This story is written by Les Lea
The morning of my birthday I woke up very excited and, to Julie’s obvious pleasure, completely soaked. She unzipped and let me out of my onesie but left me in my soggy nappy whilst she went off to get something. She’d been doing this a few times now and I hadn’t realised what was going on. However, I now noticed that when she left mum would come in, see the drooping nappy, look sympathetically at me but it would also confirm all that my sister had been telling her about her continually wetting little baby brother. Then we’d cuddle, she’d murmur some soothing words, while I felt like a guilty little toddler who’d let her down. Julie would then breeze back in armed with whatever she’d decided I was to wear, whilst I would be too embarrassed to protest and mum would leave her to get me ready for the day ahead.
It wasn’t really surprising that I was waking up wet more and more often as Julie had been feeding me warm drinks last thing at night whilst she told me stories. I have to admit that this was one of the things I really did enjoy, when she made up stories that had me in the starring role. I’d be enthralled but she would say that I had to finish my drink if I wanted her to continue and, before I knew it vast amounts of some wonderfully flavoured liquid would have been consumed. My bedtime was seven o’clock, this was one of my sister’s rulings, as she decreed little boys need their sleep and, because I nearly always got a story and something sweet to drink, I was happy to comply.
Mum would often stand at the doorway and listen to the tales that Julie told and she’d see me in my bed, smiling and enthusing about some aspect of the story, so she witnessed herself that all was well. I think it was at these moments when, whatever doubts she might have had about me being in anyway unhappy about my ‘situation’, they were alleviated by what she saw as the ‘wonderful and loving’ interaction between her daughter and her obviously consenting son. There was undoubtedly more times than not when I thought Julie was the cleverest and most thoughtful person in the world and these especially were just such times when I loved my sister.
I also loved Saturday mornings when my favourite TV programme was on, a cartoon about Greek heroes, which I found really fascinating. I was so keen on these historical adventures that Julie had been able to adapt some of them in her stories so that Hercules and I could battle together, or I’d be part of Jason and the Argonauts crew. She was very good at getting me participating, and being a major force, in these myths and legends. I was often so engrossed in what was on the screen that I regularly ended up watching in just a damp nappy before being dressed appropriately. On that point I have to say it was not an issue anymore – I was used to it, mum was used to it and Julie made sure I didn’t make a mess or act-up (and repeatedly said that it was ‘just the way I am’ to mum). Not that I would dare to act-up because just one of her ‘looks’ would have had me shrinking from any form of argument. Having said that, it all became natural and normal, what was expected so how could I object to it anyway? It was just the way it was in our house, much the same as it was for whatever way Julie decided to have me dressed. Even on this day as an 8 year-old (yeah my birthday), I was left to run around the house wearing only my thick pull-ups with the cartoon princess on the front. Mum said I could open my cards and presents that had already been delivered before my party got underway later in the afternoon. Earlier in the week mum had asked if I wanted anything special and, as I’d been playing around on the piano at school during choir practice, I asked for a little keyboard.
After breakfast I rushed from the kitchen into the living room where mum’s present was. The place was full of balloons wishing me a Happy Birthday and there were some cards waiting, a few wrapped gifts but the main one was surrounded by a huge gold bow. Excitedly I pulled at the wonderful decoration, which revealed a small, but expensive looking, electric piano. I couldn’t believe that mum had got me such a fine instrument and couldn’t wait to try it out. We plugged it in and I promptly played a few bars from a song we’d been learning in class. Mum was amazed at how well I could play. In fact, it was something I’d only recently found out myself… that I could pick out notes on the piano then Miss Simms showed me the chords. Pretty soon, once I’d heard a tune or song, I could pick it up very quickly and loved being able to do so. I didn’t realise that I had a talent as it was something that just came naturally. I hugged mum with thanks – I was so happy I wriggled joyfully in her embrace as she patted my padded bum and kissed the top of my head. Julie said that I wasn’t going to get her present until the party, which I thought was typical of her, keeping me on the verge of excitement, wondering what it could be. She didn’t let on.
About noon the caterers came to set up for the party. Mum and Julie had been planning a Superheroes theme (although I didn’t know that at the time) and my organising sister had been on the phone almost permanently sorting things out. I’d heard clips of conversation but as soon as she saw that I was in earshot she whispered so I couldn‘t hear or hung up. It was all very secretive and I was getting very excited indeed. After watching my TV programme (about Zeus) I played on my new piano and was surprised at being able to make stuff up that sounded, to me at least, quite good. As the caterers began to set out the tables under an awning in the garden Julie ushered me upstairs out of the way. She ran a bath and filled it full of bubbles. Now, ever since I was a baby I have just loved bubbles and enjoyed hiding and playing in amongst them whilst I was bathed by either her or mum. Even if I was in the park and another kid was blowing bubbles you’d find me chasing after them, popping each as I tried to capture them. It was one of those things that Julie always knew to do if I was in a mood (which was rarely) or wanted to keep me entertained. Yeah Bubbles!
She helped me out of my surprisingly damp pull-ups and lifted me into the foam. I sat in the bath and I piled bubbles all over my head, made beards, pretended it was thick fog and my toy boats had to manoeuvre their way through the ‘mists’ and ‘icebergs’. I was having fun and must have been in there for quite some time as it was relatively cool when eventually Julie, who had left me to it whilst she went off to ‘supervise’ (her word) the caterers, returned with a thick towel. Although I was quite capable of doing things for myself, if she was around, then she was in charge and I acquiesced and let her get on with it. She thoroughly rubbed me dry, covered me in lotion and massaged it in and then finally added a comprehensive sprinkling of powder to all my ‘boy’ parts. She wrapped me in the towel and I was guided to my room where she had prepared a surprise.
“Happy Birthday,” she sang as I became aware of just what she’d done. Laid out on my bed was a short tunic with gold braid.
I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe it. She continued, “This is my present,” she looked at my awestruck expression, “I know how much you like this stuff… so I thought I’d get you something special.”
I hugged my sister so tightly and I have to say there were tears of joy in my eyes as I thanked her but I was speechless. She held me until she thought I’d calmed down a bit then suggested that I try it on and get ready to receive my guests. I was spellbound. First she fastened me firmly into a white disposable, which I never gave a second thought about, then over that she pulled a shiny gold coloured nappy cover and checked that it fit nice and snug. Next she fitted the little white silky tunic around my waist and fed my arm through a shoulder strap. The material was soft and shiny with loads of pleats making it look like a short kilt. There was gold braiding along the edges, which appeared to match my new ‘underwear’. It made me feel really very special. I looked in the mirror once she’d finished checking that everything was in order and couldn’t believe it – I was dressed just like my hero Jason from the TV programme. She’d even got me a pair of gold sandals that fastened up my legs and to top it off, she added a gold laurel wreath for my hair. I’d been transformed from me… into a real Greek hero and I just could not believe how proud and courageous I felt.
As I hugged and thanked my thoughtful sister again and again, she just gleefully patted my nicely padded bottom and said she was so glad I liked it and was what I deserved for being “…the best little baby brother in the world.” She’d also thoughtfully found a huge poster of Jason and the Argonauts from the TV series, which she said she’d hang up for me later, and who, apart from a small sword hanging from his waist, was dressed exactly like me. I twirled in front of the mirror. The gold sparkled, the shiny material glistened and even the new gold ‘protection’ shimmered and complemented the mythical look. The final thing was a little gold rope sash that was tightened around my waist, I thought I looked as good as Jason and wished I could join him and his men on one of their fantastic journeys. Julie nodded her approval as I spun and danced with joy.
My party was in full swing. Nearly all my class mates, both boys and girls had come, as well as Julie’s girlfriends who after all I’d known all my life. It was these older girls who organised and supervised the games, the music and the fun. Most of the boys who came wore some form of fancy dress; super-heroes, cowboys, robots etc, whilst a few of the girls had also dressed as cartoon characters or animals. We all looked fantastic as we charged around the garden and I loved the way my costume hung from my shoulder, the material soft and looking completely unique. I was enjoying having something so special that had been made especially for me and was constantly imagining myself back in mythological times and being the favourite of one of the Athenian gods.
One of the last people to arrive was Simon. At first I didn’t recognise him as he stood at the door gripping his mother’s hand. In fact, it was only because I recognised Mrs McKay that it quickly dawned on me who this nervous little girl was who held on to her so tightly. His hair was so much longer, he kept his eyes cast down in a shy, nervous kind of way and tried not to look at me.
Mrs McKay was all smiles, “Wish Danni a Happy Birthday poppet.” He wriggled uncertainly as he clutched his mum with one hand and held a gift in the other. “Happy Birthday,” she continued before he son could say anything. “My you do look pretty Danni, is that a special birthday outfit you’re wearing?”
I nodded as I took in the way Simon was dressed, he looked like a little girl. His jumper was pink with a large blue and pink butterfly on the front. His shorts were pale pink and covered in a blue and yellow butterfly design, which were held up with two matching straps over his shoulders that crossed at the back. His pink socks had ruffles at the ankle and he wore pink plastic sandals, which he nervously scuffed along the floor. I took all this in as he timidly whispered his “Happy Birthday” and offered me his gift.
“Hello Si… erm…” I wasn’t sure what to call him but I went ahead anyway. “Hello Simon I’m so glad you could make it.”
He looked up hesitantly and there was a fleeting smile. I held out my hand for him to take. “C’mon let’s get to the party.”
He checked with his mother to make sure it was OK. She released his hand. “Enjoy yourself poppet… try not to make a mess of your clothes… go and join your friends.”
Simon was definitely not the boisterous little lad who had played with me on that sunny weekend all those weeks ago. He walked slowly and hesitantly into the crowd and seemed relieved that none of his former school friends appeared to recognise him. He stuck close to me throughout the party but didn’t join in any of the games. It was strange that all the other boys ignored him but the girls wanted him to be in their group. He looked quite fearful when Julie and her friends came over to say ‘hello’.
“Hello Simone,” they chorused. “You do look pretty.” “Love the butterflies.” “What lovely hair” and a host of similar comments interspersed with giggles. He had shut his eyes to what was being said and looked like he was on the verge of tears. I took him away from everyone and asked him what was wrong.
“Mum likes me better as a girl,” he sobbed. “Since Julie and her friends dressed me up,” he paused as he wiped the snot from his nose, “mum won’t let me be a boy. I have to wear girl’s clothes”
I tried to calm him but I didn’t have much to say. He looked at the shiny tunic I was wearing and said. “She’s done it to you as well…”
At no point had I thought what I was wearing was anything but heroic. Jason and loads of Greek heroes wore similar things but his comment jolted my image of myself. He put his hand on my padded bum.
“I have to wear knickers now… and… and…” He was still trying to get it out between sobs, “and sleep in a… a nappy and… a… a… nightie.” He buried his face in the crook of his arm and tried to hold back more tears.
It was obviously upsetting the poor boy but alas to me none of this seemed a hardship as I’d been living like that all my life. However, I could see he was distressed so I hugged him close. Then in the quietest of voices he confessed he hadn’t wanted to come as he was scared of Julie and her friends and what they might do or say. However, his mum thought it was time he should be out and about (whether he wanted to or not) and had insisted he came. He said he was glad to see me again.
He pulled at his tight-fitting butterfly shorts and said he wished he could wear his old briefs as the lacy ones he had to wear rode up and were so uncomfortable. I had liked it when I first met Simon and we’d charged around in just our shorts and had water-pistol fights and got ourselves thoroughly wet through, but I liked him now as well, it made no difference to me how he dressed and I told him so. I said I thought he looked nice. There was a faint smile from him and he seemed to become a bit more confident as we looked each other over. He rubbed the front of my shiny golden nappy and whispered that he thought I looked like “that Greek hero off the TV”, which brought a huge grin and a twirl from me.
This story is written by Les Lea
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