Lessons Learned: Home Economics
By Shawna Stimple
Michael Madelyn Huffman hated his middle name. It was a family name, but that offered him little comfort to the tormenting he received if anyone found out. His father had recently lost an aunt, and had to attend to her funeral out in the Midwest. His mother wanted to go with him for support, but Michael had never met his great aunt, so they did not want to drag him along unnecessarily. They arranged it so that he could stay with his mother’s sister, and her daughter for a few days while they attended to the estate.
“Welcome Michael.” greeted his Aunt Sharon, hugging him tightly. “We’re so glad to have you in our home. Millie is in her room, if you want to say hello. I have to work all day tomorrow, so we’ve arranged it so that you can attend class with Millie, and then go to her school’s dance on Saturday. That way we won’t have to find someone to look after you.”
“I don’t need looking after. I’m 15 years old, the same as your daughter.” the young boy fumed. “Why don’t I just stay here? I’ll just watch T.V. until Sunday, and then I’ll be out of your hair.”
“Nonsense. You’ll be bored silly. This way you can go out and make some new friends. I’m sure you’ll have a great time.”
With a sullen face, Michael picked up his suitcase, and slowly moped towards the guest room. For an hour he sat in his temporary dwelling undisturbed, reading the most recent Spiderman, until his door suddenly came flying open. He glanced up to see his cousin Millicent.
Millie, and Michael’s rivalry was one for the ages. They were best friends when they were children, but as they grew older, Millie became one of the girliest girls on the planet, while Michael became a roll in the mud, ruff and tumble boy. He torture her, and tug her pigtails, while she would tease him incessantly about his name, and diminutive stature, even though they were roughly the same size. All in all they did not get along well. A fact that seemed to escape their parent.
“What do you want?”
“My mom wants you to come downstairs and be sociable. She ordered a pizza, and she wants to watch a movie while we wait.”
“Fine. Whatever. I’m hungry anyway.”
Michael made it a point to make leaving his comic behind, look like the hardest thing in the world. In the living room they were watching The Notebook. Michael thought it was the most boring movie he had ever seen. He struggled to keep his eyes open, as his head inched closer and closer to the pillow he had in front of him in the floor. Millie noticing this, quietly snuck upstairs to retrieve her curling iron, and a few other trinkets.
Michael awoke to the sound of the doorbell. His aunt yelled from the kitchen, “There’s a 20 on the coffee table. Would you get that, and tell him to keep the change.”
At the door he was handed the pizza and a soda, and he gave the driver the bill. “The rest is for you. Have a good night.”
The driver tipped his hat, and said, “Thanks miss. You enjoy your evening as well.”
Closing the door, Michael thought to himself, “Thanks miss? What was that all about?” Walking through the foyer, he turned to face the mirror above the coat rack. “What did you do?!”, he shrieked. Apparently while he was sleeping, his cousin had done a number on his shoulder length hair. It was pulled back into two low hanging curly pigtails, tied off with two bright pastel yellow ribbons, tied into two giant floppy bows. The front, which usually hung limply in his face, was parted on the left sweeping over his right eye, and finishing in an outward curl.
“You were so fond of my pigtails when we were little. I thought that you should try them yourself.” Millie said, entering the room carrying 3 glasses.
She was followed by her mother, carrying plates, and napkins, giggling abundantly. “You looked so cute sleeping there, I couldn’t bring myself to stop her.”
“Yeah. I’d say it’s a good look for you. Really brings out your eyes.” said his cousin, her words dripping with the pride at another victory.
“Very funny guys.” Michael pulled the ribbons from his hair, trying to undo the mess his cousin had created, but it only left him with a quite feminine style, falling straight to his ears, and ending in a mass of curls. “ How do I undo this?” he said, pointing at his head.
Still chuckling, his aunt replied, “You’ll have to wash it out later. Relax. It’s only us. Now come on. Let’s eat.”
His cousin added, “Yeah Madelyn, that’s a good look for you. If you don’t hurry I’ll eat all of this delicious pizza, and you’ll have to go to bed a hungry maiden.”
“Be nice dear. You wouldn’t want to go to bed a hungry maiden yourself would you.”
“No mother.” said the girl dejectedly.
They enjoyed their meal finishing the movie. They managed to have a pleasant conversation, until they all decided to retire to bed. The next morning around 7:45, after 30 minutes of pounding on the door, Michael managed to drag himself out of bed.
Taking a seat at the breakfast table, he grumbled, “I don’t know who decided that 8:15 was the right time for teenage boys to go to school, but they were wrong.”
His aunt poured him some cereal, and said, “Well it’s the way it’s got to be. Eat quick and get dressed. We’re leaving in 15 minutes.”
After scarfing down his breakfast as quickly as he could, he ran upstairs, and threw on his usual hoodie-jeans combo, and ran out to the car. Outside, Millie stood waiting, wearing a grey romper, with black buttons up the front, and a black ribbon tied around the waist into a bow in the front. She also wore a black girl’s blazer, and a pair of black flat sandals that tied around the ankles with black ribbon.
“A little dressed up for school, aren’t we?” Michael said smugly.
“Well you’re dressed like shit, so I guess WE aren’t.”
“Language young lady.” chastised Sharon, practically sprinting from the house, unlocking the car.
The ride to school was quiet, and uneventful. Millie sat up front, fixing her makeup, while Michael sat in the back, nodding in and out of sleep. He was jerked awake by the sudden stop. Pushing his hair out of his face, he started to panic as his fingers met the curl at the end of his long black locks.
“Oh my god. I forgot to take a shower. What am I supposed to do?”
Looking into the back of the car, his aunt said, “It’s not that noticeable. Now hurry along. I’m late for work.”
Millie walked confidently into the school, with Michael trailing behind her, as he followed her to her first class. Entering the classroom, he noticed it was filled with counters, and stools, not desk. There was also a few ovens in the corner, and what looked to be a sewing machine towards the front. There were only ten students, all female.
“What class is this?” he asked his cousin.
“Home economics.” she replied.
They take their seats, while the teacher starts the class. She was an older woman, with her hair pulled back, and her glasses on her nose. She was wearing a pink apron, over her simple white dress.
“Girl’s. Let’s welcome Millicent’s cousin to the classes. This is Michael Madelyn Huffman, who will be joining us today. Welcome dear.”
“Welcome.” came the chorus of girls.
It wasn’t lost on Millie that her teacher seemed to be avoiding gender specific pronouns. With the fancy hair, the dirty clothes, and the bizarre name, it’s no wonder that she couldn’t tell. He would be getting so much shit for this later.
The teacher continued, “We’ve been making dresses, for our dance tomorrow night, and today we’re putting on the finishing touches. Have you ever made a dress before?”
“Can’t say I have.” said the boy sarcastically.
Oblivious to the tone, the teacher replied, “Well that’s no problem. Today is sort of a free work day. You can help Millie finish her second dress. She’s so industrious. She already finished her first a few weeks ago.”
Just then, another teacher knocked on the door.
“Mrs. Fredericks. Could you come give me a hand down the hall.”
“I’ll be right there. Girls, I’ll be back in a few minutes. Just keep working until I return.”
Once the door closed the girls in the class swarmed around the cousins table. The comments and questions didn’t seem like they would ever stop.
“So this is your cousin Madelyn you told us about.”
“You have lovely hair.”
“I think you could use a new look. Your clothes kind of stink.”
“Madelyn almost sounds as formal as Millicent. I think I’ll call you Maddy.”
“Yeah. Millie, and Maddy. You two make quite the pair.”
Michael sat quietly, not knowing what to do with all the attention. He felt like he was in some kind of interrogation.
Millie jumped in, “Alright girls. Let’s give Maddy some space.” Turning to Michael she said, “Come on Maddy. I need you to help me with my dress. You can wear it while I put the last alterations on it.”
“I’m not wearing that sissy dress. I’m a boy for Christ sake.”
“The teacher told you to help me. The only help I need is a model. Put. It. On!.”
“I said I’m a BOY!” he yelled, regaining the other girls attention.
“You’re a boy?” one ask.
“No you’re not.” said another.
“Yes I am. I’m not some stupid sissy girl, so I don’t have to help you with this stupid sissy class.” This raised the anger of the entire classroom. He quickly found out that it’s a bad idea to piss off a large group of teenage girls. He soon learned they could be quite vicious.
“You’re a boy. I don’t believe it.”
“Yeah. You look like a sissy girl to me.”
“I think we’re going to need some proof.”
“Yeah. Show us what you got.”
He tried to get up and escape, but the flurry of girls, quickly took hold of him, and before he knew it, they had him stripped down to his boxers. His skin was extremely pale, and he had little hair to speak of. He wasn’t stick figure skinny, but he was far from fat, and his body had yet to grow any hair anywhere, except his head, and where the sun didn’t shine. It looked like a early pubescent girls body, except there were two things missing.
“Maybe she is a boy.”
“She definitely has the attitude of one.”
“She could just be flat chested.”
“I think we need a little more proof.”
One of the girls reached for his boxers, and started to pull them down, but he quickly caught them and held them up with all his strength.
“Please don’t. I’ll do anything.” He looked so afraid, that they halfway took pity on him.
After taking in the spectacle before her, Millie rejoined the conversation. “Ok Maddy.” She emphasized his new feminine nickname. “Help me finish my dress, and we’ll let you keep covered.”
“No way!” he yelled in defiance.
“Alright girls. Take the boxers.”
The girls quickly went for his undies again. Trying desperately to hold them up he loses his strength and finally caves in. “Ok. Ok. Ok. Ok. You win. You win. You win. You win. I’ll do it. Just please stop.”
“You’ll help me?”
“Yes. Yes. Whatever.”
“Ok Maddy. Thank you so much.” Millie said, somewhat in a demeaning tone.
“The dress is a little tight, so you’re going to have to change your underwear. Those will do nothing to flatter your figure.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a black bra & panty set, and shoves them into her cousins arms. “There’s a screen you can change behind over there.”
“I don’t wanna wear these.” he said, staring at the offending undergarments with hatred.
“Well if you like you can just wear nothing at all.”
Taking their cue, the girls swarmed him again.
“ALRIGHT! YOU WIN!”
They back off again leaving him to march defeated behind the silk screen. After he pulls the panties on, he noticed the unsightly bulge pressing against the front. The last thing he wanted was to be judged, in that department, by a room full of girls. He did the only thing he could think of and shoved it all back between his legs. He walked back around the screen holding the bra with a defeated look on his face. “Do I have to wear this thing?” he whined.
“Yes Maddy you do. The dress wouldn’t hang right without it, and you need a little help upstairs. Millie takes the brassiere from the sulking boy and slips it around his chest. After she adjust the straps, she stuffs the cups with a few shoulder pads that were laying around the classroom. She grabs her dress from the rack, and unzips it, holding it in front of her reluctant model. Realizing he had little choice he steps in, and she zips up the back, metaphorically trapping him. It was a pink sleeveless rayon number, with a tight bodice, and a drop waist. The skirt fell only to about mid thigh, and consisted of an explosion of ruffles.
“It looks good on you., but something is missing.” She returns from the rack again with a pair of pink open toed pumps. “I need you to wear these so I can get the full effect.
“No you don’t. You just want to embarrass me.”
“Maybe so. But you don’t really have a choice. I’ve already got a few pictures on my phone, waiting for an excuse for me to put them on Facebook.”
“I might. Would you like to find out?”
Michael, deciding not to call her bluff, took the heels, and shoved them on his feet. Since he played a lot of soccer, he didn’t have trouble keeping his balance with his new awkward footwear, but he stomped around the room, rather angrily, as he was getting used to them.
“If you break one of my heels these pictures will definitely make it to the internet.”
He quickly slowed his gate, and found that he was as graceful as any girl he’d ever seen walking on these skyscrapers. Millie led him over to a nearby stool, while the other girls quickly lost interest, and returned to their own projects. After placing a few pins, she helped him out of the dress. She gave him a short pink silk robe to wear while he sat on the stool, while she made the final alterations to her creation.
Meanwhile, another girl sitting on the stool across the aisle kept staring at him. After a few minutes, she walked over and introduced herself. “Hi, I’m Kim.” He just stared at her and didn’t respond. “I have to say, you’re very pretty. You just need a little help.”
Michael tried to stare at Kim angrily, not letting it show that he thought she was pretty hot. She had light brown hair, and dark brown eyes, and her skin had an olive complexion. She was wearing a black long sleeved mini dress, and pink 4 inch heels.
She continued, “I just finished my dress. Would you like to help me kill a little time?”
Not even waiting for a response, she pulled out her makeup back, and placed a few products on the table. Michael thought about running again, but where would he go? She started by dabbing on a light foundation, the set it with a light powder topcoat. Next she went to work on his eyes. She used a light blue shadow, a dark eyeliner, and a black mascara. She made sure to use her rosiest blush on his cheeks, and she finished it all off with a lip plumper and a dark pink lipstick, coated with a shimmering lip gloss. “Something’s still not right.” she said, more to herself than him. She took her tweezers, and pulled more than a few hairs from his brow. He winced in pain, with every hair she plucked.
“You are a boy, aren’t you?”
“Why do you suddenly draw that conclusion now?”
“Because I’ve never met a girl who made such a fuss about a little tweezing.”
“Ha Ha.” he said, as deadpan as possible.
“Well I’m done. Thanks for entertaining me.”
Just as she was returning her makeup to her bag, Millie returned with her finished dress. “Well, don’t we look pretty?”
“I know, right?” Kim answered for him. “I’m a little jealous.”
“Put the dress back on. I want to make sure it’s sitting right.” Millie ordered.
Still trying to think of an escape plan, Michael complied. While he stood on the stool being ogled by the girls in the class, Mrs. Fredericks returned. As she entered the room, her eyes were immediately drawn to the young beauty on display.
“Ms. Huffman, You look very nice. I’m glad to see you are enjoying the class.”
Michael was so embarrassed. He just stared at the old woman, only finding himself able to mutter a quiet, “Thank you.”
The rest of the class was spent with the girls who had finished, sitting around their tables, and talking about nothing in particular. Michael stuck out like a sore thumb, but not because he was a boy, but because he was the only one there overdressed for the occasion.
Five minutes before the end of class, Mrs. Fredericks announced that any work that wasn’t completed would have to be finished at home, and that she looked forward to seeing all there hard work on display Saturday evening. Millie led Michael over to the screen to change out of the dress. Once he had it off, he tossed it over to Millie, who tossed another bundle of cloth back his way. He unbundled the garment only to find it wasn’t anything he wore that morning.
“Where are my clothes?” he harshly whispered.
“Those are your clothes. I usually bring a spare outfit just incase, but I think you need it more than me.”
“Why would I need another dress?”
“Because we got rid of those rags you wore here this morning.”
“You did what?!”
“I suggest you don’t make a scene. This is what I have to give you so deal with it.”
Reluctantly, he pulled the new dress over his head, and walked around the screen for help with the zipper. It was a short sleeved black mini dress, with a yellow, blue, and pink flower pattern, that only well to mid thigh. He felt like if he bent over the wrong way, his new panties would be on display for the whole world to see. It contrasted well with the pink pumps he was wearing.
Millie stared, tapping her finger on her cheek, until she saw what was missing from the picture. “You need a few accessories, and you’ll be ready to go.” She reached in her school bag, and removed a necklace with large faux pearls. She stretched the elastic out over his head, and slipped it around his neck, when it tightened back up, all the beads sat perfectly above the scooped neckline of the dress. She removed the studs from his ears, and replaced them with matching large faux pearls. Finally, she added a matching faux pearl bracelet to his wrist. “Perfect” she said, swelling with pride. Michael tried to think of any means of escape, but the bell rang, sealing his fate.
The gaggle of girls made their way down the hall all beautiful, and confident, owning the school. All that is, except one. This girl looked scared. She very obviously didn’t want to be there, despite the fact that she was one of the prettiest girls who had ever graced the institutions presence. If the students all staring at the new girl only knew.
The next class of the day was math. Michael found a seat behind Millie, and plopped down. Millie, stifling a chuckle, said, “You may want to sit with a little more grace. The boys up front are staring at your panties.” Realizing his mistake Michael quickly crossed his legs the way he’d seen many girls do before, when wearing such a short skirt.
As the glass began, an old grumpy looking man unpacked his notes on the desk. Looking around the room, he said, “Millicent, would you introduce us to your cousin already, so we can divert the classes attention back to their studies.”
Millie stood and grabbed Michael’s arm, standing him up with her. “This is my cousin Maddy. She’ll be visiting today, and joining us at the dance tomorrow. Please make her feel at home.” Michael held a hand in the air waving gingerly. He really didn’t want anymore attention than he was already getting.
The rest of the day went by pretty much the same. The girls all asked about his outfit, and where he got his hair done, while the boys just stared awkwardly. They seemed to be interested in something else. At lunch he sat at the popular girls table, and listened as they droned on and on about who was cute, and the like, until he thought he was going to die from the boredom. When the last bell rang, he eagerly followed his cousin out to the parking lot. He just wanted to go back to the house, and hide, until his parents came and saved him from this torment.
Once outside, he noticed that his aunt’s car was nowhere to be seen. “Where’s Aunt Sharon?”
“I usually ride home with Kim after school, since Mom usually has to work late. On Fridays, we usually go to the coffee shop, and hang out after school. Now hurry up. She’s waiting over here.”
“I would hurry up if I didn’t have to walk in these stupid torture devices.”
Once they met up with Kim they drove over to the coffee shop, where they met all of the girls from the home ec. Class. They continued to have conversations Michael, couldn’t care less about, and they tried to drag him in. After a while it seemed like they genuinely wanted to hang out with him, they just didn’t know what he wanted to talk about, so he decided to throw them a bone.
“Do you guys play any videogames?”
One girl answered, “Yeah, I play Mariokart with my boyfriend all the time.”
“I’ve played that before. It was a lot of fun.”
“It’s definitely more fun than those stupid shooting games they all play.”
The conversation started to steer towards things he actually enjoyed. They talked about cars, sports, and movies. He started to take a weird sense of pride in the fact that he could educate the group in his interest. After a few hours they all decided it was time to go home, since some of them had to finish their dresses.
After they were dropped off at the house, Millie ran inside and locked the door behind her while Michael struggled, to keep up in his heels. “I’ll let you in in a minute!” she yelled. After five minutes, she unlocked the door, and let her angry cousin in.
“What the fuck was that all about?!”
“Mom left a note, saying she won’t be home tonight. I figured we could bond a little. I didn’t think we’d be able to do that if you could just run upstairs and hide in your cave, so I locked the door, and hid the key.”
“Why the fuck are you doing this to me?!”
Millie’s look quickly turned to sadness, and she quietly said, “Because I miss you. You’ve become a brat in the last few years, and when we were kids, we got along so well. You stopped wanted to play with me when I started to want to wear dresses, and do other girly things. Just because I was growing up didn’t mean I didn’t want to hang out. I figured I’d show you that a person can still be fun to be around, regardless of how they dress.”
“Oh.” Michael was speechless. He didn’t realize that his cousin missed him so much. “I guess that’s understandable. I do miss your jokes. I thought you were one of the funniest people I’d ever known.”
“You too. We always used to crack each other up. Just humor me a little, and I promise I won’t tell anyone about this, and I’ll get rid of the pictures. Just walk a little further in my shoes.”
“I’d be glad to, but I’d rather do it a little more metaphorically. These heels are killing me.”
They both laughed hysterically, and hugged for the first time in 5 years. Millie helped Michael out of his dress, and offered him a blue baby doll nightgown. He hesitated at first, but took the sleepwear, and put it on. She changed into a similar nightgown in red, and they sat on the couch, and watched T.V.. After a few hours, they got hungry and ordered some Chinese.
While they were waiting Millie went upstairs, and came down with her curlers. She sat Michael down in front of her, and rolled his black locks up, pinning each one securely into place. After she finished she took the seat showed him how to roll her hair up the same way. Next she applied a thick green mask to his face, and did the same to hers. They sat painting each others nails, laughing and joking. While the activity wasn’t what Michael would have picked, he did enjoy reconnecting with his cousin.
When the doorbell rang Michael answered the door, curlers and all, and generously tipped the delivery boy. They laughed at how he kept staring at Michael’s legs beneath the short nightie. If he only knew.
A few hours later, they decided it was time for bed. Michael laid down next to Millie, while they told each other about their lives, and their hopes for their impending adulthood. They fell asleep shortly after, not knowing how much they had in store for them the next day.
To be continued.
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