Pigtails Are for Girls -- Part 6

Pigtails Are For Girls — Part 06
Chapters 13-14
 
By Katherine Day
 
Full of fear, Jarod enters the large urban middle school, seeking to fit in as a boy;
he struggles to succeed, keeping his femininity in the background.
Yet, it is ever dominating as he can only find comfort in being a girl. It causes him and his mother both sadness and joy.

(Copyright 2008)

Chapter 13: Split Identity

Wanda and Jarod’s bike ride that afternoon had taken them down the River Road. They were taking a lazy, slow ride, their bikes sometimes wandering in wide curves on the asphalt road.

As Wanda occasionally rode ahead, Jarod looked at his companion, envying her tanned, muscular legs and firm arms, finding her just a perfect specimen of a girl. He loved how her sweet buttocks protruded held in by the cloth of her red shorts.

This day, he was wearing denim shorts (a boy’s model) and a tee shirt that loosely on his slender upper body. He felt immensely proud that this beautiful girl was riding alongside him. Perhaps, he thought, people thought they were two sisters or girl friends, since even with his recent haircut, it was still long and flowed freely.

“Follow me,” Wanda directed, leading him into a wooded path.

There were roots and an occasional rock that made the ride rough, and they had to go slow, single file on their bikes to avoid taking a spill; Jarod, his legs having been strengthened over the last few weeks, thanks to his bike rides with Wanda and his soccer practice, negotiated a small hill without much difficulty.

“Stop here, I want to show you something,” the girl said, setting her bike up against a tree, and indicating Jarod should do the same.

She led them on a footpath that ended at the river, at a point where there was a minor rapids, and the flowing water was constantly moving, and making sounds. She took his hand, and led him to a rock, where they sat side by side, watching the water.

“This is my favorite spot,” she said. “Isn’t it . . . ah . . . nice?”

“Yeah.”

“Did I say nice?” Wanda said, giggling. “There’s got to be a better word than that.”

She still held his hand; her grip was firm and his hand felt tiny and weak inside hers.

“How about . . . beautiful?” he said, knowing that didn’t fully express the view.

“Not that,” she said.

“Heavenly?”

“That’s cool,” she said, giving his hand a squeeze. “Yes, heavenly. The rocks and the water and the rushing sound are so heavenly.”

“This is such a pretty spot,” he said.

“Yes, it is, and, Jane, I think you’re so pretty, too.”

With that, she reached over and kissed him quickly, retreating immediately, almost blushing.

Jarod felt his penis growing as she kissed him and he was puzzled.

“You called me Jane,” he said. “And you called me pretty.”

“Because you are pretty, Jane,” she gave him another kiss, lingering a bit longer.

They separated, and Jarod was totally confused now.

“Why did you kiss me?” he asked.

“Because I wanted to.”

“But you called me Jane, and you kissed me like a girl kisses a boy?” His 11-year-old mind was totally in a whirl.

“I like you as Jane,” she said. “I wish I was as pretty as you are.”

“Oh Wanda, you’re very pretty, the prettiest girl I know.”

“No, look at my legs, all muscles, not soft and slender like yours.”

Jarod liked how his legs looked in skirts and dresses and shorts, but he also knew they were not strong as a typical boy’s legs. He demurred, saying Wanda’s legs were truly lovely, and that there was nothing wrong with a girl being strong.

“Jane,” Wanda said after a short break. “Jane, I want us to be like . . . ah . . . girl friends. You know, to do girl things.”

Jarod reddened, not quite sure how to handle this, saying finally: “I guess I like that.”

“I’ve never seen you fully dressed as a girl,” she said. “I’d like to see you that way.”

“Yes, but mom wants me to stop doing that so much and to try to act more like a boy. I guess I’m some sort of weirdo. I get teased sometimes.”

He explained that after the visit to the psychiatrist, his mom had decided he would be permitted sometimes to still dress as a girl, but that could only happen inside his house. Meanwhile, he would try to be more of a boy.

“When I first moved in the neighborhood, I thought you were a girl,” she admitted. “I even saw you in pigtails. You were so cute.”

He blushed, raising his hand and flicking his hair in a girlish manner.

“There’s still enough hair, Jane,” Wanda said. “Let’s give you pigtails.”

“What can we tie them with?”

Wanda looked about, seeing a discarded curled length of monofilament line some fisherman left behind. “Here we go!”

When she was done, she said: “Jane, you’re really pretty now.”

“Am I?” He was pleased. “But, we better take them out. Mom will kill me if she saw me like this again.”

“Jane, let’s be girl friends forever. OK? Promise me!”

“Promise,” he said, but not with enthusiasm, since he knew he was doomed to live as a boy, it seemed.

“We’ll seal the promise then with a kiss, a kiss between two girl friends,” and she kissed Jarod again, this time lingering longer.

“There,” she said. “We’re Jane and Wanda, secret girl friends.”

“Yes, secret girl friends.”

So a strange and truly lovely relationship grew stronger between a handsome, athletic girl and a slender pretty boy; they were to find strength in each other as they moved from the years of middle school into high school. Each would be there for the other, offering support in times of tears and sharing joy in times of triumph.

*****
Soccer practice continued daily for two hours each morning as the beginning of the school term neared. Jarod found the other players accepted him, largely because he always tried hard to be involved and he rarely was out of position. While he occasionally was able to intercept the ball from another player, more often than not he was beat out, even by some of the girls. Yet, his passes were always precise, if a bit weak, and he found he was always being encouraged by the other players and cheered on the rare times he did well.

Jarod began to feel some limited pride in his play, and it encouraged him to work harder and do better. Coach Lutjack was able to instill team spirit into the process, and because the team historically had never won too many games, largely due to the lack of many athletic boys, he was able to make each player feel good about even modest successes. He seemed to work hardest among the weakest of players, and got the other more talented boys and girls to cheer when one of the more pathetic players stole a ball or made a particularly good kick.

“Way to go, Jarod,” the coach had yelled more than once, and Wanda who could whistle through her teeth would always let out with a long screech, bringing applause from the others.

He usually played right wing, and it was fortunate because it kept him away from Latoya, who usually played on the other side of the opposing team in practice sessions.

A couple of players, however, were not so easily won over, and taunted Jarod repeatedly with phrases like: “You play like a girl.” “Is this your time of the month?” “Why aren’t you home playing with dolls?”

In truth, Jarod realized he did act a bit like a girl on the field, always screeching in a high pitch when excited and flailing his arms about. Wanda had warned him to tone down the way he walked, expressed himself and giggled so as to not appear so feminine, but he kept forgetting the advice and falling into his old habits.

On the last week before school started, the team had chosen itself into two sides for scrimmage, and the competition became spirited and even a bit rough. Jarod found himself the sole defender against an attacking Kevin Montague, a renowned 6th grade bully, who was dribbling the ball on the way to a clear shot at the goal.

“Get him, Jarod,” he heard Latoya yell.

“Tackle him, Jarod,” he heard Wanda’s voice.

Kevin had pushed Jarod around before, calling him “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary.” Jarod knowing he was no competition for the larger boy had always merely walked away; now he was heading into a direct confrontation on the soccer field with his tormenter.

“Come get me, girl,” Kevin yelled.

Jarod’s fright at meeting the boy headon was overcome with the cheers of his teammates and his determination, and, using the move that Wanda had taught him, he accomplished a perfect tackle of the larger boy, knocking the ball toward Latoya, who also playing on his side. Kevin went sailing to the ground with the tackle.

“That was a dirty tackle,” Kevin said, angrily, humiliated at being beaten by such a pathetic player as Jarod.

Kevin got up and followed Jarod, pushing him down on the ground: “How do you like that girly girl?”

The coaches’ whistles blew loud and in unison to halt the play and Kevin pounced on Jarod, who was too weak to do much other than thrash about under the hold of the bigger, heavier boy. Players gathered around, and soon Jarod realized Kevin was no longer atop him, but was being pinned down by Latoya with help from Wanda. The two coaches had moved the other players away. Coach Lutjack picked Kevin up off the ground, holding him firmly, while Coach Barry, the female coach, helped Jarod to get up, asking: “Are you hurt, dear?”

“No,” he managed a weak response. He was at once both in high spirits with his successful tackle of the oncoming Kevin and humiliated at being the center of attention because of his obvious feminine behavior.

Kevin was not to be silenced, yelling: “That was dirty. He’s a dirty player. How else could a girly girl beat me out?”

Latoya was quick to yell: “It was a clean tackle. Jarod beat you, Kevin, fair.”

“Yes he did,” the coach reiterated.

The incident caused the scrimmage to end for the day, and dribbling exercises commenced. The coach took Kevin aside and talked to him privately for a few minutes, before ordering him to join the others.

“That was a fine tackle, Jarod,” Latoya said to him as the practice ended, and they walked to their bikes. Wanda was walking behind him, chatting with Troy, as she become more and more f riendly to the boy. In addition, the coach had named both as co-captains of the 11 and 12 year old team.

“Thank you, but I was scared silly as he came on.”

“But you stood your ground,” she smiled at him.

Jarod admired Latoya’s fine tuned 11-year-old body. She had discernible firm muscular arms and legs, a cute behind and well-tended dreadlocks. She was destined to become a beautiful girl, he felt.

“Thank you for taking Kevin off of me. I thought he would kill me,” Jarod said.

“Oh, he’s just a big coward and bully. You would have handled him eventually,” she said.

“I’m not so sure, so thanks.”

*****
As they approached the bike rack, Latoya drew Jarod aside, towards a huge oak tree that stood at the entrance to the park. The girl, her dark eyes glistening, said simply when they were out of earshot, “I’m sorry, Jarod, for what I thought about you.”

“What do you mean?” he said puzzled. “What did you think about me?”

“That you didn’t like me because I am black, but now I know differently. I know about you.”

Jarod was shocked, not sure what to say, but finally mumbled, “You know about me?”

“Yes, that you were the Jane I met in the park, the girl with the pigtails.”

Jarod blushed. He wanted to sink into the ground, to hide, to forget the soccer team and Wanda and Latoya.

“I know why you couldn’t sleep over now. You’re really a boy, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” he said sheepishly.

“Jarod, I won’t say anything. I won’t tell anybody, really, I won’t.”

“How did you find out?” he asked.

“Well . . . ah . . .” she started.

“I told her,” Wanda said coming into the conversation, well away from Troy. “She asked me about you, saying she thought you were Jane, and I felt she should know. She won’t tell.”

“Yes, Jarod, you were just like a girl those days we met in the park and went swimming. I wanted to be friends with you so bad,” Latoya said.

“I did, too. I felt like we could be girl friends,” Jarod said. “I like doing things with girls. I guess that’s bad.”

“No Jarod. You’re just special and different,” Latoya said. “I like you both as Jarod and Jane.”

“I like you, too, Latoya, and Wanda, too,” he said, smiling, hugging the sweaty bodies of both girls at once.

“Will you girls stop that hugfest, and let’s get going, Wanda,” Troy yelled.

Wanda joined Troy and the two hopped on their bikes, taking off quickly, leaving Latoya and Jarod together. Even though Latoya’s route was out of the way, Jarod accompanied her, stopping at a small city park, and finding a water fountain to get a drink. They talked for over an hour at the park, before splitting up; Jarod spent much of the time telling Latoya that he’d like to make a dress for her sometime, and they also admitted to enjoying writing a daily diary. They giggled, and Latoya began referring to him as “Jane” as she admitted to having a crush on Tyrone Travis, an older boy in her neighborhood.

“I wish you could come over sometime as Jane,” the African-American girl said. “I have some new CDs you’d like, and I still like to play with my dolls.”

“You do? So do I.”

They both giggled at the admission, since 11 year old girls (or boys) were supposed to have outgrown dolls.

“I put a different outfit on my Barbie every day,” Jarod admitted.

“That’s so cool.”

“But my mother wants me to become more of a boy, so I can’t go out of the house dressed like a girl.”

“Oh, I guess she’s right, Jarod,” Latoya said. “But I like you better as Jane.”

“Me too,” he said.

*****
Chapter 14: A Troubling Time

In the last week of August, Amy Tankersley faced her custody hearing in Children’s Court to determine whether the visits by Jarod, in his role as “Jane,” would cause her to lose custody of her children. Since her ex-husband had filed a petition, questioning her fitness to raise their two girls, she had had to ask Jarod to no longer play with them.

The petition claimed Jarod’s feminine behavior might damage the girls, aged 4 and 2, a claim that Amy didn’t believe was true. Yet, she had to obey the order that called for no further meetings between the girls and Jarod until a final decision was reached.

Emily and Angela, her two girls, had missed playing with Jarod; the three had played either dolls or “house” almost every day; Jarod was always a patient leader with the little girls, giving them ideas about how to dress their dolls or how to position furniture in the doll house. When they played “house,” Emily assumed the role of “daddy” and Angela, at age two hardly understanding her role was “mommy,” while Jarod became “Auntie Jane.”

“I even found some of my old clothes from high school so that Jarod could be in a skirt or dress when playing with the girls,” Amy had confessed to her attorney. “I guess I have encouraged him to be like a girl.”

“Did he ever touch them, or play with them in a suggestive manner,” he had asked.

“Never, never. He never did anything like that. Oh God no,” she had protested.

In testimony in Children’s Court, Amy was most convincing in her testimony, although at her attorney’s advice, she never mentioned she had encouraged Jarod’s dressing-up and the question was never asked.

Amy later told Jarod’s mother that Denise Schaefer, the Children’s Court judge, interviewed the two little girls separately without anyone else in her chambers.

“And Judge Schaefer later ruled she saw nothing that would justify taking the children from me,” Amy told Jarod’s mother after she had returned home, relieved and excited. She had rapped on the Pinkerton door immediately upon returning, finding Nancy at home alone.

“Oh, that’s a relief,” Nancy said. “I can’t imagine Jarod would have been doing anything wrong like that.”

The judge did say the case would remain open for a year, and she ordered the Child Welfare Agency to make unannounced visits at least four times during the year.

“But she said there was no reason Jarod could not play with the girls, or how he should be dressed,” Amy said. “Some children, she said, have gender confusion but there is no evidence that shows they are any more prone to improper behavior with younger children than the general population.”

“Well, I think for now, when Jarod is with the girls, he should be dressed as a boy,” Nancy said.

“I know you’re asking him to become more boyish, Nancy, but I wonder how he’s taking it.”

“Oh, he’s accepting it,” was Nancy’s only comment. She said it without much conviction, realizing the boy often now seemed moody and had developed a tendency to cry at night.

“I just loved how cute he looks when he dresses,” Amy said. “Particularly when he’s in pigtails.”

“I know, but we’ve got to keep him safe. Kids in middle school will only torment him if he acts so girlish.”

As she was leaving, Amy asked: “You know Jim? The man we met at the park with his daughter, Jessica?”

“Yes, I understand he took you to dinner Saturday night. How was it?”

“He’s so sweet,” she said. “I called him about the judge’s ruling, and he’s bringing over champagne tonight and we’re having cake. Would you and Jarod join us? It’ll be about 6:30? He’s bringing his daughter.”

Nancy was about to accept, but hesitated: “Does Jim still think of Jarod as a girl?”

“Oh my, yes,” Amy said. “I don’t know what he would think if Jarod showed up as a boy.”

“Well, Amy, maybe we better not come. I’ll take Jarod out to a movie tonight so we won’t be around. But thank you for the invitation.”

“Nancy, I so would like you to come, but the girls would want Jarod to be Jane and explaining this to Jim might be tough. He’s a sweet man, but he has some old-fashioned ideas. He’s even asked about the nice girl that he met at the park and the beach, of course, referring to Jarod. I lied and said she’s out of town with her family.”

“Oh, Amy, I understand. You had no other choice.” Nancy said hugged her neighbor, recognizing the strong bond that had developed between the two women by their openness and honesty with each other.

Nancy knew also that the issue with Jim and his apparent narrow view about life issues as it might involve Jarod’s gender would rise again, if Jim and Amy’s friendship grows into a real relationship and Jarod’s true identity would surface.

*****
Jarod was able to dress as Jane only at home or when he was with Wanda in either of their homes. They did homework together with Jarod dressed as Jane. They shared kisses as girl friends would kiss, and Jarod found comfort in not having to try to become a typical boy when he was with Wanda. He was aware as he grew older that boys are expected to woo a girl. In fact, he was scared to try; he knew nothing about how a boy should act with a girl.

Meanwhile, Wanda helped Jarod strengthen his body to be able to compete more easily with other boys; he rarely was a match for most boys in sports, but he found a fondness of tennis, even though Wanda usually beat him.

Yet, the truth was that Jarod felt comfort and pleasure in his life only when he was Jane; even though he was able now to muddle through as a boy, he never felt right and felt he was a fraud. Sometimes he cried at night, and when his mother heard the whimpers, she came in to comfort him, sometimes lying with him, holding his slender body next to her. She loved to caress and smell his hair, which he shampooed daily and felt to light to her touch.

Nancy knew what she was doing was probably not appropriate; mothers do not sleep with their 11-year-old sons (or daughters for that matter). Yet, they awoke in the morning, in each other’s arms, comforted and rested.

“I like how you smell, mommy,” Jarod said one morning.

Nancy couldn’t imagine that her scent was particularly appealing after a night’s sleep, that her breath must have been stale and her feminine odors sour. But, she reasoned, the boy found comfort in her closeness and associated her musty smell to that.

“And I like how you smell too, darling,” she replied. And, she did find his scent pleasant and sweet, due largely to the evening baths he took, complete with bubbles and all. Often, at his insistence, she would apply body lotion, a feminine lotion she had, smelling of fresh peaches, and that scent lingered through to the morning.

Jarod’s little boy’s skin almost felt as smooth as that of a baby’s.

Soon, she began bringing in a baby doll nightie for him to wear, and she’d brush his hair, as a mother would do for a daughter. He’d smile and kiss her, and sleep soundly after that.

*****
Though he feared the worst, Jarod’s first days at the Harriet Tubman Middle School passed without incident. He was frightened at first, facing the prospect of attending a school with nearly 1,000 students; he soon realized he was just another anonymous face among the mass of students. With his frail physique, he expected he’d face bullies and taunts and perhaps even being beaten up. He felt he was totally inadequate to defend himself. Yet, he soon realized there were many other frightened students like him, and for the most part he survived his early days there without incident.

His mother had trimmed back his hair, much to his dislike, but he found that with the shorter hair he no longer needed to continually flick hair out of his eyes, a motion that he always did with a girly flourish. He wore typical boy clothes, shorts in the warm September days and pants as it cooled off. He always wore a boy’s shirt, and occasionally even wore the Green Bay Packer football jersey with a big number “4” on it. He cared little for football or the famous Brett Favre, but his mother hoped it might take the sting out of any who thought that he was a potential victim for bullying.

Tubman Middle School was a 75 year old, three-story structure of red brick and white trim, typical of the schools build in the 1920s and 30s. There was a square concrete block addition built on the back in the 1950s, housing an all-purpose room used as a combination gym and auditorium.

The school had originally been named for the poet Walt Whitman, but after African-Americans looking for jobs in the huge farm equipment plant or the auto parts factories flooded the city during the middle years of the 20th Century, the school’s name was changed to honor Harriet Tubman, who was renowned for leading many slaves to freedom before the Civil War through the Underground Railroad. By the year 2000, most of the plants were shut, victims of production leaving for overseas, and the industrial city of nearly 100,000 faced high unemployment, heavy welfare loads and deteriorating neighborhoods. Tubman Middle School sat in the middle of working class neighborhoods, now growing heavily in African-American, Hispanic and Southeast Asian residents who moved into once heavy Caucasian neighborhoods. Jarod and his mother lived in a neighborhood of tree-lined streets that was struggling to retain a peaceful atmosphere against growing poverty.

Somehow, the School District had maintained a good reputation; Tubman, being so large, had issues with truancy, gangs and even some pregnancies among 12 and 13-year-old girls.

“It’s a tough school, Ms. Pinkerton,” Nancy had been informed by an assistant school principal when she enrolled Jarod that summer. “But we have the lowest truancy rate in the system and we keep the hallways and school grounds safe.”

“We’re eager to enroll Jarod,” he continued. “I see he comes highly recommended from his grade school.”

“Yes, he had almost perfect grades, but I’m afraid for him. He’s not very strong.”

“I assure you, Ms. Pinkerton, that if Jarod studies hard and attends class, he’ll be OK. We take bullying very seriously here and we’re able usually to keep serious students out of harm’s way. We have a highly regarded staff, and many of our students are able to go on to enroll in the best high schools.”

Nancy had to admit she was reassured by what she saw in the school, and completed the enrollment process with some enthusiasm. Nonetheless the fear that her son would one day become victimized by his feminine tendencies still haunted her.

*****
Indeed there were gangs of young toughs congregating constantly throughout the school and its grounds, but the school staff, along with some muscular school aides, kept breaking up such congregations of kids so that the other students could enter and leave relatively in peace.

Jarod’s mother took both Wanda and Jarod to school most mornings and Wanda’s mother usually picked them up, thus avoiding possible confrontations with the bullies. Since Wanda was a year ahead of Jarod, they were not in the same classes, and Jarod tended to go through the day pretty much alone, having been slow to make friends among other students.

On the second day of school, Jarod had gym class. He dreaded that class, even asking his mother to sign a slip to have him excused, saying he had asthma or something. He knew how pathetic he would be in the class. His mother opposed writing a note that was a lie (Jarod had no known health problems) and urged him to try it out and see how it went.

As he went into the locker room to change into a gym outfit, he saw Terrence, the chubby friend he met during the summer. The boy was at the far end of a row of lockers, changing his clothes, facing tight against the lockers so as to hide from view the rolls of fat and the fleshy breasts of his upper body.

Jarod reflected briefly on how he enjoyed his short time with the other boy and his sister during the summer, how both boys wee accepted as girls when they shopped with Terrence’s sister at the mall. He remembered the cuddles he shared briefly with the other boy and now he felt regret that he was unable to sew the dress he had promised Terrence. Yet, he also realized his mother was probably correct to nix that effort. Terrence would make a cute chubby girl with his pear-shaped figure, Jarod still thought.

For Jarod, the first gym class session went easily; it consisted of the teacher, Coach Lutjack (Jarod was pleased), organizing the boys into groups and doing some simple exercises. Because Jarod was slender and had become fairly fit due to his summer of bike riding, soccer and running, he had little difficulty. He noticed there were a number of fat boys in the group, most of who were struggling to complete many of the moves.

Terrence was puffing heavily when Jarod moved along side him during an exercise. “Hi Terri,” he said in his high girlish voice.

All Terrence could do was grunt and nod, his face red with exertion and his breathing hard.

“All right, all down on the floor, face down,” the coach ordered.

He demonstrated the proper way to do pushups, with body straight and toes on the floor. “Let’s so how many you can do now,” he said.

Jarod realized his weak arms would make this difficult, but he was able to do two before collapsing. Terrence, of course, was unable to raise his fleshy body off the floor even once. To his shock, Jarod watched while some boys did 15 and 20 pushups, before being told to stop by the coach. He looked with growing envy at the hard, muscular bodies on some of the boys, doubting that he could never attain such masculinity.

“Maybe they’ll let us be in girls’ gym,” Terrence said after the class as the two walked down the hall. “I’ll never do that stuff.”

“I’m not good at it either, and oh, how I’d love to be in girls’ gym,” Jarod laughed. “I love their outfits.”

“Oh yeah, the blue shorts and white tee-shirts!”

Terrence several times suggested that Jarod come over on a Saturday so that the two boys could dress together as girls. “My sister will be there,” he said, “And she likes to dress me up.”

“I know she does, and you do look so pretty as a girl, Terri,” Jarod said, using the boy’s feminine name.

“Not as pretty as you, Jane,” he giggled. “My sister said you could win a beauty pageant.”

Jarod reddened, enjoying the brief image in his mind of the two boys all dressed up pretty and feminine and becoming girl friends.

“Come on over,” Terrence said.

“No, I better not. I promised my mom I’ll never dress out in public and with another kid,” Jarod said. He refused the invitation several times, and soon Terrence gave up asking.

While the two had no classes together, except for gym, they did join up for lunch hour in the cafeteria, giving Jarod a companion for at least part of the day. Soon, several others joined them at a table they were able to commandeer most school days, including two girls that had been Jarod’s partners in computer lab, a wide-hipped African-American girl named Keisha, and a slender, possibly anorexic girl named Mary Anne. The three of them had developed a website about the School which won the praise of their teacher and the principal. Jarod’s interest in the website had helped him feel better about the school.

He enjoyed being with Keisha and Mary Anne, two girls who were bright and strived for perfection in their website work. Jarod found that he could feel comfortable with the two girls and the three found humor in watching many of the other kids, especially the “in-crowd” of flirty girls; the three giggled about the sameness of the clothes and habits of the “in crowd.”

“I like pretty dresses,” he said one day as he walked with Keisha and Mary Anne after classes. “I like it when you two dress up nice.”

“So many girls dress like slobs,” Keisha said. The girl whose hips seemed too large for her body often wore dresses, more often than most.

“Your mom seems to have nice taste, Keisha,” Mary Anne said.

The black girl’s eyes brightened as she smiled. Keisha exuded a warm, cheerful presence that made Jarod’s friendship with her such a pleasure.

“And you, too, Mary Anne. I love the skirts and sweater outfits you wear,” Jarod said.

Mary Anne nodded. “You seem to know lots about dresses and things, Jarod. Is your mom a dress designer or something?”

Jarod blushed, longing to tell them he loves to wear dresses, but all he said was: “No. She dresses nice though.”

“I like it when a boy notices how a girl dresses,” Keisha said, as the bell rang summoning them to their next class.

*****
Jarod was quick to learn how to navigate the large urban middle school, so as to avoid the gang of toughs that gathered together. He tried, too, to minimize his girlish mannerisms that had developed naturally, to resist flicking his long hair and to walk more with a slouch to lessen the sway of his hips.

Yet, he knew, he was marked often as a “fag,” “queer,” “fairy” and “sissy,” a sampling of the hushed remarks he often heard wandering down the hallways. He was careful, of course, to either walk with friends in a group and to avoid the prominent hangout spots when he was alone.

On his way out of school one Friday in late October, Jarod was musing about the weekend when his mother promised the two of them would go as “mother and daughter” to shop in Chicago. It was the first time she had taken Jarod out as “Jane” to shop, and was a concession to his desire to dress like a girl. She had told him it was a reward for how “good” a boy he was, not pestering her to be girlish. In his day-dreaming, Jarod was paying no attention to his surroundings as he rounded the corner near the Band Room, into another hallway, an area that was usually isolated and led to a side exit, which he used regularly.

“There she is,” someone yelled, and Jarod was shocked to see he had run directly into a group of boys, perhaps a half dozen white boys who called themselves Dukes, a gang who had had numerous altercations with other groups of African-American or Hispanic students. The Dukes, Jarod had heard, proclaimed to be there to protect the “White way of life.”

Jarod was jarred out of his musings to realize he had run smack into the middle of these boys, most of whom were big and rough and smelly. He felt himself being pushed by a boy into the arms of another boy, who immediately gathered Jarod tightly to his body.

“Come kiss me, little girl,” the boy said, trying to find Jarod’s lips with his own.

Jarod squirmed and tried to kick, but was too weak to break away. He heard the other boys laugh and taunt him: “Let him kiss you, little girl,” “Squirm like a girl.”

“Pull his hair, Tommy,” he heard one boy yell, and soon Jarod felt his hair being pulled so that his head tilted upward to accept the boy’s lips upon his own. Jarod was terrified now, as he felt another boy grabbing his jeans and attempting to open his belt.

“Let’s see her cunt, Curt,” one boy said.

“Yeah, her pussy. Get those pants off. Bet she’s wearing panties.” Another several taunts continued.

Jarod let out a brief scream, high and girlish, but it was cut short as Tommy’s lips were on his. The boy’s mouth tasted foul and his body smelled of stale sweat. Jarod tried in vain to fight back, soon realizing his fate rested now in the hands of this gang of awful boys. In a flash he soon understood what it felt like to be a girl in real life, facing an assault from a gang of taunting males.

The kiss ended quickly and Jarod was pushed to the ground as the boys sought to remove his jeans; they continued to jeer and laugh.

Jarod had started to cry, letting out soft words of “Please don’t. Don’t hurt me.”

His words were unheeded, and only caused the boys to taunt him further. “He even cries like a girl,” one said, breaking into a laugh.

Through his tears, Jarod saw Tommy look down at him and heard the boy say: “Take this as a warning. We don’t like faggots and sissies. And we don’t like your nigger friends. The Dukes are here to protect us whites.”

Suddenly, he heard a voice yell: “What’s going on here?”

And, Jarod was instantly free from the grasp of the gang, and watched through his tears as the boys scattered. He raised himself slowly, moving to rest his back against the lockers. He began sobbing, his hands covering his face.

“Are you all right? Are you hurt?”

The hurried questions came, Jarod realized, from Mr. Applebaum, the Orchestra director.

“I’m not hurt,” Jarod said through his sobs.

“Ok, just rest here, I’ll get help,” the teacher said. The teacher pulled out a walkie-talkie and Jarod heard him say something.

*****
Jarod was taken, his face wet with tears, to the empty band room, where Mr. Applebaum seated him down, next to his desk. A woman entered and drew a chair up alongside Jarod, patting his hand and saying:

“Jarod, I’m Miss Chang, the school counselor,” the woman said. Her round face was round and kindly.

He briefly told the counselor what happened, but said he wasn’t hurt physically. As he related the incident, he began to cry again, realizing that if Mr. Applebaum hadn’t come along, he might have been hurt badly.

Miss Chang soon was joined by the assistant principal who questioned Jarod further, asking if he knew the boys. “No, but I seen them around,” he replied. “I don’t know their names but I heard one boy called ‘Tommy’ and another one ‘Curt0.’ The one boy kissed me and the other tried to take my jeans off.”

“It’s the Dukes,” he heard the assistant principal say.

“Yes, I recognized most of them,” Mr. Applebaum said.

The assistant principal called Jarod’s mother just as she was leaving work, using her cell phone number; Jarod’s mother arrived about 20 minutes later, and Jarod had been able to wash up and clean his face; yet, he cried and ran into her arms when she walked in the door.

“I’m so sorry, mommy,” he said, his sobs mounting as she held him tightly.

*****
Jarod cried himself to sleep that night, even though he had had a warm, lovely bath and was sent to bed in a new nightie, even tying his hair into pigtails. His mother had called him Jane that night and treated him totally as her little girl. Even in the terrible memories of the incident, he found comfort in being treated as Jane.

His mother considered cancelling the trip to Chicago, but went ahead with it, figuring the trip would help take Jarod’s mind off the school incident. She had been saving a plaid pleated skirt and white blouse for the trip, along with Mary Janes and white anklets; she redid the pigtails. She located a light blue girl’s jacket for Jarod to wear in the cool October day.

“Oh mommy, I’m so pretty,” he smiled as they were about to leave. “I love you, mommy.”

His mother hugged him, and then both turned to look in the mirror, his mother twirling his pigtails in her fingers.

“Yes you are, honey, and you were made to wear pigtails.”

*****
The memory of the attack would linger long with Jarod, and his mother had asked him whether he wanted to leave the school, and perhaps be home-schooled. Frightened as he was, he felt he had begun to make some friends and was reluctant to leave the school.

“I’ll be all right, mom,” he said, reverting to calling his mother in the more masculine way.

On the Monday after the incident, Jarod’s mother accompanied him to the school, where they had a long meeting with the assistant principal and the counselor. The assistant principal was apologetic that Jarod had been attacked, saying, “We just will not tolerate such hoodlumism.”

He assured Jarod’s mother that most of the boys involved had been suspended, and may never return to Tubman.

“Fortunately, Mr. Applebaum was able to positively identify four of the six boys involved. And, Ms. Pinkerton, we won’t even need Jarod to identify any of them, thus making it unnecessary to get involved at all. That would be so awful for him, I know.”

The assistant principal said he had checked Jarod’s school file, and found that in the short time he had been there he had been a good student and was doing well in activities, such as the soccer team and the website group.

“We truly want to keep students like Jarod at our school, Ms. Pinkerton.”

Apparently, the school’s prompt action in stifling the Dukes must have worked, since Jarod never saw any of the boys again. He was pleased, too, that the school had been working to intercept gang activity among other groups as well.

Word of the incident got around to others in the school, including Wanda, Terrence, Keisha and Mary Anne. They questioned Jarod about it, but he passed it off as a minor incident, not wanting to dramatize it.

Wanda, however, knew about the whole incident, since Jarod’s mother had told of the event to Helen.

“You need to get some lessons in self-defense, Jarod,” she said as they waited for their ride home from Wanda’s mother later that Monday afternoon.

“Oh, Wanda, I’m not so strong. Not sure I could defend myself.”

“There are things girls can do in those situations,” Wanda said.

“Oh?”

“Yes, I there’s a class on Saturdays at the YWCA for teens like us,” she said. “It’s free because they don’t want girls assaulted.”

“But I’m a boy.”

“Oh boy’s can come, too,” she said.

Wanda and Jarod enrolled in the next classes at the ‘Y,’ beginning for three weeks on the following Saturday. The enrollment form indicated the classes we co-educational, as Wanda had said, but when they arrived for the first session, Jarod was the only boy among some 15 others.

He wanted to leave, but the instructor urged him to stay. “There’s no shame in learning how to protect yourself, dear. Lots of boys can use this class.”

“But . . .” he started to protest.

The group changed into shorts and tee-shirts, and with Jarod’s long hair and slenderness, he looked like he belonged with the group. Indeed, the instructor began giving orders, usually saying, “Now, girls, let’s . . .” Sometimes she added, “. . .and Jarod,” but usually she addressed them all as girls. Jarod soon found he didn’t mind being lumped in as one of the girls.

Jarod learned a number of tricks and ideas about how girls defend themselves; he also realized that with his physical weakness, the tricks would become useful. Several times, in the role playing, he was asked to take the boy’s part, but in each instance the girl he was “attacking” was able to beat him off.

Wanda, being a year ahead of Jarod in school, had developed her own group of friends while at school, even though the two neighbors usually were together going to and from school.

In addition, he continued to play on the soccer team, which was headed toward its best season in several years; for the first time, the team was to win more than it would lose, thanks to the leadership of Troy and Wanda, the two team captains. When the soccer season ended in early November, Coach Lutjack praised the team, and said its success was due to the teamwork shown by everyone.

At a pizza party at the end of the season, with parents present, Troy was named the team’s most valuable player, Latoya was named “most inspirational player” for her always constant cheerleading, and, to his surprise, Jarod was named the most improved. In his acceptance, Jarod had said his victory in this category was “easy, since I was so terrible to start.”

Thus, the first semester of middle school came to an end with but one the single scary incident, much to the relief of Jarod and his mother. Jarod put the October attack behind him, and began to enjoy school and the new friends he made who had accepted as he was.

*****
At Christmas break, signaling the end of the first semester of middle school, Jarod brought home an almost perfect report card, with A’s in every class, except for a C in physical education. After seeing the card, she kissed her son and said she was proud of him for doing so well, and by maintaining his boyish demeanor in school.

“You’re due for a reward,” she said. “But, it’ll come from Santa.”

“Oh mommy what is it?”

“You’ll see soon enough,” her eyes seemed to show an impish glint.

The surprise appeared on Christmas morning as Jarod and his mother opened gifts. The first box he opened, tied in pink and blue paper picturing pigtailed little girls dancing, contained two sets of nighties with a hand-written card, stating: “To Jane. May she have sweet dreams.”

“Honey, you may wear these every night now, along with the panties I bought, my darling,” his mother said.

“Oh, mommy,” he said,

He was overjoyed, and immediately leaped up, leaving the Christmas tree where they had been sharing gifts to run to his room and try on the nighties and panties. He found both of the nighties to be just perfect, and he ran out wearing the second nightie, a satiny white, with the picture of a little girl in pigtails on front.

“Mommy, mommy,” he exclaimed, his voice high and girlish with excitement. “Mommy, how do I look?”

“Like just the cutest little Jane,” she said with a smile.

He danced about, arms moving about, pausing only to look at himself in the hallway mirror.

“Oh mommy, I love you so much,” he said planting himself on her lap as she sat on the floor.

“But there’s more, honey,” she said pointing to a smaller box, wrapped in pink and white paper with light green bunnies.

He opened it, slowly, precisely as he did everything, and finally looked in. “Mommy, hair ribbons! I love you.”

She led the boy in his pretty nightie to the bathroom, where she brushed his hair out and fashioned two pigtails.

“Now there’s a pretty girl,” his mother said when she finished.

Together they hugged, looking in the mirror.

“Oh mommy, can’t I be Jane always?”

“No honey, and you know why, but you can be Jane for Christmas for a while. Wanda and her mother will come over and you can be dressed as Jane all day, if you want.”

And Christmas Day was just the most scrumptious of days. Wanda and her mother, Helen, came over about four o’clock after a visit to Wanda grandparents, bearing gifts. Helen had separated from her husband a month earlier; her husband had come home saying he had found his “true love,” a 22-year-old graduate student. Helen said the marriage was over, and Wanda missed her father, who had been her mentor in sports.

In the last month, she and Jarod talked often, sometimes crying together. Wanda felt betrayed by her father and Jarod continued to express his desire to be a girl, a fact that Wanda seemed to understand and appreciate. It had become too cold to ride their bikes, but several inches of snow had fallen and the two had taken to sled-riding and stopping off for hot chocolate at the Red Barn, a popular teen hangout. When out he always dressed as a boy.

They kissed, but it was always briefly as when welcoming each other or saying good-bye. They were 11 and 12 years old and still hadn’t understood the male-female relationship fully; Jarod knew that sometimes his penis would harden and Wanda began feeling tingling sensations and finding moistness developing in her female parts.

“Jane, you’re my best friend,” Wanda would say often. In their private moments, she always treated Jarod as her girl friend.

Their mothers had also become best friends, sharing their own concerns about men and their two children and seeming to understand the strange relationship growing between their two children.

Jarod’s gift that lovely Christmas Day for Wanda was a sweater he had knit for her, having taken up knitting that autumn; Wanda gave him a panty and bra set (it was a training bra) along with a set of breast forms, just the right size for a subteen girl.

“If you’re my girl friend,” Wanda said, with a teasing glint in her eye, “You need to fill that out,” pointing to his slender chest.

His mother led him to his bedroom, leaving Wanda and her mother alone. “Let’s put a fresh outfit on you honey, and you can try on Wanda’s gift and see how you look.”

When Jarod emerged from the bedroom, Wanda and her mother were awe-struck.

He was dressed rather formally, in coffee-colored pantyhose, Mary Jane shoes, and plaid, pleated knee length skirt, a white blouse with long sleeves and a gold necklace with a gold cross. His small new breasts filled out the blouse, the cross dangling against his soft white skin of his chest. Small snap-on gold earrings hung discreetly framed by pigtails tied in blue ribbons.

“Such a pretty girl,” Helen said first.

“Oh Jane, Jane,” Wanda said. “You’re so beautiful. I’m so envious and wish I could be so pretty.”

Jarod was so pleased with his look that he at first paid no attention to her remark. Soon, he realized what she had said, and he went over to her and pulled her up from her sitting position on the floor.

“Wanda, I think you’re the prettiest girl I know,” he said with all sincerity, since he truly admired her.

With that he kissed her, quickly, and the two smiled. It turned out to be the best Christmas in Jarod’s young life, since he could be Jane for a day.

*****
He cried that night in bed, quietly so as not to awaken his mother. He loved her so much and did not want to burden her with his problem of wanting to be a girl. Soon the holidays would be over, and his short periods of being a girl would have to end as he returned to school for the second semester as Jarod, a shy, but less-frightened boy.

(To be Continued)



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