Not That Bad

“I’m stunned. Absolutely stunned.”

No one was around to hear it - the store was dead quiet - but Karen Nettles had to tell someone. Even if her dance boutique was dead empty, someone had to know about what she’d just seen on her phone.

She had an app that used sensors to find any strange security footage in her home - and she’d found that, alright. Shock overwhelmed her - and disgust.

Every mother will definitely be surprised when they find their twelve-year-old son holding a fashion show replete with every dress, skirt, and blouse in his mother’s wardrobe. But Karen felt contempt for her son Trevor.

In her mind, she offered several rationalizations for this feeling. Crossdressing isn’t natural, she told herself. Boys wear boys clothes and girls wear girls clothes. And that is that. Besides, even if she did allow it, Trevor would be bullied mercilessly, by both his friends and probably his two older brothers.

But she wouldn’t allow it. That was a foregone conclusion. She did her best to shut the thought out of her mind.

Another thought she tried to shut out of her mind was her lack of sales the past few weeks. Sure, there was usually a bit of a sales lull this time of year, but sales had been unusually low lately. On this Friday afternoon turning into evening, it was quiet throughout the store. Leotards, tutus, tights, and everything in between stood ready to be enjoyed by some beautiful young girl or woman.

Karen was just about ready to take inventory of her supplies for the umpteenth time when she heard footsteps outside the store. Customers! Excitedly, she rushed behind the counter and acted busy.

To her surprise, four boys in gym gear appeared in the doorway. Karen was used to having male ballet dancers come through the door, but they usually were in their twenties and dressed nicely, contrasting with these boys, who seemed teenage and unkempt.

Karen was unsure what to do. After the boys deliberated at the front of the store, they moved en masse to the back, not making eye contact with her. As the boys stood apprehensively in front of the checkout counter, Karen reluctantly initiated a conversation.

“Can I help you boys?”

The tallest of the quartet - and tall was a relative term, as all were shorter and slighter than 5’10” Karen - shuffled forward, looked Karen in the eye, and spoke in a quiet voice.

“Hello, ma’am. I’m Terry, and these are my friends Sherm, Kaden, and Evan,” he began. The only normal words, in Karen’s eyes, spoken in the boutique that night.

Terry took a deep breath. “We’re the Scottsville Teen Crossdressers Club, and we’re on our way to a convention, and we need costumes, so...”

Evan spoke up. “We were hoping we could be fitted for girls’ leotards and tights! It would be a big help to us.”

It took every fiber of Karen’s willpower to prevent her from letting her jaw fall open. First Trevor, now this? Were boys masquerading as girls conspiring to take over her life?

Karen’s hand rummaged below her desk for a sign she almost never had to use. She clutched with both hands a paper reading, “We Have the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone.”

But Karen looked up, and beheld the dead serious expressions on the boys’ faces. This moved her just a little, and considering this and the thought of a PR nightmare to go with already dwindling business, Karen caved.

Never thought I’d have to use this, Karen thought as she pulled out a binder from under her desk, fingered through it, found the page she was looking for, and gave it a once-over before showing it to the boys.

She gestured to Terry. “You can look around, find the brand of leotard and tights you want, and this chart will tell you what size you should get it in.” The men-to-women size chart finally came in handy.

Terry, who wore a plain jacket, a Dodgers cap, and a stoic expression until now, melted into a smile. “Thank you so much!” He drew his friends’ attention to one of the racks. “Come on girls!”

If letting boys play pretend in her shop for one night made her money, Karen decided, so be it. It didn’t mean she condoned what she still saw as a social negative.

She tended to the shelves near the checkout counter, anticipating the boys wouldn’t take long with their decision, when she was shocked to see the boys Terry had identified as Sherm and Kaden showing off bras in one of the store’s mirrors.

Karen gagged internally. Really? If these boys wanted to fool around, why couldn’t they have done it in some department store? Instead, they were doing so in her small shop. Disgusting.

She moved closer to Sherm and Kaden, intending to eavesdrop on their conversation. What she heard surprised her - the two were engaged in a serious fashion discussion.

“We already have black bras - why don’t we just do black leotards and pink tights?” asked Sherm.

“Come on, Sheri. These lace white bras are pretty and feminine and that’s what we’re going for, right?” Kaden came back with.

“Kayla, we already decided on black bras and leotards with pink panties and tights. If we go with this bra, it messes the whole thing up. Be reasonable here.”

How reasonable can you be, Karen thought, when you’re boys dressing as ballerinas on a Friday night?

She withdrew to her desk and looked out over the store, and suddenly, a thought came over her. Here were these boys, in her store, shopping quietly, using their manners, putting together potential outfits, and calling each other by girls’ names. And she thought to herself: most girls aren’t that ladylike. In a way, these boys were the girliest girls that had ever come through her store.

This Karen decided: although it was weird and socially unacceptable, if crossdressing could get teenage boys to act like every mother’s ideal daughter, it must not be all that terrible.

Soon Evan skipped over to the checkout counter holding a black leotard and pink tights. “Ma’am, if it isn’t a problem, we’d like to try these on.”

Karen couldn’t hold it in. “Such nice manners!” she said to the blushing boy. “Gather your friends, and I’ll show you to the fitting room.”

Terry opted to go first. “Hold on just a second, please.” He ran out of the shop and returned with a box, from which he pulled a bra and a pair of panties.

“Would you mind stepping out while I...”

“Sure thing.” Karen retreated while the boy changed.

When she returned to the fitting room, there was a complete change in Terry. Although he still lacked makeup and had a boyish haircut, if you only viewed him from the neck down, you would think you were viewing a graceful ballerina ready for class. Terry’s legs were delicately shaped and his leotard hugged a figure complemented brilliantly by a padded bra.

Terry tried some ballet positions, which he executed to perfection. Then he spoke, still pimping in the mirror but talking to Karen.

“I’m sorry I don’t look too good right now,” he began. “I’ll look better tomorrow, when the girls and I get our wigs worked on. I’ll be able to tie mine into a pretty bun, and I’ll look like a real ballerina. Evan, our resident artist, will do our makeup and nails on the way to the convention.

“There’s a chance we might stop here on the way back, however. If we win one of the competitions there, we decided we would all stop back here and buy tutus. None of the other girls have ever worn one. Can you believe that? Tutus are what got me hooked on dressing up all the way back in second, third grade.

“Of course, the other girls are new to the dressing game - they’ve only been at it since seventh, eighth grade. And only because I convinced them it would be fun. I had no idea it was that much fun, that they would want to do it over, and over, and over again.

“But they did and this year, we formed a club, and we applied to this convention and got accepted! My mom is driving us; she’s actually waiting in the car.

“See, I’m the only one of us who’s out,” Terry’s speech neared a close as he moved a hip alignment belt up and down his waist. “And I’m only out to my mom, dad, and older sisters. Sheri, Kayla, and Emeline - those are the girls’ names when we dress up - are in the closet for right now.

“But I’m planning to live as a girl full-time when I start college in a couple years. And this summer I’m going to wear a dress to my sister’s wedding. Sheri and Kayla intend to go my route, but both of them want to try out for cheer and it’s easier to do so in high school than college. And Emeline - not sure what she’s going to do. Dressing up is good enough for her right now.”

Terry finished his speech with a blush. “Sorry to vent to you, Mrs. Nettles,” as he had apparently read Karen’s name tag. “But that’s our story. You probably don’t get too many customers like us.”

She had to laugh. “No indeed, Terry. But here’s the deal,” she continued. “You win any kind of prize at that convention, you come back to my store, and I’ll give you and the girls the girliest, fluffiest tutus I can find, at half price. Even if you don’t win something, you come back and tell me how it went. Got it?”

Terry thanked Karen and shook her hand, and went to show off to the other girls, who all swooned at their friend’s appearance. Karen chuckled.

Beneath that chuckle was a series of thoughts racing a hundred miles an hour. Karen had always had this image of crossdressers as freaks and creeps. How wrong she was being proved tonight. Terry was polite, eloquent, friendly, and sane, the complete opposite of her image of a crossdresser.

The act of crossdressing may not be weird, and it may help boys behave nicely, but it still wasn’t socially acceptable, Karen came to the conclusion. Not the worst thing you could do, but definitely not something she would encourage.

Terry had been Karen’s trial balloon for fitting, and she now sent Sheri, Kayla, and Emeline into the three separate fitting rooms so they could each try on their outfits.

When they were done, the girls gawked at each other’s appearance, as well as their own in the mirror. There was giggling, some selfies were taken, and at the end Karen obliged when Terry asked if she would take a picture of the group.

The girls were still talking and giggling in their outfits while Karen rung them up when the door flew open. A customer Karen recognized from yesterday burst in.

“Hi, did I leave my wallet here?” the girl, a twentysomething, asked innocently. In her peripheral vision from the checkout counter, Karen saw the girls standing petrified.

She handed over the wallet and the girl was grateful. As she turned to leave, she caught sight of Terry, Sheri, Kayla and Emeline cowering in the corner area.

Karen saw her smile good-naturedly, and say with sincerity, “You four are certainly quite pretty young ballerinas.”

As she left, Karen went to apologize but Emeline politely told her off.

“Girls. Do you know who that is?” she exclaimed. “That’s Maria Pelley! She’s the best young ballerina in the area.”

“Oh my God, you’re right!” Terry practically shouted. Her hands clasped her heart and she swooned. “Oh, and she thinks we’re pretty.”

“And I do too,” Karen said, as the girls went silent. “Listen, I wasn’t a big fan of crossdressing before tonight, but...” She took a breath.

“You girls have convinced me otherwise. I always thought it was weird, unbecoming of a young gentleman, and socially unacceptable, but now I see it’s none of those things. And you ladies are certainly not gentlemen, that’s for sure.

“The bottom line is, you four will always have a home here at my boutique, where you can dress up in peace.”

Terry stepped forward and tears welled up in her eyes. “Thank you - so much,” she stammered, hugging Karen as the other girls rushed to join in.

“Now don’t y’all have a convention to get to? Get outta here!” The girls laughed, cheered, and made for the car, waving as they went.

Before closing up the shop for the day, Karen reviewed the footage of Trevor’s “fashion show” one last time. This time, her thoughts were decidedly different:

“He has blue eyes, why doesn’t he just play off of that?...That dress looks disjointed without a bra...Trevor must be wearing my panties. I’ll get him some of his own...He could have a great figure, he just needs a little help... Tessa! That’s what we were going to call Trevor if he were a girl... His high heel walk is better than mine... Mother-daughter shopping trips! Yes!... Oh my God, if he grew his hair out, he’d look just like me... No matter, I can just get him a wig and take him to my salon... Was that a curtsy? He’s a natural princess!... So graceful. She’ll make a great daughter... She could be a ballerina! Tessa could help out at the store and take lessons... Crossdressing isn’t that bad... A tutu wouldn’t look that bad on her, come to think of it...”

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