Pigtails Are for Girls -- Part 13


Pigtails Are For Girls — Part 13
Chapters 27-28 
 
By Katherine Day
 
Jarod seeks to live through another school year, trying to be a boy.
He faces bullying and harassment at the urban school, even while finding acceptance as 'one of the girla'


Copyright 2009

Chapter 27: A Confusing Year

“Jarod?” The caller on the line was an older male, and his voice sounded familiar, though Jarod had trouble placing it.

“Yes, this is.”

“Jarod, this is Bruce Cummings, your cross country coach. Just calling to inform you that we’ll be starting practice on Aug. 28. That’s the Monday before school starts.”

“Oh.”

“Are you coming back this year?”

“Oh, Mr. Cummings, are you sure you want me? I was pretty slow.”

Jarod had been thinking about whether he’d try out for cross country in the coming fall semester. He had been the slowest runner on the team last year at first, but had ended the year moving into the role of second worst. It was hardly much to show, and he remembered how hot and exhausted he would get. It seemed hardly worth it; yet, he remembered the camaraderie that developed among the teammates, and the joy he felt in running with Latoya, since the practices often combined the boys and girls teams.

“Of course, we want you back, and you were improving as the year went on, Jarod.”

“I haven’t run much this summer,” he said, realizing he had not run in either July or August. “I’m in poor shape.”

“Jarod, I liked your hard work, and I think this is a good sport for you.”

Jarod smiled to himself, realizing how accurate the coach was; not to take anything away from the athletic demands of cross country, Jarod realized that his physically weak upper body knocked him out of anything like football or wrestling. And, also, he hated to participate in any activity that would create muscular arms or shoulders.

“OK, coach, I’ll try to make it.”

Mr. Cummings said he’d mail the necessary forms for his mother to sign, and that he’d have to bring $20 to the Aug. 28th session to pay for a physical examination.

*****
School began on the Tuesday after Labor Day, and as always seemed to be the case in Wisconsin, the weather that first week was stifling, hitting well into the 90s. The perversity of weather in the area seemed to dictate that summers would be cool (that year there had been no temperatures in the 90s during the summer) and that the first weeks back in school would be stifling. Most schools in Wisconsin were not air conditioned, and Roosevelt High was no exception.

“Let’s see what you’re wearing today, Jarod,” he mother said, ordering him into the kitchen.

“I’m a boy today, don’t worry!”

“Just let me see.”

Jarod at first put on girl shorts and a pink girl’s tee shirt, parading in front of the mirror, but he knew that wouldn’t be allowed; instead he exchanged the girl outfit for a pair of long boy denim shorts, a tee shirt that hung too big on his narrow shoulders, and his New Balance runners with athletic socks. He let his hair flow because it was short enough to be considered boyish.

His mother asked: “Wouldn’t you rather wear pants?”

“Oh mom, it’s going to be so hot in that school.”

“I guess it’s ok,” she said, shaking her head.

Jarod knew instinctively what his mother was thinking: she realized his legs were so slender that with his longish hair he might still be mistaken for a girl or a sissy and face harassment from some at the school.

He had grown some during the summer, and was now a slender 5 feet, 7 inches tall. Hints of masculinity were showing, the peach fuzz on his face and some hints of chest hair. Even his penis had grown beyond its tiny preadolescent stage. He had viewed all of these changes with sadness, sometimes even crying as he found he was being changed by the relentless march of nature that would eventually make him a man.

Latoya was still in his homeroom in the new school year, but there were changes in the lunch room assignments, leaving Jarod and Latoya in the early lunch period, but separated from Marquise and Demetrius who were assigned to the later period.

“Guess Marquise is in the other period,” he said to Latoya as they sat down, soon to be followed by Aniesha, who had been at their table in the previous year.

“Yes, but he lucked out,” Latoya said.

“How?”

“Janita’s got the same lunch hour so the two lovers will be together,” she said. There was a catty tone to her voice.

“I thought you liked her, ‘toya?”

“She’s always whining, and is making him her slave. I don’t see what she sees in him.”

“She’s pretty, ‘toya.”

Latoya got a conspiratorial glint in her eye, leaning close to Jarod, and whispering, “Not as pretty as you are. You still make the prettiest girl.”

“Well, I’m not a girl,” he said, only half believing himself. “And Marquise deserves a real girl for a friend.”

“I can’t wait ‘til you go all girl,” Latoya said. “When will that happen?”

“I don’t know, ‘toya. I don’t know.”

With Demetrius and Marquise, both now in their senior year, no longer at their lunch table, Jarod could see this year would not be the same. He missed the closeness the five friends had developed. This year, it appeared, the other three seats at the table would be occupied by a random sampling of students.

*****
Even with his effort to portray himself as more masculine, Jarod still found himself unable to shake the effeminate manner that he had developed in walking with his body erect and with small tight steps to create a sway to his hips. As he flicked his light brown hair, still longer than most boys wore, it was hard not to picture him as a girl.

More often than not he was addressed as “miss,” or “young lady,” and for some reason he seemed not to mind. Usually this came from strangers, like a clerk or another teacher in the hallways of school, who honestly mistook him for a girl. He felt happy when he heard it.

While he had survived his first year in the urban school without too much harassment (due largely, he felt, to his recognized friendship with Marquise and Demetrius), he feared this year would be different.

It began in the first week of school as he walked out of school, heading for his half mile walk home. Just outside of the school grounds on E. 12th St., three sloppily dressed boys, all large and menacing, met him. He attempted to cross the street, but they cornered him, the smallest of the three, but still huge in comparison to the slender Jarod, grabbing Jarod by his bicep, and twirling Jarod around so that the two were face-to-face.

Jarod recognized him as Stanley Howard, a sophomore like himself. The boy said: “What do we have here? A girl or a boy? She’s got arms like a girl.”

“Bet she’s wearing panties, like mommy’s little girl,” said one of the others, a boy Jarod recognized, but whose name he did not know.

Jarod tried to hit the boy with his free arm, but his fist merely flailed helplessly, landing weakly on the other boy’s shoulder. Jarod felt panic grow, as the boy easily propelled him into the school forest that was part of the campus. He was too weak to fight the action, and began screaming: “Don’t. Don’t hurt me . . .” Tears began streaming down his face and he began sobbing.

The boys stripped his bookbag from Jarod’s shoulders throwing it in the bushes, and soon Jarod too was pushed down on the ground into the sturdy limbs of a forsythia bush, and he began crying aloud. He tried to get up and run off, but the boy named Stanley was on top of him, pulling Jarod off the bush and into the clearing. Jarod attempted to curl up into the fetal position, but Stanley straightened out his legs, forcing Jarod onto his back.

“She’s pretty enough to kiss,” laughed the third boy, a stranger to Jarod.

“Bet she’s wearing panties,” said the other boy. “Why don’t you check Stanley?”

Jarod’s fear grew, but he was determined to defend himself, as Stanley hopped on top of him, temporarily taking away his breath. He recalled the self-defense class he took at the YWCA several years ago, a class meant mainly for girls to give them tactics to head off attacks.

As Stanley slid his body down lower, Jarod saw his chance. He felt his attacker fumbling with the belt and buttons on his shorts, and Jarod knew what he had to do. He bit hard on the boy’s shoulder, which was near his mouth, and at the same time kneed the boy in the groin.

“Yeeeeeeeooww” a scream came from Stanley who released his hold, permitting Jarod to get up and run from the scene, his legs taking him faster than he ever realized. The other two boys who had been watching and jeering Jarod were taken by such surprise they were unable to stop Jarod.

He ran the whole way home, fumbling badly as he tried to open the door. Finally, panting heavily, his heart beating in panic mode, he got the door open, running to his room and plopping himself down on his bed and beginning to cry uncontrollably. He wanted so badly to find the comfort of his mother’s arms, but she would not be home for two hours from her teaching job.

The attack unnerved him badly; he felt terribly violated, and even more so that his weakness was now exposed. Now he realized how girls must feel when they are raped, being so defenseless to stop a terrible humiliation. He cried and cried, and for a long while he could do nothing to stop his sobbing. How was he going to be able to continue going to school, even functioning in a world that was so cruel and mean? He was too weak, too pathetic to exist.

He kept reliving the panic he felt during the attack, and the tears kept coming. He put himself into the fetal position, his left hand clutching his slim soft upper right arm that was folded under his head. “I’m just a girl, a soft defenseless girl,” he murmured in a low tone.

Soon the crying stopped and he lay motionless on the bed, beginning to create images in his head of how pretty he would look in a prom gown. He even began seeing Jane come to life as the “queen” of the prom, leading the grand march with Marquise at her side. It was a beautiful, comforting thought.

“’toya thinks I’m pretty,” he said to himself. “Prettier than Janita.”

Just then he heard the doorbell ring. He did not move from the bed, wondering who could be at the door; he didn't want to talk to anyone now. He was also disturbed that the doorbell had broken into the daydream he was having.

It rang again, and then again for a third time. Still Jarod lay motionless.

Finally he heard heavy pounding on the door, followed by a voice; it sounded like the voice of Marquise yelling, “Open up Jarod. I know you’re in there.”

More heavy pounding.

“I’m coming,” Jarod finally yelled, wiping the tears from his eyes with a towel he had taken from the bathroom.

*****
“I found your bookbag and brought it to you, Jarod,” Marquise said as he entered.

Jarod felt humiliated. He must have looked terrible. He hated to see Marquise, the boy he one day hoped would be dating his alter ego, Jane.

“How are you feeling, Jarod? I heard something of what happened.”

“I got jumped by Stanley Howard and two others, and they threw me into the bushes, and . . .” He started to cry again, interrupting his narrative.

Marquise stood dumbfounded, not sure what to do about the crying boy he saw before him. Finally, he asked: “Are you hurt?”

“No,” he said, finally breaking off his sobbing.

“What were they after?”

“I don’t know. They were just picking on me for no reason. Maybe because I’m not a big tough guy.”

“They’re just fat cowards, that Stanley Howard and his buddies,” Marquise said. “But how did you get away?”

Jarod began to smile.

“Well, I bit Stanley and kneed him in the nuts. I guess I got him good.”

“You must have done a number on him. I heard him yell and saw you run off. That’s what brought me to the scene and I found your bookbag.”

“Oh Marquise, thank you.”

Jarod directed Marquise into the house, directing him to the kitchen, telling him to find a soda in the refrigerator.

“Wait here, until I clean myself off.”

“You better hurry, Jarod,” the other boy said. “The cops are going to be coming here. School security caught Stanley and he’ll no doubt implicate his buddies.”

“Oh no, do the cops have to come?” he asked.

“I guess so, to find out what happened. I'll be here. I know your mom is not home yet.”

Jarod wanted to go over and hug Marquise, maybe even kiss him. But then, as Jarod, he could not do that. Again, that afternoon, he wished he were Jane.

*****
Jarod’s mother had been alerted by the school at her job and returned home just as the police were arriving. She was pleased to see Marquise there, as she hugged her son, now cleaned up and wearing slacks and a knit golf shirt, looking trim, and she realized, very handsome.

She sat and listened as Jarod told his version of the attack; she nearly cried as Jarod related the violence of the mugging, realizing how defenseless her son was.

But she laughed, as did the two police officers, when Jarod told how he bit and kneed his attacker to get free.

“That’s what we teach girls to do,” one of the officers said.

“I know,” Jarod said. “I learned that at the YW classes.”

“Good job,” the officer said. “See, even a boy can benefit from those.”

Jarod lied again to the police when they asked what the boy’s motivation for the attack was, saying he had no idea. He felt too embarrassed in front of Marquise to say they attacked him because of his girlishness.

*****
As it turned out, the three boys were expelled from Roosevelt for the attack. Jarod was not asked to provide testimony, since Stanley Howard implicated the other two, and Marquise identified them as the two he had seen leaving the wooded area.

“Is there no school for boys who are a bit different in our school system?” Nancy asked the school principal the following day when she was summoned along with Jarod for a meeting. A vice principal and the school counselor were also at the meeting.

“No, I’m afraid not. Our system is too small for that,” the principal said. She was a smartly dressed African-American woman, whose glistening earrings seemed to dominate her presence.

“We know we have some gay and lesbian students here,” the counselor said, “And we’re trying to arrange for a support group for them.” She was a short women, of slight stature, but with an authoritative air. Her name was Anita Shouster.

“My son is not gay,” Nancy said, rather pointedly.

“I didn’t say he was, ma’am, but I think you’ve noticed he does move about with some effeminate mannerisms.”

“That doesn’t make him gay, Ms. Shouster” Nancy said.

The principal, Mrs. Marquerite Jones, interrupted. “I think Ms. Shouster was just trying to help. I think we all recognize that Jarod just portrays himself a bit differently, Mrs. Pinkerton.”

“I guess so,” Nancy added.

As Jarod heard this he was ready to begin crying, but he knew that would only worsen the situation. He agreed, in his own mind, that he was indeed “different,” and that he probably didn’t belong in this school.

“I’ve got Jarod’s records here,” the principal began. “I must say he’s an excellent student, and he causes his teachers no trouble. His grade point last year was 3.86, really tops.”

“And, Mrs. Pinkerton,” the vice principal said, “I have been told it was your son’s talents that help us put out two smashing editions of Odyssey last year. And he ran on the cross country team, too.”

“Yes, ma’am, and he’s exactly the type of student we hope to keep enrolled here at Roosevelt,” the principal said.

“I am happy to hear that, Mrs. Jones,” his mother said. “But can he be safe here? Is there no other school in the district which would be more accepting and friendly to students like my son?”

“Not in our district, sad to say,” the principal replied. “We really not a big enough district to have such a school.”

“There are schools for such students, Mrs. Pinkerton,” commented the counselor. “Milwaukee has its ACES program.”

“Aces?” Jarod asked, his interest piqued.

“Yes, the Allied Campus for Exceptional Students,” the counselor replied. “Especially for gay and lesbian students and others who may face harassment because of their differences.”

“Oh but that’s such a daily commute, even if she could get into the program,” his mother said, quickly realizing she used the wrong pronoun. “I mean ‘he,’” she corrected herself.

“Well, the district could arrange a transfer if you’d like,” Mrs. Jones said.

“Mom,” Jarod said. “We can stay here. It’s OK.”

After a short discussion, it was agreed Jarod would remain at the school; the school security would be notified to keep an eye out for him and to provide him protection if he needed it. In addition, there would be a greater presence by the police around the schoolyard both before and after school.

“We’ll make sure this won’t happen again,” Mrs. Jones said.

Jarod found himself liking this stylish school principal; she had a reputation for being firm (some kids had called her “mean”), but Jarod felt she understood his situation.

“I’ll be OK here, mom,” he told them. “I have some nice friends and Marquise and I have plans for the literary magazine.”

“And Mr. Cummings said you’re going out for cross country, too, Jarod,” the counselor said. “He said you have promise in the sport.”

The principal asked everyone, except Jarod, to leave the room. She wanted to speak to Jarod directly. His mother was about to protest, but Jarod said that would be OK.

“Jarod,” the principal said when they were alone. “You realize you do present a bit of difference in this school, don’t you? That you do really act a bit girlish?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said. Her comments were direct and without emotion, but Jarod felt he could trust this woman with the sparkling earrings and fairly stern demeanor but surprisingly warm, dark eyes.

“That will cause some to make fun of you, regardless what the school can do, and I think you know that, Jarod.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Now I don’t care how you act or dress, as long as you stay within our dress code, but you must realize you may face other attacks and humiliations if you dress and act as you do.”

“I can’t help it, Mrs. Jones,” Jarod said, again fighting back tears that were ready to burst out at any time.

“Mrs. Angstrom is forming a group for our gay and lesbian and transgendered students, Jarod, and if you’re interested, you may contact her.”

Jarod kept silent and accepted without comment the principal’s card after she had written the phone number and room number of Mrs. Angstrom on the back. He thought briefly about whether to tell her of his transgender tendencies, of his desire to be a girl, but felt he still wished to keep it private.

“On the front, Jarod, is my cell phone number. Call me if you need anything, OK?”

He nodded.

“Now before you go, do you have any teacher you trust and like the most?”

Jarod thought for a minute; none of his teachers fit such a description, but then he said: “Yes, he’s not one of my teachers, though. Mr. Cummings, the cross country coach. I like him.”

Mrs. Jones smiled. “Yes, honey, Mark Cummings is a good man and if it’s OK, I’ll tell him that if you wish to talk with him about anything, he should find time to talk with you. Is that OK, Jarod?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

For some reason, Jarod felt better, even though implicit in the discussion was the point that he better begin acting more as a boy. It was something he didn’t feel would be easy, but it would be necessary if he were to stay at Roosevelt.

Chapter 27: A Boy’s Life

It turned out that the attack on Jarod had become the gossip topic of the school, even though the school administration had sought to keep the incident private. Too many students saw the school security forces and police arrive on the scene; in addition, cohorts of the three perpetrators had spread the message that they had been treated unfairly in the expulsion, that their motives had been to shame the “sissy boy” and “fag” in hopes he’d leave the school.

Word of this got back to the school administration, which decided to react by seeking to develop training on diversity and to announce that there would be severe penalties for anyone participating in gang activities. Perhaps news of the expulsions helped, since there were no new incidents developing during the next few months.

“Mom, I know I need to finish high school and go to college,” he said the weekend following the incident. “And I know I’ll have to do that as a boy, at least for now.”

“Honey, you’ll have to try,” she said. The two were finishing the breakfast Jarod had prepared, including a very light, tasty quiche. The two were still in their nighties, with Jarod’s now short hair covered with a scarf, tied under his chin, looking very much like the few Muslin girls who had begun attending Roosevelt.

“I know, but I guess I walk and sit like a girl, and act like one all the time. It’s so hard to change.”

“I know, but if you don’t change how you look, you’re just setting yourself up for more harassment and maybe even more attacks.”

At that point, there was a knock on the door. Jarod opened it up to admit Wanda, who was now a junior in school, and her mother, Helen.

“How are you two ladies doing?” Helen said, addressing Jarod and his mother. “Sorry to bust in on you, but we smelled the food you were cooking from out here.”

“You’re always welcome,” his mother said. “Jarod, dear, can you make another quiche?”

“Yes, mom, and hi, Wanda.”

Wanda was wearing shorts and a halter, since it was still stifling hot for September. Her hair had a short boyish cut. Her tanned arms and shoulders literally rippled with muscles and her bare tummy was firm and hard.

“I heard about the attack, Jarod,” Wanda said. “Those cowards!”

“It was pretty scary,” he replied.

“But I guess you gave them something to remember,” Wanda replied, giggling.

“I guess I bit him good!”

“And kicked him where it hurts, too,” the girl said, and the four began laughing.

*****
Later, Wanda and Jarod left the two mothers and walked down to a small park. Jarod by then had changed into a pair of longish shorts and a Milwaukee Brewers tee-shirt, topped with a Brewers baseball cap.

“You’re all boy now,” Wanda said.

“Not really,” he replied. “I still want to feel and act like Jane would.”

“I know you do, but since you’re going to stay in school at Roosevelt, I guess you better at least look like Jarod, a boy,” she said, as the two sat on a park bench, watching a half-dozen young children running and laughing on the playlot.

“I guess I better be a good actor, or actress,” he said, grinning.

“Yeah,” she said. “I’m doing the same thing.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, Jarod, I’m pretending at liking boys, you know,” she began slowly. “I’m now convinced I’m lesbian.”

“Are you sure? You seem to like Troy a lot and you really are pretty.”

“And Troy likes me,” she said. “And we consider each other our steadies.”

“You make a nice couple,” he agreed.

She stopped to pick up a ball that had rolled into their bench, tossing it back to pigtailed blonde little girl, wearing a pink dress.

“She’s a cutie,” she said.

“Have you ever had sex with him, Wanda?”

“No, but I think he wants it. I just tell him I’m saving it for my husband on our wedding night. What a liar I am!”

“I think the only guy I could have sex with would be you,” she giggled. “But only if you were in a dress.”

The two sat together silently for a while, watching the children.

“Well, I guess we’ll both be acting this school year,” he said finally. “You as a hot sexy girl and me as a macho boy.”

“If we pull that off, it’ll be a miracle,” she said.

Jarod stopped laughing. He knew it would be a tough year.

*****
Marquise and Demetrius stopped Jarod after school on the Monday after the attack, catching him as he was about to leave the building.

"We'll walk with you, Jarod," Marquise said.

"Oh, you don't have to," he said. "I can take care of myself."

“You can?” Marquise laughed. “Didn’t do so well the other day.”

“I got rid of ‘em,” Jarod said, realizing he was showing false bravado.

“Don’t be foolish, Jarod,” Demetrius said. “You’re our friend. We’ll keep an eye out for you here.”

“Yeah, just walk along with us,” Marquise added.

Thus, it became an almost daily practice for either of the two boys, both seniors now and respected in the school, to accompany Jarod as he left the school, walking along with him until he was well on his way home. The two friends were careful not to indicate to Jarod that they questioned his ability to protect himself, but Jarod realized that was the reason. With his growing effeminacy, he was becoming more and more a possible target for harassment or even physical abuse. And, he was well aware, that he was too weak and soft to challenge most other kids his age.

The fall semester of school continued in this manner, with Jarod finding his friends, whether it was Marquise or Demetrius or, sometimes, Latoya or Aniesha, seemingly always around to walk with him through the hallways or outside after school.

It became obvious that his friends were standing by to keep Jarod safe from attack. As a slender, gentle boy, Jarod would have been an easy target. It helped, obviously, that four popular students, all African-American, made their friendship of Jarod known to the school. No one, it seemed, was ready to mess with Jarod since they’d have to deal with reactions from his friends.

“Latoya,” Jarod said in early October, “I feel weird having you guys protect me.”

“What do you mean? Protect you?” Her response was one of faux puzzlement.

“Oh don’t try to fool me, ‘toya. You and the boys never seem to let me go anywhere alone. You’re afraid for me.”

“Well, shouldn’t we be?” Latoya asked. “You’re hardly able to protect yourself in this school.”

“I think I can,” he said.

Latoya laughed, grabbing Jarod’s left arm and swiftly pinning it behind his back, her strength overwhelming him, as she twisted it.

He cried out. “Yeeow”

She released it, and he looked at her.

“Did I make my point, Jarod? I think even little Aniesha could bring you down.”

He rubbed his forearm, the red marks of her fingers still showing on the whiteness of his skin.

He nodded. Yes, she had made her point. He was hardly strong enough to protect himself from bullies; nor did he have the inclination to fight, to be aggressive. He couldn’t imagine hitting someone.

“Jarod, you’re our friend,” Latoya said. “We don’t want you hurt. You’re always ready to help people and you’ve always been there for me.”

“Well, I like all of you, and I haven’t done anything special for you, ‘toya.”

“Oh yes you have, Jarod. You’ve always been there when Demetrius seems mad at me.”

“I just listened.”

“And gave me advice, Jarod. You always talk to me and that makes me feel good when I’m sad. You’re like my closest girl friend.”

Jarod felt Latoya’s hand wrap around his and he felt a warmth and friendship for this dark African-American girl. He wanted so bad to be her girl friend and, for some weird reason, was so happy that he was weak and gentle and fragile.

*****
“When are you going to let Marquise in on your little secret?” Latoya asked Jarod a few days later as they sat on a bench at the high school campus on an unusually warm autumn day during the lunch break.

“I dunno,” he said.

“You won’t be able to keep it secret much longer from him, Jane,” said Latoya, emphasizing his girl’s name to make the point.

“I hate to lie, but mom wants me to keep this stuff secret.”

“When your picture was plastered all over in the pigtail ads, I’m surprised no one recognized you.”

Latoya shook her head. “I wish you’d come clean on this, Jane. You really are so much more a girl.”

“I know, and I feel that way, too, Latoya. And I hate to not tell Marquise the truth. He’s been my only real friend I’ve had. Well, I mean only real boy who has been a friend. You and Wanda are my real friends, too, but we’re girl friends.”

Latoya smiled: “Marquise is getting sick of Janita’s jealousy and nagging. I don’t know why he asked her out.”

“I know, Latoya, he could have any girl in school. Why choose her?”

“Because Jane wasn’t available,” Latoya giggled. “I bet he’d ask you, Jane, if you ever came out to him.”

Jarod laughed off the suggestion from Latoya, but the idea grew more real in his mind.

*****
While Jarod felt more
and more that he was a girl, nature had different plans for him. By the time he entered school that fall, light hair had developed on his arms and legs, while a covering of fuzz covered his upper lip. His penis had matured, and no longer was tiny; it was still not large as some boys displayed in the gym locker room, but his had grown to be almost “average” and large enough so that he no longer had to hide it out of embarrassment.

His voice deepened as well, forcing him to speak more softly so as to hide the masculine nature of his voice.

“Should I start shaving, mom?” he asked one day.

“Not yet, honey,” she said. “I’ve been told once you shave the hair comes back darker. And your hair is still very light and hardly noticeable. It’s ok for now.”

“I guess,” he said. “Oh mom, why do I have to have these boy things happen to me?”

“Because, physically you are a boy, dear.”

“I don’t wanna be a boy.” Tears began coming to his eyes and his mother smothered him, pulling him into her bosom and patting his head as he sobbed.

“Can’t I start hormones, mommy?” he said after his crying stopped.

“We’ll see, honey. We’ll see.”

Jarod’s monthly appointments with Dr. Martin had continued. The doctor told his mother that he was convinced that Jarod was an appropriate candidate for eventual gender change, including hormone treatment, certain bodily enhancements such as breast implants and facial changes, hair removal and finally sexual reassignment surgery.

“It’s my recommendation that he try to continue on as a boy through high school, Ms. Pinkerton,” the doctor has said. “High school can be so cruel to him if he tried to change now.”

Also another doctor told that his maturity as a male had progressed too far to place him on drugs that could have retarded the development of his male physical features.

Jarod cried when he heard that recommendation. He wasn’t sure he could hold out that long, but he understood the doctor’s reasoning. “I’ll try, mom, at least into my junior year.”

Jarod would try to continue to be a boy to outsiders; yet, Jane remained this lovely child’s real person and she would be struggling to emerge each day of his life.

*****
Jarod’s school day took on a routine and he soon found that if he kept himself in the background, he would be rarely noticed. He tried not to answer questions in class voluntarily, although that became difficult when the teacher posed a question he knew the obvious answer to, only to see no others raising their hands to answer. Some of his teachers, eager in this urban high school to embrace cooperative and smart students, realized that they could usually call upon Jarod to answer.

Try as he might, he could not avoid the feminine inflections his voice was taking on. And, he realized that he sometimes sounded either like a flagrant faggot or a girl as he spoke. He knew such outward appearances would draw unwelcome attention and perhaps even attacks.

“You’re a boy?” The question came from a nerdy looking girl early in the semester in his English class. He didn’t know her, and she sat in front of him, her long strawberry blonde hair tied usually in a ponytail and her slender arms looking soft and white. She wore grandma glasses, and sometimes pushed them to the top of her head.

“Why, yes,” he said, beginning to show his quick tendency to blush.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the girl said quickly. “I guess I didn’t look at you closely.”

The two had left the classroom, and found themselves walking together to their next class.

“That’s OK. How could you tell? I was sitting behind you.”

“Yes, I guess. It’s just that your voice . . . well, it kinda sounded . . . well … anyway,” she stammered. “I’m Tiffany.”

“Hi, Tiffany. I’m Jarod.”

“Yes, so I heard today in class when Mr. Davidson called you ‘Jarod.’ You’re so smart, I can see why he calls on you.”

“No smarter than some others,” he said. “But they won’t talk, I guess.”

“Nah, Jarod. You’re a brain,” she said, smiling. “For some reason, I guess I thought you were a girl. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to hurt you.”

Jarod felt both shame and pride, a strange combination he knew. Shame at not being the boy he was supposed to be, but an exciting pride that he was looked upon as a girl.

“Oh, it must be my hair,” he said, realizing it was actually more than that.

At the next hallway, the two split, and Tiffany said eagerly: “Jarod, I hope we can talk again.”

He waved as she charged down the other hallway, both now headed to their next classes. Jarod felt growing comfort after the encounter: Tiffany seemed not to be bothered by his girlishness.

Several days later, Tiffany joined Jarod, Latoya and Aniesha at the lunch table, becoming a fourth addition to the table and its usual menu of girl talk, giggling, ogling at boys and eyeing the clothes of other girls with sometimes critical and not too kind comments. Jarod, in truth, never was comfortable in the company of other boys; he found their crude and boisterous talk to be disgusting, particularly when they talked about “hooters” or “caboose” to describe some girls’ anatomies.

*****
As the school year went on, Jarod found himself identifying more and more with the group of girls within which he mired himself. Their lunch table soon became a magnet for a whole host of new girls interested in joining in the laughter and discussion that emanated from the table.

“Your table’s the place to be,” Tiffany said to him one as they headed for lunch together.

“I know. We sure seem to attract a lot of girls,” he said, smiling.

“It’s you, Jarod. You. You’re the attraction,” she said.

“Me?”

“Yes you. I notice how all the girls seem to hang on your every word. You’re fun to listen to.”

Jarod had wondered as the school year went on why so many girls seemed to try to join the group. He thought Tiffany was wrong when she said “he” was the attraction.

“Well, it can’t be because I’m such a stud,” he said laughing, giving his hair a girlish twist.

“You are kinda cute, Jarod, but, nah . . . you’re no stud.”

It turned out Tiffany (whose last name Stankowski, he learned) had moved into the school district at the start of the semester, and was still trying to make friends. What seemed to make the table popular was that it seemed to have turned into an informal democracy where anyone was accepted. It may have been a coincidence, but Jarod had noticed most of the regulars participated in one of the school activities, usually something to do with the arts.

The group soon grew to about a dozen regulars, staking out an additional adjoining table. Occasionally, another boy might join the group, often dragged by a girl friend into the midst of these giggling teen girls and Jarod. He had tried to remain in the background saying little, but Latoya often dragged him into the conversation, asking his opinion on what one of the teachers or one of the students was wearing.

“Jarod knows fashions,” she announced to the group one day. “He really does.”

As it turned out, Jarod had developed an ability to mimic others, mainly women, usually in a kind but incisive way. He would get up and often with an exaggerated feminine flourish discuss the woman’s clothes, to the great glee of others.

Jarod tried to resist efforts to make him the center of attention, but he soon found himself loving the opportunity to show a bit of his feminine self to others, even though it meant he was being tagged by some as a “fag” or “queer.” Strangely, most of the girls seemed to enjoy his presence there.

There was a lot of performing, some outlandish enactments and some just plain funny. Each girl — and Jarod — seemed to create an individual persona which they acted out at the lunch group.

“We’re terrible actors,” one of the girls yelled out one day when another girl had tried in an awkward effort to imitate Britney Spears dancing.

“We need a name,” Latoya said.

“Yes, let’s have a name for this table,” agreed Aniesha, who also came out of her shell, taking on the role of Miss Cecily Jackson, the always overly dramatic English teacher who also coached the school’s Drama Club.

“How about the ‘Bad Actors,’” offered Tiffany.

“No . . . no . . . I got it. How about the ‘Bad Girls of Roosevelt High?’” It was a suggestion from Aniesha.

“But none of us are ‘bad’ like some of the girls here?” protested Latoya.

It was true. If anything, the group could have been called the “innocents,” Jarod thought as this discussion went on. None of the girls had become pregnant yet, which in this urban high school seemed often to mark the difference between “good” or “bad,” even though Jarod knew such an act by one of the girls really shouldn’t mark her as “bad.”

“I didn’t mean ‘bad’ as in the ‘bad girls’ show on TV,” Aniesha said. “I just meant like we’re ‘bad’ actors.”

“And what about Jarod?” asked, Tiffany. “He’s one of us, but he’s not a girl.”

Jarod turned red, and glanced at Latoya, the only girl at the table who knew his secret. She was trying to stifle a laugh.

“Oh that’s OK,” Jarod said, displaying an exaggerated feminine flick of his hair, using a high falsetto voice.

They all laughed, and some one said. “He’s just one of the girls, now.”

*****
Jarod saw less and less of Wanda because she was occupied with the girls basketball, the Lady Vikings and the on and off romancing by Troy. It was typical, however, for Wanda and her mother, Helen, to join Jarod and his mother for Sunday brunch, with the two younger people often spending a few hours after the brunch together, while the mothers gossiped.

“I’m becoming such a preppy,” Wanda confessed one cool autumn Sunday afternoon. Jarod was dressed as Jane as he always was for these Sunday get-togethers, this particular Sunday wearing girl, low-rider jeans and a crá¨me-colored layered blouse with a scoop neckline. His hair was in pigtails, tied with ribbons. The two went into the den at Wanda’s house, and where they turned on the Packers football game. They were only half-watching the game, even though Jarod seemed to be taking some interest in football. Of course, Wanda always had an interest in the games.

“Why do you say that, Wanda?”

“You know, I’m going to the homecoming dance with Troy.”

“Yes, but that doesn’t make you a preppy.”

The two had long ago concluded they did not want to be “preppies” or the upwardly mobile children of the rich families. Because they were as sexually confused as the two had come to know they were, neither felt they could conform to the demands of such a life style. They had created a true bond, the girlish boy and the boyish girl.

“Oh, Jane,” she said, reverting using his girl’s name as she often did when they were together. “I have to get my hair fixed in the ‘style’ of the girls here and really can’t find a dress I like.”

“You got a month before the dance,” Jarod said.

“But, Jane, Troy is the homecoming king, you know, since he is captain of the football team. That means I’m his queen. Everyone will see me.”

She made an ugly face.

“You’ll be a pretty queen, Wanda,” Jarod said. He meant it, too. In spite of her fit, muscular body, the blonde Wanda with her short-cropped hair and truly warm facial features was a really beautiful girl, a fact she never seemed to accept.

“But what’ll I wear. All the dresses they show have bare shoulders and arms. And look at my arms. They’re so damned big.”

Jarod thought a minute.

“Wanda. Let me design and make you a dress. We’ll design it together to be just what you want.”

“Oh no, Jane. That’s not necessary.”

“Let me try. OK?”

They spent the rest of the afternoon back at the Pinkerton household, delving into Jarod’s collection of fashion magazines and patterns. Jarod’s enthusiasm blossomed as the two teens sat cross-legged on the floor or on their tummies. With his truly elegant fingers he turned the pages of the publications, pointing out the dresses he favored and stating why some would look great on Wanda.

“Jane,” Wanda said after their search landed nothing appropriate, “I can’t wear any of those. They all expose my arms and shoulders.”

“But, except for that, you do like this gold model, don’t you Wanda?” he asked pointing a pattern displaying a full length flowing gown of gold taffeta, a high belted waist and a halter with thick straps.

“Yes, Jane, I like that best, but my arms will be bare,” she protested.

“Let me show you what I can do,” he said. He quickly used a charcoal pencil to sketch a new top, providing a sloping sleeve arrangement, the sleeve ending tightly at the elbow.

“I like that,” Wanda said. “Jane, you’re a genius.

The two were on the floor and Wanda reached to hug him, her strong arm pulling him tight against her as she kissed him firmly and warmly. She held Jarod’s slender body for a few moments, and Jarod felt her firm hand caressing his narrow shoulders, and as they kissed, her other hand began playing with his pigtails.

“You’re absolutely the best girl friend, Jane,” she said. “If you were a girl, for real, I mean, we could be lesbians.”

Jarod loved the sound of those words, and he melted into her grasp, and, when they finally broke up, he was spacey, his eyes moist and he felt light headed.

“Thank you, Wanda. I so want to be your girl friend. I can hardly wait to start on the dress.”

*****
The fall suddenly became busy for Jarod, with his cross-country practice and meets several days a week, work with Marquise on the Odyssey, the school literary magazine, and now with his sewing of Wanda’s dress.

He finished the dress several days before the homecoming dance in mid-November, and after some minor adjustments, Wanda found great joy in wearing it.

“You’re so pretty, Wanda,” Jarod’s mother said as they were fitting the dress.

“Thank you, Mrs. Pinkerton. Jarod’s got a magic touch.”

“More like a feminine touch,” his mother said, with a smile.

“Oh yes.”

Jarod briefly considered going to the homecoming dance as well, but he was sure no girl would want to go with him. The girls in the lunch group, particularly Aniesha and Tiffany, seemed to like him and might be interested in being his date for the dance. On the other hand, he argued with himself, they might be embarrassed to be seen with him since he was not a strong, masculine boy.

On the Sunday after the dance, Wanda and her mother joined the Pinkerton’s for their typical brunch session. Both Jarod and his mother were eager to hear all about the dance.

“Everything was so . . . what shall I say . . . wow,” Wanda explained.

“And everyone said she was one of the prettiest queens they ever had, thanks to your dress, Jane,” Helen, Wanda’s mother, said.

“Yeah,” Wanda continued, “They wanted me to tell them where I got it, and I wanted so badly to tell them my girl friend, Jane, made it, but you swore me to secrecy.”

Jarod smiled. He felt so pleased his friend had a nice evening; while he would have loved to have everyone know he was the dressmaker, he knew it would cause him no end of teasing and perhaps even physical attack.

*****
He confessed to Dr. Martin at his monthly sessions that he seemed to be handling his dual life without too much stress. “I’m Jane at home, and I’m able to be the girl I feel I truly am, Doctor,” he said. “And at school, I seem to be doing fairly good as a boy.”

“What bothers you most now, Jarod?” he asked in his low toned, gentle voice. He spoke so softly that Jarod often found himself straining to hear what the doctor said.

“I’m still scared sometimes by some of the boys. They can be so rough.”

“It’s natural to be scared, my dear child,” he said. “What are you doing about it?”

Jarod explained the school’s policies against bullying seemed to be working, and that he found the security aides to be paying more attention to him. “And, my friends seem to be looking out for me,” he said with a smile.

He told Dr. Martin that he was afraid to ask any girl to be his date at the homecoming dance, even though he had wanted to be there to see Wanda as queen of the dance. “I just don’t feel comfortable as a boy. I can’t imagine any girl wanting me as their boy friend.”

“Lots of boys your age feel like that, Jarod,” he had said. “Few boys, or anyone, for example, feel they have good looks or bodies.”

“I like how I look as a girl, doctor,” he said at the session. “And, I know I look pretty.”

“Yes, you are a very pretty person, Jarod,” the doctor said, adding, “But you can also be a very handsome boy.”

It was true, Jarod realized, that he had learned during the school year how to masquerade as a boy and to be able to function without becoming the butt of mean-spirited remarks and attentions.

“But doctor, I feel I’m faking it as Jarod. It just doesn’t feel right,” Jarod said finally.

Dr. Martin said finally: “As either Jane or Jarod, I have found you to be a very strong person. You’re smart and are learning how to function in a world that is full of challenges.”

“I guess so, but I so often feel scared and frightened and wish I could just go home and be a little girl again,” he said.

“My sweet child,” the doctor said, obviously recognizing Jarod’s need for protection but also seeing Jarod’s strength of character budding under the surface. “I want you in the coming months to work on something for me.”

“What is that, Dr. Martin?” Jarod asked, puzzling as to where this was taking him.

“I want you to come up with one project you can do in the coming months that will help somebody or some other people. And you should tell me what that project is at our next meeting.”

“A project?”

“Yes, perhaps a community services activity, like mentoring unprivileged children or working at a food bank.”

“How about working on a school committee?”

“Yes, that’s OK, but you’re already doing the Odyssey work,” the doctor said. “Something that will involve you deeply.”

“OK, I guess.”

Jarod promised the doctor he would try to think of something. Nonetheless, he was confused by the doctor’s request, and, when he told his mother, she, too, seemed to wonder what it was all about.

“I got it,” he said to himself that night, as he lie in bed, his mind racing over the doctor’s request. “I know what he’s up to: he wants me so busy I don’t have much time to think about being a girl.”

Jarod knew he’d follow the doctor’s instructions, but he also knew the work on “worthy projects” alone would never clear his mind of the constant feeling he was a girl.

(To Be Continued)



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