What a great feeling it was: to be included in a group. I had always been so alone, having been raised on a farm in an isolated area of the state. But that wasn’t the whole story, you see. I never had any real friends there mainly because I wasn’t a tough, rough nasty boy. I was always sort of . . . oh how would you say it? . . . weak and girlish, I guess best describes it. That was no way to be a boy in the hardscrabble farm country where I spent my first years of my life.
But mom died suddenly when I was 12, and I had to go live with my Aunt Adele in the big city. That’s when my life changed. I still cry almost ever night about mom; she shouldn’t have died while I was still alive and needed her. She was my best friend, and, truth be told, my only real friend up there in farm country.
My Aunt Adele tried her best to make up for my loss, and I loved her for it.
I think she knew how different I was from most boys, and didn’t try to change me. What she did was introduce me to a life of almost total femininity, and I felt right at home in my new life . . . a life that seemed to mark me as a girl.
You see, my Aunt Adele runs a dance studio and all her students are girls. That is all except me, of course. But if you looked in while we rehearsed you wouldn’t know one of the cute little girls dancing was me, a boy. I fit in with the girls perfectly, it seemed.
At first the girls giggled and gossiped when I joined them for dance class, and you can’t blame them. But I found they liked me, I think, and soon I was welcomed among them, ready to giggle along or gossip with them as well. They called me ‘Terry,’ short for my middle name of Terrence, which I always used, trying to ignore my first name of ‘Olaf,’ since I was a namesake of a great grandfather from Norway who homesteaded back in the 1850s.
In the recently completed Easter Pageant at the Eagles Club, called “Rising Spring,” half of us were “sun girls,” and the other half “cloud girls.” I ended up being a “sun girl,” and if I must say so myself, I looked really cute and pretty in my yellow and white dress and flowing veil. We worked really hard for the pageant and afterwards we really celebrated when Aunt Adele took us all to the Ice Cream Palace for a treat.
Everyone commented how pretty the girls in the pageant looked, and there were “oohs” and “aahs” when we arrived at the Ice Cream Palace. “What a lovely group of girls,” I could hear people say. Of course, I was one of the girls, too.
It felt so good to be part of this group. And I giggled and frolicked about with the others, flailing my arms as they did, excitedly talking and being totally girlish. I felt so good.
My best friend, Wanda Linkfuss, was part of the dance group, and we were always together. We seemed to like all the same things, dolls in particular, and we were both beginning to be thinking more and more about clothes. And you won’t be surprised that meant girls outfits, dresses and shoes in particular.
I think you could describe us as girl friends; sometimes one or two other girls would join us, as we might venture out to a movie at the Tower Theater nearby, still getting in for the “under 12” charge of 10 cents. I have to admit Wanda usually did some shameless flirting with the teenage boy taking tickets. Besides I went dressed as a boy, of course, but I was small for my age, so that helped us get in for a dime. Otherwise, we’d have to pay the adult fee of 25 cents, a full quarter.
Still it was strange that I often got mistaken for a girl, even when I was in boy clothes. My mother always said I had a “pretty face,” and I guess I did, since occasionally others said the same. It must have been my full lips and longish hair, and perhaps that way I brushed my hair back from my forehead repeatedly, flicking it in a dainty way. It could have been my voice, too, since it still hadn’t changed and was told it was a “sweet” voice, and obviously girlish. When I answered the phone, I was often called “miss,” so that should have been a clue.
Being around the girls all the time, I guess it was only natural that I took on their ways of doing things, in how I walked, and sat down, even tucking my feet under me at times. Anyway, I was still happy to be included with the group of girls, usually the only boy joining in their gaggle of giggling and gesturing.
I really felt happy, probably happier than I’d been in my whole life. That bothered me a lot; how could I be happy when my mother lie buried in a grave in the barren country in the middle of our state.
For the first time, though, I had friends. Back on the farm, I was so lonely and my life had resolved around books and helping mom, who was always busy working. I had even won the 4-H contest at the County Fair for baking the best cookies, a feat that lost its shine when the boys in my school found out and laughed at me for winning in a “girls’ contest.”
True, now my friends were all girls and we did girl things, like giggle and gossip and look at clothes. I even found talking about boys to be fun, since my friends apparently overlooked the fact that I was a boy, too. I think they thought I really was a girl inside. What a strange boy I must be! Right?
My happiness, however, had its limits. You must remember this was 1942, and it was now only six months after Pearl Harbor had been bombed, and Franklin D. Roosevelt had declared war on the Axis countries, Germany, Japan and Italy. Even though our city was located in the middle of the nation, we were still worried about being attacked, and we had already had several air raid drills, when the city was supposed to go “all dark” for a few hours. And the war itself was going not too good: Hitler continued to roll German storm troopers through Europe and had even sent submarines to patrol the coasts of New Jersey. The Japanese had taken the Philippines and subjected the brave troops of Corregidor to a death march, putting the shame to American power.
So we were scared, and every young man in the country was being drafted into the Armed Services; I knew if the war went on long enough, I’d soon be drafted too and be forced to push my weak, skinny body through all sorts of torture in basic training camps and eventual conflicts. Would I ever be able to do that? I doubted it.
Yet, my happiness always emerged from those dreaded depressed moments when I joined the girls in the dance group or skipped along with them in whatever girlish endeavors they were headed off to. I was with friends.
“I love you as my friend,” Wanda said one day as we walked home from school. With that she punched me playfully in the arm and skipped off in front of me.
“Oh, I’ll get you for that,” I said, charging after her, trying to maintain a hold on my books as I ran.
She stopped suddenly, and I bounded into her, both of our books falling to the ground, and loose papers floating about in the light spring breeze. We worked feverishly to gather them up, finally succeeding in getting them into our hands.
“Which ones are yours and which are mine?” she asked. We both stood there our books piled in front of us, both holding handfuls of school papers.
“I guess we’ll have to sort them out,” I said.
“We’re closest to your Aunt’s place,” she said. “Can we go there to sort them?”
I agreed that was best idea. We stopped first in the studio to tell Aunt Adele our plans; she was working in a small office she had set up to handle billing and other business matters that arose in running a dance studio.
“I fell into Wanda,” I began haltingly, “And we both dropped our books. Our papers got all mixed up and we have to sort them.”
“It was my fault, Miss Adele,” Wanda said quickly.
“No it wasn’t,” I protested, quickly. “It was mine.”
With that I looked at Wanda, and she began to giggle; then I did too. We were both in high chirping voices.
Aunt Adele just laughed. “You two, you’re like two giggling little girls.”
That only made us giggle more.
“Ok, off with you two, now,” Aunt Adele said. “Why don’t you go into the kitchen. There still are some of the oatmeal cookies you baked, Terry, for you and Wanda. And there’s plenty of milk in the ice box too.”
“These are so good, Terry,” Wanda said. “You baked them?”
Her question was one of astonishment, I could tell. Obviously, she didn’t think boys should bake cookies. I merely blushed, not bothering to reply. Besides, my mouth was full of cookie at the time.
It took us no time to sort out the papers and Wanda had just finished her fourth cookie, still obviously relishing the taste. They were good, if I say so myself.
“So you baked these, Terry? They’re scrumptious.”
“You amaze me, Terry,” she added. “I don’t know any boys who bake.”
“I like to bake,” I said simply, “Besides, I had to cook on the farm, since mom always was too busy working.”
Wanda nodded, seeming to accept that as reason enough for me to be doing “girls’ work.”
“You should enter these in a contest,” Wanda said. “I know the Electric Company has baking contests.”
“Thank you,” I said. “I already won a cookie contest, at the County Fair last year.”
“Really, you are special Terry.”
“Can you stay a while, Wanda?” I asked, changing the subject.
“Sure. What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
She paused for a moment, finally blurting out, “Show me your room. I’ve never seen it.”
Well, I didn’t want her to see that room. I never did change the room; it still was a girl’s room. In fact, I had even made it more frilly and feminine since I moved in.
“No, you don’t want to see it,” I said. “It’s all messy.”
“I do, I do,” she persisted.
Well, she pleaded and pleaded, but I held firm. Well, I did until she grabbed my wrist and twisted it behind my back, until I gave in. She always was so much stronger than I was.
She gasped when I opened the door to my room. She just stood at the entrance looking at the pink and frilly bedroom, its sweet scent permeating our nostrils.
“It’s not messy, Terry,” was all she could say.
I blushed heavily now, having exposed my private room to her searching eyes. Would I ever be more humiliated? She could tell this was a room of girl, not of a boy. And she was right of course, the room was neat and orderly. Prominent on the bed, covered with a pink and peach pattered duvet, were my three fluffy animals, a white rabbit with pink nose, a calico cat and a brown bear. There on a rocker, which had pink and white cushions, sat my prized possession, my Shirley Temple doll, holding a place of honor in my room and in my heart.
“And you have a Shirley Temple doll,” she cooed, running into the room and scooping my doll up in her arms.
“Yes, Auntie gave that to me for Christmas.”
“And you like dolls so much, I know.”
“Yes,” I blushed. “I’m sorry about that. I know it’s wrong for a boy to like dolls, but I just do. Don’t tell anyone, please.”
Wanda didn’t answer, but continued to survey the room. I knew it was a mistake to bring her here.
“This room is for a girl, Terry,” she said, both as a question and a statement.
I nodded, and explained that Aunt Adele hadn’t been able to change the room over before I arrived in the house. My moving to her home was so sudden, I said.
“I suppose so, Terry,” she agreed. “But it looks like you like it this way.”
I didn’t say anything but just let the statement sit there unanswered. I think Wanda knows I do like it kept as a girl’s room. And my blushes grew deeper and deeper. I was so humiliated.
“Don’t worry, Terry, I won’t tell,” Wanda said, later as she was about to go.
“I don’t know why I’m like this, Wanda,” I admitted.
“I like you as you are, Terry. Mind if I consider you to be my girl friend, and we can be best girl friends?”
She kissed me, and I began to cry.
Wanda turned and bounded out the front door and down the steps, returning to her home, leaving me standing at the door, tears streaming down my face.
Aunt Adele, hearing the doors opening and closing, came out of her office, and saw me standing there, crying.
“What’s wrong honey?” she said putting her arms about me.
“Nothing auntie, I’m just so happy.”
Aunt Adele suspended classes for a week after the Easter pageant, giving the girls (and me, of course) some free time, but I found I missed the Wednesday and Saturday sessions when all the girls were assembled at the studios.
There were 16 of us (counting me) and the effort to put on a good Easter pageant had paid off in building a spirit, much like a team spirit in sports. We wanted to be the best, and though auntie didn’t say as much, I think we did better that the Metro Dance Group in the pageant. Auntie didn’t want us to rest on our laurels, I guess.
In those precious moments before our rehearsals began, the girls would gather about, assisting each other with their outfits, jabbering about all sorts of things, but usually it was about clothes or movie stars or Frank Sinatra. We were all mooning over Sinatra, including me, I’m ashamed to say. He was to come soon to the Riverside Theater downtown, and Wanda and I and a couple of other girls were going to try to go. I found myself waving my arms and talking as excitedly as any of the girls over the discussion.
The girls always included me in their groups now; there was a sense that I was no different than any of them. I had even stopped wearing the black tights for rehearsals, and now wore the same cream-colored or grayish tights of the girls; sometimes I even wore the short skirts as the girls did, since there were many in my closet, and they felt so liberating as I danced. The practice blouses I wore were from the girl’s outfits that auntie stored in my closet as extras for the dancers.
“I think Mark is so cute,” Serena Stinson, one of the girls in our dance class, said to me one day. “He’s in our class. Don’t you think he is?”
“Me?” I replied, surprised by the question. Why would I care if a boy was cute?
“Oh well, I guess you wouldn’t know about that,” she blushed. “I forgot you were a boy.”
I wasn’t sure how to take that remark; Serena was in my classes at school, too, and she always acted like I was sort of strange and like I was inferior to her. Well, I guess I was since I didn’t have any real mom and dad and also wasn’t as rich as she was.
That was the way my life was going. And, the way all the girls had been treating me, I guess most of them forgot I was a boy, too. It was a sweet feeling, though a bit scary.
We gathered to begin rehearsal on the Wednesday after Easter vacation and most of us were gathered in clusters, some doing warm-ups. We were all chattering, mainly about boys and school stuff. I was on my back, doing stretching to loosen up my legs, when Serena, the girl who talked about the boy named Mark, came and lay down next to me, beginning to stretch as well.
Now, I know you’re going to find this strange, but was in a tutu, which I found in the closet in my room where auntie stores many of the ballet outfits. Auntie said I could wear it, along with the tights and a sleeveless blouse. On my head I had taken to wearing a scarf, just as many of the others did, to keep my hair from flowing about as we danced. It all seemed so natural to me, looking just like all the other girls.
I had looked in the mirror as I entered the ballroom. What I saw pleased me so much, I smiled, and even did a demure pose. I was so much a girl, with my slender, smooth arms and my long slim legs, so devoid of apparent muscle tone, even after all my dancing.
“You’re cute, too, Terry,” Serena blurted out, as she began copying my leg exercises.
“You are, Terry, as cute as any girl here,” she said.
I didn’t respond, but just went about my stretching, not sure where this was going. I had never paid much attention to her, largely because she always looked so superior to me and that superiority scared me, I have to admit. Actually she was a little taller, even, with short dark hair, always brushed neatly, and flowing down to her shoulders. And, she was clearly quite athletic and strong-looking. She could easily be a princess, I thought, walking regally with her prince.
“But why do you put on skirts now for rehearsals? You could be a cute boy, too,” she persisted.
“I just like how free they make my legs feel,” I said, not really sure it was the whole truth.
Really, I’m not sure why I so wanted to be dressed in all this girl stuff. Maybe I just never felt I could be accepted as a boy and be part of a gang; so to be a girl meant I could be part of a group, at least with the girls in Miss Adele’s Dance Group.
“I still think you’re cute, Terry.”
Just then Miss Adele entered the room and gathered us together down at one end of the ballroom.
“Now girls,” Aunt Adele began, as she shooed us all to one end of the ballroom. Of course, we continued our giggling and talking as we gathered about her.
“Quiet down girls,” she finally said firmly. I looked sheepishly at Serena who had accompanied me to the gathering. She nodded to me and then smiled. It was like we were part of a conspiracy.
“You can sit down now, girls,” she continued.
We all sat down on the floor, some sitting Indian-style, others with their legs tucked to one side, which is how I postured myself, purposely sitting in what I felt was a truly girlish manner. Serena smiled at me again.
“Girls, I need to ask you all something,” my Aunt began. Her assistant Donna Mae stood by her side.
“We’ve been invited to audition for the city’s big Fourth of July Program at the lakefront. It’s a real honor just to be invited, and it’ll be an even bigger honor to be picked. What do you all say to that?”
I must say we were all so excited. The news was so unexpected. Well, I yelled along with all the girls, our voices all in a higher pitched squeal of delight.
“We’ll be competing for one spot on the program, and it’s a spot for a girl’s dance group,” Donna Mae explained. “But we need to be sure we’ll have at least 12 dancers, and we know some of you may be gone on family outings that weekend. So we need you all to think carefully about what we’re going to ask you.”
It was Aunt Adele’s turn to speak.
“First of all, how many of you think we should try out, even if you can’t make it. Let me see a show of hands.”
I quickly raised my hand, as did every other girl as far as I could see.
“Ok, then, I can see you all seem to want to do it. Now, how many of you girls are certain that you will be available for this on the Fourth of July?”
I raised my hand, as did most of the girls, including Serena and Wanda.
“I only counted 12 hands,” Donna Mae said.
“Me too, but that’s just enough as long as we have no dropouts,” Aunt Adele said.
Aunt Adele told the girls that they should all check with their parents to be sure they will be able to take part. “We can’t lose anybody,” she said.
She said she needed to have slips signed by all the parents no later than the next class on the following Saturday.
I waited anxiously for Saturday’s rehearsals, hoping that somehow we’d get 12 girls to agree to be in the program. That would mean the group could participate in the tryouts.
Some of them handed slips of paper to Donna Mae or Aunt Adele as they entered, and there was a lot of talk as we all wondered whether we’d get enough to dance. “Are you going to dance,” the girls asked each other.
I sort of stayed out of the chatter, content to do some stretching at the bar. I blush to state that I was able to look at myself in the mirror. What an attractive girl I made, even though I was only wearing a rehearsal outfit of beige tights, a tight pair of blue shorts and my practice blouse, a ruffled affair that had been washed far too many times. I wore a ballerina’s hairnet, and even without makeup, looked totally girlish.
“You like what you see, Terry?” It was Serena, who seemed suddenly to take an interest in me.
Well, I tell you, I blushed when she asked the question. The truth was: I did like what I saw.
“That’s OK, Terry,” she said quickly. “I liked what I saw.”
I nodded, and pretended to go about the stretches, but Serena’s questioning made me so puzzled. What was she up to?
“Let’s you and I stretch together, Terry,” Serena said.
I agreed with the idea and we did some stretching, working in tandem each one mimicking the other as we danced. Serena, who was easily the best dancer among all the girls, set a difficult pace, but I was able to keep up. The truth was I had been able to capture all of the dainty moves of the girls in my own movements, and I think I was probably soon to be one of the better dancers among the girls.
I really loved the feeling of floating about that ballet provided, even though it required so much effort to achieve that.
We were so busy concentrating on our moves that we didn’t notice Donna Mae approach. She began clapping, and we both stopped our dance, and looked at her, noticing a group of girls gathered around Donna Mae, watching us as well. We both looked at our audience, and did an exaggerated curtsey, that prompted more applause, and a comment from Donna Mae: “What a beautiful pair of lovely girls.” I blushed.
Aunt Adele signaled the group to begin rehearsals, which we led by Donna Mae.
It wasn’t until rehearsals had ended that Aunt Adele gathered us together to tell us whether she had enough girls for the tryouts.
“I’m sorry to tell you this, girls,” she began, “But we only have 11 girls signed up. That’s not enough. The contest people specifically said a minimum of 12. I guess we’ll have to pass this year.”
There was a general groan. It was like someone pricked a balloon, since all the spirit left the group.
“Is Terry among the 11 girls, Miss Adele?” Serena asked.
“No, dear, he isn’t, and you know why.”
“But Miss Adele he dances just like all of us girls,” Serena said. “Why can’t he dance? No one would take him for a boy.”
“Yes, Miss Adele,” Wanda joined in. “Why can’t he?”
“That would be cheating, girls,” Aunt Adele said.
“No, Miss Adele,” Serena persisted. “We’re not in any competition. It’s just a show, and Terry looks like a girl. And he dances so pretty, too.”
I sat silently, wanting to hide somewhere. This was so embarrassing; what would happen if people in school heard about this? But as I sat on the floor, my legs tucked to the right, I felt strangely excited. I was acting very much like a girl, even in the way I sat. Was that the real me?
“Serena,” Aunt Adele replied, “I’ll check into it. I’m just not sure it’s right.”
“But we want Terry to dance with us,” Wanda burst out. Her outburst was unusual for a girl who was always so shy.
“We do, Miss Adele,” echoed several other girls, and soon they were all clapping. There were even a few whistles heard.
I felt I couldn’t let all this pass, so I stood up, and did an exaggerated curtsey, to even further applause, and then some laughter.
“OK, girls, I promise I’ll check into this and we’ll let you all know on Wednesday at our next rehearsal.”
“OK, Miss Adele,” the girls all said in unison.
After rehearsal and we had changed out of our dance outfits, Serena approached me as I was talking with Wanda over what we were going to do that afternoon. Wanda and I usually did something on Saturdays, if nothing else than hanging around each other’s homes, listening to the few records we had, maybe doing some homework or just talking.
Wanda had even introduced me to listening to the Metropolitan Opera on the radio on Saturday afternoons; I never understood the words, but found the high, beautiful voices of the sopranos and the male tenors to be so magical. And I loved how announcer Milton Cross described the stories and the costumes.
Wanda showed me some pictures from Life Magazine of some of the famous singers in their costumes. I was most intrigued by the outfit worn by in the dance scene in the “Merry Widow,” and imagined myself being led around the floor in that magnificent dress in the arms of the handsome prince.
I never even wondered about being that handsome prince; I could hardly picture myself as a strong, handsome young man. I only wanted to be the lovely princess.
“You wanna do something this afternoon?” Serena asked.
“Us?” Wanda answered. I looked at Wanda, sharing her wonder at this question from Serena; she never indicated much interest in either of us, always hanging around her clique of fancy girls.
“We’re not doing much, maybe listening to the radio,” I said.
“Can I join you two?” Serena said. “I got an idea.”
“Sure,” Wanda said. “What did you have planned?”
“Maybe you could come to my house?” she began, her slender, pretty face showing an unusual eagerness. “We have a nice ballroom and we can be there. Play records and such. I got new Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra records. Even some Spike Jones.”
She told us where she lived. It was over on McKinley Blvd., the street with all the mansions. I didn’t know Serena lived there; we had virtually no rich kids in our school, since most of the kids who lived on McKinley went to private schools.
“There’s only one problem,” Serena said. “My mom says I can only have girls over to visit. I thought Terry could just pretend to be a girl.”
“What?” I asked.
“It’ll be easy, Terry,” Serena said. “It’s warm today, and you could wear those shorts and tennis shoes and any old shirt. If you combed your hair a little bit, no one could tell.”
“The way you act and walk and everything, it’s so like a girl,” Wanda agreed.
I wasn’t sure I liked all this talk. All this girl stuff was OK among the dance group, but I was afraid that it would be disastrous if word got out in school and among the rough boys of the neighborhood.
“Yes, let’s try it, Terry,” Wanda urged. “And we could stop by my house and I have a nice skirt for you to wear and a pretty blouse. Serena’s mom won’t know the difference. All she’d see was a girl.”
I blushed, realizing everything the two girls said was true. I know Aunt Adele would be asking me if I really wanted to dance as a girl in the tryouts. She’d not try to force me to do it, either. She was really nice that way. I’d have to make up my own decision. She knew I might be humiliated if my true identity would become known.
The truth was, I guess, that I wasn’t very strong, either physically or emotionally. I knew I was lousy at all sports, that I wasn’t muscular and that I was considered to be a sissy, fairy or even homo. I wasn’t quite sure what a “homo” was, but I thought it referred to a boy like me, who liked girly things.
And I knew Aunt Adele would try to spare me any more emotional situations. Yet, I felt I was part of the girls dance group; they all treated me so nice; they accepted me as one of them. Oh why wasn’t I born a girl?
Wanda’s mother wasn’t home that Saturday; it made it easy for me to change into one of Wanda’s skirts, a pleated affair in dark brown ending just above the knees. She even had a pair of saddle shoes and white ankle socks that fit me. Wanda carefully put a pale shade of lipstick on me. Along with peasant blouse and a light, satiny babushka which was so popular then, I must say I looked cute.
“See, you’re all girl now, Terry,” Wanda said.
She was right of course; in our walk to Serena’s mansion, we even encountered some friends of Wanda’s, several boys who were gathered under a tree, reading comic books. “Who’s your girl friend, Wanda,” one of them asked.
“None of your business, Robert,” Wanda answered. “She’s too old for you.”
“Hubba Hubba,” was the response from some of the boys, using a term popular then to indicate a girl was hot.
I must say I responded by exaggerating my hip sway a bit, to even more comments from the boys. It seemed nice to be the object of such attention.
Of course, I passed through the Stinson mansion lobby under the watchful eyes of Serena’s mother without much of a problem. She greeted us warmly, acknowledging how well we dressed, saying, “Aren’t you two girls lovely!” Serena hadn’t told her mom just who exactly her “girl” friends were for the day, leaving my true identity to chance.
I guess I must look pretty much like a girl, so no further explanations were needed.
Serena herself wore white shorts and a blue tee shirt and was not as nicely groomed as we both were; we thought the people in the mansions must always be dressed fancy. Guess we were wrong.
I’ve said that the Stinson place was a mansion. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, since it was much like Aunt Adele’s place. This area was the original settling ground for most of the early rich families in our city so the houses were really big. The Stinson’s ballroom took up the entire third floor, and apparently the family had purchased an old jukebox upon which they had 24 different 78 rpm records. This was so neat, having access to 48 songs (there were two sides to each record), most of them marvelous dance tunes, including some grand waltzes and polkas which made for great dancing.
And dance we did, playing one record after another, adjusting our dance to the beat of each song. Two of us would dance together, while the third person would sit and watch, and then we’d change places.
We twirled about and when I was dancing with Serena, I followed her lead, and she twirled me about and I felt like I was flying. It was so magical, feeling my skirt flow freely, the breeze tickling my thighs. Serena was so much stronger than I was and I seemed to relish letting her take control.
“You two are hot together,” Wanda said. “I can’t compete with you.”
“Sure you can, Wanda,” Serena said, as we finished up dancing to Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood.”
“No, Serena, you and Terry make a really great pair, like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.”
I giggled, and Serena looked at me, smiling. I felt like I must have been Ginger Rogers in our dances. I know Serena must have felt the same.
“You know, Terry and you, Serena, should work up a routine for the Miss Adele’s 4th of July pageant,” Wanda suggested.
And there was born the idea that Serena and I’d form a dance team!
I could tell Aunt Adele wasn’t too keen on the idea of me dancing in what was supposed to be an all-girl’s danced troupe. It just didn’t seem honest to her, that I’d be dancing a lie.
One thing about our family, we were always terribly honest about everything. Maybe it was our Norwegian heritage, always rather plain, drab and not too exciting. That is, except for Aunt Adele, who was anything but plain and drab. But, she was honest.
“Are you sure you want to do this, Terry?” she asked me late that same Saturday afternoon, when I returned from our outing at Serena’s. I had stopped over at Wanda’s house and changed back into my boy’s outfit.
“I think so, auntie,” I said. “All the other girls seem to want me to.”
“I know they do, honey, and I know you love to dance with them. It’s just that I don’t want you to get hurt.”
I nodded in agreement. I realized I was standing at the door of the kitchen, watching auntie fix beans for supper. I realized I was in a girlish stance, leaning against the door jamb, my feet crossed and both of my hands held to together, at my chin, my wrists bent. I knew what auntie meant: what if people found out? Would that bring shame to her dance studio? Worse yet, would I get harassed for being such a girlish boy? I had gotten teased lots during my one semester at Wisconsin Avenue School for my mannerisms and general ineptitude in boy activities. If I was found out, it might be almost impossible in the next school year.
“Auntie, I want to dance with them. I don’t care what some boys say about me.”
“Oh honey,” she said, dropping her knife, and picking up a towel to dry her hands. “You really are so adorable.”
She took me in her arms, and I nestled next to her, feeling her tiny, firm breasts against my puny chest. I placed my face onto her neck and began to cry. Auntie gently brushed my hair, and my crying slowly subsided.
I heard auntie sniffing, and finally she stepped away from me, and looked me straight in the eye.
“I smell cold cream and makeup on you, Terry,” she said, accusingly. “What’s this mean?”
“Oh, do you? I don’t know.”
“Don’t lie to me Terry,” she persisted. “Were you into my makeup drawer again?”
“No auntie,” I said truthfully.
“Well then, what?”
I looked down, wondering how I could explain off the cold cream and makeup scent. We had used the cold cream to clean the makeup off my face at Wanda’s.
“Terry, look at me. Tell me the truth now. You know I’ll forgive you almost anything, except lies. Now what were you doing.”
Finally I broke down and told her how Wanda dressed me as her girl friend, and that we went to Serena’s where we practiced dancing and played together. I told her that Mrs. Stinson accepted me as just another girl friend of Serena’s, and that we had practiced dancing as a team.
“I liked being a girl for the afternoon, auntie,” I confessed.
“Oh my dear,” she said, coming back to hug me. “I don’t know what’s going to happen to you. My sweet little niece.”
Of course, I cried some more. What girl wouldn’t?
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