As an avid comic book reader and lover of origin stories…Here’s mine.
As life would have it my mother had just ended yet another in a string of bad decisions and bad relationships. We found ourselves semi homeless, until a work mate of hers offered to room with us. The apartment was a 3 bedroom apartment. My mother was in one and her friend Karen was in another and I shared a room with Karen’s daughter Susan. I was 7 at the time and always had my face in a book, horribly shy I do not believe I actually spoke more than a few hundred words between age 6 and 7. This was due largely to the fact that my mother’s last relationship lived in an adult only apartment and I had been threatened within an inch of my life to be quiet. Pifft – no problem, give me a book or the T.V. and I was fine.
So we had lived with Karen and Susan for about 6 months when Susan and I discovered that our mothers had gone to work and not brought in a baby sitter (summer vacation ya know). As rambunctious 7 year olds would do, we started to play and enjoy the fact that no one was around to tell us to keep quiet and or knock off the play. We started off jumping on my mom’s bed. Susan was wearing an adorable yellow sun dress with matching panties, I knew this because we were jumping on a bed :). Not sure what it was that I was feeling, maybe it was jealousy or just as simple as I found the sun dress to be so pretty. I crashed down on the bed looking up Susan’s dress. Let’s play Barbies! Susan seemed to be excited about this idea and we adjourned to our room and started to play Barbies, I made an offhand comment how I wished I looked like Barbie (something I sort of regret looking back, I’ve never been the Barbie type) and had nice clothes like hers. Susan thought this was a fine idea and proceeded to pick out a wonderful baby blue sun dress from the closet (I so loved staring into that closet and dreaming about it being mine) and she said you can wear this. I was a little embarrassed (there was nothing sexual about this scene, it was just a young boy discovering his womanhood) and took the dress into the bathroom.
The thing that makes this so different is the fact I had already sort of started dressing. Being a lover of Saturday morning cartoons, one Saturday after Super Friends there came a commercial for Underoos (for those unfamiliar, they were kids underwear that typically had Superman for boys and Wonder Woman for girls). Since Wonder Woman was my favorite Super Friend, I threw a fit until my mother bought me the Wonder Woman Underoos for my birthday (I wore them that summer until they were literally falling off me). So back to our tale…
I went into the bathroom and stripped down to my Wonder Woman Underoos and slipped the dress on over my head. I saw myself in the mirror and became light headed. It wasn’t from pain or anything else, it was from joy. Susan and I played all day with her in her little yellow sun dress and me in my baby blue one. We went outside a few times and no one said a word. The day passed and our mothers returned home. Needless to say this was my first experience with being ‘caught’. It didn’t go poorly, my mother and Karen sat us down and tried to explain the difference between boys and girls and that I shouldn’t be dressing up in a dress. I cried as they made me take it off. I asked why a few times and didn’t really understand the reason. I liked it and mom had bought me the Underoos, so I just couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t dress like Susan. Later that evening, I heard my mom and Karen talking and I guess my nonstop sobbing finally got them both. I was offered up one of Susan’s night gowns… it worked as I was asleep in no time.
It would appear the end result was Karen not liking the idea of me wearing her daughter’s clothes, so to keep the peace my mother took me to Montgomery Wards (Monkey Wards for those in the know) and bought me 2 dresses that I got to pick out, a week’s worth of pastel colored underpants that I also got to pick out and two night gowns. I was told I could not wear Susan’s clothes anymore and that these were mine to wear in the apartment only, no more going outside (talk about yen and yang mixed messages, here you can cross dress just not in public – no wonder so many of us have a difficult time coming out). I went outside dressed anyway. I thought it was fun and wasn’t making the connection between boys and girls. I thought they were pretty and I liked being pretty.
Roughly two months later my mother and I had been out shopping and when we returned to the apartment Karen and Susan were gone and so was just about everything in the apartment. Much later in life my mother told me the whole story, it wasn’t so much me, but my dressing like a girl was part of it. My mother was pretty much done with men by then and her advances towards Karen had not gone well. Luckily my mother was a pretty thrifty person (a lesson I have learned well) and we were able to get into another apartment – just the two of us. While I learned quickly that what I was doing, dressing in girl’s clothes, was not an accepted thing in public, however, it was OK to do so while in the house. As time went by I started to look forward to new outfits for Birthdays, Christmas and Easter (I SO LOVED my Easter dresses!). Gifts at these occasions started off with my everyday boy clothes that needed to be replaced, to books and comic books, then the coup de gras my new dress, underwear and shoes.
While my mother worried about my direction in life, these later gifts kept me happy, quiet and content while she worked and I was home alone. As my mother changed jobs, we moved a lot, so I didn’t really make many friends growing up. I mostly kept to myself or tried to weasel in with the girl click at school. The gifts continued until my mother’s passing not long after I turned 16. What happened after that is another story for another time. Remember ladies, embrace who and what you are! You are doing no one any harm, it’s just too bad that society cannot accept boys/men with an advanced sense of style and an attitude of love and caring over being a brute. Be proud of who and what you are. You are being true and honest with yourself. If others cannot accept that, then it may be time to find new friends.
Take care my sisters, learn to love yourself for who you are and not what you want to wear. Clothes have no gender.
Thanks for taking the time to read my article and please send me a response if you’d like!
Sincerely, Amber Frey