By Missy Crystal
All Dolled Up - Part VI
Jamie wants his mother to buy him a doll for a birthday present. She does and a journey of discovery begins for both of them.
On Sunday night, I told Jamie that we would be going to the hospital again. To my surprise, he asked me if he could wear Jamie's clothes. I understood him to mean Jamie the doll, so he wanted to go out as a girl. No, Ginny, not as a girl, but in girl's clothes. Whether he wanted to be a girl was a question I hoped would be answered soon. For a number of reasons, in particular Dr. Mitchell's observation that Jamie was registered with the daycare center as a boy and my concern about running into someone we knew, I told him no. Jamie didn't seem disappointed, which also surprised me. If he didn't prefer to wear girl's clothes then he couldn't be transgendered could he? Then again, I remembered Dr. Mitchell's comment that clothes don't make the girl. Does a doll? Be patient Ginny, I advised myself. If you knew the answer, you wouldn't need this appointment.
The next morning, I woke Jamie, got him dressed in his usual boy's underwear, shorts, top, white cotton socks and sneakers and we had a quick breakfast. At the hospital, we went through the now familiar routine of placing him in the daycare center, after which I went to see Dr. Mitchell. I got to her office a few minutes before eight. The door to the reception area was open and I went in. I was surprised to see Kelly at her desk. She said she was coming in early, so that she would be here when I arrived with Jamie, but I assumed Dr. Mitchell had told her about the change in plans.
"Kelly, hi," I greeted her. "I didn't think you'd be here. Didn't Dr. Mitchell tell you we decided that I would meet with her first?"
"Yes, about five minutes ago," she said good naturedly, considering that she was at work before eight o'clock and then explained, "my bad, though. I never told her that I was coming in early, so she never told me not to. No harm done. My husband can burn his toast and make a cup of instant coffee as will as I can."
"Kelly, you are bad," I agreed, "not that I believe you, but for making up such stories."
"You caught me again, Ms. McCarthy. Actually, George does quite well in the kitchen. My talents are lie elsewhere, if you get my drift."
She gave me a big grin.
"The Doctor is in and she's expecting you."
"Thank you Kelly."
"You're welcome, Ms. McCarthy."
I knocked on the door to Dr. Mitchell's office. A minute later, it opened and Dr. Mitchell came out.
She posed in the doorway, one hand on her hip and the other on the door frame. Then she put her arms at her side, fingers splayed out, and did a complete turn taking little steps. I glanced at Kelly and she had about fallen out of her chair trying to stop from laughing. I had no idea what Dr. Mitchell was doing and tilted my head quizzically.
"I love getting compliments from genetic women. It reinforces my self-image as a transsexual. So?"
I glanced at Kelly again. She was close to wetting herself she thought it was so funny. Looking back at Dr. Mitchell, she was stylishly dressed in a dark cranberry straight skirt that ended just above her knees, a pale pink blouse, probably silk, with a pointed collar, open at the neck to display a string of pearls, a matching short jacket with long sleeves and pearl buttons, opaque pearlescent stockings and cranberry leather pumps with a mid heel. Her makeup was perfect with the signature plum lipstick, flawless skin with a hint of blush over her cheekbones, beautifully accented eyes with liner, mascara and a light pearlescent eye shadow, and her hair was held back with a cranberry scrunchy showing off her gold pearl drop earrings. Any genetic woman would have killed to look that good. I would have.
"Definitely a ten." I turned to Kelly. "Don't you agree?"
"No." She paused while we both looked at her. "A twelve. And can I have a raise?"
"Insincerity should not be rewarded," Dr. Mitchell playfully scolded her. "This way please, Ginny."
Dr. Mitchell went into her office and I followed, closing the door behind me. She went over to the conversation area and took her usual chair. I sat across from her. She crossed her legs and lightly tugged on the hem of her skirt for modesty. As with our previous sessions, she did not have a notepad or recording device.
"Why don't you bring me up to date, Ginny?" she began. "Tell me how Jamie did dressing as a girl and about the incident in the park."
"Well, Doctor, Jenny, I, umm, he, umm, the experiment didn't work as we planned," I finally got out.
"It seems, well, it seemed to me anyway," I rambled, "he wasn't interested in the girl's clothes I bought him. At least he didn't seem to care about what he wore. That is, not unless it was what his doll was wearing. The first time I let him pick out his clothes, he went back to the party dress, because that's what she, the doll, had on. Of course, he really didn't know anything about girl's clothes and you cautioned me not to influence his choice, so I didn't. I don't know if I was doing the right thing, but I figured out that he would wear what the doll wore, so I took him to the toy store and we picked out some doll clothes that were similar to his new outfits. That worked, except that what I had bought him were back to school clothes. He would have looked silly going out dressed like that in summer. So then I had to buy him some summer outfits. I might have gone too far though, Jenny, because the next day I picked out an outfit for him to wear. He went along with it though. That was when we went to the park and ran into the little girl who's going to be in his class. Then this morning, he asked me if he could wear the same clothes that his doll had on, but you and I had already discussed dressing him as a boy for his appointment, so I told him no,"
"I see," Dr. Mitchell said.
"Does that help at all Jenny?" I asked hopefully.
"Everything helps at this stage, Ginny. The experiment wasn't meant to be a definitive test of whether Jamie is transgendered; only to see how he reacted to dressing as a girl. From what you told me, without encouragement he is ambivalent. The average boy Jamie's age doesn't like girls and would hate being dressed like one. However, Jamie isn't necessarily average, so it doesn't prove anything more than that he likes girls better than most six year old boys. We still have a lot of exploring to do, which brings us to Jamie's making friends with a female classmate who thinks he's a girl. What is it about the situation that concerns you, Ginny?"
Was she serious?
"Isn't it obvious that Jamie would be embarrassed, if she told the other children in the class about him pretending to be a girl?" I challenged her.
"No. Children their age have very short memories. She met him once. It is likely that she won't recognize him when she sees him as a boy or that she won't care about it, if she does. Six year old girls have a reciprocal dislike for boys. Children their age also have very short attention spans. Even if she did remember Jamie as a girl and tattletaled, it would probably go in one collective class ear and out the other, as they say. Prejudice requires maturity."
"So going to school as a boy won't be a problem for Jamie, Jenny?" I asked optimistically.
"No, it is a problem, Ginny. It just isn't the one that you're worried about. My concern is whether Jamie's affinity will be with the boys or the girls in his class. It would be more harmful to him psychologically if he was rejected by the boys, because he was too effeminate, and not accepted by the girls, because he was not feminine enough. That brings us back to how he feels about himself."
"Well, except for his recent fascination with his doll and her clothes, he has always been a typical boy." I paused and thought. "At least he never showed any interest in doing girls' activities, like cooking or wanting to play dress-up in mommy's clothes. Karen and I were always hanging around Mom or fooling around with her stuff. 'For goodness sake,' she used to warn us when she caught us parading around in her heels 'will you girls stay out of my closet. You'll have plenty of time to be grown ups. Enjoy being kids.'"
"That's because you were raised as girls and trying on your mother's clothes is accepted as normal curiosity. I bet that most boys have tried on some item of their mother's or sister's clothes too, but that behavior is negatively reinforced. Our society is so irrationally homophobic that even otherwise liberal women are afraid of exposing their sons to any feminine influence."
"Did I do wrong, then, Jenny, by letting Jamie have a doll? Is this all my fault?" I asked anxiously.
"No, Ginny, as far as our studies show, you cannot influence a child's gender preference. Boys who have been inadvertently or involuntarily raised as girls usually revert back to being males when given the choice."
"I don't understand, Jenny. How can a boy be raised as a girl by mistake?"
"Today, in the developed countries, where babies are born in hospitals and get a thorough pediatric neonatal examination, it doesn't happen, but a century ago, maybe even as late as fifty years ago, home birthing with no doctor in attendance was common. A boy with undescended testicles or malformed genitals could, on cursory observation, be mistaken for a girl. There is also one well documented case of a boy in Canada who suffered genital mutilation as the result of a botched circumcision. A misguided doctor convinced his parents that he would be better off undergoing SRS, sexual reassignment surgery, rather than being a non-functional male. He had his testicles removed when he was an infant and was raised as a girl, but he always felt that he was different. When he finally discovered the truth, he became a man again."
"What happened to him?"
"Knowing that his parents had changed his gender without his permission or knowledge, that they deceived him into believing he was a girl, finding it out at a time when he was still young and vulnerable, having the same physician try to intimidate him into accepting himself as a transsexual and the transition back to being male were all too much for him. He tried to lead a normal life, he even got married, but it didn't work out and he committed suicide in his thirties."
I stared at her in shock.
"Oh, my God, Jenny! Is that Jamie's future?"
"No, Ginny, that boy was the reverse of being transgendered. He never wanted to be a girl. The doctor who recommended the sex change mistakenly believed that it was nurture, the way a child is raised, not nature, which determines one's gender preference. We know now, both from that tragically failed experiment and other research, that it is not true. You can't turn boys into girls or girls into boys by raising them to be the opposite sex or make children homosexual by example. There are many gay, lesbian and transgendered couples who have children and those children do not grow up to prefer same sex partners or want to have sex changes. Our children grow up to be normal, healthy adults to the same extent as the children of heterosexual couples. If I didn't believe that, Ginny, I would never have children of my own."
"Thank you, Jenny," I said with relief.
"Your welcome, Ginny, that's my role. To help you understand how to deal with Jamie and to help Jamie deal with himself, if he is transgendered."
Dr. Mitchell looked at her watch.
"I do want to spend some time with Jamie. There's about 45 minutes left of our session. In the next fifteen, we should decide on what to do next and then you should go get him."
"What do you suggest, Jenny?"
"Actually, it's your suggestion. When we discussed Jamie going out dressed as a girl, you mentioned visiting your sister's family. On the one hand, it can be a good test and a positive experience, if things go well. If they don't, it can make your relationship with them very awkward."
"Yes, I think it would work. I know Karen would accept Jamie as a girl. She's already aware of the situation. I think her daughters would enjoy him as a girl, too. That's pretty much how they treat him when they're together, anyway. I don't know about her husband, Dave. He's a really good guy, but, well, from what Karen said and from my own experience, men are much more conservative. He'd probably have a hard time accepting it. I suppose I could talk to Karen and see what she thinks. She knows him better than I do."
"Why don't you do that, Ginny? If Dave's okay with it, then do it for the weekend. Just a couple of days to get a sense of how Jamie feels about being treated as a girl, not just dressing up like his doll. He seemed to be comfortable as a girl when you took him to the park and he played with, Merry, I think you said was her name."
I nodded my head.
"He should do fine with his cousins then. I would recommend you keep it low key for Jamie's first outing en femme."
I smiled at her, indicating that I was now familiar enough with the nuances of being transgendered to have caught the double entendre.
"Go ahead and get Jamie." She dismissed me with a motion of her hand towards the door. "Bring him right in when you get back, please."
"I will, Jenny. See you in a few minutes."
I went out. Kelly was typing and looked up. There was no need to say anything. I quickly left, went to the daycare center, signed the release form and took Jamie back up to Dr. Mitchell's office. When we entered the reception area, Kelly stood up and came out to greet us.
"Hi, Jamie. I'm Kelly. It's nice to meet you," she said softly, kneeling down to his level. "Your Mom and I are friends," she looked up at me and grinned. "When you're done, come say goodbye and I think I can find a lollypop for you. What's your favorite color, red, purple, green, yellow or orange?"
"Red," Jamie replied shyly.
"Red it is then, if it's okay with you Mom."
"Thank you, Kelly, that's very sweet. Did you go to all of that trouble just for Jamie?"
"No, actually you'd be surprised how many of our patients feel better getting a lollypop after their session. I'm about to run out of red though. Girl's seem to favor that color."
"Okay, okay. You're a tough audience, Mrs. M. I bought them for Jamie, 'cause he's special. We have lots of red ones."
I shook my head. Kelly went over and opened the door to Dr. Mitchell's office. I took Jamie's hand and we went in. Dr. Mitchell had been working at her desk. She got up and came over. Like Kelly, she knelt down to Jamie's level to introduce herself, gently placing her hands on his shoulders."
"Good Morning, Jamie. I'm Jenny Mitchell. It's nice to meet you. Would you come over and sit with your Mom and me, please?"
Jenny stood up and walked to her chair. I took my chair and had Jamie sit in the chair next to me."
"Your mother tells me you have a new doll and her name is Jamie, just like yours. Is that right?"
Jamie gave a small nod.
"Words, please, Jamie."
"Yes," he replied softly.
"Is the doll your friend?"
Jenny waited, but Jamie didn't answer.
"Is the doll your sister?"
"Is the doll your child?"
"Is the doll you?"
It was a response I never expected and sat in surprised silence. I thought that, having hit upon the right question, Jenny would have given me a satisfied look, but she continued to focus on Jamie.
"Jamie, is your doll a boy or a girl?"
"Jamie's like me."
"You’re a boy."
Jamie looked puzzled and then began to cry. I started to get up to comfort him. Dr. Mitchell shook her head. Instead, she got up, got on her knees in front of him and held him. As his sobs turned to sniffles, she turned her head towards me and explained.
"I need to have a relationship with Jamie and this is a start."
I nodded my understanding.
After a few minutes of comforting, Jamie quieted down. Jenny got up and sat back down.
"Jamie, why did my saying you are a boy make you cry?"
He looked at me.
"You can tell Jenny, Jamie. She's a friend and she wants to help you," I said with an assuring smile. "It's okay, Sweetie, really it is."
"Jamie's like me," he repeated.
"How is Jamie like you?"
He didn't answer.
"Jamie's a doll. You're not a doll, are you?"
He shook his head.
"Do you like Jamie's clothes?"
"Do you want to wear Jamie's clothes all of the time?"
"If you had a choice, would you wear your clothes or Jamie's clothes?"
"Why can't you wear Jamie's clothes all of the time?"
"Is it because you mother says you have to wear you own clothes sometimes?"
"When you're not dressed like Jamie, how does she feel?"
I leaned forward and anxiously listened for his answer.
"Is she sad?"
He shook his head.
"Is she happy?"
From Jamie's reaction, it was a sensitive topic. He started to sniffle and I could see tears starting to form. Jenny did too. She went over and got back down on her knees to comfort him. After a few minutes he was better and she returned to her chair.
"I think we've done enough for today," she announced, looking at her watch. "At this point, I'm not sure whether Jamie's behavior manifests an identity crises or gender confusion."
Shifting my eyes towards Jamie and back, I gave her a stern look to indicate my disapproval of her discussing his behavior in front of him. She nodded slightly to indicate she got the message.
"I do not have secrets from my patients," she countered, "any of my patients," she repeated for emphasis, "regardless of their age. I doubt Jamie understands what we are talking about, but he is entitled to hear it. Openness may not be important now, but it will be as he gets older. He needs to believe that you and I are acting in his best interest and he cannot have that confidence, if he is excluded from our conversations."
"What I would recommend," she continued, "is that we try to distinguish between Jamie being the doll and being like the doll. Sometimes a person who is having a life crisis escapes by taking on a different identity. They become that person or object. Or it may be that the doll has a quality that appeals to Jamie. It could be her clothes, it could be her gender or it could be that she does not have emotions. I told you not to influence Jamie's choices. Now I think you should. Let's give him the opportunity to express his feminine side and see how he interacts with the doll. Treat him like your daughter. In the meantime, talk discretely with your sister about the visit we discussed. Don't make any commitment, until we see what happens in the next few days. Please call me on Thursday and let me know."
"You mean I should do things with him that I would do, if he was a girl?" I asked Jenny to clarify.
"No, you should do whatever you would do with her, because she is a girl."
"Like go to the beauty parlor and get our hair and nails done?"
"Worked for me."
I thought she was being facetious, but then she went on.
"The first time I really felt like a girl is when my mother took me to get my hair done at a salon. That's how my mother met my stepfather."
"You discovered you were a girl when you mother had your hair done and she married the hairdresser?"
"No, it all started playing Barbies with my sisters. Interesting, now that I think of it, that involved dolls too, but in a different way. It's a long story."
She looked at her watch.
"Oh, Oh. We're out of time. You two have to leave now."
Jenny walked over to Jamie, who had been sitting quietly while we talked. As she predicted, he did not seem to have paid any attention to our conversation.
"Jamie, thank you for coming, you've been very patient. Will you come back and see me. I'd like that and maybe I can help you be like Jamie. Okay?"
He nodded his head.
I got up and went over to him. He got up and I took his hand. Jenny had crossed to the door and opened it for us. She waved goodbye. I turned, so that Jamie could see her and he waived to her. Kelly had gotten up and walked over to Jamie, kneeling down.
"Jamie, here's the red lollypop I promised you."
She put her hand on his left shoulder and turned him, so that his ear was near her mouth."
"There's another red lollipop for later, too. I'm putting it in your pocket. It's our secret," she whispered loud enough for me to hear.
Then she realized that his shorts didn't have pockets and looked up at me chagrined. I look down and laughed.
"Serves you right for being sneaky."
"Sorry, Jamie, we're busted," she admitted sheepishly.
"What do you say to Kelly, Jamie?"
"Your welcome. Another appointment Ms. McCarthy?"
"Dr. Mitchell didn't say. We ran out of time. She wanted me to call her Thursday. I guess that we still need the regular Monday appointment though. Can you put us in and check with her?"
"No problem. And Jamie, next time, Honey, wear pants with pockets," she told him with a wink. "Really big pockets," she added, looking up and sticking her tongue out at me.
She stood up and opened the reception room door for us. As we were going by her, I took her arm and gave her a peck on the cheek for being such a sweetheart.
"My proposal still goes, Kelly," I kidded her.
"I'll talk to George," she kidded me back, adding in a whisper, "I think he's always dreamed of a threesome." She paused and then added, "Although I'm not sure I'm included."
"You're bad. Bye."
As we walked to the car, I decided to start following Jenny's recommendation. I pulled out of the garage and headed for the mall. I took Jamie into the discount shoe store and had him try on an assortment of girl's footwear. I tried to judge his expression as I strapped on a pair of really cute white sandals to go with his sundress, but there was no reaction. I suppose getting excited about picking out shoes to match a dress is a girl thing and Jamie had a lot to learn in that department, if it turned out he was in that department. I ended up with two pairs of sandals, white and pink, a pair of sneakers in white, pink and aqua, two pairs of ballet style flats and a dressy black patent leather pump with a little heel. After checking out, we went to the accessory store, where I bought him some additional hair accessories, barrettes, clips and headbands, a bangle bracelet for dress-up and a gold chain bracelet.
By the time we got home, it was lunch time. I decided to change his clothes first and then take him out to eat. We went into his room. The doll was on the bed, propped against the pillow. She still had on the kilt, tights and blouse I dressed her in yesterday, but there was nothing in his summer wardrobe like what she had on. Hopefully, he would prefer anything that resembled the doll's outfit to being dressed in boy's clothes.
"Jamie, Honey, how about one of your skirts and a cute top? I'd really like you to wear them for me. You'd look very pretty," I appealed to his vanity, just the way I would coax him into wearing what I picked out if he was a girl."
I held up the flouncy aqua miniskirt and a white cotton peasant blouse with a wide neck trimmed with eyelet and matching puffy short sleeves. The bodice was embroidered with little pink, aqua and yellow flowers. It went nicely with the skirt. Claire had good taste. I opened up the package of cotton panties and found a light pink pair. A pair of white ankle socks with the white sandals I just bought completed the outfit. Should he wear the sandals without socks? No, he wasn't used to wearing shoes without socks. Okay, no socks. Girls don't wear socks with sandals. What difference would it make if he wore socks? Isn't it more important that he be comfortable than stylish? Okay, socks. Was it always this hard dressing a girl? Were you and Karen fussy about what you wore? No, mother dressed us as she pleased. There was no debate. Right or wrong, fashionable or not, it was her choice. I sighed. Okay, socks. Having reminded myself of my mother's influence on my own girlhood, I took charge.
"Stand up, Sweetie," I directed him.
I helped him out of his boy's clothes and held out the panties for him to put on. The skirt had an elastic waist. He stepped into it and I pulled it up.
"Arms up, Sweetie."
I lowered the top over his head and tucked it into the waistband, reaching under the skirt and pulling it down.
"Hop up on the bed."
He jumped up, bunching the short skirt under him.
"Jamie, when you're wearing skirts and dresses you have to smooth them under you when you sit down. Otherwise, they get all wrinkled in back. Please stand up and try again."
He got to his feet.
"Like this," I demonstrated, turning around, reaching behind me and sliding my hands over my behind and down to my mid thigh as I slowly seated myself. "You try."
I had showed him before, when he first wore my tank top as a dress and we sat together on the couch watching a video. I explained about keeping his skirt down and his legs together too, but I never thought it was going to be practical knowledge. Turning my attention to Jamie, I watched as he awkwardly copied me, but the bed was too high for him to coordinate holding down the skirt and hopping up backwards at the same time. He couldn't get the momentum and bounced off the edge.
"Jamie, Honey, if it's too high for you to sit down, climb up and then shift from one side to the other to lift your bottom and pull your skirt straight."
This time he got up on the bed as he usually did and wiggled around until he had the skirt smoothed out under him.
"Good girl," I complimented him. Either he didn't pick up on it or it didn't mean anything to him, because I didn't notice any reaction to my referring to him as a girl.
"Remember, Sweetie, girls do not let people look up their skirts," I continued with my lesson. "You need to cross your legs at the knees or ankles, so you won't show your panties. Except when you need to put on shoes or socks, like now. Then you can just keep the upper part of your legs together."
Jenny was right when she observed that there's more to being a girl than the clothes. Its her mannerisms and demeanor that make the difference. Mothers are constantly coaching their daughters how to behave like young ladies. Jamie did okay at the playground, but boys and girls use swings and slides the same way. What would he do in a group of girls? I suppose spending the weekend with his cousins would be a good indication, but they would know he wasn't a girl and make accommodations. Can he be taught to be convincing over a weekend? Does he need to be? Will he want to be?
I finished putting on his socks and sandals.
"Stand up, please. Turn around. You look very nice, Jamie. Come here, please."
I sat down on the bend and lifted him onto my lap. He was till small enough that he fit comfortably.
"Jamie, I know I told you that you couldn't always wear what your doll wears, but you two do look alike. You both have on skirts, blouses and sandals. Do you like what you're wearing?"
"Can I play now?" Jamie asked in typical children's non sequitor, which I took as tacit approval.
"Yes, Honey, for a little while. I have a few things to do and then we can go out to lunch."
I left him in his room and went downstairs. I opened up the cabinet above the telephone and found the Yellow Pages. Now was as good a time as any to get his hair done. I looked through the ads to find a salon which specialized in children, to make his first experience at the hairdressers as comfortable as possible. There was one ad for Priscilla's that said they did Little Miss Pageant styling. I wasn't sure what that was, but 'little miss' sounded like they would be accustomed to working with girls. I dialed the number.
"Hello, Priscilla's," answered a pleasant woman's voice.
"Hello. This is Virginia McCarthy. I would like to make an appointment for my daughter to have her hair done."
"Very good, Mrs. McCarthy. When would you like to schedule her?"
"I was hoping you might have an opening this afternoon. Do you?" I inquired.
"Oh, I thought you were booking in advance for a fall pageant. In the summer, most of the girls who compete are off to camp or on vacation with their families, so we close for a month," she explained. "We'll reopen the end of August, if you'd like to book your daughter then.
"No, I'm sorry to have bothered you. I saw your ad in the phone book and wanted Jamie to get hi, h, her first styling at a salon that worked with children."
"How old is your daughter?"
"Jamie just turned six."
There was a pause.
"I'm Priscilla, the owner. We are closed, but, actually, I'm bored. That's why I'm here today puttering around. I could do your daughter, Jamie, was it?
"Yes, Jamie. I wouldn't want to impose."
"It's no imposition. What time do you want to come in?"
"Would two o'clock be convenient?"
"Yes, that would be fine."
"Thank you," I said appreciatively. We'll see you at two. Thank you again."
"No problem," she replied and hung up.
I looked at my watch. It was almost one.
"Jamie," I called upstairs, "it's time to go, Honey. Please come down."
I heard him moving around and a few minutes later he appeared carrying his doll.
"Jamie, the doll can't go out of the house," I reminded him.
Then I thought about the reason why I had made that rule, so that nobody would see a boy with a doll. But he wasn't a boy, at least not for the rest of the week. What would happen, if I let him take the doll? Would it make him feel more feminine? How would it make him feel more feminine than being dressed in a skirt and blouse? Would it make him feel more comfortable or confident as a girl? He didn't seem to be uncomfortable or lack confidence. Would it be helpful to see how he acted with the doll when there were other people around? It might and he could pass as a girl, so it would look normal. Very well then, Ginny, let him take the doll.
"You know what Jamie," although of course he didn't, "I'm going to change my mind about your doll. Since you've been so good," which wasn't my motivation, but he didn't need to know that, "I've decided to let you take her with us when we go out. Would you like that?"
He put the doll down on the stairs, where he usually left her at mealtimes.
"Don't you want to take her?"
He shook his head.
"Words, Jamie, please."
"Really? I know I said that you couldn't, but now that you look so pretty, it's different."
I waited to see if my compliment persuade him, but it didn't.
"No, Mommy," he repeated.
Considering that Jamie and his doll were inseparable at home, it was a puzzle to me why he would not want to take her with him, if given the opportunity. Had I so intimidated him about being seen with a doll that even the change in my attitude was not enough to overcome his reluctance? Or was it more complex? Was his relationship with the doll, whatever it was, so special that he couldn't share it with strangers? He only brought her to me when he couldn't manage dressing her and he got upset when Jenny questioned him about her. If I had to guess, that was it. I made a mental note to tell Jenny about this development. Even if I didn't understand it, maybe she would find it significant.
"Very well, Honey, Jamie can stay home," I agreed. "We girls," I looked to see his response, but, as before, either he didn't detect the nuance or he ignored it, "will have a fun day. You know what? We're going to get your hair done at a real beauty salon, just like Mommy does!" I announced enthusiastically, "a real girl's hairstyle to make you look even prettier."
Again, I looked to see his response, but there was none.
"Let's go, Sweetie," I directed him, picking up my pocket book and walking towards the door to the garage. Jamie followed. I opened the car door for him and buckled him in. First stop would be for a burger. We still had a little more than an hour and the salon was two towns over, about a thirty minute drive. I was happy it was so far, because that made it unlikely we'd run into anyone we knew, particularly anyone Jamie would be going to school with, even more so, because the salon was closed and we would be the only customers. Jamie sat quietly as we drove to the restaurant. We went in and I ordered his usual kid's meal with milk and a cookie. I got a salad and we sat at a booth.
After we finished, I wanted to wash up. I took him to the restroom area at the back of the store. I started into the ladies' room and hesitated. Should I be taking him in there? Mothers do take boys in with them, if they are too little to go by themselves, but Jamie was well beyond that age. However, he wouldn’t be welcome in the men's room the way he was dressed. Women did their business behind a closed door, so he wouldn't see anything he shouldn't and we wouldn't be intruding on anyone's privacy. I took his hand and in we went. It was empty. We went over to the sink, I ran the water for him to wash his hands, handed him a paper towel and then washed my hands. As we left, I wondered how many of the girls, maybe even women, with whom I shared the ladies' room over the years were not what they seemed.
Back in the car, we drove to the area where the salon was located. I had to stop twice and ask directions, but we finally found it. It was in a small strip mall, between a real estate office and a jewelry store. There was a blue awning across the front with white letters which read 'Priscilla's Pageant and Performance - Hair and Wear.' The entrance had a glass door with a 'closed' sign. I took Jamie out of the car and we went to the door and tried the handle. It was open. Inside was a very pretty reception area with a turquoise carpet, pink, white and turquoise patterned wallpaper coordinating fabric couches in front of which were glass tables piled with magazines, the top one titled "Pageant World." At the back was a counter and behind the counter there was a window looking into the salon.
When we entered a chime sounded. Looking through the window behind the desk, I could see a woman approaching. She was tall, at least five ten, maybe wearing high heels, but probably not, because they wouldn't go with her casual outfit of light pink Capri's and a sleeveless white blouse with pink trim. I would guess she was in her thirties and that she must have been a real beauty when she was younger, probably a model. She came into the reception area and greeted us cordially.
"Hello, I'm Priscilla. You must be Mrs. McCarthy and this lovely young lady is Jamie. My goodness," she enthused, "what a beauty with her red hair and green eyes. Have you ever thought of entering her in a pageant? With her looks, she'd be a shoo in." She shook her head. "So many blue eyed blondes. I can't remember a redhead." Walking around Jamie, she studied his hair and then turned to me. "No offense, Mrs. McCarthy, but she looks like Raggedy Ann with that mop of hair. Let's go into the salon and see if we can't find a style that's more becoming."
Priscilla turned and started through the doorway. I took Jamie's hand and followed her. She went into the salon area and directed us to the end station. It was a little larger than the others, because the counter wrapped around the back wall. She took a booster cushion and put it on the seat of the chair.
"Okay, Jamie, up you go."
Jamie looked at me, unsure of what he was supposed to do, never having had his hair done before.
"Come on, Jamie."
I walked him over and helped him up.
"Well, Mrs. McCarthy. Her hair really isn't long enough to do anything too stylish. She ran her fingers through it a few times and bunched it, letting it spring back. "It's very fine, but it has good body. Is Jamie in school?"
"She's just starting kindergarten this year."
"Well, I would recommend something simple that she can do herself. A girl can never start caring for her hair too young. It is her greatest asset." She walked around Jamie. "I suggest a doll cut."
Of all the styles, I thought to myself, how could she possibly come up with that one by sheer coincidence.
"I would do short bangs in front, so as not to detract from her eyes, a center part and make the sides and back even. In a month or two, it will be long enough to angle it a little, front to back. Is that to your liking?"
"Whatever you think would be best, Pricilla. He's in your hands," I said, trying to be clever with the double meaning.
Priscilla gave me a strange look.
It took me a second to realize what I had just done. I outed him again. I shook my head, disgusted with myself.
"Mrs. McCarthy, I need to speak with you."
She took my arm and escorted me to the other end of the salon, so that Jamie wouldn't hear what she had to say.
"Jamie is a boy," she accused me.
"I am a very tolerant woman," she said angrily. "Most of the people I work with have," she paused to find the right words, "alternative lifestyles. That's their business, so long as they act professionally when they're here. However, I cannot condone what you have done to your son," she admonished me. "I will not have any part in it. Please leave."
"Yes, of course, Priscilla. I apologize for deceiving you, but, please understand," I pleaded with her, "it's not what you think. Jamie is confused about his gender. We are working with a psychiatrist, Dr. Jenny Mitchell, to understand what is going on." I tried to be coherent, but couldn't control myself. "It all started when he wanted a doll for his birthday. I, well, my husband passed away two years ago and it has been hard for both of us. I don't know how this will turn out. Spending the week as a girl, doing things that girls do, is an attempt to see how he feels about himself. I, I, I wouldn't force him to be a girl, but I wouldn't prevent him from being one either, if that's what makes him happy. There's a word for it, transgendered. I'm, well, I am sorry, but it isn't the kind of thing that you reveal. We'll go now and thank you for your time and for hearing me out. I hope you won't think too badly of me. I'm only trying to do what's best for Jamie and it's been very difficult," I concluded tearfully.
I could see a softening of Priscilla's expression.
"Wait, Mrs. McCarthy. You say you are working with a psychiatrist and she recommended this as therapy?"
"No, not therapy, she's not treating him, not yet anyway, because we still don't know why he is behaving the way he is. It is sort of an experiment."
"Hasn't Jamie told you what he wants?"
"No, he doesn't want to talk about it. At least he hasn't so far. That's why we're observing him over the next week, to see how he reacts to being treated like a girl. It was Dr. Mitchell's suggestion, actually, to get his hair done, because that is typically a female thing to do."
"Mrs. McCarthy, I work with a lot of mothers pushing their daughters into pageants and modeling to satisfy their own interests. It bothers me, but they are entitled to raise their children as they see fit, within bounds. This is different. You are truly concerned for your son, I can sense that," Priscilla said sympathetically. "If Jamie's going to spend the week as a girl, he might as well do it right. Anyway, his hair can be trimmed into a unisex cut if things don't work out or do work out, depending on how you look at it. I'm sorry if I upset you."
"No, no, please, Priscilla, don't apologize. I, well, I appreciate your helping us. It is a very kind thing to do. Thank you."
"You're welcome. Now, let's not keep Jamie waiting."
She turned and went back to where he was sitting. I watched, to see if he had noticed our conversation or my emotional response, but he seemed to be unaware of what had been going on.
"Jamie, I'm going to give you a nice shampoo. It's easier to cut your hair when it's wet. Do you like apricots? That's what the shampoo smells like." She held the bottle for him to sniff. Pretty, isn't it," she commented, removing the bottle and putting it next to the sink. "I need to cover you up, so you don't get your clothes wet." She took a pink plastic cape and draped it over him, fastening the tie behind his neck. "Now we spin you around," she swiveled the chair, so that his back was to the sink, "and drop you down," she released the back of the chair and guided his head until it rested on the edge of the sink," and get the water nice and warm, "she turned on the faucets and adjusted them, using her hand to test the water, "there, just right."
Priscilla used the apricot shampoo and vigorously rubbed, the room was filled with the fragrance, working it into a thick lather. She rinsed and repeated.
"Head up a little, Jamie," she directed him, sliding a towel underneath and wrapping it around, so that his wet hair wouldn't drip. "Hang on, up we go," she warned him as she lifted the back of the chair upright and turned it to face the mirror. "Now we're ready to cut your hair." I could see her watching Jamie's face for any reaction. I suppose some little girls are nervous about getting their hair, but Jamie didn't show any concern. He just sat quietly.
Priscilla walked around him, using a comb to find the right length that would give an even cut. Once she was satisfied, she started on his bangs and then worked around each side, ending at the back. I watched as little snippets of hair fell and a real girl's hair style began to take shape. Usually, hairdressers are chatty, but Priscilla was intently concentrating on her work. After about twenty minutes, she stood back and nodded her satisfaction. She motioned for me to come over.
"What do you think, Mrs. McCarthy, before I blow it out?"
"I love it Priscilla, she's beautiful," I complimented her work, remembering to use the right gender reference, although it was much easier seeing the little girl emerge.
"Jamie, what do you think?" she asked him, holding a mirror behind his head, so he could see the back. "Do you like the way I did your hair?"
I was hoping he would respond favorably. It did look something like his doll. That should be enough at least to get his approval. I waited expectantly.
"Yes," he answered finally.
I gave a sigh of relief that at least he hadn't been negative. Priscilla looked at me and I gave a small shrug, meaning I really didn't understand why he wasn't more enthusiastic. A girl would have been ecstatic to have her hair professionally styled, but, as with everything else, though, Jamie wasn't familiar with the nuances of being a girl. Why should he be? I couldn't expect him to turn into Shirley Temple, the little moppet in those corny old movies Mom used to bring home from the video store for Karen and I to watch, overnight or even in a week. The important thing, at least from what Jenny said, was that, at least so far, he allowed himself to be dressed and treated as a girl.
My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a hair dryer. Priscilla had started blowing out Jamie's hair. She had a round styling brush and was using it to turn the sides under, which gave the style more fullness and brought the ends framing his face to a point.
"You see, Mrs. McCarthy, just a little attention with a hair dryer and brush can make a big difference. It's probably a two person operation at Jamie's age. She's too small to hold the dryer for very long, its pretty heavy, and use the brush with her off hand. She can get pretty much the same effect using the brush alone, although the heat from the dryer keeps the curl longer."
I notice that Priscilla was referring to Jamie as 'she.' I smiled in appreciation for her acceptance.
"Would you do me a favor, Mrs. McCarthy?"
"Anything, but please call me Ginny."
"Jamie, we're done. Let's get you down."
She took off the plastic cape and helped him down.
"Come with me, please."
She went into the corridor, but, instead of turning left towards the reception area at the front of the store, she turned right. I took Jamie's hand and we followed her to a door. She opened it, turned on the light and we went in. My eyes went wide. The room was filled with rack after rack of the most exquisite gowns and against the walls was shelf after shelf of shoes and glittering accessories. It was a little girl's dress-up fantasy come true. She must have expected my reaction, because she waited a few minutes for me to take everything in. Finally, she explained.
"The reason I can close the salon over the summer is that we have a big catalog business in used pageant dresses and performance costumes. In fact, the reason I was here today was to go over the inventory for the fall. We're constantly getting in new clothes. Mothers pay a lot for these dresses and shoes, but usually the girls only wear them once or twice and then they try to recoup some of what they spent by consigning them to us for resale. We advertise in all of the pageant and modeling magazines."
Now I understood the meaning of 'hair and wear' on the awning in front of the salon.
"There is one dress here, not one in a hundred girls could wear it because of the colors, but I thought that it would look smashing on Jamie."
She went over to one of the racks, moved a few dresses and took one. She brought it over to show us. It was gorgeous. The sleeveless bodice was dark red velvet with sparkling rhinestones accenting the jeweled neck, the short full skirt was emerald green silk sprinkled with sparkling rhinestones and the waist was defined with a matching silk sash that was tied in back with a big bow.
"Do you like it, Jamie? Would you like to try it on?"
I was surprised and pleased that he accepted Priscilla's offer.
"Would you get her undressed, please, Ginny?"
I helped Jamie out of his blouse and skirt, leaving him in just his panties, socks and sandals.
"Socks and shoes too, please. They will spoil the look."
I unbuckled his sandals, slipped them off and removed his socks.
Priscilla unzipped the dress and took it off of the hanger.
"Arms up, Jamie."
She lifted the dress over his head, revealing the attached net crinoline underneath, settling it on his shoulders, zipping up the back, adjusting the bodice and playing with the skirt, until she was satisfied with its appearance, and finally tied the sash in a bow. Admiring his appearance, Priscilla went over to a rack and found a pair of black patent leather pumps with a rhinestone buckle and little flat heel. She slipped them on Jamie's feet.
"I knew it, that dress was made for Jamie."
I had to smile, because it wasn't possible that whoever designed that dress had a boy in mind as its owner, but Priscilla was right, the dress looked beautiful on him.
"If you look around, Ginny, you'll see that those colors are not used for pageant dresses."
Sure enough, from what I could see there was no other dress in with either red or green in them.
"You have to be a redhead to wear those colors and I can't remember the last time I saw one like Jamie. And the green eyes, they are the frosting on the cake. If I had to guess, a gullible mother was talked into it by some kiddy boutique trying to unload a left over holiday dress. Red and green are Christmas colors. How it ended up here is a mystery to me, but it's unsalable as pageant wear, so it's Jamie's."
"Priscilla, please you've been too kind already. I can't accept an expensive dress. Please let me pay you for it."
"No, I want Jamie to have it, but you can pay for it in trade."
"What could I possibly trade you?"
"A photograph of Jamie wearing that dress."
"Why would you want a photograph of Jamie when you have so many little princesses to choose from?"
"Just for that reason, Ginny. The mother's are oh so proud of their little princesses and when one of them really gets on my nerves carrying on about how her darling daughter should have won and I want to tell her off, I can look at a picture of a," she dropped her voice, "boy whose prettier and silently laugh at their vanity. Do we have a deal?"
"Yes, on one condition."
"What is that?"
"You send me a copy of the photo."
"Deal," she agreed, extending her hand. We shook.
"Bring Jamie over here, please."
I looked over to where she was pointing and saw a small round platform, the kind you see in tailor's shops for fittings.
"Jamie, Honey, Priscilla wants to take your picture. Would you be a good," I hesitated for a second, "girl and hop up on the platform. Hold your skirt at the sides and lift it up a bit, so you can step up. That's very good, Sweetie."
Priscilla left and came back with a professional looking camera with a flash. She was obviously experienced, probably from her own modeling, positioning Jamie in a number of different poses, front and sides, and she took about a dozen pictures. When she was finished, I helped Jamie down. I took off the dress and put him back in his own clothes. Priscilla put the dress back on its hanger and put it in a pink dress bag with 'Priscilla's Pageant and Performance' stenciled on it, above which was a tiara with a star on either side. She handed it to me and escorted us to the reception area. I realized that I hadn't paid her for the styling and took a credit card out of my wallet. I tried to hand it to her, but she wouldn't accept it.
"Priscilla, please, you must," I insisted.
"No, you can pay me when you come back and I finish doing Jamie's hair. This way you will be obligated and I will find out how it turns out. Good luck, Ginny." She turned to Jamie, "Jamie, Honey, it was a pleasure and you were an angel. Enjoy your dress and please come back to see me. Okay?"
"Okay," Jamie agreed.
Priscilla stood in the doorway and waved as we got into the car and drove off. It was a little after four o'clock when we arrived home. I sent Jamie up to play while I got supper ready. I watched from the kitchen as he picked up his doll and went upstairs. I wanted to speak with Karen about the second part of the experiment, but it was too early.
I made myself a cup of tea and tried to plan out the rest of the week. We had gone to the hairdressers. What else would I do with my daughter? Not the park, because we might run into Merry. How about the beach? That was a fun summer activity. Jamie didn't have a girl's bathing suit. I tried to picture him in a bikini. I doubted he would want to wear the bra top. Little girls knew that it was practice for things to come. It would make no sense to Jamie. A modest two piece would work. He was used to a fitted top from wearing his cammie and the bottoms were like panties. A tank suit would be cute too. He wasn't used to wearing tight fitting clothes though, so the stretchy material might be uncomfortable. There was also the question of hiding some non-female equipment that might make a revealing bulge. Could he tuck himself in so it wouldn't show? Would it be asking too much for him to hide it? The idea was to see how he felt about being a girl, not to embarrass him about being a boy. Maybe a bathing suit was not a good idea right now. What else was there that girls did? Thinking back to my own childhood, other than having our hair done and shopping for clothes, there wasn't anything that was uniquely female that I did, except for hanging out with my girlfriends. We'd play jump rope or hop scotch, dress-up, do makeovers, play with our dolls or Barbies, listen to music, practice dancing, make up performances, all of those were things Jamie might do when he visits his cousins, if he does, but they're not things we could do together. It was going to be a long week.
TO BE CONTINUED
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