At first, the idea of going to a boarding school filled me with as much dread as it did excitement... now, eight weeks in, I'm preparing to go home for the half term break. Unlike those who attend daily, us borders have to wear our school uniform in the evenings and on the weekends too. Whilst this may seem unfair at first... it's a common rule in many boarding schools. However there are some rules at St Ursula's which aren't very common...
It's Saturday morning and I can't wait to return home, see my mum, meet up with my friends and wear my own clothes for a change! On my bed is a small suitcase, inside which is the jeans, t-shirt and jumper, along with the shoes and socks I'd arrived wearing some eight weeks ago. It felt strange wearing 'civilian' clothes after two months in uniform.
I packed the books I’d need, closed the case and clicked the latches shut, before going to the school's office to collect my train ticket. The 55 mile journey home should take around 90 minutes. I made sure my room was all in order; bedding straight, floor swept, en-suite bathroom spotless and my uniform items all neatly folded on my shelf, or hung from my clothes rail... ready and waiting for my return in a week's time. I looked forward to a whole week away from the rules, the routine and the academia of boarding school. Saying that, I do have a number of homework assignments to do during the week long break, hence my small case being half full of both text and exercise books.
I made my way from the dorm, down the long corridor towards the stairs and ultimately to the school's reception desk. “Where do you think you're going?” a stern voice called as I descended the wide wooden staircase.
“Home Miss.” I replied.
“Not dressed like that your not... you know the rules.” Miss Holbeck said in the same stern tone.
“But I'm going home Miss... to Beckford.” I said, lifting my small suitcase a little as if its mere presence validated my claim. “...on the train.” I added.
“Nevertheless, the rules state that you should be in uniform at all times. And that includes travelling to and from the school.” she replied.
“But nothing child.” she interrupted, “Your own clothes were in your case so that you could take them home, not for you to wear on the way home.” she stated, before telling me in no uncertain terms to return to my room and “...make yourself presentable!” as she put it.
I did as I was told and some twenty minutes later, I was back on the ground floor waiting nervously by the closed hatch of the school's reception desk. I rang the bell once and waited patiently. No one was ever in the office, however as usual one of the senior teachers appeared after few minutes. I heard the sound of heels on the parquet floor and as I’d guessed, Miss Holbeck appeared in the corridor.
She looked me up and down as she unlocked the office. She said nothing as she stepped inside, closing the door behind her. Then with a series of loud clanks, the rolling shutters of the hatch were opened. She looked at me and shook her head ever so slightly. This was quickly followed by a short, sharp sigh. “Peter if you're going to leave the school grounds you must look presentable.” she stated. “The reputation of the school depends on all pupils following the rules, and that is especially true off grounds too.”
“Yes Miss.” I gulped.
I knew the rules... I just assumed they wouldn't apply since I was on my way home for the week. Slung over my shoulder was my small school bag. The bag we carried everywhere as It contained our photo ID card, stationary and make up. I opened the bag and removed a compact and vanity mirror before lightly dusting my face. Next, a little eye liner, eye shadow then mascara. I sucked my lips dry before finally applying a pale pink lipstick.
“Maybe next time you leave us you'll be ready in good time.” Miss Holbeck said as she slid an envelope across the counter. It was addressed to my mother. She told me to place my case on the counter so she could check the contents. Then she removed the backing from an oblong sticker and stuck it across the base and lid as if to seal the case shut, albeit not very effectively. “This is to be removed by your mother and your mother only.” Miss Holbeck stated. “You are not to change out of your uniform or remove your make up at any point during your journey... this is for your mother to complete and return to us.” she said, nudging the letter a little closer to me. “So don't think we won't find out about any deviation from the rules.”
“Yes Miss.” I gulped. I had considered changing in the toilet on the train, but maybe I’d better not.
Finally she slid the train ticket over to me, along with a receipt I had to sign. She checked her watch. “Well you'd better hurry if you're going to catch the 9.53.” she said. “The connection from Denbury is at 10.30 so you'd better be on your way... and have a nice week.”
“Yes Miss. Thanks Miss.” I said as I took the ticket, grabbed my case and trotted down the corridor.
St Ursula's adjoins a small picturesque village called Compton whose railway station and the rural branch line survived Beeching's Axe in the nineteen-sixties. I cantered through the narrow streets as quickly as I dare in my two inch heels. One hand held my case and handbag, the other clamped my school beret to the back of my head. The train was already approaching the platform as I trotted up the ramp and onto the platform. Breathless, I dropped my case, regained my composure and thanks to the window of a blackened room, made sure my hair and beret were neat and tidy. As the train slowly ground to a halt, I double checked I had my ticket and within a couple of minutes, I was seated and on my way home.
I straightened my short skirt on my lap and breathed deeply, partly due to running to the station, partly through fear that I was going home in my uniform. Since I began at St Ursula's, I’ve surprised myself just how accustomed I’ve become to dressing as a girl. I guess it helps that at St Ursula's all the boys dress in a girl's uniform, even those who don't board.
Of course I didn't choose to attend St Ursula's... far from it. Out of all the boarding schools my mother could afford, this was the bottom of my list. Unfortunately for me, St Ursula's was at the top of my mother's list because she was impressed with their record and intrigued by the concept of petticoat discipline that the school had adopted decades ago.
On the upside, being a boarder means I don't have to travel to and from school on a daily basis in my skirt, knee socks and Mary Jane shoes. On the downside, the boys who don't board can change in to their own clothes when they get home whereas us boarders have to wear our school uniform all day, every day and on the weekends too... it's no wonder I feel so normal in my uniform. Even in Compton, the village on the edge of which St Ursula's is situated, schoolboys dressed as schoolgirls is a common sight. Nobody bats an eyelid in and around Compton.
But I'm not in or around Compton any more. I'm headed for Denbury where I change trains for Beckford. The last thing I wanted was to be spotted in my St Ursula's uniform in Beckford where I grew up. I looked at my case and in particular the sticker Miss Holbeck had applied. It had the school crest on each side and a 'do not remove' statement. Again I toyed with finding the toilet and changing into my own clothes.
I felt stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea... be potentially ridiculed in my home town, or face the wrath of the school on my return. I gulped and opened my handbag. I flicked open the vanity mirror and checked my make up. Maybe nobody would recognise me, I thought. Maybe they'll just see a schoolgirl and not me. “I am kind of pretty.... and I don't really look like 'me'.” I thought as I arranged my fringe and observed my even toned skin, subtle eye make-up and pale pink lips.
I jumped out of my skin as the guard appeared immediately to my left. I looked up at him fearfully.
He smiled. “Sorry Miss... didn't mean to scare you.” he said as his face quickly returned to neutral.
I gulped, looked down and closed my vanity mirror. I placed it back inside my handbag and retrieved my ticket. I said nothing, but smiled as I passed it to him. “Please don't realise I'm a boy.” I wished as he clipped the ticket and passed it back. A simple silent nod and he left. I breathed a sigh of relief as he neared the end of the half empty carriage. I gulped. On the upside he called me 'miss'... but did he instantly realise his mistake and clam up?
Twenty minutes later and the driver announced over the Tannoy that the next stop was Denbury. I quickly checked my make up before getting my handbag and case ready. The train pulled to a halt and I nervously joined the queue of people waiting to alight. Once on the platform I checked the time; 10.22 and asked the nearest guard which platform I needed for the next train to Beckford. “Platform 4 son.” he said cheerily. “Half term is it?” he smiled, looking me up and down.
“Yes.” I replied. I felt myself begin to blush.
“St Ursula's is it?” he asked.
“Yes.” I gulped.
“Well you'll be looking forward to a week in pants eh?” he chuckled, glancing down at my lower half.
“Yes sir.” I smiled. “Thank you sir.” I said before making my way to platform 4. I checked the time; 10.25. I checked the time the 10.30 train was expected; 10.39. “Ten minutes late.” I sighed. I glanced up and down the platform, hoping no-one that knew me was waiting for the same train. I glanced down at my shoes and socks, then turned to see my reflection in the waiting room window. I made sure the tops of my knee socks were straight before checking my reflection once more. Then a face caught my attention through the window, its eyes looked directly into me. I turned my back, fearful I’d been recognised. Paranoia told me their eyes were burning in to my back, so I walked a few yards down the platform and out of their field of view.
I perched on a vacant bench, opened my handbag, checked my make-up in my vanity mirror and re-applied my lipstick. If I want to be mistaken for a girl I’d better act like one, I figured as I made sure every strand of my fringe was straight. This was easier said than done with the chilly autumn breeze dancing around me as it made its way along the platform. I put my vanity mirror away and made sure my skirt was straight. I used to wonder how girls coped with only a little skirt between them and the wind. I imagined the chill would bite into their exposed flesh, but it's not so bad in reality. Although keeping my knees and ankles together makes all the difference.
I perched on a vacant bench, opened my handbag, checked my make-up in my vanity mirror and re-applied my lipstick. If I want to be mistaken for a girl I’d better act like one, I figured as I made sure every strand of my fringe was straight. This was easier said than done with the chilly autumn breeze dancing around me as it made its way along the platform. I put my vanity mirror away and made sure my skirt was straight. I used to wonder how girls coped with only a little skirt between them and the wind. I imagined the chill would bite into their exposed flesh, but it's not so bad in reality. Although keeping my knees and ankles together makes all the difference.
Finally the connecting train arrived and I spent the next twenty minutes worrying that I’d be recognised as the train rolled closer and closer to my home town. The same twenty minutes I spent wondering how I’d react. Would I run? On a train? Where to? And in these shoes! Would I stand my ground? If so, what could I say? “Yeah I'm dressed as girl! What of it?” or “I'm at boarding school and all the boys dress like girls.. I don't want to dress like this, I have to!”. Truth be told I have no idea how I’d react if I'm spotted. All I can hope for is I look so much like a girl that no-body will see the boy I am.
I checked my make up again and reapplied my lipstick. St Ursula's is a school where pristine hair, perfect make up and a spotless uniform is as important as our academic studies. As such, the teachers encourage us all to pay particular attention to our appearance. Each class starts with an inspection, and ends with us inspecting ourselves. We carry our handbags everywhere as they hold our stationery, pocket money, ID card, vanity mirror, make-up and tissues. At first I found applying eye-liner and mascara nigh on impossible but now it's second nature. I carefully arranged my fringe again before closing the mirror, replacing it and closing my handbag. I looked out of the window. The outskirts of my home town would soon be in view.
A few nervous minutes passed before an announcement over the Tannoy informed me that the next stop would be Beckford. As long as I pass as a proper girl between the station and home, I should be OK. The train ground to a halt and I nervously alighted. I kept my head down as I walked down the platform towards the exit. So far so good... until “Peter! Peter!!”
I looked up and saw my mother waiting for me. She trotted towards me and gave me a big hug. “Oh I’ve missed youuuu.” she said as she squeezed the air out of me. She pecked me on the cheek before stepping back and looking me up and down. “Well don't you look nice.” she grinned.
I gulped. “They wouldn't let me come home in my own clothes.” I said mournfully.
“Well I'm glad they didn't.” Mum grinned, looking me up and down once more. “I've been dying to see how you look.” she gushed. “Your make-up looks nice too. Very pretty.” she smiled, shrugging her shoulders like and excited yet bashful girl.
“Thanks.” I gulped.
Eight weeks ago I entered St Ursula's wearing my own clothes. We all did. Some of us knew what to expect, some of the others clearly didn't. After taking a mandatory shower, we were presented with a pair of knickers and a training bra, followed by our skirts, blouses, socks and shoes. It was a humbling and humiliating experience for all... but I'm glad my mother had forewarned me.
“Can we go?” I asked, not wanting to loiter in a public place for longer than is necessary.
“Sorry. Yes.” Mum replied. “I got carried away just looking at you.” she smiled as her eyes yo-yo'd from my face to my feet and back again.
We left the train station and walked through the car park and mum repeatedly told me how nice I look in my uniform and how well I walk in my heels... “Well I have had plenty of practise.” I replied. “Fifty-four days worth.” I thought. Yes, I’ve been keeping count.
Mum had left the car parked on an adjoining street where the parking is free. I felt so self aware in my short pleated skirt and white knee socks in my home town. I mostly kept my head down but couldn't help but glance around to check I hadn't been seen. Not only is my uniform very distinctive and nothing like any of the uniforms the Beckford schools have, it's also a Saturday.. I know that I stand out. I spotted mum's car and breathed a sigh of relief, eager to hide inside it. But as we neared a voice called, “Hi Patsy!”
I looked at mum. Mum looked around. “Hi Judith.” she waved.
One of our old neighbours was on the other side of the street, eagerly making her way across. My hopes of getting home unseen were quickly dashed, as Judith and her daughter Sarah approached us. “Long time no see!” Judith said to mum.
“Hello! And Sarah too.” mum grinned. “You remember Peter don't you?”
God I wish I was a girl, I thought as my old friend, former next door neighbour and drop dead gorgeous Sarah looked, looked again, then smiled at me. “Hi Peter.” she said. “You're dressed as a girl.” she noted, looking me up and down.
“It's my school uniform.” I gulped.
“Peter's at boarding school now.” mum proudly stated. “He's back for half term. Aren't you?”
I gulped and nodded, then forced a smile.
“Is it a girl's school?” Sarah asked, staring at my skirt and legs.
“No.” I sheepishly replied. “We just have to dress like girls.”
“Why?” she asked with a furrowed brow.
“Dunno.” I shrugged. “We just do.”
“It keeps truancy down.” mum interjected. “Amongst other things.” she smiled.
“I bet it does.” Judith grinned. Her face was the very definition of bemused. She tore her eyes away from me and addressed my mother. “Look, we can't really stop but we'll have to catch up... it's been ages.”
“It has.” mum replied. “Why don't you pop round one day this week?” she suggested. “I guess Sarah's on half term too?” she asked, smiling at Sarah.
The arrangement was made. They left and we got in the car. “It was nice bumping in to Judith and Sarah wasn't it?” mum asked as she fastened her seatbelt.
“Well... it would have been if...” I straightened the pleats of my skirt over my lap and sighed.
“I thought you liked your uniform.” mum said.
“I do but... it just feels weird here... bumping into people I know.” I replied.
“I'm sure they thought you looked very nice. Which you do.”
“Thanks.” I murmured. “I'm sure they thought a lot more than that.” I said to myself as I recalled the bemused looks on their faces when they realised who I was.
Thankfully the cul-de-sac seemed deserted when mum pulled up outside our house. I couldn't get indoors and out of sight quick enough. “I'm glad that's over.” I said as I plonked my case down. “Can I get changed?” I asked.
“Oh not yet... I've hardly had chance to see you.” mum replied. I followed her to the kitchen where she began to make a brew, but is clearly distracted and can't help staring at me with a look of admiration. “I had no idea you'd look so nice in your uniform.” she grinned as her eyes flicked from garment to garment, from my face to my legs and back again.
Feeling like an exhibit, I shuffled nervously, not knowing what to do. Should I sit? Or stand her till she stops looking at me? “Can I at least take my blazer and beret off?” I asked.
“Of course you can. Sorry, I'm staring again.” Mum replied.
I removed my short fitted blazer revealing my white blouse and hung it on the hook on the back of the kitchen door. I felt myself become nervous as I know full well the training bra we have to wear can clearly be seen through my blouse. I pulled out the two hairpins which keep my beret secure on the back of my head, and hung that on the back of the door too. Mum said my hair looks 'very nice'. I personally hate it. My fringe is down to my eyebrows and there's a straight bowl cut all the way around with a wedge at the back. It's both boyish and girlish at the same time, but a style neither sex would likely choose for themselves.
“So come on, tell me all about it?” mum said, flicking the switch on the kettle. “Have you made any friends? How are the teachers? Are you enjoying your classes?” she asked.
Apart from the obvious, St Ursula's is like any other school. We study English and maths, science, geography, history and art along with metalwork, woodwork, computers, domestic science, needlework and of course, PE... although we play netball not football, hockey not rugby, rounders not cricket... all wearing very short pleated PE skirts, big gym knickers and a St Usula's polo shirt.
Mum wants to know every last detail about St Ursula's. She is the one paying for it after all. I only wish she'd give me a little sympathy because it's not easy being a petticoated boy. But all mum can say is “how nice!” to everything. She even says 'how nice' when I tell her how embarrassing it was having to play hop-scotch or skipping games during morning and afternoon break in such a short skirt, worrying about flashing our knickers with every hop, skip or jump. But when all is said and done, St Ursula's isn't a bad school... it's just plain weird!
“Well the main thing is you're settling in.” mum smiled. “And being petticoated isn't as bad as you thought is it?”
I looked down at my short pleated skirt and straightened it on my lap, not that it needed straightening. “It's OK.” I replied. “At least I knew in advance... some of them had no idea we had to dress like girls.”
“None at all?”
“Well it seemed that way... some seemed to go into shock when we were given our knickers.” I reminisced. “They claimed it was a mix up, shouted and swore at the teachers, refusing to wear them, some even burst into tears.”
“But they wore them in the end no doubt?” Mum asked, knowing full well of the alternative.
“A couple wouldn't budge and ended up suffering the consequences.” I said. “That must have been awful.” I added as I recalled the shame they must have been going through.
“Well they should have just worn their knickers in the first place.” Mum coldly replied. She glanced at the kettle which began to boil. “How are you getting on wearing a bra?” she asked in a more cheery tone, staring directly at, and through my blouse.
“OK.” I replied, glancing at my chest briefly. “But why we have to wear them I’ve no idea.” I said. “Skirt and knickers I understand, but a bra too... ?”
“Well the girls wear bras don't they?” she stated, getting up just as the kettle turned itself off.
“And you dress the same as the girls. It's not rocket science.” she said as she poured the steaming water into each mug.
“Yeah I 'spose.” I conceded.
“Are they like proper bras, with a fastening at the back?”
“And how's that, fiddly?”
“Nah it's easy.”
“When you know how.” she smiled, placing two mugs of tea on the table and sliding one over to me.
“I did consider buying you a nice dress and some underwear in the summer... you know, to help you get used to it before you started.” mum said. “But I figured you'd have just refused to wear it.”
“I'm sure I would have.” I replied. “It's not so bad once you get used to it... and everybody else wears the same so...” I shrugged. “It just gets a bit boring wearing the same thing day in day out.”
“Yes I can imagine.” mum empathised. “But rules are rules and uniforms do give you a strong sense of belonging.”
“I know... it's just having to wear it all weekend too.” I added. “
“Well yes... I wouldn't like to wear the same thing every day.” mum smiled, “But like you say, you just get used to it.” she smiled, glancing at my legs, skirt and blouse.
I nodded and smiled through pursed lips. The fact that I'm so used to dressing like a girl is nothing to be proud of... I worry that it's going to make be feel like I'm a girl too. But there's no sign of that to date, and as my mum and teachers have told me time and again... petticoating does not turn boys in to girls, it's simply a means of curbing any bravado, boisterousness or otherwise wayward behaviour as we progress through puberty. I took a sip of my tea and to break the silence I asked how granny was, how the neighbours were, had she seen any of my friends or their parents. Mum filled me in on the little there was to say... then I asked the important question. Do any of them know that I'm partaking in a strict petticoating routine at boarding school?
“Well your grandmother does, of course... but as far as I know it's just between us.” she smiled.
“And Judith. And Sarah.” I added.
“Yes and them too.” Mum said, but they're not the type to gossip, she assured. “So have you any plans for half term?” she asked, “Anything you'd like to do?”
I glanced at my pale bare knees and short plaid skirt before looking at my mother and smiling. “I'd like to take this off.”
“And you will... eventually.” mum replied. She placed her hand on my knee and rubbed it lovingly. “Just a little while longer... please?” she pleaded before asking if there's anything else.
“Well I’d like to visit John & Michael, catch up with Andy... just hang out y'know.” I replied. “But I’ve got a few homework assignments to do too.”
Mum made me a sandwich for lunch, and afterwards I was finally allowed to change out of my uniform! “Just don't leave it screwed up on the floor.” Mum reminded me as I left.
Shoes, off. Blouse, off. Skirt, off. Socks, off. Knickers, off, Bra, off. I pulled on a pair of my own old undies for the first time in two months. You have no idea how much I’d missed wearing normal boy's underwear... but they felt unfamiliar; too loose with bulky hems and thick fabric. I opened my wardrobe to get a pair of jeans and a top, and to my surprise saw a dress hanging inside. Just the one, and thankfully it was alongside all my own clothes. I pulled on my jeans & jumper and glanced in the mirror. It seemed strange having my legs covered up... not that I wasn't happy to be wearing normal clothes again. I really was!
“Better now?” mum smiled as I entered the kitchen.
I grinned. “I'd forgotten what pants feel like.” I said as I ran my hand over the denim fabric. “Er...” I began as I sat. “There's a er... dress... in my wardrobe.”
“Yes.” mum replied. “I bought it for you.”
“I thought you'd like it.” she replied. “After all these weeks in uniform it'll be nice wearing a dress for a change?”
“I dunno.” I gulped. “It's nicer dressing like a boy for a change.”
“I'm sure it is.” mum said in a faux-empathetic voice that verged on patronising. “But having a nice dress too won't do any harm.”
“Do I have to wear it?” I asked.
“Well I didn't buy it to look at.” mum smiled.
“I've never worn a dress before.” I stated fearfully. Why the prospect of wearing a dress scared me so much I don't know. Even to me it seemed daft seeing as I’ve dressed like a girl since the beginning of September.
“Well there's a first time for everything. And I'm sure you'll look just as nice in a dress as you do your uniform.” mum assured.
“Hmm.” I replied, not committing myself one way or the other.
Some parents might think that sending a boy to a school like St. Ursula's is cruel. But they're just ignorant. As a mother who wants the best for her only child, the benefits of sending Peter to St Ursula's leave little to be sniffed at. Of course most boys would rather not dress the same as the girls given the choice, but petticoating is proven to be one of the best methods of passive discipline for adolescent boys, promoting self awareness, self pride, obedience, resilience, a good sense of routine and so on.
Puberty is a time of life when their hormones run riot. Their mood swings from boy to man and back again. They fight their inevitable anxieties with bravado and boisterous behaviour, which often results in trouble. The uninformed might assume that putting a dose of femininity in the mix would make things worse, but feminising adolescent males is an incredibly grounding experience for them... according to the literature.
Of course I still had a few doubts when I dropped Peter off at St Ursula's all those weeks ago; partly due to worrying if he'd adapt to petticoating or not, and partly due to the fact he's never been away for more than a couple of days before. After eight weeks of boarding school and eight weeks of petticoating, he's thankfully more or less the same boy I sent away.
“What?” Peter asked coyly as he noticed me staring at him.
“Nothing.” I replied. “It's just nice to have you back... even if it is only for a week.” I said. “So... what do you want to do today?” I asked. “I'm sure you'll want to catch up with your friends.”
“Yeah.” Peter enthusiastically replied. “But then again...” he added with less gusto, “...I don't know what I'm going to tell them about school.”
“Just tell them everything apart from your uniform... and if they ask, a little white lie is OK under the circumstances.” I advised. “But you don't have to feel ashamed of being petticoated... given the opportunity I'm sure your friends would grow to like it too.”
“Maybe... but I think I’d rather they didn't find out.” he replied. “Can I ring them and see if they're in?”
“Of course.” I said, fully understanding why he doesn't want his friends to know the whole truth about boarding school. “You could wear your new dress.” I suggested with my tongue firmly in my cheek. He gave me one of those bemused looks, clearly unable to work out if I was being serious or not. “I was teasing Peter.” I grinned. “But if you do want to keep it secret, I think you should remove your make up, and your nail varnish.”
Peter opened his fingers and stared at his ten pale pink nails. “I’d forgotten about that!” he said, biting his bottom lip, dropping his jaw and standing.
“I'll get you some make-up wipes and nail varnish remover?” I offered.
“No it's OK I’ve got some.” he said as he took hold of his handbag and opened the clasp. “Oh... there's a form for you to sign.” he said as he removed an envelope and passed it to me.
“What's this?” I asked as he removed a vanity mirror and a pack of make-up wipes.
“Just some form about me arriving home in uniform.” he replied. “And in make-up.” he added as he wiped off his lipstick.
I couldn't help but smile. He seems so comfortable with the fact he has a handbag full of cosmetics. I turned my attention to the letter and read it. “Is this in case you wanted to change into your boy clothes as soon as you were out of sight of the school.” I asked. Peter nodded. “And did you?”
“Well, no... obviously.”
“I meant did you want to?”
“It had crossed my mind.” he admitted.
“Well I'm glad you didn't.” mum said. “You looked so sweet when you got off the train.”
“I was nervous as hell.” he said as he began wiping away his mascara and eye-liner. “What if somebody saw me?”
“I'm sure lots of people saw you... but I'm sure they only saw a school girl.”
“I meant someone I know... like Michael or John... someone who'd know I'm not really a girl.”
“You mean like Judith and Sarah?” I quizzed.
“Exactly.” he replied. “I'd forgotten about bumping into them! I hope they don't tell anyone.”
“I wouldn't worry. They don't really know anyone we know.” I said. “And like I say, you've nothing to be ashamed of.” I told him.
Mum's right I guess. But the idea of my friends knowing I dress like a girl; all day, every day and admitting that it's OK fills me with trepidation. “It's not that I'm ashamed... they just wouldn't understand if they knew.” I said to my mother.
“Well I suppose you're right, they probably wouldn't.” Mum agreed. “It's still early days yet... maybe after a few more months...” she suggested.
“Yeah I guess.” I checked my face in my vanity mirror, and asked my mother to check I’d removed it all.
She took a long hard look at my face. “Yes, you look like a boy again. Let me see your nails.” she said. I held them out for her. “Very good.” she smiled. “Do you paint your toenails too?”
“Yeah but they won't see those.” I replied.
“I'd like to see them.” mum grinned.
I pulled of my sock and wiggled my five pink toenails. “We're not supposed to do them but...” I said, feeling myself blush.
“But it's nice having painted toes too.” mum grinned.
I nodded and smiled. She clearly felt she'd finished my sentence for me. But she hadn't. I stopped myself from saying … but it's something to do between getting ready for bed and going to bed. I replaced my sock and found my old trainers. It's seems like ages since I'd tied a shoelace instead of fastening a buckle.
I hadn't seen any of my old friends since the summer holidays. I looked forward to seeing them. I had so much to tell, so much to hide... actually with so much to hide, there wasn't really much left to tell. I pressed the doorbell and Mrs Pierce answered. “Hello John... I haven't seen you for a long time.”
“Hello Mrs Pierce.” I said politely. “Is Michael or John in?”
“Yes. Come in.” she said with a smile. “How's boarding school?”
“It's good thanks.” I replied.
She called her sons, then looked at me, smiled, stared. then instantly made me nervous by saying I looked 'nice'. I feared traces of make-up were still visible as my old friends came down the stairs, clearly pleased to see me. They both attend the local comprehensive school and filled me in with all the local gossip; Roger Gorman and John Briers had a fight, Gorman came off worst. Judy Rogers fell off her bike and broke her arm, so and so got a detention in the first week... then they asked me about my school. “Is it like Hogwarts?”
“Not really... a bit... there is a heritage railway line nearby so there are steam trains running up and down the valley, and it's in the middle of nowhere. Apart from Compton their isn't another village for miles”
“Sounds cool.” John said. “Can you go on the steam trains?” he excitedly asked.
“Yeah I came back on one today.” I said proudly, before visualising just how I looked. “Only as far as Denbury though.”
“Cool.” John said.
They both fired questions at me, but none really required me to hide too much. “...but it's weird coz it's like being at school 'all' the time, and we've no chance of sneaking around the halls in the dead of night in our....” I stopped myself. “...there's always a dorm master on night duty.... we even have to wear our uniforms on weekends too.” I admitted.
“No way!” Michael exclaimed. “Dorm master on night duty, uniforms all the time... that sounds like a prison!”
“'tis a bit.” I replied, before listing some od the more fun aspects of life at a boarding school. “There's bikes so we can go for rides at the weekends.. there's a really big wood with some ace climbing trees... and the crag and the river, or watch the old trains on the heritage line... They do let us go quite far but yeah... it is a bit like returning to a prison camp of sorts... there's a really strict curfew.” I added, hoping they wouldn't ask what the consequences of breaking the curfew were.
“Sounds awful... I’d just get on a bike and keep pedalling 'til I reach Beckford if I was you.”
“You probably wouldn't.” I thought. “Nah it's not as bad as I make it sound... it's just a boarding school so there's rules and a curfew.” I said.
“What are the bikes like?” John asked.
“Mountain bikes.” I lied. In reality, they're all girl's step-through bikes with three gears, a bell and a basket on the front, but I'm not ready to admit that either. I also make up a lie about a twenty foot climbing wall. They think a climbing wall at school would be cool and were clearly envious. I think a climbing wall at school would be awful since we all wear little skirts and frilly white knickers. I wish I’d never said anything. We pass the afternoon playing video games. They're also envious the we have a Nintendo Wii in the rec room (the truth), but aren't impressed with the selection of games we're allowed as none of them involve shooting, stabbing or fighting. Instead, we have the sports package, a few racing games and adventure games, all non-violent and with an age rating no higher than seven and most aimed directly at girls... but I decided it was best to leave such details unsaid.
All in all... both Michael and James are glad they don't attend my boarding school. They hate the idea of finishing school at 4pm instead of 3pm, and having a two hour study period every evening from 6pm to 8pm... and compulsory church and Sunday school every week further puts them off. I doubt a thorough description of my uniform would sway their overall opinion. After a few hours, it's time for me to return home for supper.
“Was it nice seeing Peter?” Mrs Pierce asked her sons after he'd left. “Is he enjoying boarding school? Is it like Hogwarts?” she asked.
They said he was. John mentioned the steam trains, and that it wasn't at all like Hogwarts. Both agreed that it sounded boring and were glad they didn't go.
“He seems different doesn't he? Very.... polite.” their mother added, but all the time thinking there was something else aside from his new found manners.
“He said they have to wear their school uniform all the time, even at weekends.” Michael said.
“That's quite common at boarding school.” his mother replied. “They are at school all the time.”
“It sounds awful.” John added.
“Well they are quite regimented... but he'll be getting a better education than Beckford Comp can offer.”
“I'd still rather go to Beckford.” Michael said. His brother agreed.
“Good.” his mother smiled. “I couldn't bare not seeing you for months at a time.” she said, tussling his hair lovingly.
When Peter arrived home, his mother asked if he'd had a nice time. He said he had but felt weird having to tell them little lies to hide the truth. “What kind of lies?” his mother asked.
“Nothing major.” he replied, “Just little things like... I mentioned going for bike rides and John asked what the bikes were like, so I said mountain bikes.”
“And they're not mountain bikes?”
Peter shook his head. “Of course not, they're girls bikes with a basket and a bell.”
“Well that's understandable.” his mother said reassuringly. “But the problem with lies, no matter how small they are, they may come back and haunt you.” she warned. Peter nodded. She couldn't help but imagine him pedalling away in his little skirt... his pale bare knees bobbing up and down... white knee socks and Mary Jane shoes... all on a bike with a basket! Even if they did have mountain bikes... he wouldn't look anywhere near as sweet, she thought as a smile swept her face. . “Do you like going for bike rides?” she asked.
“It's better than walking everywhere.” Peter replied. “We can ride down to the river in about five minutes... or walk down in twenty-five.”
“And what do you do at the river?”
“Not much... skim stones...”
“You can't climb trees in a skirt mum.” he replied. “It's bad enough climbing the stairs.”
“I guess not.” she smiled. “When I was a girl we used to tuck them in our knickers to climb trees.” she reminisced. “I suppose yours is a bit short for that.” she supposed. “It's good you're getting out and about and aren't always confined to the grounds.”
“Yeah...” he replied thoughtfully. “Sometimes we ride up to Compton Crag and you can see the whole valley... and there's a really steep hill on the way back and we can go really fast.” he added excitedly
“Well you be careful... it's one thing going as fast as you can but if you come off, you'll be sorry.” she warned.
“Judy Rogers came off her bike and broke her arm.” Peter announced, recalling the local gossip.
“It's her I was thinking of... coming down Mill Lane... she broke it in three places.”
“Crikey. What happened?” Peter asked.
“She was going too fast and came off.”
Maybe I will be more cautious next time we come back from the crag, I figured.
“Did they ask about your uniform?”
“Nah, they just thought it was like theirs I guess... they couldn't believe we have to wear it all the time though. They said it sounded like a prison.”
“Well if you've never been to boarding school you'd never know.” Mum said. “Lots of boarders in lots of boarding schools wear their uniform all the time.” she stated
“Yeah I know. I kept worrying that I’d slip up and let something out though.” he said mournfully. “Micheal was laughing about a boy at school who's trunks came off at swimming class, and I wanted to tell them about the boy who's PE skirt fell off playin' 'ockey, but I couldn't.”
“Playing hockey.” his mother corrected. “Poor boy. What happened?” his mother asked, trying to visualise the scene.
“He didn't notice at first.” Peter chuckled. “And just carried on chasing the ball in his gym knickers... the look on his face.” he laughed. “It was so funny. Now we all check the buttons before PE.”
“A lesson learned eh.” his mother smiled.
“They also said that they keep trying to flick up the girl's skirts and thought it was hilarious.” he said in an almost disparaging tone. “...and I just wanted to say 'well if you had to wear short skirts you wouldn't find it so funny', but I couldn't because...”
“That's hardly an admission.”
“I know but...” he paused for a moment, “...it would've felt like one.”
His mother smiled at him reassuringly. Peter smiled back. They shared a short comfortable silence before Peter asked, “Can you tell I’ve been wearing make-up?”
His mother looked hard at him. She cocked her head this way and that before saying, “Not really. Why?”
“Mrs Pierce gave me a funny look and said I looked 'nice'.”
“I think you worry too much. She probably meant your hair.” mum said as her gaze flicked between my fringe and my eyes. She smiled. “What do you fancy for supper?”
“I dunno. Sausage and chips and beans?” I suggested.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah... I haven't had chips since I left... or beans.” I replied, visualising the food at St Ursula's. “Not tinned ones anyway.... they're into 'five a day', healthy eating and all that.”
“A good wholesome diet never did anyone any harm.” his mother said wisely as she filled a tray with oven chips. “so what else are you looking forward to this week... apart from chips?”
“Not dressing like a girl.” he mused.
“Oh.” was his mother's melancholic retort. “There's your new dress remember.”
“Oh yeah.” he replied. “Not dressing like a girl... everyday then.”
“Well sorry to break this to you love but petticoating is a daily undertaking, so you will at least be wearing a nightie for bed.” she added.
“Of course.” she replied. “A petticoated boy is a perfect boy remember.” she added.
I'm more than familiar with the saying as my teachers use it on an almost daily basis. It seems unfair that there is no equivalent saying for the girls, but seeing as there appears to virtually no bullying, boisterous behaviour or adolescent bravado from the boys at St Ursula's, it's a saying I'm inclined to agree with. “I only wish it didn't mean dressing like a girl all the time.” I thought as I slumped on the table and sighed. “They wouldn't know if didn't wear a nightie.” I suggested.
“I'd know.” mum said. “Plus I’ve bought them now.” she smiled.
I visualised my nighties at St Ursula's. Like my uniform, I’ve grown comfortable with them but at first, I along with the other boys hated wearing such a short garment that left our legs entirely exposed. The overall length of the our white cotton nighties is an inch or so shorter than its sleeves, so our super-short 'night-knickers' or bloomers with elasticated legs remain clearly visible. Trimmed with frilly broderie anglaise on every edge, there is nothing remotely boyish about them. “What are they like?” I asked.
“Well I think they're nice.” mum smiled. “...and if you can't wait until bedtime, they're in your pyjama drawer.” she said. “Or your former pyjama drawer.”
Although intrigued, the boy inside stopped me from going to look. The idea of seeing nothing but a few nighties in my pyjama drawer seemed a little depressing. And if I'm not mistaken, Mum has just made it perfectly clear that there are no pyjamas in that drawer. The best I can hope for is to try not to think about being petticoated until bedtime.
Although the meals at St Ursula's were of a relatively high standard, nothing compares to a home cooked chip. Peter washed the dishes and pots. His mother retired to the lounge for some Saturday night telly. I dried my hands and joined my mother in the lounge. She looked at me thoughtfully. Her eyes narrowed, forcing me to wonder what she was thinking. “So... when are you going to show me how that dress looks?” she asked.
I slumped my head into my shoulders. “Oh mu-um... I’ve only been a boy for a few hours.” I moaned. She frowned. “Maybe tomorrow.” I suggested.
“OK.” she grinned.
Come 9pm... Mum took me to my room to show me my new nighties. I also noticed in the drawer they are kept, one of the very same nappies they use at St Ursula's. I audibly gulped at the sight of it.
“It's only there if you need it.” his mother smiles reassuringly.
“Why would I need that?” I recoiled.
“Well... for one you might wet the bed... and two, as I understand it, disobedience results in one day and gross disobedience results in three days.” she said, quoting the school rules almost verbatim. (Yes, we do Latin too). I gulped. “Now...” Mum said excitedly. “...which one do you want to wear first?” she said, lifting the whole bundle out of the drawer.
My new nighties are almost identical in style to those I'm used to; being way too short and with little frilly bloomers.. But these are worse. One is baby pink with white lace trim, paired with contrasting white bloomers with a baby pink trim. The next is white with baby pink spots and contrasting bloomers, and the third is white with a pink and green floral print and matching bloomers, both also have lace trim on every edge. They look horrendous. They are horrendous.
I reluctantly chose one, then spent the next hour in the sitting room watching TV with mum and longing for bedtime. The slidy sateen fabric feels weird. I'm almost afraid to touch it, but come bedtime,as I slid beneath my duvet, I soon realise that it's far nicer than cotton to sleep in.
The next morning, his mother won't let him get dressed until after breakfast, so just like at school he eats his breakfast then washes his bowl wearing his girlie night clothes. At least he doesn't have to wear his new prissy nighties in front of twenty-odd others. He dries his hands on a tea towel and gives his mother one of those looks. The one that says 'can I please change out of these humiliating clothes and get dressed now?'.
“Why don't you go and get dressed?” his mother smiled. His legs look so long and thin as they protrude from his little floaty nightie. “You'll find some proper underwear under your underpants.” she said. “And there's some tights in your sock drawer.” she added.
“Can't I be a boy again?” he asked.
“You're always a boy Peter.” his mother said, kissing him on the forehead. “Even when you're dressed like a girl.” She smiled as she ran her hands down his silky sleeves. “Now you did say you'd show me your dress today.”
The poor boy was clearly reluctant. “Can't I show you later?” he almost begged.
“OK.” his mother conceded, “But if you do insist on wearing your boy clothes for a while, I insist you wear 'proper' underwear beneath them.”
What does she mean? Proper underwear! “You mean knickers.” I gulped.
“And a bra.” mum said.
I sloped off to my room and gladly removed my nightie and little bloomers before folding them neatly and placing them on my pillow, just as I did each morning at school. I opened my underwear drawer and found beneath my own underpants, a pile of knickers and neatly folded bras that I never realised I had. Unlike the underwear I wear beneath my school uniform, these are all colourful and patterned.
I’d rather just wear some undies but knowing mum would check, I took the top set and put them on. I can understand wearing these with my uniform, but it seemed odd pulling my boy clothes on over girl's underwear. I opened my sock drawer and on one side was a distinctive box that obviously contained the tights mum mentioned. I also noticed some new socks... girl's socks next to my more boyish ones, and knowing which mum would want me to wear, I pulled on a pair of the girlie ones; lilac with a white daisy pattern.
I don't know why but I found myself perusing the box that contained the tights. Apparently they have a 'rose knit', but I couldn't make it out through the little plastic window. I’d never worn tights before and didn't really want to... but did wonder. I closed the drawer and returned downstairs.
Mum smiled at me and glanced at my feet. “You found your new socks I see.” she said.
I looked at my feet and turned up my toes. “Yeah... thanks.” I replied. Mum asked me if I’d put a bra on. I nodded and she asked to see. “Yessss.” I groaned when she asked me if I was wearing the matching knickers. “They're a bit too girlie.” I said when she asked me if I liked them.
“Of course they're girlie.” she smiled. “You don't want to wear white knickers everyday do you.” she more said than asked. “And nothing's too girlie for a petticoated boy.” she grinned. This was another statement he often hears at St Ursula's.
It's midday on Sunday. Peter says he's hungry and wonders what's for lunch. His mother tells him they're visiting granny for a proper Sunday Lunch. “Excellent!” he says. Granny makes a splendid Sunday roast and he hasn't had the pleasure for ages... plus he'd also like to see his grandmother as he hasn't seen her for two months. “When are we going?” he eagerly asks.
His mother looks at the clock. It's just gone twelve-fifteen. “I said we'd be there around two.”
“Oh that's ages.” he frowned.
“Well we can go sooner if you want.” she suggested.
“OK.” he perked up
“Well, once you've got your dress on, we'll go.” she said, much to his horror.
Of course he protested, but not too much. He knows not to go too far or that would be deemed disobedience... the consequences of which are far worse than simply wearing a girls dress. He wisely conceded and his mother offered to help him get ready. Peter said he'd be OK but his mother insisted. “You might ruin your tights if you don't put them on properly.”
“We wear tights for ballet.” he reluctantly replied
“Of course.” his mother smiled. “Give me a shout if you need help with the buttons.” she said knowingly as he climbed the stairs... slowly.
After carefully pulling the tights, he stepped into his dress and pushed his arms through the sleeves. He tried his best to fasten the buttons, but being in the back of the dress they're not easy. “Mu-um.” he calls from the landing. “Can you help please?” he asks.
Peter stands silently as his mother fastens the long row of buttons for him. “I've been looking forward to this.” she says as button by button, she fastens him into a garment she knows he cannot remove himself. “Well... not easily.” she thinks as she ties the two thin ribbons on the back of his collar in a double bow. “Well let's see how it looks.” she says as she turns him around to face her. “It'd look nicer if you looked a bit happier Peter.” she says after a moment's observation.
He hangs his head and says “It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to visit granny wearing it.”
“Well she knows that you dress like a girl at school and I’ve told her all about the benefits of petticoating.” his mother replied. “So you've nothing to worry about... plus it'll be a nice surprise for her.”
“I guess.” Peter conceded. He looked down at his frock. Puffed sleeves, lace trim, subtle flower print... it was a world away from his short pleated school skirt, blouse and blazer. And given the choice, he much rather visit his granny wearing his uniform than this.
His mother looks him up and down once more and smiles. “Right.” she says, “Make-up and shoes then we're ready.”
Peter willingly puts on his make-up. If he is spotted by one of the neighbours getting into his mother's car, he'd rather be mistaken for a girl than recognised for who he is.
“I'm impressed.” his mother says as he quickly applies eye-liner, eye-shadow and a touch of mascara... all in natural shades that compliment his colouring. He's used to applying his make-up, but doing it in front of his mother is one of many 'firsts'. He glances at her nervously before applying the pale pink lipstick. She smiles proudly as he checks his reflection in his small vanity mirror. “You clearly know what you're doing.” she told him. “When I started wearing make-up I used to pile it on.”
“They're really strict about make-up at St Ursula's.” Peter says as he packs up his handbag. “We have to check it at the end of every lesson to make sure we're presentable for the next.”
“Well you're certainly presentable.” his mother compliments.
Peter trots as fast as he can between the house and the car. As his mother starts the engine she's just as nervous as her son is. Although she's discussed petticoating with her mother to great lengths, Peter’s granny is yet to be convinced that petticoating a boy has its merits.
The usual peep peep of Patricia's car horn signals their arrival... although I'm fully aware that my grandson is being petticoated at school, I was surprised to see him walk up the garden path clearly wearing a pale blue knee length dress beneath his coat. Not only that, but his legs are clad in white tights and on his feet is a pair of Mary Jane style shoes with a heel. Peter and his mother enter and he takes his coat off to reveal a prairie style dress in pale blue with a subtle floral pattern. It has a broad white yoke, trimmed with a narrow band of frilly white lace, as is the pan collar. I don't know why but I tell him he looks nice. He blushes as he politely says thank you. I half expected a curtsey too, but wasn't disappointed when he just turned towards the lounge. “Those buttons must have taken a while to fasten.” I said as I followed, observing the long row of buttons that run from the nape of his neck deep into the skirt of his dress.
“Mum did them.” he replied as he, turned on his heel, scooped up his frock and sat on the sofa.
There's certainly nothing clumsy about him, I thought as I looked down his dress to his legs. His white tights have a subtle rose pattern in the knit and his black patent shoes have a good two-inch heel. I take my seat and ask Peter to tell me all about boarding school... and particularly about the petticoat discipline.
He tells that dressing like a girl everyday was weird at first, but he'd got used to it after the first week or so. “He said it felt strange wearing his pants for the first time in two months, and that his school uniform and 'this dress' are both very comfortable to wear... “Even if only girls are supposed to wear them... I don't mind.”
“See.” his mother said proudly as she entered with the tea pot. “Petticoating is nothing to be afraid of is it?”
“But it is highly unusual.” I retorted. “...in spite of the fact you don't seem to mind, I fail to see the benefits of dressing a boy in girl's clothes and putting make on him.”
“He does his own make-up.” my daughter stated. “So he's learning to take pride in himself.”
I looked at my grandson again. His make-up did look quite nice I suppose, and it wasn't too long ago he wouldn't even bother to brush his hair unless told. My daughter went on to explain how he's more disciplined, more obedient, is well mannered before showing me his half-term report. “Oh.” I said as I looked down the list of subjects and saw B, B+ and A grades. Last year when he was a first year at the local high school he struggled to get a C grade. “Well done Peter.” I smiled.
“I didn't know I had a report.” Peter said, craning his neck to see.
His mother turned it away from him, and said it wasn't for his eyes. “I just wanted to show your grandmother how your grades have improved.” she said. I told Peter to take his seat, before taking hold of his report and perusing it in more detail.
Peter asks if he may go to the bathroom, a question he's never asked before. “Of course you can.” I replied “You don't have to ask.”. I felt the sides of my mouth turn upwards as he glid effortlessly in his heels, the full skirt of his frock floated around him as he left. Alone with his mother, I take the opportunity to say, “Well he seems happy enough, and he's ever so elegant.... but don't you miss him being a normal boy?”
“Normal boys can grow into nasty men mother... it's only for a few years and it's for his own good.” my daughter replied. “And you can see how his grades have improved already.”
“Oh yes.” I replied, scanning his report. “I can also see that 'Peter has taken to being petticoated reluctantly, yet admirably, and the routine is clearly of benefit to the boy. He takes great pride in his appearance, and always carries with him a happy and sociable demeanour. As such, Peter will benefit from an additional petticoating regime outside of term time.”
“See, I told you he's happy... he's just a bit too shy about it to admit it.”
“Maybe so, but I can't help but wonder if it's not some kind of mind control or...” I felt ashamed to suggest such a thing, “...brainwashing.”
“Well in a way it is.” my daughter replied, “But not in a sinister way... petticoating will make him a better person.”
“Well if you're sure.” I sighed.
“I am mum.” my daughter insisted, placing her hand on the back of mine and giving it a reassuring squeeze. “I don't want him to grow up like...” she didn't complete her sentence. She didn’t have to.
I took a deep breath. “I'm sure he won't Patricia.”
“So am I.” my daughter replied. “A few frocks isn't much of a price to pay... and if he didn't like it, I wouldn't do it.”
“I suppose.” I conceded. “Now talking of frocks, you could have bought him something a bit trendier than that dress.” I stated.
“I like that dress.”
“It's nice enough, for a porcelain doll maybe... don't you think he'd rather wear something a bit more casual? A plain skirt, a nice t-shirt maybe... that's what girls like to wear. Not prissy prairie dresses.”
“It's pretty, not prissy... and I made a point of not buying him a pink one.” my daughter insisted, just as Peter returned.
“Well that's one consolation I suppose.” I replied as Peter took his seat. “You'd rather wear something a bit more modern than that wouldn't you Peter?”
“Er... I don't know. I've only got this and my school uniform..” he replied as he straightened his skirt over his knees. “I'd rather wear my uniform I think.”
“Or your own clothes.” I added knowingly.
“Well... yes.” Peter replied, glancing coyly at his mother. “But you've seen those. I thought it would be a nice surprise if I wore my new dress.”
“Well it looks very sweet on you.” I said. I wasn't being wholly honest though, and I wondered if he really did want to wear his dress for me, or if he was merely saying what he'd been told to say.
Before long I served Sunday lunch. It's always nice to have a meal around the table with one's family and Peter’s new found table manners were impeccable. Not so long ago I’d be telling him to wipe the gravy from his chin. Today he's managing to eat without even disturbing his lipstick, which one cannot deny is a lovely shade of pink and perfect for his colouring. Of course he's being polite and well mannered, but part of me misses the boy with unkempt hair. The boy I'm constantly telling to take his feet of my furniture, to stop slouching, even to say 'please' and 'thank you'. As his mother says, a petticoated boy is a perfect boy... but if I can't tell him off, what can I tell him?
The following day, I awake and have breakfast, wearing my frilly nightie of course. Mum asks me if I'm looking forward to seeing Sarah this afternoon. On the one hand I am, on the other I'm not, seeing as she saw me in my school uniform and will no doubt have a host of questions to ask. I ask mum if I can wear my boy clothes. She says yes. I go to my room and remove my nightie and bloomers, then open my underwear drawer. “Mu-um!” I hollered from the top of the stairs, “Where are my undies? My boy's ones.”
Mum appeared in the hallway. “I put them in my room.” she replied.
“OK.” I asked. “Why?”
“Because you're only supposed to wear proper underwear.”
“But...” I moan.
“But nothing Peter. If you're going to see your friends, I’ll let you wear your boy things... but the rest of the time it's girl's underwear... understand?”
“OK.” I murmured before going back to my room, back to my drawer and pulling on a pair of knickers followed by a matching training bra; both white with a yellow flower pattern and elasticated lace trim.
We both commented in the things that had changed and the things that hadn't as we drove through our old neighbourhood. If it wasn't for a chance meeting with Peter and his mother on Station Road the other day we wouldn't even be here. When I was a seven year old girl, Peter was my best friend in the entire cul-de-sac. We got up to all sorts together and since he dresses like a girl for school, I'm keen to catch up.
Our old house looked more or less the same as it always did. Mum and I walked down the road a little to have nosey, before backtracking to Peter’s house. Him mum answered the door, welcomed us in and told me that Peter was in his room. “Go and give him a knock.” she said.
I trotted up the stairs, knocked and waited. “Hi Peter.” I said as he opened the door. I looked him up and down. “I half expected you to be dressed as a girl again.” I said as I walked in and glanced around his bedroom. “What are you up to?” I asked.
“Not much, just lurking on the internet.” he replied.
“Hey are you on FaceBook?”
Peter shook his head. “No... I'm not allowed.”
“Oh that's a shame... why not?”
“Mum says I'm too young.” Peter replied “But I'm not exactly eager to join up.”
“I love it!” I said before launching into my well rehearsed monologue about the joys of FaceBook; sharing jokes and gossip, photographs, even pop videos. “I've not got like 'hundreds' of friends but it's good to catch up with people I don't see everyday.” I paused. “You know, have chats and share photos.”
“I get why people like it...” he said optimistically. “...but could you imagine my profile?” he grinned at me. “Name: Pete Jackson – Age: 12 – School: St Ursula's; the mixed school for girls... and here's a photo of me in my uniform.”
“Yeah I see what you mean... is that what they call it then? A 'mixed' school for girls.” I asked.
Peter nodded. “It used to be a girls boarding school... founded in 1863. It was very posh and very strict and at some point about thirty years ago, they started accepting boys.” he explained. “But since it was still private a girl's school, the boys had to wear the same uniform as the girls, and they still do.” he shrugged, as if it was a logical explanation.
“That's weird.” I replied. “Do you like dressing as a girl then?” I asked, wondering if that was the reason he goes.
“Not really.” he replied. “I'd rather not but you get used to it... as you probably know.” he added with a smile.
“Yeah I noticed on Saturday.”
“I meant, you being a girl... get used to wearing a skirt all the time.” Peter corrected. “I was totally crapping myself on Saturday.” he said. “I thought we'd be allowed to come home in our own clothes... but no... we must look presentable at all times, both in and out of school.” he seemed to quote from the rule book. “Wearing my uniform in Beckford was the last thing I wanted to do.”
“I didn't recognise you at first.” I replied. “If your mother hadn't said anything I’d have just thought you was a girl.”
Peter gulped and looked at me. “A real one?”
I nodded. I wasn't trying to flatter him although I know it sounded like I was. “You looked nice, pretty even...” I stated, “...but, why do you have to dress like a girl if you don't want to?.” I asked. “I'd understand if it was like a er...” I routed in my mental dictionary for a PC phrase, but couldn't find one, “...tranny school... you know, for boys who want to be girls but...” I drew to a halt.
“They call it Petticoat Discipline.” he replied. I watched him begin to blush. “They keep saying 'a petticoated boy is a perfect boy' and that it's a better form of discipline than the threat of corporal punishment... not that any schools use the cane or slipper any more.” He paused. “I guess it's just school tradition these days.. but I think it works... there's no fights, no bullying that I’ve seen and nobody gets sent out of class for being disruptive.” he told me.
“Maybe they should try it at Central High.” I smiled. “I'm sure there's a few boys who'd deserve a bit of 'petticoat discipline'.” I mused. “So what about the girls? Are they as well behaved as the boys?”
“Yeah I guess. Some can be a bit bitchy but mostly they're OK.” he replied as I looked around his room.
It was like a normal boy's room with model aircraft hanging from the ceiling and books about spaceships and tanks on the shelves. The only thing that looked out of place was the pair of black Mary Jane's lined up next to his trainers. “Are those your school shoes?”
Peter glanced at them, gulped and said “Er.. yeah.”
“They're quite high aren't they?” I said, as I picked one up for closer inspection. The blocky heel was a good two inches high, maybe two-and-a-half. “I'd never be allowed these at school.”
“Yeah... I think they're to stop us running away.” Peter said. “I'm joking.” he added, before saying that petticoat discipline is simply putting boys in girl's clothes and girl's shoes are part of it.
I wondered if they wore knickers too. “I bet you're better than I am in heels.” I said before putting the shoe back where I found it. “Oh you've got a handbag too.” I said, noticing a leather handbag hung on the back of his door.
“Yeah... that's for school... surprise surprise.” Peter sighed.
“Sorry... it must be boring for you... all this school talk on your week off.” I said.
“No it's OK... I visited my friends on Saturday who don't know about all the girlie stuff. They kept asking me about boarding school and I was worried I’d slip up and they'd find out...”
“Oh they don't know?”
“Of course not.” Peter exclaimed. “If they new what kind of school St Ursula's is, they wouldn't be my friends any more.”
“Maybe... but surely they'd understand it's just the rules. It's not as if you choose to do it.”
“They'd be too busy taking the piss to understand anything.” Peter replied. “The less they know the better.”
“Well you'd better hide your shoes and handbag then.” I advised as I scanned his room for more evidence.
“Yeah.” he said, biting his lip. “In fact I’ll do it now.”
He unhooked his handbag and picked up his shoes, then opened the wardrobe. “Is that a dress?” I asked.
“I was hoping you wouldn't see that.”
“Why not?” I asked, trying to get a better look around him. “I've already seen your uniform so a dress isn't going to bother me.”
“Yeah but...” he replied. “I dunno... I didn't want one but mum bought it for me.” he gulped.
“Can I have a look?”
“OK.” he said. “I'm not going to try it on though.” he insisted as he removed it from the rail.
I stood up and took hold of the hanger, turning his frock this way and that before looking at the other contents of his wardrobe. It all looked male enough. “Just the one then?” I asked.
Peter nodded and sighed. “Yeah.”
“That's a shame.” I said. I held his frock against myself and shooed Peter out of the way of the mirror. “If this was my only dress... I’d be pestering my mum for another... and another... and another!” I smiled as I gave it back. It wasn't the nicest or trendiest frock... far from it in fact. It's the kind of dress a porcelain doll would wear, with puffed sleeves, lace trimmed yoke, pan collar and buttons up the back. “Have you worn it?”
He nodded and frowned. “Yeah. We visited Gran on Sunday and mum wanted me looking 'nice'.” he admitted as he hung it back on the rail. “But one is definitely enough.”
“What did your gran say?”
“Well she said I looked 'nice' but I think she was just saying that.” he replied. “Too prissy, I think she called it.”
“At least you've got a nice uniform.” I said, spotting his Douglas tartan skirt clipped to a hanger. I took the liberty of removing his skirt and holding it against myself.
“What's yours like?”
“Navy blue.” I replied. “It wouldn't be too bad but it's like... this long.” I placed my hand just above my knee. “It's totally unflattering.”
“We'd never be allowed to wear them that long.” Peter said. “No longer than the tips of the fingers is the rule.” he parroted. “No shorter than the tip of the thumb.” he added.
I hung his skirt back on the rail next to his blazer. “This is nice too.” I said as I admired it. “Our blazers aren't fitted like yours, they just hang like a rigid square... exactly like a man's jacket.”
“Whereas mine's exactly like a girl's.” he moaned.
“And looks all the better for it.” I insisted. “You might not like it but I think you've got the nicest school uniform I’ve ever seen.”
“Not when you're a boy it isn't.” Peter replied.
“Believe me Peter, it looks good on you.” I assured. “Not so sure about your frock mind.” I added as I took hold of the pale blue fabric before letting it drop. “Nobody would look good in this.”
Peter screwed his face up. “Is it really that bad?”
I nodded. “It's vile.”
Peter frowned and closed his wardrobe. I sat back on his bed. Peter grabbed hold of his pillow. “Is it as bad as this though?” he asked in a derogatory tone.
“Is that a nightie?” I exclaimed at the neatly folded garment. “Wow it's like a babydoll!” I grinned as I unfolded it. “This is cute!” I almost squealed as I imagined a boy wearing it. “It's got little knickers too.” I gushed, holding the frilly satin panties against myself.
“Yeah.” Peter moaned. I looked up it him and he was crimson with embarrassment. “Guess my dress ain't so bad after all?”
“No your dress is horrible Peter... but this is gorgeous... very girlie but gorgeous none the less.” I insisted as I admired the lacy details and soft baby pink fabric. “Even I don't have nightwear like this and I am a girl!”
He forced a smile through his bemused expression. “And I do but I'm not a girl... go figure!” he frowned as I began to re-fold his nightie “You won't tell anyone will you?” he asked, clearly concerned.
“No of course not.” I said honestly. I punctuated my reply with a reassuring smile, then placed his nightie back on his mattress and he replaced the pillow. “But I'm totally jealous of your nightie... and your uniform.” I added, glancing at his wardrobe. “But you can keep your dress.” I smiled.
“Thanks.” he humbly replied. “Shall we go down stairs?”
There was an almost pleading tone in his voice. “Sure.” I said. “And don't worry... your secret is safe with me.” I promised.
“I was beginning to wonder whether or not you'd appear Peter.” Susan's mother, Judith said as she and Peter joined them in the kitchen. “Susan been chewing your ear off?” she asked with a grin.
“No we were... just talking.” Peter replied as he pulled out a chair.
“Your mum's been telling me all about St Ursula’s... how are you finding it?”
“It's OK.” Peter replied. “It's just a normal school really.”
“So you don't mind the petticoat discipline?”
“Well, it was weird at first but... you just get used to it.” he replied. “I thought my legs would be freezing in just a skirt and socks but...”
“You could wear tights though.” Sarah added.
Peter shook his head. “Knee socks only.” he replied.
“You can wear tights when winter kicks in.” Peter's mother said.
“As long as they're not those horrid navy blue tights I have to wear.” Sarah moaned.
Judith case her daughter a smile. “Ever since she saw Peter’s uniform she's been feeling hard done by.”
“Too right.” Sarah replied. “If I had a nice uniform I wouldn't mind wearing it, but navy blue tights, navy bland knee length skirt, no heels and the most unflattering blazer known to man.” she complained. “And they're so strict about it.”
“They're strict about Peter’s uniform too love.” her mother reminded her. “He even has to wear make-up every day!”
“You wear make-up everyday?” Sarah asked. “In class?”
Peter nodded. “That's what the handbag's for...” he replied. “Well, make-up and stationery.”
“You must be very good at it.” Judith asked. “It looked nice on Saturday.”
“Thanks.” Peter smiled. “At first I made a right mess and it just looked weird.” he said. “But I’ve had plenty of practice and...”
“And now you don't feel dressed without it?” Judith smiled.
“Well... it is a bit weird not wearing it.. but only because I’m used to doing it first thing every day.” Peter replied. “But no.. I'm enjoying the break.” he smiled.
“I wish I could wear make-up at school.” Sarah moaned. “In fact I wish I could wear it at home.” she stated.
“You're too young for make-up Sarah.” her mother stated. “Peter wears make-up because its part of his petticoating routine.” she added, pre-empting her daughter's obvious reply. “Not because he's too eager to grow up.”
Sarah screwed her face and cast Peter an envious glance. Peter smiled back. “I don't think you're too young Sarah.” he said. “If I'm old enough to wear it when I'm not even a girl, you should be old enough too.”
Peter’s mother cast her friend Judith one of those looks before saying, “Well that's you told Jude.” she giggled. “I was wearing make up at Sarah’s age and it didn't do me any harm.”
“Really?” Judith asked. “My mother wouldn't....”
Sarah stared at Peter. Her heart was almost melting as he fought her corner. She visualised his face as it looked on Saturday; pale pink lippy, subtle eye make-up and a light dusting of powder. He spotted her staring at him. “What?” he mouthed.
“Thank you.” she silently replied.
“...but she was old fashioned... I had my hair in ribbons 'til the day I left school.” Judith continued. “It's almost as if she hated the idea of me growing up.”
“My mother hated me growing up too...” Peter’s mother replied. “...but being a punk didn't help...”
“You were a punk!” Peter exclaimed, just before his jaw hit the floor.
A huge grin swept his mother's face. This was followed by a slight flushing before she described in detail her 'Cleopatra' eyes, blood red 'Morticia' lips and purple hair that was green, blue or red on several occasions. The biggest revelation was that she had a mohecan aged fourteen, and her mother didn't even know! “It was quite wide so I just combed it in a centre parting for school and home... then when I went out I’d spike it up at a friends house, wear loads of make up and go round the pubs.” she admitted. “...not that I'm condoning that... I was young and stupid!” she added for good measure.
Neither Sarah nor her mother could believe that Peter’s mother used to be a punk, and demanded photographic evidence. To her knowledge no photos existed, so the vision remained a purely mental one.
“So what was you into mum?” Sarah asked.
Judith was more normal. She liked Wet Wet Wet and Paul Young, had a dreadful perm and highlights from hell and wore clothes her mother approved of. “Thinking back... I’d rather have been a punk like you Patsy... something a bit more out there.” she reminisced.
Thankfully for Peter, the conversation swung to their parents reminiscing over their youth and coming of age. Even when he's not being petticoated, there's too much chat about him being petticoated. At least at school he can just get on with it and not have endless discussions about what it's like wearing a skirt, how he copes walking in heels or wearing make-up. All that goes unsaid at school and petticoated boys are so ubiquitous, they're almost unnoticed.
“What kind of music do you like Peter?” Judith asked, dragging him out of his thoughts.
“Er... dunno really... one of the boys in my dorm has a radio but I don't get to choose the station, plus it's always a bit too quiet to hear properly.” he replied. “As long as it's not Beiber or One-Direction, I'm not too fussed what I listen to.”
“I like One-Direction.” Sarah announces.
“Too girlie for me.” Peter replies. “Who's that.... can't remember the name but it's just loads of noise... squillex or something?”
“Scrillex.” Sarah corrects.
“That's quite good.” he says.
“It is just noise.” Sarah insists. “...and he's a weirdo.”
“I've only heard it on the radio.” Peter replies as he thinks this must be a record... almost five minutes without petticoating being mentioned!
“I used to like that Boy George.. people said he was a weirdo too.” Judith added.
Peter and Sarah were clueless who Boy George was, and after a brief description, Sarah said, “I didn't know boys wore make-up back then.”
Both Joyce and Peter’s mother said that lots of boys wore make up back then, with a variety of results. They named some of the New Romantic bands and gave a yeah or neigh as to whether they wore their make up well or not. It was mostly neighs. “But their make-up was very glam Peter.” Judith stated as she sensed his discomfort. “Not natural like yours.”
“They are very strict about how it's applied aren't they love.” Peter’s mother added.
He nodded. “Although some of the boys will never get the hang of it... no matter how long they spend trying to get it right they just can't.” he says, thinking of the main culprits. “Some of the girl's aren't much better either.” he adds.
“I wish I was allowed to wear make-up.” Sarah hinted.
“You're pretty enough without make-up dear.” her mother states.
“But I’d be prettier with it.” she retorted with a grin.
“Well...” Judith began thoughtfully. “Since Peter put me in my place... maybe.”
Sarah's face lit up. “Really?! Ah thanks mum.” she grinned, looking up at Peter.
“I said maybe.” her mother stated. “And definitely not for school.”
“Oh.” Sarah sulked.
“Look at it this way Sarah... you can barely get out of bed in time for school... let alone give yourself enough time each morning to put your face on.” Judith said. “I'm sure it's more of a chore than a pleasure for you isn't it Peter?”
Peter didn't reply immediately. “I don't know.” he said thoughtfully. “We don't have a choice so in that sense it is a chore, it's just part of the routine and I like that I can do it well.” he explained. “It's like my uniform I suppose... I’d rather not have to wear it but I don't mind the fact that I do.” he said. “Anyway, there's a lot more to school than just petticoating, we do English and maths, science and history, design and tech, IT, domestic science...”
“It's just a normal boarding school with a not so normal uniform isn't it?” his mother added. But sensing that Peter would probably appreciate a conversation change, she asked, “Are you still doing social work Judith?”
“I'm in education welfare now.” she replied, “Which is one reason I'm being so nosey about Peter’s petticoating.” She then waffled on about her case load of persistent truants, bullies and the bullied and those who are frequently absent due to illness. “There's one boy with absolutely nothing wrong with him but his mother is convinced he's sickly...”
“Like Münchhausen’s?” Peter’s mother asked.
Judith nodded. “Exactly like Münchhausen’s... so that's a tricky case. Then there's the trawling around town, rounding up the truants and practically dragging them in to school... which is like playing cat & mouse with them. And once I’ve got them in school, half of them will just walk out again. And then there's the bullies. Some of them even bully their teachers!”
“Sounds like you've got your hands full.” Peter’s mother said.
“Maybe you should make the bullies wear skirts like Peter?” Sarah suggested.
“Some of them already do.” her mother stated as a look of puzzlement swept her daughter's face. Sarah had clearly got the wrong end of the stick, so for clarity her mother added, “Girl's can be just as big a bully as the boys... in fact some are worse than the boys.”
“Yeah I guess.” Sarah replied, thinking about one particularly nasty girl in her class.
“I suppose there's not much truancy or absenteeism at St Ursula's Peter?” Judith asked.
Peter shook his head. “If someone's sick they can be excused from class by the nurse.”
Again Peter shook his head. “None that I’ve witnessed or heard of.” he replied. “Whether that's because it's a fee paying school or a result of us being petticoated I'm not sure.” he said. “But saying that, I can't imagine any boy acting tough and threatening whilst dressed as a girl... or nicking off.” he mused.
“Your mum did say it keeps truancy down.” Judith smiled. “I can see it working for the boys, but I can't think of an equivalent that would work for girls.” Judith replied thoughtfully.
Both Peter and his mother knew the answer, but wisely kept quiet. After an hour or so, Judith and Sarah prepared to leave. Judith promised to keep in touch, as did Sarah.
“That was nice wasn't it?” his mother said as they waved Judith and Sarah off.
“Yeah.” he replied. “Apart from....” he paused.
“Just... so much talk about Peter’s uniform and Peter’s make-up and Peter’s petticoating.” he replied. “I didn't expect to be the centre of attention.”
“The other day you said it was weird not talking about it.” his mother smiled. “And Judith & Sarah certainly didn't think you were weird did they?” she said. “Petticoat Discipline may be a little out of the ordinary but it's a long way from weird.”
“Apart from the nappy in my drawer.” Peter flippantly retorted.
“Which you'll be wearing if you take that tone again.” mum stated.
“Sorry.” he gulped. “And thanks for not saying anything.” he said, forcing an appreciative smile.
“What? About the nappy?” his mother asked. “Why would I?”
“When Judith wondered about 'an equivalent to petticoating for girls'.” he replied.
“Ah. No.” she smiled. “Things like that and your nighties are best kept between us I think.”
“I showed Sarah my nightie.” Peter admitted.
“Did you? What did she say?”
“She liked it.” he said. “She hated my dress though.”
“You showed her that too?” his mother quizzed.
“Well, she spotted my school shoes and handbag and I figured I’d better put them away... then she spotted the dress when I opened my wardrobe.” he replied. “Vile... I think she called it.”
“Well it's not the kind of dress I’d expect Sarah to wear.” Mum said, “But it's perfect for you.”
“Hmm.” Peter groaned, clearly not convinced.
“Well, now our guests have gone I think it's high time you wore it again.”
“But I wore it yesterday.” he frowned.
“Petticoating should be a daily undertaking Peter... you know that.”
“I’ve got my proper undies on.” he replied. “Surely that counts?”
“Only to an extent.” his mother says as a mournful look sweeps his face. “Go on... a petticoated boy is a perfect boy... and all this moaning is less than perfect.”
Peter’s head sunk just a little as he went to his room. He stripped down to his underwear and stepped into his dress. He did as many of the buttons as he could before returning to the kitchen.
“That's better.” his mother smiled.
“Can you do the rest of the buttons please?” he sheepishly asked.
“Of course.” she replied. A warmth filled her senses as she fastened him into his dress. She knew full well it was a long way from a 'nice' dress and would never have bought it for a girl. But for a petticoated boy, it's perfect. “There you are.” she said as she fastened the final button and turned him around.
“Thanks.” he said, but didn't really mean it.
“It's not so bad once it's on is it?” his mother said as she looked him up and down. “Do you want to put some make-up on too?” she suggested.
Peter spent the rest of the afternoon milling about in his dress. He listened to music, flicked through magazines, watched a little TV and generally tried to find some normality in the discomfort of wearing his 'vile' prairie dress. Although this discomfort was more down to his fear of one of his friends calling round unannounced, rather than a physical discomfort caused by his attire.
As usual after supper, Peter washed and dried the dishes. He couldn't help but look at his reflection in the window above the sink, and gulped as he observed his very girlie silhouette. He knew that petticoating would play a minor role in his home life too, as his teachers had made that perfectly clear. Wearing a nice frock to visit his grandmother has a certain logic to it, but wearing one just to mill around at home seemed pointless. On the other hand, it does feel nice when the light, full skirt swishes around his legs. Eight weeks at St Ursula's and eight weeks of petticoat discipline is certainly having an effect on him.
Tuesday & Wednesday
The weather in Tuesday is atrocious, so Peter spends his time doing his homework. He also spends the entire day, from breakfast 'til bedtime wearing his dress. His does throw a little strop at teatime when he's not allowed to change, but the threat of a night in his nappy soon curbs his whining. So sensibly, he decides it's best to put up and shut up.
At St Ursula's the class on Wednesday morning is domestic science, which largely involves them hand washing their underwear, blouses, nighties and socks, and once dry, ironing the nighties and blouses. Much to Peter's disappointment, this is to be done at home too. It seems pointless hand washing when there's a perfectly good washing machine, but his mother reminds him that rules are rules and he does have a routine to stick too. One by one they adorn the kitchen radiator to dry. “How you getting on?” his mother asked.
“OK.” he replied in a mournful voice. It wouldn't be quite so bad if it was just the white knickers and training bras he wears at school... at home they're pink, yellow, lilac and patterned with flowers and hearts and butterflies.
“Andrew just called, he said he'd come round this afternoon.” his mother told him.
“Round here?” Peter asked.
“Yes.” his mother smiled, anticipating his next question. “You can change after lunch if you want.”
Peter looked down at his dress. “What if he comes early?” he asked.
“Then he'll see how pretty you look.” his mother smiled.
Peter pleaded to be allowed to change into his boy clothes sooner rather than later, but she flat refused. He grew increasingly nervous as the clock ticked ever closer to lunchtime. His mother made him a sandwich which he wolfed down, then asked again if he could change. His mother told him to remove his make up and nail varnish first, and only then would she let him out of his dress. Knowing he couldn't undo the buttons himself, he had no choice but to comply with her wishes. He's barely out of his dress when the doorbell rings. His mother answers the door whilst Peter quickly removes his bar, pulls his jeans on over his knickers, pulls on a t-shirt, checks his room is free of evidence then goes down to meet his friend.
Andrew is in the kitchen and Peter is clearly flustered when he enters. “Do you want a glass of pop Peter?” his mother asks, having just poured one for Andrew.
“Yes please.” Peter replies as he nervously glances at the host of knickers and training bras hung over the radiator. He moves Andrew in to the sitting room, out of view of his 'proper' underwear.
Like everyone else, Andrew is keen to hear all about boarding school. Peter gives him the edited version of the truth. Unlike John and Michael, Andrew thinks boarding school sounds 'cool' and wished he could go. “No you don't.” Peter thought before swinging the conversation in Andrew's direction. What's his school like? What does he do at the weekend? As they sat chatting in front of the TV, Peter noticed that he had a pair of his girlie socks on; white with lilac stripes and and a scalloped hem. He tucked his feet beneath him and hoped they wouldn't, or hadn't been noticed. After a couple of hours, Andrew went home, thankfully ignorant of Peter’s petticoating regime.
Peter sauntered in to the kitchen after seeing his old friend out. His mother asked if he enjoyed Andrew's visit and Peter said it was. “He thinks boarding school sounds cool.” he told her. “But I didn't tell him about the uniform so...” he paused, “...I reckon he'd change his mind pretty quickly if he knew.”
“Well I'm sure you're not the only boy who enjoys being petticoated.” his mother replied.
“I don't exactly enjoy it.”
“And you don't exactly hate it either.” his mother pointed out, before telling him to check if his laundry had dried, and if so to put it away in his knicker drawer. “Oh and put your dress back on.” she said as he carried his neatly folded bundle of underwear out of the kitchen.
“Oh..” he moaned, dropping his shoulders. “I've only been dressed as a boy for a couple of hours.” he reminded her, hoping this period of respite would last until bedtime.
“I know... but you look so nice in it... and you'll forget all about it once it's on.” she smiled.
Peter placed his clean underwear in his 'knicker' drawer as his mother insisted on calling it, before stripping out of his boy clothes and stepping once again in to his one and only dress. After fastening as many of the button as he could, he went downstairs and asked his mother if she'd fasten the rest.
He looked down at himself as his mother slowly fastened him inside it. Sarah's words echoed in his skull... 'If this was my only dress I’d pester my mother for another... and another... and another.' “Mum?” he asked.
“Yes?” she replied.
“Nothing.” he murmured. He just couldn't find the words.
On Thursday, Peter went ten pin bowling with John and Michael, plus their mutual friend Thomas and a few other kids he didn't really know. They were accompanied by John & Michael’s mother; Mrs Pierce, and one of her friends, a woman called Sandra and mother to one of the girls in the group.
When asked what he's been up to during his half term break, Peter has no choice but to be a little creative. Having so little to tell yet so much to hide, Peter felt more timid than ever.
Mrs Pierce can't take her eyes off Peter. He's by far the most polite and well spoken of the boys, probably due to his regimented boarding school, but she also notices some odd mannerisms. Sandra and Mrs Pierce chat whilst the kids bowl. “Is Peter a close friend of the boys?” Sandra asks.
“They all went to primary school together, then Peter went to Park Crescent and mine went to Beckford Comp in year seven.”
“Didn't you say he was at some boarding school?” Sandra asked.
“Yeah... he was getting bullied at Park Crescent so his mum moved but him to a private boarding school.” Mrs Pierce explained.
“Well it's good if you can afford it.” Sandra said.
“I dunno... If mine went to a boarding school I’d have to have them back at the weekends.” Mrs Pierce said. “I think it's bit selfish when parents pack them off for months at a time.” she sneered. “And he's definitely changed.”
“In what way?”
“Not sure... I can't quite put my finger on it.” Mrs Pierce replied as she watched him bowl. “His mannerisms, his walk, his stature all seems a bit...”
“Prim & Proper?” Sandra suggested.
“More or less... I guess that's to be expected from a posh boarding school though.” Mrs Pierce mused as Peter took his seat. “He's a lot more timid than he used to be...” she adds noticing how he sits, always with his knee together.
Every now and then when Peter found himself alone in the crowd, he wondered what it would be like in the same situation with the same people, but not wearing his boy clothes. Had his mother insisted her wore his dress today, maybe he wouldn't have to keep so much hidden within.
Whilst approaching the alley with bowling ball in hand, he imagined he had his frock and heels on... in his mind's eye they clapped loudly on the floor boards. His skirt swished around his stockinged legs as he swung and let it go. He visualised a strike and him leaping into the air in celebration, only for his knickers to be revealed as he lands quicker than his dress. Reality kicked in as his bowl dropped into the gutter... again. “Pete you're rubbish at this.” Michael said.
“My frock got in the way!” was Peter's imaginary excuse. “It's a lot easier on the Wii.” was his actual excuse.
He'd glance at the two girls in the group every now and then and wondered if he'd ever be able to dress like they do; boot-cut jeans or shorts & leggings with a skinny-fit tee or a strappy top. He knew full well that had he worn his dress, even they'd laugh at him. But imagined Mrs Pierce and Sandra would, like his mother, insist he looks nice. Maybe it'd catch on, he wondered. Maybe Mrs Pierce would be as enthusiastic about petticoating as his own mother and all of a sudden, John and Michael are being thrust into frocks too.
“You look deep in thought.” A voice said. Peter snapped out of his day dream and turned to see Sandra, the mother of one of the girls and godmother to Michael and John. She engages Peter in conversation. “So you go to boarding school Peter... is it like Hogwarts?” she smiles.
“A little bit.” he replies, before telling her about the steam trains, the secluded valley, the spooky woods, the river and the crags. “But no magic lessons or quiddich.” he adds with a coy smile.
“It sounds idyllic.” Sandra says, before asking him the name of the school and its general location.
“It's in North Riding.” he replied. “St Ursula's.” he reluctantly added.
“That's a lovely part of the world.” Sandra replied. “Beats being in the city all the time eh?”
Mrs Pierce cant help but repeatedly glance at Peter as he chats to Sandra. He seldom parts his knees as he shuffles in his seat. She glances at the other boys, all legs akimbo, feet on chairs and far more relaxed in their posture. The two girls are more upright and hold their heads high, just like Peter. They also sit with their knees closer together in spite of the fact they're not wearing a skirt or dress. She casts her mind back to Saturday when she wondered if she could see a trace of make-up on Peter's face, before telling herself she was just being silly and reading into things that weren't there.
After they'd all eaten, they were bundled into Sandra's people carrier and one by one, dropped off at home. Mrs Pierce asked Peter if he was going back to boarding school on Monday. He nodded, but said it would be Sunday afternoon he'd be going back. She asked him if he was looking forward to it, and had he enjoyed his half term break. He said yes to both points. “Well you'll have to visit over Christmas... I guess that's when you'll next be back in Beckford?”
“Yes... I’d like that.” he replied. “See you at Christmas guys!” he smiled before trotting to his front door and waving one last time before they drove off.
It's Friday and Peter's half term break is almost over. Over breakfast, his mother tells him that his grandmother will be visiting this afternoon. “Do I have to wear my dress... again.” he asked.
“Only if you want to.” his mother says.
“I'd rather not.” Peter admits. “If that's OK?”
“Of course.” his mother smiled.
I must admit I was a little nervous as I drove over to my daughter's house. I'm not sure if encouraging this petticoating lark is a good thing or not... but left up to his mother alone the poor boy is likely to have nothing but prissy sissy dresses to wear.
Fact is I don't really have a clue what girls like to wear these days. Yesterday I visited the Arndale Centre. Not only did it have a good selection of fashion stores, but being half term it was also full of young girls either hanging around in groups or shopping with their parents. I tried to get a feel of the types of fashions twelve year old girls were wearing. So many of them just wear jeans or trackies with a hoodie... and I'm sure Peter already has clothes that fit that description, even if he doesn't get to wear them these days.
I felt a little devious on the clothes stores. After being asked if I needed any help, I told telling them I was looking or something 'nice' for my 'granddaughter', but nothing too nice. I knew what I wasn't looking for, but couldn't really visualise what I was. “She's a bit of a tom-boy you see.” I’d say if they suggested something too pretty, which they mostly did. Then they'd direct me to the jeans or tracksuits, so I’d explain that I wanted something not quite so boyish. “She always dresses so plain.” I lied.
“And you're want to help her find the girl within?” the young assistant in Fashion Bazaar asked.
“Something like that.” I replied.
“Well... maybe a skirt and top instead of a dress?”
I visualised Peter in his one and only dress, and that being a look I wanted him to get away from, I agreed.
The assistant suggested a number of long sleeved t-shirts. Some too plain, some too girlie. “Well... maybe this is a bit of both.” the assistant suggested. “My little sister's a bit of a tom boy too... but she loves this top.”
I was a long sleeved t-shirt with a short sleeved t-shirt on top. The hems had those nice ruffled edges, and they were available in a number of colour combinations.
The assistant then selected a cute little ra-ra skirt. Black with lilac polka-dots and a purple satin bow detail. “It's a bit on the girlie side but... it's more 'sassy' than 'girlie'... and would look great with one of these.” she suggested, pulling out one of the t-shirt in a t-shirt tops in purple and lilac.
The two items did work well together. “She's only twelve though... isn't the skirt a little too short?”
“Not if she wore a pair of leggings too.” the assistant said. “And tom-boys don't really like them too long... if my little sis is anything to go by. Maybe purple to match the top?” she suggested.
“Do you have those?” I asked.
“Of course.” she smiled before leading me to another aisle with the skirt and top in hand. She found me a pair of purple leggings exactly the same shade of purple that was on the top, and assembled the combination as best she could.
I tried to imagine my grandson wearing such an outfit, and wondered if he'd like it or not. Maybe the ra-ra skirt is still a bit too girlie... or 'sassy' as the assistant described it. It's a lot less girlie than his dress, that's for sure.
The young assistant was certainly good at her job. She suggested a pair of canvas baseball shoes in lilac, to tie in with the lilac of the top. “Lilac and purple is a nice combination but not too girlie.”
“Exactly.” the young assistant smiled.
I looked at the clothes once again and wondered if I was doing the right thing or not. “Pardon my age but... what does 'sassy' mean?”
“It's kind of... confident, bubbly, cheeky maybe.” she replied, complete with jazz hands. “not prissy or too girlie.” she added.
She had me sold. Plus having taken up ten minutes of her time I’d feel mean if I left empty handed. The counter was adorned with inexpensive items of jewellery, cosmetics and hair accessories. I cast my eyes rather blankly over the display as the assistant scanned each item. She must have noticed me as she suggested “Maybe a nice hair band to complete the outfit?”
“Oh I don't know.” I replied as I imagined him with an Alice band or similar on his head. “He. She's not really the type.” I gulped.
The assistant reached over the till and turned one of the displays towards her. “This one would be perfect.” she says, selecting a wide black Alice band with tiny white spots. Stitched along the middle was a band of purple ribbon with a small purple bow on one side. “I'll throw it in anyway.” she smiled as she dropped it in to the bag. “It's perfect for the skirt and... she doesn't have to wear it if she doesn't like it.”
“Oh that's very kind of you.” I said before typing my number in to the chip and pin machine.
She handed me my bag and said she hopes my granddaughter likes it, and to come back soon. I thanked her and left. My eyelids dropped as I recalled almost saying 'he' and not 'she'.
Now I'm in two minds as I turn into the cul-de-sac. He's being petticoated by his mother at home and at school... does he really want his grandmother to join in too?
“Hi Granny.” Peter smiled as he opened the front door.
I looked him up and down as I stepped in side. “Not got your frock on today?” I asked.
“Nah.” he replied as he looked down at himself; boys jeans, girls socks, boy's fleece top. “I think mum wanted me to wear it again but.”
“You didn't?” I smiled as I followed him into the kitchen. “Hello Patricia.”
“Hi Mum... tea?” she asked as she hovered by the kettle.
“Oh please I'm parched.” I replied as I placed the large paper boutique carrier bag on the floor.
Patricia glanced at it. “Been shopping?” she asked.
“Yes.” I smiled, glancing at my grandson as I hung my coat on the back of a dining chair. Had he been wearing his dress it would have been easier, but since he's wearing his boy clothes the offering of some new girl's clothes feels a bit mean. “Just a few bots and bobs.” I added so as not to commit myself, or Peter just yet. “Have you been enjoying half term?” I asked.
Peter told me about going ten pin bowling with his friends; John, Michael, Thomas, Katy, Amanda & Paul.. all under the watchful eye of John & Michaels mother, and Katy's mother. He said he was rubbish at bowling, but enjoyed it anyway. He also had some homework to do...
“Homework... in half term?” I quizzed. Peter nodded. Patricia said it's common these days. I said it seemed unfair on their week off. Peter then told me their old neighbours, Sarah and her mother Judith visited on Monday afternoon, and his old friend Andrew came to visit on Wednesday. “Well you've certainly been keeping yourself busy.” I said. “Are you looking forward to going back to school?” I asked.
“Yeah.” he replied. He sounded as eager as any child would. Not too keen but not too bothered.
“I think he's looking forward to his uniform after wearing his dress all week.” his mother added as she poured the tea.
“You've not had him wearing it all week have you?” I asked. “Even when his friends visited?”
Patricia told me he had worn it daily, but thankfully not when his friends were round, or when he went bowling. “Just a couple of hours each day.” she added as if it wasn't a big deal.
“I wore it all day on Tuesday.” Peter stated.
“Well you wasn't going anywhere.” his mother added as she placed a mug of tea in front of us. She pulled out a chair and joined us at the table. I cast Peter an empathetic look. Poor thing having to wear his ghastly frock from dawn 'til dusk. His mother must have noticed my concern. “He forgets all about it once it's on.” she added. “Don't you Love?”
“Kind of.” he replied. “It's just a bit boring wearing the same thing everyday.”
“I had a feeling they might be the case.” I said. “So I took the liberty...” I picked up the large carrier bag and placed it on the vacant chair between Peter and myself.
Peter’s jaw dropped just a little. “Is that for me?” he timidly asked.
I smiled at him and nodded. “I hope you like it.” I gulped as he peered inside.
“Well have a look then.” Patricia said, encouraging him to actually dip his hands inside.
“Is it another dress?” he asked as he reached in.
“Not quite.” I said. “I hope you like it though... it's not too...”
“Prissy.” my daughter added.
“I hope not.” I gulped as he removed the top item.
“Oh that's nice.” his mother said as he unfolded the ra-ra skirt.
Peter gulped and said thank you. Clearly he's not so sure.
“There's a top and some leggings too.” I informed him.
He slowly dipped his hand inside the bag, removed the top and unfolded that.
“Trendy.” his mother said. “And matching leggings.” she added as he removed and unfolded them. Patricia cast me a smile. “Well this is a nice surprise isn't it?”
“Yes.” Peter peeped. “Thank you.” he nervously said. “There's some shoes too... and a...” he added as he removed the canvas baseball shoes and the Alice band. “...head band.” He looked at it in such a way he clearly wasn't sure about wearing it.
I wasn't sure about it either. “The assistant threw that in as a freebie because it matches the skirt.” I said. “But you don't have to wear it if you don't want to.”
“These are cute.” his mother said as she picked up and scrutinised it. “They match your top.”
His new outfit lay on the kitchen table. Peter looked over the items nervously and I began to fear I’d done the wrong thing. Maybe the last thing he wants is for me to join in with this petticoating lark too. Still it's done now and the ball's in his court. “I'm not suggesting you have try them on straight away, but … I hope you at least give them a try.” I said.
“Well I think he should try them on straight away.” Patricia stated. “Don't you?” she said to her son.
“Er... yes.” he replied.
I couldn't help but wonder if he's just been well programmed as he bundled up the clothes and took them upstairs. Both his mother and I watched him leave. I smiled a nervous smiles, She smiled back. I told I wasn't sure if I’d done the right thing or not by buying him girl's clothes, but added. “I just thought he'd like something a bit more modern than that frock.”
“I'm sure he will.” his mother replied. “Although I'm not sure it meets with the guidelines.” she added.
Of course I questioned this.
Patricia explained that 'the guidelines' for petticoating boys recommend they be dressed in more traditional styles such as his prairie dress, “...with plenty of frills and flounce.” she said, “Rather than modern or trendy styles.”
“Oh.” I exclaimed. “I'm sure it won't do him any harm though.” I said. “Wearing something 'modern'.”
“I agree.” Patricia smiled. “I don't follow them to the letter.” she added. “The guidelines also recommend they be petticoated all day, every day... even in front of their friends.” she said as my mouth opened. “But I wouldn't put him though that.” she added to my relief.
“I hope not. We do have his dignity to consider.” I stated. “What else do these 'guidelines' recommend?”
Patricia slid her chair back and stepped over the the welsh dresser. She opened a drawer and removed a booklet. “Like I say, I don't follow it to the letter.” she said as she passed it to me.
I flicked through the pages. There's plenty of pictures of prissy sissy dresses, baby doll nighties, frilly knickers, vests, training bras, dainty shoes; all with heels, dress coats, hats and bonnets. “It's like a 1930's catalogue.” I noted as I scanned the pictures on each page. School wear, play suits, even girl's swimming costumes and floral swimming caps are recommended!
“Here he is.” Patricia announced.
I closed the booklet and turned around to see Peter in his new outfit. “Oh that looks much nicer than your dress.” I said as I looked him up and down. “Do the shoes fit OK?” I asked. “Guessing your size was a bit of a stab in the dark.”
Peter looked down at his feet and said they did. His mother told him to turn around and he did. Although it was clear he'd rather not. I hadn't considered whether or not he'd wear a bra. I'd just assumed boys wouldn't, even when petticoated. But as he turned around, the outline of the straps and back fastening of a bra was clearly visible due to his close fitting top. I made no mention of it.
“Very trendy.” his mother grinned as he turned back to us. “I love the ra-ra skirt.”
“That's the one item I worried was a bit too girlie.” I admitted. “But the girl in the sop said it was 'sassy' rather than 'girlie'.” I said as Peter looked down at it, nervously feeling the three ruffled layers of lightweight spotty fabric. “What do you think Peter?”
“It's nice.” he shyly replied. I got the feeling he was being more polite than honest. He straightened one of his sleeves and ran his index finger along the ruffled cuff. “I like the top best.” he smiled as he looked at his arms, his shoulders, then his torso. “Purple's cool.” he added, flattening his skirt to look at his leggings.
I couldn't help but smile as I looked him up and down. And if I'm not mistaken, I think he does actually like it. “Well I'm glad it fits.” I said. Peter looked at me and smiled bashfully. “But you can put your pants back on if you want.” I said, “You don't have to wear it all day.”
“No.” Peter coyly replied, looking down at himself. “I'll keep it on for a bit.” he smiled, then gulped, before edging towards his place at the table.
“Why don't you fetch your make-up?” his mother suggested before he had the chance to sit. “You can show granny how good you are.”
“Only if you want to Peter.” I said with his dignity in mind.
"No I'd like to granny." he said before disappearing to his room.
"No I'd like to granny." he said before disappearing to his room.
“Ah well done mum.” Patricia said. “He looks lovely... and he likes them!” she grinned.
“Well I hope so.” I replied. “And yes he does look nice... even if it doesn't comply.” I added as I overturned the booklet and looked at the image on the cover. “It's a long way from this.” I said, holding the booklet up.
A broad grin swept Patricia's face as she looked at the cover. “I love that picture.”
“It is quite sweet I suppose.” I said, having another look. “And I'm sure this little boy was as good as gold in his big frilly knickers and little prissy dress.”
“Well that's the idea.” my daughter knowingly replied. She glanced towards the hallway, hearing Peter returning. “Put that in your pocket.” she said. “I've got another and it's not something for Peter to read.”
I slipped it in to my coat pocket as Peter entered the kitchen. From his hand swung a leather handbag, with two small handles and a long shoulder strap. “That's a nice bag.” I said. Somewhat bemused that he actually had a handbag!
“It's for school.” he replied as he placed it n the table and took his seat. “Just for keeping our cosmetics and stationary in.” he said as he opened it and began removing a tin of foundation, an eye-shadow, a vanity mirror, an eye-liner pencil, mascara and a lipstick.
“I used to confiscate your mother's make-up when she was your age.” I said as he began to apply the foundation. I fell silent as he covered his eyelids in eye shadow, before effortlessly applying the eye-liner. He glanced at me a smiled as he removed the top from the mascara, then picked up his mirror and brushed it along his eyelashes. “It's a lovely palate.” I said. The foundation perfectly matches his skin tone, the eye-shadow and eye-liner are both neutral and not heavy. And the way he applied it made his eyes look open and alive rather than sink into their sockets. I’d noticed on Sunday that his lipstick suited his colouring perfectly, and as he applied it, it still does. Once he'd done it, he looked at me and his mother. We both told him he looked very nice... and I for one was not stretching the truth.
Shyly and coyly, he thanked us before thanking me once more for his new clothes. He punctuated this be giving me a hug... something he hasn't done since he was about five years old. I hugged him back and stood him in front of me. “You're very welcome.” I said, holding his waist. “And I'm glad you like them.” I added, running my hands over his flouncy ra-ra skirt.
“I do.” he smiled as I let him go. He looked down at his skirt and took hold of it. “The skirt's a bit girlie but I like it.” he said as he paid attention to the purple satin ribbon & bow detail.
“Oh I am glad.” I smiled as he took his seat once more. Sensing the attention was making him feel too self conscious, I engaged his mother in some standard adult chat. Peter sat quietly as we talked. After putting his make up back inside his handbag and hanging it from the back of his chair, he had a look at the Alice band the shop assistant had thrown in. I thought it best not to mention anything, but true to form his mother said, “Why don't you try it on?”
“Er...” Peter reluctantly said as he held it in both hands and began to... “Does it just go on or... do I have to brush my hair back?” he asked.
“Well it's up to you.” his mother replied. She took it from him and placed it on her own head. “Like this...” she demonstrated with it behind her fringe. “Or like this.” she suggested as she used it to hold her fringe off her forehead.
Peter took it from her and placed it behind his fringe. His mother stood up and arranged it properly, before saying “Why don't you have a look in the hallway, see what you think.”
Peter left and returned some twenty seconds later. “You like?” his mother asked.
He gently placed his hands on it and said, “I like that it matches my skirt.” before looking down at his short layered polka-dot ra-ra skirt. “And the shoes match my top.”
“As do your leggings.” Patricia added as she cast me a complimentary smile. “No offence mum but I'm impressed that you've chosen something so nice.”
“Well I did have a lot of help from a very friendly shop assistant.” I replied. “God knows what I’d have bought you if she hadn't helped.” I said to my grandson. “If she only knew.” I thought as I recalled my cover story; tom-boy granddaughter indeed.
“Can I watch TV please?” Peter asked.
“Of course.” his mother said.
Patricia smiled at her son as he left. “I think you've made his holiday.” she grinned. “When he wears his dress he just looks dead ahead and forgets he's wearing it... he can't keep his eyes off that.”
“One-nil to granny.” I thought. “You were exactly the same when I instead you wore something I liked.” I said to my daughter.
Patricia recalled some of, in her mind, her more ghastly dresses. The one with the big yellow sun flowers on. The one I made from an old pair of curtains. The navy blue sailor dress. “And I'm sure I had a prairie dress to.”
“You had several.” I replied. “But it was the eighties.” was my excuse. I liked all the dresses she considered 'ghastly', but maybe she has a point... children don't always like their mother's clothing choices. “You was a bit old for the sailor dress.” I admitted. I think she was thirteen when I bought her that. “It seemed like an antidote for all those punky clothes you brought home.”
“I know.” Patricia replied. “In a way you petticoated me with it...”
“Well... since you put it like that.” I replied. I hadn't really considered it beforehand, but all girls are petticoated. I recalled one of the ideas we frequently posed in my more 'idealistic' youth as a member of my university feminist group: If it's OK for a man, it should be OK for a woman. It was widely accepted that many of the differences between boys and girls, men and women have been nurtured for millennia. I visualised the picture on the front of the petticoating guide in my pocket. “If it's good for a girl, it should be good for a boy too.” I thought.
“I might buy him one for Christmas.” Patricia said.
“What? Sorry.” I said, realising my thoughts were running away with me.
“A sailor style dress.” she reiterated. “I might buy Peter one for Christmas.”
“Oh.” I replied, wondering what Peter would think about that... or more importantly, look like. “I hadn’t thought about Christmas.”
“Knowing you mum you've probably got most if bought and wrapped by now.” Patricia stated.
“Well , yes...” I admitted. “I meant for Peter... I always get him a few extra bits and bobs; gloves, winter socks, pyjamas... maybe a puzzle book or something.” I said. “Maybe it should be woolly tights and a nightie instead.”
“Now don't you spend too much on him.” Patricia said, as she does every year we discuss Christmas presents. “But there's a good gift guide in that booklet.” she said. “But like I said, you don't have to follow it to the letter.”
As I drove home I felt far more relaxed and relieved that I had when I'd driven over. Peter was clearly chuffed with his new outfit... and I was as pleased as Punch with that result. I made myself a cup of tea and settled down in front of Midsomer Murders for the evening. One of the characters was a young bratty waif of a boy... always giving cheek and being lippy instead of respecting his elders. “If anyone could benefit from petticoating it's him.” I thought. “Oh that reminds me.” I said aloud.
After retrieving Petticoating: A Guide for Parents and Guardians from my coat pocket, I returned to my armchair and spent a moment looking at the picture on the cover. I wondered if the little boy was thinking Oh nice! or Oh no! as his mother holds 'his' dress against him. “Either way I bet he's dying to cover those knickers up.” I figured before opening the booklet.
It was an enlightening read, although in places I felt it was a little bit mean on the boys. For example, the recommendation that petticoated boys under the age of ten should wear a nappy every night for bed I feel is borderline cruel. This is accompanied by a picture of both disposable and re-usable nappies with princess or fairy designs on them, pink lacy rubbers and white or pink frilly over-knickers. I looked at the front cover again and wondered if that little boy is wearing a nappy beneath his big frilly knickers. It's hard to tell with so many frills, I figured before returning to my page. A nappy is also advisable at birthday parties and Christmas where larger than normal quantities of fizzy drinks may be consumed, it advised. “Poor things.” I frowned, imagining the scene and understanding the logic. Both 'night time' and 'party' nappies may be utilised for older boys in special circumstances. "I wonder what constitutes 'special circumstances'?" I thought before flicking forwards a page or two.
I reached the section on recommended styles for boys aged ten to fourteen, and knew exactly where the inspiration for Peter's prairie dress came from. In fact some of the styles weren't too dissimilar from the dresses I used to 'make' Patricia wear when she was a girl. When I read the footnote, girls of a similar age range can also be petticoated by dressing them in styles designed for much younger girls at least five years their junior, I realised again that not only had I unknowingly petticoated my daughter, but that girls are routinely petticoated to such an extent there isn't even a word for it... it's just the default way we treat all girls... “So why should it be different for boys? “ the feminist inside me asked.
Meanwhile, Peter and his mother also sat watching Midsomer Murders... but they weren't engrossed in a booklet like Granny. They both managed to keep track of the plot in spite of the fact they both spent a lot of time just looking at Peter’s new outfit. When his mother informed him it was nearly nine o'clock and therefore time to get ready for bed, he asked, “Can I wear this again tomorrow?”
“Course you can.” his mother said. “So long as you don't leave it screwed up on your floor.”
“I won't.” he said as he disappeared with a spring in his step.
He returned five minutes later with far less gusto. His long pale legs protruded from his spacious frilly knickers, barely covered by his short baby-doll style nightie. A pair of fleecy pink ballet slippers adorned his feet. He timidly took his seat and curled his legs up. “Have I missed much?” he meekly asked.
“No not really.” she replied as I admired his prissy little nightie. “I wish I’d discovered petticoating years ago.” she thought, visualising Peter as the little boy on the cover of the petticoating guidebook.
“I'm going to miss us having breakfast together.” Peter’s mother says as they sit opposite one another at the kitchen table. “Is there anything nice you'd like to do today... since it's your last full day before you go back to St Ursula's.”
“Erm... I don't know.” Peter replied.
“Have you finished all your homework assignments?”
Peter thought for a moment. “I think so.” he replied. “I guess I should go through it later on.”
After washing his dishes, Peter returned to his room and got dressed in his new clothes. He spent a moment looking at himself in the mirror that hung from the inside of his wardrobe door. He glanced at his dress and wondered if Sarah would approve of his new outfit. He sat in his bed, opened his handbag and began to apply his make-up. “This'd be a lot easier if I had a dressing table.” he thought.
Not surprisingly, his mother told him he looked nice when he returned downstairs. “I wish I could wear this at school.” Peter said as he ran his hands over the ruffled ra-ra skirt.
“Well I don't think they'd approve.” his mother stated. “And nice as you look, your uniform is far smarter.”
“I know... but, it'd be better if we could change into our own clothes after school... and at the weekend.”
“I'm sure it would Peter... but rules are rules.” his mother told him. “And even if you could wear you own clothes at the weekends, I think something like your prairie dress would be more suitable.”
“I'd rather wear my uniform than that.”
“Well it's good job you do.” his mother replied.
Peter spent Saturday morning watching children's TV. It felt like a rare treat as television is strictly moderated at St Ursula's and Saturday mornings he and the others spend thoroughly cleaning their rooms and en-suite, cleaning the main dorm room and if it's his turn on the rota, mopping the corridor outside. Peter flicked from channel to channel trying and failing to find something that sparked his interest. The hands on the clock seemed to move slower than ever. If there's one thing to be said about St Ursula's, time passes much more quickly there.
Over lunch, Peter’s mother asks him if he'd like to do anything special today, seeing as he'll be going back to school tomorrow. He can't think of anything in particular, so his mother says, “I could take you to the pictures tonight if you like?”
Of course this sounds like a good idea, so they go through the movie listings for the local cinemas. There's the new Marvel film which he'd like to see... but his mother doesn't think it's suitable due to all the fighting and violence it'll inevitably feature. Maybe Peter should have thought about that before he got his hopes up. The other offerings in his age range don't really tickle him, being romantic comedies, or films for kids. As well as the multiplex, there's a couple of small independent cinemas... one showing a French film; apparently very good but judging by the synopsis it's dull as dishwater, and the other showing old Ealing comedies as part of a 'Best of British' film festival.
Disheartened by the available choices, he passes the 'whats on' guide back to his mother. She reads through all the listings again, hoping something will jump out at her. But nothing does. One would have thought that the full page advertisement on the opposite page would have grabbed her attention sooner, that being the purpose of a full page ad. But when she sees it, it's perfect.
“Swan Lake's on at The Palladium.” she says, holding up the guide to show him the large advert.
Peter gulped as he looked at the image. Seeing all those girls in their leotards and tutus reminded him of possibly his least favourite class... classical ballet. Now there's nothing wrong with boys doing ballet... the film Billy Elliot showed us that. But at St Ursula's the boys, like the girls wear pink satin ballet shoes, soft pink ballet tights, a black leotard with thin shoulder straps, a little white see-through skirt (not a tutu) and a little pink wrap-around cardigan that they fastened with a bow at the back.
“One night only.” she adds as he just gorps at the picture. “You did say you liked ballet didn't you?”
“Er...” Peter croaked. He may have told her that he 'did' ballet but has no recollection of saying he liked it. “I don't know if I’d like to go to one though.” he replied. “We have to do it at St Ursula's but I don't really enjoy it.” he explained. “Plus it'll just be loads of girls... I don't fancy being the only boy in the audience.”
“I'm sure plenty of boys go to the ballet too Peter.” his mother stated, “But you don't have to be a boy.” she smiled, looking at his clothing, “You could go as you are.” she suggested.
Peter looked down at himself; deep purple leggings, black spotted ra-ra skirt, purple and lilac top... it may well be an outfit to his liking, but wearing it in public?! “I dunno... what if someone sees me?” he said.
After a moments thought his mother said, “What if someone sees you?”
Peter glanced down at his skirt and and visualised his make-up. “They'll think I'm a girl.” he sighed.
“Exactly.” his mother smiled. “They won't see a petticoated boy will they?”
About this time last week, Peter had just arrived back in Beckford. He recalled the moment when Judith had collared them near the train station, and how embarrassed he felt being spotted in his school uniform. Then something Sarah said on Monday popped into his head; I didn't recognise you at first... If your mother hadn't said anything I’d have just thought you was a girl.
“And if anyone asks...” his mother said, “...I'll just tell them you're my niece.”
Peter gulped. The thought of going somewhere so public dressed like a girl terrified him... but the thought of passing for a real girl he found strangely thrilling. “Your 'niece', Peter.” he replied with a nervous smile.
“Well I wouldn't say Peter.” his mother replied, “Peterella maybe.” she grinned.
“That's not even a proper name!” he retorted.
“I know.” his mother replied. She looked at the advertisement again. “So what do you think?” she asked. “Are you game?”
Peter was clearly full of apprehension. He gulped and nodded. “I think so.”
His mother grinned the broadest of grins. “I suppose I’d better check they've got some tickets left.” she said.
As his mother made the call and booked the tickets, Peter wondered if he could actually go through with it or not. Butterflies filled his stomach with just the thought of going to the ballet of all places, dressed like a girl of all things. If he's this nervous now, how will he feel later? But then he figured that if his nerves do get the better of him, he could always go as a boy instead and just hope that nobody sees Peter Jackson going to the ballet.
His mother replaced the receiver and told him she'd booked. “We were lucky... they only had a few tickets left.” she grinned. “Oh I'm looking forward to this.” she squealed, almost like a little girl. “I've never been to the ballet before,”
“Me neither.” Peter gulped. “What time does it start?” he asked.
“Seven o'clock.” his mother replied. “So half six just to be safe I guess.”
Peter glanced at the clock. He had five and a half hours to wait.
Throughout the afternoon, Peter couldn't help but wonder why he'd agreed to go. In spite of the fact he does an hour of classical ballet each week at boarding school, he's no interest in going to see a performance. And he'd rather not leave the house wearing his girl clothes, especially to a place that's likely to be packed to the brim of real girls. He'd lost count of the number of times he'd decided to tell his mother that he'd rather go as a boy instead, but backed out. Since his first day at St Ursula's some nine weeks ago, he's been a boy dressed as a girl... and tonight is the first time he won't be a petticoated boy. Instead, he'll be a girl. His mother's imaginary niece. His own make-believe cousin.
They ate supper earlier than usual, and afterwards his mother went to get herself ready. She entered the sitting room and asked him how she looked. Peter said she looked nice as she gave him a twirl. “Right... we just need to put our faces on and we're ready.” she said.
Although Peter already had his make-up on, he knew he'd need a touch up so went to his room to fetch his handbag. Mum had her vanity case open on the kitchen table, so instead of doing it in his room, he joined her in the kitchen. “You've got loads of make-up.” he said as he looked inside her large vanity case. Peter only had one lipstick, his mother had about twenty. He has only on eye shadow whilst she has a whole range of different tones and colours. Same with eye-liner and mascara... he has one of each, his mother has too many to count.
“Probably too much.” she smiled as she applied her lipstick with a small brush. He enquired as to why she used a brush instead of just doing it like he does, direct from the stick. “One can be a bit more precise with a brush.” she said as he opened his handbag. “Why don't you try some of mine?” she suggested.
“Erm...” Peter replied. “I'm only allowed to wear this.” he stated as he removed his eye-shadow, liner, mascara and lippy. When starting at St Ursula's, each child has their make-up applied for them before their photograph is taken. This photograph adorns their ID card and is used as reference when they apply their own make-up. Each child is given a small selection of cosmetics that are tailored to compliment their natural colouring. Under no circumstances are they to swap or share their cosmetics with other pupils, or to apply their make-up in a way that deviates from the image on their ID card. Doing so is considered disobedience and that carries a punishment Peter is keen to avoid.
His mother is fully aware of the rules of petticoating, as well as the consequences for breaking said rules. “Well it'll be OK just this once.” she says.
“Oh I dunno.” he replies. “I'd like to but...”
“You don't want to break the rules?”
He nodded and gulped.
“Well, we could break the rules and keep it between ourselves. Nobody at St Ursula's need know about it.” his mother suggested, “Or if it makes you happier, we could still break the rules and you spend the night in your nappy.”
His face dropped at the prospect of spending the night wearing his nappy. Since his first day at boarding school he's made a special effort on a daily basis to not endure the punishment for disobedience, and so far he's succeeded. “But it'd be lying if we don't say anything.” he mumbled.
“It's to your credit that you hold honesty in so highly.” his mother smiled. “If I’d stuck to the rules you wouldn't have been allowed to wear boy's underwear at all this week.” she admitted. “But I don't think that's fair when you're with your friends.” she smiled. “It's OK to bend the rules a little when you're at home because home rules are my rules, not school rules.”
“OK.” Peter replied. Using his make-up wipes, he removed all his make-up to give his mother the blank canvas she wanted, before she applied his make-up for him. She didn't give him a grown-up, glam or tarty look... far from it in fact. Instead she made him look as pretty and girlish as she could.
“I really do look like a girl!” he exclaimed as he looked at his reflection. His eye make-up was a little more weighty than he was used to, and instead of his usual pale pink lipstick he wore a 'soft rose' colour. But it was the subtle blusher on his cheeks that made the most significant difference.
“You almost do.” his mother grinned. After a little more fettling, she announced “Now you look like a girl.”
Peter gulped as he looked at his chest. Slipped inside his training bra was two thin slithers of sponge. They didn't give him a bust of any significant size, but just enough for a girl of his age.
“You ready?” his mother asked.
Peter looked at himself once more in the large hallway mirror. He wondered what happened to the petticoated boy as all he could see was a girl... a proper one!
He wore old brown leather look bomber jacket as lots of girls wear bomber style jackets, his mother told him. “And if anybody asks, your name is Hannah, and you're my niece.” she said.
“Hannah?” he asked as his mother opened the front door.
Yes.” His mother smiled as he nervously stepped outside. “It was one of the names I had in mind if you'd been born a girl.” she said as they walked down the drive to the car.
“Does that mean you're Auntie Pat then?”
“Yes love... I'm Auntie Pat.” she grinned as she started the engine.
The foyer of The Palladium was packed, and as he'd predicted it was largely girls and mums. Most of the girls wore pretty party style dresses with broad satin sashes and netted petticoats. Peter in his short sassy ra-ra skirt, deep purple leggings and lilac plimsolls looked and felt very casual in comparison. Not that that meant he'd have rather worn his blue prairie dress... that, being so old fashioned would have made him stand out all the more!
As the filtered on to the auditorium, he noticed that some of the girls must be wearing shoes with heels for the first time as they failed to walk with the same elegance and grace that both boys and girls at St Ursula's have mastered. Once they'd taken their seats and the lights dimmed, he finally relaxed.
The orchestra was loud and stirring. The ballet itself was far more dramatic than he'd ever imagined. Some sequences went on far too long but others really stood out. Especially The Dance of The Little Swans early on. “Did you enjoy that?” his mother asked as they all shuffled out to the noise of chattering and gabbling mums & girls once the second act had finished.
“It was good.” he replied. “I didn't really know what was going on in the story but... it was very loud and the dancing was amazing!”
“Would you like to come again?” she asked.
Peter thought for a few seconds. “Maybe not... it was good but, I expect they're all pretty much the same.”
“Yes you're probably right.” his mother replied as they entered the cavernous foyer once more. “Shall we have a look at the merchandise?” she suggested.
Peter looked over to the distant stall selling programmes, posters, books, DVDs, t-shirts, hats and hoodies. Around it was a highly concentrated group of girls and mums. “I'll wait if you want to look.” he said.
“OK.” his mother smiled. “Don't go too far.” she advised. “And if you need the toilet...” she added, leaning in close to him, “...use the ladies and sit down.” she said quietly so only he could hear.
“I'm OK.” he replied. Even if he did need to 'go', he'd have hung on til home. “The ladies is no place for an imposter.” he thought.
He watched his mother disappear into the crowd that surrounded the merchandise stall, the looked around the foyer. It had very grand high ceilings with ornate gilded plasterwork. Stood around the foyer were groups off all ages chattering or waiting. Distinguished gentlemen, well-to-do ladies, mums and dads and lots and lots of girls. Boys were a definite minority in the sea of dresses and tailored suits, although there were some. He glanced around at the girls in their posh frocks and pretty shoes and couldn't help but feel under-dressed. Although he'd rather be dressed as he is than in some of the monstrosities he witnesses. “Some look nice though.” he thought. Particularly the dark purple satin dress with a contrasting lilac satin sash worn by a girl about his age.
He looks away as he notices her looking back at him. He glanced back and she's still looking. He looks away again, this time focussing on the large Swan Lake poster and tries his best not to glance back. But he can't help himself, he looks once more and she's right in front of him. “Do I know you?” she asks. “You look familiar.”
She looks familiar too because he spent three years at junior school with her. “Er...” he bites his lip, too afraid to speak. He gulps and looks at his shoes, before coyly looking back at the girl.
“Peter Jackson?!” she realises as her eyes open to the size of saucers. “Mum... Jenny, look... it's Peter Jackson, dressed as a girl!”
“Oh no!” Peter thinks as he begins to panic.
The girl thankfully failed to get the attention of her mother and sister, so runs back to them. Peter looks towards the stall for his mother. He can't see her. The girl has disappeared into the sea of frocks and suits so he his moves just a few feet to where a large pillar stands. From here he can see the stall and hopefully the girl can't see him. Thankfully his mother emerges from the crowd with a carrier bag in her hand. He gets her attention, waves her to hurry and together, they exit the building to the safety and obscurity of the busy city street.
Meanwhile the girl has dragged her mother and sister away from a conversation they were having to 'show them something'. “It's very rude interrupting like that.” her mother says sternly as she dragged out of the crowd and into the open part of the foyer.
“Oh where is he!” the girl says as she looks around.
“Where's who?” her sister asks.
She tells her mother and sister that she just saw Peter Jackson of all people, “And you'll never guess what.”
“What?” her mother and sister reply in unison.
“He was dressed like a girl!” she announces. Without proof, neither of them believe her and insist she must be mistaken. She insists she isn't. She insists it was him. She said “He was right here!” as she looks around, desperate to spot him and validate her claim. “He was here.” she insists as her mother tells her not to tell tales. “But he was.” she claims once more when they flat refuse to believe that some boy from junior school was here, and that he was dressed like a girl.
“No wonder you was so keen to leave.” his mother said when he told her about the chance meeting.
“What if she tells everyone though?” he asked.
“They probably won't believe her.” his mother assured.
Peter hoped with all his heart that that would be the case. After all she did have a reputation for telling tales at junior school.
"Oh I bought you a t-shirt." Peter's mother said when they got in the car.
Peter opened the bag and unfolded the t-shirt on his lap. It was black with a large picture of of a ballerina and the words Swan Lake in ornate lettering. "Thanks." he said before folding it up.
"Oh I bought you a t-shirt." Peter's mother said when they got in the car.
Peter opened the bag and unfolded the t-shirt on his lap. It was black with a large picture of of a ballerina and the words Swan Lake in ornate lettering. "Thanks." he said before folding it up.
The following morning Peter’s mother makes a big deal of the fact that this is their last breakfast together until he returns home at Christmas. Instead of toast and cereal she makes bacon and eggs with fried bread, tomato and beans. “What time are we going?” he asked.
“Oh mid afternoon I guess.” his mother replied. “They want you back by six at the latest but I’d rather not drive down in the dark so... set off about three?”
Peter nodded his reply having just filled his mouth with bacon. He looked at the clock. It was eight-thirty so he had about six hours left before he has to wear his uniform for the next six or seven weeks. As usual he washes and dries his breakfast dishes in his nightie, before asking if he can get dressed.
“Of course dear.” his mother smiles. “Do you want to wear your dress one last time?”
“I'd rather wear my new clothes.” he replies.
“Well you wore them yesterday and Friday... so no, they'll need a wash.”
“Can I just wear my boy clothes then?” he asked.
“I'd like you to wear your dress.” his mother stated in such a tone that suggested she wasn't really asking in the first place.
Five minutes later they were both in Peter’s bedroom. “I'm going to miss doing this.” his mother said as she fastened him into his prairie dress. “I'm so glad I took you out of Park Crescent and sent you to St Ursula's.” she said. “You really are the best of both worlds.”
“What do you mean?” Peter asked as he felt his dress enclose him, button by button.
“Well I’ve got a lovely son whom I can buy pretty dresses for and take to the ballet... just like a I would had you been my daughter.”
“Do you wish I was a girl instead.” he asked as the final few buttons were fastened.
“Not at all.” his mother exclaimed as she turned him around to face her. “Petticoated boys are much more fun than girls are!” she smiled.
Peter didn't know what to say so he just smiled. He did little but mill about the house until early afternoon. After having a long hot bath, he got ready to go back to St Ursula's. His mother gushed over how smart he looked in his school uniform for almost an hour before they finally set off. Thankfully he was being driven all the way to St Ursula's rather than taking the train. He got the feeling this was because he wasn't trusted to actually change trains at Denbury and instead run away. “Fat chance of that! I don't want to be anywhere but Compton dressed like this.” he thought as he looked at his short Douglas tartan skirt and pale legs. He looked forward to a few weeks of not having to worry about petticoating, for at school as he can just get on with it.
“See you at Christmas.” were his mother's parting words when she dropped him off.