Jenny's Room: prologue

I never understood my sister... or girls in general. It seemed as long as something was pink, they liked it. Growing up, my toys were trains and tanks, aircraft and spaceships. Action man, Batman, Spiderman, guns and skateboards and remote control cars. My sister however had dolls, a dolls house, and yet more dolls. She had a huge My Little Pony collection and a host of cute teddy bears. Her toys were all the same, all pink with flowers and love hearts whereas mine were all different, interesting and exciting. As we grew older, I stopped playing with toys and began building model kits and playing video games. My sister stopped playing with her dolls and began to spend all her pocket money on clothes, hair accessories, make-up and fashion magazines... but everything was still pink and frilly

Her bedroom made me feel sick, with its pink walls, princess bed and matching curtains. An ornate dressing table littered with lip-sticks and pungent perfume. Her bookshelves are home to the last of her dolls and teddy bears, books about clothes, hair and make-up along with stories of princesses and girls in boarding school having lame adventures. In one corner is a large pink framed mirror which she spends ages in front of, admiring her latest item of clothing or hairstyle. On the floor is a fluffy heart shaped rug... in pink of course. And perched on her chest of drawers is her TV & DVD player... in pink! 

My room was cool. I had my TV and games console with gaming chair in the middle of the floor. Model aircraft hanging from the ceiling, a desk with my paints, glues, and files on which I constructed all my model kits. I had a camouflage duvet and matching curtains. My bookshelves were home to yet more models, all of which I’d built myself, alongside a few old toys which I couldn't part with, my books about tanks and trains, fast cars and aeroplanes as well as swashbuckling tales set in days of old, sci-fi stories from the distant future and modern tales of espionage and adventure.

My room was a host of different colours, hers was mostly pink and purple. All my 'stuff' was different, interesting, exciting. Her 'stuff' was all the same, being mostly clothing, cuddly toys, make-up and headbands. Her room had barely changed since she was a seven year old, mine had grown up with me. The only time I ever entered my sisters room is when my mother gave me a pile of laundry to put on her bed. Not only was her entire bedroom pink, many of her clothes were too... even her underwear! I couldn't imagine living in such pinkness and couldn't understand why girls seemed to relish it so much.

I'm glad I'm a boy” I’d think as I slyly routed through her girlie things. The thought of having to wear her horrible clothes made me feel physically sick, as did the idea of sleeping under a Disney Princess duvet or waking up and seeing the same three princesses on a variety of posters. Opening pink curtains, wearing a pink nightie. “If I was a girl... I’d be tom-boy.” I figured. One of the girls at the skatepark is a tom-boy. She always wears pants and jumpers, climbs trees and rides a skateboard really well! She hates wearing dresses and all that pink girlie stuff, but on occasion, at a wedding or christening, she has to wear one.

Last weekend I saw her at the summer fĂȘte wearing a really girlie green dress with lace and frills and bows. I’d never seen her in dress before and said, “You look funny in a dress.” She clearly wasn't happy so I apologised. She did look strange though, not only in a dress but with make-up and plastic flowers in her hair, lacy tights and shoes with heels. She told me she 'had' to wear it, that she hated wearing it and couldn't wait for the day to end. As it turned out, her mother was one of the organisers and she'd been 'forced' to take part in the rose queen parade.

I sympathised for her. It must be horrible having to wear clothes you really hate. I mean, I also have to wear clothes I hate on occasion, usually a wedding or christening too... but at least I'm not forced to wear frilly prissy dresses with tights and flowers in my hair. I tried to imagine how she felt, being forced to be somebody she's not.  

For some reason, I went to watch the rose queen parade. The rose queen herself wore a long white gown with a silver tiara in her hair. She followed a group of younger girls all dressed in matching short dresses with white pop socks, each throwing confetti into the air. Behind the rose queen was a group of older girls, one of whom was the girl from the skatepark. All wore identical green frilly dresses with lacy tights and heels, holding a bouquet of roses in one hand and waving with the other. The girl from the skatepark clearly wasn't enjoying herself as she forced a smile and half heartedly waved her lace gloved hand at the crowd that lined the street.

It wasn't uncommon for my mother to buy my sister a new prissy dress, similar to those in the parade. My sister always gushed over how pretty it was and she'd always try it on as soon as possible. My mother also bought me new clothes but she knew what I liked so they were mostly OK, unless of course it was something 'smart' for an upcoming event. The difference between me and my sister is whatever my mother bought, I didn't feel the need to try it on as soon as possible. It must be horrible being a girl... if they're not 'brainwashed' like my sister, they're occasionally 'forced' like the girl from the skatepark.

I began to wonder what it must be like. I imagined how I’d react if my mother not only bought my sister a new girlie dress, but a matching one for me too. I visualised the argument; me insisting I wouldn't wear it and my mother telling me I 'had' to wear it. Just like the girl from the skatepark must have argued when her mother insisted she was part of the rose queen parade. I imagined the shame I’d feel, walking down the main street with all those watchful eyes looking at me in my frilly prissy dress and hating every minute of it.

One day, when my mother sent me to my sister's room with a pile of her laundry, my curiosity got the better of me and I borrowed a frilly nightie. Wearing it was as horrible as I'd imagined, and it looked as bad as I’d expected... but it was somehow strangely frilling too. I replaced the nightie before it was noticed missing and felt relief that I hadn't been caught by my mother or sister, and that I’d satisfied my curiosity.

A few days later I saw the girl at the skatepark in her usual trainers, cropped pants and sweatshirt, with her hair hanging loose and no make-up. I brought up the subject of her girlie outfit, but without teasing her. I said it must be horrible being a girl having to wear 'all that stuff'. She said she liked being a girl... but agreed about 'all that stuff', adding that it was only once in a blue moon that she had to dress like that. I pointed out that she'd also have to wear a skirt everyday for school too, and that must be equally horrible. She said she could wear trousers for school if she wanted to, but quite likes wearing her skirt, it's plain and short and comfortable... especially in the summer

I couldn't really fathom why, as a tom-boy who hates all that girlie stuff, she chooses to wear a skirt for school when she could wear trousers. I pondered the concept, but not by choice mind... I didn't like wondering what it must be like wearing a skirt for school instead of trousers, but for some reason, I just couldn't help it. There's only one way I know how to get rid of these thoughts and when the first opportunity arose, I took my chance.

Peter!” my mother shouted from the hallway.

Yes?” I replied from the top of the stairs.

I'm just taking Jenny in to town... you'll be OK on your own for a while won't you?”

How long will you be?” I asked.

I felt my heart begin to race as I watched the car disappear down the road. I had about an hour before they returned. Within ten minutes I was dressed in my own school shirt and tie, with my sister's tartan skirt and a pair of thick black tights on, along with my own school shoes. My legs looked and felt so different clad in nylon. I went to the kitchen and got a can of Coke from the fridge, then returned to my room. I sat on my bed and looked at my lap. I ran my hands over the tights before smoothing the skirt. I imagined dressing like this at school and it being the most normal thing in the world... but I knew it was anything but normal. I removed the tights and returned to the kitchen... for no other reason than to see how it felt wearing such a short skirt with bare legs. It felt a world away from my trousers, and I felt so exposed, so thrilled. By the time my mother and sister returned, her skirt was back in her wardrobe and her tights were placed deep in her laundry basket.

I spent the rest of the evening worrying that my sister would notice something was wrong, but I’d made sure I’d covered my tracks as best I could. That night I lay in bed, satisfied that I’d got away with it and content that I’d finally experienced, just a little, what it was like to wear the girl's school uniform. I cast my mind back to the few minutes I’d spent wearing her nightie and wondered what it would be like to actually sleep in one, all night long, before cursing myself for having such thoughts. I’d hate to be a girl but if I was... I’d be a tom-boy. I wouldn't have a sickly pink room like my sister Jenny or a wardrobe full of pretty dresses. I’d be like the girl from the skatepark who only wears a dress when her mother makes her wear one... and even then I wouldn't enjoy it. be continued (here).

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