Hannah or wearing a girl's nightdress.
"Step forward," mum said and I stepped into the white towelling feminine slippers. "There, all done. Don't you look sweet?" I was dazed. When I looked down I realised I looked just like a little girl. There was nothing left of my 'boyness' for anyone to see. This seemed to be just what mum and Alison were hoping for.
That night I slept on the mattress put down for me next to Hannah's bed. I tried to think of a way of making my mum understand that I really didn't like all the girl things that were happening to me. It was so humiliating to share a bath with a girl, and at my age. Even though Hannah had made it fun I couldn't get rid of the feeling that mum and Alison had done it on purpose. This was my problem: I couldn't see a way of staying friendly with Hannah, something I really wanted to do, and at the same time avoid the girl things that were happening to me.
Every time I turned over the perfumed smell reminded me of the bath. Instead of looking forward to the next day, I dreaded it.
I woke up before anyone else and resolved to be forceful. I dressed quickly in my jeans and jumper and knew that I would probably have a fight on my hands. Instead, when I got downstairs the others were all at breakfast and they smiled at me when I entered. "This is a slippers house," Alison said but in such a reasonable way that I went upstairs again and put the white slippers back on. It didn't matter, I decided, as long as I could keep my jeans on. Nevertheless, wherever I went I could hear the slapping of the slippers, the same noise all the others were making. Nobody mentioned the jeans and I started to feel a little better, as if I had won a victory of sorts.
The plan for the day was to go shopping and then swim in the large swimming pool that Hannah and her mum had put up in the garden. Fantastic, if the weather stayed good. Shopping was good because we were allowed to go off on our own again and Hannah headed towards the accessory shop. We looked at the earrings again. Hannah was impatient to get her ears pierced. I was regretting my promise to join in. Then we bought necklaces to wear. Hannah sort of presumed that I wanted one too and when she asked the assistant to help I insisted on a thicker chain than Hannah. I was quite happy to wear it. After all, lots of men did. It bothered me a bit that there were no other boys in the shop but my necklace didn't look too girly.
Back home we both nagged our mums to hurry up with their food because we wanted to get swimming. Hannah went to get changed and then, and only then, did it occur to me that we hadn't brought my swimming trunks along. "Shall I wear a pair of pants?" I asked.
"Here we are dear," Alison said taking control. "This will fit. We bought your size." She handed me a new swimming costume that any girl would have loved. It was light blue with turquoise swirls across it. I stared at it and stared at my mum. There was no way I was going to get dragged into this.
"I don't want to wear it," I said. I knew my mum would tell me off for 'being ungrateful, but what sort of boy was supposed to be grateful for wearing girls' clothes? I waited for the response.
"That's alright, Ollie," Alison continued. "You can swim in the nude. We won't mind, will we Judy?"
"And Hannah has seen it all before," mum reminded me.
"I've changed my mind. I don't want to go swimming," I said.
"Hannah will be sad," Alison said but put the costume away. Another victory! They went outside and called to Hannah across the garden. She was having a great time.
"Where's Ollie?" she asked. I didn't hear the answer because I headed upstairs to the bedroom and looked out over the garden. Sounds of Hannah having fun drifted up to me and I could hear my mum and Alison laughing. I longed to be out there swimming too. There was no way I was going to go naked again in front of Hannah.
After a while I weakened. I really did want to swim. It was agonising realising that I would have to give in to Alison. However, after a few more squeals of delight from Hannah I decided that, just this once, I would wear a girls' swimming costume. I went down to ask for it. I asked my mum rather than Alison.
" If you ask again and say 'mummy' I might go and get it," she replied when I asked her.
"Please can I borrow the swimming costume, mummy?" I asked. I sounded like a girl whenever I said, mummy, I realised. Alison already had it with her and produced it from behind her back. There was a look of triumph on her face.
"Thank you," I trilled.
At least her back garden was private. Nobody could see over the hedge and if they heard us they would have thought it was two girls playing as we screamed and squealed a lot. It was fun. Playing with Hannah was one of the best things and since Josh hadn't spoken properly to me for weeks she had become my best friend. She always made our games fun and after a while I usually forgot what I was wearing because I was concentrating on the game we were playing. She never made me feel silly, either. In a moment of weakness lying out on the grass side by side in our identical swimming costumes I said, "Hannah, you are my best friend, you know."
"I think we're the terrible twins," she replied. "Sisters almost."
"I suppose we are," I said. At that moment, lying on the grass, it didn't matter that much to me that she had said, 'sisters'.
End of Part Two
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