Lessens Intolerance

Jack begins to think it terms of ‘we’ ….. and that doesn’t mean what it used to mean.
More of his friends help with his Tolerance Project. He learns the power of Pastel.

Lessons Intolerance

By Alys Prince

Copyright© 2016 Alys Prince
All Rights Reserved.


 
 
Author's Note:This story follows on from Lessons In Tolerance – I like the wordplay of the two titles. The overlap with Girl101 and the BigSisters is fairly obvious.

Because I wasn’t certain in which direction to take this story - there was a long pause before I wrote this next piece (even if it is published very soon after)- but here it is. And whether it's going onwards - the end-note still makes it clear that I have several directions to go! AP.
 


 
 
It was getting late in the afternoon and I made my way back to my lodgings. Fortunately for the project we all lived within a few hundred yards of each other so we had got in the habit in the last few months of dropping in on each other quite casually. I actually had a key for Jane’s flat where she shared with Olivia and Lucy. Once in a while, I would go in and cook a simple mega-pasta for everybody. I had been trained by my mother to be able to make two or three multi-purpose dishes. I could also do a spag-bol which could then be adapted into a chili and several other similar things.

Jane turned up about half an hour later. She had been into the department stores like Dubenhams and M&S. Her stories were similar to mine in the last shop. The staff mostly said that a sale was a sale. Only if they were asked to give help and advice did it become more difficult. Some said they called for a senior member of staff that they thought would cope. Two had said there was a senior assistant who they would not call because they had seen her being completely uptight and actually unkind.

We sat down to eat just as Lucy and Olivia came in. They leapt to the table and joined us. We managed to steer clear of the LBGT project for a while then Olivia asked how we were doing with the research into poofs wearing dresses.

Jane jumped in first. “Olly dear, keep your lips closed if they’re going to let out stuff like that. You KNOW we are doing a project on prejudice and discrimination ……oh, that was a windup was it. Successful too, you naughty, naughty girl.”

Olly and Lucy were both grinning now.

“Told you so. Told you it wouldn’t work, they’re not actually dim” said Lucy.

Olly thumbed her nose at her flatmate. “Worth a go, she might have been all grumpy after walking around all day and having to think in public.”

“If you’re going to wind us up about our work, perhaps we should have a go at you,” I chipped in.

“You’ll have to be a bit quicker then,” giggled Lucy.

“No, no, just for a minute. I want to talk about our day. We’ve been getting some quite interesting comments – and seen some quite interesting things. I was wondering if the two of you would be willing to do some hands-on involvement in what we’re looking at – rather than just a bunch of girly giggling.”

“Like what?”

“Well, Olivia darling, how hard would it be for you to present as someone in the LBGT spectrum – huh, would that turn you on a little bit, getting all butched up and flirting with the salesgirls.”

“Yuk, not my line at all.” Olivia might have been above average height at 5ft 9 – but she didn’t look like she enjoyed thinking about presenting herself ‘all butched up’ in public.

“Perhaps I might try,” chirped Lucy. She was a tiny blonde and laughed her way through all the torments of being a poor student.

“Well, yes, and how,” Jane was the first to ask.

“I’d have to do it with Olly. I’d be going into these shops asking to try the frilliest and girliest little girl stuff and I’d be leaning on my big friend Olly asking all the time, “do you think this would suit me’ and so on. If they didn’t catch on that I was with my lover then they’d be being very dim.”

“Then once you’d got your presentation right, Olly could go into the men’s shops to look for that leather jacket she’s always wanted – with a little bimbo bombette attached to his arm. That’d be fun to watch.”

“’Scuse, me, folks – but I am absolutely not a lesbian – never have been and never intend to be,” said Olly.

Lucy raised an eyebrow. “So when you jumped into my bed during that enormous thunderstorm and said I was so lovely – what exactly were you doing?”

“Lucy, now don’t wind ME up. I was frightened by the bang – just like when I was at school. And I did mean you were lovely to help me calm down – but I wasn’t meaning anything …

“Boo hoo, Olly doesn’t love me, she says I don’t mean anything to her. My life is ruined, what shall I do, it’s all over …….” but she was peeking through her fingers as she wailed and sobbed.

“Good acting,” Jane said we all smiled. Then she said ‘Let’s all have a hug anyway, go and sit comfy and stop being quite so silly. There are a couple of points I want to think about.”

We stood up and had a big fourway hug, then trundled off to the little sittingroom where there was just about enough room for the four of us to sit.

Jane continued, “I know we’ve only done one day of actual on-the-ground work but this project does cover a lot of what we’ve been looking at and thinking about. I was really interested in how the shop assistants said they dealt with out-of-the-ordinary customers. It actually went wider than just the LBGT people as in the shops we did today they made it quite clear that they had problems with the extremely fat trying to lie even to themselves about their shape and size; they sometimes had problems with the thin trying to hide how thin they were; several said they had the biggest problems with the downright rude and pushy. One girl actually said ‘I’d swop a whole crowd of strange, peculiar, eccentric or even deviant for just a few of the rudies. I really dislike them. There’s one who insists on coming here and I have to go off and have a coffee as soon as she appears.”

“So are we all going to go prejudice-hunting?” asked Lucy with a glint in her eye.

“No, just you two, like you said,” I replied.

“I’m not sure that that’s quite right,” smirked Lucy. “I think I’m going to have to insist. I won’t do my bit unless both of you join in in some way.”

I didn’t like the sound of this – at all. After a short pause I said so “I don’t know exactly what you’re suggesting – but something in your expression makes me a tiny bit worried.”

“Worried, Jackie dear, I just want you to do your share. If I’m going to play Dress Up and present myself as a …. what did you call me, a bimbo bombette, then you – and Jane too – have to something too. Sounds fair to me. You’re wanting me to be part of your project, your experiment, while you just sit and watch – no no no. Little Lucy won’t play unless you do.”

I saw Jane glance at me. “I’m not saying ‘no’ and I’m not saying ‘yes’. But actually getting involved in our project is going to, … is too likely to colour what we are doing. To be clever, it’s a bit like quantum physics where any investigation is compromised by the fact that there is an investigation.

“Don’t get all clever-clever with me, you psychological twister. If you want me to play, then you’re going to have to play too. It’ll make a change from having to study the deeper meanings of Chekhov or Bronte. (She was studying Russian Literature). Oh, come on, it’ll be a bit of fun – and you’ll get more interesting results for your project.”

Jane smiled – just a little. “You’re being very pushy, Luce.

“I know, but we’ll have a lot of fun, won’t we?” and she fell back into the sofa giggling furiously.

“I haven’t said I’d join in yet,” murmured Olly.

“Don’t be silly,” came a chirp from the sofa, “You’re going to love winding everyone up. Just treat it as a bit of acting. After all, you’re not doing any stagework this year and you know how much you miss it. And this won’t be acting for an audience – this’s just going to be a bit of fun.”

“Oooh, listen to the persuasive powers of our bimbo bombette.”

“Aaaaaaaarghhh, don’t you dare call me that. I’ll eat your ears - if I can reach all that way. I’m not letting you off – I’m only going to do it if you help. And if you help me, then I’ll help you – and then we can both help the others.”

My eyes widened at the implication that there would be some role to play for Jeff as well. But what he didn’t know about wouldn’t (yet) be a worry to him.

Jane added a touch of commonsense. “Like I have already said, VERY clearly, It’s not yet a no or a yes. If Lucy does want to help out then it needs to be sometime in the next week otherwise we’ll be moving on past the project work into the writeup. You’ve indicated what you’re willing to do. So let’s make it a bit more real. We’ve all drunk enough to be relaxed – and even a bit silly.” She grinned at the rest of us.

I still wasn’t looking forward to whatever these three females might plan for me.

Jane continued, “I’m going to suggest a trial run on Friday, first thing before the shops get busy. That gives us two days to get ready.

“And what are you going to do, Janie. We remember you said to us yesterday that you and Jack – not forgetting you, Jackie dear – were going to be a bit ‘pushing the boundaries’. So I think for your participation, your boundaries are going to go quite a bit further. Janie is going to get a short haircut, at least, and a rugby shirt. Jack is going to go quite a bit further into the girly. We’ll have to have a little practice to see just how good we can make you look – then we’ll be ready for two day’s time.”

I don’t know what expression I had on my face – but I didn’t feel very happy. The few drinks we had shared made me feel quite relaxed though.

Lucy gave me another big glass of wine “just one more, to get you relaxed enough for our practice session.”

We could hear Jane muttering in her corner. “Bloody don’t want my hair cut. It’s taken ages to get this long. Don’t want to. Grumble, mumble……..”

Olly went over and gave her a hug. “I’m going to have to do pretty much the same, so while Lucy is pushing us all – why don’t we have a bit of a laugh about it all. Let’s go off to my room and see what we can put together.” As she left, I heard her whisper to Jane “we can leave the two girls together while we go and butch up.”

Jane, my colleague, my friend, sniggered as they went out.

Lucy sat and looked at me. I mean, she looked at me really hard. She leant forward and took my head in her hand, she pushed it to one side and then the other. She ran her fingers through my hair and looked thoughtful. “Yesss, there’s things we can do. It really depends how much you want to join in. You’ve asked me to be a frilly bimbo, so how hard can I push you. I wonder.”

“I know what we’ll do. I’ll put just a little – and I mean just a little – makeup on you. You can see what it looks like. I’ll make a bet with you too – if I can make you look feminine – and you WILL give me a truthful answer – then I’ll give you something to wear so that you get a proper idea of how well we can play this game. And it is a game; whatever we do it’s a game.”

Eventually, I smiled back at her. “I’ll go with that, so okay, not a full blown yes, but okay enough to give it a go. So, if we’re going to do this shall we start before all that drink makes your fingers fumbly.”

“Huh, take more than a few drinks to make magic fingers Lucy fail to do a fantastic job.”

Some time passed – Lucy kept up a steady chatter as she did her dirty work. She said the usual sort of encouraging things, “You’ve actually got very good skin – for a rugby playing bloke. I’m tweaking just a few wandering eyebrows but your eyes are going to look raaather good.”

“Ow – and don’t put that spiky thing near my eyeball – it looks really frightening. “

“Don’t be silly. I’ve never stuck anybody with anything unless I meant to. I did spike Jane in the ear one time because she was just going on and on about how long I was taking. Silly girl.”

Some time passed. Eventually Lucy sat back. “You’re going to be worrying that I’ve glammed you up into some sort of tarty arrangement. Be confident – I wouldn’t be that stupid. I’ve aimed at giving you just a touch of girl, -literally just a touch. Remember what I said at the beginning, all I’m aiming at is making you look feminine – and it would be stupid of me to set you up for your rugby-playing mates to display their propensity for intolerance of ‘being different’. Do you want to have a look?”

“Yes, no, maybe, probably no because I’m scared of what I’ll see.”

“Gotta go for it then, no point wasting any more time, get it over with and see if I’ve done a good job.”

I looked. Was it like the stories – was I amazed at the girl looking back at me – did it make my insides curl with excitement and shock – well, no actually. What I saw was me – but there was a difference. I wasn’t EXACTLY me – like Lucy said, there was a feminine overlay. My eyes had, as far as I could see, only a touch of makeup. I felt my skin and could detect there was something there – but it didn’t make my face feel as if it was covered in creams and lotions. It didn’t feel in any way wrong – just different.

“Erm, Lucy, I’m really sorry but I don’t think that you’ve done what you promised.”

“What d’you mean, of course I have.”

I smiled back at her – “No, you promised to make me look feminine, but all I can see is me but with an overlay that makes me look quite girly.”

“Oh, come on, you’re winding me up – which is fair I suppose ‘cos I do it to all of you. No, no, if you can see something girly in that mirror then it’s a win and you will get dressed up like you promised. I suspect you’re just trying to get out of it. Please don’t get silly about this. At worst, it’s only for a few days while you do your share for this project – at best, it’s only for the same few days while you finish the project but you get some fun out of it too.”

I gave a sheepish grin, “Yeah, well alright, but we’re going to be sensible about this, right.”

Lucy patted me on the shoulder, “don’t you be silly either. As they said in that old show Goodness Gracious Me ‘you’re mi maite.” And she pulled me into her bedroom.

I sat on the bed, (white bedspread with pink and red roses) and watched while she pulled things out of her drawers and cupboards. “Let’s keep this simple, you’ll never fit my jeans you’re just the wrong shape and too tall anyway. So it’s got to be a skirt, sorry, and a blouse. The difference with the blouse will be that the buttons are on the wrong side. The difference with the skirt is more obvious, the draught will be able to go up your legs – all the way to your panties. And, yes, I’m going to insist on panties because they have the smoothness and slinkiness that allow the skirt to sit properly. We’re not going to bother with a bra – because you’re a boy – and you’re fit enough not to have, yuk, moobs.”

“I’m not sure how much I should be arguing.”

“Dearie, in the new and modern world where women should be the superior species because almost everything the men do without our help turns into a pile of poo. Just look at politics with those complete wasters in charge – Cameron, Osborne, Clegg, Balls, Milliband, Farage – yeeugh – they’ve never been out in the real world, they’re pampered idiots bullying the rest of us in the hope they can stay in power. Look at the Church of England – wasting decades on preventing women priests, women bishops and homosexuals while they and especially their catholic mates cover up years of abuse – oh I could go on – every time I look around I see more and more examples of some men making a complete balls up.”

She continued, “So, at the moment, I will exercise my implicit superiorness and superiosity – while you get stripped off and put on the panties and the vest, then the blouse and the skirt. I’ll be just a mo getting some of Jane’s shoes which will fit you better. Don’t worry I won’t say anything to them – well not yet anyway.” She scampered off.

I stood up and saw myself in the mirror. Lucy had tousled my hair to change it from the standard boy-cut that I used. It probably helped that it was quite long – at least to the bottom of my ears. Soon I had got dressed as instructed, I was wearing a pale green blouse and a dark green skirt. I could feel it brushing my legs as I moved closer to the mirror – even though it was just two steps from the bed.

Lucy came back in. She smiled a lot more as she saw me looking at myself. “That’s alright, you get a look at yourself. You look good, you know. But I’ve got some shoes from Jane – there’s a pair of flats and a pair with a little heel – just over an inch.”

I tried the flats first – and they felt strange because the heel was actually less than on an ordinary pair of men’s shoes or even trainers. The heels felt strange the other way because they tilted my feet forward and I could feel the extra tension in my calves and thighs. I could actually feel why they made women’s legs look so much better.

I wasn’t excited about this. It all felt strange – but I could feel or at least calculate that I was interested in what was happening. I thought for a moment about what might happen next.

After walking to and fro on my new shoes, while Jane put a blouse on skirt on too,. I almost averted my eyes as she stripped to her bra and panties – but somehow my eyes drifted to the mirror where I could see her breasts. A moment or so later, Lucy turned towards me and noted how much I wasn’t looking – I heard a soft chuckle. Then Lucy took my hand and said ‘let’s show the others, they’re next door.”

I resisted for a moment, but then relaxed and followed her.

Olly and Jane were sitting down. They were not looking like they had when they went out. Olly was wearing jeans and t-shirt while Jane was wearing cords and rugby shirt – I had no idea where they had got these. The real difference was in their posture. The tidy pose with knees together was no more – they sat with the legs apart, lazed back into the sofa as if they expected their woman to be doing the work around them. I was amazed at how such a difference in pose changed things. They were drinking out of mugs rather than proper cup and saucer. They were doing a good impression of being butch.

“Wow,” I said just as Jane said ‘Gosh’ and Olly said ‘Nice.”

Jane said, “Well, BB, you’ve done a good job on Jackie – but you need to do some more for yourself.”

“What’s with the BB – don’t tell me you’ve stuck me with the Bimbo Bombette label for the next few days. I’m going to get well upset.” She scowled – which looked pretty silly from a beautiful miniature girl.

“Hush, darling,” said Olly. And amazingly, there was temporary silence.

The two of us sat opposite. Lucy made me stand and sit again so that I would flip my skirt as I sat down.

Jane started talking, “There is something quite interesting about this. I can just about see how we can build this into the project. But we’re all going to have to think hard and be quite committed for the next few days.

I went back to my flat half an hour later after Lucy had shown me how to take the makeup off. I changed to my own clothes and they certainly felt different. Not better, not worse – just different and definitely more normal.

The next day there were two lectures and two tutorials – so there was library time before and after as well – what we students called a hard day’s work. In the evening, I went round to Jane’s as she had offered to cook. Jeff was invited too, He knew nothing of the new component to our project. It would be interesting to see how he would react.

The four of us sat looking at each other while the pasta simmered gently on the hob. We were waiting for Jeff and wondering exactly what he would say. Yes, we were in costume already – we did agree that I would wait in Lucy’s room until Jeff had arrived and the extra part of the project had been explained.

Oh, forgot to mention it; we had been given several updates by Jeff during the day about his progress. He had been hitting the men’s stores in town and getting much the same reaction as ourselves. Oh yes sir, of course we have some homosexuals in our shop and we are perfectly willing to serve them as long as they are sensible (by which the assistants mostly meant ‘as long as they don’t flirt with us or the other customers’).

Apart from that, there was some indication that butch homosexuals were treated slightly more willingly by shop staff. Most of them were willing to sell to both the butch and the femme homosexuals – and several said variations on ‘well, a sale is a sale’. The only information we hadn’t got useful data on was the percentage of LBGT clients – and of course the major identifiable component in Jeff’s range of shops would be the G group.

Jeff was only a few minutes late. When the doorbell rang, I rushed into the bedroom and I noticed how the swirl of the skirt changed as I moved faster.

I could hear much, but not all, of the conversation. Jeff came in and didn’t laugh but he was certainly surprised at meeting the others in their costume. “Scuse me folks, what’s going on here. I can see Jane and Olly dressed rather butch and Lucy dressed far more girly than usual. Something’s up – come on, what’s going on here?”

Lucy was the first to answer, “It’s very simple, Jeff dear. You and Jane and Jack are doing this project on discrimination and prejudice. We have decided to supply actual evidence about how the shops you are talking to actually behave when tested. So we have to go to the shops demonstrating some sort of LBGT characteristic. There’s not much point in me trying to be butch – so we’ve got Jane and Olly doing that part of the game. With a little coaching you can be a butch leather-boy if you want. I’m going to be a frilly little bimbo lesbian. That’s all,”

“You didn’t mention Jack, and where is he anyway?”

I didn’t really have a lot of choice. I could either stay in the bedroom being a complete numpty and hiding from what was becoming obvious – or I could be up front, join the rest of my university family and get on with it. No choice then. No choice at all.

I floated into the room and sat down next to Jane, flipping my skirt as I did so – a feminine gesture I had been learning that afternoon.

“Hi, Jeff.” Might as well be obvious.

Jeff blinked. Jeff went red, to my surprise. Jeff said, “so, Jackie is going to be the test-case cross-dresser, eh?” Nobody ever suggested that Jeff was dim.

Lucy chirped ‘why cross-dresser rather than transgender?”

“Duh, because cross-dressers are about 10 or more times more common than actual male-to-female real-life-test transgender-types.”

“Don’t call me common, I’ve got on my prettiest dress and the shop I got it from is very top-notch,” then I spoiled the effect by giggling.

Jeff smiled. “I wasn’t sure about this project and where it might go. I did think that it might be just a case of ‘pretend to do it and fiddle the results’ but I wanted and want to get something out of this. I’m not keen on being the ‘butch’ as I really don’t want to attract the attention of some of the, let’s say, more attentive boys out there and I do, really do, want to attract the females of the species. But if you are all going to work at this and we’re going to get a better project – I’ll do my share. And it’s not for very long anyway.”

It was a good evening and we all drank just a bit too much. By the end of it, I was half asleep curled in between Lucy and Jeff. I remember being carried to bed and someone with long hair kissing me goodnight.

When I woke in the morning, I noticed someone had sprayed perfume onto my pillow.

-----------------

The next time I went to Auntie Fee’s shop, she said she had been asking around for worthwhile stories.

“You remember I said I like it when people are straightforward. I was at a Wedding Specialists Event last weekend and the lady I was talking with had exactly the sort of experience you might want to know about. She had this person come in, sort of girly, sort of not-quite and asked if she could look at dresses. My friend said there was something a bit skew in how she asked, so she pressed for a bit more detail. The reply came back ‘I want to know what it would be like to wear a dress like some of the ones you have in the window.”

My friend was a little puzzled so asked ‘and why would that be a problem, dear?’ Answer came back, well, because I’ve never worn a dress anything like one of those before and those are a sort of ultimate, aren’t they?’ Friend says ‘You’ve never worn a big posh party dress before, what sort of girl are you, what was your mother thinking …..’ and then she said ‘I suddenly stopped because it became so obvious ‘this was not a girl, this was a wannabe-girl so of course she had never worn such a dress before. Now, ‘was I feeling kind or not’ was the next question I asked myself!”

“Now, dearie, you’ve never worn a dress like this before – I think you’re telling a bit of a fib – would it actually be more true to say because you’ve never worn any sort of dress before? Come on, tell me – and then we’ll see, just this once, if there is a special dress you can try on.”

“The girl’s eyes went wide with shock – and then surprise – and then her mouth dropped open and ….. my friend interrupted. “So, now we know the truth. What’s your name … and next, while it’s quiet, we need to measure you and start the process.

“It’s Antony”

“Don’t be silly, what’s y’name when you’re being a girl.”

“I’ve never thought about it.”

“Well, dear, I’ve never done a dress for an Antony before – I can’t believe you’ve never known what your inside-girl is called. If you need some ideas, there’s these dresses here – the first is labelled Clarissa, this one is Phoebe, this one is Andromeda and this one is Athena …. That series over there is much plainer and there’s Faith, Hope, Prudence, Charity, Grace and some others.

“Perhaps you could call me Yvette.”

“So, Yvette. Is there a special dress that caught your attention. Stand up on this dais so that I can measure you properly. You’re going to need some proper underwear, shapers and the like if you’re going to look even average in any of these dresses. Strangely, most wedding dresses make a definite point of displaying the bride’s mammaries so that they are in effect offered up to the husband. The reasons must be positively pagan, I think. I’ve never had a priest, male or even female, who had a decent answer.”

“So, let’s get you measured. Then we can discuss how far we’re going to go with this.”

Aunt Fee slowed down – “but for your project this is only hearsay so can’t be used in a proper survey. You have to be getting first-hand data.”

I agreed, “I am so grateful you’ve decided to help us with our research. It’s going to make the results and the report so much better. By the way, what did happen to Antony-Yvette.”

“Oh, she’s now working part-time at my friend’s shop. Every weekend, she helps girls choose their wedding dresses and outfits for the bridesmaids – she’s getting a lot of compliments because they tell her she seems to have a very special point-of-view. Well, that couldn’t be more true – could it. It’s rather sweet really. But let’s get back to these new questions and see what answers I can give you.”

We sat and drank our tea for a while and I told them the story of the woman with hyperpilosity. Both Sally and Aunt Fee expressed disapproval and then approval as the story unfolded.

We spent about 40 minutes on the new questions and cut the package down to a covering letter and an A4 page of questions. Aunt Fee had insisted that we drop the Yes / No type of answer and go for DefinitelyYes / Yes / Maybe-Sometimes / No / DefinitelyNo and CannotAnswer-Don’tKnow on a 5,4,3,2,1,0 scale.

Towards the end, Auntie Fee called her glamorous assistant over and said, “Sally, how are we doing with our next appointments. Do we have time?”

“I think so, Auntie. I’ll get everything ready.|”

“Right, my young man. Sally and I have decided that WE are going to ask YOU a series of questions – at the end of which you can make a decision – okay?”

“Er, I’m not sure – what is all this leading up to, eh?”

“Nothing that will cause any permanent damage,” Sally giggled. “Just that, if you are using us for an experiment, then we’re going to do an experiment back on you too.”

“Question 1” interrupted Auntie, “before coming in here, have you ever had any ideas about what it meant to be Gay or Transgender or Gender-Variant?”

“No – definitely not, never. No – and I didn’t have a clue before this project began,” I managed to answer.

“2 – with the quantity of silks and satins, and the variety of wonderful dresses in here – have you wondered at all even the slightest bit what it might be like to wear something so quintessentially feminine.”

“I’ve never heard anyone use ‘quintessentially’ before. And, again definitely No, never.”

“Are you sure about that. You’ve been in a number of the most feminine shops. Have your fingers never brushed against the silks and satins piled there? Never picked at a trim of lace? Have your senses been so completely dulled by years of being a mere man that you haven’t wondered at the variety of materials or thought ‘wow, that’s a fantastic colour or pattern or ….. nothing has caught your eye?”

I don’t think I blushed or even went pink – very much – but I couldn’t deny that I had taken note of the enormously huge difference in the variety of clothing that was available to the female compared to what I was used to in my twenty years as a male. My willingness to be open-minded came to the fore – unfortunately.

“Well, yes, I had noticed that there was a lot more stuff for girls.”

“What a boy word ‘stuff’. Can’t you be a little more precise about the differences?”

“Well, for a start, there’s so much more colour, like you said. Instead of the majority of stuff being black, brown, dark colours, blue denim – everything is in bold colours or pastels or patterns. It’s very different. I mean, men can wear multi-coloured ties, or even sweaters – or fancy shirts and shorts on holiday – but day-to-day – the average bloke is pretty drab.”

“You have been paying attention. Well done. You’re not as unobservant as I worried that you might be.

“Question 3 – Have you ever worn anything girlish – stolen panties, tried on a bra or tights, deliberately wandered through the lingerie departments?”

“Not before this project, no – but my flatmates did, er, persuade me to try on some underwear and a dress last weekend. And it wasn’t too bad.”

Sally interrupted, “I would be more interested to know whether any part of the evening was nice rather than was it overall ‘not too bad’. Did you like the feel of the material, the panties, the stockings, the dress. Did you notice how the bra felt pulling at your shoulders, for example.”

“But, last question, since you have tried on some clothes already …. are you willing to try a slightly more elaborate experiment with us?”

My mind twirled and spun somewhat. What exactly was going on here? “Is there a get-out option if I decide that I’m really not keen on this ‘experiment’?”

“Of course there is. So, does that mean you agree to start the process?”

“Um, do I get any more information before things begin?”

“It doesn’t really break down into sections – it’s pretty much once you begin, then we go on until we’ve finished. Like I said, there’ll be no permanent damage and by that I really also mean that anything we do can be completely undone within half an hour of ending the experiment. Does that sound okay?”

“Um, do I get to set any conditions – at any time?”

“I promise you – I have every confidence that you’ll actually enjoy this quite a lot. You’ll be quite surprised, if not entertained by some of it. Go on, you’re either going to have us helping a lot with your project about tolerance – or, well, not. We just want to have a bit of fun ourselves.”

“I’m really not sure about this. You’re not going to be dressing me up as a girl and dragging me round town as a public exhibit are you.”

“No, no, nothing so drastic. Sally and I were wondering whether there was a gap in the market for giving boys a chance to dress up in the absolutely most girly dresses that were available – and the girliest thing has to be a wedding dress. I’ve seen transvestites or cross-dressers or whatever they want to call themselves out for an evening – and almost without exception – they look dreadful. Ultra-short skirts, slits from hip to shoulder, fake leather, oversized boobs, buckets of makeup – I mean if I ran a salon I wouldn’t even let my worst enemy out of the place looking so silly. They’re almost grotesque. Why can’t they realize that they need to be so much more ordinary, more subtle, more everyday. I would feel completely wrong going clubbing while wearing daytime clothes and ordinary makeup – although not as awful and out of place as wearing a clubbing outfit and evening makeup to go to work – awful.”

“So Sally and I wondered about all the stages of getting dressed and which ones would be most interesting to a boy – and we thought about you. You’re spending a lot of time in ladies’ shops so we thought we’d give you some extra insight and check out this new market opportunity for ourselves.”

“Sally has been doing some basic research. And she has identified a number of things which she feels may be important factors in the process. We are willing to let you off some of these for now – but we want to find out what YOU feel has the biggest effect on your senses and on your feelings and on your overall boy-girl balance. We think that every person has, no, start again, we feel that very few people are 100% masculine or 100% feminine. It’s like the oriental yin-yang symbol. In the black there is a speck of white and in the white is a speck of black.”

“Are you willing to look for that speck of girl inside you?”

“No, but yes, but no but maybe, but aaaaaaarghhh, maybe. I think I know you well enough to feel that inside your kindly exterior there is no hidden chunk of unkindness – so I’ll trust you. Alright. Yes.”

“I did hope you would say yes. The factors Sally has identified are – 1-Hair on the head, 2-hair on the body and legs; 3-body-shape and ‘shapers’; 4-bra and breasts; 5-tights or stockings; 6-panties; 7-other underwear like vests and camis; 8 & 9 & 10-outerwear; 11-nail polish; 12-perfume; 13-makeup; 14-jewellery; 15-posture; 16-gesture; 17-vocabulary; 18-voice; 19-accessories and there must be a 20! a and at this point – before we even start with any shopping or any work - we need to look at your preferences for colour, material and everything else that goes with outerwear and the dress or skirt-blouse combination.”

“I’ve printed the list out so that we can take notes. “

“Wow. Sally has been thorough.”

“This is a marketing project. If we don’t look at all the options, cost things out and decide where we can make a profit and where we can make a difference – then it won’t be worth doing.

“Once we know what is feasible and what is easy or difficult, we can look at the marketing aspects. Sally says that there are in the region of 1% to 3% of people who have an interest in dressing up – that is a very large number of people. I know from what I have seen that most of them are not very good at it. That, my dear Jack-Jackie, is a business opportunity. In a city the size of Bismouth – there should be 500 to 1500 people as well as twice as many within say 30 miles. That is a lot of potential customers. If we can supply a quality service then we could help them at the same time as helping ourselves. The essential element is finding out how to supply a quality product rather than the almost grotesque stuff we’ve seen online. Quite dreadful. So not-feminine! Dreadful.” She repeated.

“Tonight’s task is actually very easy for you. I want you to look at the dresses in here and choose two or three which catch your attention. If you can go so far as to say they catch your interest then that is actually better.

By the time I had finished, there were four dresses on the rack – two were ones that I quite liked and two were ones I definitely felt were somehow special. The one that caught my eye and touch most quickly was a triple layer ivory satin with cap sleeves, a high collar at the back curving round to allow some cleavage – from the right shoulder to the ragged edge calf-/ankle-length hem was a curling line of small roses in very pale yellow. There was some decoration at the waist and hem to echo the pale yellow but it was a very simple clean look.

The second was a complete meringue with froths and frills and a train some ten feet long – somehow, it caught my attention in a very different way.

Sally came up to me and we talked about what I liked and she helped me to notice things about each one that might have caught my attention as being especially attractive. Actually, the first thing I noticed was her perfume and I said so.

Sally smiled at me, “You’ve never noticed it before – and it’s only the usual one I use. Perhaps it’s a sign that you’re getting more observant. Well done. And you gave that compliment very nicely too.”

Some time later, Auntie came back and said we ought to get started.

Well.

I had had no idea that there was so much difference between day to day underwear and special-event high-quality expensive underwear. I felt my skin wriggle with delight as I put on each piece and as Sally made sure, especially with the bra, that it was properly fitted.

In no time at all, it seemed, I was wearing all the necessary underwear prior to having the first dress slid up my body from where it had been in a pool by my ankles. It felt wonderful. It was impossible to pretend to be a boy in a costume so gorgeous.

Being a student whose mentor expected me to think even while walking and talking – I was thinking about Sally’s plan to teach interested men about how to dress better.

I knew from earlier conversations that a modern wedding dress and outfit could cost far in excess of thousands of pounds. From my own expenses, I knew that an ordinary outfit, top to toe – skinside to outside – could cost as little as £100 or a lot more. Where was Sally going to pitch her pricing – what would people expect for that?

So I asked, “Sally, do you know what men normally spend on an outfit? You do know that even a haircut can be ten quid and I’ve seen salons quoting a price for women of nearly a hundred. What’s your plan to make men spend so much more than they are used to. Even if they are girly-men, they’re not going to be used to the cost of being female – so they won’t really have a clue about the cost of being feminine.

“Jackie, that’s one of the big stumbling blocks. A boy-girl who has got used to the need for visits to the salon, a bigger wardrobe, not wearing the same thing often – he-she already knows the difference and makes allowances. Strangely and somehow, the fact that women earn less money but have to spend far more on themselves in order to get and keep the attention of the average male gets ignored.

I grinned “So there is one advantage to being male!

“Don’t push it. I can be nice to you or I can be very naughty. That wasn’t a nice thing to say. Changing the subject – how does that feel?

“Actually, it feels wonderful. The swish of the long dress, the sensation on my skin of the satin and the pull of the stockings – it’s like nothing I’ve ever done before. I can’t see many rugby players going for this – but if they have never experienced it then they won’t know what they’re missing.

“I like that comment – I’ll write it down so I can adapt it for another time.

Aunt Fee came over to see how we were doing. “Oh, Sally, that looks wonderful. What a lovely choice, Jackie. Are you enjoying yourself?

“Well, obviously, my answer needs to be both yes and no. I like being a man, and yet I’m actually enjoying wearing this dress and the whole outfit. Would I like to wear something like this often – no – or daily – definitely no. Is it an experience I ever expected – no. Would I recommend it – only very carefully to selected people.

“What an interesting set of comments, dear. Are you willing to put on something a little more ordinary and come out with us into town. I can give you my professional opinion and state – for certain – that you will not be seen as anything other than a girl. And with that in mind, I want you to see what happens to a girl in town with other women. Perhaps it will give you some more insight into acceptance and tolerance. Please say yes, dear.”

“You said you wouldn’t push me – and you do know that you are. Don’t you?”

“Well, of course I know what I said. And until I came over here and saw two girls, I had no intention of bending our negotiation. But I can and do say that you can easily pass as a girl – and I want to use tonight to give you some useful experience. What you may not know is that every month, there is an evening at the Black Lion for the local Womens’ Clubs. And no, this doesn’t mean lesbians – although there may be some. Probably are in fact. I mean that there is an acceptance that once in a while professional women need to meet other professional women and talk business and enterprise and projects without men pushing in and taking over. They do this sometimes because they can and some of them because they must.”

“Tonight is one of the Pastel Lion nights. We can’t use Pink because that has been almost taken over by the LGB brigade – but we can remain confident that pastel remains safe and not so much unmanly so to speak as wonderfully feminine.”

The pub was packed. Apparently the event had expanded in less than a year from the backroom of the pub to the main room, the upstairs room and the hall next door. Three women gave a ten-minute presentation a la Dragon’s Den and asked for interest and mentors. Another spoke for a little longer on Presentation of Projects to Management.

It was all really interesting and I wondered how this could be expanded to catch some of the bright women at the University. As it happened, soon after Aunt Fee was talking to one of the organisers and the conversation almost immediately veered to ‘Here’s Jackie, one of the local students, you can ask her’!”

“So, Jackie, do you have suggestions for how we can get some of the students involved,” asked Imogen. She was a thin, tall lady aged about thirty-five to my untrained eye, brown and rather untidy neck-length hair, brown eyes and only a little makeup. She was wearing a pale fawn dress – linen I suspected, with black-and-gold piping.

“The trick will be to separate the cream from the rest, or perhaps the curds from the whey. You could be overwhelmed if lots of students turned up at this place. There’s not a lot of room. Perhaps a set of twice-a-term events at the university. There’s enough ammunition out there to show that women are over 50% of the intake into several major professions, but set against that they’re still getting lower salaries and rarely reaching the higher echelons – if we push these obvious imbalances then the various ceilings may get bent in our favour.”

I was actually shocked to realize I was saying ‘we’ and meaning – at least in the company I was with – that I meant ‘we women’. And of course I was just a young man who happened to be wearing a dress.
 
 
I am not sure where this is going – several issues to cope with – the project on tolerance; the involvement of the flatmates; Sally’s cross-dressing retail suggestion; the Pastel womens’ group ……. Each of these could become a new strand. Feedback please. Alys P



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