“I’m so happy with all of you girls,” Aunt Adele said, after each group got done describing what ideas they had for the performance.
We were all giggling a lot, as each group outlined its plans. Our high-pitched voices filled the room, mine along with the rest. I don’t when I’ve seen girls so excited about something once they had a role in planning each dance. Judy McQuistion’s group decided to do a dance routine to working on the assemblyline at the local engine plant; Bertha Schmitter’s group would be passing out doughnuts and coffee to troops; and Nancy’s group would act as air raid wardens.
“We’re going to both sing and dance,” Serena explained, as she outlined our plans. “I’ll be Maxene and Wanda will be Laverne, and Terry here will be Patty.”
“That’s marve’,” one of the girls said. “Terry will be a perfect Patty. She’s so cute . . . ah . . . I meant he’s so . . .”
I blushed so much in hearing that, but I didn’t want her to feel bad, and I merely curtsied to let her know it was OK to call me “she.” I certainly felt like one of them.
For the next five weeks before the 4th of July, we rehearsed our programs and refined them. Wanda, Serena and I spent many hours trying to imitate the Andrews Sisters, which was not easy. The Sisters were truly in tight harmony when they sang, and we had difficulty achieving that. Donna Mae, who played the piano, learned “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and accompanied us when she could.
Besides Donna Mae had studied singing in college and helped us train.
“You have the loveliest voice, Terry,” she said as we ended one practice. “It’s still a true soprano, and it’s so sweet.”
“Nobody can tell I’m a boy, then?” I asked anxiously, as I was growing more and more concerned I’d be found out, and the whole charade exposed.
“No honey, no one could ever think of that voice as anything but a girl’s. It’s great your voice hasn’t changed yet.”
As the rehearsals continued during the summer, and I spent hours and hours with Serena and Wanda, it just seemed I was really all girl. I had very little “boy experiences,” preferring to be doing whatever 13-year-old girls do. I had my 13th birthday in mid-June, and we celebrated it by having a small party in auntie’s ballroom with Wanda and Serena. Wanda gave me a new outfit for my Shirley Temple doll; she knew how much I adored the doll. Serena gave me a small makeup kit, one of those that are made particularly for girls in their early teens.
You should have heard me gush over both presents, so much so that auntie told me to “tone it down.” But, those presents were just “perfect” for a 13-year-old girl.
Most of the time I dressed now as a girl, except when I had to go somewhere. Even then I was often mistaken for a girl, having let my hair grow since we wanted it long for the performance. I must admit to having mixed feelings about all this; I really felt comfortable as a girl, but I recognized that school would come in September, and I’d have to become a boy then. I worried about the teasing I’d get in the 8th Grade, sure that my girlishness would draw attention and derision. The fact was I was a failure as a boy, having neither the muscles nor the inclination to engage in typical boy behaviors.
My only boy friend and that was what he was becoming, a boy friend to a 13-year-old girl, namely me, was Bert. After our time together dancing, with me in a dress, he treated me as a girl, even going so far as to opening doors for me. And, of course, I was tickled pink to go along with the charade.
Bert had taken over a newspaper route for the summer, delivering the evening paper; he also played on two softball teams, one in a muni league and the other in a league for newspaper boys. So he was busy most of the summer. Yet, sometimes he’d bike over in the morning and we’d bike together to the lakefront or out to the parkway on the west side of town.
“You should really ride a girl’s bike,” he said to me on one of our morning trips.
I nodded, as I was puffing hard to stay abreast of him; even though he tried hard not to speed ahead of me, sometimes I just didn’t seem to have enough strength to keep up with him. I wondered about his remark, realizing that a girl would have a bike without the bar, so that she could ride it more easily in a skirt.
“Come, let’s go in on this path,” he said leading us off the parkway into a wooded section of the park. He led us carefully along a narrow, rough, path, with the branches of trees and bushes hitting us as we rode.
“Where you going?” I asked, somewhat miffed at him for leading me into this darkened pathway with all its bugs and things.
“You’ll see. It’s not far now.”
He stopped his bike at a clearing that had formed next to the river bank, and announced, “Here we are. Isn’t this a nice spot?”
I got off my bike, and watched while he took a light pink blanket from a duffle bag he had carried on the basket on his bike.
“A blanket, so we can sit here.”
I looked at the rough ground, damp from the morning dew, with weeds and a few fallen tree limbs laying about. I seem to have forgotten my first 12 years of living on the farm where such rugged places were common. I was suddenly worried about sitting on the ground.
“And have all those icky bugs crawl all over us?”
He laughed. “Just like a girl. Come on, sit down.”
He spread out the blanket, and he pulled me down so that I fell onto him, and we laid together, his arms around me. We were on our sides, facing each other, and he looked directly into my eyes, his blue, clear eyes piercing into mine.
I was still clutching him, not breaking my hold after we fell down together. My hands held his hard, muscular arms, as he continued to look at me. Finally he freed one of his arms, and I felt his hand on my forehead, brushing the hair that had fallen across my face. His touch was gentle and soft and I felt a strange attraction to his handsome, strong boy.
“I want to kiss you,” he said.
Suddenly I felt myself drawn into him, and his lips were on mine. I wanted to turn away, but his mouth was so firmly on mine, his hand behind my head, holding my tightly. His other hand was caressing my arm, a big strong hand moving up and down rhythmically on my thin, under-developed bicep.
I surrendered to him, responding almost without thought to return his kiss. I had never before really kissed anyone, except for the light pecks from my mom, grandma or auntie. As we kissed, I felt my penis grow hard. It began to throb. What was this, I wondered? Never before had I had that happen.
And my desire to kiss him grew and grew. His hands were caressing me and we were both rocking together on the blanket, and my penis ached now but I couldn’t help myself. We continued in this kissing, and caressing and rocking together for a few minutes. My penis grew more hard and began aching, and I wanted him to continue kissing and caressing me. Soon, he released himself from me, and I wondered why.
“I feel like your girl friend,” I said, breathing hard.
He had moved off me, got up, and went to his duffle bag, withdrawing a small towel. He proceeded to open his shorts and then used the towel to dry off his genital area. I guessed he had done what was called "jacking off." I'd heard boys talk about that, but wasn't quite sure what that meant. My own penis had softened and the pain was gone. Soon he joined me on the blanket, and we laid there for a while, saying little, listening to the ripple of the water, traffic noise from the highway a few blocks away and birds chirping.
“I want you as my girl friend,” he said after a while.
I nestled closer to him now, kissing him lightly on the cheek, his hand now caressing my arm. I felt so happy.
We moved together, kissing, each of us having a hand on the other’s penis. I felt his growing harder and he was growing more violent in his embrace of me, beginning to call me his girl, telling me he’d protect me from everyone else.
“You’re so soft and weak,” he said. “You’re my girl, my sweet Terry.”
The more he moved on me, the more he talked, the more I felt his hands on my soft flesh the more I felt I was a girl, the harder my penis became again. It was throbbing, pain growing, the pressure hurting. Something must happen, I felt.
I loved the feel of his hard body next to me, his strong hands massaging my sweet inner thighs, my slender arms and my narrow shoulders. I imagined myself a weak little girl, and I felt warm liquid on my thighs. I must have jacked off myself, but I held back as hard as I could, hoping to stop the flow of juices.
I moved away from Bert, and my penis softened again, the pain leaving me, my panties now a bit soggy. I knew what I did was sinful, and I felt bad about it.
We began our trek home on the bikes, taking our time. We were both exhausted, but I felt a strange exaltation, since Bert still treated me as his girl.
“I think you should come to the social center Friday night,” he said as we were about to part our ways a block from my house. “They’re having a summer dance about 7 o’clock and you could be my date.”
“Oh I couldn’t,” I said.
“Yes, you could. You would be just my girl friend.”
I liked the idea, but I’m sure somebody might realize who I was, since there’d obviously be people from school there. I turned him down, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
The rehearsals went along in the remaining weeks before the 4th of July, with the girls and I gaining in excitement for the big presentation. Oh, sometimes, auntie got mad at us when we didn’t always perform to our best, or when some of us girls chattered too much. She particularly seemed to blame me for the giggling that often filled the room.
“Terry, stop that giggling now,” she’d reprimand me. “Quit being such an inspiration.”
“But, Miss Adele . . .” I began, having been told to call her “Miss Adele” when in the classes, rather than “auntie.”
“Just be quiet and tend to your dancing, girl.” Her voice was firm.
I reddened, hearing her firmness, and Wanda, standing near me, touched my arm comforting me.
After the classes we over, Aunt Adele never said a word to me about my “giggling” or her reprimand. Instead she acted like it never happened, and we reverted to our normal relationship, which was growing into one of a loving aunt with her adoring niece.
I seldom saw Bert after that day in the park; he and I went for some bike rides and even biked to the lakefront. Bert blamed his newspaper carrier duties and his busy baseball schedule that kept our outings to a minimum. That may have been true, but I had the feeling Bert was no longer as interested in me. To be sure, he still called me “his girl,” but I felt something strange about the way he said it. Did he mean it? When we were sure now one was looking, he’d find a way to kiss me, and I loved feeling his lips, but he made no attempt to lure me into private locations where we could repeat our awkward love-making.
I was both comfortable and disturbed by that. My time in his arms felt so special, as did my introduction to “jacking off,” and I kept reliving that moment. Yet, the fact bothered me that we were still two boys — in spite of my girlishness — doing “dirty things” together. It’s funny: I felt so good during that episode; yet, my mind told me it was wrong. I knew the pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, our church, would not approve, nor would my grandpa and grandma. But it was funny, I wondered whether my mom would approve, or auntie. For some reason, I thought they might be OK with it. But I didn’t think I’d test that thought by telling auntie.
On a warm, absolutely beautiful sunny day in late June, Bert and I found a park bench overlooking Lake Michigan. It was hidden from the view of persons on the park path by heavy bushes, and we were seated together. Bert took my hand in his, holding it gently, using a finger to gently caress my inner wrist. My hand felt small inside his grip and I felt my penis begin to harden.
I looked at Bert, and his eyes were focused on mine.
“I see my pretty Terry,” he said, softly.
“Oh Bert,” I said.
“Why aren’t you really a girl?” His voice was plaintiff, almost sad.
Tears began to form in my eyes, and Bert reached up with his free hand to lightly brush the moisture from beneath my eyes. His leaned over and kissed me lightly, our lips hardly touching, but the feeling of those lips excited me as much as if they’d been deeply passionate. I don’t think that a 13-year-old girl (or boy of 15 for that matter) can experience love at such a young age, but I felt I was in love anyway. Bert must have felt the same way.
At that moment I saw myself only as a girl, as a bride on her way to the altar to join her handsome, muscular husband-to-be and as the mother of his child. I wanted that so bad.
Suddenly, he ended the kisses, and moved away from me. Still holding my hand, Bert said simply, “I guess we better go.”
I could tell he was in distress, since I knew he wanted me, but must have felt it was the wrong thing to do. It was 1942, and there was a war going on, and boys were meant to fight for their country and have girl friends, real girl friends, not a girl like me. Despite the love Bert and I felt for each other, we knew it was an evil love, a love that could hurt us both in the future.
I fought back tears on the bike ride home. I felt that Bert might never call me again that summer and that our bike rides and romance ended on that park bench overlooking the blue sparkling waters of Lake Michigan on just a magnificent summer day.
“Serena’s here with her mother,” auntie yelled to me as I was dressing for our trip to the beauty salon.
It had been a difficult morning, since I hemmed and hawed over what to wear. I knew I had to look completely like a 13-year-old girl, and in spite of the fact that when I was dressed either as a girl or in more androgynous clothing I was always taken for a girl. Still, I was still worried about this trip into an all-female establishment, like the salon.
“Auntie, come up here. I need you first.” I yelled back, as I was struggling to button up a summer dress.
Aunt Adele entered. I could tell she was frustrated with me, since I had been fretting over this trip to get my hair fixed in curls so that I could look like Patty Andrews.
“What?” she said.
“How do I look?”
“Absolutely adorable, dear. Now come on, Mrs. Simpson is waiting.”
“But, auntie, really,” I pleaded. “Can anyone tell?”
“No, Terry. You’re all girl, now come on.”
Mrs. Simpson and Serena were waiting in the foyer, as I went down the stairs, daintily carrying my purse, my yellow summer dress rustling as I walked. Serena told her mother all about me, and all of the parents of girls in the class had been informed that a boy, namely me, would be dancing as a girl in the troupe so as to complete the needed size of the group. Some of the parents had balked at the idea, but their daughters prevailed upon them to accept it. “Terry’s just one of us, mommy,” Bertha Schmitter had told her mom in pleading the case. Eventually they all came around, and for the most part were eagerly awaiting the moment the girls appeared on stage at the big 4th of July pageant.
“You’re adorable, dear,” Mrs. Simpson said, strangely using the same words that auntie said.
“She makes me jealous mom,” Serena said to her mother. “Terry’s really the prettiest girl in the group.”
People kept telling me that, and I guess I was starting to believe it. But auntie had other thoughts:
“Beauty is as beauty does.”
It was a gentle reminder that I should not let all this praise go to my head.
The three of us “Andrews Sisters” all were scheduled to have our hair done that morning, and Wanda was already started when Serena and I, along with Mrs. Simpson arrived.
“Here are the other two girls,” Wanda announced as we entered.
Betty, the beauty salon operator, was a slender, middle aged women with heavy makeup and a hair stylethat piled her curls atop her head. She was blonde, but I sensed that was not her natural hair color.
She had almost a burlesque look, but she had a warm smile in welcoming us.
“One of you was going to bring a picture for us to follow,” she said.
I had clipped a picture from Life Magazine that showed the three sisters, and pulled a folded copy from my purse.
“Thank you, dearie,” Betty said.
We occupied the three chairs in the salon for our permanents, and I found I’d be handled by Betty herself.
“So you’re going to be Patty?” she asked as I sat down.
“Well, you’re a lovely young lady. You should do OK.”
“Thank you,” I said, as she began working on my hair.
To make conversation, Betty asked: “So what you like to do, Terry?”
“Sing and dance.”
“And what you want to do when you grow up?”
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe go to college, be an engineer.”
I don’t know why I said that, since I didn’t know what an “engineer” did; I knew the job was not running a locomotive on the railroad, but that it was a good job and paid well.
“Girls can’t be engineers, honey.”
“No, why not?” I asked naively.
“Well they just aren’t. It’s for men. You could be a secretary or a nurse or maybe a teacher.”
“Oh?” I asked.
“That’s just the way the world is for girls, honey,” Betty continued, almost laughing as she spoke. “Don’t be a hairdresser, though dear. I wouldn’t want more competition. A pretty girl like you would get lots of business.”
We practiced and practiced on “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” so that even though Wanda seemed a little overwhelmed by the task we had mastered the harmony that was the Andrews Sisters’ trademark. (To see the Andrews Sisters sing "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, "Click here.">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pfCFU3Mqww>)
We went back to the Tower Theatre three times to see the Sisters perform the song in “Buck Privates,” the 1941 Abbott and Costello movie, after deciding that we’d try to recapture how the Sisters performed that song in the movie. Since Patty had the only solo in the piece, I would be called upon to sing that part, but I protested it wouldn’t be fair to Wanda and Serena.
“No go ahead, do it that way, Terry, you have the best voice of all of us,” Wanda said, with Serena nodding in agreement.
To recapture the film, we had to dress in plain khaki skirts and military shirts, with ties, a well as Army overseas caps. The shirts and ties were no problem, but the skirts had to be made from scratch and Mrs. Linkfuss offered to make them to fit each of us. Serena had an uncle who was a veteran of World War I, and he was able to find some old overseas caps for the girls.
“Now, we need somebody to play the trumpet,” Serena said, as we walked home from spending all Saturday afternoon at the theater, sitting through “Buck Privates” twice that day.
“I’ll ask Bert,” I said, not thinking before speaking, which was beginning to be a problem for me.
“Good, he’s a good trumpet player, the best in the school band,” Wanda said, who was playing clarinet in the band. “And I heard him playing ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ one day in practice. The teacher didn’t like it.”
“Was he good?” Serena asked.
“Oh, he was hot.”
My chance to ask Bert came the next day, when he called me unexpectedly and asked if I wanted to ride to Washington Park with him. We hadn’t seen each other for a week, and I had been mooning about the house all the time, waiting for his call. I began thinking he must have found another girl friend, and that made me sad. Only the fun I was having in planning the performance seemed to cheer me up.
“Bert,” I cooed over the phone like a love struck teen girl. “I’d love to.”
“I’ll be over about eleven this morning,” he said. “I gotta be back by two, since I gotta do my paper route.”
I was giddy, almost ready to scream in excitement over the phone that I loved him. But, instead I said, “I’ll pack us a lunch.”
“That’ll be nice, honey,” he said, his voice warm and soft.
It was a picture perfect day, with bright sun and only a few tiny fluffy white clouds moving slowly across the sky. And day for lovers, I felt.
I dressed in boy stuff, naturally, but I chose it carefully, wearing white shorts, saddle shoes with ankle socks, and a blue tee shirt. I knew that with my longish, now curly hair and slender body many people might mistake me for a girl. And, that’s how I wanted Bert to see me.
It was so much fun packing the lunch basket. I had seen girls do that for their lovers in movies, and I pictured Bert and I sitting together under a large elm tree, we had lots of them in our city, with my head in his lap as he stroked my hair, occasionally leaning down to kiss me.
To tell the truth, I was nervous about this outing. Maybe, I feared, Bert was going to tell me he found another girl, and he wanted to let me down easily. I thought the worst, since he had obviously been avoiding me since our incident at the lakefront. Also, I needed to ask him to play the trumpet for us, which meant I had to tell him I was performing as a girl in the 4th of July program. I didn’t know what he’d think about that.
“You look so nice,” he said, as we took off for the 20 block trip to the Park.
We sauntered slowly down the streets, gaining the attention of a few persons out on the sidewalks, including two old guys waiting for a bus while we had stopped to a red light. “You treat her nice now, young man,” one of the old guys said, winking in Bert’s direction.
As the light turned green, we began and I heard the other old guy say, “Hubba hubba,” followed by laughter and the first guy saying: “When she grows up, she’ll be a heart-breaker.”
I blushed, since it was obvious they meant me.
Still I was afraid to ask him about performing with our group, and it took me until after we finished our sandwiches that I told him about the coming performance.
“You never told me,” he said, before I could get to the request I had for him.
“Well, it’s supposed to be a secret, Bert,” I said, trying to defend myself.
“What’s the secret?”
“It’s supposed to be an all-girl dance group, and they needed me to fill out the troupe.”
It took a few minutes before he understood why I kept it secret from him. “OK, I guess it’s all right, but you should have told me. You know I’ll keep your secrets.”
“And I have something else to ask?”
“Can you play the trumpet for us for the performance? Wanda says you already know ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.’”
“What? Do I have to dress as a girl, too?”
“No,” I said, laughing. “You’d look silly as a girl.”
Then I explained his role would be to play the opening bugle call of the song, while Donna Mae accompanied us on the piano.
“I don’t have a lot of time to practice,” he said. “But, yes, I’d like to try.”
I never saw the girls more excited than when Bert showed up for the next rehearsal. I knew he was the object of the longing eyes of most of the girls, since he was so strong and handsome. They also thought that he still had no girl friend, so as you might expect they all acted silly around him.
I watched all this and sort of laughed to myself, while also getting those fits of jealousy that seem so natural. I couldn’t help myself. Such jealousy felt natural, at least to me. I don’t know about other boys.
Bert took it all in good humor, and later whispered to me as he left, “Don’t worry, you’re still my girl.”
Needless to say, all the girls and even Aunt Adele were excited about the “Bugle Boy” part of the program. We had worked out a routine that followed the movie version, with us the Andrews Sisters doing jitterbug steps while singing, and the others forming a circle around us following in the same steps. The setting of the dancing to swing music seemed to stir even greater effort on the part of all the girls.
The 4th of July dawned clear and a bit cool, particularly near the waters of Lake Michigan, which rarely warm up until August. That made it a perfect day for performing, as we knew the sun would soon bring its warming rays down upon the pageant.
All three of us girls dressed into our costumes about noon at Aunt Adele’s, where she provided us a lunch of hot dogs, cole slaw and lemonade. We were to leave at about 1 p.m., all crowding onto the No. 10 streetcar that would take us to the lakefront. I know I felt giddy with excitement as I put on the plain khaki skirt, the military blouse and tie. We were able to dress in our costumes even before we left on the trip.
Wanda, Serena and I gathered about the mirror, fussing with our hair and finding trouble placing hairpin to fit our overseas caps onto the curls of our hair.
“Help me, Terry,” Wanda pleaded.
It took me a second to pin hers on so that it fit. We both looked in the mirror, and smiled at each other. “I’m glad you’re my girl friend, Terry,” Wanda whispered.
“Help me, too, Terry,” Serena asked.
She appeared to have fit hers on perfectly, and I wondered why she wanted help. I checked it, however, and found I needed to do nothing.
“It’s fine, Serena,” I said.
“Thanks, Terry. I just wasn’t sure and I wanted you to check.”
I wasn’t sure why she asked me to check. Was there a growing jealousy developing between Wanda and Serena over my friendship? I’d seen that happen before where there were three friends. Neither one I knew by now saw me as a boy anymore, but as just one of their girl friends.
For that reason, Bert’s appearance in our rehearsals seemed to add some testiness between me and Wanda and Serena, too. He always seemed to hang around me during breaks in rehearsals and after we were done. “Let’s go to the sweet shop,” Wanda said several times, but I had to decline, telling her that Bert wanted me to go with him. I always changed into boy clothes when we went out, but of course with my hair and girly mannerisms I continued to be mistaken for a girl.
I know Bert was teased for his friendship with me; more than once I heard him called a “homo,” not because I was a girl, but because I was such a “sissy” boy. Bert was such a darling, however, and would look at the boy who issued such a remark, and say, “Wanna make something of it?”
Since it was well-known he could probably beat up anybody in our school, such taunts were few and far between. How sweet it was to be defended by a big, strong boy!
Wanda and Serena would pout together as I would go off with Bert. Oh well, what’s a girl to do?
I know it sounds like bragging, but the fact was that I stole the show, at least that portion of it that involved Adele’s Dance Group. If you listen to the Andrews Sisters since “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” you’ll see that Patti has the longest solo, as well as does the most dancing. I blush to tell you that I got carried away with the part and performed a few suggestive maneuvers. But I got lots of cheers in doing it, along with a few whistles and “hubba hubba’s.”
And I did the daintiest of curtseys as we took bows at the end.
Maybe I did all this to dazzle Bert. I was able to glance in his direction several times during the performance, and, with his part of playing the bugle completed, was watching in rapt attention, his eyes glued on me. That made me all the more excited to charm him. I may have only been 13, but it seemed I knew already how to excite men.
The great thing about the dance troupe was our sisterly togetherness, and it showed in the group’s grand finale, when we were all on stage doing a dance routine to the tune of Glenn Miller’s American Patrol, finishing with a smart salute to our boys fighting in World War II. I was given the honor to carry the flag on stage for the final routine, flanked by Wanda and Serena, all three of us still dressed in Army style skirts and outfits. No, I wasn’t named by auntie to do it, but I was chosen by the vote of all the girls. I couldn’t have been prouder on July 4, 1942 to stand in the bright afternoon sunshine on the stage looking out over a vast crowd on the shores of Lake Michigan.
As we marched off the stage to end our portion of the program, Bert rushed over to hug me. “You were so marvelous, Terry,” he said.
The other girls walked by, eyeing us with interest, and maybe some being envious of me being in the arms of this handsome boy.
Bert had to leave me then and gather up his trumpet, and I joined the girls, who were all gathered together downing Cokes, trying to cool off. We were all perspiring heavily from our performance in the sun.
“Terry, you pulled that off beautifully,” Judy McQuistion said. “Even your voice was great.”
“Thanks, Judy,” I said through sips of my Coke.
Then she leaned in, whispering, her tone becoming harsh, and said, “But you’re still nothing but a sissy boy. You have no business here.”
Before I could reply, she skipped off to join Bertha, and the two talked conspiratorially together, and I obviously was the topic of their conversation.
I wanted to cry. How could she do that in what should have been a moment of joy and triumph? I wanted to die. Is that what the girls thought of me? Were they only nice to me because my auntie was the teacher? I tried so hard to become one of them, to blend in with the troupe as just another girl. Am I just now someone to laugh at?
Why couldn’t I be a real girl?
My moment of dark despair, a moment when I tried mightily to hold back tears, was brought to an abrupt end, when I heard someone yell out, “Terry, Terry.”
The voice came from a tall, lanky boy. At first I didn’t recognize him, and as I wracked my brain, the boy approached and said, “Terry, don’t you remember me? I’m Matthew. You remember, we met at the ballet.”
“Oh yes, Matthew, of course I do,” I said, partly lying, since at first I didn’t remember.
It had been a few months, but I felt glad to see this tall boy with his long arms. He was sort of awkward, and a bit shy, I had recalled, but for some reason I thought he was cute. I remembered we did have a good time together that night.
“Well, you were a real hit today,” he began. “And you look so cute in that Army uniform.”
I did him a slight curtsey, and blushed.
“Really, you were great.”
“Thank you, Matthew. Nice seeing you again.”
“Well, I just wanted to say hi,” he said, turning to leave.
“Oh,” I said on impulse. “Where you going to school in fall?”
I really didn’t care where he was going to school, but I didn’t want him to leave just then, knowing the other girls must be talking about me. His appearance took me out of my funk.
“Just going into 10th Grade at West,” he said.
“Oh, I’m just entering 8th at Wisconsin Avenue.”
“I suppose you’re too young to go to the movies with me,” he said quickly.
“I just thought . . . oh well . . . I have thought about you since that night at the Pabst,” he said, his voice growing faint, as his face reddened. He was such a shy boy; that was so cute.
“You have?” I said, excitedly.
“Yes,” he said, nodding.
“Well, I’ll talk to auntie and then you can call me and we can talk about it. Ok?”
Our conversation was interrupted as Bert approached. He looked angry.
“What’s going on here? I saw you two talking. Who’s this?” Bert asked in a loud, demanding voice.
“Oh, Bert,” I said, confused by his angry tones.
“Hi,” Matthew interjected. “I’m Matthew. My mom and Miss Adele are friends.”
Bert looked at the tall boy, whose awkwardness seemed to dominate his presence.
“Well OK,” Bert said, his voice softening. “You just never know.”
“I have to go,” Matthew said. “Mom’s waiting for me. We came special to see you, Terry, and you were great. I’ll call you sometime.”
With that he was gone.
Later on the streetcar returning home, Bert and I sat in the back, away from the other girls. He spoke into my ear in a whisper.
“Terry, I don’t like you flirting with other boys,” he said.
“Why, he’s the son of auntie’s best friend,” I said. “He’s just being friendly.”
“I think he’s got more on his mind than friendship,” Bert said, his voice more firm again.
“OK,” I said, annoyed with this conversation from Bert.
“And why did he say he’ll call you sometime, Terry. I don’t like it.”
“I told you, Bert, he’s the son of my auntie’s best friend. We just talk, you know, about music and ballet and stuff.”
“I still don’t like it. Remember, you’re my girlfriend.”
“My girl friend,” he said again.
I confess that I was flattered by all this attention from two different boys, but I was also bothered by Bert’s reaction to Matthew. What did Bert have to feel defensive about? He was clearly more handsome and athletic than Matthew, who was so awkward and shy.
Besides, it finally dawned on me Bert knew that underneath all my girly looks I was still a boy. As far as I knew, Matthew thought I was just a girl.
Maybe Bert was a “homo,” which is what some boys in school already called him because of his friendship with me. Well, wouldn’t that make me a “homo?” It was all so confusing. I didn’t know much about “homos,” except it was boys kissing boys and it was bad.
I told Serena a few days later about Bert’s reaction to seeing me with Matthew after the 4th of July program.
“It’s like he wants me to be there for him whenever he wants it, Serena,” I said. Serena had joined me on a trip downtown to the Public Library and we had stopped at a White Castle for a 5c hamburger and Coke before returning home.
“Think he’s jealous?” she asked.
“Maybe, but I don’t know about what,” I said. “I hardly know Matthew. He’s nice and everything, but he’s 15. That’s old.”
“Boys want so much,” she said. Serena had been hanging around with another 8th Grade boy, but she broke it off. “He always wanted me to do what he wanted to do.”
“And now Bert calls me every day and asks me what I’m doing,” I said. “He even asked me yesterday whether ‘that boy’ had called.”
“Do you like Bert?” She asked suddenly.
I thought for a minute. I nodded “yes,” but wondered if I was being truthful. What’s a girl know anyway about such things?
“I don’t know what to tell you, dear,” Serena said. “Maybe Bert only wants to be sure the prettiest girl is always ‘his’ girl, and you, Terry, are easily the ‘prettiest.’”
I knew it would be no good to protest. I know when I looked in a mirror I honestly felt I was certainly a most feminine, pretty girl. If there was any boy inside me somewhere, it was hard to see.
I spent the rest of the summer dressed as a girl almost all the time, the exceptions being when auntie took me to the doctor and dentist and for church on Sunday. I fussed with my hair daily and worked over my makeup incessantly, doing what young teen girls normally do. Serena and I spent gobs of time together, looking at fashions in the Sears catalogue and whatever magazines we could find. Wanda was baby-sitting most of the summer, so we only saw her on weekends; we often took in Saturday afternoon matinees at the Tower Theater as a threesome.
My hair grew longer, its dirty blonde natural color becoming bleached by the sun, and growing golden. I loved to play with it, daintily twirling strands of hair between my fingers; sometimes, I tied my hair in pigtails, or Serena would come over, and we’d tie each other’s hair up. I read lots of books, too, including I think every Nancy Drew mystery. She was my hero, and I imagined myself solving mysterious crimes. That was really a stretch, though, since I’m not sure I could be as brave as Nancy Drew was.
Bert came over after supper several nights a week, riding his bike, and we’d sit on our screened front porch to avoid the mosquitoes. Sometimes, we’d take a walk to the sweet shop, and buy some candy or maybe even an ice cream cone. We kissed whenever we were alone, since auntie would have been mad if she ever saw me kiss him.
I never told him that Matthew called several times, and we talked each time for a long time; we seemed to have so much to say to each other. He wanted to take me downtown to a movie, too, but I had to refuse him telling him, “I already have a boy friend.”
“Oh,” he said, and I could hear the disappointment in his voice.
“I’m sorry, Matthew, but you understand, don’t you?”
“Yes, yes, Terry,” he hurried to assure me. “You’re so pretty I’d be surprised if you didn’t have a boy friend.”
“But I like you, Matt,” I said. “I really do. I’m sorry.”
“I like you too, Terry, and we seem to get along so well together.”
“We do,” I assured him.
“Well, I gotta go. Mom’s mad at me for talking so long,” he said, his voice suddenly thick with emotion.
“Bye Matt, I like you,” I said, hoping he’d not be too disappointed.
He hung up, and I got the feeling he was probably going to cry. I felt terrible. He was such a nice boy. In truth, I was a confused girl. I felt really loved Bert like I said I did during our cuddling and kissing sessions; I so wanted to feel his arms caressing me, his lips on mine. But sometimes, I realized, we never talked about much except our own feelings of love for each other. Now, there was Matthew, and it seemed I looked forward to his calls and we always had so much to say to each other. Of course, we had never so much as held hands, so I don’t know why I felt guilty about those conversations I had with him.
And then there were Wanda and Serena, my two bestest of friends. How I loved them! They had stuck by me through the whole year, and I found myself ignoring them to be with Bert.
How could a girl be so happy and so confused at the same time?
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