Saturday, November 26, 2016

And Dresses for All ... (scenes from family life)

Hello everyone,

another from my "scenes from family life" series. If you think being outed by your mother in law to the rest of your family is bad, wait until you read the rest of the story.

“This one’s from your mother-in-law,” my mom says, handing me a neatly wrapped parcel. I kneel down to the Christmas tree and start unwrapping. Clothes, I think, as I feel the soft contents. Suddenly, I spot a flash of purple-toned floral print satin underneath the wrapped paper. As if struck by lightning, I stop. Panicking, I look at my wife.
“You told her?” I whisper to her.
Janice shrugs dismissingly, as if she had done nothing at all, but she looks away after a second.
“Go on,” mom encourages me.
Helplessly, I finish unwrapping and hold my present for everyone to see.
“It’s a dress!” my mother-in-law says triumphantly.
“Edna?” my mother mutters in shock. I look at her for explanation, but she, too, averts her gaze. Left alone, I hold the dress in my trembling hands, then slowly drop it to my lap. On one hand, I am seething with rage, on the other, I’m too embarrassed to even lift my gaze up, so I pretend to carefully inspect the floral pattern of the dress.
“Stand up,” Edna instructs me, and I obey, leaving the dress on the floor, and step as far back from the tree as I can.
She picks it up and, holding it by its shoulders, allows it to unroll to its full length. I feel tears of shame welling up behind my eyes.
“You had no right,” I begin to say.
“Yes, yes, I invaded your privacy, didn’t I?” she says, waving her hand in mock surrender.
“Yes,” I whisper hotly.
“I didn’t invade anything,” she scoffs dismissingly, “Janice told me you like to wear her clothes occasionally. I thought you would be happy to have a dress of your own.”
The truth is, I would be, but not like this. I had hoped that my secret would be kept between me and my wife, and certainly not revealed to all our family.
“Here, hold it against your shoulders,” she says as she picks it up off the floor.
For the first time since the unwrapping, I dare to look around my parent’s living room. It comes to little surprise that all eyes are fixed on me. I have a good mind to tell my mother-in-law that, despite what she thinks and what my wife has told her, she has crossed the line, but as I look at Janice, she only nods in confirmation of Edna’s request. Horrified, I turn to my parents for the support my wife has failed to give me, but the looks on their faces, too, tell me that I should do as Edna says. Alone in my battle of wills, I surrender. I step back to the tree, take the dress from Edna’s hands and hold it against me.
“Looks about the right size,” she says as she flutters out the skirt, “Why don’t you try it on?”
“Oh, Edna, you’re embarrassing the poor boy,” Roger, my father-in-law says.
“Am I embarrassing you, Jake?” she asks me.
“A little,” I smile awkwardly.
“I do apologize,” she says, “But the cat’s out of the bag now. We already know you like to wear dresses. Might as well enjoy yourself a little.”
As humiliating as it is, this is the best chance to make it look like I’m being forced. Wordlessly, I nod and quickly go to my old bedroom. There, I strip to my underpants, throwing my clothes hastily on the unmade bed. With trembling hands, I undo the zipper at the back of the dress, step into it and pull it up until I can fit my hands in the full length sleeves. As the cool satin titillates my skin, I feel a rush of blood to my head that leaves me with a ringing in my ears. I struggle a bit with the zipper, but I manage in the end. Then, I button the cuffs of the billowy sleeves. There is no mirror in my old bedroom, but I like it already. Even though the satin is quickly warming up to my body temperature, it still has a very distinct, and pleasant, feel on my skin. The bodice is quite tight, though not unpleasantly so, and its full skirt reaches well below my knees. For a while, I try to pull up my socks up my legs to hide my hairy legs, but then I have to accept that no matter what I do, the hem of my dress will always reveal the tops of my socks, so I just pull them off all the way. It would take more than shaving my legs to hide I am a man in a dress, and anyway, everyone downstairs now knows my secret. Well, I’m not sure what exactly they know, and what Edna is telling them while I’m away. For one thing, she sure made it sound like I regularly wear my wife’s clothes, thought the truth is anything but. After coming out to Janice, she let me put on some of her things a couple of times, but always made it clear she wanted nothing to do with it. I’m not sure what she wanted to accomplish by telling her mother, but I guess the joke’s on her. At least now, I have a dress of my own, that I can wear whenever I please.
“Well, well, well,” Edna claps her hands as I nervously walk back to the living room.
“Don’t you look nice,” she says, getting up.
I still dare not look my parents, or my father in law, in the eyes, but I note my wife’s scornful look. Defiantly, I stare back at her, as my mother in law inspects the fit of my dress by knowingly plucking at its fabric and pulling it around my shoulders and hips.
“It fits perfectly,” she says and, finally, tugs at the loose fabric on my chest, “A little big here, but you can take care of this later. Do you like it?”
As I open my mouth to answer, I pause for a second. I wanted to say something funny about how humiliated I feel by being made to wear a dress in front of my family, but the truth is, I don’t anymore. All I know is that I’m wearing a very nice dress, and that I don’t have to hide it anymore.
“Yes, I do. I like it very much. Thank you, Edna,” I say, and place a kiss on her cheeks.
I take my seat at my wife’s side again, carefully smoothing out the skirts under my thighs. Edna sits by Roger’s side and comfortably leans back into the sofa.
“I don’t know what everyone is getting so worked up about,” she says, “Personally, I don’t see anything wrong if a man wants to wear something pretty.”
“No one’s said there’s anything wrong with it,” my father finally speaks, “It’s just that Jake would probably rather keep this to himself.”
“Well, I’m glad he didn’t,” Edna says, “I think it’s a very sweet thing to do.”
She lifts her tea cup to her crimson painted lips and pauses to take a sip.
“And anyway,” she continues, “Like father, like son, I should say.”
It takes a moment before I realize what she is saying. Even then, I’m not sure I have understood correctly, but my father’s reaction dispels any doubt. Ashen faced, he picks himself up his seat, draws a shaky, indignant breath looking straight at my mother, then storms off.
“Oh, please,” Edna mutters, then stands up again.
“Steve!” she calls after him, “Steve, come back here, please!”
My father doesn’t come back, but he doesn’t go on, either. He stands in the doorway, with his back turned towards us, his shoulders shaking visibly
“Oh, Edna!” I hear my mother hiss, as she gets up herself.
“You’re such a…” she begins angrily, pointing her index finger at her. There is a moment of stunned silence, as we wait for her to continue her sentence. It must shake my mother into realizing what she’s about to do, and her accusing finger is joined by the others, then her hands drops to her lap.
“You’re such a tattle-tale,” she says finally, then walks toward my father.
Edna sits down again.
“What?” she says to her husband, “Why are you looking at me like that? It’s not my fault no one talks to each other in that family. It just makes for all this unnecessary drama.”
“Still, Edna,” Roger says, “It’s none of your business.”
“Excuse me, but the family our daughter has married into is very much my business,” she replies, “It should be yours, too.”
In the hallway, I see my mother reassuringly rubbing my father’s hand. I can’t hear what they’re saying, but after a while, they both slowly walk back towards the Christmas tree.
“So you like to wear women’s clothes,” Edna says to my father, “Big deal. Certainly nothing to get so rude about.”
“I’m sorry, Edna,” my father dryly replies.
“Bygones,” she says, and gets up again, “Here, I got you a gift, too.”
She hands him a gift-wrapped parcel.
“Though you can probably already guess what it is,” she says.
My father sighs as he, too, pulls a dress out from the wrapper. After a moment of silence, my mother reassuringly paths his thigh.
“Thank you, Edna, it’s very pretty,” he finally forces out the words.
“Well?” she says, “What are you waiting for?”
“If you don’t mind, I rather wouldn’t put it on just now,” he says.
“Why on Earth not?” Edna asks.
“I won’t feel comfortable putting in on just like that, without doing my hair and makeup first, among other things,” he says, “And that takes a while.”
“Oh, we can wait,” Edna replies, “It’s not like we’re going anywhere,” she adds with a menacing implication.
He waits for a second, as if pondering the situation. Then, realising he has no other option, slowly gets up.
“All right,” he says, and walks away.
“I’ll give you a hand,” my mother calls after him and gets up to leave, too.
“Hold on, Rachel,” Edna stops her, “As long as you’re going to the bedroom, I might as well give you your gift right now.”
“Another dress?” my mother all but spits at her.
“How did you guess?” Edna purrs, feigning innocence.
“Thanks,” my mother mutters, grabs the rustling present from her arms and goes after my father.
“Who’s next?” Edna says, with her arms akimbo, looking around the room, and at the pile of presents.
Janice,” she says as she picks out another parcel from the pile, “Merry Christmas.”
“Thank you,” my wife says, warily taking it in her hands. It’s not hard to tell it, too, contains some sort of clothing. She places it in her lap and keeps it like that for some moments.
“Well? Aren’t you going to open it?” Edna says.
With a sigh, Janice starts to remove the wrapping. Eager to see what’s inside, I help her.
“Ooh,” I say, envious, as we uncover a bundle of smooth, glistening, rich orange satin.
“Oh, God,” my wife mutters.
“No need to thank me,” Edna says sarcastically, “Just put it on.”
“No!” Janice replies, “I won’t.”
“Janice…” Edna says, indicating her patience is about to run out.
“No,” my wife repeats, “I don’t wear dresses. You know I don’t. I’m not going to do it in front of everybody.”
“If your husband could try on his dress, I think you can, too,” Edna says forcefully, and my wife relents.
“Ok,” she mutters and gets up.
“I’m coming with you,” Edna says.
“No, it’s fine,” my wife replies, but it doesn’t deter Edna.
“I said, I’m coming with you,” she repeats and catches up with her. As they reach the hallway, Edna closes the door behind them.
Left alone with my father-in-law, I again become very self-conscious of my dress.
“Would you like a cup of tea, Jake?” he asks kindly, as if sensing my discomfort.
“Oh, yes, please,” I say, and when he hands it to me, I reach as far as I can without getting up and drawing attention to my dress.
“Edna does come across terribly bossy,” he says.
“Well…” I say, then pluck at the skirts of my dress, trying to make light of the situation.
“She’s got you wearing a dress, yes,” he says.
I blush, feeling another bout of self-consciousness.
“She is a bully, there’s no getting around that,” he continues, “I should know, I’ve been married to her for almost thirty years. But I do have to admit that, no matter how hard, or humiliating it seemed at first, in the long run it has always turned out that whatever she wanted was for the best.”
Just then, the door opens. Edna triumphantly drags my red faced wife by her elbow while Janice struggles to keep up, holding the slippery layers of her floor length dress in her hands. Eventually, they slide out of her grip and she stops halfway to the tree.
“I’ve told you, it’s too long,” she protests.
In a fit of frustration, she angrily tugs at the skirts of her dress. The chiffon rustles seductively as it falls around the satin lining. As she stands there, I note that the length of the skirt isn’t the biggest problem of the dress. The satiny bodice bulges with unsightly rolls of fat and the short sleeves dig into the skin of her upper arms, making it quite clear that the dress is a size or two too small for her.
“It will be the right length when you wear it with proper shoes,” Edna says.
“I don’t wear high heels,” Janice grumbles in response.
“It’s time you started,” Edna replies, matter of factly.
“It’s time I…” Janice starts to say, with a nasty tone to her voice, then stops and looks at me.
“Come here,” she spits, “Unzip me!”
I slide of my seat and hurry to my wife’s aid, but Edna stops me by grabbing my hand.
“Leave the dress on!” she instructs her daughter, but releases my hand.
“But…” Janice begins, hesitates for a second.
“But it’s too small! Can’t you see that?” she finally says, with a shaky, almost tearful voice.
“The dress is the right size,” Edna replies resolutely, “It is you that is too big.”
Janice bursts into tears. I stand frozen for a second, then walk up to my wife. Hugging her round the shoulders with my left hand, and lifting the hem of her skirts with my left, I help her make her way back to the sofa.
“I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, dear, but you did let yourself go,” Edna says.
“It’s ok, honey,” I say, still hugging her round the shoulders, as much as I can, “We’ll both start eating at home, we’ll go to the gym like we talked about.”
“When you do,” Edna says, “I don’t want you anywhere near the weights.”
“I beg your pardon?” I say to her.
“What?” she asks, “You have nice slim, girlish arms. It would be stupid to ruin that by lifting weights.”
“Well, I…” I try to say something, but I feel my voice breaking up, from the embarrassment.
“Now that we know you like wearing dresses,” she goes on, “You have every reason to stay the little weakling that you are.”
I can’t help it, either, and I, too, start sobbing quietly.
Edna takes another sip from her cup, puts it down on the saucer.
“Let’s see who’s left,” she says, picking up another parcel.
“Roger, my darling husband”, she reads the label, “Though by now, you can probably guess what you’re getting.”
“You’re kidding, right?” he laughs nervously.
With a stern expression, Edna hands him the parcel.
“Oh, God,” he moans as he, too, realizes that his present is also a dress.
“Put it on,” she instructs him dryly.
“I’d really rather not,” he says.
“Why not?” his wife asks him.
“Well, unlike Jake,” he says, taking a breath, “Or Steve, I don’t get any sort of pleasure from wearing women’s clothes.”
“What makes you think this is about pleasure?” she says.
“Then what… I don’t...” he stutters.
“Just put it on, already,” Edna says, exasperatedly.
“Edna, please, be reasonable,” he moans, but it fails to dissuade his wife.
“Are you going to put it on, or do you want to have an argument about that, as well?” she asks, sternly.
“I don’t want to have an argument,” he replies quietly, “But please don’t make me do this.”
“Oh for crying out loud!” Edna says, loudly.
She stands up and turns to her husband.
“Get up!” she yells at him, then grabs him by his wrists and pulls him up on his feet. In a swift, forceful motion, she pulls off his shirt and vest at the same time, baring his chest.
“Hands up!” she instructs him.
“Okay,” he says, surrendering, takes the dress from his hands and puts it on. In the meantime, she unbuckles his waist and lets his pants fall to the floor. He steps out of them and turns around for Edna to zip him up. As she does so, she makes the dress fall in its place with a couple of sharp tugs. From the waist up, Roger’s dress looks pretty much like mine, except that it’s in a pale pink shade. The skirt of his dress is much stiffer, though, and it flares out in almost a straight line from the waist down to his knees.
“There,” she says, “You’ll need to do something about your hair, though. You look like a man in a dress.”
“I don’t know what you expected,” he says, “I am a man, after all.”
“A man?” she says, “Are you really? Honey, you played out the only male role in your life twenty five years ago. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve been acting like a wife ever since. It’s time you started dressing like one, too.”
“Damnit, Edna, this is too much!” Roger yells.
“Oh yeah,” she says, taking a step closer to him, “What are you going to do about it?”
For a second, they stare in each other’s eyes. Then, Roger relents, collapses onto the sofa and starts weeping silently. Edna sits by him and hugs him around the shoulders, but she doesn’t really try to comfort him.
Just then, my parents arrive, hand in hand. They’re both dressed to the nines, heels, nylons, makeup, the works. Actually, I only recognize my mother at first, dressed in a knee length black and red rose-print dress, with red heels and a red patent leather belt, and a black satin band in her red, wavy hair. After a few seconds, I realize that the taller, striking woman by her side must be, in fact, my father. He, too, is wearing high heels, full evening makeup and a shoulder-length dark auburn wig. There isn’t a single thing on him that would give away his true gender. Compared to the other dresses gifted today, his is the simplest one, though by no means the least elegant. It’s plain black, with a pleated neckline, a rather roomy bodice, long sleeves and a tulip-shaped, knee length skirt.
“Finally!” Edna exclaims, “Though well worth the wait. Heather, I presume?”
My father nods, wordlessly smiling, confirming his female name.
I mouth a silent, wide-eyed ‘wow’ at him and he smiles in return.
“All this fuss to put on a dress,” Edna says, though pleasantly enough.
“Well, all things considered,” my mother offers in response.
“Not at all,” Edna says, “This is just the thing. Julie certainly didn’t bat an eyelid when she took my order. If anything, she seemed offended that at least Steve didn’t ask her for a dress in all these years.”
“Wait,” my father says, in a surprisingly feminine voice, “You had Julie Brown make our dresses?”
“Yes,” my mother-in-law replied, “I must say, it was the easiest Christmas shopping in a long while. I just gave her the measurements, talked about the designs for a bit, and she took care of the rest.”
“No, I mean, you told her that this dress was meant for me, specifically?” he repeated.
“Why yes, how else would she do such a good job?” Edna replied, “Don’t get me wrong, you look gorgeous, but there are still some things that could give you away. So she suggested long sleeves to cover the arms, high necklines to hide the cleavage, little optical tricks to make your hips seem wider and so on.”
My father collapses on the sofa, burying his face in his hands.
“You might as well have bought an ad in the paper to say that me and Jake are transvestites,” he says finally, “I know you haven’t known Julie for as long as we did, but don’t tell me you didn’t know she couldn’t keep a secret to save her life!”
“That’s not a very nice way to speak of her,” Edna says, defensively, “Especially not after she’s promised you a hefty discount on your next dress. Then again, as she said herself – it’s no big deal if you like to dress as a woman. No one is getting worked up about it, so maybe you can stop being so worked up about it yourself. Anyway, it’s not like there’s anything you can do about it anymore.”
My father just groans and covers his face in his palms again.
“All due respect, Edna,” my mother says angrily, “But you have really gone too far! Outing my son and my husband to each other was one thing, but you had no right to out for the whole world. Didn’t you ever stop to think of the consequences?”
“Don’t you ever get tired of the secrecy, Rachel? Don’t you ever get tired of the hiding?” she asks, with a calm, yet dead serious voice.
My mother’s face shows she’s struck a nerve. She hesitates for a while, the anger visibly evaporating.
“Even so,” she says finally, calm and composed herself, “There were good reasons we chose to keep it hidden.”
“I know, you told me about those reasons,” Edna says, “But was it the last time you have really thought about them? Things have changed since then. Jake obviously isn’t going to get bullied in school because his daddy wears dresses, and Steve won’t get fired for that because there are now laws that explicitly prohibit that. As for friends? Either your friends accept you for who you are or they’re not your friends at all.”
“Everything’s so simple for you, isn’t it?” my father says, accusingly.
“No, Heather, not everything,” Edna replies, “But this particular case? I think it’s quite straight forward. As you put it, all the world now knows that you three gentlemen wear women’s clothes. There’s no going back. Some things will probably change for you, but on the other hand, none of you will lose your marriage, or your income about it. So, for the time being at least, try to stop worrying about things that you don’t even know if they’re going to happen at all, and instead be happy about going through life dressed the way like you actually want to dress.”
“I can’t go to work like dressed like this,” my father says, horrified.
“I guess not,” Edna says, and a visible relief shows on my father’s face.
“The dress is rather festive,” she continues, and horror returns to my father’s face, “Though it you wear it with lower heels, and a blazer, I’m sure you could pull it off. You are upper management, after all.”
“Please, Edna, you can’t be serious,” my father says.
At first, it looks like she’s going to say something, then she glances at her watch.
“Oh, dear, I can’t dawdle anymore,” she says, “Time I should get going.”
“But you haven’t opened your presents yet,” Roger says.
Ignoring him, she gets up, takes her handbag and makes for the door, then turns to my parents.
“I hope you don’t mind if I leave my wife with you for a while,” she says, “He, or she, whatever, has a lot to learn, as you see, and I think Heather would be the perfect teacher at the moment.”
Before the shock can subside, Edna has already gone through the door. One by one, we get up to trail after her, as if hoping to somehow wake up and realize that the past hour has been just a dream, as if hoping for her to release her from this new reality she has irrevocably created for us. As if heeding to our unspoken call, she pops out of the door again, all dressed in her winter coat, scarf and leather gloves.
“Since I probably won’t see any of you before the New Year, I’d just like to make it clear that I want each one of you to come to my New Year’s party. You’ve already got your party outfits on, you just have to make them work. Rachel and Heather have got it covered, as you can see, but the rest of you still have a lot of work to do. Buh-bye!”

She leaves the door open and walks down the hallway, her high heeled shoes click-clacking against the hardwood floor, and each click-clack reminding us that yet another moment less separates us from the day we will wear our dresses outside the house. I close my eyes, wishing that she would slow down, and by bringing down her pace make time slow down until it would stand still,, until suddenly I can’t hear her footsteps anymore. A wave of panic flushes over me. Has this actually worked? Is time now standing still, with the dreaded party postponed eternally? I feel my knees go weak, and just as I am about to collapse on the floor, I hear the front door being opened, and the familiar sounds resume their steady rhythm. Invigorated by my relief, I almost jump, go quicker, I think, go quicker!


Anonymous said...

Great to hear from you again Rosie.


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