Okay, so I know I'm a bit spoiled, and I can be something of a diva. I blame it all on my mother, but more about her later. I'd rather talk about me, as usual, so I'll tell you a bit about myself.
My problem is I can't seem to decide if I want to be a boy or a girl. I was born a male, and I have all the standard male equipment, but I've always been small-boned, thin, blonde, and I've had girlish features my whole life. I have crystal blue eyes and what's called cornsilk blonde hair, and a cute little turned up nose. My skin is smooth and hairless. People stop and stare at me sometimes, and I've had times when perfect strangers, usually women, will stop me on the street and say, "You're beautiful!". It's happened so many times I almost expect it, and if I'm out at the mall and I'm dressed in something cute, I've been known to pout if I don't get at least a few stares from men or women.
My mother says she prayed for a girl when she was pregnant with me, and although you might think her prayers weren't answered, she's a woman who always gets what she wants.
Actually, it's a family trait. Mom has four sisters, and they are a very loud, boisterous group of women who all lived less than a mile from the house I grew up in, so they were always around. I never remember a time when I wasn't surrounded by women. I guess that's why I'm so confused about who I am.
Like I said, there were a lot of very strong women in my life. I feel like I've been struggling to assert myself against the domination of strong women forever. Here's an example: My name is Joe, but my mother still calls me Joey, even though I'm 22 years old. Mom was a ballet dancer in her youth, and she ran a dance studio when I was a boy, so of course she got me involved in ballet. There are never enough boys for the male parts in a small town ballet studio, so I basically had no choice -- she needed a warm male body. She had me in every production from when I was six years old to eighteen, when I went away to college.
You can just picture how that went over with the boys in school can't you? I got teased unmercifully, and bullied constantly. I hated the taunts of the boys, but somewhere down in my secret self I had to admit that I liked the attention. I mean, ballet is great for building up your body, especially your legs and butt, and by the time I was in high school I knew I looked pretty good in a pair of tights.
That's been the story of my life, you know, wavering between the two poles of masculinity and femininity. I never know exactly who I am from moment to moment. There are times when I feel very male, and all I want to do is stand around and belch and scratch myself and look at pretty girls -- lifting a girl in a tutu, with my hand on her crotch, was a pretty sensual experience I have to admit.
Other times I want to BE one of the girls, especially the pretty girl in the tutu. I admit, on more than one occasion I snuck into the ballet studio and changed into one of the spare tutus my mother kept there, and pirouetted around the studio like a prima ballerina, all the while admiring myself in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors on the walls.
My mother found out, of course. She was a smart woman and you couldn't hide much from her. And why should she be surprised that I liked to dress up in a tutu? She loved dressing me as a girl when I was little, and I still remember going out to lunch when I was eight years old with Mom and my aunts, dressed in a cute yellow sundress and sandals, with ribbons in my hair, and how the women in the restaurant all fawned over me and told my mother what a beautiful daughter she had.
I loved the attention. I absolutely adored it. To have all those dressed-to-kill women telling me I looked cute, it was the best feeling in the world. I sometimes think those days were the happiest of my life. At least back then I knew what I was -- a boy who liked wearing dresses and was very happy to be mistaken for a girl. And I was the center of attention among my aunts. They were all loud and boisterous like I said, and they made a big fuss over me. They told me I was a pretty little thing, I was adorable, I had such perfect manners, I was so well-behaved. I was their little pet. They took me shopping to buy dresses and underwear, and I remember my Aunt Josie holding up a pair of pink panties with little yellow tulips on them, making a scene in the middle of a department store and saying, "Wouldn't these look so adorable on Joey?". Then, just to make sure that everyone in the store knew I was a he and not a she, she said to the saleslady, "Isn't he the cutest little boy you've ever seen?". The saleslady, who had a blue beehive hairdo and looked like she'd eaten nails for breakfast, rolled her eyes and said, "Yes, but I bet he'd rather be outside playing football, wouldn't you, sonny?"
I knew how to get a laugh from an audience though, and I said, "Maybe that's where you'd rather be, honey, but I'm happy here."
Of course, my mother and her sisters thought that was hilarious, and they made sure to load up on even more girly things to buy for me, just to see the combination of embarrassment and anger on the saleslady's face.
I was my mother's only child and three of her four sisters had no children either. To be honest, they were difficult women to be married to, and they were all on their second or third marriages, so they simply weren't the motherly types. They got all their maternal instincts satisfied by mothering me and my cousin Marly, who was two years older than me and as much a tomboy as I was a girly boy. Marly didn't like their attention, but I ate it up.
They were quite a crew. They had all been dancers in their youth, and they still had the lithe bodies of dancers, although they were a lot curvier now. Two of them, Aunt Josie and Aunt Bobbi, had been show dancers, even spending a few years as part of a revue in Las Vegas. Aunt Violet had been a ballerina like my mother, and Aunt Helene, the oldest, had been a dancer in some rather lower class venues. She had gone to work at 17 in the burlesque houses to support her mother, whose alcoholic husband had walked out and left her with five little girls to support.
Helene had a woman's body in high school, and she put it to good use, working the burlesque circuit all through the South and Midwest in the 1960s, earning $500 a week when that was a fortune, and she sent most of it home to her mother. She always said she earned every penny, though, bumping and grinding for those small town audiences full of farmers with their hands down their pants.
Of all my mother's sisters I think Helene was the one who had the biggest grudge against men. They all had a pretty jaundiced view of the male gender, but Helene really seemed to have it in for guys. I guess you couldn't blame her; with the life she led for so long, she came in contact with the worst aspects of the male of the species.
Helene, like all my aunts, was a looker, and men were attracted to her like flies to honey. She was a beautiful woman even in her late 50s, with big expressive eyes, hair like Jackie Kennedy, and breasts like a stripper. I never saw her without makeup, which was the same for my mother and all of her sisters. They didn't believe in letting anyone see them without their "war paint" on.
All my aunts exuded female power, but Helene was the Queen Bee when it came to that. Even after my mother decided on my 12th birthday that I was too old to be dressing as a girl even for fun, and she made an announcement at a family dinner in the middle of a crowded restaurant that "Joey is not allowed to wear panties anymore," Helene wasn't buying it. She secretly kept a closet full of dresses, pants, tights, and heels in my size at her apartment, and she had a whole drawer in her bedroom that was just for me, full of panties, bras, stockings and even a padded girdle for times when I might want a little more curve in the bottom. When I was in high school she used to invite me over for sleepovers and she'd spend hours trying outfits on me after we went shopping at the mall.
I went along with it, although as I got older I tried to resist. Helene was a very strong personality, though, and I never felt like I could fight her. It was like wrestling with a bear, trying to get your way with her. Besides, like I said, I'm terribly vain, and Helene knew it was hard for me to resist once I saw how good I looked in her bedroom mirror. I'd say, "Just one outfit, Aunt Helene," but before I knew it she had me trying on all sorts of things and I'd be flouncing around her bedroom like a fashion model. "Oh, God, I love your cute little butt in those leopard pants," she'd say, and it was all over for me. I mean, tell me I look good in a pair of pants and I'll follow you forever. She knew that, and she played me like a violin.
I was lucky, in that when I hit puberty my skin stayed smooth and girlish, and I never had a problem with pimples. My voice got a little huskier, but I had no facial hair till I was 19, and even that was just peach fuzz. I kept my slender girlish figure, and my legs got longer, which made me look even more like a fashion model. I grew my hair long and it always had that shiny, silky quality that girls would die for. When it was brushed the right way, perhaps set off with a ribbon or bow or a bright-colored hair tie, I looked like a teenage hottie.
Although Helene could always get me to dress in private, the times when I would dress like a girl in public were long gone. When I got to high school it became important to me to be accepted by the boys, and I refused to dress like a girl and go out anymore.
Until my senior year. I was staying at Helene's one Saturday night when she basically bribed me to get all dolled up and go out, "because I bet nobody would figure out that you're a boy and it would be a fun game to play."
"No way," I said. "I'm too old for that. You can't make me."
Those were fighting words to Helene. "Can't I?" she said. She was sitting on a chair in her bedroom, where she had taken me to try on some new lingerie she'd bought just for me. I was standing there in a pink satin pair of panties and a pink bra that made the most of my small chest, pushing my pecs together so that it looked like I had cleavage. Helene was dressed in skintight black toreador pants, a leopard print top that gave a generous glimpse of her pink, perfect boobs, and of course stiletto heels.
"I understand you want to go to college instead of ballet school," she said. "Is that right?"
"Yes it is," I said. "Mother wants me to continue in ballet, but I have no interest in that. I want to go to college and study computer science. She told me she won't pay for anything besides ballet school."
Helene smiled. "I can help with that," she said. "I have a nice little nest egg saved from my days on the bump and grind circuit. I will pay your first year's tuition at college if you'll get dressed and go to the mall with me tonight."
"You're trying to bribe me!" I said.
"Exactly," she said. "I love creating the illusion of femininity -- I was around plenty of female impersonators in my burlesque career, and I'm fascinated by them -- and I just think it would be a kick to dress you up and take you out for the night."
I resisted at first, but Helene was a hard woman to argue with, especially when you threw in a bribe like that. I agreed, but only on the condition that we stay at the mall for fifteen minutes, no longer.
"No problem," she said. "Now, let's get to work."
An hour later Helene was driving me to the local mall, and I was quite a vision. She had me in skintight black spandex pants, a snug red top and a short little denim jacket, plus high heels that naturally made me wiggle like a model on the catwalk. I had my face made up, my lips painted red, and I was wearing dangly earrings and bangly bracelets.
It was the strangest thing the way Helene liked to parade me around like that. I admit I'm schizophrenic, because even though half of me loved looking like that, the other half was blushing like a beet.
I got a wave of panic as we pulled in to the parking lot. "Aunt Helene, don't make me do this!" I said. "What if I see somebody from school?"
"Who cares?" she said, laughing in her throaty way. "If it's a girl she'll just be jealous, and if it's a boy, he'll get a boner just looking at you, sweetie. I don't see any problem with that."
Well, there was a problem. It seemed that Helene picked a night when the mall was crowded with kids from my high school.
We managed to avoid them for awhile, but then it happened.
We were coming out of a Victoria's Secret store with pink shopping bags in our hands filled with lingerie she had just bought me, and there, standing 20 feet away, was Josh Stratton, the quarterback of the school's football team, along with five other football players and their girlfriends.
"Aunt Helene," I hissed. "Turn around, we have to go the other way!" I started to turn, but Helene grabbed my wrist with an iron grip and said, "No way, honey. We're going straight ahead," and to my utter mortification she marched straight toward the guys.
If it wasn't that I was wearing such high heels I'd have bolted out of there like a shot, that is, if I could pry my wrist away from Helene's claws. Little beads of sweat popped out all over my skin, and my face was burning with embarrassment. All I wanted to do was disappear, and I hoped we could just walk by the group of them without anybody recognizing me.
Of course, Helene wasn't about to let that happen. She marched right up to them, and said, "My, my, what have we here? I think I recognize you boys as players on the high school football team. And aren't you Josh Stratton, the quarterback? You certainly played well against East Central last week, son."
"Thank you, ma'am," Josh said.
And then a strange thing happened. Even though I was so humiliated I could have sunk into the floor, and I was trying not to make eye contact, I picked up some very strong vibes from Josh and the other boys. I felt their gaze on me, and it was nothing short of ... lust! They were checking me out, and they liked what they saw. The girls in the group were checking me out too, and I heard a low murmuring among them, a sort of jealous tone that said they were not happy their boyfriends had eyes for this hot number in the black spandex pants. A little thrill ran up my spine and I got a tingling in my stomach from the realization of what was going on.
All of this happened in a matter of seconds, but it was enough time to turn me from a humiliated, insecure teenager to a confident, even sexy individual. I pushed my hip out to the side and put my hand on it, and I looked at Josh and batted my long eyelashes at him, as if to say, "Hey, sailor, do you like what you see?".
And then Aunt Helene had to go and ruin it. We could have walked away then and nobody would have known the difference, but she had to go and say, "My nephew here was at that game when you threw the three touchdown passes, weren't you Joey?"
I felt like my manhood shrunk three inches in the space of a second. There was a terrible silence while Josh and the others blinked their eyes and stared at me, trying to make sense of what Aunt Helene had just said. I could see them thinking, Did that woman just say 'Nephew'?
Then, of course, one of the girls read me. Girls have radar when it comes to things like that, and Jessica Boone, who was Josh's steady girlfriend, put her hand over her mouth and said, "Oh my God, it's Joey Hopkins. It's Joey Hopkins dressed up as a girl!" She started giggling uncontrollably, and the rest of the girls joined in with laughter that sounded like the braying of a donkey to my ears.
Josh blinked a few times, trying to process what Jessica had just said. Finally, he said, "Joey Hopkins? From school? Is that really you?"
I blushed a deeper shade of red than is humanly possible, and I hated Aunt Helene so much I could have strangled her at that moment. I tried to speak but my mouth wouldn't work.
Helene was so helpful, of course, and answered for me. "Yes, it's Joey Hopkins," she said. "He makes a pretty girl, doesn't he?"
That just got another round of braying laughter from the girls, and even the guys joined in this time.
All except Josh Stratton.
He had a smile on his face, but he refused to laugh like the others. His dark brown eyes had pity in them, as if he didn't want to make fun of me. There was something else, though -- tenderness? I don't know what it was, but it felt nice.
"He does make a pretty girl," Josh said, finally. "Very pretty."
That comment made them all stop their laughter.
"Pretty?" Jessica spat. "Sure, he's pretty -- for a guy wearing makeup and spandex pants." Her lip curled in disgust as she ran her eyes up and down my body. "If you're into the slutty look, I guess he's hot."
She looked like she wanted to claw me with her nails, and so did the rest of the girls. You could cut the tension in the air with a knife, and I was sure I was in for a bad time the next time they saw me in school.
Josh, however, saved the day. "That's enough," he snapped. Then he turned and bowed to me, like a gentleman meeting a lady in some medieval tapestry.
"I bow before your beauty," he said.
Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather. Here was the most macho guy in school, the quarterback on the football team, and he was treating me, a crossdressing fellow student, with respect and even tenderness. It was a shocker, and you could tell Jessica and the other girls, as well as the guys, were dumbfounded, the way they stood there with their mouths open.
"Well, I think we'd better get back to our shopping," Aunt Helene said. "Joey needs some new heels, so we're going to visit the shoe store. It was nice meeting you all. Bye!" She pulled my wrist and we went strolling off, leaving the little group staring at us.
"I hate you," I hissed to her, as soon as we were a few feet away.
"Nonsense, honey," she said. "You loved that, and you know it. Now, wiggle those hips for all you're worth. You know they're looking at your cute little girly butt right now. The girls are jealous and the guys are drooling like dogs."
"You're despicable," I hissed again. "You know you just made things extremely difficult for me in school."
"All I did was make it interesting, honey. You saw the look in Josh's eyes. He likes you."
"Oh, God, how can you say that?" I said. "He can get any girl he wants! He's the quarterback of the football team! What would he possibly want with me?"
But I wiggled my hips just the same.