It was early Christmas morning. My sister Susan and I sat in the sitting room, me in my pyjamas and Susan in her nightie. Mother sat by the Christmas tree and handed us our gifts one by one. I was already overwhelmed by all the gifts I'd received so far, and eagerly took the next parcel. “These are from Aunt May.” Mum said.
We both said “Thank you” as we read the gift tag before unwrapping them. The moment I saw the fabric I knew something was wrong. “Mum I think she got the name tags mixed up!” I said as I unwrapped the gift further and noticed it was definitely meant for a girl. “This must be Susan's present!”
“What is it? Let me see” Mum replied as I fully unwrapped the dress and held it up. It had everything that a boy hates about girls clothes; little puffed sleeves with lace edging, a lace edged collar, a wide ribbon at the waist and tiny white flowers all over it's powder blue coloured fabric. I pulled a 'puke' face as I looked to mother for reassurance, only to see a huge grin sweep her face. “Of course she didn't get the tags mixed up. Yours is obviously the blue one and Susan's is pink.” she stated as my head slowly turned towards my sister and the pale pink dress on her lap. “...and I can't wait to to see you both wearing them!” she gushed, clasping her hands.
“But this can't be for me mum!” I pleaded, “It's a dress!”
“And a very pretty one.” she smiled. “And I'm sure Aunt May spent quite a lot of money on it.”
“But it's horrible!” I claimed.
“It's nicer than mine.” said Susan, adding "marginally."
“But you're a girl!” I replied. “You're supposed to like dresses!”
“When do I ever wear a dress?” Susan replied.
She had me there, she never wears dresses either. I gulped and cast my eyes over my dress with it's little puffed sleeves and little lace trimmed collar. “I hate it.” I sulked. “It's the worst present ever!”
“Me too.” my sister agreed. “I can't stand dresses... especially pink ones.”
“Now STOP being so ungrateful the pair of you!” Mum snapped. “What do you think Aunt May would say if she heard you?”
I shrugged and glanced at my sister who wore a similar disappointed expression. “But why did she buy me a dress?” I asked, feeling myself begin to well up.
“Probably to match your sister's.” Mum replied glancing at her watch, “Anyway she'll be here in a couple of hours so you can ask her yourself... when you're both wearing them.”
I gulped. “You mean I have to wear it!?”
“Of course you do.” Mother replied as I looked fearfully at the dress. “She didn't spend all that money just for them to hang in your wardrobes.”
My sister and I glanced at each other. The look of dread on her face echoed the fear I felt in my gut. I glanced at my mother, hoping she'd say she was only teasing. “There's nothing to worry about.” she smiled, “You might even like it once it's on.”
“That's what I'm afraid of.”
Mum grinned at me. “It's just a dress Peter... it won't miraculously turn you into a girl. You'll still be a boy underneath it.”
“But nothing. Now can we stop this complaining please?” she asked. “It's Christmas day and you're being very ungrateful. Now unless you show a little more gratitude I'll put your other presents back in the loft.” she threatened, looking at the large pile of 'normal' gifts I’d already unwrapped.
“You can't do that!” I snapped.
“Don't tempt me!” mother replied in her most threatening voice.
I looked at my large pile of books and games, model kits and items of boys clothing. I dreaded the thought of having them all confiscated more than I dreaded wearing a dress. “Sorry.” I muttered.
“Good!” Mum replied sharply. “Now... shall we unwrap the rest of your presents?” she gave us each a hard stare, “...without you two turning into spoilt little brats?”
I nodded hesitantly.
I looked at my sister who smiled back through pursed lips. I guess she empathised as the style of dress was far too girlie even for her. Mum turned her attention to the remaining gifts beneath the tree, selected a couple and passed one to each of us “These are from me.” she said. I nervously reached out for the gift but mother pulled it back, “What do you say?” she asked.
“Thank you.” I replied in unison with my sister before removing the pale pink ribbon and slowly tearing the wrapping paper open.
“I do hope you like them.” said mum as I pulled away the tissue to reveal a pair of white frilly knickers and a matching vest. Both items had pale blue trim, supposedly to match the dress.
Speechless didn't come into it. “Er...” I croaked, before forcing out the words “thank you”. I glanced at my sister who'd unwrapped the same, only hers had pink trim. “At least they're not pink.”
“Don't you want to swap?” grinned my sister.
I shook my head and looked towards my mother. I wanted to ask her why, but instead I forced a smile.
“Are you ready for the next one?” she asked, hiding something behind her back.
I wasn't but nodded reluctantly. Slowly she revealed two identical gifts wrapped in pale pink paper with a bright pink ribbon. I gulped a thank-you before taking the gift. I knew full well it wasn't going to be a normal 'boys' gift.
“Thanks mum.” I said as I feigned interest in the boxed pair of white tights.
My sister also thanked our mother, having also unwrapped the same.
My stomach turned as I imagined not only having to wear the dress which Aunt May had given me, but now having to wear girls underwear and girls tights too. My face must have been colourless as I glanced from my mother to my sister and back again. Mum passed us both a sizeable box, wrapped in the same pale pink paper, but sporting a big white bow. I pulled at the ribbon and let it drop before slowly attacking the paper.
There's nothing more obvious than a shoe box, an in light of the current theme of my gifts, I feared the worst as I lifted the lid. Inside was a pair of girls shoes in the same powder blue as my dress. They had a small heel and fastened by a simple blue ribbon which tied over the foot. “They'll look lovely with your dress.” Mum gushed as I removed the tissue.
My sister had also unwrapped a similar pair of shoes in pink. I glanced at her as I removed one of mine. “Snap!” she smiled, removing one of hers. “At least yours aren't pink.” she added.
“Er...” Was all I could get out as I held one of my new shoes. “Why am I getting all this stuff Mum?” I asked mournfully.
“To wear with your dress.” Mum replied, “It wouldn't look right if you wore your boy's shoes would it?” she winked at my sister.
I was mortified as I stared at the heeled sandal in my hand. “I guess not.”
“And it wouldn't feel right without a nice pair of knickers underneath either.” Mum added with a smile.
I Glanced at my sister who was grinning from ear to ear. “Stop laughing at me.” I snapped.
“I'm not laughing.” she replied, “I'm smiling.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because if she'd bought you boys clothes... I’d have to wear this on my own.” she frowned down on her very girlie, very frilly, very pink dress. “I'd much rather we both wore them than just me.”
“I think if anybody finds out about this I'm dead.”
“I won't tell anybody.” Susan replied. “I'm only going to wear it for Aunt May and hopefully I'll never have to wear it again.” she admitted before looking guiltily at our mother.
“They are a bit young for you both ...and old fashioned.” Mum said, “But then again so is Aunt May.” she smiled.
“OK.” I said as my head sunk into my shoulders. “As long as you both promise not to tell anybody.”
Mum and Susan looked at each other, nodded and smiled before both looking at me. “Well that's sorted then.” Mum grinned.
“Are there any more presents?” Susan asked.
“Let's have a look shall we?”
Beneath the tree was still a small pile of gifts, all wrapped in girlie wrapping paper. I suspected the worst, but the next gift was worse than that. A small satin handbag, inside which was a hair brush, a selection of make-up including lipstick and eye shadow, some perfume, some hair clips and a vanity mirror. Susan had the same, but in pink.
Next was a large flat box each which was far lighter than I expected, almost weightless in fact. “It's from Aunt May too.” I gulped having read the label.
Susan opened hers before me and exclaimed “Oh. My. God!” she held up a voluminous mass of translucent white fabric which floated effortlessly beneath her outstretched hands.
“What is it?” I fearfully asked.
“It's a petticoat.” Mum smiled as her hand disappeared into the numerous folds of floaty fabric.
I responded with the blankest of expressions. I’d heard the term before but didn't have any idea what a petticoat actually was, or was for. I began to remove my 'petticoat' from its box. “What's a petticoat?” I asked slowly, as if to delay the answer.
Mum took it from me, stood up and held it to her waist. “It's to wear under your dress... it holds the skirt out.” she replied.
“She must think we're about seven!” Susan stated, clearly shocked.
“She must think we're both girls!” I added dryly.
Susan sniggered. Then she made me promise I’d tell none of her friends about this either. Of course I promised.
“I don't know if I can take much more of this.” I said as mum passed us both another gift.
“We're almost done.” she smiled. “These are from me.” she added.
We both thanked her before removing the ribbon and paper. “A nightie.” I frowned.
“Sorry... I couldn't resist it.” Mum said as she watched me unfold the white garment. “There's a pair of knickers too.” she pointed out, much to my disappointment.
“It's a baby-doll.” my sister stated as she unfolded hers. “Why are all mine pink?” she asked.
“Mine's got pink on it too.” I stated, pointing out the pink trim on the short white nightie. “...and at least you are a girl.”
“But not one that likes pink.” she stated dryly. “Wanna swap?”
“No way!” I replied, taking tight hold of both my nightie and the matching knickers. ”This much pink I can just about handle.”
The final gift was, not surprisingly wrapped in pink too. Both mine and my sister's were identical in size and shape. The difference was that Susan's fluffy slippers were white with a pink satin bow and mine were baby pink with a white bow. “Wanna swap?” I suggested.
“No.” she replied instantly and stubbornly.
I grinned, knowing full well she wouldn't. I looked up from the nightie on my lap to my mother and asked, “Why did you buy me a nightie mum? You don't expect me to sleep in it do you?”
“Yes.” Susan quickly interjected with a grin.
“Well...” Mum began hesitantly, “You've got plenty of jim-jams and... knowing Aunt May was buying a you both matching dresses, I thought it would be nice if you both had matching nighties as well.” she explained cautiously, “I know it's a bit girlie but...” she shrugged, “...you've got plenty of boy clothes. The odd girl's item won't do any harm.”
Mum made it all sound innocent enough, but I wasn't convinced by the 'you've got plenty of boy's clothes' excuse. Of course I’ve have! I am a boy... and I'll bet any money I'm the only boy I know who's unwrapped a dress, knickers, a petticoat and now a baby-doll nightie... but it being Christmas, I felt I had no option but to receive my gifts with good grace. “I guess.” I replied as I held it against me. “It's really short.” I observed.
Mum grinned. “That's why it comes with knickers. Now I want you both to tidy up the wrapping paper, then you can get washed and dressed.”
Susan and I cleared up the discarded and shredded wrapping paper whilst mum assembled my dress, underwear, nightie and other girlie items into a neat pile on top of the large petticoat box. “Keep those ribbons.” Mum said.
I looked at the bundle of ribbon in my hand and then to the half filled bin bag. “Why?” I asked, assuming they'd served their purpose.
“Because they'll look nice in your hair.” Mum said teasingly.
“You've got to be joking.” I replied.
“Well they're too good to throw.” Mum replied as she took them from me.
Moments later, she placed my pile of new clothes in my hands and both my sister and I climbed the stairs. “I can't believe this is happening.” I said once we'd reached the landing.
“Well at least yours isn't pink.” Susan said in a mournful voice. “And the worst part is...”
“What?” I asked.
“We're going to have to pretend that we really like them!”
I felt my eyelids drop slowly and steadily is I visualised the scene... wearing a dress is one thing, saying 'I love my new dress auntie, thank you so much' is another. Like the condemned, my sister and I went to our respective bedrooms and placed our new clothes on our beds. I put my nightie on my pillow and placed the fluffy pink slippers next to my bed.
The box which contained the tights I placed to one side. But next was my knickers and vest. These I knew had to go on first, which meant the moment of truth was here. Reluctantly I pulled off my pyjama top and, having worked out which was the front thanks to a little blue bow at the centre of the scooped neck, pulled on the vest. The silky material fit me snugly and it felt like no item of clothing I’d ever worn before.
Next, I slipped out of my pyjama bottoms and picked up the knickers. I briefly decided to wear my own underpants instead... but knowing full well mum would check, I pulled on the knickers. Like the vest, they have pale blue lace trim on every edge and a tiny blue bow stitched at the centre of the waist band. And like the vest, they fit very snugly and felt like nothing I’d worn before.
The petticoat had no obvious front or back, just an elasticated waist band. I stepped into it and pulled it up to my waist. I looked down and could no longer see my legs or feet for its masses of layers, folds and pleats. It floated around me and caressed my thighs. I knew there and then that this was one garment one could not forget they were wearing. As I unzipped the dress, I figured that it, on it's own wouldn't be so bad... it's all the paraphernalia that goes with it. “Er....” I hesitated before pulling on the dress. The zip is on the back so how I'm supposed to fasten it I’ve no idea. Some minutes later, I’d managed to get it no more than a few inches up when I heard a knock on my door.
“Who is it?”
“It's me.” said my sister from behind the door. “I need help...” she paused, “...with my zip.”
I opened my door and Susan stepped in, looking far more embarrassed than I felt. “I feel like a six year old girl in this.” she moaned.
“Me too.” I replied. I expected her to burst out laughing at me but she didn't. She fastened up my zip and I asked her why they went up the back instead of up the front.
“Because otherwise you'd be able to take it off.” she replied as she tied the wide satin sash in a bow behind my back. “...and when a dress is this bad...” she said with conviction, “they make sure you can't take it off.” she added as I pulled up her zip.
“So we're both trapped.” I asked.
“Yep!” Said Susan as she turned to face me. She smiled a reassuring smile before looking me up and down. “Peter you haven't put your tights on!”
“I er...” I felt flummoxed, “...I was going to put them on next.”
“You might find that difficult with your petticoat.” Susan replied.
She was right of course, so I pulled off my petticoat which let my dress fall to it's natural 'hang', sat on my bed and, being a novice, I followed my sister's instructions. Once my tights were on, I stood up and looked down at myself. “How bad do I look?”
“Well... not too bad for a boy.” Susan smiled, “....at least you don't look like a meringue.” she added, looking down at herself.
“You don't look like a boy in a dress either.” I said as I pulled on my petticoat and looked down. “I still can't believe we have to dress like this all day?”
“And pretend we like it!” Susan added.
As we entered the sitting room, mum gasped and bit her bottom lip. “Oh look at you two!” she gushed. “You look gorgeous!”
“I feel like a six year old.” Susan stated, sounding completely disheartened.
“I feel like a girl.” I added, equally disheartened.
“Well I think you look great in it... how does it feel?” Mum asked.
“Erm...” I pondered. I swished my hips and looked down at myself. “Weird.” I replied turning to my sister. “At least I don't look like a meringue.” I teased.
Mum spent a moment looking at us and grinning like a Cheshire cat. “I've got to take a photo.”
“Oh mu-um.” we moaned in unison.
She assured us that she'd show no-one as she unzipped her camera case.
“Oh please mum.” I begged. “I think this situation is best kept as a memory... a distant one!”
I was impressed by my reasoning, but mum was having none of it. She helped me into my shoes before making my sister and I pose by the tree holding our little satin handbags as she took photo after photo until she was satisfied we looked 'happy'.
We spent the next hour or so rummaging through our gifts. I'd been given several model aeroplanes, books and annuals, CDs and DVDs, a couple of video games, some clothes (boys, thankfully) a variety of gadgets and puzzles. Every single one was a hundred times more boyish than the gifts I was wearing. I felt out of place reading my Top Gear annual or flicking through the instructions of my model kits. I assembled a formula one racing car model which required no glueing and in spite of loving model kits, it just didn't feel right wearing a dress, a petticoat, tights and heels.
Susan, being a girl was given lots of clothes along with jewellery, a jewellery box, a bead jewellery making kit, more make up, CDs and DVDs, more clothes, hair accessories, shoes and even more clothes.
Mum was getting on with making Christmas dinner. Susan and I did our own thing. We had the TV on with the sound down and listened to my new Slipknot CD, a gift my sister had given me. I glanced around at my myriad of gifts, my white stockinged knees peeping out from my full skirt, the tree; resplendent in festive décor, my sister reading an annual, the satin handbag my aunt had also given me. I picked it up an unfastened the clasp. I looked at myself in the small vanity mirror for a few moments before having a route through the other contents. “Do you know what to do with this stuff?” I asked as I removed the lipsticks and the perfume.
Susan looked over at me. “Kind of... but I'm not very good.” she replied. “Are you going to wear some?”
I gulped and glanced at myself in the small mirror again. “I dunno... Do we have a choice?” I asked.
“Why don't you ask mum?”
I thought for a second. “Nah... she'll only say yes.” I replied as I depressed to top of the perfume and recoiled as a sweet smelling mist filled the air and my nostrils.
Susan giggled at me. “What's it smell like?”
“Girlie.” I replied before spraying it in her direction.
“That's quite nice.” she said after inhaling the scent.
“For a girl maybe.” I sighed and put the perfume back in my handbag and fastened the clasp with a satisfying click. I ran my fingers over its satin fabric and noticed the light dance off its surface.
Just then, Mum entered and asked us if we were OK. I looked up at her, nodded and smiled. “It's a nice bag isn't it.” she smiled.
“Er... I guess.” I replied sheepishly. “It feels nice.” I added, slowly running my thumb across it.
“Peter's worried that he has to wear make-up too.” my sister said with a hint of concern in her voice.
“Well I was going to suggest doing something with your hair before Aunt May arrives.” Mum replied, “So it doesn't look quite so boyish.”
“What do you mean?” I asked nervously.
“Well there's a selection of clips and slides in your handbag we can try.” she suggested. “And a touch of make-up wouldn't do any harm.”
“It'll make me look like a girl.”
“You are wearing a dress.” my sister stated. “A couple of hair clips and some lipstick won't make much difference.”
Twenty minutes later, I held my small vanity mirror in one hand, and a pale pink lipstick in the other. I looked at my reflection; my hair looked shorter yet fuller with loose curls and these were topped off with a sizeable white ribbon tied in a bow on top of my head. Mum had applied my eye shadow and mascara and under her expert instruction, I applied my lipstick. “Perfect.” Mum smiled, before telling to be careful not to touch my face else I’d spoil it.
“You look really pretty Peter.” my sister smiled. “and not just pretty 'for a boy', really pretty! Will you do my hair and make-up too?”
“Of course.” Mum replied.
I sat back and watched my mother curl my sister's hair just as she'd done mine. My sister never really went in for any 'girlie' stuff either, so it was probably just as novel for me watching this as it was for her.
No sooner had my mother finished doing my Susan's make up, my aunt's car pulled up outside. “Perfect timing.” Mum said as she went to the door.
My sister and I prepared ourselves for our Aunt's entrance. Before today I was just an average boy and my sister was an average tom-boy, but thanks to Aunt May's gifts and our mother's hair and make-up skills, we are for all intents and purposes, a couple of pretty prissy girls... and don't we know it!
Aunt May was obviously chuffed to bits we were wearing our dresses and swallowing our pride, thanked her. “Well I can't believe how nice you both look... it's a good job I’d bought you different colours, otherwise I’d never know which was Peter... you do look pretty, both of you!”
“Thank you Auntie.” I convincingly replied.
Mum offered Aunt May a snack and a glass of sherry. She accepted the sherry but declined the snack. Mum told her that I was very surprised when I unwrapped my dress. “He thought he'd unwrapped his sisters by mistake.” she added.
“It's an easy mistake to make Mum.” I stated, feeling myself blush. “Why did you buy me a dress Auntie?” I sheepishly asked.
A broad grin swept her face. “Well I wanted to buy your sister a nice dress because girls should wear dresses." she gave my sister a slightly disapproving glance, before tuning back to me, "And I bought one for you because there's no good reason why boy's shouldn't wear dresses.”