Work Experience

  Being in my fifth and final year of high school, I had to do one week of work experience and my mother said I could do it at the agency she manages. the other kids in my class did similar; one working with his dad on a building site, another at his mother's pie shop, one at the factory his dad works at... so there was nothing all out of the ordinary that I'd do my week at the travel agency where my mother works. It's on the high street in town and most people only see the shop on the ground floor. What they don't realise is on the two floors about are two busy telesales offices where the 'girls' make and take bookings. That's where Mum works and that's where I'd be working too. There were some forms to fill in for insurance and what-not that had to be signed by parents, teachers and the employer, plus guidelines to adhere to... and once all that was sorted, Mum told me that since all the 'girls' wear tights and heels, I would too.

Of course I was mortified, convinced she was teasing me to begin with... but it was 1985 and if an employer said that their staff must wear three inch stilettos, tights and a skirt suit then that's what their staff had to wear. And since many such places were staffed solely by women, there was no such thing as a male dress code, at least not where my Mum worked anyway.

Mum had me practising in high heels for over a month beforehand; every day after school and all day on Saturday, and that's when she made me try on some tights and a dress too. I hated the tights but Mum said I'd get used to them, and they did feel a lot better once I had shaved my legs which, somewhat ironically I thought, Mum told me I wouldn't need tights. "What?!" I exclaimed. "You told me to shave my legs so my tights wouldn't itch and now I've shaved my legs you're telling me that I don't have to wear tights now?" I ranted.

"You can wear some if you want. But your legs look nice now. They didn't when they were hairy." Mum told me. "So I'll leave it up to you." she smiled.

Not wearing tights felt weird, especially in a dress that ends halfway down my lap, but wearing tights felt far too effeminate and the option being solely in my hands didn't sit easy with me. After a couple of weeks wearing my heels most days, Mum said I was really confident in them and walk as well as any of her 'girls'. "Does that mean I can stop wearing them until I actually have to?" I hoped.

"No it means you should start wearing them outside." she chuckled. "Walking on paving isn't the same as on a flat floor."

"I'm not going out like this!" I said. It was a Saturday and Mum had dressed me in a flouncy cream blouse and a pin-striped shift dress. I also wore tights because I felt too exposed without them. "Where would I go?"

"Where do you normally go on a Saturday?" Mum asked.

"I don't know... round to Tommy's or Paul's house, into town, cinema maybe, or bowling."

"You can go to all of those places in heels."

"Bowling in heels?!" I sneered.

"Obviously you'd change your shoes when you get there." my mother smugly said. "But there's nothing shopping you from getting there."

"I'm wearing a dress." I whined. 

"You can put some pants on. I'm not suggesting you call round to see Tommy or Paul dressed for the office."

"Is this what I'll be wearing?" I sighed, looking down at the drab effeminate outfit.

"Not that in particular. It's mine and therefore a size too big." Mum replied. "I'll have to get you something of your own."

"You're actually going to buy me a dress?!" I remarked. 

"I bought your shoes... and your tights, so yes."

Mum wasn't kidding and since I didn't particularly want to go anywhere wearing my heels, Mum took me shopping for some office wear. Fortunately she took me to a satellite town where there'd be less chance of bumping into someone I know, but I was still the fifteen year old boy wearing clackety heels which drew me lots of unwelcome glances. Mum didn't want to spend too much so we toured the charity shops and Mum would gleefully tell the elderly volunteers why I'm wearing women's shoes and shopping for some suitable office wear. I don't think I've ever felt so bashful before or since... but then again... there was my actual first day at the travel agency which my mother managed. 

Mum found a smart skirt and matching jacket that fit me perfectly and next I'd need a blouse. There were loads in that charity shop but Mum wasn't taken so we went to the next. Thankfully my new skirt suit was in a carrier bag but my heels alone drew plenty of attention, or that's how it felt anyway. Mum said I was being paranoid and that barely anyone was giving me a second glance as we stopped to look at the window display of the RSPCA shop. "That looks like it might fit you." she said.

"You've just bought me a skirt." I reminded her. "You said it was perfect."

"You can't wear the same thing everyday Darren." Mum told me. "Five days means five outfits, and we dress down on Fridays so you'll need a nice dress too."

"Oh god Mum this is getting worse and worse." I whined.

"It's only a week." she chirped. 

"It's a lot more than a week with all this practice I'm getting." I sighed as I looked down at my high heeled shoes.

"And it's paying off." Mum complimented. "You're a natural in heels. The girls are going to be so impressed."

And impressed they were. Mum took me to the travel agency early on Monday morning; around 7.45 to be precise. Being the manager, Mum has the keys so we'd be the first to arrive. The staff carpark is at the back of the building but the entrance is round the front. There were people walking up and down the high street even at that early hour. "This is soo embarrassing." I said after a street sweeper smiled at us both. 

A young woman stood outside the agency and smiled as we approached. "You're early Kelly." Mum said. Kelly explained that she had to get an earlier train due to planned maintenance on the railway, before smiling at me and introducing herself. Bashfully and humbly I mumbled something as she shook my trembling hand. "Don't be shy Darren, introduce yourself properly." Mum said. 

"Err... I'm Darren." I said, glancing at my reflection in the window. Mum informed me on Friday after school that I'd have to wear make-up too and I'd spent the weekend learning all about lipstick and mascara, eye-liner and even eyelash curlers. I also leaned about hair styling and sported what Mum described as an Elaine Paige style. As Mum opened up and tended the alarm before it triggered, Kelly looked me up and down and asked if my mother had done my make-up. "Err... no I err..."

"You didn't it yourself?!" Kelly exclaimed. "I am impressed."

"So am I." Mum replied. "He had his very first lesson on Friday."

"I'm even more impressed!" Kelly said as we stepped inside. "Are you looking forward to  your work experience?" she asked.

"I guess." I grimly told her. "I wish I didn't have to dress like this though."

"You look great. You'll fit right in." Kelly told me. 

"One rule for all." Mum smugly added. 

Over the course of the next hour, the staff arrived at irregular intervals and I was introduced countless times. There were far more people working there than I'd anticipated; six on the shop floor who wore the agencies corporate colours of lilac, burgundy and blue, at least a dozen in the first floor office and maybe a dozen more on the second floor, plus Mum and her assistant managers. most were impressed that I'd followed the dress code but a few felt that my mother could have bent the rules for me. "It wouldn't be fair on everyone else if I bent the rules for my own son, and it's not my fault the dress code specifies three inch stilettoes and smart skirted attire." she told them. "He might be a boy but he's scrubbed up well so lets show him what working in a busy office environment is like, because that's what he's here to do."

Being just a schoolboy, I wasn't put on the phones chasing up booking enquiries or taking calls from prospective holiday makers, I was just an office junior. I ferried paperwork between one floor and the next. I fetched documents from the printer and delivered them. I made tea and coffee and emptied waste paper baskets and as the morning break ensued, I took the sandwich order for a local butty shop. "Ooh I hadn't noticed you nails." one of the girls said as I noted down her order.

"Oh err, yeah." I timidly said. "Mum did 'em."

"They match your lippy." she noted. 

"Yeah." I bashfully replied.

By lunchtime, the girls had decided that I looked far too nice to be addressed with such a boyish name and had decided that Darren should be shortened to Ren. Mum gave her approval and I was too shy and from them on I was Ren; the office girl. Halfway through the afternoon after delivering some new brochures to my mother, she asked me to sit and asked me how i was getting on. "OK." I said. "Everyone's really nice but... it's weird having to dress like this in front of so many people."

"They're all wearing similar Da... Ren." she replied. "And you certainly wear it well." she told me as I sat with my knees together. "You're not clumping about like an amateur drag queen thanks to all the effort you put in and so far as I can tell, you're settling in rather nicely."

"Yeah I guess I am... it's just a bit weird." I told her. 

"Well I'm very proud of you Ren. Keep it up." Mum smiled. Bashfully I smiled back before leaving her to work. 

I returned to the first floor where I had a pile of brochures and a roll of postage stickers. The actual office junior whom I'd been shadowing all day came and checked. "Try to put the stickers on straight." she told me, since some were a little bit wonky. I apologised and endeavoured to do better. She smiled and left me to work. After that we had a break which meant tea and coffee and lots of trotting around for me and apart from the dress code, I really enjoyed myself. I said this to Mum as she drove home. "I'm glad you enjoyed it." she said. "I hoped you would." she smiled. "As for the dress code... every one of those girls would rather wear flat shoes and comfy pants. They don't like it either."

"Yeah I guess."

On the Tuesday I wore a smart pinafore and blouse which everyone said was really nice, although I wasn't so keen. It was comfy but short. The next day I wore a navy blue skirt with a pair of kick pleats on the front which felt weird when I walked. It was the only knee length skirt I had, the rest being mid-thigh and I hoped I'd feel more comfortable in it. It was also on Wednesday morning that I overheard one of Mum's assistant managers having a rather heated telephone conversation, and half an hour later that manager gave me a printed sheet of paper and asked me to put it in the shop window. It said 'Saturday Girl Wanted. Enquire within.'  I'd been sent to the shop floor numerous times and any customers seem to think I'm a girl so I wasn't daunted by that. But when I stepped onto the shop floor, Kelly who was facing a customer said. "Oh, here he is now." she smiled. The customer turned and I gasped. "One of your teachers...?" Kelly said to me. 

I nodded and gulped. "Mrs Dawson." I said. "What are you doing here?"

"We always come and check." she smiled. "You look very smart." she said as she eyed me up and down. "Love the hair."

I was speechless. "What's this?" Kelly asked, taking the paper from me. "I'll deal with this. You take Mrs Dawson upstairs."

"Erm... yes... thanks." I said. 

Mrs Dawson smiled on me. "Don't look so frightened young man. I'm just here to have a look around and meet the manager." she said. 

"Yeah... OK." I coyly said before gesturing her to the stairs. "It's my Mum... the manager."

"Yes I believe so." Mrs Dawson replied. 

Her unexpected visit was brief, maybe ten minutes at most... but I found it excruciating. I had been told there'd be a visit and I'd completely forgot until it happened. Mum explained about the dress code and why she didn't want to bend the rules for me, then said that I'm getting good experience in what it's like for women in the workplace. Mrs Dawson was most impressed. "Boys just don't know what it's like... having to do your hair and make-up before you can leave the house."

"This one certainly does." Mum said. "He spends all day in heels too." she added.

"And entirely at ease, it seems." Mrs Dawson commented.

"He's been practising after school since just after Easter." Mum told her.

"I bet you look forward to kicking them off at the end of the day though?" Mrs Dawson said to me.

"Yes Miss." I timidly replied. Once she'd gone I began to worry that every teacher at school would soon know about the dress code I was abiding by. Mum told me that I worry too much. As Mum locked up the agency in the early afternoon since it closed for half day on Wednesday. I gulped at the notice in the window. Mum said I could apply if I wanted. I guessed she was joking and told her that I'm not a girl. 

The following day, Thursday was relatively normal with no unexpected visits. I had a stack of envelopes to pack and after the break at 3.00pm I sat in the corner out of everyone's way to pack my stack of envelopes. Unbeknown to me a string of schoolgirls had come in to enquire about the Saturday job and a few of them were sent to see Mum. I was on the second floor so was only told as trade closed for the day. Mum debated with Kelly and her assistants which they felt might be suitable and they all agreed that none of the applicants seemed to stand out. "How about Ren be the Saturday girl!" Kelly suggested. "Yeah." the other two said. 

"Because he's not a girl." Mum told them, much to my relief. Kelly and the others argued my case, much to my annoyance. They said I know the team and know the job and everyone likes me and that I'd be perfect. "I know but he's not a girl and we'll find someone to fill Joanna's shoes in no time." Mum said.

"By Saturday?" Kelly asked. 

"Well maybe not by Saturday because tomorrow's Friday... so you'll have to find someone to cover." she asked one of her assistants. 

"It's very short notice. Most'll have plans... unless Ren wants to cover... just once." she asked.

"I'd rather not... it's already been a long week."

"You'd get paid." Mum told me. "Two pounds an hour."

"How long for?" I asked.

"Eight 'til four."

"Would I be downstairs on the shop floor?"

"No more than you are already." Mum said. I considered the prospect, but mostly the money. Sixteen quid was a lot of money for a schoolboy back then. "Of course the dress code still applies." Mum added.

"Hmm." I frowned. 

"And for all we know the perfect candidate might walk in tomorrow afternoon so mightn't even have to do it." my mother supposed. 

"We've already got the perfect candidate." Mum's assistant stated. "I do most of the HR and can't think of a single reason why we can't employ a boy as a Saturday girl. It's not a real job title and Ren would be an excellent Saturday girl."

"I know but I'm not a girl." I said. 

"That doesn't matter Ren." Kelly said to me. "Think of the money... sixteen quid a week is good for a boy your age."

"I know but... what would my mates think if they knew I was the Saturday girl at Atlas Travel."

"Just tell 'em it's a Saturday job." Kelly said.

"Yeah I guess."

"So is it a yes?" Mum asked. 

"I guess." I sighed. 

Mum smiled whilst the others did a little cheer. We went home and I kicked off my heels, wiggled my toes and enjoyed a cup of tea before changing into some normal clothes. "Aren't you washing your make-up off?" Mum asked.

"I'll do it later." I said. 

"Well in that case your lippy needs a top up." she told me. "Where's your handbag?"

"In my room."

"Well go and fetch it." she said. "Oh... and have you decided what you're wearing for dress down Friday yet?"

"Err.... it'll be whatever you tell to wear."

"I put two dresses in your wardrobe so you could decide?"


"Well I've been telling what to wear all week, I thought it would be nice that you chose something on your last day." Mum told me. 

"It's not my last day anymore."

Mum had indeed put two dresses in my wardrobe. One a blue floral tea dress, about knee length with short sleeves and a bib collar with subtle frilly trim. The other has an open collar with short butterfly sleeves, lilac in colour with a wispy print. Neither was sedate but the lilac one he felt was significantly more effeminate than the other. "OK" his mother said. "I was hoping you'd wear the nicer one but... it's your choice." she smiled.

"It's too nice."

"Ah so you chose the one you liked the least?"

"No it just... wasn't quite so... girlie." I replied. "

"They're both girlie." Mum said. "And the one you don't wear tomorrow, it thought would nice as a Sunday dress."

"I have to wear a dress on Sunday as well?!"

"I thought it would be a nice way to end the week, and I can't think of any other reason to wear it."

"I can think of lots of reasons not to wear it."

"I know but I've bought it and you're going to wear them both at least once. One tomorrow and one on Sunday."

"OK." I sighed. 

"So do you still want to wear the blue one tomorrow? or the nicer one?"

"I don't know. It's not easy." I said. Mum grinned. "It's not funny."

"I'm not laughing at you Ren... but you're right. It's not easy. My girls do this every week... stress over what to wear on dress down Friday and it isn't easy." Mum told me. "And you've only got two. Imagine having wardrobe full of dresses to choose from." I frowned at the thought. "Exactly." Mum smiled. "You can choose one in the morning if you want."

"Well what do you think?" I asked. 

"Well you know which one I like."

"The wispy one?" I asked. Mum nodded and smiled... and carried on smiling. "What?"

"Nothing... it's just a lovely way to describe that dress... wispy. I wouldn't have thought of that."

"I wouldn't know where to start with the other one."

"That's a prairie dress, more or less." Mum said. "Much nicer for Sunday, I think."

"Yeah I suppose." I said. "So what am I gonna wear on Saturday?"

"You could mix and match something from what you've been wearing all week. The skirt you wore on Wednesday was nice, maybe that with a different blouse?"

"I didn't like that skirt much. It was weird to walk in."

"Well a shorter one then." Mum said, suggesting a few combinations I could try.

"Yeah maybe." I said, skewing my jaw. 

"Why so glum?" Mum said. "I thought you'd happy to finally have a Saturday job. Most of your friends have one."

"Yeah but they don't have a dress code."

"Vaughn Loures does. He's at the Hilton."

"Yeah but he's a room attendant. That'll be trousers and shirt and maybe a tabard."

"He's a chambermaid. He wears a burgundy dress, a white apron, black tights and mid heels." mum told me.

"He's not said owt about that to me."

"I wonder why." Mum smugly said.

The next day was my final day of work experience and it should have been my final day at the office, but now I'm covering for the Saturday girl who'd abruptly quit and left mum two days to find a replacement, so dress down Friday was now my penultimate day. The wispy dress felt so unobtrusive and light. Mum said I needn't wear any tights, but also said I could if I wanted to. It's hem fell just below the knee and I can't deny how nice it felt. Mum also had a new pair of shoes for me; ivory strappy sandals with a lower kitten heel. I did my own make-up in palette Mum suggested and she did something 'nice' with my hair which was more or less the same short Elaine Paige style but with a scarf ties in it. It looked so girlie but that's the point, and the less like a boy I look the better, I figured.

As usual, Mum parked her car at the back of the agency but we had to walk all the way round to the front so she could open up. "How are your shoes?" Mum asked as i clicked and clacked over the paving stones. 

"OK." I said. "It's nice to try a lower heel."

"It's still a very narrow heel so you've got to be careful in them."

"I will be." I said. Mum opened the shutters and shut off the alarm. "Where's the sign gone?" I asked.

"What sign?" Mum quizzed. 

"The one for the Saturday girl?"

"You're the new Saturday girl Ren." Mum told me. "Don't you remember?" she asked.

"I thought I was just covering tomorrow?"

"Initially yes, but then when you found out it was two pounds an hour you went for it."

"Did I?"

"You did." Mum grinned. "But if you've changed you mind then please give me at least two week's notice." she told me. "It's not easy finding decent staff these days."


  1. A great theme. Oh wow, loved all the detail and experience of his dresses and the people Ren met. Ren's mum is wise. I imagine V's mum is too.

  2. Thanks for another fun story PJ. As always, I really like your characters' dialog, especially between Ren and his mom.

    1. Thank you Janice... and also thank you for the DA link. I have seen AndCardSan's work, but seems their original account has been very recently deleted :( There is a new one though... AndCardSan2 :)

  3. He has an awesome mom and a great job and he could join his chamber maid friend for lunch after they both get used to it.

  4. Thrilled to have you back writing! Hope to see more of your work soon!

    1. Thank you :) I'm always writing... it's getting a story to a point where I feel it can be published that's the hard part.

  5. Another story that helps to keep hope up that there is still room for kindness and love here on earth.
    Darren's mother is, in my opinion, a very special person, the way she can, without any threats, persuade her son to do his best in his temporary job to fit in with his colleagues is amazing in my opinion and clearly shows how much she cares for her son.

    I also think that the spirit between the mother's employees reflects the kind of charity she shows at home. Just the way they give him a new, more appropriate name shows that they are thinking mostly about Darren's own well-being during the difficult time it must be for him to appear as Ren and live up to his new name is worth noting.

    I really hope that Darren and Vaughn Loures will meet in their work clothes and exchange ideas and good advice and deepen their friendship.

    PJ, thank you very much for once again bringing some spring sunshine into my life.

    1. There is a good deal of love and kindness here in PJ Land. That's one reason why it's such a fun place. I hadn't thought about Ren and Vaughn getting together, but that could be a very interesting little side story. Have them compare notes on their work clothes.

      Too bad we boys can't do things like this out in the real world. At least I can do it at home.

    2. Thank you both for such kind words. :)

    3. You will always have kind words from us, your stories are wonderful. You thought you had stopped writing long stories, I was so busy!

  6. Great story pj nice to have the love from mother to son to wear skirts dresses and not make it as it’s wrong the way we all won’t

  7. Another great story! It was a wonderful surprise, the way you tied it in with your Captions page. And the way you ended it, leaves an opening for Ren's further adventures at the Travel Agency. Maybe he might have some success as the Saturday Girl, and go on to further advancement as a Bookings Girl on weekday afternoons.

  8. I hope we get a part 2 to see how he gets on

  9. Heureuse de retrouver une nouvelle histoire. je suis toujours aussi ravie de vous lire.

  10. A really wonderful story, PJ. I loved to read the whole plot and could easily think that it would be my story. I would love to work as a office girl for my mum and would be dressed appropriately each day. Darren is such a lucky boy.