My joy in being named soloist — as a soprano — for the school chorus was ended quickly, since Marian Cosgrove thought she had the best soprano voice; her mom had been paying for lessons in opera for Marian at the Conservatory of Music and felt she deserved being lead soprano. And Marian did indeed have a good voice; she was never flat and she sang with great clarity. Her voice did have a rather harsh quality though.
I guess Mrs. Watkins felt that my voice had warmth and sweetness that were most compelling. I just loved singing — even more than dancing — and tried always to make sure the audience understood the meaning of the song. It was so marvelous to sing a love song, putting all my heart and soul into it.
As rehearsals began later in the class period, Mrs. Watkins told the group that I’d be singing as soloist in the Christmas concert with Marian being backup and taking other solos. The fact that I would be singing most of the solos brought some minor clapping from the students, and one large grunt.
“What about me, Mrs. Watkins?” Marian Cosgrove challenged.
“What about you, Miss Cosgrove,” the teacher replied tartly.
“I should be the soloist, not Terry,” she exclaimed in front of the whole class. “I have the best voice and he’s a boy. Not a girl.”
“I chose Terry for the soloist and you as backup, Miss Cosgrove. You both have nice voices, but I think Terry’s fits in best for the chorus. That’s it, dear.”
“But . . .”
“Marian,” Mrs. Watkins warned, looking the student directly in the eye. “I’ll talk to you later.”
Marian Cosgrove grew red and turned away, as if to cry. The girl, however, was not done with the issue. She was a tall, husky girl who might in some day be a truly fine opera singer. She had stage presence, probably drilled into her by her mother. She was waiting for Terry as he left the school. He was alone, since Wanda and Serena were staying after school for a 4-H club meeting.
“It’s not fair,” Marian said, grabbing me by the arm, almost causing me to drop my books that were cradled in my arms.
“I didn’t do anything, Marian,” I said, somewhat frightened by her brisk manner. “She chose me on her own. I didn’t ask for it.”
“You’re such a sissy,” she began. “No boy should WANT to sing soprano, like a girl.”
“I can’t help it that my voice hasn’t changed yet,” I said, but the words came out almost as a whimper.
She was looking so mean and she was even a little taller than me and probably stronger.
“Put your books down,” she demanded.
“Just put them down, sissy.”
I wanted to run away from her, she was looking so mad. I put the books down, and saw she was about to hit me, and I put my hands up to my face hoping to ward off the blows. She easily pushed my hands away and slapped me in the face.
I tried to cover my face with my hands and she easily pulled them away. I was weak to resist her stronger arms, instead started cowering and sobbing uncontrollably.
I don’t know how many times she hit me but soon I was on the ground in a fetal position, powerless to stop her hits, which by now weren’t too hard.
“Look at the sissy,” I heard someone yell. “Being beaten up by a girl!”
I looked up to see a crowd had gathered and they were beginning to cheer Marian for the beating she was delivering. I could hear laughter and hoots, all directed at me, along with words like “homo” and “fairy.” I buried my head in my arms, trying not to look, afraid I’d get hit again. She was so strong.
Since we were a block from school no teachers showed up to break up the beating. It all ended quickly, with Marian taunting me with the words, “If she wants to sing like a girl, let her lay there.”
“And she fights like a girl, too,” someone else chimed in.
I lay there, maybe for several minutes as they all left the scene. All I could do was to cry!
I was so ashamed and I tried to get home and up to my room to clean up before auntie could see me and ask what happened. My clothes were wrinkled, but not torn and my face was all wet and dirty from the tears that fell down as I cried. My face was all red from where she slapped me, and my arms had welts from where I was hit.
Auntie heard me come in and yelled “hi,” but I merely said “hi” back and hurried up to my room; this was unusual because I normally rushed to see her and tell her what happened that day in school. I had so wanted to tell her I was chosen to be a lead singer in the Christmas concert, but now that was spoiled. I rushed into the bathroom to clean myself up, but I no sooner closed the door and auntie was there, rapping gently. “Are you all right, dear?”
“Yes, auntie, just cleaning myself up,” I said hurriedly.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” I knew she could tell something was wrong.
Rather than answer, I merely started crying again. “Terry, open the door,” auntie demanded. I did, and soon I was comfortably cradled in her comforting arms. Between sobs, I told her the whole humiliating story. As I ended the episode, I cried out in desperation, “I was beaten up by a girl, auntie, and all I could do was cry.”
Auntie must have held me for a good 15 minutes; it felt so good in her loving arms, so protected and safe. Why, oh why, did I have to leave that protection and go out into the world? I was not fit to be alive.
I kept those thoughts to myself, but auntie must have sensed my feelings. She held me so firmly, so protectively, whispering in my ear what a talented, caring child I was, making me feel like I was somebody, not just a pathetic, sissy boy who could be beaten up by a girl. Even though Marian was bigger than me, I still felt most girls could have beaten me up; it was a repulsive thought for a boy to have, but probably a true one.
Finally my sobbing stopped, and auntie told me a take my shower, clean myself up and come down for supper. “I have some ideas for you, darling, and we can talk about them later,” she said.
I debated what clothes to wear after the shower. I wanted to put on a nice skirt and blouse, fix my hair and put on some light makeup, which is what many women and girls do when they’re feeling sad. It would comfort me so much. But maybe, given the circumstances, I should put on my boy stuff, but that would only remind me of the afternoon.
I needed to feel good about myself, so I did the only thing I knew would cheer me up. I decided to treat myself, and dress up in a very pretty, frilly peach-colored dress, with puff sleeves and a full skirt, along with my two-inch sandals and ankle socks. It always made me look much like a little girl on her way to church. I loved it.
“Aren’t you pretty?” auntie said when I finally showed up in the kitchen. “No wonder it took you so long to come down. I got worried about you, honey.”
She drew me to her, pulling me tightly against her small, firm breasts and trim body. I always wondered how someone so muscular and hard could feel so warm and comforting. I loved her dearly, almost as much as my mother. Tears came to me as I reflected how lucky I was to have such a loving auntie.
“Help me put on the supper, honey, and please don’t spill anything on that nice dress,” she said.
She handed me an apron, which I put on, asking, “What ideas do you have for me, auntie?”
“Not now dear, let’s eat, and we’ll talk about it later,” she said.
“OK, auntie,” I replied, glad to put the memories of the beating behind me, at least for now.
Just after supper, auntie excused me from the dishes, and suggested I get into something more comfortable and begin to do my homework. When she was done with the dishes, she told me we could talk more about my situation.
I had no sooner completing the change of clothes, putting on a loose pair of Capri pants and a teal-colored sweatshirt with bunnies on it, than the phone rang. Knowing auntie’s hands were likely in dishwater, I ran to answer it.
“Terry, is that you?” I heard the voice ask. It was Wanda.
“Yes,” I said. Even though Wanda was my best friend, I really didn’t want to talk to her just now and trying to be cheerful. I had hoped no one — besides the bullies — knew of Marian’s beating of me, just wanting the whole incident to be gone and forgotten.
“Are you all right, Terry?” she asked.
“Yes.” It was obvious she knew something.
“I just heard,” she said. “Oh how awful. That horrid girl.”
“I’m all right,” was all I could think of do say.
“I’d like to scratch her eyes out for you,” Wanda said. “I love you Terry and so does Serena. We just talked about this and we want to help you. You’ve been our friend.”
“Thank you, but I’m OK, really!”
“And no one came to help you, to stop her?” she asked.
“No, and I couldn’t do anything about it. She’s so strong.”
“My poor Terry,” she said, making me feel even more helpless. “What caused her to attack you?”
“Well, you know it looks like they want me to be lead soloist, and Marian thinks she should be the lead. That’s all. She’s jealous. And she doesn’t think a boy should be singing soprano.”
“Oh the big cow,” Wanda said. “Everyone knows you got the prettiest voice.”
“I suppose if you and Serena heard about the beating, it’s all over school,” I queried.
“Yes, everyone’s talking about it.”
“Oh I can’t go back to school tomorrow . . . never,” I said, beginning to cry.
“Terry you must.”
“But they’ll all laugh at me.”
“Not everyone, in fact most of the girls I talked to are on your side, so are some of the boys, I bet, but most of them are too cowardly to admit it.”
“Oh, I can’t,” I said, realizing my being beat up by a girl was the big news so far of the school year of 1942-43 at the Wisconsin Avenue School.
“Serena and I will be with you, as will a couple of boys we know,” she pleaded. “You must come back.”
Even Bert heard about the beating, and he isn’t even going to the school anymore; he’s a freshman at West Division High School.
“Terry, you’re still my girl,” he said when he called me that night.
I started to cry when he said that, remembering the sweet times we’d had together; he had been bothered by auntie’s decision to start making me more of a boy, since he told me I could some day be Miss America, or, at least, Miss Wisconsin. I missed him so much; he had protected me in the previous year in school from all the bullies.
“Don’t cry,” he said. “Marian is a big girl who could probably beat up half the 8th Grade boys.”
“But I didn’t even fight back, I just laid there and cried and took it,” I protested.
“Please, Terry, stay as sweet as you are. I’ll always think of you are my girl, even if you can’t live as a girl.”
Bert told me I should really go right back into school the next day, with my head held high. “You did nothing wrong, Terry,” he said. “And you won the right to be soloist by being the best singer. Forget Marian.”
“You think I should, Bert? They’ll all be laughing at me.”
“Some will, but only the stupid ones,” he said. “Marian will still rally her buddies behind her, but remember she’s in the wrong.”
“I don’t know, Bert,” I said, doubting my own resolve, feeling very weak and inadequate at the moment.
It was then Bert changed the subject. “Do you think your auntie would allow you to come to the 9th Grade dance with me next week? At my school? You could be dressed all pretty and no one knows you here.”
“I don’t think so,” I said, surprised at the request. Did he want to parade me in front of the whole high school as his girl friend? What would happen if someone there found out his “girl friend” was just a guy?
“Ask her for me, Terry,” he pleaded. “I’d love to show you off.”
“Bert, you could have your pick of any of the pretty girl,” I protested. “Why me?”
“I don’t know, Terry. I just like you. You are the prettiest girl I know, and you dance so nice and you can do the jitterbug. I can see the whole school surrounding us while we danced, watching our moves.”
It sounded so tempting; I could see myself as a dazzling girl in my nice lavender and yellow dress, with thin shoulder straps, bare legs and yellow ballet flats. And Bert was such a good dancer; I just float in the air when I’m with him.
“I’ll ask her, Bert, but I know she’ll say no. She wants me to be a boy. No more running around fooling people that I’m a girl.”
“You’re not fooling people, Terry,” Bert argued. “You’re as much a girl as any girl in the school.”
“I’ll ask her, I promise. Call me later this week, OK?”
As might be expected, Auntie’s answer was “NO.” But both Bert’s call and Wanda’s convinced me to go to school the following day, planning to continue the rehearsal to be the major soloist — as a soprano — in the chorus and to be the best singer I could be for the chorus.
Ever since Aunt Adele mentioned she had some “ideas” for me, I wondered what they were. I was so confused since part of me hoped she was thinking of ways of making me even more of a girl, while the other part of me wondered if she had some magical way to make me like all other boys, strong and confident. Deep down, I really wanted to be all girl.
She told me her thoughts as I got ready for bed; I had taken time doing so, putting up my hair and putting some cream on my face to hopefully prevent the zits from appearing. All the time, I admired the pretty girl in the mirror, my slender shoulders and dainty neck.
“Terry, finish up in there,” I heard my auntie yell at me. “I want to talk to you before you go to bed.”
“Yes, auntie, just be a minute,” I said. I was standing in front of the mirror, still in panties and a training bra. I put on my light teal blue nightie and went out to meet auntie.
Auntie was sitting on the vanity bench in my room and she beckoned me to sit on the bed.
“First of all,” she said. “Do you really want to go ahead and sing as a soprano in the chorus?” Her voice was firm and direct.
“Yes, auntie, I do,” I said without hesitation. “I earned it and Mrs. Watkins thinks I’m the best for the chorus.”
“You saw what happened today after school? You want more of that?”
“No auntie, but Wanda and Serena think I should go ahead,” I said. “Besides they’ll be there to protect me.”
“Terry, girls to protect you? That’s so ridiculous; you’re a boy and you should be able to protect yourself, at least from a girl.”
“She caught me off-guard, auntie,” I pleaded.
“It doesn’t matter, dear,” she said, her voice softening. “You still need to realize that soon you’ll have to act like a man in a man’s world.”
“Why can’t I just live as a girl and a woman, auntie? Can’t I change my sex, cut off my boy part? I don’t feel like fighting people. I’ll never be strong. I’ll never be able to be a real man, auntie. Please, what can I do?”
She got up, sat next to me and held me in her arms, comforting me, and I began to sob.
“Honey,” she said, finally. “The fact is there is no way to make you a woman. You have a boy thingee and as far as I know there’s no record of people changing that.”
“What about letting me go to Denmark?” I asked. “I heard they do it there.”
“Don’t be silly,” she said. “I heard that, too, but I don’t know how successful it’s been. Besides there’s a war on and Denmark is in Nazi hands. They’ll never allow it.”
“Oh, auntie, I’m so scared. I can’t be a man.”
“Now, now,” she said, ending the hug and taking my two hands in hers. “You’re a very smart, intelligent young man, Olaf Terrence Michaelsson, and you can do whatever you want, short of becoming a girl.”
I nodded. It was true; I got top grades in school and enjoyed learning.
“Here’s what we’re going to do,” she said. Then she told me her plan.
Wanda and Serena, along with two boys I hardly knew, met me halfway to school the next morning, walking with me into the building. Students lined both sides of the sidewalks as I entered the school, but I noticed several teachers standing among them, stern looks on their faces. The teachers rarely stood outside before school, but I got the feeling they were there to maintain the peace. It was obvious the whole school knew of the beating of the “sissy boy” or the “homo,” which seemed to be the favored phrases used to identify me. I was scared stiff and feeling so strange to be the subject of so much attention, but walked ahead with the head held high, trying to show confidence that I really didn’t feel inside.
I tried not to walk like a girl, which was hard to do. I tried to step out more broadly, but it seemed strange. I tried holding my books in one arm at my right side, instead of cradling them in my arms across my chest as I had been doing, but it was just two awkward, and the books began to slip. I ended up cradling them in my arms, just as the girls tended to do.
“There she is,” I heard some boy say.
“I’ll have none of that Bobby,” a teacher warned the offender.
At the entrance, I saw Mr. Karsten, the principal. He stopped me, telling Wanda, Serena and the two boys to go on into the school and their classrooms.
“You come with me,” he said, his voice firm and demanding. He seemed angry.
Mr. Karsten was a big man, and had hard, muscular arms; it was obvious he must have been an athlete at sometime in the past. His neck was thick and he had a full head of jet black hair and a full set of bushy eyebrows, making him look mean. I thought he was going to hit me.
I felt so weak and inconsequential sitting in his office, where he told me to stay until he returned. Of course, my natural impulse was to cry, but I tried to hold that back.
“You’ve got to start acting more like a boy, young man,” he said, upon returning. “I can’t have this disruption in my school.”
“But, Mr. Karsten . . .” I started to say.
“I heard the whole story, and I’ll talk to Marian,” he began. “I can’t reprimand her for hitting you, because the fight occurred off school grounds. But, young man, you’re asking for it by acting so much like a girl. You’re just inviting being teased.”
I wondered what was happening; why was I getting blamed for this. All I was doing was walking home from school.
“I can see she beat you pretty badly,” he said. “But fights happen and a boy should expect a few bruises and a black eye and learn to fight back.”
He had obviously seen my right eye area was black and blue where she had slapped me. I had worn a long sleeve shirt to cover the bruises and scratches on my arms.
“But, Mr. Karsten . . .” I tried to answer. He cut me short:
“Listen, our boys are dying in the South Pacific and in North Africa and soon you’ll likely be going into the Army and you must be strong and prepared. There is no room in this world for sissies. Let this be a lesson to you.”
“But Mr. Karsten . . .”
“There’ll be no buts, Terrence,” he continued firmly. “You have to get yourself in shape. And another thing, I’ve asked Mrs. Watkins to remove you as soloist. Such a performance will bring shame to the whole school.”
“What? Stop me from singing?” I was shocked. How could he?
“Yes, we can’t have you standing up in front of all the parents and the school singing like a girl. I just won’t have it.”
I felt tears beginning to come to my eyes. Oh how I loved to sing, and now he’s taking that from me.
“But, Mr. Karsten, I just . . .”
“Just go and quit being such a girl,” he interrupted gruffly.
I couldn’t fight back the tears. I cried. Like a girl.
I ran out of the school, my crying taking over all my emotions. I wanted my mother so badly. I needed her protective love and I wanted to bury my face into her ample bosom and feel her comforting caresses. Thinking of her, now dead and gone, I could only cry more.
I loved my Aunt Adele and I knew she would comfort me too and listen to my awful story. I know she, too, would wipe the tears from my face. She was so sweet to me, too, but she wasn’t my mom.
At that moment, all I wanted to be was a pretty little girl, to be the daughter my already dead mother would have loved and enjoyed and to be a niece to my dear auntie. But now Mr. Karsten was telling me I was nothing but a shame to the school, a terrible weakling who could easily be beaten up by most of the girls in the school. How could I possibly be a real boy, strong and muscular and ready to fight the Germans or Japanese?
By the time I was a block from the school, I was out of breath from the combination of my running and crying, and I sat down on the front steps of some house to rest. The street was quiet, except for the rustle of leaves, being blown by a gentle fall breeze; there was a slight chill in the air, but it was refreshing and felt so good after the stuffiness of Mr. Karsten’s small office.
My crying was slowly ending, and I began to day dream that I was a cute girl walking down this very street with handsome Bert on my arm; I pictured myself as a cheerleader with a short white pleated skirt and a top carrying the red and white colors of the West Division High School Cardinals. The dream helped me to stop crying just as I heard the clopping of horse’s hooves and wagon wheels on the concrete.
I looked up to see it was the iceman, stopping along the way to deliver blocks of ice to those homes on the street that still had no electric refrigerator and relied on ice boxes to keep their food. He was stopping at those homes that displayed a sign in their front windows indicating how much ice they wanted that day, either in 25 pound, 50 pound, 75 pound or 100 pound quantities.
The iceman was old, I could see, but he was big and broad-shouldered; he had stopped right in front of the house on whose steps I was sitting. I looked up to the house, noting that they wanted 50 pounds of ice that day. I felt I better go.
The ice man, dressed in gray coveralls and wearing a leather jacket with shoulder pads, took out his giant ice tongs, undid the canvas that cover the blocks of ice and wrestled a block of ice onto his shoulder. He began to walk toward to the house, looking at me strangely as I gathered up my school books to leave.
“Are you all right young lady?” he asked, apparently carrying the large block of ice without effort. He could see I must have been crying.
Young lady? Why would he think that, I wondered. Wasn’t I dressed in my boy stuff? Then I realized my longish hair had come loose and disheveled during my crying session and from the running; it had fallen over my face, and with the light blue jacket I wore and my slender body I may have looked like a girl.
I didn’t answer him, just nodded that I was OK.
“You’re sure? Can I help you?”
“No sir,” I said in a weak, timid voice. With the high register, I’m sure he must now be convinced I was a girl.
“Why aren’t you in school?” he said, still standing before me, his voice still soothing and warm. He carried the ice on his shoulder and occasionally a drop of water would drip from it onto the pavement.
“I’m sick,” I lied. “I’m going home.”
“Where do you live?”
“Just two blocks away,” I said, my voice still thin and high. “I’ll be OK.”
“You look like a nice young lady,” he said. “You be careful now.”
He walked up the steps and around to the back to deliver his load of ice. The horse whinnied at the curb and I resisted the urge to go out and pet the animal on the head.
I felt better now, having had my day dream of being a cute young girl cheerleader turned into reality of sort as the kindly iceman had called me a “nice young lady.”
By the time I got home, I began to realize the truth of my situation: I was a boy who looked like a girl, but I’d have to somehow begin to look and act more like a boy. And that’s where Adele’s plan began to make sense to me. She told me about it the previous evening as I prepared for bed. I didn’t like the plan, but agreed to think about it. As you might expect, I didn’t sleep well that night.
Auntie’s plan was to help me progress into the male world while at the same time letting me live in some ways as a girl. For the time being, she didn’t say how long, I could continue wearing girl underthings at home and nightgowns for sleeping. Occasionally, she said, I’d be able to dress fully as a girl and venture out with her to places where we’d likely not be known.
From now on, however, I had to have my hair cut regularly to a more boyish length.
“You walk and act so much like a girl,” she said, in describing the plan. “We’ll have to get you out of those habits, or else you’ll be pegged as being strange.”
She also told me she was beginning a dance class for boys.
“You’ll no longer be able to dance as one of the girls, honey,” she said. “I’ve hired Andre Des Jardins as a dance coach for the boys.”
“Mr. Des Jardins?” I said. I had heard about him. He used to be a great ballet dancer, I knew.
“Yes, dear. He’s in town working in a defense factory and has agreed to work with boys on Saturday. I’ve recruited four other boys, so you’ll have company. Besides, Mr. Des Jardins is a physical fitness teacher and I’ve asked him to work with you to strengthen your body.”
“Oh auntie, I don’t know,” I said that night. “I’ll never be like other boys.”
“At least you must try, honey,” she said. “It’s the only way.”
“Yes. Aunt Adele, I’ll try.”
I knew auntie was right; I had no other choice. That night I couldn’t get to sleep, my mind whirling over all sorts of ideas in which I could live as a girl and make a living as a woman when I grew up. Why couldn’t I take secretarial classes in school and become a secretary? Maybe I could become some wealthy family’s housemaid? I had seen advertisements in the newspaper entertainment section about “female impersonators” appearing at the Empress Burlesque Theatre: I could certainly do that. What if my voice never changed and I could become a singer-dancer on Broadway?
Oh those were pleasant thoughts! I must have had been smiling as I laid on my side, my right hand resting on my left upper arm, feeling how slender and soft it was. I really had arms like a girl and everyone had commented how pretty my legs were. It was such a joy to be a soft, sweet, dainty girl. How could I ever become a rough, nasty, hard-muscled boy?
I felt my penis hardening as I massaged my arm, realizing how pathetically weak I was, how unlike a boy. The feeling in my crotch, however, revealed one fact: I may look like a girl, sing like a girl, walk like a girl, but the thing hanging between my legs made me a boy. Soon, when I turned 18, I’d be forced to sign up for the draft and likely end up in the Army or Navy, like all other boys. There was no escaping the fact. Somehow, I would have to say goodbye to Terry, the lovely, sweet girl, and make way, again, for Olaf Terrence Michaelsson, a boy and a man-to-be.
I returned to school the following day, the black eye still prominent on my face; my first action was to tell Mrs. Watkins I would be leaving the chorus, since my singing as a soprano seemed to be causing problems. I found her in her room about ten minutes before school started.
“Terry, I wish you wouldn’t do that. You really have a great voice,” she said.
“It’ll just cause a fuss,” I said. “I’ll miss singing with the group, Mrs. Watkins. You’ve been such a good director.”
“Thank you, Terry, but I wish you’d reconsider. You add so much to the group.”
“I can’t ma’am. I just can’t.”
“I understand,” she said. I could tell Mrs. Watkins was sad to see me leave the group, but I think she was relieved since my presence would just cause a fuss in the school.
“You can give the lead part to Marian, then,” I said, almost spitefully. I was mad at myself for the nasty tone of my voice.
Mrs. Watkins smiled. “She’ll get it over my dead body, Terry. No way can she try to beat somebody up for a singing part. I’ve also removed her from the group. For soloists this year, we’ll concentrate on boy parts. I think Mark Luebtke has a nice voice.”
“He does,” I said, with enthusiasm. Mark had a clear tenor voice with some volume.
“And Terry, I argued with Mr. Karstens to keep you as soloist, but he was adamant, and you know the principal is the boss here.”
I nodded my head and left, fighting back tears. Why wasn’t I born a girl so I could sing beautifully while wearing lovely dresses on stage?
I knew what I had to do. I had to hide my girliness and try to be a boy. I really had no other choice, otherwise my life would be torturous and not worth living. Could I ever be a boy? Really, a boy? I knew I had to try. And, I cried a lot too.
I had my hair cut drastically, removing any sign of the beautiful locks that helped make me the girl I felt I was. I worked hard at trying to remove all of my feminine mannerisms; that was so hard, and I didn’t always succeed. I still carried my books like a girl; when I tried to carry them at my side, as most boys did, they tended to slip.
Bert soon lost interest in me; he had no desire to treat me as a boy, since he had plenty of friends at West Division High School. He was headed to be a star athlete there, and any association with a “fairy” would damage his reputation. Soon I learned he had a girl friend and I cried about that, even though I knew that I could never again be his girl. I saw her once; Serena and I were at the ice cream store and she came in with some girl friends and Serena pointed her out.
“She’s not as pretty as you, Terry,” she said, a smile beaming from her face.
I nodded. The girl was a bit plain, with a broad freckled face and slightly chubby. Yet, she had sparkling eyes and seemed to have a happy disposition. I hoped she’d make Bert happy.
“When you dressed up, Terry, you actually were the prettiest girl around,” Serena said. “You could’ve been a beauty queen.”
“Those days are gone, Serena. I’m just Terrence now.”
“I know, but you’re still like a girl friend to me.”
“Yes, we’re still friends and that’s as it should be,” I said smiling.
In fact, my friendship with both Wanda and Serena survived my return to boyhood; we still spent lots of time together, going to movies and just plain talking. My other friend was Matt, who seemed to be around every weekend, even though he went to a different school and he was two years ahead of me. We both shared an interest in artistic stuff and auntie made sure we got to most of the worthwhile concerts and plays in town. He was trying to write poetry, and he always wanted my advice.
The boy’s dance class proved to be most difficult; Mr. Des Jardins was patient and kind, but still a demanding taskmaster. I proved to be the weakest of the five boys in the class, making me always the butt of Mr. Des Jardin’s entreaties. But, I tried, and he recognized that. We rarely saw the girl dancers — the ones whom I had enjoyed being a part of for a year — and I guess that was good, since I’d be tempted to join them, leaving the boys. By Christmas, I had strengthened myself so that I could better keep up.
Sadly, I lost my girly arms, as they now became toned and hard, thanks to some weights that Aunt Adele purchased, as well as the exercise regimen that the new dance instructor had developed. He was patient with my physical ineptness, but I grew stronger thanks to his attentive direction.
World War II cast a dark cloud over all of us those days; while Hitler’s advances in Europe seemed to be stalled, but the war lingered on in North Africa and Italy, with every battle being a costly one. Several families in our neighborhood exchanged the blue star flags in their windows for gold stars, as their sons were reported killed in action. The Japanese Navy was still a formidable foe in the Pacific, as many ships were being sunk and fighting in New Guinea and Guadalcanal was difficult and full of casualties.
“Will the war ever end, Auntie?” I asked one night in the summer of 1943, after graduating from the 8th Grade. We were sitting together on the front porch swing on a mild, quiet early evening; it was such a peaceful evening it was hard to imagine people were being killed in other parts of the world.
“I hope so honey,” she said.
“Will I be drafted, do you think?”
“Maybe dear, if the war goes on for three more years,” she said.
“I’ll be scared to go into the Army,” I said. I seemed to always be able to tell auntie my deepest secrets, even those that were embarrassing to admit. She was always understanding.
“Afraid of being killed, dear?”
“Not really, I want to help my country, but I’m just not sure I could do all those things soldiers do, auntie. I just don’t feel ready. And I’ll miss you so much.”
“Darling,” she said, taking my hand in hers. “You’ll be as ready as any young man. Don’t worry.”
“I don’t know, auntie, I’m still not like other boys.”
She squeezed my hand gently. “You’ll find other boys like you in the Army, too, I’m sure.”
I didn’t think so at the time, but I let the matter pass. My mind turned to other happier thoughts, mainly of a dress I had seen in the downtown store window that had intrigued me. I knew I’d look just divine in it. I was always day-dreaming about dresses.
I entered West Division High School in the autumn of 1943, looking more boyish than I had in grade school. Recognizing that life had dictated I live as a boy and later a man, I worked hard to be more of a boy. I took a newspaper carrier route which would further enhance my credentials as a boy. I even began playing on the 9th Grade basketball team, where I discovered my dancing had improved my stamina and agility on the court. I was a pretty lousy shot, but I could dribble and defend as well as any.
I guess I then became a pretty typical boy, eventually dating Wanda during my junior and senior years in high school. We found we loved each other. After graduating high school in 1947, I enlisted in the Navy, hoping it would not be as demanding and “macho” as the Army would be. The war had ended in August 1945, but the draft was still on, and there was no money for me to go to college, so the Navy seemed to be the best choice.
I enlisted for three years, and in June 1950 I was looking forward to discharge and an August wedding to Wanda. But, the Korean conflict intervened and the President extended my duty, taking me from a cushy on-shore duty station to an LST (Landing Ship Tank), a flat-bottomed crafts that bounced mercilessly in the seas. Our group of amphibious forces later took part in the landing of troops at Inchon. We didn’t get married until three years later when I was in college, thanks to benefits from my service during the Korean fighting.
I am embarrassed to admit that even after four and one-half years in the Navy I was still a virgin, partly because I wanted to remain loyal to Wanda but also because I was so self-conscious of my smallish penis and smooth, still puny body. How vain!
We had a happy marriage; Wanda proved to be an ideal homemaker and sweet mother to our three children. I ended up with a career in accounting. We never got rich, but we lived life to the fullest.
Best of all, Wanda and I found moments — not many to be sure with a houseful of kids around — when I could dress up pretty. We even spent a wedding anniversary at a resort for two days where we registered as sisters and I spent the entire time as a woman, even going swimming in a lovely one piece swim suit. Needless to say, our sex was great on those occasions and that resort trip — made when we were married 15 years — resulted in the birth of our last child, a girl. How fitting!
I think often of my mother and hope she’d be proud of the person I’ve become. How pleased she would have been to have played with our three children, two strapping boys, Robert and Thomas, and a daughter, Theresa, just the daintiest, prettiest girl on the whole wide earth — at least in my thinking. I have to admit I have spent more time with our lovely daughter than with the two boys, and Wanda, in her infinite, loving wisdom, has assigned me to take her shopping for clothes, now that she is a teenager.
“Terry, you’re spoiling that girl,” my Aunt Adele said to me while we visited her at her lakeshore apartment. Even in her 70s, she was a trim, lovely woman, but sadly arthritis had slowed her walk.
“I just want her to look nice,” I said.
“She does, Terry. She’s adorable, almost as pretty as you were at her age.”
“Cut it out, auntie,” I smiled. “Our little Theresa is far prettier, and so talented.”
Aunt Adele nodded. “Of course she is, and I’m so proud of the good father and husband you have become.”
“I try, auntie, but you and mom made me what I am today,” I said, tears welling up in my eyes. “And my wife Wanda who has been with me from the beginning. I’ve been so lucky.”
Every night, it seems, I dream the most beautiful dream in which I am the prettiest girl in school. I really am a woman. Don’t you agree?
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