A remembrance of the summer before Jonathan, a tender, sweet boy who loved dolls, entered junior high school. He finds joy in being Julie among other girls who treat him as one of their own. He soon finds terrors that face little girls. An idyllic summer that ended too soon.
By Katherine Day
In the summer of 1941, when I turned 12, I found myself enjoying playing hopscotch or jacks with the girls, especially Wanda and Marilyn. Even though I was a boy, I played almost every day with the two girls. It was easily the sweetest, most lovely summer of my childhood. I felt so at ease with the girls, and soon they accepted me as one of their own. We giggled and talked together often, usually in one of our houses (often in one of the girls’ bedrooms) sharing our dreams about our futures.
What an idyllic summer! I forgot about trying keep up with the other boys, about figuring our how not to strike out in the street baseball games or about being worried I’d get beat up in a fight, since I was usually the weakest of the boys. Well, except for Gary Sumter, who was fat!
It was the summer of 1941, and Wanda, Marilyn and I had graduated in June from Miss Rennick’s 6th Grade class in Woodrow Wilson Grade School, located just four blocks away from our neighborhood street. In September, we were scheduled to go to the junior high school, more than a mile away.
Most of the dads worked in factories in the city, and it was a time when mothers — even those of the working class — stayed home to raise the children. My dad, however, had not been around for years, and I hardly knew him; I lived with my mother and my uncle Mike, her younger brother who worked construction. My mom was a county relief worker, passing out food to those on the dole.
Wanda had a Shirley Temple doll that she valued greatly, being the only girl in our neighborhood to own one. This was in the years just as the Great Depression was ending and all the kids’ dads or moms were strapped for cash, having been either out of work or stuck in low paid jobs, so not many girls had the Shirley Temple doll.
Wanda only had a few clothes for her doll, and we all dressed her over and over again, and set up a nice bed for her, using a pink handkerchief that Marilyn brought to cover her up like a blanket.
“Jonathan,” yelled my friend, Bobby, from the street, “Come and play ball. We need another fielder.”
I didn’t answer, ashamed to admit that I’d rather stay here with the girls.
“Let him stay with the girls,” another boy, Neal, said. “He can’t catch anyway.”
I was humiliated. I knew Neal was right, and that I was a lousy ball player. I can remember the taunts, “He throws like a girl.”
Wanda suggested we go to her house to play that day, and the three of us left the boys to their ballgame.
One day that summer, my mother took me to the local Five and Dime store, and while my mother was looking over goods at the sewing counter, I wandered to the toy department where my eyes lit upon a new doll gown that was displayed, especially fit for the Shirley Temple doll. I had 45 cents from my allowance saved up and this gown was 29 cents.
“You like that doll dress, little girl?” asked an older, grey-haired woman clerk.
“Me?” I said, looking up wondering if she was addressing me.
“Oh, you’re a boy! I’m sorry,” she said, blushing.
My mother was quick to the rescue. “Oh I need to get his hair cut, but you know how expensive that is.” And, I could see how the lady would think I was girl, since I was so slender and my legs and arms were flat and soft.
“What are you looking at?” mother asked me.
“This would look so pretty on Wanda’s Shirley Temple doll,” I said without thinking. “I’d love to buy it for her.”
“Don’t you wanna buy a ball?” my mother asked.
“We have so much fun playing with her doll. Let me buy this for her.”
“Jonathan, I wish you’d get interested in boy things,” she said. “Save your money.”
I fingered the dress a bit more, and let myself be dragged away from the counter without buying it. I felt like crying.
“I gotta get your haircut. Mr. Whittle at the drugstore told me I had a nice ‘daughter’ last week.”
Those moments have never left me. They were humiliating; after all, I was a boy. Why wasn’t I strong like other boys? Why couldn’t I run as fast, or throw a ball correctly? Why couldn’t I have muscles, like other boys? Finally, my mind would wander to the ultimate question: Why wasn’t I born a girl?
When Wanda and Marilyn and I got together, we played with the Shirley Temple doll a lot. I’m sure that many adults seeing us on the stoop of Marilyn’s house would mistake us for three little girls, since my hair stayed long that summer, with mom waiting for the start of school to spend the money for a haircut. We giggled together a lot, as I remember that summer. I liked the cute shorts and blouses they wore, and wished I could have worn them.
It was for my older cousin (Diane) to first dress me up as a girl. All of us cousins one day were outside playing "Kick the can," and I was not winning; in fact, the girl cousins were beating me. Finally, they started to see who was the strongest and we started holding up our biceps and making muscles show. I shied away from that, because I know I had no muscles that would show. "Come on," they urged me, but I just ran into the house and hid in my room, crying.
The next day, Diane and I were home alone, and she was baby-sitting for me. I was still too young to be alone. Diane was always nice to me, and never teased me.
"Let's have a little fun," she said.
"I'll dress as a boy," she said, "and you dress as a girl. You'll fit nicely into my clothes."
And we did; she had planned this all the time, because she brought over some clothes for me.
She gave them to me and told me to dress in the bedroom and then come out to show how I looked. She said she'd dress in boy's clothes in the meantime.
But Diane cheated. When I came out dressed, she was still in her girl clothes, but I didn't care. I had looked in the mirror and saw I had become a cute, very feminine girl of 12 years old.
How was I dressed? In pink, silky panties; they felt so good, and a peach colored party dress that flared out, ending at mid-thigh. The puffed sleeves exposed my slender, soft arms and the blouse was open at the neck, showing my smooth upper chest. My blonde hair was long enough, and Diane brushed it into a flowing neck length style. Applying lipstick and rouge and eyeliner, I grew so excited watching her.
"Look at yourself now," she commanded.
"Oh, is that me?" I saw a cute girl standing before me. There was not even a hint that underneath I still was a boy.
"Yes," she said. "You are a cute girl. So don't worry about others. You were really meant to be a girl . . . not a boy."
And so it happened that I finally found, at age 12, the real me: Call me Julie.
Sadly, I could only be Julie when Diane came around. It was our secret, and she made me feel so good about myself. The other days I tried hard to be a boy, but with my weak arms and pretty legs, I was always called a "sissy" or something worse. I dreamed that some day I would be Julie all the time.
I was able to be Julie only twice more that summer, since Diane had gotten a job at a cosmetics counter at the downtown Boston Store in July. It was good in one way, since Diane was able to bring me a whole makeup kit which she bought at a discount price, but it meant her days as my babysitter were over. Besides, in August, I turned 12 and my mom thought I was old enough to watch over myself.
“You’re such a good boy,” she had said. “I’m sure you won’t do anything wrong. You know the rules.”
She was worrying about me, I know, because I rarely went out and played with the boys in the neighborhood and spent so much time with the girls. She said that almost everyday: “You’re always in the house, and you’re not getting any sun. You’re so pale. You should go out and play, and run about with the boys.”
“I’m okay, mom,” I’d say. “I like doing what I’m doing.”
“I know, sweetie. You’re so good. And, I am so happy to have a son who will help me around the house. It helps me so much.”
Mom was right. She was working fulltime at the welfare office, and it was difficult and sometime unpleasant work and she came home tired. I had begun cooking and preparing supper for the two of us; I even baked cookies.
The truth was: I loved putting on an apron and a scarf around my head, and looking in the mirror and pretending I was a girl. With my long, blonde hair peaking out of the scarf, I truly looked female. I enjoyed getting supper ready and doing all that “women’s work.”
One day, I rummaged through my mom’s old clothes, stuff she had stored away in a cabinet, and found a summer, print dress that fit me. I felt so good putting it on; I was about 5’5” tall, as she was and we must have both weighed about the same. She was slender, too. My slender arms and legs look so naturally feminine in that dress.
No sooner had I put the dress on than the doorbell rang. A lightning shock of fear went through my body, as I peaked out the window to see who was there. What a relief! It was Diane.
I carefully opened the door for her, making sure no one else saw me. There was a puzzled look on her face, and then she realized the person standing before her was me, not some strange girl.
“Oh Jonathan,” she said, using my boy’s name. “You’re so real.”
She came in, carrying a bag from the Boston Store, and touched me, saying, “what a girl!”
I twirled about, as a model would, acting girly. Diane applauded, smiling broadly.
“Oh what have I done with you?”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “Don’t you think I look like a girl?”
“Oh honey, you do. You do. That’s the problem; what have I gotten you into? You’re boy, not a girl.”
“Don’t be mad,” I pleaded with her. “I feel like I should be a girl. I don’t like being a boy. I’m no good as a boy.”
“Oh, you’re mom wouldn’t like this,” she said, shaking her head.
“Let me be a girl, at least with you,” I said.
“Ok,” she said. “You’re only 12 now and I’m 17. If your mom knew I dressed you as a girl, she’d kill me.”
She continued: “I brought you this makeup kit as a gift. Can you hide it somewhere so your mom won’t find it?”
That afternoon, Diane showed me how to apply foundation, and eyeliner and lipstick; she also showed me how to clean myself up so as to hide any traces of the makeup before my mom came home. Soon, I was fully dressed and made up as a girl, and Diane gave a shout of joy: “Look at you. I could take you out right now, and no one would think you’re a boy underneath.”
I looked in the mirror. She was right: I saw a girl looking back at me. I knew that I was in all ways (except my body) a female.
As the summer wore on, I found myself imitating Wanda and Marilyn, tucking my legs in a very girlish manner as we played on the ground, walking in a mincing way and flinging my arms about lightly and gaily. I found some colorful shorts, a pink tee-shirt and wore sandals which, at first, I only wore around the house; with my slender body and longish hair, I looked into the mirror, hoping that I looked like a girl. I thought I did, but maybe that was wishful thinking.
As it turned out, I found myself being called a girl quite often, particularly when we three were together. The first time was during the 4th of July ceremonies at the park and I had hooked up with Wanda and Marilyn and we went to the ice cream tent, to be greeted by a robust lady serving the treats with the greeting, “What do you girls want?”
I blushed quickly and was about to say, “But, I’m not a girl,” when I decided not to say anything. I could see my two girl friends beginning to snicker, but they held off laughing out loud until we left the tent with our cones. Then they, burst out giggling, and soon I was over my shame, and was giggling along with them.
We skipped along to a quiet spot under a shade tree, sitting on the grass, my legs, again tucked very girlishly under me. And, I licked my cone daintily, being careful not to drip any on my shorts or shirt.
“Oh Jonathan,” said Wanda. “Don’t worry about it. She won’t remember you.”
“But, you do look kinda like a girl,” said Marilyn.
I blushed some more, and was about to protest. But I said nothing for a minute. Was I humiliated? Or, I wondered, did I like the idea?
As this warm summer of 1941 continued, I awoke every morning eager to get myself dressed and out of the house; it was such a change from the previous summer when I had been afraid to go out and play and only had boys to play with. I had been teased, been always chosen last in games and even beaten up.
Even my mother commented: “I’m so happy you’ve found some friends, but do you only play with Wanda and Marilyn?”
I remember blushing again and muttering something on the order of: “Well, they’re nice.”
“I do wish you’d find some boys you liked,” she said.
It was apparent she was concerned. I was now 12 years old and headed for puberty; and, the girls themselves would soon age to the point when the sight of boy-girl playmates would raise some eyebrows.
“Oh but mom, we don’t do nothing bad,” I protested. And, so far, that was the truth.
Before I left, I looked in the mirror, brushing my long hair from my face, smoothing it back with care, and with light girlish gestures. I tilted my head coyly, smiling at the pretty image looking back at me. I wore a light blue boy’s shirt and dark blue shorts, along with white short socks and tennis shoes.
I saw my mother looking at me critically and saying: “Next time I’m off, you’re getting a haircut.”
And, I was off to Wanda’s house, glad to get away from my mother’s worried looks. I knew she was correct; I was a boy, and should begin acting like one. Yet, I was becoming more and more girlish and I was enjoying it. But, also I was being treated as an outcast in the neighborhood, as a weirdo, a sissy and a “girl,” something no self-respecting boy should endure.
Wanda and Marilyn, however, didn’t seem to mind. They, in fact, seemed to want to encourage me, to support my girlish ways.
“We got something for you,” Marilyn said as I arrived. “Look here.”
Both girls began giggling drawing me to wonder what was going on. “Come on, into my bedroom,” said Wanda.
Wanda’s bedroom was the prettiest room I ever saw. Her mother had decorated it in pinks and light blues; she had a bed that was covered with a white full bed spread, with chic orange trimming. Lying on the bed was a girl’s dress and panties and bra.
“That’s for you,” Wanda said. “I think it’ll fit. It’s my sister’s and she’s off to summer camp this week.”
Both girls giggled a bit more, and I detected a devilish tone to the laugh. Were they teasing me, too? Making fun of me?
“Go on,” said Wanda. “Put it on.”
“People have been calling us ‘girls’ all summer,” Marilyn added. “And, we thought we should be three girl friends. We have so much fun together.”
“I guess so,” I said. “But I can’t do this, wear a dress. I’ll be teased even more.”
“No one will know,” Wanda argued. “We’ll go downtown and to the park. No one will know.”
“Yeah, everyone will think we’re just girl friends. Come on,” Marilyn pleaded.
“No . . . no . . . no,” I protested. “This is too weird. Me? A girl?”
“You wanna play with us, don’t you? Then you’ll obey me,” Wanda said.
She quickly grabbed my right arm, twirling me around before I could protest, and bent my arm backward. She twisted my arm, applying more and more pressure. I tried to fight back, but she was too strong and my left arm only flayed harmlessly in the air. I realized, with a terrible shame, that I was too weak to resist and that this 12-year-old girl was stronger than I was.
The girls left the room after ordering me to put on the clothes; they told me to get dressed as best I could, and then they would put on the finishing touches. I held the dress up, and posed with it before the mirror. It was adorable, even prettier than either of the two girls had on. The material was white chiffon, layered with a fluffy skirt, ending at the mid-thigh. There was a v-bodice and short fluffy sleeves. Pink lace trimmed the skirt and sleeves and bodice, with a delightful pink and turquoise rose stitched at the heart.
They had left a bra, with some white stockings and cotton panties with a design of little girls. I stripped down, viewing my slender, smooth and soft body in the mirror and marveling at how much of a girl I really must look like.
After I dressed as best I could, slipping some tissues into the cups of the bra, I found myself looking at a pretty girl in the mirror, and I announced loudly to Wanda and Marilyn: “Ok, I’m ready.”
“Oh my God,” they both gushed giggling. They rushed up and hugged me, kissing me with glee.
“Now, don’t you feel just like a girl?” Wanda asked.
“Yeah, I guess. It’s kinda weird.”
“Oh, you can be Julie,” ventured Marilyn. “We can be three girl friends.”
I was scared stiff at first, thinking about venturing out in girls clothes. I was so worried I’d be seen as a girl by some of the boys in the neighborhood, and their harassing would get even more hurtful.
“Let’s go downtown,” Marilyn suggested. “We can walk around, stop for a malt or something.”
I nodded that would be a good idea, since we’d not likely to meet anyone there.
Thankfully, we walked the two long blocks to the streetcar stop without any notice, and tried to enter at the child’s rate, but the motorman said: “You girls all look 12 years old to me. That’s a dime.”
Wanda, being a bit mischievous, pointed at me, and said, “Julie, here, is only 11.”
Why did she draw such attention to me? I as mortified; surely the motorman would discover I was a boy.
“Well, she looks younger. OK, honey, you get on for a nickel.”
We pranced back to the rear of the car, with Marianna and Wanda giggling almost uncontrollably. “Oh Julie’s younger,” Marilyn mimicked her friend.
“The motorman thinks you’re cute girl, Julie,” Wanda continued, and they both laughed
Oh this was becoming embarrassing. Was I really so girlish? How awful? I was a boy, I wanted to protest, but I was being accepted as a girl. Yet, I had to admit I was feeling good being told how pretty I was, even if it was as a girl. I never received any praise about being a good looking boy, or a muscular boy, which, of course, I wasn’t. So I giggled along with them, exaggerating my girlish mannerisms, brushing my long hair with a light handedness that expressed femininity.
Some of the adult passengers looked at us giggling away, most of them bemused and enjoying it. An older lady across the aisle, wearing a fashionable suit and chic hat, turned to us and said: “How sweet to see three pretty girls having some fun. I can remember going downtown to shop, too, when I was your age.”
We all giggled a bit, and she continued: “You watch out now; you know how boys act when they see girls like you three.”
We blushed, especially me, and I surprised everyone, including myself, by answering, “We stick together; we’ll be all right.”
We all three linked arms, and Wanda echoed, “Yes, we three girls will look out for each other.”
The three of us went into the F. W. Woolworth store on the Main Street. The variety store was always a favorite for kids, with toys as cheap as 10 cents, dolls for less than a dollar, school notebooks for a nickel and pencils for two cents apiece.
“Let’s look at the dolls,” I said gaily, breaking away from the other two and heading into the doll section.
“Hey Julie, not so fast,” said Wanda. “I wanted to look at the books. I wanna see if they’re any more Nancy Drew books.”
“OK,” I said. “I’ll be looking at the doll dresses. See if there’s anything new.”
“We’ll be here,” Marilyn said, choosing to stay with Wanda.
The store really didn’t have too much to see in the doll section; it consisted of about three small bins, set on the counter and some dresses and outfits hanging on the wall behind. All the doll clothes in those days were for baby girl or young girl dolls, pink and white and maybe peach colored. There were no “Barbie” dolls, such as the popular girl model dolls of later years.
I had always wanted a Shirley Temple doll; it was too expensive and few girls in our neighborhood had them. I loved the cute little dresses and skirts that the Shirley Temple doll could wear.
“Oh, this is so cute,” I said out loud, but to myself, as I picked up a particularly adorable fluffy dress. It was 49 cents, far too much for my budget.
“I like that one, too,” said a voice behind me. It was a tiny, almost squeaky voice and I turned to see a girl shorter than me, but apparently about my same age.
“I love the frills on this one,” I said in my naturally high voice.
“You still play with dolls, too?” she asked suddenly.
I blushed, afraid to admit that I “still” did, like it was wrong for a girl about to enter junior high to still be playing with dolls. And, of course, it was wrong for a boy of any age to be playing with dolls, but it seemed that suddenly I was thinking like a girl. It was coming so naturally.
“My mom’s been telling me that I’m too old to be playing with dolls,” she confessed before I could answer.
“Mine, too . . . doesn’t like me playing with dolls,” I said truthfully, although the reason was because I was a boy, not that I was too old.
We both rummaged through the piles of doll clothes, sharing comments about the various clothes. I was so happy to be with a girl who shared my interest. I had learned to use mom’s sewing machine and had, without mom looking, even made a dress for Wanda’s doll, which I still had hidden in my room, afraid to show Wanda.
“I’m Joyce,” she said after we exhausted the clothes. “I’m going to Whittier School in fall, in junior high school.”
“Oh hi, I’m Jon . . .er . . . Julie. I’m going to Webster junior high. Not now. In September.”
“You’re nice,” she said.
“Oh, you too.”
Joyce was round-faced, and still had the “little girl” look about her, a sweetness that comes from a girl that is still slow to maturing. She had a pale softness, light brown straight hair and the brightest blue eyes I had ever seen. Though she looked like a girl who was 8, instead of 11 or 12, I could see that she had the fragileness that would be so pretty and feminine as she grew up.
“I love your dress,” she told me, her finger running down my sleeve.
“It’s my girl friend’s older sister’s dress. She grew out of it.”
“Oh it fits you nicely, and you’re so pretty.”
I know I blushed and then I heard a voice saying: “Joyce, I knew I’d find you here.”
It came from a short, pudgy woman with smiling face.
“Oh mother,” said Joyce. “I was just looking.”
“I know. I know. But you’re getting too old for dolls.” She looked at me with a quizzical expression, as if she thought either I was too old for dolls, too, or that she had figured out I was a boy who shouldn’t be in the doll section, either.
“Well, come on, then, we have to go,” her mother said.
As she dragged Joyce away by the hand, Joyce resisted, saying: “Nice meeting you, Julie.”
I waved at her saying, “Bye, Joyce.”
Her mother stopped momentarily, asking: “Joyce, do you know this pretty girl?”
“No, we just met.”
I gave her mom a dainty wave. I was now acting the role of a girl and totally loving it.
“She’s going to Webster in September. We’re in same grade,” Joyce told her mother.
“Are you with your mother, dear?” she asked.
“No with some friends. We came down on the No. 10 streetcar.”
“Mommie,” said Joyce. “I like Julie. Can she come and play sometime?”
I brightened up. It would be so much fun to play with this dainty, sweet girl. She was so feminine and I was thinking we’d be doing all sorts of girlish things.
“Oh Joyce, how do you know she’d like to?” Her mother asked.
“It would be fun,” I suggested, suddenly realizing she wouldn’t want me there as a boy.
“But Joyce, since Julie’s going to Webster she must live on the west side, and we live on the east side.”
“She could take the streetcar,” Joyce quickly volunteered.
Joyce pondered for a minute, while Joyce and I looked at each other, smiling with expectation over meeting again. Joyce was so nice, and I liked it that she knew me only as a girl.
“Tell you what, Julie. I’m giving you our phone number; and if you want to talk with Joyce sometime, you may call her and you two can talk for a few minutes. Only a few minutes, because we have a party line. And, if I talk with your mother, and she and I are both OK with it, then you can come visit sometime. OK?”
“Oh mom, I love you,” Joyce said, hugging her mom.
“Well, Julie seems like a nice girl.”
Joyce broke away from her mother, and came to me and we hugged each other. They left, Joyce turning back and waving with a smile as she left.
I felt so good at that moment, and was hardly aware that my penis had grown hard and was beginning to hurt a bit. As the pain grew, I was afraid I would wet my panties, another reminder that I was not the girl I seemed to be. It was a troubling thought. I so enjoyed my girlish moments today, but I was still a boy.
Suddenly, I realized, I had to find Wanda and Marilyn. I was so happy now, after my friendship with Joyce seemed to blossom, that I feared I might have skipped gaily through the store, my arms flinging about in a most light fashion.
But Wanda and Marilyn weren’t in the book area; they weren’t anywhere in the store, I soon learned after going up and down the aisles. I found a clerk standing near the book and stationary section, a tall, thin, graying woman, who looked at me, and said: “May I help you, little girl?”
“Did you see my two friends? They were here at the books.”
“What did they look like?” She said, smiling. She seemed nice.
“Well,” I hesitated. “They were girls, like me. Ah, I mean like my age, only a little taller.”
“Oh those, two,” she said. “They went looking for you, and then left, said they’d be at the ice cream shop.”
“Oh thanks.” I said, leaving abruptly.
“You be careful, little girl,” she said after me. “There’s a gang of boys hanging around out there.”
“Oh,” I stopped in my tracks. “I’ll be careful.”
“A girl like you shouldn’t be here alone,” she said, as I turned and left the store, now worried about what I’d find outside.
I looked both left and right, trying to see if there were any gangs about, but all I saw were shoppers on the main street. Downtown streets in those days were always crowded, just as the shopping malls later in the Century would be during holiday shopping seasons. I knew there was an ice cream shop to the right, toward the river, and I wandered alone onto the busy downtown street. Now, I was indeed a frightened little girl, alone in a big city. I knew now that everyone saw me as a fragile and weak girl, prey for whatever mischief might be coming. I knew, too, that if I was ever found out to really be a boy, I’d be in more trouble, possibly beaten up and ridiculed.
I walked along, trying to speed up, using my short, quick girlish steps, but always being blocked by slower shoppers and window-viewers. I’d dodge to the right or to the left and be blocked suddenly by another pair of shoppers. It dawned on me quickly that I was the only little girl on the street all by herself, not accompanied by friends or an adult, and this frightened me.
Oh, I was so scared. For all to see now, I was a little girl, a 12-year-old girl in a pretty frilly dress. People were treating me as a girl, a cute girl with a soft tender body. And it’s OK for a girl to be scared; as a boy, I couldn’t be scared, since boys were supposed to be brave and strong. I was neither; I was weak and, I’m sure, cowardly. But, it’s OK, since I’m a girl.
People had jammed the sidewalk, waiting in line to get tickets for the movie, “Fantasia,” which was coming out. I had wanted to see that, but the boys had said it was a movie for sissies, or girls.
I found my way suddenly blocked by some other girls about my age and their parents, and I accidentally bumped into the mother of one of them, a buxom, large woman in a print dress. She stopped me: “Take it slow, little girl.”
“Oh,” I said meekly. “I’m sorry.”
As I was let through the line, I overheard one of the girls say, “She’s all alone.”
“And she’s so pretty,” said her friend.
“I’d never let her go downtown by herself,” said the mother. And, I ran off through the crowd.
I dodged my way about a half block further, running into people and getting comments, like “Watch where you’re going, little girl” and “not so fast, girl.” It was now so easy for me to feel I was the girl everyone else saw scurrying down the street, her hair flowing in the summer breeze and her thin legs extending down from beneath the frills of the pink little girl’s dress to the black patent leather Mary Janes on my feet.
I was in my ecstasy now as a girl, really not paying much attention to the crowd on the streets. I was still afraid, but frightened as a girl would be, and somehow that seemed OK to me.
Suddenly I ran smack into a huge man in blue. He was a police officer, and he looked at me strangely; I thought he must have realized I was a boy, but he stopped me cold, putting his hands on my arms, saying: “Whoa there young lady? Not so fast.”
I mumbled a garbled, “sorry,” and tried to move on, but he held on to me.
“Are you all by yourself?” he asked.
“No,” I said, my voice quivering, with tears forming in my eyes.
“Your mother with you?”
“No, my girl friends. Supposed to meet them at the ice cream shop.”
“Ok then,” he said releasing me. “A young girl like you shouldn’t be here alone. Go along now.”
“Thank you officer,” I said, giving him a coy little smile.
“Be careful,” he said as I continued on my way.
I smiled to myself then, realizing I had actually flirted with him. I must really be a girl.
But, my reverie ended quickly as I reached the ice cream shop and didn’t find my friends there. I hung around for a few minutes, finally asking a clerk if they had seen Marilyn and Wanda. He was a teen boy, and he seemed to want to help me very much. He was very attentive. After I described them, he said, “No.” He added there was another ice cream shop back from where I had come from, beyond the store where we had been shopping. It dawned on me I had probably turned the wrong way.
As I turned to leave, the boy, who was round-faced and sort of chubby, asked me where I went to school. I told him I was going into 7th Grade, and I spoke very timidly and shyly to him.
“Oh, that’s nice,” he said. “I’m going into 10th this fall.”
I gave him a little tilt of my head, using my right hand to brush my hair in a girly fashion, as if I were flirting with him, too. It was so great seeing an older boy take an interest in me. I realized I was becoming a terrible flirt.
“The boss isn’t here now,” he said. “Let me treat you to a cone.”
“You don’t have to,” I said.
“Really, it’s ok. What flavor you want?”
“You mean it?”
He said he did and I told him, “Strawberry.”
I really was so hungry from my morning of shopping and running I took the cone eagerly from his pudgy hands.
“My name is Donald, Donald Switzer,” he announced as he gave me the cone.
“Thank you,” I said, taking the cone, and replying, “I’m Julie.”
The pudgy boy hesitated a bit, like he was not sure what to say. It was obvious he was a boy with very little experience talking with girls, and didn’t know quite how to do it. I began licking my cone, and turned to go, but he suddenly blurted: “Nice to meet you.”
“Me too,” I said, turning back and giving him a flirty tilt of my head.
“Julie . . . errrrr … Julie . . . come back again. If I’m alone, I can treat you again.”
“Really,” I said licking somewhat daintily. I was kind of a fussy eater, and was attacking my cone one tiny lick at a time, careful not to drip on my dress.
“Bye, Donald,” I said, walking out of the store, my short steps exaggerating, I’m sure, the sway of my hips. I was certain Donald watched my every step.
I was smiling to myself now; I was being “hit upon.” A boy became all flustered because he was flirting with what he thought was a girl. Obviously, he must have felt I was a very pretty girl, and, I wondered, wasn’t he a bit old to hit on a 12-year-old girl? And, what was I to do about it?
Back onto the sidewalk again, heading in the other direction, I suddenly felt the fear in the realization that I was all alone, a slender girl on a big city street subject to all sorts of mischief that can come in a large city. My mother would be furious to know I was here alone, and even more furious to learn I was here as a weak defenseless girl.
Everyone seemed so big to me suddenly; they seemed to be surrounding me. I was breathless with fear, almost running, and taking short strides in my Mary Janes. No one seemed to be bothered about me, but I was scared almost to tears. Oh, I thought to myself, wondering why I wasn’t a strong fearless boy, instead of such a frightened weakling.
I went two blocks without incident and was beginning to settle my fears down, when I saw a group of teenaged boys, gathered at the opening of an alley. Oh, they looked tough and nasty to me, not at all like the boys I went to school with. I figured to scoot by them, edging to the outer sidewalk, but the oncoming shoppers forced me right into their midst.
Suddenly I came face to face with a tall, husky lad in a dirty grey tee shirt and greased down hair, in the style of the bad boys of the era. He forced me to stop, and I tried to dodge him, but he moved to halt my progress.
“You’re in my way,” he said, challenging me.
I was too scared to reply, just tried to move to the side, but he moved, too, blocking me again.
“Where you going, little girl?” he said. It was so menacing, or at least I thought it was.
“Just down the block,” I managed to say.
“Just down the block, eh?”
“Yes,” I mumbled weakly.
Muscles just bulged out his tee shirt, and he grabbed my arms, pulling me into the alley, he friends following and gathering around me. I bowed my head, trying not to cry, knowing that would make matter worse.
“Let’s see what’s in her purse,” one of the others said.
The first boy grabbed it, and I let it go without a struggle. I couldn’t hold back, and burst out crying, sobbing in m high girly voice.
“Don’t,” I managed to cry through my tears.
“There’s only a dime and nickel,” said the second boy.
“Well that’s better than nothing,” said another boy.
“Don’t,” I said. “That’s my carfare home.”
I started crying louder, and the first boy yelled: “Shut up. We’ll take what we want.”
They hand pulled out my hanky and lipstick and comb, just the items a little girl would have.
The first boy now had me in his arms, and we had moved deeper into the alley. He tried to kiss me, and I was so repelled by the sweaty smell of his armpits and his breath that had an odor of bubblegum, I tried to turn my head away, now crying, my face wet with tears.
“Kiss me, you bitch.”
I was so scared now, I began to lift my head to him, worried that they might soon find out I was actually a boy. Tears continued to stream down my face; I was so weak and defenseless.
His lips met mine; they felt hard and rough; it seemed so foul. I had never really kissed anyone before; having only had the kisses a parent or relative would have, light and passing. But this kiss was accompanied by a horrid taste of bubble gum, cigarettes and decaying food. All I could think in my terror was: Doesn’t this kid ever wash his teeth?
He was too strong, and he held me too tightly. I tried turning my head to avoid his lips, and I could hear the other boys standing around, laughing and jeering, making my humiliation complete. But I couldn’t avoid his lips, and I was too weak to break away from this terrifying ugly, smelling boy.
He pressed down hard now on my lips, and I began to lessen my resistances, becoming too tired and frightened to fight back. How does a girl fight back in this situation? What can a sissy boy do?
Oh, I was so scared. His lips were pressing mine to part and his tongue was entering my mouth. I wanted to vomit; it was so gross. But the tongue entered. In the meantime, his hands were caressing my slender back, beginning to probe into my bra, and I was afraid he’d find the socks Wanda had placed inside them to fill out my bosom.
The tongue was inside my mouth now, his awful saliva mingling with mine, his tongue probing and waggling around mine. I was about to gag; I wanted to scream, but couldn’t.
What possibly can a weak girl do in the arms of such a monster? Suddenly, I got an idea.
I bit down on his tongue, hard. I held my teeth on his tongue for what seemed minutes, but I was sure it was only a second.
He screeched a blood-curdling yell, and pulled his tongue out of his mouth, momentarily loosening his hold on me, and I kneed him in the crotch, and he doubled up in pain.
The others were stunned, and I broke out of the boy’s hold and darted to the alley exit. The surprise gave me brief head start, but I knew they’d catch me easily, because I was such a slow runner. “He runs like a girl,” was a common taunt I heard.
Yet, I took off like a dart, probably running faster than I ever had in my life, and headed the 100 feet or so toward the sidewalk at the end of the alley.
“Get her. Get the bitch,” yelled the boy who had tried to kiss me between his screams, and the boys were after me.
They were gaining, but just then I saw a huge figure in blue enter the alley. It was the police officer I had seen before. I couldn’t help but run right into him, and he grabbed, holding on.
“Whoa!” he said.
He suddenly realized I was running from the boys, and he pushed me behind his body, and yelled: “Hold on there boys.”
The boys stopped dead in their tracks, and he managed to get his whistle out, blowing it loudly, hoping to attract another officer, I guessed.
“You stay right here,” he ordered me. He pushed me to the side, and started after the boys. The policeman was tall and huge, and not an ounce of fat on him, and within a few steps he had collared one of the boys, bringing him back to where I stood.
I was beginning to cry again. I had never been so frightened in my life, and brought my forearms to hide my face and my tears.
“Now, little girl,” the officer began. “Were these boys bothering you?”
My sobs made it impossible for me to answer, so I just nodded my head up and down, signifying “Yes.”
The commotion had brought a crowd of shoppers, who were soon surrounding the police officer, me and the boy he held struggling in his big mitts.
“Officer,” someone yelled. It was a woman’s voice. “I saw those boys grab her off the sidewalk.”
“Yes,” said another, “and she’s such a tiny little thing.”
“Ok,” the officer said. “Anybody who saw anything, stay with me. The rest of you move away. There’s nothing to see.”
The officer continued to hold the boy; he was a round-faced lad, a bit chubby, but he had tight-fitting pants and a dirty blue work shirt on; he was blonde and wore glasses. I didn’t remember him doing anything to hurt me, but he was with the gang. He was probably the slowest in the group, so he was unlucky enough to get caught.
Soon a squad car pulled up, and two officers got out, and began to assist, one of them taking the boy over to the squad, the other beginning to talk to the two witnesses who had identified themselves.
“Now, little girl, what are we going to do with you?” said the officer who saved me.
“Thank you, Mr. Policeman,” I said in a tiny voice, almost too scared to talk.
It finally dawned on me that the police were in the belief that I was a girl who was attacked by the boys. What was I to do? They would ask me questions, and what would I say? The questions began immediately; the officer kneeled down in front of me so that our faces were now on the same level. He held a narrow notebook and a pencil, ready to take notes.
“What’s your name and address, dear?” he asked.
“Ah . . . ah . . . It’s a . . . Julie. Julie Gardner.”
“And your address?”
I hesitated. Should I give my home address?
“Come girl, you’re safe now. Tell me your address.”
I blurted out: “673 N. 33rd St.”
That was my cousin Diane’s house. I could trust her; she and Marilyn and Wanda were the only ones who knew about Julie.
“What are you doing downtown by yourself?” he then asked.
I explained how I got separated from my two girl friends; he asked me if my parents knew where I was. I said I didn’t have a dad, but that mom didn’t know I’d gone downtown with Marilyn and Wanda and that she’d be mad. I started to cry again. I didn’t know if the crying was because I was still in shock over the attack by the boys, or in fear that they’d find out I was really a boy.
“Were you hurt?” he asked.
“I don’t think so,” I said in a sniveling voice.
“Did they try to do anything naughty to you?”
I wasn’t sure what he meant, but I answered: “One boy tried kissing me, but I bit him in the tongue.”
“Yes, and hard, too. He screamed and that’s how I escaped.”
“That was smart. You’re a smart girl, except you shouldn’t be downtown alone.”
In answer to a question, I said the boy they had in custody was with the group, but did not touch me in anyway, that it was two other boys.
Soon another car came into the alley; it was obviously a police car though it had no markings or light on top. A man in a suit and a woman, dressed in a police type uniform got out.
“She’s over here,” the police officer yelled to the two newcomers.
“Julie,” the officer said to me, still kneeling before me. “I’m turning you over to Mrs. Cooney. She’s what we call a police matron, and she helps out women and girls in trouble. She’s real nice.”
“Oh I don’t need any help. I just need to get my purse so I can go home. My money’s there . . . for the carfare.”
“Where’s the purse?” he asked.
“My purse! It’s gone. I don’t have any money.”
“Those boys must have taken it.”
Mrs. Cooney was a tall woman, with square shoulders and a very assertive manner. She had short-cropped blond hair, brushed back, and she looked formidable in her matron’s uniform.
Yet, she approached me slowly, a softer, kinder look seeming to beam from her broad face. “Now, dear,” she said. “What’s your name?”
She took my hand in hers; my hand felt so tiny in her large hand, and she gently patted it with her other hand.
I told her my name was Julie and that I was OK, and didn’t need any help now. But, Mrs. Cooney said I was in her charge now, and she would have to be sure I was OK, to see if I needed to go to the hospital.
I couldn’t go to the hospital; they’d discover I was a boy! They had led me to a bench that was in front of a store, and I sat there, my legs together and my hands held primly in my lap. I was sobbing, and the matron had found a clean handkerchief and she dabbed at the tears running down my cheeks. I’m sure they only saw me as a girl; I felt weak and tiny now, my feminine person having taken over me in this moment of terror.
“I’m OK,” I said through my tears. “I don’t need a hospital.”
“Honey, you’ve been through an awful experience. Go ahead and cry. It’s OK.”
“Thank you. You’re nice.” My sobs slowly ended.
The matron’s partner, a slender man in a suit, was probably a detective. He came to me and asked me lots of questions: my name, age, date of birth, address, my school and grade, and how come I was alone. They also asked what happened, and if I could describe the boys who attacked me. Finally, they pointed to the fat boy who the officer had caught, and asked me if I recognized him at the scene.
I told the truth about everything, except for my name. This time I gave my real home address, not Diane’s. I told them I was “Julie,” and the officer took everything down in his notebook, not questioning for a minute that I was a little girl.
“That’s fine, little girl,” he said kindly. “But, you’re not sure about the boy standing over there.”
The officer pointed to the fat boy, and I could only say: “I thought so.” It had happened so fast, I was unable be too sure about anything.
He then drew the matron away and the two talked about something, looking at me a couple of times, and then nodding in agreement. Had they figured out I was a boy, I wondered with fear? Then they both walked back, and asked me for my mother’s phone number.
“Why do you need that?” I asked.
“Honey, we want to make sure she’s home. We’re taking you home.”
“Oh, don’t. Don’t.”
I started to cry again.
“She’ll be mad at me,” I sobbed.
“Oh, for going downtown without her permission?”
“You better give it to me,” the officer said firmly.
“Cherry 1101.” I mumbled the number out.
“I’ll go to the call box, and call her now.”
“No,” I said firmly. “Please.”
The terror in my eyes must have given them pause. The matron then whispered something to the male officer, and he walked away, standing out of earshot.
“Now, honey,” said the matron, holding my hands gently. “You better tell me what’s bothering you.”
I began to cry again, but I came to feel this police matron was a kind person, someone I could confide in.
“My name’s Jon.”
She paused for a minute. A quizzical look on her face soon passed, and she smiled, saying:
“You’re not Julie, are you?”
“And, you’re really a boy?”
I began to cry, but I nodded “yes.”
“Is everything else you told us true?” she asked.
I then related in more detail how I happened to be dressed as a pretty little girl, how I came downtown with Wanda and Marilyn and how we became separated.
“My mom doesn’t know I dressed like a girl. That was just an idea of the other girls. We’ve been having fun all summer pretending we’re all girl friends. They’re my best friends.”
The police matron nodded her head. “Honey,” she said, still addressing me like I was a little girl, “I think you’re very special. We’ll get you home, and I’ll talk with your mother.”
She left me, after instructing a uniformed officer to sit next to me. I saw her talking with the other officer, and they kept nodding, with the tall detective, looking strangely at me. I think he said something like, “How disgusting,” if I read his lips right. He shook his head. Obviously he was upset with the fact that I was a boy, and was running around pretending to be a girl.
The matron argued with him; finally, I saw the tall detective throw up his hands and walk away. She said she had to go to the call box on the corner; the police in those days did not have mobile phones, and when they needed to make a phone call they’d use blue call boxes that were stationed at corners throughout the city. She took my hand and led me to the call box with her.
I began to shiver, wondering what she’d tell my mother. I was beginning to cry a lot, and the thought came that I must really be a girl if I had to cry so often. The matron comforted me with words like, “Now, little girl, don’t cry. Everything’ll be OK.” “We’ll get you home safe, honey.” “I’ll explain everything to your mom.”
The matron used a key to open the blue call box, and then called into a police operator who connected her to my mother’s phone. I was praying she wouldn’t be home.
“Mrs. Gardner, I’m matron Cooney of the Police Department.”
There was a pause.
“We have your son Jonathan here downtown. . . . No, he’s all right. . . . You’ll be home for a while. . . . OK . . . . We’ll be bringing him home shortly. I’d like to talk to you. . . . No, he didn’t do anything wrong. . . . I’ll explain when we get there. . . . Yes. . . . Oh, he’s a good boy, Mrs. Gardner.”
She hung up the phone and closed the box, taking my hand and leading me to a car; it was a police car, but without markings.
She put me in the back seat, locking me in, and she and the tall detective got in the front seat, with the male officer driving.
“You didn’t tell mom how I was dressed?” I said.
“No, she’ll see you soon enough.”
I was about to cry again. This was going to be awful; my mother has been so mad at me for being interested in girls’ stuff. This will be the last straw.
“Can’t you take me to my cousin Diane’s?” I asked suddenly.
“Why there?” The matron asked.
I hesitated. “Well, she knows about Julie.”
“No honey. You’re going home to your mother.”
I sat quietly the rest of the way home, sit straight, as I’d seen little girls do, my hands folded primly in front of me.
I was so scared the neighbors would see me come home in a police car, even though this one was unmarked. We stopped in front of our house and the trip inside was unseen, I felt. That was one reprieve.
“My god, what is this?” my mother roared when we entered the house.
The matron quickly came between me and my mother, and said quietly, calmly, “Meet Julie, your new daughter.”
“Jonathan, what does this mean? You know how upset I’d be about this.”
“Mrs. Garnder, please,” Mrs. Cooney said. “He’s just being a boy. He’s just a kid, and his two friends thought they’d have some fun. He’s done nothing wrong.”
“Yes, he has,” my mother screamed now. I’d never seen her so mad.
“First of all, he went downtown without asking me. And, he almost got beat up. And, then, he’s dressing like a girl. I’m fed up with his girly stuff. His playing with dolls and those two other girls. He’s a boy, for God’s sake.”
“Mrs. Gardner, let’s sit down and talk about this.” The matron said. “Maybe Jonathan might like to go and change clothes and clean himself up, while you and I talk.”
My mother glared at me, and finally said: “Go on, and come back as a boy. You hear me?”
I nodded, red-faced now and frightened. My joy at being a girl for a day now was totally flattened. My mother didn’t share my joy, it was clear.
I took my time, but first looked at myself in the mirror in my bedroom. I had to admit I liked what I saw: I saw a girl looking back at me, a girl with soft facial features and lovely shoulders and arms. How could I ever continue to live as a boy?
It took me nearly 20 minutes to return. By then, it was clear Mrs. Cooney had said something that quieted my mother down, for she welcomed me openly, saying, “”Come here Jonathan.”
I thought she was going to spank me, but I went to her side, only to be greeted by a warm hugs and kiss. “I love you, Jonathan,” she said.
The two adults apparently got along fine, for it was agreed that I would not try to dress as a girl without discussing it first with mother. She was aware of my feelings, and wanted me to know she loved me, and supported me.
“I do, however, want you to try to get more involved in boy stuff,” she said. “Is that clear?”
“Yes, mother.” I knew when I was beaten.
“Mrs. Cooney said the police have an activities program where you could be involved in chess and stamp club and other stuff, if you don’t want to do athletics. She’ll tell you about it, and you might like it and meet some nice boys.”
I agreed I might like that, and Mrs. Cooney gave me information and said she’d sent a brochure about it in the mail in a few days. I thought at that moment that Mrs. Cooney was the coolest person ever; she seemed to accept me as I was, making no judgment.
I also was told I might have to come to testify if the boys who attacked me were ever caught, and I agreed that would be OK.
My mother washed the dress, which had become dirty in the attack, and hung it out to dry. I wondered what the neighbors would think, knowing there were no girls in our house. But, it had to be done, we had no dryer; in fact no one in our neighborhood had in those days.
Neither Wanda nor Marilyn came by the next morning, and after lunch I took the dress and other clothes I had worn back to Wanda’s house.
“Oh hi, Jonathan,” said Wanda when she opened the door. She acted as if nothing happened the previous day.
“Here’s your dress and stuff back. My mom washed the dress.”
She took the bag, saying nothing, not inviting me in.
“What happened to you yesterday?” I finally said. “I lost you two.”
Wanda got red, answering, “Oh, sorry. We got involved.”
“How? You know I was attacked by some big boys. The cops rescued me.”
“What?” she said, in shock.
“They thought I was a girl, and wanted to kiss me and everything.”
“It wasn’t funny,” I said. “I was scared.”
“Well, you certainly looked like a girl.”
“Where did you go?”
“Well we bumped into Mark Engel and Bob Roth, from school. I didn’t want them to see you. They might make fun of you, or something.”
“And we felt you’d be able to get home by yourself.”
“You don’t know how many people wondered why I was downtown alone. Everyone thought I was really a girl.”
“You’re really such a sissy, Jonathan.”
It was so true, I thought to myself. Wanda seemed to be taking joy in humiliating me now; I wasn’t sure I wanted to be friends with her anymore.
It had been such a marvelous summer so far, being able to play with girls and enjoying dolls and playing house.
“I guess you don’t want me to play with you anymore?” I asked.
“No, that’s not it, but really Jonathan, you’re not like a real boy. We’re done with dolls, and stuff. We’re going to junior high school in a few weeks.”
Oh it was so awful, standing there at her doorstep, being treated almost like I was a tramp or somebody despicable. It was obvious that my continued presence there embarrassed her, and I left, holding back tears.
That was the end of my lovely summer vacation. I had experienced the thrill of being a girl, as well as experiencing many of the problems girls face in the world from uncaring men and boys. I have never forgotten that summer, nor the stimulating feeling of being a girl. To me, it seemed natural.
I took Mrs. Cooney up on joining the Police Departments Boys Club program, and met some other boys; I tried, not too successfully, to strengthen my arms and shoulders and become stronger. I was now engaged in boy stuff exclusively, helped along by my Uncle Mike, who taught me how to throw a ball, play basketball and become less inept at sports.
He lived with us, and was my substitute dad. He had had a college football scholarship, but when the Depression hit hard, he had to leave school. He worked construction, and was a slender, but strong young man. I loved him immensely, and he never treated me as a freak due to my girly nature.
I entered Webster Junior High School, and often felt alone and isolated, not having made any friends among other boys. Marilyn and Wanda made a point of ignoring me, preferring to flirt with other boys in the class. Naturally, I struggled in gym class, but so did a couple of other boys, and found a common bond with one of them, Sammy Feldstein, one of the few Jewish boys in our school. Sammy and I had an interest in stamps and we became close friends, which helped to make school bearable.
On December 7th that year, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and World War II began for the USA. My uncle Mike was drafted within two weeks and was off to Camp Polk, Louisiana, before the New Year.
It was a bleak winter, gray and dark without much snow. The fortunes of U.S. troops were as grim, with the fall of the Philippines and terrible bombing of London. Everything we did was aimed at the war effort. By March, my uncle was off to the South Pacific, and we hung a blue star in our window, hoping it would never be changed to “gold,” indicating he’d been killed.
I realized that I had to do my part too, and that meant to become a strong boy and young man, so that if necessary, I too could serve our nation. I willingly accepted my destiny to be a boy and later a man. And, I would, too, serve my country, but it was in the Korean War. I would get strong driving a beer truck and marry and have children. In spite of that, Julie would always remain a part of me, first as a fond memory of a lovely summer before World War II began, and then as a part of a constant dream and yearning to live out my true feminine nature. As you might expect, Julie would come back into my being some years in the future.
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