Felicity is visiting her sister's family one Sunday afternoon. Penelope's husband is playing golf and her two children; Alice (8) and George (9) are playing noisily on the staircase and landing. They spend more time arguing than getting along and Penny frequently has to interject before their behaviour gets out of hand. George is forever teasing his sister and Alice is always on the defensive. “Why can't he just get along nicely with her?” Penelope says after breaking up yet another spat.
“I was round at a neighbours the other day and she has one of each.... you'll never guess what she does to 'encourage' her son to play nicely with his sister.”
“What?” Penny asked.
“Well... I called around and I could hear the kids playing upstairs... we sat at the kitchen table having a coffee and a chat. The kids were playing hide & seek. We could hear footsteps and doors opening and closing and in the background the daughter loudly counted backwards from fifty...” Felicity described. “The footsteps come down the stairs and all of a sudden, her son enters the kitchen looking for somewhere to hide... I don't think he knew I was there because he froze and looked absolutely mortified when he saw me.”
“Well... he was wearing a dress... and not just any dress but a really pretty party dress.” Felicity explained. “I figured they'd been playing dress up. He hid in the pantry and his sister yelled 'coming ready or not' before trotting down the stairs to find him. Alice asked if he was hiding in the kitchen or dining room but we weren't going to give him away. It didn't take long for her to find him and they trotted back upstairs, giggling and clearly having fun.”
“So... why was he wearing a dress?” Penny asked. “I presume his sister was wearing one too.”
“She was but not a party dress like her brother.” Felicity replied. “Once they'd gone I just had to ask and his mother told me that the only time he'll play nicely with his sister is when he's dressed as a girl.”
“I can't imagine George putting a dress on to pay with Alice.” Penny stated. “But I imagine it'd bring him down a peg or two.” she added. “He's always teasing her for being a girl, calling her names and saying she's stupid... you know what boys are like.”
Felicity nodded in agreement. She doesn't have children of her own but if she had, she'd prefer two girls or two boys. “One of each means they'll always be at loggerheads, there'll always be arguments and...” she shrugged and tailed off.
“I wonder if he likes it... I guess some boys do.” Penny suggested.
“Well... he didn't look too happy when he saw me sitting in their kitchen. I got the distinct feeling that he was putting up with it rather than actually enjoying it.” Felicity replied, just as another spat kicked off between her niece and nephew.
“What is it this time!” Penny grumbled as she got up and went to deal with them. She returned a moment later, sighing heavily. “He's only gone and pulled the heads off her dolls again.”
Felicity tutted and recalled how their brother Charles used to do the same when they were little. “They just can't play nicely for more than five minutes.” she said. They used to play with a big old doll's house and their brother would always have to introduce some action to liven up a sedate play session. “We were happy pretending the dolls were cleaning the house or unpacking the shopping... but Charlie would have the dolls tumbling down the stairs and breaking their legs or getting into fights or whatever.”
Penelope nodded. “If there's no action, there's no fun... that's boys for you.”
“Well, they sound like they're getting on for now.” Felicity said, glancing up at the ceiling and noting the silence.
“Only because I’ve put him on a ten minute time-out.” Penny replied. “Maybe I should do what your friend does and put him in a dress instead.?”
“Maybe you should.” Felicity said. “I wonder how she does it. I can't imagine it being that easy.”
“Not with George it wouldn't. But nothing ever is.” Penny replied. “He'd never fit into any of Alice's clothes anyway.” she added. George is nine and a half and is considerably bigger than his sister who's just turned eight. “How old are your friend's kids?” she asked.
“Peter's eleven and Emily's eight.” Felicity replied. “In fact... thinking about it, his dress would have drowned his sister... I wonder if...” she tailed off again.
“...if she'd bought it specially?” Penny asked. Her sister nodded. “I wonder if he was wearing knickers too?” she mused.
“No idea... but he was wearing tights and girl's shoes.” Felicity replied. “And I guess the shoes weren't his sister's either.”
Penelope chuckled. She said she has no intention of even trying to put George in a dress, but was intrigued with what she'd been told. “I'd love to know how she does it... I can't imagine it being a simple case of... what are their names?”
“Emily and Peter.”
“I can't imagine her simply saying Peter, go and put a dress on and play with your sister ..and him just doing as he's told.” Penny said.
“No... me neither.” Felicity replied. “I'm intrigued too.”
A few days later, Felicity is having a cuppa and a chat with her friend Catherine. Her children, Peter and Emily are at school and Felicity is telling her about her niece and nephew, George and Alice. “He's a good boy for the most part but he just won't pay nicely with his sister... you know how boys can be.”
“Don't I just.” Catherine replied. “Peter used to be so horrid to Emily...”
“And then you put him in a dress.” Felicity knowingly added. “I was telling my sister about that.”
“I hope you haven't been telling everyone.”
“No no... it only came up at my sister's because George wasn't playing nicely with Alice... he'd been pulling the heads off her dolls.”
Catherine said that she'd rather it doesn't become common knowledge, at least in the neighbourhood. “You know what people can be like... they'd call social services and report me if they knew... not that there's anything wrong with petticoating.”
“Is that what you call it?” Felicity asked. Catherine nodded. “I can't imagine it's very easy, getting a boy to wear a dress... especially a pretty party dress.”
“It's easier than you'd think.” Catherine replied. “Peter's more worried about people knowing he has dresses than wearing them.”
“He did look mortified when they were playing hide and seek.” Felicity recalled. “So... he has more than one then?” she asked.
“And you tell him to wear one and he does?” she asked. Catherine nodded. “Just like that?” Felicity quizzed. “No fights, no tears?”
“Like I say, he's more worried about people knowing that he wears dresses than he is about actually wearing them.” Catherine replied. “He did kick up a stink to begin with but these days he tends to do as he's told.”
“I'd have loved it of my mother put my brother in a dress when he was naughty.” Felicity imagined. “He used to be such a brat... whenever Penny and I were playing nicely he'd burst in with his action men and world war three would break out.”
“It used to be the same with Peter... until one of his teachers gave me a pamphlet about petticoating... I've still got it somewhere.” she said, pushing her chair back and rummaging through one of the kitchen drawers. “Here.”
She handed the pamphlet to Felicity. “Proactive Parenting: Petticoating for Boys.” she read. “That's a sweet outfit.” she said, tapping her manicured nail on one of the three images on the front. “Very Fauntleroy.” she smiled before opening its pages. “Does he wear girl's underwear too?” Felicity asked as she noticed the section regarding underwear. Catherine nodded. “Not all the time?” she quizzed as she read the advice.
“Unless he's got PE.” Catherine replied, “...or going swimming with his friends or something.”
“So... how long have you been doing this for?”
“A couple of years.”
“He must be used to then?”
Again, Catherine nodded.
“And no one knows?”
“Well, none of his friends or classmates so far as I can tell.” Catherine replied. “His cousins and grandparents know, and you of course... but other than that, it's a closely guarded secret.”
Felicity grinned and said “If my mother had done this to Charlie I’d have told everyone!”
“Well... so would Emily but she's been sworn to secrecy.” Catherine replied. “I told her that petticoating a boy is like putting him under a spell and if the secret gets out, the spell is broken.”
A week or so later, Felicity is chatting with her sister on the telephone. The conversation is interrupted a couple of times when Penelope has to tell her son to stop doing something, to be quiet and to stop teasing his sister. “Hey I was talking to my friend last week... the one who puts her son in dresses.” Felicity says. “She calls it petticoating and she gave me a pamphlet to give you.”
“I'm not sure if that's what he needs.” Penny replied, before interrupting the conversation again to threaten her son with a good hiding. “Discipline is what he needs.”
“Petticoating is discipline and according to Cath, it's far more effective than smacking.” Felicity told her. “She said she was having the same problems as you before she began putting Peter in dresses.” she claimed. “These days she says he's ever so well behaved and from what little I’ve seen, it does appear to be very effective.” Felicity went on to describe a scene from her last visit to Catherine's house. They were drinking coffee and chatting in the kitchen when Peter and Emily arrived home. “Peter's in his first year at high school and Emily's still at junior school. He collects his little sister after school every day and walks her home. Emily was wearing her gingham school dress and Peter was wearing his school trousers, shirt and tie. Catherine asked them if they had any homework and of course, they had.” Felicity explained. “She told Emily to get on with it and sent Peter to get changed. We vacated the dining table and moved to the sitting room, and Peter came downstairs wearing a girl's school uniform!”
Penelope was flabbergasted. “A gingham dress like his sister's” she imagined.
“No... a little pleated school skirt with white knee socks and black ballet shoes, just like the high school girls wear.” Felicity described. “He was very bashful because I was there but apparently, he does it every day after school until his homework's complete, then he can wear his boy clothes.”
“I can't imagine George doing that.” Penelope replied. “It's hard enough getting him to do his homework, let alone getting him to dress as a girl first!”
“Catherine said that it's a lot easier than one would expect. She says that Peter's more worried about his friends finding out about his dresses than he is about actually wearing them... which I guess is what makes him so willing.” Felicity explained. “And he does wear girl's undies.” she added.
“Well I don't know about you but it seems a little cruel.” Penny replied.
“So does giving them a good hiding.” Felicity retorted. “If physical punishment worked you wouldn't have to threaten him with it so often.”
“I know I know... its very rare that I actually smack him. Plus, he's getting a little old for that now. He'll be ten in November.”
Their phone conversation soon ended and Felicity said she'd get the pamphlet over to her sister soon. Although Penelope did state that she wasn't at all keen on the idea. A few days later, Felicity called in on her sister and gave her the pamphlet.
“I love this outfit.” Felicity said, pointing out the boy on the cover wearing a pretty cotton pinafore over a very smart short suit with girlie knee socks and girl's shoes. “And it claims that petticoated boys are far more willing to help around that house.”
“He could certainly help more with the chores.” Penny sighed. “...but you know how stubborn he can be. If he doesn't want to do something, he won't.”
“Why don't you give it a try?” Felicity suggested. “Let's see how stubborn he is when he's wearing a dress.”
“You'll find that out when you try to get him to wear one... it'd never happen.” Penny claimed. “Plus I'd have to buy him one first. None of Alice's would fit him.”
“True... it's the same for Cath. Emily's dresses don't fit Peter but she's been petticoating him for a couple of years now and Emily gets her brother's hand-me-downs.” Felicity stated.
Penny emitted a nervous chuckle. “Imagine getting hand-me-down dresses from your big brother!”
“I know. And when Emily starts high school, she'll be wearing her brother's hand-me-down uniform.” Felicity grinned.
Penelope perused the pamphlet and found it intriguing, but wasn't convinced that petticoating would work. For a start, getting George to wear girl's clothes would be nigh on impossible, and Felicity pointed out that Brian, her husband probably wouldn't allow it anyway. “I guess it's easier for Catherine because she's a single parent.” Felicity supposed. “Her house. Her rules.”
“Yes, maybe.” Penny replied. “...although I doubt Brian would even notice. He's always working late or playing golf or going to seminars. He hardly sees anything of the kids these days.” she sighed and said that half the time she feels like a single parent. “How did your friend get her son to wear his first one?” she quizzed. “I imagine that wasn't easy.”
“I'm not entirely sure... but she did say that Peter's more worried about his friends knowing than he is about wearing them.” Felicity said. “Maybe she just bought him one and said if you don't wear it, I'll show it to your friends... and if you do, it'll be a secret.” she suggested. “After all it'd be far too big to be his little sister's and far too small to be one of his mother's.”
“Maybe she'd embroidered his name on it?” Penny suggested. She recalled an old comedy show on TV in which one of the male characters had a dress in his wardrobe. He denied it was his but it had his name embroidered on the collar. “Was it The Young One's?” she quizzed.
“Yes. It was Rik's dress and Neil was wearing it.” Felicity chuckled. “It does recommend in the pamphlet that their name be put on their knickers.”
“It also suggests making them wear a training bra too... what's the point of that?” Penelope asked.
“Who knows?” Felicity shrugged. “I'm not sure I agree with all the advice but seeing how George treats Alice and how Peter treats his sister... I certainly think there's something in it.” she said. “Remember how Charlie was when we were young?” she asked, recalling how he always used to twang their bra straps against the back of their shoulders. “I doubt he'd have done that if he had to wear a training bra too.”
“Maybe.” Penny replied. “I guess Alice has all that to look forward to from George.”
“Not necessarily.” Felicity replied, tapping her fingers on the pamphlet. “Cath said that you can get a more in depth booklet through one of these websites, and that Peter has one called 'Pettiquette' ...an etiquette guide for petticoated boys which explains all the whys and wherefores in easy to understand terms.”
“Hmmm.” Penelope sneered. “I'm still not convinced... although it would be nice if he could get on with Alice a little better, and help around the house more.”
“And do his homework when asked, and tidy his room...” her sister added.
“Yesss.” Penny sighed. “Something needs to be done but I'm not sure it's this.” she said, flicking through the pamphlet once more.
The weeks pass by and nothing more is said on the matter between Felicity and her sister. She sees her friend Catherine once or twice a week in each others houses. Sometimes Catherine will have Peter and/or Emily with her and Peter is always wearing normal boys clothes. But Felicity can't help but wonder if he's wearing knickers beneath them, and if so, are they pink and frilly, and do they have his name on? When Felicity visits Catherine, sometimes Peter is dressed as a girl and sometimes he's wearing boy's clothes. Felicity never draws attention to his frocks; some of which are lovely, if a little 'young' for an eleven year old whilst others are very plain and very drab. After briefly grabbing a snack from the kitchen, whilst wearing a green plaid pinafore over a white blouse and white tights, Felicity asks if he has a set routine. “...or do you just put him in one when he's naughty?” she asked.
“He does his homework wearing his girl's uniform after school for an hour or two, and I like to see him wearing a nice Sunday dress...” Catherine replied. “...but the rest of the time he's usually wearing boy clothes, over his knickers and training bra of course.” she added. “It's when I sense him getting bored or stroppy that I'll suggest he plays with his sister for a while.”
“And that means go and put a dress on?” Felicity quizzed.
“Yes.” Cath replied.
“Does he chose one or do you choose for him?”
“It depends. Sometimes I'll let him wear one that he likes, sometimes I'll put him in one that I know he hates.”
“So he does like some of them?”
Catherine smiled and chuckled. “Oh yes.”
“That surprises me.”
“Well, give a boy five dresses; a yellow one, a pink one, a lilac one, a flowery one and a blue one... and you can bet your bottom dollar that he'll wear the blue one when given the choice.”
“Yes I suppose.” I replied, trying to imagine how a boy might think when faced with a selection of girl's dresses.
“It's more the best of a bad bunch than him actually 'liking' them.” Catherine added.
“Yes I can imagine.” Felicity said, chuckling. “I gave my sister that pamphlet but I don't think she was too taken with the idea of putting George in dresses.”
“I was in two minds to begin with.” Catherine replied. “It was only when I saw just how much it helped him to behave did I realise that I'd done the right thing.” she explained. “But each to their own... if she's not taken by it then, ultimately, it's her decision.”
“True.” Felicity replied.
The following Sunday, Penny visits her sister with both George and Alice. It's a sweltering day and they sit in her back garden sipping lemonade. George asks if the pond has gone toxic because its surface is covered in a layer of green gunk. “It's algae.” Felicity tells her nephew.
“It looks putrid, like nuclear waste or something.” George says.
“It's quite harmless.” Felicity tells him. “It happens every summer when it's hot.”
She shows her sister and niece some of the new flowering plants she's put in. There's petunias and begonias, geranium and one called black eyed Susan. George sits by the pond, poking at the algae with a stick and turning his nose up at the gunky green gunge. Being a boy, he has no interest in flowers. Alice saunters over after he calls her name. She emits a high pitched yelp and George laughs out loud before causing a huge splash. The adults rush over and grab his arms, pulling him out of the pond. “What happened!?” Felicity asked.
Alice is on the verge of tears. “He splashed some of that gunge on me.” she said. It's all over her T shirt and is dripping onto her shorts.
“George why would you do such a thing!” his mother barked.
“It was funny!” he claimed. The adults presumed that Alice must have pushed him, but the rotten little scoundrel had laughed so hard at his sister that he fell backwards into the pond. He's covered in gunk and both need a change of clothes.
Felicity rushes indoors and returns with a couple of bath towels. She tells them that they're not going into the house until they've removed their gunky sodden clothing. Penelope berates her son for being so cruel and stupid. “What are you going to wear now?” she asks in total exasperation as he peels off his jeans.
“Leave it with me.” Felicity tells her sister. “You get them stripped and dried, I'll back back in a moment.” she says before darting off. “Ah... Catherine! Sorry to call round unannounced... you'll never guess what's happened.”
“Is everything OK?” Catherine asked.
Felicity describes what her troublesome nephew has just done. “...and neither of them have a change of clothes... so I was hoping I could borrow something for a couple of hours. Alice and Emily are about the same size I guess... if that's OK.”
“Of course.” Catherine replied. “And what about the boy?” she asked. “How old is he?”
“Nine... going on five!” Felicity said, clearly very annoyed with him.
“Well I could find him some tracksuit pants that might fit, and a T shirt.” Catherine suggested.
“I think it's high time he was taught a lesson that he won't forget in a hurry. I know it's a bit of an ask but... could I borrow one of Peter's dresses?”
“Absolutely.” Catherine replied as a wry smile swept her face. “Follow me.” she said as she beckoned her friend upstairs. “What size is he?” she asked.
“Normal-ish for a nine year old.” Felicity replied as she was led up to the landing. “No kids today?”
“They're at their granny's.” Catherine replied as she opened a wardrobe and began rummaging.
“Are these all Peter's?” Felicity asked as she took in the resplendent display of dresses.
“They're all his old ones... a bit too small for him now and waiting for Emily to grow into them.” she said. “How about this one?” she asked as she removed a particularly garish frock.
“Er... maybe something a little more sedate.” Felicity suggested. “I don't want him to think that I borrowed something really girlie on purpose... I'll tell him it's the best I could get.”
“OK... what about this?” Catherine suggested.
“That's better.” Felicity said. “You sure you don't mind?”
“Not at all.” she smiled. “He'll want knickers too... and socks?”
“If that's OK.” Felicity didn't hang around. Within five minutes of her leaving her sister to deal with the kids, she was back. “I've borrowed some dry clothes from a neighbour... I hope they fit.” she said, handing Alice a T shirt and a denim dungee-dress.
“Come with me George.” Felicity instructed. “You'd better come too.” she said to her sister. Wearing nothing but a towel and his socks, George followed his mother and aunt upstairs. First, she apologised to her nephew. Then she told a tiny white lie and explained that she'd borrowed some clothes of a friend who has an eight year old daughter. “...and this is the only thing she had that might fit you.”
“I'm not wearing that!” George blurted when faced with a dress. “I'll stick to a towel.” he suggested.
“Oh no you won't!” his mother said. She grabbed his towel and whipped it from his waist. George would have grabbed it back but he was too busy trying to hide his bits. “Auntie Fliss has gone to the trouble to get you something dry to wear and you're going to wear it whether you like it or not.”
Felicity unbuttoned the dress and handed it to Penelope. Penelope held it for George who reluctantly stepped into it. He pushed his arms through the sleeves. His mother turned him around and began to button him in. His face was an absolute picture. His cheeks blushed to a deep crimson as his mother turned him to face her so she could see how it looked. “That's not so bad.” she said. “At least it's blue and not pink.”
“It's horrible.” George mumbled.
The mid-blue dress has a white Peter Pan collar and short pin tucked sleeves. It has a high waist and a full skirt with a ruffled hem that lands a few inches above his knees. His aunt tells him that it was the best she could find that that wasn't too girlie. “You'll need these too.” she said, revealing a pair of pink knickers with oodles of frilly lace trim.
“Oh yes you can young man!” his mother stated. She snatched them from her sister's fingers and held them open for her son to step into. He uttered a few whimpers as he put his trembling feet into the leg holes before his mother pulled them all the way up. “There... no one can see them so you've nothing to worry about.” she said. “Are those for him too?” she asked, noticing a pair of socks in her sister's hand.
“Yes... I wasn't sure if his had got wet or not.”
“They haven't.” George said.
“Well they can go in the wash anyway.” his mother said. Reluctantly, George removed his dry socks and pulled on the socks his aunt had borrowed. He moaned that they were girl's socks. “Well you've only got yourself to blame.” his mother said. “Come on.”
George's sister giggled when her brother returned wearing a blue dress and a pair of white pelerine knee socks. To add insult to injury, his sister's borrowed clothes aren't anywhere near as girlie as his. “Why couldn't I wear that.” he moaned.
“I won't fit you George.” his aunt replied. “Now, have you apologised to Alice for what you did?”
“I got drenched too.” he protested. “More than she did!”
“Only because you were laughing at her.” his aunt reminded him.
“Sorry.” he muttered.
“Apologise properly George... like you mean it.” his mother insisted. “Otherwise I'll ask you to show your sister the lovely pair of knickers you're wearing.”
Emily giggled. “Is he?” she asked.
“Yes.” Felicity replied. “And just in case you're wondering... they're pink and very frilly.” she said as her nephew bushed even more. “George, come with me.”
“Why?” he whined.
“Because you're going to put the clothes in the wash.” she told him. “You need to take responsibility for your actions and the sooner they get washed, the sooner they can be hung out to dry.”
“Can't you put them in the dryer?” he moaned. “They'll take ages on the line.” he whined.
“You should have thought of that before you threw the algae at your sister and fell into the pond.”
Felicity watched over her nephew as he scraped the gunky algae off the clothes, rinsed them in the sink then threw them into the washing machine. She told him which washing cycle to put them on and he asked how long it would take. “A couple of hours.” she replied. “Then they'll need a couple of hours on the line to dry.” she added.
“That's ages.” he whined. “That means I’ll have to wear this all afternoon.” he sulked.
“It does.” his aunt says. “...and hopefully you'll learn a lesson from the experience.”
With their clothes in the wash, Felicity pushes her nephew out into the back garden where his mother and sister are sat. “I don't want to go outside.” he whined.
“Well I don't want to stay inside we want you where we can keep an eye on you.”
The sheepish boy made his way across the grass and parked his sorry ass on one of the patio chairs. His sister told him that he needs to scoop his dress when he sits to avoid it getting all creased and he did so. He sat quietly with his knees together. His aunt poured him a glass of lemonade and handed it to him. “Thank you.” he muttered.
“Well that's certainly put a dampener on what should have been a nice day.” his mother said.
“Well what's done is done.” Felicity replied. “They've both got clean and dry clothes and their dirty clothes are in the wash.” she added. “And since you're all stuck here until their clothes have been washed, dried and ironed, I'd better think about something to eat. Who fancies a barbecue?”
“Me!” Alice said.
“If it's not too much trouble.” Penny added.
“None at all.” Felicity replied. All she needs is a couple of disposable barbecues, a selection of meat, some buns, some salad and relish and they're all set. “Who wants to come to the shop with me?” she asked. “George?”
“Do I have to?” he meekly asked.
“I'll come.” Alice said.
George stayed in the garden with his mother whilst Felicity and her niece drove to the nearest convenience store. “Who's the girl you borrowed our clothes off?” Alice asked.
“Her name's Emily.” Felicity replied. “She's about your age. I think you'd like her.”
“Is George really wearing frilly pink knickers too?” she asked.
“He is.” her aunt replied. “And hopefully now he's dressed like a girl, he'll learn to be a little bit nicer to you.”
“I hope so too. He's always really mean to me.”
“Well, not any more I hope.”
Meanwhile, George is feeling very sorry for himself as his mother gives him a pep talk. “Think yourself lucky that you're not wearing a frilly pink dress to match your frilly pink knickers.” she tells him. He tells her that they're not 'his' knickers. “Well I doubt the little girl who leant them to you will want them back after you've worn them.” she spat. “In fact, when your own clothes are dry, I've a good mind to to send you round to Auntie Fliss's friend so you can give them back personally and say thank you.”
“Please don’t Mum.” he pleaded. “I'm really sorry I flicked the algae at Alice... it was only a joke.”
“That's the problem with you... it's always only a joke when you're mean to her. Why can't you just play nicely for a change?”
“I will. I promise.” he said.
“Well I hope so. I'm just about at the end of my tether with you and your antics.” she said. The boy hung his head in shame. His mother knew that he felt it, which makes a refreshing change. Maybe there is something to this petticoat discipline thing after all, she wondered.
George sat stewing in his frock for around half an hour before his sister and aunt returned and broke the ice. Felicity set the barbecues going and suggested that Alice prepares the table. “We need plates, napkins, knives and forks, mayonnaise, relish, ketchup, brown sauce... why don't you help George?”
“I don't know what to do.” he meekly peeped.
“Well I’m sure Alice knows how to lay a table so why don't you follow her lead?” his aunt suggested.
George reluctantly did as he was told. He ferried cutlery and crockery from the kitchen to the patio. He laid the plates out with a knife and fork placed neatly on a folded napkin, just as his sister requested. He fetched a tray full of condiments and asked what to do next. His aunt said she needed to make a salad, and suggested he pick some flowers with Alice. “Flowers?” he quizzed.
“Yes George. Flowers. They'll make a lovely centrepiece for the table you've so kindly laid.” his aunt told him.
Penelope helped prepare the salad. Both of them peered out of the kitchen window. Alice selected and cut the blooms, handing them one by one to her brother. He didn't look like he was enjoying himself one little bit, but at least he wasn't being horrible to his sister for a change. “I presume you could have got him some boy's clothes if you wanted to?” Penny asked her sister.
“I could. But so far as George is concerned... I don't know anyone with a son his age to borrow from.” Felicity replied. She chuckled and added. “And he is wearing boy's clothes.”
“I know.” Penny replied. “I guessed the moment you revealed those knickers... they're far too frilly for a girl... well... a girl over the age of three.”
Felicity grinned as they watched George meekly following his sister around the garden in his prissy knee socks and pretty blue frock. “Putting him a dress has certainly taken the alpha out of the male.” she said. “Although according to Cath, all they need is knickers to curb their boisterousness.” she added.
“Well, either way... it's clearly had an effect on him.” Penny replied. “Whether it's going to be a lasting effect I don't really know.”
“Unless you try.” Felicity said. “I'll check the coals, they should be hot enough by now.” she added, leaving her sister to slice the onions, tear the lettuce, chop the tomatoes, grate a carrot and pour on the dressing. Penelope covered the salad bowl with cling film and delivered it to the table. Felicity was sacrificing the sausages first. A tray of burgers sat in the sun, waiting for their turn over the hot coals. “Can you take over for a minute?” she asked, handing the tongs to Penelope.
Felicity popped indoors and returned a moment later. “George!” she announced. “I've fetched a vase for your flowers.”
“Thank you Auntie.” he meekly replied.
“Ahhh this is such a refreshing change.” Penelope said as she turned the sausages.
“Al fresco dining?” Felicity asked as she took the tongs from her sister.
“Well , that too... I was referring to George.” Penelope said. “He normally responds with a grunt.”
Having picked plenty of flowers, Alice arranges them nicely in the vase. She sends George to fetch a jug of water and without question, he does. “How's he been Alice?” her mother asked. “Is he being nice or...?”
“He's trying to be... but he's being very quiet more than anything.” Alice replied. “I think he's embarrassed because his dress is prettier than mine.”
“I think you might be right.” her mother stated. “How are those sausages coming along?” she asked her sister.
“Almost ready.” Felicity replied as George returned.
He handed the jug to his mother. She thanked him and he forced a smile. “Hungry?” she asked as Felicity put the charred sausages onto a plate.
George nodded and said “Yes.”
“Now you'll have to be careful when you're eating. You don't want to spill any relish or ketchup on your dress.”
“It's not my dress.” he replied in a meek, whiny tone.
“Exactly.” his mother said. “You wouldn't want to lend something to someone and get it back all dirty and messy would you?” she asked. George shook his head. His mother cut the sausages length ways and placed them on the buns. George applied his relish and ketchup very sparingly before sitting himself down. “Good boy.” his mother smiled, before handing Alice a sausage bun. “Fliss, do you relish or ketchup of both?”
Felicity was busy flipping burgers. Penny delivered her a sausage bun and took over whilst she ate. She couldn't help but glance at her son and his nice blue dress. It's white collar flaps in the wind. The skirt on his lap wafts in the breeze. His pale skinny knees are locked together in a most ladylike way. His white pelerine knee socks look like they belong and its only his own black and white sneakers that look out of place. She imagines a pair of dainty ballet pumps, then a pair of shiny black Mary Jane’s. She visualised his knickers; all pink and frilly, before recalling the look on his face when he realised that he had to wear them. Her usually defiant son was defeated in that instant using nothing more than a pair of knickers.
After chomping their way through most of the sausages, burgers and salad. Felicity and Penelope began to clear the table. Alice offered to help. George followed suit but their offers were declined. “You can check on the washing machine though George.” Felicity reminded him.
He trotted to the kitchen and quickly returned. It's still going through its cycles. His aunt and mother took the plates indoors, leaving George and Alice alone. He sat himself down and sighed. “It's gonna be ages before the laundry's done.”
“Well at least we've got something to wear in the mean time.” Alice replied. “I quite like this dress.” she said, looking down at her casual denim dungaree-dress worn over a plain white T shirt.
“It's better than mine.” her brother whined.
“Are you really wearing knickers?” Alice asked.
Her brother hung his head and nodded. He's clearly thoroughly ashamed of that fact. “Sorry I splashed you.” he muttered.
“Are you?” Alice quizzed. “Or are you sorry that you ended up having to wear a dress?”
George gulped and frowned. “Both.” he sheepishly replied. Alice knew she had the upper hand and played on it. She told him that he's hardly ever nice to her and is always mean. She reminded him of the times he pulled the heads off her dolls, or spoiled a nice game with his boisterous behaviour or demolished the Lego Princess Castle she'd spent ages building. “Sorry.” he muttered.
Penny and Felicity returned and sat themselves down. “Shall I get the swing-ball out?” she suggested. Alice was keen whilst George was non-committal, but like it or not, he played.
The adults sat on the patio and chatted about this and that whilst keeping an eye on Alice and George. “Do you think they get used to it?” Penny asked.
“What?” Felicity replied. “Wearing dresses?” Her sister nodded. “I don't know really... Peter seems to accept it. His mother says he's even got some favourites but I think they're just the best of a bad bunch really.”
“Stands to reason.” Penny said. “I wonder where she buys his knickers from?” she pondered. “I've never seen anything like them in the girl's department.”
“They are very frilly aren't they... and definitely cut for a boy.” Felicity replied. “I think they come from a specialist shop. I'll ask.”
They sat and chatted whilst the kids played swing-ball. George's skirt swished this way and that as he lunged for the ball. “Who's winning?” their mother asked.
“We're not really keeping score.” Alice replied. “But I think George is.”
“I think it's about even.” George replied.
“Well that's another nice change... he's normally so competitive.” Penelope commented.
The sound of the washing machine got louder than the wind in the trees. It's on its final noisy spin cycle. Felicity focused on it and within minutes, it whirred to a halt. “Right George... shall we hang this washing out?” she suggested.
“Can I play for a bit?” his mother asked.
George gave her his bat and followed his aunt indoors. She gave him a laundry basket and under her watchful eye and constant instruction, he emptied the damp garments and folded them as best he could. “How long will they take to dry?” he asked.
“Not long.” Felicity replied. “And hour or two I guess.” she added.
“That's ages.” he sighed.
“Far too long to spend wearing just a towel.” his aunt said. “It's not so bad wearing a dress is it?”
“I'd rather wear boy's clothes.” he humbly replied. “But it's better than towel.” he added.
They returned to the garden where Alice played swing-ball with her mother. Felicity handed George the pegs and he hung their T shirts, his pants, his jeans and socks and his sister's shorts to dry on the washing line. Penny gave her son the bat back before joining her sister on the patio. She sighed a happy sigh. “It's turned out to be quite a pleasant afternoon hasn't it?” she said. “I'm almost glad he splashed Alice and landed himself in a frock.”
Felicity chuckled. “I do feel a little bit mean. I could have borrowed some pants instead.”
“...and he'd never have learnt his lesson.” Penelope added. “I think you did the right thing under the circumstances.”