I was a
rather shy and timid boy who avoided rough games and was usually
ignored by the other boys in our street (when they weren't
bullying me or teasing me about my hair). I had long, black
curls that my mother only sent me to get cut a few times a year.
My aunt, a regular visitor to our house, constantly told me I
should have been a girl with hair like that.
I was around
twelve years old when a new family moved in near us with three
daughters; two of them were around my age and became my best
friends. I happily joined in their gentler games, skipping rope
and hopscotch outside, dolls and tea sets indoors with the
One day, a fancy dress
contest was to be held in the parish hall and one them was going
to enter as a Spanish dancer in a costume they had from a
previous competition. They decided it would be much more fun to
dress me up - with my hair they said I'd make a perfect Spanish
the idea appealed to me very much but I felt obliged to offer
token resistance. I protested strongly all the way into pink
panties, black tights and high heeled shoes. Then came a red
petticoat which seemed to have endless layers of nylon and lace.
Finally the dress, flamenco style in satin with a red bodice,
puffy sleeves, a black skirt with three layers of flouncy
ruffles and a red flower embellishment at the waist
wouldn't let me see the result until they had painted my nails,
put lipstick on me and a matching flower hair clip in my hair.
To finish, they added a gypsy style necklace, bangles and clip
on earrings. I hardly had time to admire myself before we set
out to walk to the hall.
I was worried we might meet
some of my tormentors, but the only boy from my class that I saw
was in no position to laugh at anyone, even if he recognised me.
He was dressed as a schoolgirl in his sister's blouse and skirt.
The girls met some of their
friends in the hall and I now had half a dozen young ladies
fussing over me, making small adjustments and offering advice.
Their efforts were rewarded when I was announced as winner for
the prettiest costume in the girls' section. The prize was a big
doll and several outfits for her and as I went up to receive it
I seemed to be hugged and kissed by half the girls in town.
Afterwards, there was a
small party for the entrants with lemonade and cakes and
"Frances" as the girls introduced me, was the centre of
attention. I think they actually forgot I was a boy and, in
truth, so did I!
I wanted to go to their
house and change before going home but they wouldn't hear of it.
They couldn't wait to show me to my mother -. Mom cried when she
saw me. I'd forgotten her first child was a little girl who died
before I was born.
"I'm just so happy to see
what your sister would have looked like," she told me.
And my aunt, who spent years
telling me 'I should have been a girl'? "I can't believe you'd
do something like this," she said. "I never though you were a