Saturday, February 11, 2017

Bringing the In-laws Over

Gentle Readers,

I'm posting another shortie that I wrote yesterday. I meant to make it as fast-paced and steamy as it could be, to see if writing it would make me come in my panties. It didn't, the writing dragged on for hours, and the story ended up with more than 3000 words, offering you a full view into what makes me tick these days. Other than the unorthodox cast of the heroes, it is hardly original. You will find it sports all the classic hot tickets: big and commanding women, inefficient small men, challenging of masculinity and gender roles in general, aprons, etc. The more observant among you will also spot a silent nod to Bea. A word of warning - due to the relation between the heroes of the story, some of you will probably not enjoy it.

Bringing the In-laws Over

by Rosie

“Could we maybe… Reconsider…” I begin to murmur softly as we’re getting ready to leave the house.
Joanne doesn’t reply, just gives me a look that says “you know it was inevitable.” Was inevitable, rather than is inevitable, as if it is already a thing of the past.
“If you don’t like your pantsuit, there’s still time to change,” Cybill says menacingly.
“Oh, no, mummy, it’s fine,” I hurriedly say.
“Then don’t dawdle and let’s go,” she says.
I take Joanne’s hand and we follow her mother to the car.

“Finally!” my mother cries as we walk up the driveway to my parents’ house. I’m walking between Cybill and Joanne. Cybill is wearing her new black blouse, made of glistening satin with diaphanous sleeves and butterfly shaped insets of the same material, a light grey pleated skirt that is deceivingly long at the back but barely covers her knees in the front, and red pumps with a four inch heel. Joanne is in one of her many black dresses, dark hose and patent black court shoes. They have only a two and a half inch heel, which is the maximum she is willing to wear these days, and only at her mother’s insistence. Still, she towers above me just like her mother. Between the dark clad ladies on each side, I feel my powder blue pantsuit screaming for attention. It is a silly thought, but I find myself wishing I was actually wearing high heeled shoes myself, just so that I wouldn’t look so damn dainty.

“It’s taken him so long, you’d think that Jerry was ashamed of his poor old parents,” my mother jokes as she takes the bags and shawls at the door. Despite her inquisitive look, I’ll hold on to my jacket, thank you very much, and make sure to keep it zipped up all the way to the neck.
“Or that he’s ashamed of his in-laws,” Cybill chuckles.
“He was just a little worried how we’d all get along,” Joanne says softly, rubbing my upper hand, “Weren’t you?”
Before I can answer, my mother speaks out.
“I’m sure we’ll get on just fine,” she says.
“I’m sure we will,” Cybill says, “Eventually. You see, I firmly believe that all men can benefit from a feminine touch.”
My mother raises an eyebrow as she scans my attire, but she doesn’t have time to ponder upon it. As soon as my father comes into view, Cybill pulls him into her bearlike embrace.
“Do you think you would benefit from a feminine touch, Gerald?” she asks him.
“I beg your pardon?” he replies, hot faced.
Ignoring him, she turns to my mother.
“I’m sure you would benefit from a little feminine touch in your husband, wouldn’t you, Helen?” she says, “Have him do a little women’s work around the house, right?”
“Oh, Gerald has always done his share of the housework,” my mother replies, “And I will be very disappointed if I hear that Jerry doesn’t behave the same way.”
“Jerry does all of the housework in our home,” Joanne says.
“Well,” my father says, visibly uncomfortable, “That’s between you two, of course.”
“Do you really think he couldn’t do more around the house?” Cybill asks my mother.
“Well, since you put it like that,” my mother tries to chuckle it away, but Cybill’s persistent gaze slowly wipes away the smile from my mother’s face.
“It’s not about how much he does, but his attitude,” she says finally, “Every little thing I do that he thinks adds to his workload, I never hear the end of it. And it’s not like I’m asking him to clean up after me.”
“See?” Cybill turns to my father, “Room for improvement already.”
“Maybe we should continue this after dinner,” he feebly protests.
“Dinner that you, no doubt, have cooked, right?” Cybill jokingly chides him.
“Actually, it was Helen who did most of the cooking,” my father admits.
“Of course. I was just teasing,” she says, “But you still can do the serving, can’t you?”

True to her word, Cybill doesn’t bring up the issue until we have almost finished.
“I’m sorry, Cybill, I don’t understand something here,” my father says after another onslaught.
“Please, whatever I can do to make things clearer for you,” she says, kindly.
“If you’re so much about women’s liberation and equality,” he says, triumphantly, “Why do you keep calling housework women’s work? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?”
“I think you misunderstood,” Cybill replies, “I am all about the separation of gender roles. The only question is who is the woman.”
“How can that be a question?” he asks, dumfounded.
“Let me ask you this way,” Cybill says, “Do you think my daughter and I are feminine?”
“Yes, of course,” my father replies.
“Would you say we’re very feminine?” she says, teasingly, batting her eyelids at him ever so slightly.
“Sure,” he says.
“Now why would you say this?” Cybill asks, suddenly all serious.
“Why… I…” my father stammers, “Boy, there’s really no right answer to this one, righ?”
He tries to chuckle, but Cybill’s stern gaze stops him immediately.
“He was only being polite, mummy,” Joanne says.
“Of course, you didn’t want to insult us, did you?” Cybill asks my father.
“No, Cybill,” he admits.
“Now, why on Earth would we be offended if you thought we weren’t feminine?” she asks him.
This time, he just stays silent.
“Let me put it this way,” Cybill continues, “Would you be offended if I said I didn’t think you were masculine?”
“Well, I would be a little, I suppose,” he says cautiously.
“But are you really?” she asks.
“Offended?” he asks.
“Masculine,” Cybill replies.
“Of course,” my father says.
“But are you really?” she asks, “What exactly makes you masculine?”
Briefly, I throw a quick look across the table. I can feel my father’s discomfort, but I know that Cybill will not stop, regardless how any of us at the table feels.
“I think that’s rather obvious, isn’t it?” he says.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Cybill says. She, too, pauses to look around the table, as if to make sure everyone is paying attention to her.
“You have male genitalia, of course,” she says, “And I have female genitalia. But this is where the biology stops. Having male genitalia doesn’t make you any more a man than having female genitalia makes me a woman.”
“I think it’s exactly what makes us men and women,” he retorts, though not as forcefully.
“Let me ask you this way. Apart from the genitalia, what exactly are the masculine traits?” she asks, “What is it that makes you a man?”
Before he can answer, she continues.
“A man is big and strong, he provides for his family, he makes the rules, he makes the decisions, he is aggressive, he is persistent in the pursuit of his goals,” she says, “Would you say any of this applies to you?”
“Maybe not all of it,” he tries again to chuckle, “I mean, I don’t know about making decisions…”
“Between the two of us, who makes the most money?” she asks him, ignoring his answer.
“You, clearly,” he says.
“Who has a more powerful position at work, me or you?” she continues.
“You,” he admits quietly, “But…”
“Would you say that you are more aggressive than me? More persistent in the pursuit of your goals?” she demands.
“Then there’s really not much left for you, is there?”
“No, Cybill,” he says, dropping his gaze.
“Gerald,” Joanne now says, with a deceiving kindness in her voice.
“Yes?” he turns to her.
“If we got ourselves involved,” she says, pausing a bit, “In a physical conflict. Do you think I would have any problem overpowering you?”
“That’s hardly fair,” he says bitterly, “You’re twenty years younger than I am.”
“Oh Gerald, don’t be too hard on yourself, you are in the prime of your strength,” Cybill chuckles, “But I accept your argument. Here, suppose I’m not five years older than you. Do you think you could handle me in a combat?”
I can see my father mulling over an answer, until my mother nudges him and gives him a stern look.
“No,” he admits.
“Ah, but do you really mean that, or it’s just you don’t want to insult your guests again?” she says, “Should we have a little wrestling match to set things straight?”
“No, Cybill,” my father says, crushed, “I am sure you are stronger than me.”
“And yet,” she says, “You still think of us to be feminine, and yourself to be masculine. Admit it.”
“I do, it’s true,” he says.
“Why is that, what do you think?” she asks.
“Just the way you look, or the way we all look,” he says.
“It’s not just the way we look,” Cybill corrects him, “It’s the clothes, shoes, hair and makeup.”
“If we came in today wearing suits, our hair slicked back, no makeup, you wouldn’t find us so feminine, would you?” Joanne says.
“No, I guess not,” my father admits.
“Well, there we have it,” Cybill says contently, “But enough talking about men and women. Since we’re finished with dinner, I’d say it’s time for you to be the woman again, clear up the table and bring us dessert.”
My father is steaming with humiliation, but at the same time it’s clear he’s happy to get away from the table.
“Make sure you wear a nice apron, this time,” Cybill adds.
“I’m sorry, Cybill, but I’m not going to put on an apron,” he says defiantly.
“I do apologize, I was out of the line here,” she says, then stands up from the table and goes to the kitchen.
Seconds later, she comes back with an apron in her hands.
“Good enough?” she asks no one in particular as she holds my mother’s floral, lace trimmed apron against her.
“Please, allow me,” she says, “Sometimes, we need to treat our women like ladies, so please, let me put the apron on.”
My father, perhaps foolishly thinking, for a brief moment, that Cybill was actually going to volunteer helping in clearing up the table, stands like a deer caught in headlights as she puts the apron around his neck and ties a nice flouncy bow at the back.
“Put the apron on you,” she says, as she is finished.
“In the old times, ladies used to have handmaidens to help them into their clothes,” she says to him, “What would you say you are? More of a lady, or more of a handmaiden?”
“I… I… I don’t know…” my father stammers.
“It’s a simple question, Gerald,” she repeats, less friendly, “Are you a lady or are you a handmaiden?”
“I guess in this case, I would say I’m a lady,” my father replies, barely audibly.
“Ah, yes,” Cybill replies, “But today, a woman has to be a bit of both, doesn’t she?”
For a moment, they exchange silent glances, then my father starts picking up the dirty dishes, making great efforts to not to look any of us in the eyes.

“That was very forward of you, I must say,” my mother says when dad’s gone to the kitchen.
“I didn’t mean to be intrusive,” Cybill says, “But I really do think it’s for the best.”
“Sorry, but I can’t really see it that way,” my mother says.
“Look, Helen, I know Gerald is your husband, and I respect that, and your feelings toward him,” Cybill stops her, “But does he really play the part? You’re making more money than him. It’s you that has to make all of the decisions, and all you’re left with is his nagging.”
My mother looks as if she was about to says something, but she drops her index finger, extend in protest.
“Go on,” she says quietly.
“Sure, he’s handy to have around the house,” Cybill continues, “But only as long as he’s doing whatever it is he’s been doing since forever. As soon as something new comes along, it’s you who has to see it through that it gets done.”
“How did you know?” my mother asks in astonishment.
“I know the type,” Cybill replies, “The world is full of men, pretending to be who they think they should be, and making their wives, and themselves miserable, instead of admitting they’re women and getting on with their lives.”
As if she doesn’t want to think about this anymore, my mother looks at me.
“You’re looking terribly flustered, Jerry,” she says, “Are you sure you don’t want to take of your jacket?”
“Not now,” Cybill replies, just as my father arrives.

“Thank you, dear,” Cybill says to him as he puts slices of peach pie on our plate, and tops them with vanilla ice cream.
“You can keep your apron on, I won’t be offended,” she says to him as he is about to undo the know at the back. Obediently, he sits down. We eat dessert in almost complete silence.
“Well, Gerald,” Cybill says when she’s finished, “I’ve been very mean to you this evening, and you have been very good and patient with me, so I think you deserve a little reward for that.”
“Well, I…” he says, surprised at the sudden turn of events.
Knowing what’s in store for him, I try to look away, but I am somehow transfixed. Like watching a slow motion replay of a trainwreck, I hear her say, “Would you be a dear and fetch me my handbag?”
He is back before he can even begin to take off his apron.
“Thank you,” she says, taking the handbag from him but not releasing his hands, thereby putting a decisive stop to any attempts of removing his apron. Instead, she leads him away from the table, to the living room.
“Every lady likes to be pampered,” she says to him, “So let me be your handmaiden for a little while longer.”
“OK,” he says shyly, following her lead.
“You can sit on my lap if you want,” I hear her say, “But it will be easier if you just make yourself comfortable on the sofa.”
Not wanting to hear the rest, I get up myself.
“Guess I’ll take care of the women’s work, now,” I mutter half-audibly and start picking up the plates. First thing I do when I get to the kitchen, is finally take off my jacket, though I replace it with the fullest apron I can find.

I decide to keep the apron when I’m done, instead of putting my jacket back on, and I make it back to the dining table just in time for my fiancée’s mother to lead my father back from his pampering session. As though oblivious to his looks, he seems strangely elated.
“Gerald and I have been talking,” she says, “Haven’t we?”
“Yes,” he confirms, “About clothes.”
“About clothes,” she replies, “What about clothes?”
“That our clothes should match our looks,” he says, “And that our looks should match our clothes.”
“That’s right,” she says.
“So then it’s OK if I take off the apron?” he asks, expectantly.
“I’d say that the apron is the least of your problems,” Cybill says, “But be my guest.”
Puzzled, but still determined, my father hastily undoes the knot at the back.
“Oh, silly me,” Cybill says, “All this time, I didn’t think to show you how you look.”
As she hands him her compact mirror, she leans over to my mother.
“Helen,” she says quietly, “I’m taking your husband upstairs to change. I hope you won’t mind lending him something more appropriate.”
“Not at all,” my mother mutters, watching my father realize that he is wearing full makeup, with heavily darkened eyelids, painted eyelashes, reddened cheeks and rich coating of crimson lipstick over his lips, and a flower-adorned satin hairband in his not-quite-so-short hair.
“Do you need help?” she offers as Cybill leads my father away from the table yet again.
“Oh, I’m sure he’ll be no trouble at all,” Cybill replies.

I steal away from the table, too.
“I thought there was one purse too many,” my mother says as I pull out my own compact and proceed to do my makeup. When I’m finished, I undo my uncomfortably tight ponytail and let my hair fall around in a mass of curls. I stand up, take off my apron, letting my mother get a full view of my white satin blouse, and the cream leather belt that matches my low heeled boots, then walk over to the living room to join my fiancée. As I come close enough, she grabs me by my waist and pulls me down in her lap, making me shriek with surprise.
“I hope you don’t mind a little display of affection, Helen,” Joanne says.
“Not at all,” my mother replies, as Joanne kisses me on the lips.
“I can tell now why you didn’t want us to meet,” my mother says, after a whi.e
“I still wish you hadn’t waited so long, but I can’t blame you,” she adds.
“So I guess you didn’t convince your women that you’re a man, either,” she says, “Did you dress up just for the occasion, or how does this work?”
“Actually, it’s been a while since I dressed like a man,” I say, “Well, compared to usual, at least.”
“But you said you had a job, didn’t you?” my mother asks.
“And he wears the cutest of skirt suits to the office,” Joanne quips.
“Oh,” my mother blushes.
“I work for Cybill’s company,” I say, “So it was kind of natural…”
“Actually, she wears the cutest of skirt suits,” Joanne says.
“She? Cybill?” my mom asks, “Well, it stands to reason.”
“No,” Joanne chuckles, “Kathy.”
“Who’s Kathy?” my mother asks.
“That’s me, mom,” I say, shyly.
“We’re done playing Jerry for today,” Joanne tells me, then faces my mother, “Your son is a girl, now, Helen. We’ve tried to break the news in an easy manner, but from now on, please refer to her as Kathy.”
 “Kathy?” she repeats.
“Cybill, I mean mummy liked the name,” I explain.
“Mummy?” she says, raising an eyebrow.
I just shrug in response and settle in Joanne’s comforting embrace.

I pretend to have dozed off when Cybill, I mean mummy comes back with my father in tow, though I can’t help but look from the corner of my eye. I can’t make out what he’s wearing because he’s hidden behind the sofa my mother’s sitting on, and behind his apron, but I think I can make out glimpses of a glistening, purple material.
“He has to be barefoot for tonight as your shoes don’t fit him, unfortunately,” Cybill reports to my mother.
“You mean her,” my mother replies.
Cybill looks at her and smiles, then sits down beside my mother.
“You can sit in my lap now,” she says, looking at my father.
“Hold on,” my mother speaks out, “I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t you get us something to drink, René?”
My father nods dryly, but keeps standing there.
“I think scotch would do nicely,” my mother says and waves him off.
“In the meantime,” she says and climbs into Cybill’s lap, “I hope you don’t mind, but I do think it’s time I found myself in a nice, masculine embrace, too.”
“Not at all,” Cybill replies, then plants a kiss on my mother’s lips. Then another. And another.
“Just one question, though,” she says when they finally break off their kiss, “René? I thought she was more of a Melissa.”
“Well excuse me,” my mother says, “But I think I am allowed to pick a name for my husband.”
“By all means,” she replies and kisses her again.

Busy with kissing, we don’t even notice my father until he puts the tray down on the coffee table.
“Do a little twirl for us, honey,” my mother tells him, “And take off your apron.”
Obediently, my father pulls off the frilly garment, revealing a very pretty silk dress, with full skirts that flutter in wide circles about his now silky smooth, nylon shod legs.
“You like?” Cybill says.
“Very,” my mother purrs, then, as if stung by a bee, hits Cybill’s shoulder.
“Oh, Cybill!” she hisses.
“What?” Cybill replies surprised.
“I was saving this dress for the children’s wedding,” my mother complains.
“I’ll get you another one,” Cybill says, “I’ll get you another two, I mean.”
“As long as I get to take care of the bride’s gown,” my mother says, and settles in her embrace again.


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