As is the norm, my sister and I try to guess what each of our gifts might be before removing the wrapping paper. As she passed her gift to me, I instantly guessed that it was some vinyl. It was obvious because I'd bought myself a vinyl player with the money I'd got in Xmas tips from my milk round. But is I took hold of the brightly wrapped parcel; approximately twelve inches square and a quarter of an inch thick, I quickly realised that it was too light to be what I'd initially guessed. “A calendar?” I guessed, since it's light in weight and slightly floppy. My sister smiled and shook her head. I ran my hands over the paper, feeling for clues as to what's inside. It's mostly flat, slightly lumpy here and there. “Wall art?” I guessed. She shook her head. I couldn't guess so turned it over and pulled open the snowman clad paper. Inside I found a square sheet of brown corrugated cardboard which I grabbed and turned over. My heart jumped into my mouth. I gasped. I gulped. I looked at my sister. A smug smile covered her face. “You bitch!” I spat.
“Peter!” my dad snapped.
“You promised!” I growled.
“So did you.” she dryly replied. “Now you won't have to go sneaking into my things.”
“What is it?” Mum asked.
I threw the gift to the floor and ran to my room. I wanted to burst into tears but fought them back. My head was so very tense as I sat on my bed, cursing my sister's name and wishing all sorts of ill against her.
Since summer, my big sister has been privy to my biggest secret. It was only a matter of time I guess. Since I’d been a bout nine years old, I developed a kind of fascination with some of her things... not so much her knickers but her tights. On rare occasions I'd borrow a pair from the laundry basket and secretly try them on. Thin ones, thick ones, black ones and blue ones. I loved they way they hugged my legs. But what I didn't like was how my fascination with wearing her tights led onto me occasionally borrowing other items. All of my own undies have thick seams which create and unsightly ridge. Some of her undies don't so I began borrowing the odd pair of panties. This led onto to me longing to wear one of her matching knickers and vest sets. The thin adjustable straps intrigued me. It was whilst wearing one of these that my sister sussed me out. She'd suspected for some weeks and laid out some bait for me. I bit and she confronted me. I begged her not to tell and promised I wouldn't do it again. After a heartfelt conversation, she promised me she wouldn't tell... providing I asked in future. That was all well and good but the thing is, I couldn't pluck up the courage to ask. My thoughts returned to the present. I bet my sister's downstairs telling my parents all about me; the little pervert, the sissy faggot... “Bitch.” I said under my breath.
“I hope you mean your sister and not me.” my mother said.
I turned to see her in the doorway. Tucked under her arm is the gift that caused my outburst. “So what's all this about?” Mum asked. I could only reply in gulps, so I did several as she sat beside me and placed the gift on her lap. It's the sort of gift I've longed for but the manner in which it was presented has made it the last thing I want. Folded neatly around a square cardboard backing is a pair of lacy knickers and a matching bra (or 'boy-shorts' and a 'bralette' as the packaging states), a lacy suspender belt and the tops of a pair of stockings; all arranged as they'd be worn. If my sister had given it to me in private, I'd have been delighted. I'd have worn the ivory garments at the earliest opportunity... but presented in the way they were, it's the last thing I want. Since it took mum a good three or four minutes to follow me up to my room, I presume she's spoken to Hannah about the gift she gave me. I take a deep breath before asking, “What did she say?”
“What do you think she said?” Mum asked.
I shrugged my shoulders. “Dunno.” I grumbled.
“I think you do know.” Mum told me. Her fingers jostled gently over the transparent polythene wrapping. It's almost as if they can sense the delicate lace beneath the plastic. I concentrated on clasping and clenching my fingers together whilst my mother told me what Hannah had told her. “Now I'm very angry with her for embarrassing you... today of all days.” she said. “But I'm also disheartened to learn that you've been stealing her things.” she added.
After several long silent seconds, I said “I put them back.”
“I know you did.” Mum said. She put her hand on my hands. “Sometimes a little too soon.” she added. “I knew Hannah wouldn't be wearing certain things just for a few hours and put them straight in the wash the very same day they came out of it.” she said. “I knew what you were up to but didn't know that Hannah knew.” she claimed. I looked my mother in the eye and gulped. How long has she know for? I wondered. I confessed to Hannah finding out in the summer. “Yes... that's what Hannah said too.” Mum sighed. “She also said that all you had to do was ask.”
My focus returned to my hands once more whilst mother told me what else my sister had said, that being that I've borrowed her things without asking 'loads' of times. “Not that many times.” I mumbled.
“Only once would have been one time too many Peter. How would you like it if she was sneaking into your room whilst your backs turned and rooted through your things?” Mum asked. I gulped and shrugged, before claiming that my sister does exactly that. “Stationery!” Mum chuckled. “There's a big difference between her borrowing a stapler and you borrowing her underwear.”
I hung my head. Mum put the gift on my lap and said that I no longer have an excuse to borrow from my sister when I want to wear girl's things. “I don't want to wear them.” I claimed, shoving the gift back onto my mother's lap.
“Maybe not today... but I suspect one day you might.” my mother claimed. She placed it, cardboard side out, against my chest of drawers, suggesting I put them in the bottom of my underwear drawer where they'll be out of sight and out of mind. I suggested putting them on the bin. “No... don't do that.” my mother insisted. “You may not want them now but I don't want you sneaking into your sisters room should you change your mind.”
“I won't.” I insisted.
“Well... good.” Mum replied. “If that's the case than they'll do no harm at the bottom of your drawer.” she said. “Now... we can put this to one side if you want to come back down stairs. Nothing more will be said about it today.”
“I'd rather stay up here.”
“All day?” Mum asked. I nodded. “No you don't... you want to pretend this never happened and come back downstairs.” she stated before assuring me that her, Dad or Hannah would mention it.
“What did Dad say?” I mumbled.
Mum told he's not happy with my sister either, but other than that, he's OK. Mum also told me that she'd told him 'months ago' when she'd worked out the anomalies in the laundry. “It's normal for boys your age to experiment and that's OK.” she said, adding, “So long as you're not masturba...”
“I'm not!” I whined.
“I know your not Peter. Believe me I'd know if you were.”
Eventually, and very sheepishly, I returned downstairs. My dad and sister were watching The Simpsons and chuckled away. Dad cast me a pursed smile and asked if I was OK. In spite of the fact that I felt anything but OK, I nodded and focused my attention on the TV. Normally I’d be laughing along but here and now, the greatest cartoon of all time isn't even making me chuckle. Eventually more gifts were handed out which sort of lightened the tense atmosphere. Everyone was acting normal, but it was forced. I tried my best to be normal but with this revelation hanging over me, I just can't. I couldn't comfortably look anyone in the eye, most notably my sister Hannah. I avoided her glances more than those from my parents. I sensed that she felt guilty. The smug grin she wore when I unwrapped my unwanted gift is long gone.
I only forgot about it when I unwrapped another, similar sized gift. “Awesome!” I gasped. A limited edition re-issue of Nirvana's Nevermind on 225 gram vinyl with a collectors booklet and a making of... DVD. This brings my fledgeling vinyl LP collection to a total of five. After an hour or so, Hannah and I were briefly alone and my sister offered an apology. She told me that she was going to buy me something 'nice' and give it to me privately, but when she'd discovered that I'd once again borrowed without asking, she decided to embarrass me with it. “I know it was wrong and I really am sorry.” she said. “I was just so angry that you'd rather steal from me than ask.”
“Sorry.” I muttered before whining that 'everyone' knows.
“They knew anyway. I didn't know they did. Did you?”
I shook my head and tried to fathom it all. Mum must have noticed some while back that various items were disappearing and reappearing, probably before my sister noticed. Mum told Dad but neither of them said anything, and nor did my sister. So all the time I've been worried about being found out, everyone knew anyway! I don't know it that makes it more or less shameful. My sister's voice dragged me from my thoughts. “Uh? What?” I asked.
“I said... would you have liked it if I had given you it privately?” she repeated.
I briefly visualised the items before replying. “Not really.”
“Are you saying that because you're in a grump or because you mean it?” she asked. In hesitant, broken sentences, punctuated with nervous glances toward the sitting room door, I told her that it's tights that I like wearing, and to a lesser extent, strappy vests. I told her that I've never considered wearing stockings and have no need for a bra... but the colour's OK. “It's not really a bra.” Hannah claimed. “It's a bralette.” she told me. Since I like strappy vests, she figured I might like a bra and since I don't need a bra, she got me a bralette instead. “They don't provide support like a bra does... they just look nice.” she said. “Well... I think they do.” she added. If she had given it to me in private, I guess I would have liked it more... although stockings and suspenders rather than tights... what's that all about? “They feel really nice.” Hannah claimed.
The uncomfortable conversation ended when Dad called me in to the kitchen to mash the carrots and turnips. Hannah was put on sprout duty. Our aunt, uncle and three cousins came just after noon and all of a sudden we had a houseful. Dad and his brother cracked tinnies. Mum and her sister-in-law sorted the finishing touches to the big Christmas dinner. We ate, pulled crackers, wore paper hats and forgot about them, ate pudding, talked, laughed and listened. Afterwards I helped my aunt clear the table. She told me I was being unusually quiet and asked if I'd had a nice day so far. “Yeah I guess.” I replied. Of all the cool gifts I've been given, only one stands out in my mind and that one gift has ruined my day, possibly my life. My only consolation is the fact that the source of my subdued mood is currently a taboo subject. I imagine that it wasn't. Instead of being up in my room, it's in the lounge, leant against all my other gifts. I imagine my aunt picking it up, commenting on it before being informed that it's not one of Hannah's gifts. I imagine my mother casually informing everyone that I've been borrowing my sisters undies for years and... I stop myself imagining the rest.
We watch TV, play games, eat, drink, be merry... well... they do. Not ten minutes passes by when I don't think of the moment I unwrapped that gift. The moment that my excitement turned to one of fear, dread and shame. Dad keeps glancing at me. I wish he didn't. Especially after something dawned on me... me and mum were up in my room for a while, so maybe... maybe he thinks I'm wearing the unwanted gift! God I hope not. What must he think of me? I ask myself. I chase the idea out of my mind. Mum would have told him, I expect, but that doesn't stop it from popping back in to my mind. Later, I'm in the kitchen peeling strands of meat from the turkey's carcass. Dad pops in to fetch yet more tinnies from the fridge. “You OK son?” he asked.
The question felt loaded, but maybe I'm just being paranoid. I told him I was, before quickly blurting “I'm not wearin' it!”
“I didn't think you were.” he replied. “Even if you was it'd be none of my business.” he added.
I hung my head and mumbled something vaguely resembling “I'm not.”
Dad was on his way out of the door but he paused, then back tracked. He stepped toward me and said. “Look son... there's barely a bloke on this planet who hasn't tried on their mum's or sister's things.” I gulped and skewed my chin, before raising my eyes. “Admittedly...” he began, “...most of them won't admit it... for reasons I'm sure you understand...” he said. “...so don't go asking every Tom, Dick or Harry...” he advised, before assuring me that it's completely normal.
“It doesn't feel normal.” I muttered.
Dad placed his hand on my shoulder. I raised my eyes to his and gulped. “Maybe that's what makes it so compelling?” he said. One big word in a tangled question tied my brain in a knot. I knew he meant well but didn't quite know what he meant. I gulped and smiled. Dad raised his tinnies, smiled, turned and left. He staggered slightly. I pulled one last strip of meat from the carcass, then another and returned to the sitting room.
Everyone except for my two youngest cousins were glued to the TV on which the final of a long running talent show was beginning. Hannah budged up on the sofa and made a space for me. She's still my least favourite person but it is Christmas and I don't want to cause a scene so I squeeze myself in beside her. She cast me a guilty smile. I force one back. The fact that she went out of her way to humiliate me on Christmas day isn't the only reason that I’m finding her presence discomforting. It's the the idea of her asking me if I've tried my new undies on yet, if I'm wearing them again, if I prefer tights or stockings. It's either that or Why haven't I worn them yet? Maybe if I was actually wearing them, I wouldn't be thinking about them all the time?
Thankfully the climactic finale captured my attention. It was hard to avoid it with my Mum, Dad, aunt, sister and cousin all chatting excitedly about the various acts. My uncle had long since fallen asleep in the arm chair. My aunt says it's best to leave him unless he snores, at which point we're free to prod him. When he does finally wake, he finds himself covered in various bits of ribbon and bows sourced from the pile of discarded wrapping. How the kids didn't wake him whilst they covered him bit by giggly bit I'll never know. Maybe he was just pretending? Predictably, the clear favourite in the TV talent show came second and the winner, voted for by the nation somehow disappointed the nation... and on that bombshell, my aunt decided that it was time they thought about heading home. It took the best part of an hour for them to actually leave. I wished they stayed longer. They were a good distraction. Now it's just the four of us again, I get the feeling that my unwanted gifts are on everyone's mind once more. No one mentioned it though.
That night I lay in bed listening to Nirvana through my headphones and flicking through a book about sci-fi movies. The music sounds great in vinyl. So warm, so full, it fills my skull. The glossy images of cool looking spaceships and future worlds, weird aliens and what-not occupy my eyes... but all the while I'm glancing toward the 12” square piece of cardboard that's leant against my chest of drawers.
The next day I awake and pretty much the first thing I see is the unwanted gift from my sister. I had a proper look at the lace trimmed bralette and boyshorts, the matching ivory suspender belt and ivory stockings before turning out my light last night. I say a 'proper' look although I didn't remove it from its cardboard and cellophane wrapped packaging. The garments are very different to anything I've borrowed before, with sateen fabric and delicate looking elasticated lace trim. I wonder if Hannah chose it because it's so overtly feminine, or because when wrapped, it resembled something similar to a 12” record and thus, deliberately elating me before bringing me crashing to earth with a bang.
I wash up and dress before heading downstairs, feeling just as sheepish as I had the previous day. More so, in fact. Today I'm wondering if the rest of my family are wondering what underwear I'm wearing. By mid morning, Mum sits me and Hannah down to talk. Dad makes himself scarce. “Where's Dad gone?” I humbly ask
“He's made himself scarce.” my mother told me.
“Why?” I ask.
“Because this is girl talk.” she bluntly stated.
I gulped. I knew it was from the way in which Dad sheepishly sloped off, although I’d have preferred it if my mother wasn't quite so direct. She could have at least skirted the issue for a few minutes first. Hannah and I glanced at one another as Mum sat herself down. I gulped again. “So...” Mum began. “First things first... Hannah.” Mum launched into a tirade about how cruel my sister was, gifting me something so 'intimate' in the way that she did. Hannah was incredibly sheepish and apologetic. Mum displayed little patience. “What you did was both calculated and cruel and I can't imagine how your brother must have felt.” she told her. “And as for you young man...”
I was hoping Mum would spend a few more minutes berating my sister before turning to me. I might be the injured party but I’m by no means innocent. Invading my sister's privacy and stealing her things, time and time again is something I'm not proud of. I tried not to but somehow just couldn't help it. “...I thought no one would notice but...” I paused and glanced at my mother, then my sister. “I guess you've both known pretty much all along.”
“Well I found out in the summer.” Hannah said.
“This summer or last summer?” Mum asked.
“Well I've suspected since at least last Easter.” my mother revealed, before informing me that it was bonfire night last year when she was certain. “I wanted to talk to you about it but... couldn't quite find the words.” she said. “You were so defensive when I noticed you were wearing tights that night...”
“It was freezing.” I interjected.
“It was... but the way you denied it, then made excuses made me realise that there was more to it than just keeping warm.”
Dang! I thought. I figured my mother had bought that excuse. My sister is disgruntled that she only noticed in the summer holidays a mere five months ago, when Mum had her suspicions some twenty months ago and knew for sure over a year ago. Presumably, my dad has known for this long too. “Why didn't you say anything?” I asked.
“Well like I say... it's a difficult subject to approach.”
“I said something.” Hannah stated. “I knew my tights were disappearing quicker than I could wear them and set a little trap... as soon as I knew for sure, I challenged him.”
I hung my head and began to blush. I'd borrowed a pair of navy blue school tights which I was going to wear with a pair of her gym knickers and polyester gym shorts. Since the tights were bait, Hannah caught me with them in hand rather than wearing them. Mum and Dad were out so no one heard her shouting at me. Then she sat me down and we talked. I tearfully told her that I like wearing them but know I shouldn't, how I tried not to give in to my irrepressible sense of intrigue but sometimes I just had to know how they'd feel. I admitted to borrowing from her on numerous occasions, mostly tights, but occasionally, knickers and a vest too.
“But... if it's just wearing tights that you like... why the knickers?” Mum asked.
“VPL.” I gulped. “My undies all have thick seams.”
“Yes.” Mum grinned. “I can see how that might be unsightly.”
“I wouldn't have minded if you'd asked.” Hannah said. “Like we agreed after we talked.”
“I know... and I’m sorry.” I cringed. “I just couldn't bring myself to say it... it was easier to just ...wait 'til you were out.”
“You could have trusted me.” Hannah suggested. “We did talk. You know I understand. You can borrow anything off me... almost …all I wanted was for you to ask.” she said.
I know all this and always have since the day we talked, but that didn't make it any easier for me. My mind meandered as my sister listed what 'anything' means; tights, undies, a skirt or dress, make up... “I don't want any of that stuff.” I claimed. “I didn't even want a pair of stockings... it's just tights that I like.”
“I knowww.” Hannah replied. “It was the boyshorts and bralette I thought you'd like.” she claimed, before explaining once again that she'd bought them with the best of intentions, to give me them in private in the hope that I'd like them.
“Well I don't.”
“To be fair...” Mum interjected. “...it is a really pretty set.” she said. “Although I think you're a little bit young for stockings and suspenders.”
“He's fourteen!” Hannah stated. Truth be told I'm nearly fifteen. “I was wearing stockings at his age.”
“I know and I wasn't happy about that either.” Mum replied. “Now... Peter... if you want to wear tights, I'll buy you tights. You can buy yourself some if you prefer.” she told me. “...and you're right, boy's undies do have a VPL, so wearing girl's undies does make sense if you're also wearing tights.”
This torrent of truth made me blush. Mum turned to Hannah and asked for a list of suspected borrowed items. “School tights, black ones and blues ones. Gym knickers, a few panty & vest sets, my white floral tights, those grey knitted woolly ones, various 'natural' pairs and those white pop socks I wore with my cheerleader costume.” she said, before listing several pairs of panties and matching vests. “..but they didn't disappear as often as my tights did.”
I wanted to disappear inside myself, especially when Mum asked “No skirts or dresses then?”
“No!” I insisted. My sister said she probably wouldn't notice if I had, since a skirt or dress would be returned to the wardrobe rather than hidden in the laundry basket. I insisted once more that I haven't been wearing her clothes. Hannah said she believed me, but stated that she does suspect that I've borrowed her leotard on a couple of occasions. She used to attend a tap dancing class and wore thick white tights with a black camisole leotard with an opaque wrap mini skirt. It was seeing her wearing that outfit that I first began to wonder what it might be like to wear tights, but being a boy, it was something I shouldn't really have been wondering about. Hannah only did tap class for a year and since then, her leotard had sat in the bottom of a box in Mum's wardrobe. I confessed to wearing her leotard, and to wearing an old swimming costume too.
“But... why?” Mum asked. “You didn't go swimming did you?”
“No.” I gulped. “I just wanted to know what it felt like... boys don't wear anything like that and...” I tried to explain my intrigue. How things that look weird or unusual capture our imagination and temp us, taunt us, even. I wish I explained it that well to my mother and sister. In reality I stammered my way through scraps of thoughts and fragmented feelings, how a pair of tights is a like a big pair of socks and shorts, all in one... how a leotard and swimsuit is a vest and undies all in one... how I wondered if tights only looked nice and whether they were actually warm or not.
“Surely you've worn them enough times to know that they're warm.” Mum asked.
“Only under long pants though.” I replied. “I've no idea if the girl's at school are freezing or not.” I said. “Some of them don't even wear tights in the winter!”
“That's because girls are tougher than boys.” my sister smugly stated.
“I know.” I replied. “...and they can wear what they like and no one thinks they're weird.” I added. “You can be girlie one day and a tom-boy the next and no one bats an eyelid... but boys have to just be boys.”
“I know what you're saying Peter.” Mum replied. “But I grew up in the era of Boy George and the New Romantics, Julian Clary and Eddie Izzard... we understand that gender isn't binary.”
I wasn't sure what 'gender isn't binary' meant until my sister described the spectrum. “I'm not gay... and I don't think I was born in the wrong body...” I claimed. “I just think we should be allowed to wear what we want.”
“So you do want to wear skirts and dresses?!” Hannah quizzed.
“No...” I claimed. “I mean... I wonder what it's like... you know, walking to and from school wearing a skirt and tights in the middle of winter.” I said, imagining that it must be freezing. “I don't want to try it... I just can't help but wonder if they're warm or not.”
“Well you could have just asked.”
“I know... and I’m sorry.” I meekly replied. “I guess my intrigue got the better of me.”
“Well we've been over the whys and wherefores.” Mum said. “You didn't ask because you were too shy... and you should have been more discreet when giving your brother his Christmas present... what we need to talk about is what next?”
“What do you mean?” I reluctantly asked.
“Well... it's all out in the open, although we all knew long before yesterday... I'm happy for you to try different things, your Dad is too... and from what your sister's said, she's not bothered either.”
“Providing you ask first.” Hannah stated.
“Of course.” Mum replied. “However there needs to be some boundaries... I don't want you walking down the street wearing a dress.”
“I don't want to wear a dress.”
“It's just an example.” Mum retorted. “If you do begin to 'wonder' what it might be like, than there's plenty to choose from.”
Mum rolled her eyes. “You can wear what like around the house, providing we're not expecting visitors... and I don't like the idea of you wearing stockings.” she said. “You may be nearly fifteen but that's still a bit too young for stockings and suspenders.”
“He's a bit too male too.” my sister grinned.
“We all know that that doesn't matter.” Mum replied. “It's 2016 after all.” she stated. “Who's to know in ten years time... androgyny might be the black?” she suggested.
A silence followed. I retreated into my thoughts but rather than wallowing in the misery of the situation, I thought instead about the silence. This time, it's a comfortable silence. My sister broke it by asking if I'm going to wear the boyshorts and bralette. I sighed before responding. “I dunno... I might wear the boyshorts under some tights but... I’m not sure about the top.”
“Think of it like a little vest.” Mum suggested. “You did say you like wearing matching tops and bottoms.” she added. I didn't reply since I’m back on uneasy ground. “And I'll buy you some tights next time I'm in town.”
“Thanks Mum.” I said.
“You can borrow some of mine in the meantime.” Hannah suggested. “If you want.”
“Err.... thanks.” I meekly replied, then declined.
“Do you like shorts?” she asked.
“Shorts.” she repeated. “You know when girls wear a little pair of shorts with thick black tights or leggings...” she asked. I nodded. “...do you like it?” she asked.
“It's OK I guess.” I gulped. “Why?”
“Well... I think a guy could wear shorts and tights and not look too girlie... you know like, distressed denim ones, with a skinny tee maybe.”
“But what? We're not going anywhere and no one's coming round that I know of.”
I knew exactly what she was hinting at and by by the look on her face, so did Mum. “But... Dad'll be back soon.” I reminded them.
“He won't mind.” Mum claimed. “He knows what we're talking about and is probably half expecting to come back to you wearing a dress and heels.”
“That's not going to happen.” I stated. “He doesn't think that does he?” I fearfully asked.
“Who knows?” Mum shrugged. “He's probably preparing himself from anything from a mild fascination with hosiery to full blown gender reassignment.” she added. “But whatever he comes back to... he's going to love you and support you the same way he always has done... the same way we all do, and will.”
“Oh Mum you're gonna make me cry talking like that.” I said, fighting the lump in my throat. “But I think we can all safely assume that it's just a mild fascination with hosiery.”
“Glad to hear it.” Mum grinned, adding “A sex change would have cost us a fortune” beneath her breath.
Hannah and I grinned at each other. This devolved into a lingering smile. “So... are you gonna wear something?” she eventually asked.
“I am wearing something.” I dryly replied.
“Something like a little pair of shorts and some tights I mean.” she sassily suggested.
“Oh I dunno... not today.”
“Why not?” she asked.
I stammered muttered and mumbled a variety of half arsed reasons before reverting to 'dad's coming back soon'.
“Well Dad's expecting something.” Hannah shrugged.
“Your sister's right Peter... today's as good a day as any... and you could wear leggings if you feel tights are bit of a leap too far.”
I spent a moment weighing up the odds. “Do I have to wear my underwear too?”
“Well I think you should wear some underwear.” Mum replied. “But which you wear is up to you.” she smiled.
“I think Pete should put the kettle on whilst we find him something... then I'll make us a brew whilst he's getting changed.” my sister suggested. “OK?”
“OK.” I gulped. “Just... nothing really girlie.”
“I know.” Hannah replied. “Do you want thick or thin tights?”
“Thick... and black... please.” My hands were shaking as I filled the kettle. It slowly erupted into a boil as I waited for my mother and sister to return. I could her their distant voices as they root and rummage through Hannah's old clothes. Mum was always pestering her to have a clear out of all the stuff she's outgrown and when Hannah does have an occasional clear out, the boxed and bagged clothes always end up in the spare room rather than at the charity shop as was the plan. I know. I've rummaged enough times myself. That's where I found her old tap dancing leotard. I recall how excited I felt when I discovered that the little skirt was attached to it and not a separate item, and how disappointed I was when I couldn’t find and white tights to wear with it.
“Right, there's some things on your bed.” Hannah said as she bounded into the kitchen. “I dug out a few pairs of shorts so wear whichever you like or fit the best... and there's a couple of tops and a vest.”
“OK.” I timidly said “Thanks.” I added, just as timidly. Mum entered as I left and smiled knowingly at me. I forced a smile back as I headed up to my room. On my bed is three pairs of denim shorts. Being typical girl's shorts, they're all very short; one is dark blue with a high waist and turned up hems and one is a paler stonewashed blue. Both have 'western' style pockets front and back whilst the third pair has little back pockets on the front and no pockets on the back. A pair of black tights is loosely draped over the tops she mentioned. I'm more than a little chuffed to find a Nirvana 'drunken smiley' T shirt. The other tee is a verdant green with capped sleeves and a broad 'boat' neck. Printed on the front of the Converse logo and also meets my approval... but not so much as the Nirvana tee. I glance at the unwanted gift and wonder whether I want it or not. I decide to leave it untouched for now and pull on the vest she'd left. Plain black with spaghetti straps and a narrow band of lace trim along the top edge. I kick off my converse and perch on my bed, pulling off my jeans and socks in one boyish motion. This is by no means the first time I've pulled on a pair of tights but it's the first time I’ve had permission. I slide them up my legs and settle the waistband before venturing into new territory... short denim shorts. I knew they were there in the bags of cast offs but it never one crossed my mind to try them. I step into the first pair and pull them up. The waist is high and tight, but there is some stretch. Their short legs hug my thighs and my nylon clad legs look long and shapely. I toy with trying the other two pairs but decide against it. I don't want my mother and sister thinking I’m up here modelling and considering each item before choosing my favourite. I push my feet back into my converse trainers before briefly considering wearing the green tee shirt. I stick to my guns and pull on my sister's old Nirvana tee shirt before having second thoughts. It has those little 'angel' sleeves and a lettuce edge around the waist. “Nah it'll do.” I tell myself as I look down at my skinny fit tee, little fitted shorts and long black legs.
Shyly, I huddle myself as I enter the kitchen. “I thought you'd choose that top.” Mum said. Hannah agreed and said it suited me. “Didn't you have a nightie with that print on too?” Mum asked.
“Yeah.” Hannah replied. “Did you want tea or coffee Pete?” she casually asked.
“Er... coffee please.” I meekly replied.
“Phew, that's a relief.” she said as she passed me a mug of coffee. “Shall we go through?” she said, nodding towards the lounge.
I was kind of hoping to settle at the table where I could hide my legs, but no... in to the lounge we go. Mum glances as I sit. Her eyes flick up and down my legs. “They suit you those shorts do.”
“Er... thanks.” I reply, before stating that they're very very short. “...for a boy any way.” I add.
“The was the standard length in the seventies and early eighties... for boys and men.” Mum claimed. “Although they didn't wear tights... but they did wear knee socks.”
“Really?!” my sister and I simultaneously asked. “I can imagine ankle socks but knee socks?” Hannah said. Mum nodded. “With shorts that short?” Hannah quizzed.
“Pretty much.” Mum replied.
My sister was positively perplexed and maintained that tights look best. “...or leggings.”
“I think I’d rather wear tights than knee socks... with these anyway.”
“Over knee socks look nice... but you'd have to shave your legs.” my sister said.
After a very short and relatively discomforting silence, Mum said, “I've a feeling that you already do.”
Yikes! I was hoping to keep that one secret too. Apparently I've left my razor on the edge of the bath a couple of times, and the hair that I'd missed whilst rinsing it out clearly wasn't from my chin. “Do you shave you pits too?” Hannah asked. Guiltily, I nodded. “Cool.” she shrugged.
“Even your dad trims his pits in the summer.” Mum said. “When its hot and sweaty.”
“Makes sense.” my sister said. “When did you shave your legs last?” she asked.
“Er... Christmas eve.” I reluctantly replied.
“Nice.” she smiled. Then she frowned and sighed.
“What?” I asked.
She sighed again before telling me how sorry she was. “It could have been such a nice gift if only I’d given it to you properly... but no... I had to get my own back like a spoilt brat.”
“I doesn't matter.” I told her. “If you had... it wouldn't be out in the open.” I said. “I think it's better out than in.”
“Me too.” Mum replied.
“Yay!” my sister exclaimed. “Does that mean I’m not grounded?” she asked.
“You never were grounded.” Mum retorted. Her phone beeped. “Oh, that's your father...” she said, reading a text message. “He wants to know if the coast is clear.”
Mum looked at me and my heart froze, but only for a moment. “Er... yeah I guess.” I replied. Mum tapped a reply. “What are you saying?” I asked.
“I'm telling him the coast is clear, and that you've got legs to die for, and if he ogles them, he's sleeping in the spare room.” she replied.
“Oh Mu-um.” I groaned. I suspected she was teasing me... but with her sense of humour, it's hard to tell.
Dad returned little more than five minutes later. He popped his head around the sitting room door, said “blimey it's cold out there... anyone want a brew?” before adding, “Bloody hell they are long aren't they!” as he glanced at my legs whilst taking my mug.
“Can I have coffee please?”
“Sure. Anyone else?”
Dad returned with a rounds of brews and handed them out before sitting himself down and asking what we were watching. He didn't mention my attire and barely even glanced at me... not that he was ignoring me... I get the feeling he was trying to act normal in an abnormal situation.
Later, in the kitchen he said “Cool T shirt.”
“Er... it's one of Hannah's.” I replied. “Dad?” I asked. “You don't mind me er... wearing this do you?”
“Nah... if you're comfortable, I'm comfortable.”
“Why wouldn't I be?”
“I dunno... I just thought you might think errr...” I tailed off deliberately.
“Well... don't waste time worrying about what you think people might think... because half the time you'll be worrying about nothing.” my dad told me. “Some people might think you're weird or dare I say it... a 'fag' ...some people like your sister might think it's cool.” he claimed. “Take people as they come... in my experience they tend to surprise you.”
“Yeah I guess.” I replied, before adding that I’m not planning on dressing like this in front of my friends any time soon.
“Well that's up to you, and it's probably wise... at least at this stage.”
“Yeah.” I agreed. “I bet you're glad I'm not wearing a dress.”
“I'm just glad you're not hiding any more.” he said. “I care not what you wear, so long as you are who you are.” he added. An expression of intrigue, then pride swept his face. Whether he was quoting something or had just made it up, I don't know. What I do know is I’m glad my dad isn't being a dick about this.
I went up to my room and since I’m dressed for it, I listened to my new Nirvana LP again. Halfway through the second track, my sister knocked on the door and asked if she could enter. “Heard you listening to Nirvana so I thought I'd join you... if that's OK?” she said.
“Yeah.” I replied, allowing her in. She mildly berated me for leaving my jeans scrunched up on the floor where I'd stepped out of them. I picked them up and folded them as she straightened my duvet and sat on the bed.
“I think this is my favourite song ever!” she exclaimed as the aqueous opening notes of Come As You Are warbled through my speakers. Having picked up my jeans, I began putting my discarded sock into my laundry bin. “Don't do that... come.. sit... listen.” Hannah said as she patted the space next to her. I sat and she put her hand flat on my lap. “I'd challenge any guy to deny that tights are nice after giving them a try.” she said as she ran her palm over the smooth nylon fabric.
I smiled and agreed, before saying “What is it with you lot today? You keep rhyming.” I repeated her last sentence, then recalled as best I could what Dad had said.
“Did he really say that?” Hannah asked. I nodded. “That's really nice.”
We sat in silence and began nodding out heads to the guitar solo, before joining in with the lyrics. “No I don't have a gun.... No I don't have a gun...” When the next track came on, we couldn't help but play air guitar and start head banging. Hannah whacked up the volume. “It sounds amazing on vinyl!” she said as we rocked and thrashed to the raucous sound.
When the next track began we turned the volume down to a more palatable level and sat. She picked up the LP cover and perused it. “They're a lot more satisfying than a CD cover.” I said. She nodded, partly in a agreement and partly in time with the music.
We listened and chatted and sang along to the remainder of side A. I lifted the needle from the record and Hannah asked if I'd put that LP because of the T shirt or... “I'd have listened to it anyway.” I said as I flipped the disc. “But yeah... it seemed apt.” I said as I placed the disc back on the platter and looked down at the T shirt.
“You can keep it if you like.” she said.
“The T shirt?” I asked. She nodded. “You sure?”
“Of curse... it's a bit small for me and it suits you.” she said. “Do you like it?”
“I wasn't so sure about the sleeves but... yeah, it's cool. Thanks.”
“You're welcome.” she smiled.
I put the needle on the record and joined her on the bed. She handed me the album sleeve and I perused its back cover for the hundredth time. Hannah spotted the distinctive 12” square of plain brown card leant against my chest of drawers and leaned over to grab it. “Are you gonna wear it?” she asked as she ran her fingers over the polythene cover.
“I dunno.” I sighed. “Did you buy it because it'd look like an LP when you wrapped it?”
“No I bought it because it's pretty.” she retorted. “Maybe a bit too pretty.” she added, before telling me that it's OK if I don't. “Dunno why Mum thinks you're too young to wear stockings though... it's not as if they're black and tarty.”
“Maybe it's more to do with me that the colour.” I suggested, “Being a boy and all that.”
“I know but... if you're gonna wear nice lingerie, you may as well go the whole hog.” she said. “If you want to.” she added.
“It's very lacy.” I gulped.
“It'll make a nice change from my old gym knickers.” she retorted. I grimaced, bit my lip and glanced coyly at her. “Yeah I knew about those too... you were easy to follow once I knew what to look for.”
“Oh god... I don't want to know.” I groaned. My sister just grinned at me. I grimaced and gulped and coyly hung my head. She asked why, so far as she could tell, I never borrowed her nice knickers... always the big 'granny panties'. “Not quite so girlie.” I replied.
“So this...” she held up the lingerie set. “...is a step too far?”
“No.” I insisted. “It's nice... I think.” I said as I took it from her. “It's not pink or flowery.”
“I imagine you wearing it in the spring... on the first really warm day... with a little floaty dress...” she dreamily said.
“I imagine hiding it under my own own clothes and never having to wear a dress.”
“I like my idea better.” she said. “I might have my driver's licence by then so we could go out to the countryside.. I could do something with your hair and... maybe a bit of lippy...”
“Hannah... I like wearing 'some' girl's clothes... I don't want to go traipsing round the countryside dressed as a woman.”
My sister thought for a moment. “Yeah fair enough... I was just day dreaming.” she said. “It would be nice to see how you'd look though...” she paused. “...in a little floaty dress and a little bit of make-up.”
I thought for a moment. “One step at a time eh?”
“I'd also like to see how you look in my old Malton Grammar uniform... I know you've borrowed that a couple of times.” she informed me. “And my bottle green tights.” she added. “Didn't you find them itchy?”
“Very.” I gulped. My sister asked why, since I’ve stated several times that I’m not into the idea of wearing skirts or dresses, why I wore her old school uniform. “I dunno... to see how it looked I guess.” I replied. “You can't just wear the tights...” I added.
“I hated them.” Hannah replied. “What on earth compelled you to want to wear them?”
“I dunno... intrigue?” I supposed. “I remember you hating them and wanted to know what was so bad about them.”
“Everything!” she retorted. “The colour, the rough itchy knit, the waistbands were rubbish and I spent half my time hitching them up... and we had to buy them from the school shop!” she listed. “You boys don't know how lucky you are.” she stated.
I cast my eyes down my long nylon clad legs. “Sometimes it doesn't feel like we're lucky.” I mournfully claimed. “Girls these days can do pretty much anything they want; police, army, engineering, computers, science, sport...” I said. “...and they can wear what they want too; jeans, jumpers, T shirts, trainers, trousers, trackies, hoodies.”
“Yeah but... you could wear whatever you want.” Hannah replied. “Kurt Cobain did... he wore dresses.”
“Yeah but... he was a rock star, he also looked terrible in them, and he shot himself.”
“OK... maybe not the best example.” Hannah grinned. She mused for a moment before sighing. “The only others I can think of don't look great either.”
“Thanks.” I grumbled.
“I didn't mean you... I mean on the telly.” she said, listing Eddie Izzard and Grayson Perry.
“Is that the bloke who dresses like a little girl?” I asked. Hannah nodded. “That's a bit weird... you should at least dress your age.”
“Yeah... but he's an artist, it's a statement I guess.” she replied. “I couldn't see you dressing like that.”
“Me neither.” We shared a warm comfortable moment. It felt good being open, being on the level, being friends and listening to music... in a state of nirvana, so to speak. The LP eventually finished and Hannah asked what I was going to pay next. “I was gonna go and watch TV.” I said as I slid the vinyl into it's dust cover. “...and show my face.”
“Oh put another record on.” she cooed.
“I could... I just don't want Mum & Dad thinking I'm hiding myself away... you know.”
“Just do what you'd normally do.” Hannah suggested.
“Yeah I guess.” I agreed. “What's it gonna be then? AC/DC, Radiohead, Kings of Leon or Nirvana again?”
“In Rainbows.” she replied. “Can I look at the sleeve?”
We eventually returned downstairs where Mum asked what we'd been doing. “Listening to Pete's LPs.” Hannah told her. “...and chatting.”
“So you two are friends again?” Mum asked, aiming the question at both of us.
Hannah and I looked and smiled at one another. “Yeah.” we said.
“Glad to hear it.” our mother said. We watched TV, ate supper, chatted, nattered and watched more TV until Dad went to the pub. Hannah was in her room chatting on the phone to one of her friends, leaving Mum and I in front of the telly. “So how's today been?” she asked.
“OK.” I replied. “Good, in fact.” I added. “I was a bit nervous to begin with but, I feel quite comfortable now.”
“You look comfy.” Mum said. “Those shorts really suit you.”
“Thanks.” I shyly replied. “They're a bit too short I think.”
“I don't think so.” she replied. “Some girls wear them a lot shorter than that.” she added.
“I think these are about as short as it's going to get.”
“Glad to hear it.” Mum said. “And if you do start wearing skirts, I expect them to be significantly longer.”
“I'm not really planning on that either.” I claimed. “Hannah was trying to talk me into wearing a dress before.”
“Any one in particular?” Mum asked. I shrugged. “There's quite a few I think might suit you.”
“Oh not you too.” I whined.
“What?” she defensively asked. I skewed my jaw whilst thinking of a response. “If you're going to try different things you may as well be adventurous... and it seems a shame to have all those outgrown clothes doing nothing.”
“I thought they were supposed to be going to the charity shop.”
“That's the idea, but whether they actually get there is another matter.” Mum said. “We can't let them go without having a sort through though... not now.”
All of a sudden I felt awkward and didn't know how to respond. Whilst there's some items up there that I'd love to get my hands on, there's many I wouldn't. Then there's the fact that most of the things I'd like are 'dress-up' items rather than something I'd casually wear around the house; Hannah's old school uniform, for example... and her tap dancing outfit. I can imagine Mum holding a variety of frightful frocks against me, telling me they're nice and putting them on the 'to keep' pile regardless of my opinion. Then there's the prospect Hannah dressing me in her old favourites... and she wasn't always a cool, sassy seventeen year old. Maybe I'm letting my imagination get the better of me? Maybe I'm just creating yet another scenario designed to exonerate me. A scenario such as being sent to a Scottish boarding school where I'd have to wear a really short kilt with thick woolly tights, or accompanying my sister to her tap dancing class and being told that I can't just wait... I have to participate. Of course I'd have to wear a leotard and dance tights before being sent to join the beginner's group. “Huh? What?” I said as my mother's voice dragged my out of my thoughts.
“I said I’m going shopping tomorrow if you fancy coming.” my mother repeated.
“Yeah can do. Can I go to HMV?” I asked.
“So long as you don't spend hours in there.”
“I'm nearly fifteen Mum.. you go round 'your' shops whilst I’m in there.”
“I know but... I was thinking, since certain things have come to light... you might like to come round 'my' shops with me.” my mother suggested. “I did say I'd buy you some tights... I might buy you a few other bits and bobs too.”
Tempted as I was, I didn't ask the burning question. Instead I asked, “Won't it look a bit weird... a mother and her teenage son shopping for tights?”
“Well... not really... lots of sons go shopping with their mums.” she replied. “And I want to make sure I'm buying something you like... there's so many to choose from in the big department stores.”
“Is Dad or Hannah coming too?”
“Hmmmm.” Mum mused. “I hadn't actually mentioned it to them... they might, but we could always shoo him off so it be just us girls.”
“I'm not a girl Mum.” I groaned.
“I know but you know what I mean.” she replied. “Although... with a bit of work, you could pass as one.”
I gulped. It was almost as if I could read her thoughts. I could almost feel her painting my face and teasing my boyish hair into cute pixie style. “Huh... what?” I said, startled out of my daydreams once again.
“I said, with a bit of gel, I could tease your hair into a cute pixie style.” my mother repeated, grinning at me.
I responded with a nervous grin and forced a chuckle. “You're not being serious are you Mum?”
“No... not really.” she replied. I wasn't sure either way. She looked me up and down again and teasingly asked if I'd be wearing the same shorts tomorrow. I knew she knew the answer so I replied with an orchestrated roll of the eyes. “Are you going to wear your new undies?” she asked in the same teasing tone. I rolled my eyes again, this time, adding a skewed chin to my silent retort. “Oh go on!” she enthused. “You've got to try them one day.”
I sighed and thought for a moment. “OK... just don't make a big deal about it.” I requested.
Mum smiled a triumphant smile. “I can't wait to see how they look.”
“That's what I meant about not making a big deal about it... I bet you don't ask Hannah to show off whatever she's wearing?”
“If it's something nice I would... such as new lingerie.” she claimed. I've no idea if she's teasing me or not. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.
Eventually Mum and I tidied the kitchen and not long after that, Hannah's hour long phone conversation ended. She'd been chatting to her friend Mary and proceeded to paraphrase the highlights of the conversation to our mother. “You haven't been telling her about me have you?” I apprehensively asked.
“Nooo.” my sister defensively claimed. “Your secret's safe with me.” she said. I certainly hope so because Mary's younger sister Emily is in my class at school.
“Me and Peter are going shopping tomorrow if you fancy coming?” Mum said.
“To the city?” Hannah asked. Mum nodded. “Nah... it'll be heaving.”
“I know... but the sales are on.” Mum replied.
“Are you driving in?” Hannah asked.
“No I think we'll get the train.”
The next day, Dad was too hung over to even drive us down to the station, let alone come shopping with us. On the one hand I was relieved but on the other... “I wish Hannah was coming.” I said as we briskly walked to the train station. Mum asked why and I explained that I wouldn't feel quite so self conscious if she was there.
“Ah so you want her as cover, rather than company?” Mum asked.
“Yeah, something like that.” I coyly replied. A mother with her teenage son and daughter won't look quite so conspicuous as just a mother and her son in the hosiery department.
“That's why I was toying with the idea of you looking a bit girlie.”
“I'd be even colder if I was wearing those shorts and tights.” I replied. “I don't know how they cope on days like this.”
“A lifetime of having to wear skirts for school.” Mum replied. “It toughens our legs up.”
It was chilly enough walking to the train station, but standing on the station platform felt positively Baltic. “Brrrr.” I said. “I should have borrowed a clean pair of tights off Hannah.”
“You'll be OK once we're on the train.” Mum said. “And the Arndale's always warm.”
“Yeah I guess.” I said, shivering. “Aren't you cold?” I asked my mother who appeared to be completely at ease in the near Baltic climate.
“I'm a girl... we're tough.” she shrugged.
I looked her up and down. A thick winter coat covered her down to just above the knee. A pair of heeled leather boots covered her up to just below the knee. A pair of brown tights covered her legs. “Your knees at least must be cold?” I quizzed.
“They're OK.” she claimed. “You should try it some time... skirts are warmer than they look.” she said. “Plus I've got an underskirt on as well, which makes a difference.”
I pondered for a moment. A pair of tights plus a skirt, underskirt and a thick coat equals at least four layers between her waist and knee... which is significantly more than my denim jeans. Maybe they're not that tough... maybe its just clever layering? I wondered.
“Did you er...” my mother cautiously began. “...decide to wear your er...” she hesitantly enquired. “...or are you saving them for another day?” she asked. I gulped and confessed that I was. A broad grin swept her face. “Are they nice?”
I felt myself blush. “They're OK.” I admitted. “The top's a bit weird but...”
“In what way?”
“Well... it's a bra. I just feels a bit odd wearing one when I clearly don't need one.”
“It's a bralette.” Mum corrected, explaining once again that since it doesn't provide support means that its only purpose is to look nice. “...and I'm sure it does.”
I felt myself blush a little more and shyly looked at my shoes. “Probably a bit too nice.” I replied as I glanced down the line. A flicker of light on the bridge wall was quickly followed by a rumble on the tracks and seconds later, the approaching train came into view. We boarded and found a pair of empty seats and soon we were on our way. The train took us past Middlewood and we're soon in the sprawling suburbs of the city. It's only a thirty minute journey but it feels far longer since there's a station seemingly every mile and the train stops at each and every one of them. From the station, we take a tram to High Street and enter the huge indoor shopping mall. “So... where we going first?” I asked.
“We'll just have browse.” Mum replied. She suggested we stroll around the Arndale, maybe stop for coffee, then go to HMV before having a look in M&S, Selfridge’s and Harvey Nick's. “...then do Debenhams and Primark on the way back to Piccadilly.”
“Sounds like you've planned it all out.” I said.
“Of course.” Mum replied as she led me into New Look. Normally I’d be heading directly to the men's department but today, we strolled slowly around the girl's clothes. “Now we're not here to buy, just to browse... so don't get worried if I ask if you like something ...I'm not going to buy it.”
“OK.” I shyly replied as she removed a frilly blouse from its rack. She sauntered and meandered and I followed. She'd point out various items and I'd say yay or nay whilst worrying that people might be looking at us. My worry becomes a panic when an assistant appears from no where and asks if we'd like any help. Mum's holding a corduroy button through skirt and my cheeks feel like they could well be the same shade of burgundy. Mum tells her that we're just browsing and the assistant cast me a suspicious glance. “Not for me.” I hesitantly insisted.
“For his girlfriend.” Mum said. “Its her birthday on New Years Eve.” she added.
This seemed to convince the assistant who asked her age (the imaginary girlfriend) and suggested something like a handbag or vanity case. “Then you won't have to worry about getting the right size.” she added.
“Oh that's a good idea.” Mum exclaimed. The assistant pointed us in the direction of the handbags and Mum said we'd work our way around. The assistant left us to browse. I complimented my mother on her quick thinking. She told me that I worry too much. “It might be the girl's department but that doesn't mean it's exclusive. Males can shop here too...” she shrugged. “...sometime for gifts, sometime for themselves.” she said as she returned the skirt to its rail. “So what do you think?”
I looked at the skirt and turned my nose up. “I don't like the buttons.” I said. “And I'm not sure about the colour.”
“The burgundy or the fact that it's got a colour?” Mum asked. “So far everything you like is either black or grey.”
“I liked those blue shorts.” I said.
“Yeah but you've got shorts at home.”
“There's loads of Hannah's old clothes at home too.” I retorted. “So why are we looking at new ones?”
“We're just browsing... I'm trying to get an idea of what you like and you can get an idea of what's available.” she replied. “Come on, lets have a look at the handbags.”
This section was another whole new world to me. Guys just have rucksacks, duffel or messenger bags to keep their stuff in. Girls have the same plus satchels, shoulder bags, handbags, clutch bags, purses, vanity cases and tote bags. “What's the point of such a small bag?” I asked as Mum looked at a clutch bag. “Surely the bigger the better?”
“Well... you don't go everywhere with a rucksack do you?” Mum asked. “Sometimes all you have is your keys, a phone and a wallet.”
“Yeah but they can go in pockets.”
“Not if you're wearing a dress without any pockets.” she replied.
“Yeah true.” I said. “The pockets in those shorts weren't very big.”
“Which is why a little handbag comes in handy.” my mother informed me, adding “...not that you need one.”
Eventually we exited New Look and sauntered into Warehouse followed by Guess, where Mum was taken by some of their T shirts with the shop's name printed on the front. I was mildly amused by the idea of wearing shorts, tights and a T shirt with 'guess' printed on it, but couldn't believe the price. “...for a T shirt!” I quietly exclaimed.
“Like I say, we're just looking.” Mum replied. “Can we look in the Disney store?”
“Yeah.” I replied. Its as much Star Wars as it is Princesses and Mickey Mouse these days, although we spent more time looking at the cute stuff rather than the cool stuff.
Mum likes the Tinker Bell stuff but acknowledges that at 48, she's a bit too old for it. You're telling me! I’m not even fifteen and I’m too old for it... but saying that, some of the sketched designs were quite cool. Mum also liked the girl's Star Wars stuff. There's T shirts, leggings, nighties & pyjamas, dresses and hoodies. She especially liked the Don't Mess With a Princess and don't Call Me Princess designs. “Oh look at this!” she says, picking out a storm trooper princess dress. The top half has a storm trooper uniform printed on it and the bottom is a long white tutu. It even comes with a helmet!
“Hey there's a Darth Vader one too!” I pointed out. Mum preferred the storm trooper one. I did too.
Eventually we left the Disney store and had a look in Top Shop, River Island, Dorothy Perkin's and Miss Selfridge. As usual, I had a sly glance in the doorway of Ann summers as we passed, and soon I was in more comfortable surroundings; HMV. We headed directly to the vinyl section and both began flicking through. For Mum it was a trip down memory lane as she found re-issues of 80s and 90's albums she used to love. For me, it's like Mecca for music. There's so much to buy and with so little money to spend, I'm overwhelmed by the choice. “Why don't you look in the vintage vinyl shops instead?” Mum suggested. “You'd probably get five records for twenty-five quid instead of one.” she said. I wondered if they'd be scratched or damaged, being second hand but Mum said it's just a case of checking. “Maybe your Dad could bring you in one day... he'll know the best places.”
“Yeah but... I want to buy something now but I can't decide what.”
“In that case, don't buy anything... save your vouchers 'til you know what you want.”
I took her advice and we exited HMV, heading to the bridge that links the Arndale to M&S and Selfridges. “Shall we stop for coffee or head straight for the hosiery?” she asked. I didn't feel the need for coffee, but on seeing the huge choice of tights, socks and stockings, I could have used one. “Can you see any you like?” she asked.
“I like black ones best I think.”
“Thick or thin or both?”
“Thick... like I wore yesterday.”
“I think brown tights are nice too.”
“I prefer black.”
“I know but you can have more than one pair... I’m thinking five or six at least.”
“Oh... er... I like blue ones.”
“Yeah...” I shyly said. “...like they wear at school.”
“Oh I see. Navy blue.” she said. I nodded. “What about something like this?” she said, picking up a cream pair with a knitted floral pattern. I swallowed what little boyish pride I had left and nodded. My sister has a similar pair which I’ve borrowed on numerous occasions, and I just know that Mum knows. She asked if I was sure and again, I nodded. “How tall are you now?” she asked as she perused the size chart on the packaging.
“Five four I think.”
“That'll be small then.” she said, swapping the medium size for a small. “...and some black and blue ones?”
“If that's OK.” I humbly replied.
“Course it is. Do you want to try brown?”
“Shall we have a look at the undies whilst we're here?”
“Why?” I gulped.
“Well...” she glanced around to make sure none of the numerous other shoppers were in earshot. “...you'll want more than one pair of knickers.” she said in a hushed tone. “And you said you liked wearing strappy vests.”
I felt completely out of my comfort zone in the girl's underwear department, but I wasn't the only teenage boy in that particular aisle. “Is it big ones like like?” Mum covertly asked. “Or do you prefer little ones?”
“Er...” I'd rooted through Hannah's undies numerous times and always went for the high waisted ones. I suspected that Mum knew what I'd been borrowing so I figured it was best to not avoid the question. “...like that.” I said, quickly pointing to a white pair with lacy elastic around the low legs and high waist.
Mum removed them and said “They're like school knickers” before pointing out a pack of the so-called 'boy' shorts.
“Er... yeah I guess.” I nervously said. Mum put the big knickers back. “Aren't you getting those?” I timidly asked.
“I'll get you a multi-pack rather than just one pair.” she said. “Do you like colours and patterns?”
“Er... I really don't know.” I replied. “Maybe I should leave this bit up to you?”
“Mum knows best eh?” she smiled.
“So long as she doesn't buy pink ones.” I glumly replied.
“There's nothing wrong with a little bit of pink.” she said, showing me a pack of black and grey boyshorts with pastel pink and purple trim. I was tempted so I didn't decline. Mum found a matching pack of vests and I gulped my approval. “We'll get you some school knickers from Primark.” she said before heading to the counter.
I loitered by the escalator and couldn't help but wonder if this is a good or bad thing. I've often envisaged what it would be like if my secret came out and always imagined being berated, being told to stop and to not even think of wearing girl's clothes again. I didn't imagine for one moment that my sister would think it was 'cool', that my Dad would say it's OK or that my mother would bring me shopping. “Do you fancy going somewhere for a coffee?” Mum asked when she rejoined me. We settled in Cafe Nero where Mum ordered a mocca for me and a skinny latte or herself. “So... are you enjoying yourself or do you feel like a fish out of water?” she asked.
“Bit of both I guess.” I replied. “Girls have so much more to choose from.”
“We do.” Mum agreed. “It seems a little unfair really.” she added. I nodded. Then she asked if used my normal razors for shaving my legs and how often I shave them. I was understandably hesitant, but told the truth that sometimes I’ll do them once a week, and sometimes I'll leave it a couple of months. “Doesn't anyone notice when you're doing PE?” she asked. I reminded her that we can wear trackies if we're not playing football or rugby, so can easily hide them. She asked when I first shaved them.
“As soon as I noticed they were covered in hair.” I replied, adding “A year or two ago.” She asked when I shaved them last. “Er... Christmas Eve.” I confessed.
“I had a feeling you had.” Mum said. “Of course you could have just been having a nice long bath but...”
“I didn't leave my razor on the side of the bath did I?”
“No.” Mum grinned. “It was a mother's intuition.” she claimed.
“Ah.” I replied. She asked if I shaved my armpits to and I nodded.
“Do you moisturise afterwards?”
“Er... should I?”
“Your skin would much nicer if you do.... smoother too.”
“Oh.” I said. “I just do what I do with my face... lather up, leave it a minute, shave, rinse and wash.”
“It's not exactly rocket science is it?” my mother replied. She sipped her coffee, I sipped mine. “So...” she said. “...are you going to get them out in the summer?” she asked. “Get some sun on them?”
“Er... I doubt it.” I said. “Unless I take up cycling or something, what reason have I got to justify shaving them?”
“Well... you could just say you prefer it.” Mum suggested. “Or take up cycling.” she added. “It's not a bad idea.”
We left the café and sauntered along Deansgate before zigzagging through numerous side streets which, according to Mum, would lead us back to Market street. We browsed around some shops and just looked in the windows of others. They weren't all clothes shops. We spent a few minutes looking in the window of a shoe shop and Mum asked my opinion on girl's footwear. “Those are OK.” I said, pointing to the ubiquitous black flat ballet style. “And those.” I added, pointing to some hiking style boots with a chunky sole.
“So you'd wear heels?” Mum asked.
“Err... maybe not.” I said. I hadn't noticed the heels initially. They aren't high but they are significant and chunky like the sole. “I'd probably break my ankle.” I preumed.
“Yeah... the world is full of women with broken ankles.” my mother sarcastically retorted. Maybe she's got a point. “When I was growing up, girls were discouraged from doing things like playing football and climbing trees...” she reminisced. “...but us girls used to think we could do anything a boy could do, and more.”
“Well, you were right.” I said. Their panoramic choice of clothing was in the forefront of my mind.
“Yeah... we were.” she smugly replied. “But it works both ways... if a girl can do it, then surely a boy can too?”
“Only to an extent.” I replied after a moment of musing. “I doubt I'd get away with wearing ballet pumps at school.”
“Is that what you'd like?”
“Not really... I dunno... I'd just like a world where we can wear whatever... girls can wear pants so...”
“Hmm... it's unfair.” Mum said as we began sauntering once more. “In the early eighties when we had the likes of Boy George and Prince and the whole New Romantic thing... it certainly looked like things were heading in that direction.” she said.
“Nothing really... it was the 80s and there was a new trend every five minutes.” she told me. “Punk, New Wave, Two Tone, Alternative and Indie... Nuworrbumm...” she grinned.
“What?” I exclaimed.
Mum chuckled and told me it's an acronym for the new wave of British heavy metal. “Bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest were just getting their big break. Hip Hop was becoming mainstream... Goths appeared, we had Synth Pop, House and Techno...”
“All in one decade?” I asked.
“Mm-hmm.” Mum replied. “Speak of the devil!” she said, stopping us in our tracks.
“There.” she said, gesturing towards a shop window in which is a huge poster depicting Satan as a puppet master and the words Iron Maiden. “The Beast is Back!” It hails the re-issue of their classic Number of the Beast album.
“Can we go in?” I asked, noticing that the discount retailer sells vinyl as well as CDs, DVDs and books. “They're cheaper in here!” I exclaimed after finding the vinyl section and many pressings were ten or fifteen pounds.
“Found anything you want?” mum asked.
“Loads.” I replied, pointing out Muse and Green Day.
“Cool.” Mum said. “Are you going to buy them?” she asked. I nodded eagerly. “Shall we have a look at the T shirts?”
My gift vouchers added up to £25 and the two LPs I’d chosen were ten pounds each. The T shirts were also a tenner and Mum said she'd put up the rest if I wanted one. They had loads to choose from including Radiohead, Nirvana, Linkin Park, Muse and Green Day... but I settled on an AC/DC one. “Let's check the size chart.” Mum said, taking it from me. “You sure you want a girl's one?” she asked, since that's what I'd picked.
I nodded. Mum smiled and I took it, the LPs and my gift vouchers to the counter. I half expected the assistant to double check the gender of the T shirt against the gender of the buyer but he didn't. He did compliment my album choices though, as he slid all three into a Fopp carrier bag. We exited Fopp and headed to Market Street. We browsed the women's and girl's department of Debenhams where Mum pointed out some really daggy clothes; velvety dresses with white collars or lace trimmed yokes. I wasn't keen. Mum said they're nice for this time of year, describing them as 'wintry'. “Feel the fabric.” she said. I did and it did feel nice, cosy even. “It'd look lovely with those cream tights.”
“I think I prefer that one to that.” I said, pointing to the burgundy version alongside the green one. “...but I don't really like either of them.” I added.
“Fair enough.” Mum said. We browsed a little further and she instinctively gravitated towards the sale rails. “Some of these are nice.” she said, flicking though a rail full of heavily discounted festive nightwear. “Have you thought about a nightie or nice PJs?” she asked.
Bearing in mind that my mother may already know the answer, I reply by telling her that I 'might' have borrowed one of Hannah's on a couple of occasions. Mum asked which one so I described her navy blue nightie with white stars and a crescent moon on the front. Mum continued looking at the nightwear sale whilst talking, and asked if I borrowed it because I liked it or if it was just an easy snatch from the laundry. The truth is both; first time it was an easy snatch, the second was because I liked it. “These are nice.” she said, showing me a pair of pyjamas; navy blue pants peppered with little snow flakes and a grey T shirt top with a big single snowflake printed on the front, and on the back, an angel wings print made of loads of little snowflakes. My sister has a few T shirts with wings printed on the back and I've always thought they were cool... so these pyjamas are similarly 'cool'. “Shall I get them?” she asked. “They're only a fiver... down from fifteen.”
We exited Debenham's and crossed over to Primark. Mum said she was starving and I said I was too. “We'll quickly grab some knickers then go to Burger King.” she said, heading directly to the girl's department. “Do these look OK?” she asked.
The pack has five pairs of 'full' briefs; each rolled up in a cellophane package. A cardboard insert says Back to School: 5 pack Girl's Briefs. High Waist. Low Leg. “Er.. yeah.” I sheepishly reply.
Mum grabs a pack of white vests with the same 'back to school' branding before lingering at the selection of socks and tights. “Anything you like?” she asked. “Knee socks maybe?” she added, picking a pack of pelerine 'school' socks from the display and having a closer look.
“Nah.” I replied. “I wouldn't wear them.”
“They're nice though... and we both know you've tried her old uniforms on.”
“Yeah but... I like tights.” I humbly stated.
“Knee socks are nice too.” she replied, adding that they're only a couple of pounds and it'll be nice to have a variety. I conceded and Mum suggested we look at the footwear. “If they have some of those ballet pumps you like for not much money, I'll buy you some.”
“I can't try shoes on Mum.” I said under my breath as I briskly followed her down the aisle. “Not like this.” I added, gesturing to my clearly boyish appearance.
The footwear department has benches at the end of each aisle. Mum sits me on a bench at the end of boy's aisle and asked me to kick off one of my shoes. I do as asked and pass it to her. “Won't be long.” she said before turning on her heel and leaving me guarding out shopping bags. I considered their contents whilst I waited; knickers, vests, tights, pyjamas, two LPs and a T shirt that I really do want and some knee socks that I really didn't want. I gulped as I visualised wearing them. As much as I wanted to deny it, my mother was absolutely right about my sister's old school uniforms. I've worn both of them; the navy blue skirt the girls wear at my school (usually with navy blue tights) and her old uniform with the itchy green tights. Some of the girls at my school wear their skirts with knee socks but it's not a look I admire. Ankle socks are OK but knee socks, I figure, are more suited to junior school than high school. All of a sudden, my mother is standing over me. “Here you are.” she said, passing my shoe back to me.
Hanging from her fingers is a big paper carrier bag and I knowingly asked if she'd been to the checkout. Mum nodded. I pushed my foot into my shoe and pressed my heel into it. “Did you find some shoes?” I asked as we exited the store.
“I did.” Mum replied. “I'll show you them in Burger King.”
Like everywhere else in the city, Burger King was busy. It felt like there was a black hole forming in my stomach by the time we finally sat down to eat. I sank my teeth into a cheese burger whilst Mum dipped into the Primark bag. “I bought these for Hannah.” she said, briefly showing me a simple pair of flat black pumps. “Do you think she'll like them?”
I nodded as I chopped, eventually saying, “Yeah I think so.”
With other customers seemingly inches to my left and right, I was glad that she didn't pull out the knickers, vests and knee socks too. We ate and made small talk, but mostly ate. Afterwards we had a look around an indoor market where the goths and emos shop and spent a good hour looking at the various stalls. Like the Corn Exchange, there's loads of little curiosity shops, vintage stalls, alternative fashions, posters, comics, FRP, army surplus and various other outlets. “I didn't know this place existed.” I said as we awkwardly made progress through its narrow busy corridors. Mum said it's been here for years and added that it's not usually this busy. After struggling our way around two of its four floors, Mum suggested we head home rather than head up to the next floor. I was also getting bored of being in a crowd so we headed back to Picadilly. Our timing couldn't have been better because a train was due in ten minutes.
Like the city, the platform was busy and so was the train. We had to stand all the way to Stockport where pretty much everyone alighted. With a near empty carriage we sat ourselves down. Mum asked if I'd had a nice afternoon. I said I had but confessed to it being a bit awkward and scary at times, such as when she got the shoes out in Burger King and the dubious glances from some shop assistants. “I guess it's not every day they get boys in the girl's shops.” I supposed.
“You worry too much. They probably see loads of boys... some shopping with mother, some buying gifts, some buying for themselves. They probably wouldn't bat an eyelid if you asked to try a dress on.”
“You reckon?” I asked. I couldn't see it myself.
“People are generally a lot more tolerant than you might think Peter.”
“Yeah maybe... I still don't like the idea of going 'can I try this on?' though.” I said. “Not in a department store anyway.”
“What about one of those little boutiques in Afflecks?” she asked. “I got the feeling they were more to your taste.”
I pondered for a moment before saying “Nah... some of the clothes were cool but I still couldn't go and buy some.”
“What did you like?”
“Those dungarees with the skulls on.” I replied.
“That surprises me.” Mum replied. “They were very girlie.” she said. From a distance, the fabric is white with black hearts and a peppering of pink bows printed on it. It's only on closer inspection the the hearts are revealed to be the eye sockets of numerous human skulls. Yes, the pattern is girlie, but in a way that challenges the 'cute' stereotype in such a cool way. “You should have said.” Mum said.
“Nah... I'd have had to try 'em on.”
“I could have just held them against you.”
“That would have been just as embarrassing as trying.” I said. “Any way you've spent loads today.” I added.
“Not that much.” Mum shrugged.
“You didn't buy yourself anything.”
“I wasn't really looking for myself.” she replied. “I've got enough clothes already.”
The train finally left the suburbs and we were in open countryside once more, meaning we'll soon be at our stop. The sun is sinking below the horizon as we climb the hill from the station to our house. “You're not going to tell Dad that you've bought me loads of knickers are you?” I shyly ask as we turn on to Leafield Avenue.
Mum assured me she wouldn't, but said that it's not a secret either. “I don't make an announcement when I buy Hannah's undies.” she said.
“Yeah I guess.”
“Plus he'll be more interested in your LPs.” she replied. “Are you gonna put some tights on when we get in?”
“I think I'll try the brown ones.” I replied. “With shorts and my new T shirt.”
“Undies?” Mum asked.
“I've got some on.”
“Oh yes I’d forgotten!” she exclaimed. “Are they nice to wear?”
“I'm gonna have to see how they look.” Mum told me. “Not today, but one day.” she added.
“I figured as much.” I said.
Dad was impressed with my records and reminisced over how own long gone record collection. “They'd be worth a fortune these days.” he dreamt. Mum told him that he'd have to take me around the vintage vinyl shops one day, adding that most LPs were £20+ in HMV.
Hannah, being familiar with both LPs I'd bought said she wanted to listen to Muse first. I agreed, but wanted a moment to put my stuff away and change first. It was weirdly exciting putting my knickers, vests and tights into my underwear and sock drawers. Putting the girlie pelerine knee socks away was just weird. I stripped down to my boyshorts and bralette and spent a few seconds admiring its delicate, dainty styling before pulling a pair of my very own tights up my legs. They don't look so great on their own but with a pair of shorts, they look fantastic. I pull on my new T shirt and I'm surprised at how broad its neck is. I thought it'd just be a standard skinny fit tee that could just pass as boyish, but with its 'boat' neck, little pin-tucked sleeves and lettuce edge hem, its clearly very girlie. I love it! I push my stockinged feet in to my new ballet pumps just as my sister taps on the door. “Can I come in yet?” she asked.
“Yeah.” I nervously replied.
“Hey nice tights. Nice T shirt too... and shoes!”
“Yeah.” I shyly said. “It's all coming out now.” I guiltily added.
“Good.” she said. “It's gotta be better than hiding.”
“Yeah... still scary though.” I said as I slid my new Muse LP out of its sleeve and placed it on the platter. “But kind of in a good way.” I added as I put the needle down.
“Good.” Hannah said as she sat on my bed. “Mum said we'd have a sort through my cast-offs tomorrow whilst Dad's at work.”
I pondered for a moment wondering if 'we' meant all three of us or just Mum and Hannah. “Am I gonna be involved?” I asked.
“Course... we need to know what fits.” she said. “Plus I'm dying to see you in my old uniform.” she grinned.
“Which one?” I gulped.
“Both!” she replied. “Although why anyone would choose to wear the St Clement's uniform is beyond me... with or without those itchy green tights.”
“I needed to know how bad it was.” I said. “I prefer the Poynton one.”
“Yeah... that's marginally better.” she said, before asking if I'd like to go to school dressed as a girl.
“Er...” I knew the answer but needed to find the words. I tried my best to explain that it's not about dressing as a girl, but about wanting the freedom to wear girl's clothes. “I wish it was the same for boys as it is for girls.” I said. “I don't suppose you pull on your jeans and think ooh... I'm wearing boys clothes... they're all just clothes to you. I'd love to be able to think...” I looked down at my short, tights and girlie AC/DC tee. “...oh, I'll wear this today... an no one batted an eyelid.”
“Yeah.” Hannah said, glancing at my attire from my T shirt to my shoes. “Its a shame really because you wear it well.” she said. “You don’t look like you're dressed as a girl... you look like you're dressed as you.”
“Aw thanks Hannah... that's really nice.” I said. She smiled and patted my lap. “I wish I'd opened up months ago, when you found me out.” I guiltily added.
“You did a bit.” she replied. “I didn't really understand it at first but I've had a few months to think about it and... I know it can't have been easy for you.” she said. “I guess in lots of ways it still isn't.”
“It's easier than I expected.” I said, although I doubt my extended family, friends and neighbours would be as forgiving and accepting as my immediate family have been.
“Well they don't 'have' to know.” Hannah said.
“Yeah... I wasn't intending to tell anyone else.” I replied. “Not any time soon anyway.” I added. Hannah's eyes kept flicking from mine to my hair. “What?” I asked.
“Just looking at your hair... I could make it look less boyish and more like a pixie style if you want.”
“Mum was saying that last night.” I replied. “I don't think I do.”
“Why not?” she asked. “You want to try new things don't you?”
“Yeah but... it's more clothes than hair and stuff.”
Suddenly there was a knock on the door. “Can I come in?” Dad's voice asked.
“Er... yeah.” I said as the door began to open.
Dad popped his head round and said “Your mother's wondering where you've disappeared to.”
“We're listening to Muse.” I replied.
“Well... I think she wants you to show her your new shoes.” he said. “She's wondering if they fit.”
“Oh, er.. OK.” I said as I climbed off my bed. All of a sudden I'm feeling shy and sheepish in my opaque tights and short denim shorts.
“Cool T shirt.” Dad said as I exited.
“Thanks.” I said. I turned to my sister and told her I'd be back in a tick. Dad followed me down the stairs. I wonder what he must be thinking. He left Mum too it whilst she told me that my new shoes look nice, asked if like my brown tights and said my T shirt was a good fit. “The sleeves are a bit girlie...” I said, pointing out how the little capped sleeves puff out a but. “...and it's got one of those hems.” I added, showing her its lettuce edge.
“Is that a bad thing?” Mum asked.
“Well... not really... but I was hoping it'd be a plain girl's T shirt that I could wear any time.” I replied, adding that I can only really wear it in the house.
“You could wear it with an open shirt and no one would notice.” she suggested. “Anyway, you get back to your records... I just wanted to see if your shoes fit or not.”
“Yeah... thanks Mum.” I said.
I returned to my room. Hannah is exactly where she was, sat on my bed but instead of perusing the Muse album cover, she's holding the empty square of card that housed the gift she'd given me. I sort of stopped when I noticed. “Are you wearing them?” she asked. I meekly nodded. “And?” she asked.
“Er... they're nice.” I said as I sheepishly sat on my bed.
“Can I see?” she asked. I glared. “Oh go on, just the top.” she said.
“No... I don't ask to see your underwear.”
“But you didn't buy mine for me.” she stated. “Go on, just the top... it's not like I'm asking you to get your tits out.”
“OK.” I sighed, before pulling off my AC/DC tee to reveal the delicate satin and lace bralette. Hannah said she wished she had something so nice. “Haven't you?” I asked.
“Not really... I've got bras and camisoles, teddies.” she said. “But this is a lot nicer... I should have bought myself one.” she added. A smile swept her face and she said we could match if she had. I felt myself blush and asked if I could put my top back on. “Course.” she said. “Your boy's undies must seem really boring now you've got plenty of girl's ones.”
“Mum told you then?”
“Well I asked... I knew you'd be getting more than a couple of pairs of tights.” she informed me.
Fair enough, I figured. She asked me if I'd seen any clothes I like whilst browsing the city and I said I wasn't sure. “There was loads I didn't like.” I said, describing flowery dresses, frilly tops and those velvet frocks in Debenham's. “They had some cool dungarees in Affleck's” I said, describing the pattern.
“I like that sort of stuff... but I don't think I'd have the guts to wear it.” Hannah replied.
“Why not?” I quizzed. “You're a girl, you can wear anything you want.”
“Well it's not quite as simple as that.” she said. “You know those Lolita dresses?” she asked. I nodded. “I love those too but I wouldn't have the guts to wear one in public.”
“At least if you did no one would say... you're a boy!”
“No but they'd say what the fuck are you wearing?!” she said, describing the Lolita style as cross-dressing for girls.
“There's brolita too.” I said.
“See, that's the odd thing... I can understand a boy wanting to dress like that more than I can a girl.”
“Really?” I asked.
Hannah explained that since boys haven't been through a prissy princess party dress phase that six year old girls go through, then it makes sense that they might want to experience that... when girls do it it's like, I'm fourteen and want to dress like a five year old.
“I dunno.... it's no different to me going I'm fourteen and I want to dress like a girl.” I replied. “We're both dressing up as something we're not.”
“Yeah maybe.” Hannah replied.
We spent the next hour or two listening to my records and chatting. Hannah liked the festive pyjamas Mum had bought me. I confessed to borrowing her 'moon' nightie on occasion. “You can have it if you want.” Hannah said. “I don't wear it often.” she added.
“Nah it's OK.” I've got my pyjamas now.” I said. “...but ,thanks.” I added.
“Well you may as well... there's be a lot more of my old clothes heading in your direction tomorrow.” she replied. “One nightie's not going to make much difference.”