Big Sister

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Big Sister

By Katherine Day

(Copyright 2016)
(A day of humiliation changes a boy’s life)

I got beat up by petite Molly Edwards in the park on a summer day. That changed my life, though I didn’t know it at the time.

I was about to turn twelve years old that summer, and I had begun to feel I wasn’t like most boys. I had shied away from the rough boys in my neighborhood, since they had teased and bullied me. When I had tried to join in their makeup baseball games at the sandlot field in the nearby park, it was clear they didn’t want me. “You always strike out,” said Kenny Johnson who was often the captain of one of teams and refused to accept me even though I was the last boy standing and it was his turn to pick.

“He throws like a girl,” said Chester Lapley, captain of the other side, obviously not interested in choosing me either.

I wanted to cry, but I held the tears back, ashamed to burst into sobs in front of the dozen or so kids who were ready to play. I just turned and ran home to the taunts of “run little girl” and “who needs that sissy?” I broke into tears as I entered the back door and ran into the arms of my mother, accepting her gentle hugs and sobbing into the print dress she was wearing.

“Are they teasing you again, Paul?” mother asked me.

“Yes,” I said through my sobs.

“I’ll tell your father and maybe he can talk to Mr. Johnson to let you play,” mother said to my horror.

“No, no, no mother, don’t. It’ll just make matters worse,” I pleaded.

Also, I didn’t want her to tell dad; he was always on me to “toughen up.” He said, “You’re a boy and you have to be strong, you know.”

The truth was I wanted to be a strong boy, but I didn’t know how. I had skinny arms and legs and they were soft. Most of the boys in the neighborhood had muscles and I had only soft, flat arms to show off. I didn’t know how to get strong; it just seemed to come natural to some boys but not to me.

“Oh give him time to mature, Gary. He’s only eleven,” I overheard mother tell my dad one night after he’d been complaining that he was becoming ashamed of have such a weak boy as a son.

“Other boys his age are doing fine, but look at him. Didn’t you tell me you saw him playing with Carolyn’s dolls that other day?” dad said.

“Gary, that wasn’t anything. It was a rainy day and he and Carolyn were just bored.”

I overheard them analyzing me that night, as I was in the living room, trying to write a poem; I guess I was so quiet they didn’t know I was nearby and could hear what they were saying in the kitchen. We lived in a tiny second floor flat with two bedrooms and sitting room and the kitchen; my sister, Carolyn, who was eight, and I shared a tiny bedroom with a bunk bed, me on top and Carolyn on the bottom.

Our room had attained a sort of frilly, girly feeling, largely because I let my sister decide what pictures to put on our walls and even choose the paint for the walls. It was pink, of course. She had lots more stuff than I did, like dolls and fluffy bears and dogs. I guess I liked how the room looked.

When mom saw me dressing up one of Carolyn's dolls – Barbie, of course – she was shocked, but accepted our excuse that Carolyn and I were bored. The truth was I played with her dolls regularly; at first Carolyn was mad at me but when she saw how carefully and daintily I handled them she let me play with them quite often.

"It's almost like you're my big sister," Carolyn told me one Sunday morning as I was brushing her hair as we were getting ready for church.

"I'm your brother, not your sister," I replied.

"Maybe," she said, a mischievous glint in her eye.

"Don't you think a boy should help his sister look pretty, Carolyn?" I asked.

"I think it's cool," she said smiling.

I clipped a barrette onto her lovely blonde hair and said, "Now, you're all pretty for mass."

Carolyn was a charming girl, a little chunky for her age, but with a cheerful smile. I helped her into a light blue dress that was knee length and to put on white anklets and Mary Janes.

I grew jealous, wishing I could look as colorful as my little sister. I had to wear dark slacks and a white shirt with plain black shoes (my "Sunday shoes," mom said). Truth be told, we were usually the best-dressed kids at church. Even though we had little money, mom and dad always made sure we were presentable (mom was an expert at shopping at thrift stores).

My sister and I became almost constant companions that summer, even though I would be turning twelve just before school would open in September and she was more than three years younger than me. We went to the playground together where we'd join up with her friends; I was accepted into this gaggle of little girls even though I was older and the only boy. We'd often be seated in circles, talking about teachers and sometimes even boys, though they were too young to be serious about the topic.

"Paulie knows how to tie pigtails," Carolyn announced one day to the four girls who were sitting together on the playground. My name was Paul, but Carolyn had taken to call me "Paulie," which I thought was OK.

"Tie my hair, Paulie," Terry said. She was a dark-haired little girl who wore shorts and a tee-shirt.

"Your mom may not like me to do that, Terry," I said.

"Please," she whined.

"Your mom might get mad," I said.

"I guess so," Terry said, going into a pout.

Carolyn tried to soothe Terry, telling her that I was doing the right thing, that her parents might be mad at both me and her. It seemed to work and then the four girls and myself headed out of the park; we were skipping along, all of us giggling and teasing each other when we came up on three girls headed into the park.

I wanted to avoid them; all three were in my sixth grade class last year and I guess I was embarrassed to be seen as part of this group of giggling little girls. I realized I must have been acting just like the four, flailing my arms and skipping along, merely looking like a taller version of the eight-year-olds.

"Hey, Paul, who are your little friends?" Shouted Tammy Louderman, the tallest one of the three and known for her tendency to bully others.

"Yeah, always with the girls, aren't you, Paul?" Echoed Heather Pellston, a husky girl who was a constant chum of Tammy.

The third girl was Molly Edwards, a petite girl who I knew as a good student. I was surprised to see Molly with these two; she seemed to be hardly the type to hang around such rough girls as these two who were already smoking and acting tough. I liked Molly and she and I sometimes talked as we walked to and from school. She lived down the block from us. She said nothing as the three approached our group.

I tried to shoo the four little girls ahead, hoping to ignore the taunting. "Well answer me," Tammy demanded as the three barged into our group and pushed me aside.

"What you doing?" I asked, as Tammy pushed me again, this time she hit me really hard, causing me to fall backward and fall helplessly to the ground.

"Don't hurt, Paulie," shouted Terry, one of the little girls.

"Paulie, that's a good one," Tammy yelled. "A perfect name for a girl. Paulie, eh?"

Both Tammy and Heather stood over me, daring me to get up. I was scared; the two girls looked like they were ready to beat on me, perhaps even kicking me. I felt too helpless to get up; Heather and Tammy just stood and laughed at me.

Then I thought of the four girls I accompanied to the park. I knew I had to do something to stop this attack and I was worried about Carolyn and her friend witnessing this. "Girls go home, now," I yelled out loud. "Carolyn go home, I'll be home soon."

"No, Paul," Carolyn said.

"Go," I repeated.

Thankfully the girls ran off.

I started to get up, and felt myself being pushed back down as Heather put her foot on my chest, nailing me to the ground.

"Let me up," I pleaded.

Heather only pushed down harder. I tried to wriggle out of the pressure but she only stepped down more firmly. She was a large girl and obviously outweighed me; I grabbed her thick calf and felt the hard muscle. I couldn't budge her.

"You're just a little girl, Paulie, like your friends," Tammy said, breaking into a laugh.

"I'm not a girl!," I try to yell, but my voice came out weak and strained.

Out of the side of my eye I could see more kids gathering around. "Fight!" "Fight!" "Fight!" I heard yelling. Someone said, "Look a girl's beating up a boy."

Finally, Heather released her foot and they stepped away, allowing me to get up. I got up slowly, looking warily at my two tormentors. I was truly scared since I didn't feel I was strong enough to handle both of them.

"Look, she's going to cry," said Tammy.

"I am not," I protested, but I could feel tears filling both my eyes. I brushed myself off and moved my longish hair from my face.

"Such a sissy," I heard one of the onlookers say. "Weaker than a girl," said another.

I felt like a cornered animal right now. No friends to protect me, not even a playground attendant seemed to be around. I had never been in a fight in my life; I had always been afraid to mix it up, unlike other boys. I hated the thought of getting my clothes dirty.

"I'm not a girl," I said, finally.

"You could fool me," Tammy said. "You were always with girls at school last year, Paulie."

"They're my friends," I said.

"If you're a boy, let me see your arm muscle and prove it," Tammy said.

"I don't have to."

"I'll bet any one of us girls could beat you up, Paulie," she said, persisting on using the name with its girlish overtones.

I didn't answer her. I just wanted to get out of there and head home to sob into my pillow.

"Paulie, I’ll let you choose who to fight, me, Heather or Molly. Just one of us," Tammy continued.

"No, I'm going home, I said.

She approached me and put a firm hand on my shoulder. "You can go once we've had our little fight so you can prove you're a boy."

"I don't want to fight."

"You don't think you can beat even one of us? I thought you were a boy. You should win a fight against a girl," she taunted.

It was obvious that I really had no choice, unless some adult would mercifully show up to stop my torture. Tammy said I could pick either one of the three to fight and I chose Molly since she was the most petite. Besides I had always liked Molly and had chummed around a bit with her last year in school. She looked soft and not too strong.

Molly fooled me with her strength and as we wrestled I soon found myself pushed to the ground, too weak to resist falling. We grappled a bit before she had me pinned firmly so that I was laying flat on the ground, too winded and too weak to resist. She had clearly beaten me.

"I'm sorry, Paul," she whispered as she released me. She even helped me up and then said to her two companions, "Let him go, now."

I walked out of the ring of onlookers and headed home. I could hear jeers and laughter. I was shamed.

*****

"Are you alright?" My sister asked as I stumbled in the front door, still in a haze over the humiliation I suffered at the hands of a girl.

"I'm fine," the words tumbling unconvincingly from my mouth.

My face must have been red from all the pathetic sobbing I'd been doing on the three-block walk home.

"Those girls were so mean to you," she said.

"It's OK," I lied.

"You're bleeding," she said.

"I am?"

"Your knee is bleeding."

"I guess I scraped it," I said.

At the moment, I didn't care if I bled to death. I didn't want to talk to anyone, even Carolyn. I ran from her and into our bedroom, just wanting to lay down and stay there, alone, forever, never to emerge to meet another person. By now, the word would be out that the neighborhood sissy had been beaten up by a girl, not even a big strong girl but a slender girl his same age. I would be the laughing-stock of every kid in my school.

I didn't want to climb the ladder into my own upper bunk and chose to flop face down onto Carolyn's lower. I immersed myself into her sheets, smelling her little girls scents and finding comfort.

"We were all worried about you," Carolyn said, having followed me. She kneeled down next to the bed and in her awkward eight-year-old manner sought to bring me comfort.

I said nothing and soon Carolyn crawled into the bed and we lay together, her arms around me. Her presence comforted me. We said nothing for many minutes as my sobs finally subsided.

"Did you let her beat you?" she asked finally.

"No, I tried. I'm sorry Carolyn. I failed you."

"Oh," was her only response.

I started sobbing again; she must be so ashamed of her brother. Why couldn't I have made her proud of me? What kind of a boy am I?

"I love you, Paulie," she said after a few minutes. "My girlfriends all love you too. They all think you're like an older sister to me."

I wanted to tell her not to call me Paulie, but I said nothing. I didn't know how to respond. Her older sister?

"I'm sorry, Paulie," Carolyn said, obviously aware that I was hurt by her words. "I didn't mean you're a girl or anything, but just that you're so nice to me and help me with my hair and all."

"I know, Carolyn, and I like being with you and your friends."

"I like you being there."

After maybe another half hour, I realized that mom would be home soon and then dad. I felt I better get myself cleaned up.

"Not a word of this to mom and dad. OK?" I warned Carolyn.

She nodded.

*****

Carolyn kept our secret, just as I thought she would. She was three years younger and I was charged to keep an eye on her that summer as her older brother. It seemed she sometimes was more mature than I was. She urged me to get up and clean myself up before mom and dad got home.

"Wanna watch TV with me?" She asked after I washed myself off and changed clothes. The scrapes on my knees were not too noticeable, but I covered them with a pair of jeans anyway.

I realized she's be watching "Jessie," the Disney Channel show. It was one of our favorites.

Yet, I stood at the bathroom door, still reluctant to do anything but return to Carolyn’s bunk and cry into her pillow. Carolyn began tugging at me, "Come on, Paulie. Come watch 'Jessie.'"

"Alright," I said, annoyed with her nagging. I finally roused myself and followed her, bleary-eyed into the living room to watch television. I knew that once I got into watching "Jessie" I'd start to laugh and begin to forget the park incident. The truth was, I guess, that I didn't want to be cheered up. I wanted to be miserable since I knew I was such a pathetic boy; I didn't deserve to be happy, I felt.

I truly identified with "Jessie," even though she was older than me; in some ways, however, we were alike, since the character Jessie was a nanny looking after some kids about the same age of Carolyn. And, for that summer, that had been my role, as a nanny to my little sister. Our parents had entrusted me with keeping an eye on her.

"Do you mind having to watch over Carolyn?" Mom asked me when school ended in June.

"No, mom, we can do things," I replied.

"We shouldn't have to ask you to, Paul, but you know how tough our money situation is," she said.

Mom had told me several times how difficult our family was having it; dad's job wasn't working out to well, due largely to the recession, and mom's job didn't pay all that well. Besides, she told me I was a responsible lad and both mom and dad trusted me to do a good job. I was proud to have been given the responsibility. Of course, I wasn't totally free of supervision since Mrs. McCafferty, who lived next door and was retired, kept a close eye on us. I'd done some chores for her, like mowing her lawn and tending to her trash and garbage cans. She and mom had become close friends and both Carolyn and I had grown fond of her.

As I said before, I didn't really have any friends and I didn't like to play ball or do stuff like that. Sometimes Chad Entermann came over and we played a few video games, but otherwise I hadn't really found any boys to spend time with. Keeping an eye on Carolyn and doing some housework was just fine with me. Besides, I was learning that playing with dolls and doing other things with my little sister was great fun.

*****

The episode of “Jessie” cheered me up a bit. When it ended, I headed to the kitchen and took the casserole that mom had prepared the previous night out of the refrigerator. I placed the pot onto the stove and set the heat to “low.” She often gave me simple chores to get done before she got home from work, and I found liked to surprise her by doing something extra, like preparing salads or even simple desserts, like gelatins.

Carolyn followed me into the kitchen and asked me if she could help; she usually avoided such chores and I never pressed the matter since she was just a little girl in my mind.

“I like helping you out, Paulie,” she said.

“You can help set the table, then,” I suggested, knowing I’d have to keep an eye on the casserole and stir it to keep it from burning at the bottom of the pot.

That night, as my sister was putting out the plates and silverware, I also prepared a caesar salad from a simple recipe I found in mom’s index card file. Earlier that day, I had boiled several eggs to be cut up for the salad.

As I assembled the ingredients, I began singing one of the songs we did in our chorus as school. I loved singing and still sang in the soprano range, one of the few boys of my age whose voice hadn’t changed. Carolyn joined in. I must admit I thought we sang beautifully together, having figured out how to combine our high voices in harmony.

Mom had encouraged our singing. She played the piano and Carolyn and I would gather around the aging spinet piano in our tiny living room to sing as she played. She occasionally played the organ for the Methodist Church chorale group and knew something about singing.

My singing skills were both a source of pride and embarrassment for me. My high soprano voice won all sorts of praise and I had been chosen as the lead soloist from among the sopranos in our school chorus. I got teased for having a “girl’s voice” by several boys in our class; also I won the hated looks of Sarah Simpson who thought she had the best soprano voice in the chorus and that a girl should sing the solo.

Mrs. Tompkins, however, said my voice was far too lovely to be ignored, commenting that my voice was “beautiful.” Mom beamed at our Spring school concert where I was featured; dad was embarrassed by it, I think.

I asked mom if I wasn’t a bit weird for having such a high voice, since I was a boy. “No, honey,” she assured me, “Your voice will change soon. All boy’s voices change eventually, though some a little slower than others.”

“Mom, I get teased so much for singing with the girls,” I argued.

“Honey, enjoy it. You have a beautiful, clear voice and soon you’ll lose it. Value it while you can.”

I smiled. It was true: I enjoyed singing the soprano parts. By the time mom and dad got home, the incident at the park was out of my mind, at least for a while.

*****

I loved to ride my bike; I could be alone and not associate with other kids. But since my humiliation in the park, I stayed at home refusing to go outdoors since I feared meeting the other kids in the neighborhood. I feared their taunting and their laughter about me as a pathetic boy who got beat up by a petite girl. I especially didn’t want to run into Molly Edwards; I knew it would be awkward for both of us. I still couldn’t figure out why she was with those “mean girls,” Tammy and Heather. I felt my life was at an end; how could I ever show my face again?

For the next week, I stayed close to the house, venturing out only to sit in the backyard and read; I had become enthralled with John Green’s books since they focused on teens coming of age. I also did some chores about the house, like mowing the lawn, cleaning up debris and tending to our flowers.

A week later, I was out pulling weeds from the flower patch we had at the front of the duplex (it was a chore for which the landlord paid me a few dollars a week) when Molly Edwards came up on her bike. She stopped on the sidewalk and I turned my back on her, as if to concentrate on my weed-pulling.

“Hi Paul,” she said tentatively.

I said nothing.

“Paul, please. I need to talk to you,” she said, louder now.

Realizing she’d likely not leave until I talked to her, I stopped weeding and slowly turned.

“Can we sit down together on the steps?” she asked, pointing to the four concrete steps that led up to the front porch of our duplex.

“What do you want? To laugh at me?” I said.

“No, Paul, but to say I’m sorry,” she said softly.

“Why? ‘Cause you beat me up?”

“I didn’t want to, but they made me,” she said, referring to Tammy and Heather.

“Why were you even with those two mean girls?”

She explained she bumped into them that day and they invited her along; at first she said she felt happy to be invited to join them, since Molly admitted she had sort of felt “left out” of some of the cliques at school that year.

“I just felt it was cool to be with them, that is, until I met you and the girls in the park. Then I felt I couldn’t back down and not fight you.”

“OK,” I said, partially accepting her explanation.

“I thought you’d easily beat me, so it would be OK to begin the fight,” she said.

“It’s OK, forget it,” I said, wishing to wash the whole incident out of my mind.

“Paul, it’s OK if you’re not big and strong,” Molly said. “Can we be friends?”

I looked at her, unsure how to answer. I wanted to believe her, but I had the uncomfortable fear that she was merely in the process of setting me up to be further humiliated by her “mean girl” friends. Molly must have sensed my reluctance to say “Yes” for she said.

“Paul, I am not friends with Tammy and Heather, really.”

“But you were happy to be with them the other day.”

“It was a mistake, really. I shouldn’t have been with them,” she said, her eyes pleading with me. “Can’t we be friends?”

Just as I was about to answer, my sister Carolyn came bounding out into the front yard.

“Get away from here you mean girl,” she yelled at Molly.

I looked at Molly, feeling shame arising in me at seeing my little sister getting tough in an apparent attempt to defend me; she must have figured that I couldn’t defend myself.

“Go,” Carolyn continued, running up to try to push Molly down the stairs.

I intervened, holding the small hellion back. “She’s apologizing, Carolyn,” I said, trying to calm her down.

Between Molly and myself, we were able to convince her that Molly was sorry for the incident and that she wanted to be friends with me. Within a few minutes, the three of us were talking together on the front steps.

“I wanted you to help me with Betty’s dress, Paulie, but when I saw that girl here I got so mad and was worried she’d come to beat you up again,” she explained. “I came down to protect you.”

“That’s nice, Carolyn, but Molly really is a nice girl and just wants to be friends,” I said.

“Who’s Betty?” Molly asked.

“My dolly,” my sister said. “He helps me to dress up my dollies.”

I began to grow red, fearing another humiliation was headed my way. I expected Molly to break out in derisive laughter.

“He’s a good brother, then,” Molly said.

“Yes, and he’s so good with my dollies. His favorite dolly is Katie,” my little sister said.

Molly looked at me; I said nothing, but wanted to go hide where no one would ever see me again.

“That’s awesome,” Molly said, surprising me. “I dress my dollies all the time.”

“You do?” I asked, surprised that a twelve-year-old girl would admit to still playing with dolls. Of course, a twelve-year-old boy also playing with dolls was not exactly normal either, I knew.

“Yes, I have quite a collection. Maybe you and Carolyn could some over sometime and you could see all my dollies.”

*****

The following day, Carolyn and I walked down to Molly’s house; it was about a block and a half away. Carolyn was carrying her Betty, the name she gave to the Barbie doll that she was constantly dressing and undressing. “Why don’t you bring Katie?” Carolyn asked me before we left the house.

Katie, of course, was my doll, I’m ashamed to admit.

“No, I’ll just look at Molly’s dolls,” I said, hoping that Carolyn wouldn’t raise too much of a fuss. After all, Molly didn’t know that I had my own doll and there was no need to impress her with how much of a sissy I had become.

“You must be Paul and Carolyn,” a short, stocky woman said, as she greeted us at the front door of the Edwards tiny bungalow.

“We are Paul and Carolyn,” my sister repeated, eagerly, thankfully not using "Paulie."

The woman, whose short-cropped hair was fixed in a handsome style, wore a tunic in an apparent effort to mask her heavy body. She had a warm smile.

“Molly, your friends are here,” the woman yelled.

“Coming mother,” I could hear Molly shout from a second floor room.

Mrs. Edwards turned to me and said, “I think that’s nice that a boy has an interest in dolls, Paul.”

I wasn’t certain how to answer. I couldn’t tell whether she was being sarcastic and critical of my interest in dolls, or if she truly felt it was OK for a boy to enjoy such a girlish activity.

Carolyn, my darling sister, came to my rescue. “Oh, Paul only plays with dolls to keep me busy. He has to watch me when mom and dad are working.”

I could see Mrs. Edwards grow easy, apparently satisfied that her daughter’s new friend was not such a strange boy after all. I was pleased with Carolyn’s statement, even though it was only half true. I really loved the dolls.

Molly’s doll collection was truly impressive. Four rows of shelves contained all sorts of dolls, some old and some new.

“The dolls on the top two shelves we can’t play with,” Molly said. “They’re old dolls that once were my great grandma’s, my grandma’s and mom’s.”

“Is that a Shirley Temple doll?” I asked.

“Yes, that was great grandma’s from when she was a little girl,” Molly said.

“Can I take her down, Molly?” I asked.

“Yes, but be careful, she’s worth lots of money now,” Molly said.

I knew all about the Shirley Temple doll, since I had “googled” it on the Internet; then I had gone to the library and checked out all the old Shirley Temple movies they had on DVD. Carolyn and I had watched some of them several times over. We could both sing “On the Good Ship Lollypop” word for word.

“Molly, thank you. I always wanted to hold a Shirley Temple doll,” I said, overwhelmed with joy.

I cradled the doll in my arms, caressing her head with my hand. I let Carolyn touch the doll, warning her not to be too rough.

“You really like that doll, don’t you Paul?” Molly asked.

I nodded, obviously admitting to the enjoyment I was getting by holding the doll. We spent the rest of the morning, both examining some of the older dolls, and then playing with her American Girl collection of dolls. For a while, we sat on the floor of her bedroom dressing and undressing the dolls. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to having a marvelously fun time.

*****

Two days later, Molly and I took our bikes to Riverfront Park; I was freed of watching Carolyn since she was off on a trip to the zoo with the family of one of her friends. As you might suspect, I sometimes had trouble keeping up with Molly, who in spite of her slender, almost petite body proved to be quite athletic. She understood my inadequacies and seemed not to notice, slowing down so that I could catch up.

“I like you, Paul,” she said when we finally stopped, and had gotten off our bikes. We were laying in the shade on a grassy clearing in the park, looking up at the clear sky.

“I like you, Molly. We have fun together, don’t we?”

“Yes. You’re nice to be with,” she said.

“I’ve never had a good friend like you, Molly,” I replied, being truthfully honest.

No one said anything for a few minutes. My mind began wondering: what did she really think of me? We were at the age when girls and boys were supposed to be noticing the opposite gender. As much as I liked being with her, I never thought of her as my girlfriend. She was just my friend. I never thought any girl would accept me as a “boyfriend,” since I was such a pathetic boy.

“Molly,” I finally said. “I’m sorry I’m not stronger. I don’t feel I’m much of a boy. What girl could ever want me as a friend?”

I started to cry. Wasn’t that always my problem? I cried too easily.

“Paul, don’t cry. I like you as you are.”

“I sometimes feel I should be a girl,” I said haltingly, but truthfully. I suddenly regretted the words. I’d never said those words to anyone; in fact, I never before said them to myself. The idea that I could be a girl never occurred to me until just that instant.

“I like that,” Molly said, reaching over and brushing my tears away.

“You do?”

“It’s like we’re girlfriends already.”

“It is?” I asked, puzzled by what she meant.

“Well, we’re playing with dolls and talk about girl things, like dresses and stuff. And you helped me wash the dishes the other day, so we could go out on our bikes,” she said.

I nodded. I hadn’t thought about it, but that’s what we did together.

“And you seem to enjoy doing it,” she added.

“Yes, I do enjoy it,” I said, smiling. I had never felt more comfortable in my life. I realized that loved doing all that girl stuff.

“And now, we’re sharing our secrets with each other, aren’t we, Paulie? That’s what girlfriends do.”

Girlfriends. I thought it sounded great.

*****

After my bike ride with Molly,
I felt happy; it was the first time I felt happy in a long time. Once I got home I had a strange urge to begin to live my life as a girl. I had never felt this way, or if I did before. I began to wonder how I’d look as a girl.

I had done laundry in the morning and the dried clothes were still in mom’s room, ready to be hung up or put into dresser drawers. I had to get that done before mom got home. I went into mom and dad’s room and began to put her things away; mom was always impressed with how neatly I folded her lingerie and how carefully I hung her dresses and blouses in the closet.

As I was hanging up a sleeveless yellow summer print dress, it dawned on me. Mom was just about my size, slender and only an inch or two taller.

“Why not?” I asked myself out loud. What could it hurt? I wondered how I’d look, expecting I’d look stupid.

I took off my shorts and tee-shirt and daintily lifted the dress on over my head, pulling it carefully into place. I had seen mom do this many times before. It seemed to settle comfortably over my slender body. Eagerly, I walked in front of the full-length mirror on the closet door.

I was astounded by what I saw. I didn’t look stupid; I looked pretty and feminine. My slender bare arms and skinny legs were soft and girlish. My hair was a mess; it was long enough, reaching to the back of my neck and I tried to smooth it down with my hand.

I began to sing, my voice soaring into the higher reaches of my soprano range. I was so enthralled with my feminine self that I didn’t hear my sister Carolyn return home a few minutes later. She burst into the room, stopping short and looking at me. I stopped singing abruptly, looked at hear, and quickly said, “Don’t tell mom. I was just clowning around.”

Carolyn continued to stare and I became uneasy, starting to lift the dress up to take it off.

“No, don’t. I like my older sister, Paulie,” she said.

“You mean, brother, don’t you?” I asked, wondering why she said “sister.”

“No, sister,” she insisted.

“But . . .”

“Sister, sister. Brothers don’t wear dresses and play with dolls.”

“Brothers can play with dolls, if they like. I like to play with dolls because I like you, Carolyn, and I was just bored,” I said, trying to provide some reason for my doll-playing and to have an excuse for being in mom’s dress.

“No, Paulie,” she said, persisting on using a name that had a girly nature. “I know you like dolls and you sing like a girl, too. And besides, that Molly girl beat you. And you’re such a pretty girl, too.”

I had no way to answer my little sister’s logic. She was right on all counts. I found tears coming to my eyes. I was a boy, or at least that was what my mom and dad said I was, and I peed differently than girls, so that must prove it. Even my little sister was saying I was like a big sister to her.

“Please be my big sister, Paulie,” Carolyn pleaded.

I grabbed my sister in my arms, drawing her close to me. I held her tight and began sobbing uncontrollably.

“Please don’t cry, Paulie,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

My crying subsided and a continued to hold her. Soon, I felt happy and content.

“Carolyn, thank you. I am your big sister. Call me Polly.”

#####



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