A Humiliating Punishment
The subject of petticoat punishment, when naughty boys are dressed as girls as a punishment, strikes a chord with me, because it brings back to me what I can only describe as the petticoat punishment I had to endure when I was at primary school in England during the 1950's. From time to time I have heard this form of punishment referred to as 'cruel and unusual' in the United States, and is, I believe, illegal there today. What a pity. The term 'cruel and unusual punishment' is a concept that only seems to exist in the United States, and frankly, one that we in England regard as oversensitive. Yet another difference between our two cultures I suppose.
Humiliation amongst one's peers as a robust form of punishment was widely used and approved of in the United Kingdom when I was at primary school, as a salutary (and in my case) most effective method of bringing naughty children into line with no deleterious side effects whatsoever. And certainly less physically painful than the cane on the backside for boys, or a tawse (a Scottish strap) smartly applied on the outstretched hand for girls.
However, my school's headmistress, Miss Wareham, was vehemently opposed to corporal punishment, and forbade its use. That may sound lenient, but her alternative was to any boy far worse than a short sharp application of the cane on his backside. Miss Wareham preferred humiliation as a punishment, and a list of her inventive penalties for misbehaviour were pinned up on every notice board so that there could be no plea of ignorance if you were caught committing some misdemeanour or other. As I recollect, the list of penalties went something like this:
Talking or being disruptive in class: The culprit had a baby's dummy stuck in their mouth, and had to keep it there for the rest of the lesson.
Bullying or impertinence to a teacher: Girls had to wear a baby's bonnet for a day. Boys had two bows of hair ribbon tied in their hair for a day.
Swearing: Being a fairly strict Catholic school, swearing was regarded as blasphemy, and the ultimate sin. It therefore earned you the severest of punishments, and one that we dreaded. If we swore, the headmistress used to contact our parents to obtain their approval to apply it. Unfortunately for us, our parents (including my mother) almost always approved.
And the punishment? Girls had to spent an entire day wearing a baby frock and bonnet with appropriately babyish white ankle socks and a pair of black patent strap shoes. A range of various made to measure size baby dresses were kept for the purpose. Boys had to spend the day wearing the girl's school uniform with ribbons tied in their hair.
What made it even worse was that the humiliating outfit was delivered to our home the day before, so that our mothers would dress us in our punishment dress first thing in the morning, make us go to school in it, and ensure that we kept it on until bedtime at the end of the day. The outfit was then collected the following morning.
I earned a dose of this most unpalatable experience one morning as a result of taking the Lord's name in vain. It was silly of me really, and in a way I more or less deserved it, if only because of my sheer stupidity. I'd been giggling as I read a comic under my desk during class. Suddenly our teacher Miss Markham stopped in mid sentence, and strode up to me. She told me to hand over the comic, and as I did so, she said 'Very well Jimmy, it's the dummy for you.' That's when I made my fatal mistake. I unthinkingly swore, and at that she became furious. She looked at me and said 'How dare you swear at me! It seems that something considerably more salutary is required I think. I'm reporting this to Miss Wareham with the recommendation that she applies the severest of punishments. And I think you know what that is. She will inform your mother of her decision tomorrow. That is all for now.'
She walked briskly back to the front of the class and continued with the lesson, while I trembled in trepidation at the thought of having to undergo what any boy would regard as the ultimate humiliation. Several of the girls looked at me and tittered, as they relished the thought of me being dressed as one of them for the day, and I blushed crimson.
True to her word, Miss Markham reported me to the headmistress Miss Wareham, and I was duly summoned to her office at lunchtime the next day. I stood before her, dreading what I knew was to be my fate, and I was right.
'Now then young man' she said grimly, 'It seems that you've committed not one, but three offences. All at the same time. One, you were misbehaving in class. Two, you were grossly impertinent to Miss Markham, and three, most importantly, you swore at her in the process. You know what the punishment for that is, don't you?'
'Yes Miss Wareham' I said quietly, trying to look as contrite as possible. Didn't do me any good though.
'So what is it?'
'To…to have to wear the girl's school uniform for a day.'
'That's right' she said with a grim smile, 'I've already telephoned your mother, and she's in full agreement that you should be punished. Miss Markham will therefore deliver a girl's uniform in your size to your mother this evening, and she will dress you tomorrow morning in accordance with our instructions. Do you have anything further to say?' I could think of nothing, and simply nodded my head in the negative.
'Very well' she said, 'You may go. In the morning you are to report to me before assembly for inspection. Is that understood?'
'Yes Miss Wareham' I said miserably, and she told me I could go.
That afternoon I was continuously stared at by the other children, and felt utterly wretched as I contemplated the next day. It was impossible for me to concentrate on my lessons, and I passed the afternoon almost in a trance.
When school ended that afternoon, one of the girls giggled and said to me 'See you tomorrow, little girl!' and the others burst out laughing. I blushed and ran nearly all the way home, eager to get away from their merciless teasing.
My reception when I reached home was icy. Mum was obviously very angry at being let down by my behaviour, and showed no sympathy as she told me that she would ensure that I would be immaculately dressed in my girl's school uniform the next day.
Shortly after tea, Miss Markham delivered the uniform and explained exactly what was required with Mum. Unfortunately, my mother seemed to be in full agreement with her, and I dreaded what the next day would bring. Miss Markham added that she would take me to school, and Mum would collect me after school to ensure that I didn't get lost. There was to be no escape from my fate.
That evening I couldn't think of anything else as I sat in the lounge miserably watching television, and decided to go to bed instead. Mum told me that she was going to get me up earlier than usual the next morning, so that I could take a bath before she turned me into a sweet little schoolgirl. With that hideous prospect dominating my thoughts, I went to bed. Mum had already hung the all to familiar girl's school uniform dress on the door of my wardrobe and laid out the other items on a chair ready for the morning. I lay there in bed trying to read a book, but couldn't concentrate as I frequently glanced at the dress hanging there as if it was lying in wait to envelop me I its humiliating grasp. Eventually, and Mum came in to say goodnight and put my light out, and I lay there in the dark, tossing and turning as I tried to drive all thoughts of the next day out of my mind. It took me a long time to get to sleep.
True to her word, my mother woke me up earlier than usual the next morning, and after I'd taken a bath I padded back down the landing to my bedroom where she was waiting to dress me. She'd laid everything out on the bed in readiness, and I recoiled as I looked at the familiar uniform worn by every girl in my school. I shuddered to think of the teasing I was going to have to suffer when I arrived at school dressed as one of them.
'Right' said Mum briskly, your vest first.' She picked up a white winceyette vest, not unlike my own, and helped me into it. But the next item definitely wasn't like anything I'd ever worn. Mum held out a pair of navy blue girls school knickers and said 'In you get.' I stepped into them, and she drew them up my legs until they were round my waist. Then she tucked the vest into the waistband of the knickers. They were slightly baggy, and the elastic around my upper thighs and waist felt restrictive.
Next came the summer dress that I was used to seeing the girls in my school wearing every day, and now it was my turn. It was a typical girl's primary school summer dress made of blue and white check gingham, with a row of white buttons up the front to the neck. It had short sleeves with white cuffs, and a white pointed collar, and there was a breast pocket with a white strip along the opening. The belt was fitted with a white plastic buckle, and was threaded through two keepers attached to the dress at the sides of the waist. On the end of the belt was a buttonhole to stop the belt slipping open.
Mum held the dress up and put it over my head while I put my arms into the sleeves. Then she pulled it down over me and fastened the buttons up to the neck and secured the belt in place. On my feet went a pair of white ankle socks which she turned down neatly, and on top of those, a pair of black T bar strap shoes with buckles at the side of the foot. She made sure that the strap buckles were tightly fastened so that they could not come off.
Taking down a royal blue school blazer from its hanger, she held it out and I obediently put my hands into the sleeves. Then she pulled it up onto my shoulders and arranged it neatly. She stood back to examine me, grinned slightly, and said 'I always wondered what you would of looked like if you'd been a girl. Well you'll certainly look like one after I put some ribbons in your hair. Sit down at the dressing table.'
I did as I was told, and blushed crimson with humiliation, looking at myself in the mirror in front of me as she prepared my hair like that of a girl. On the dressing table she'd already placed a hairbrush, two elastic bands, a roll of white satin hair ribbon, and two white plastic hair slides in the form of small bows. She expertly cut two lengths of white hair ribbon and trimmed the ends at an angle. 'Now then' she smiled, 'Let's see how you like having nice pretty bows in your hair, just like all the other little girls at your school.'
It was now that I regretted having avoided a haircut for months. Long hair was considered a mark of being in my gang of immediate friends, and consequently my long hair came down well over my ears and over my collar. Brushing her hand through my long hair, Mum smiled and said 'You know Jimmy, his your is shorter than many girls, but certainly not too short for hair ribbons I think.' Unfortunately for me, she was right. It was definitely long enough for hair ribbons.
I then glumly endured what to any boy would be the ultimate humiliation. After parting my hair down the centre, Mum picked up an elastic band, and pulling my hair on one side into a bunch, she wound it tightly around my hair. She did the same on the other side of my head, so that I now had two bunches of hair sticking up conspicuously. Then, taking a length of white hair ribbon, she wound it firmly around one bunch of hair, tied it tightly in position in a non-slip bow, and pulled it down the bunch of hair closer to my head. She then repeated the process with the other bunch of hair, and finished off the effect by clipping the two plastic hair slides into my hair to secure the ribbons. As a finishing touch, she combed my hair forward in a fringe, and taking a pair of scissors, cut it across the front in a neat, even line.
After making a few adjustments to make sure that the bows of ribbon were even in length, she straightened them so that they were at the same angle to my head. Then she stood back to admire her handiwork. She smiled broadly and said 'There we are, one little girl, ready for school. Stand up Jimmy, come and see yourself in the mirror.' She took me across to the wardrobe full-length mirror and I groaned at what I saw. I was almost unrecognisable. There in front of me was a demure looking sweet little primary school girl. I groaned at the prospect of looking like this for the entire day, dreading my journey to school.
'Now then' said Mum, 'One last thing.' She picked up a cream coloured straw panama school hat with a royal blue hatband with the school crest at the front, and put it carefully on my head. Then she pulled down the hat's elastic band and tucked it under my chin.
'There we are' she grinned, 'Don't you look delightful? Very sweet. Well since you're going to be a girl for the day' she smiled, 'I'd better teach you how to stand like a girl.' I had a feeling that she found the situation quite amusing as she made me stand with my feet together, hands by my sides or clasped in front of me in proper little girl fashion while she pulled and tugged at my uniform. 'Well I must say' she said, 'Miss Markham did very well with the size. It fits you perfectly. Good. Now let's go down and have some breakfast.' We went downstairs into the kitchen, and Mum removed my hat and blazer and hung them on the back of my chair.
As I miserably ate my breakfast I kept glancing nervously at the kitchen clock as it inexorably ticked the minutes away. Once I'd finished eating, Mum sent me up to the bathroom to clean my teeth, and I came back down into the kitchen to await Miss Markham's arrival. I didn't have long to wait.
A little after eight o'clock I was startled by the sound of the front door bell. Mum went to answer it, and a moment later came back into the room with Miss Markham, wearing a bright red poplin raincoat. She took one look at me and gave a slight chuckle. 'Well well' she grinned 'And who's this little new girl? All ready for school are we? I must say' she smiled, 'You really do make a passable girl Jimmy. Almost too convincing actually, and if I saw you walking down the street I wouldn't give you a second glance. It's interesting how we see the clothing before we see the person. And let's face it, if I see a child dressed in a girl's school uniform with ribbons in their hair, they're hardly likely to be a boy are they?' she laughed. Mum found the observation amusing as well, and I blushed uncomfortably at the thought of being mistaken for a girl.
Miss Markham looked at her watch and said 'Well we'd better be off. Don't want our little girl to be late for school do we?' Mum helped me on with my blazer, and then lowered my school hat carefully down onto my head before tucking the elastic under my chin. 'Very nice' smiled Miss Markham as she straightened my hat.
Mum escorted us to the front door, and as we stepped outside I said hopefully, 'Miss Markham, are we going in your car?' She knew that I wanted to avoid being seen in the street, and wanting to ensure that I experienced my humiliation to the full she smiled and said 'No Jimmy, I decided that we should walk. It will do us good.' I groaned as I realised that I could no longer avoid the inevitably amused stares of every onlooker, and as Mum kissed me on the doorstep she said 'Now off you go, don't misbehave, and I'll meet you at the school gate at 4pm sharp. Understood?'
'Yes Mum' I said miserably, and walked reluctantly down the front path with Miss Markham and out into the street. My day's purgatory had begun.
It only took us about twenty minutes to walk to school, but it was one of the longest twenty minutes of my life. Miss Markham walked on the inside of the pavement so that I was more clearly visible to any onlooker. After only a couple of minutes, three girls in my class at school turned into the street across the road, looked across at me, and instantly recognised me. They immediately shrieked with laughter, and ran across the road to join us. They kept standing back to look at me as we walked along, and it wasn't long before more of my schoolgirl classmates joined us as we approached our school. Strangely enough, none of the boys seemed to do so. Perhaps they thought that my humiliation might rub off on them. Or perhaps they actually felt sorry for me. I suspect the latter. After all, no boy would wish on his worst enemy what I was about to endure that day.
By the time we reached the school I'd attracted a crowd of about a dozen girls around me, all laughing and giggling at my predicament. I'd crossed swords with one or two of them in the past, and they were seizing this golden opportunity to get their own back.
We walked up a long driveway, and as soon as we reached the school buildings at the top, Miss Markham escorted me to Miss Wareham's study for inspection. She knocked on the door, and the headmistress's voice from within bade us enter the hallowed precinct.
As soon as I entered the room she stood up from her desk and walked around me. I felt like an insect being examined. She surveyed me in silence for a moment, and then removed my hat and put it in my hand. 'Rule number one' she said, 'The girls never wear their hats indoors Jimmy. But since it's only for the day, you can leave yours in your desk. But I must say' she added with a smile, 'Your mother's done an excellent job of dressing you. You really do look the part. How do you feel?'
'Dreadful' I said miserably, 'I've never felt so embarrassed in my life!'
'Excellent' she beamed, 'That's exactly what I intended.' I think this lesson in humility should be a salutary example to the other boys should they make the mistake of behaving as you have. I doubt that you'll be keen to repeat the exercise will you?'
'No!' I said vehemently, 'Never!'
'Good' she said with a smile, 'That's just what I wanted to hear. However, your punishment is only just about to begin young man. I suspect that by the time this day ends, I'll be able to guarantee that you definitely won't want to repeat the exercise!'
At that moment the school bell rang, and Miss Wareham said 'Ah, time for morning assembly. You stay with me for the moment Jimmy. Miss Markham will take you to your class afterwards. Let's be off.'
We went out into the corridor and went to join the other members of staff in the staff common room, where Miss Markham took off her raincoat and hung it up on a coat stand. We all waited there for a few minutes to give the students time to gather in the gymnasium for morning assembly. Then the staff moved out in procession towards the gymnasium, with Miss Wareham bringing up the rear, keeping me just in front of her.
We entered the gym by a side door next to the stage at the front, and climbed the steps at the side. The staff ranged themselves across the stage facing the assembled children, while Miss Wareham stood me next to her at one side of the stage. As soon as my peers saw me, a subdued chorus of giggles echoed round the hall before Miss Protheroe, the deputy headmistress, reduced them to silence.
Morning assembly began with the usual hymn and a prayer before Miss Wareham made the day's announcements. Needless to say, she saved me until last. The announcements completed, she walked me to the front of the stage and said 'Well boys and girls, most of you are no doubt aware that yesterday, Jimmy Taylor here committed not one, but three offences. One, he was reading a comic during lessons and disrupting the class with his laughter. Two, he answered back when Miss Markham reprimanded him, and worst of all, he swore at her when she did so. I will not tolerate such disgraceful behaviour, and due to the compound nature of his offence, I'm inflicting the severest punishment available to me, short of expulsion. That is, that he will spend the entire day dressed as one of the girls. No doubt you find his appearance amusing, but I very much doubt if he does, and I want his salutary humiliation to be a warning to any other boy who makes the mistake of behaving as he has. In order to maximise his humiliation, you have my permission to tease him as much as you like, short of physical harm. That I will not allow. Very well' she concluded, 'That is all. You may go to your classes.'
The teachers filed out first, leaving me with Miss Markham on the stage. Looking at me with broad grins on their faces and giggling, the children went to their classrooms before Miss Markham said to me 'All right Jimmy, time to face your classmates. I imagine you'll get quite a reception.' She took my arm and led me down the steps off the stage, out into the playground, and across to the building where my classroom was. She took me along the corridor, and finally propelled me into my classroom. She stood me next to her desk at the front, and as I faced the class, a roar of laughter and giggling went up. This was the moment I'd been dreading, and Miss Markham decided to let my classmates have their fun for a few moments.
I stood there blushing to the roots, and the girls particularly enjoyed themselves at my expense with a barrage of teasing comments.
'So who's the little new girl? And I just love those hair ribbons! Don't you look sweet?'
'What's your name little girl? I bet it's something like Jennifer, or Susan.'
'Susan!' laughed one girl, 'Hey that's a good idea. Let's call him Susan for the day!' She turned to me and said 'How do you like your new name, Susan?' More laughter and cries of Susan, Susan, Susan! rent the air, and I blushed crimson to the roots with humiliation. This was even worse than I'd expected, and I was reminded how inventive girls can be when teasing boys. They were loving every minute of it.
'I think he looks really cute' grinned one girl, 'I mean look at him, he looks so demure and girly in our school uniform. I reckon it really suits him.'
'What do you mean, him? It's obvious she's a girl isn't she?'
'Of course she's a girl. Couldn't possibly be a boy!'
Miss Markham allowed this banter to continue for a minute or two until she decided to restore order. 'All right everyone' she said, 'You've had your fun, so let's get on with some work. Jimmy, you sit down here at the front in this empty desk where I can keep an eye on you.' I did as I was told, put my hat in the desk as I'd been instructed, and accompanied by a chorus of sniggers, sat down at the desk.
And so my humiliating day began. Sitting down at the front of the class I was mercifully unaware of some of the looks I must have been getting, but I was still plagued by a continuous quiet little symphony of titters and giggles. Otherwise, the lesson continued as normal, except I found it hard to concentrate. Hardly surprising. When the mid morning break arrived, I chose to stay in the classroom, dreading my first foray alone out into the playground, and when it was over I was glad that Miss Markham returned before my classmates. The next lesson proceeded without much interruption, and it was clear that Miss Markham was protecting me from my peers' derision for as long as she could. But as the lunchtime break approached, I realised that I would shortly be thrown to the wolves.
All too soon the lunch bell rang, and we all stood up. Miss Markham looked at me and said 'All right Jimmy, time for lunch. I'll take you to the canteen.' I walked across to her and she escorted me out of the room. I was grateful to have her as an escort for the time being, but I knew that the time for some real teasing was fast approaching.
We went out into the playground and then across to the dining hall. Miss Markham told me to join the queue lining up at the serving hatch. I stood in line, trying to ignore the giggles and titters around me, knowing that I was the centre of attraction. I was handed my lunch of mashed potatoes and beef stew, and then looked for somewhere to sit. A voice behind me said 'Over there Susan, you'd better sit with us.' I looked round and saw that it was one of the girls in my class. She guided me across to one of the long refectory tables, and I sat down on the bench next to her.
The grins on the faces of my classmates told me that they were certainly enjoying the company of their new classmate, and as I began to eat, the girl next to me said 'Well Jimmy. I reckon you'd better be ready for some pretty heavy teasing today. Let's face it, you do look pretty comical don't you?'
'Tell me about it' I said ruefully.
'Well you certainly do look like a girl don't you? Especially with such long hair and those bows in your hair. If your hair was much longer I reckon even we would think you were a girl!'
'Yes' giggled another, 'He must be absolutely squirming with humiliation dressed like that. I've got to hand it to Miss Wareham, she sure knows how to make the punishment fit the crime, doesn't she?'
I suddenly realised that after their initial teasing in the classroom, at least these girls seemed to be prepared to talk to me, although they still couldn't help giggling at me from time top time.
We had to return to the serving hatch for our dessert of treacle pudding and custard, and once we'd finished eating and filed out into the playground, my classmates left me to my fate.
My reception by the other girls in the playground wasn't pleasant. As soon as I set foot outside the dining hall, a barrage of giggles and laughter met me, and the humiliation was terrible.
I managed to find a bench to sit on, but I knew just how cruel girls can be, and I was well aware that I had no choice but to accept their sharp female witticisms. Sure enough, I soon found myself sitting with a cluster of girls who began to tease me. The biggest girl was the first to comment, and it was obvious that she really intended to enjoy herself. 'Well I must say' she began, 'I'm glad to see that our new girl is properly dressed. I think her school uniform suits her better than me, and aren't her shoes nice and shiny?'
'Typical new girl' said another, 'All neat and tidy.'
'And those hair ribbons are so pretty' giggled another, 'We must give her some lessons in how to tie them herself sometime. After all, she mustn't expect her mummy to always tie them for her must we?'
Mercifully, just then the bell for afternoon lessons rang, and I had never before been so relieved to return to the classroom, where my classmate's opportunity to tease me was much more limited. Nevertheless, my heart sank when at two thirty the bell went for the last lesson of the day, and with good reason. The boys went to their woodwork class, but dressed as I was, Miss Markham decided that I should do needlework with the girls. My heat sank.
We rose from our desks to go to the needlework room, and Miss Markham took me by the arm and led me towards the door. I almost dragged my feet as I realised where she was taking me. Surrounded by the other girls (I suppose I might as well say other girls by now), we walked down the corridor and into the needlework department.
Miss Markham stood with me by her desk until all the girls were sitting at their workplaces and said 'All right girls, carry on from where you left off last term while I introduce Jimmy to some basic sewing.' Several girls giggled, and one called out 'Excuse me Miss, but her name's Susan.'
A roar of laughter went up, but Miss Markham said 'Well I can't stop you from inventing nicknames, but I think you're being very cruel. And as far as the staff are concerned, he will continue to be called by his proper name. Now you've had your little joke, so get on with your work.'
The girls took out their various projects, and soon an array of dresses and aprons were spread out around the room. Miss Markham took me aside to a workplace in the corner and sat me down. Not too unkindly she said quietly 'You know Jimmy, sewing isn't just for girls, and you certainly wouldn't call every tailor a cissy, would you? Now I'm going to teach you to sew on a button. That's more than your friends can do, isn't it?' She was so kind, and I was grateful that she was my form mistress.
And so my first venture into the world of needlework was to learn how to thread a needle and sew on a button. Miss Markham gave me a piece of material and some buttons to practice with, and after an hour under her guidance I'd finally managed to do it several times without pricking my finger. I actually became so absorbed with it that I was surprised when the bell went for the end of school. As the girls hurriedly put away their work and dashed from the room, Miss Markham looked at my efforts. 'Well' she smiled, 'Jimmy, that's good, very good indeed. As a matter of fact, it's better than almost any of those girls managed with their first try. Well done. We'll make a tailor of you yet.' I flushed with genuine pleasure at the compliment.
'Well I suppose you'd better be off' she said. 'You can take that with you if you like so you can show your mother. She's picking you up at the ain gate at four o'clock, so I'll take you there now. We mustn't forget to pick up your school hat though must we?' she smiled. She took me back to my classroom, and as I went to my desk to take out my hat she looked out of the window.
'Just a minute' she said, 'Look, it's absolutely pouring outside.' It certainly was. A torrential downpour had started. 'Well we can't have you getting soaked' she said, 'Leave your hat in your desk and come with me Jimmy, I'll find you something suitable to keep you dry.' Not quite sure what she meant, I followed her out of the room and along the corridor to the girl's cloakroom. We went inside, where there were rows of coat hooks where the girls hung their hats and coats. Most of the hooks were empty, but several of them had the girl's regulation style school gaberdine raincoats hanging from them, and looking at me to estimate my size, she selected one and took it down from its hook. 'Here we are' she said, checking the size on the label inside, 'This should fit you quite nicely.'
As she held it up for me to put on, I stared at the raincoat in horror. For a moment, I'd hoped that wearing a coat on top of my girl's school uniform would obscure it from public view as I walked through the streets, but I suddenly realised that wearing the raincoat would be just as humiliating as wearing the girl's school uniform for all to see. And the reason? Because it was without doubt a girl's school raincoat in a style exclusively worn by the girls only.
To begin with, we boys wore double-breasted navy blue belted gaberdine raincoats, whereas the girl's raincoats were completely different. They were royal blue, belted, and single-breasted, so they only fastened on the girl's side. Most distinctively of all, they had a hood, which no boy would be seen dead wearing for fear of looking like a girl. And I was now going to have to walk through the streets wearing one. I shuddered at the thought, but realising that refusing to wear it was out of the question, I obediently put my arms into the sleeves.
Miss Markham pulled the raincoat on over my shoulders, and fastened the buttons up the front to my neck. Then she threaded the belt through the buckle, and pulling it tight round my waist, she fastened the end onto a button behind me so that it couldn't slip undone. The hood hung down my back, the tie tapes swinging as I moved. The raincoat was slightly too large for me, and the hem came down well below my knees, while the cuffs of the sleeves reached the base of my fingers. I felt like a little girl whose mother buys her clothes one size too large so that she'll grow into them.
But Miss Markham was pleased as she inspected me. 'That's better' she smiled, 'That raincoat's about a size too large actually, but that doesn't matter, it'll cover you properly. Now let's go down to the school gate. I don't want to keep your mother waiting.'
She first of all took me to the staff room, where she put on her raincoat before we went to the open front door of the building. We paused just inside as we saw the rain teeming down, and turning to me, Miss Markham said 'Just a minute Jimmy, and I'll put up your hood. We don't want to get those pretty hair ribbons wet, do we?' she added with a grin. She turned up my coat collar, and then pulled my raincoat hood up over my head. Then she brought the tie tapes together under my chin and tied them in a bow. She looked at me and laughed as she said 'Oh Jimmy, if you only knew how much like a girl you look now! The way you're peeping out from under that hood so demurely, well, you just look so sweet!' I blushed again, knowing that she was of course right, and I gave a grimace of disapproval that just made her laugh again.
Miss Markham put up the hood of her own raincoat, fastened a button flap under her chin to keep the hood firmly in place, and we stepped out into the pouring rain. We walked the short distance down the driveway to the main school gate, which had an arch over it under which I could see my mother, wearing a beige raincoat and holding an umbrella as she sheltered from the rain.
As soon as we reached her she looked at me and burst out laughing. 'Oh my goodness me Jimmy' she grinned 'Don't you look sweet in that raincoat? Good heavens, anybody who sees you like that won't think for even a moment that you're a boy. You look quite delightful.'
'Well I thought he needed something to keep him dry' said Miss Markham, 'So the most obvious choice was a girl's raincoat. I must admit he could fool most people dressed like that.'
'Indeed he could' agreed Mum, and for the next few minutes Miss Markham described the day's events to her. Mum listened with interest, frequently nodding her head with approval, and when Miss Markham had finished, Mum produced her bombshell.
'Well I must say' she said, 'I think that dressing a boy as a girl is an exquisite form of punishment. It doesn't require physical pain, which I thoroughly disapprove of, and at the same time, it can last foe either a short or long period of time according to the misdemeanour. In addition of course, there's the delightfully humiliating prospect of him actually being taken out, where being seen by amused onlookers is a further refinement in cases of extreme misbehaviour.'
'And I'm so impressed with the idea' she added, looking at me with a grin, 'That I've decided to adopt this form of punishment at home when he kicks over the traces. I'm going to take him down the town immediately and get him fitted out with a complete girl's outfit at that girlswear shop Buttons and Bows. Preferably something really cute, such as a little girl's party dress. With all the accessories of course. Yes, I think with an outfit like that hanging up on the back of the door, the mere hint of making him wear it will be enough to ensure Jimmy's good behaviour. Yes, thank you very much for the idea Miss Markham, I intend to use it as often as I feel necessary.'
I listened with horror as she explained my new punishment system, and by now I so regretted my misbehaviour at school. If I hadn't been such an idiot I wouldn't have found myself standing there with them dressed as a girl, and Mum wouldn't have had her bright idea. I groaned to myself at the rod I'd made for my own back.
Miss Markham grinned and said 'Well I'm glad you so approve of our idea of humiliation as a form of punishment. So much better than corporal punishment.' She looked at me, smiled, and said 'Well Jimmy, I'll see you at school in the morning. Somehow I think you've well and truly learnt your lesson.' She said goodbye, and set off home, while Mum put up her umbrella, and we walked along the street in the direction of the town's main shopping precinct.
The wet streets were fairly empty, but the few people who saw me didn't give me a second glance, and I gratefully realised that they simply thought that I really was a schoolgirl. Hardly surprising, considering the way I was dressed. I almost started to enjoy the deception, but my pleasure rapidly evaporated as Mum finally stopped outside a shop selling clothes for babies and girls only. I looked up at the shop sign and saw the words Buttons and Bows, and dreaded going in. But Mum didn't hesitate, and after collapsing her umbrella, took my arm firmly and led me in through the door.
The ground floor was exclusively for babywear and nursery requirements, and Mum marched me across to a flight of stairs with a notice saying girlswear from tots to teens. She led me upstairs to the first floor, and as I looked around me I gave a groan of despair. The prospect of being fitted out with what I saw there made me shudder in anticipation.
Mum walked me across to a counter behind which stood two young lady shop assistants. Then she turned to me, lowered my hood, and as I blushed profusely, she unfastened my raincoat and removed it. Then she placed it over the back of a chair.
The expression of surprise on the faces of the two shop girls almost made me laugh as they suddenly realised that the schoolgirl standing in front of them was actually a boy. As Mum removed my raincoat, they looked me up and down, and laughed before one of them said 'What on earth?… Good gracious me, it's a boy!' and she giggled profusely before saying 'But why is he dressed as a girl? He must be hideously embarrassed.'
'Of course he is' said Mum, 'That's the general idea. It's his school punishment for severe misbehaviour, so he's had to spend the whole day wearing the girl's school uniform.'
'Well I must say it's quite a punishment' laughed one, 'He must be absolutely squirming dressed like that!'
'Quite' said Mum, 'And I think it's so effective that I've decided to adopt it at home as well.'
'Really?' chuckled the woman, 'How delightful.'
'Indeed. Which brings me to why I've brought him in here. I want to fit him out with the most demure, cute little girl style dress you can find, such as a party frock. And also the accessories such as knickers and a petticoat to go with it. I want it to be something that he'll find so excruciatingly humiliating to wear that the mere threat of making him put it on it will make him behave.'
'I see' grinned the assistant, 'Well I'm quite sure we can find something eminently suitable. What size is he?'
'Size ten? Oh that shouldn't be a problem. With such a small size, I'm sure we can find something particularly childish. Come over to this clothes rack over here.' She led the way over to a rack of little girl's party dresses, and grinned as she looked at me and said 'I assume you'll want him to try it on first?'
'Of course' said Mum, 'I want it to fit him perfectly. And he might as well try on the knickers and petticoat at the same time.'
They searched along the line of party dresses until finally they took one out. The girl held it up, and Mum said 'Oh yes, that's perfect! It's almost babyish isn't it?'
'It certainly is' laughed the girl, 'Fortunately your son's small for his age. This one's meant to fit little girls of about seven, but it's in his size, so it will definitely fit him.'
I stared at the dress in horror at the prospect of having to wear it, and no wonder. It was everyone's idea of what a little girl would wear, a pale yellow satin party dress with a peter pan collar, short puffed sleeves and a smocking pattern across the front. It had a row of buttons up the back, and a sash belt that tied in a large bow at the back.
The shop assistant took it over to a changing cubicle and hung it on a hook. Then she and Mum selected a stiff white taffeta petticoat which joined he dress in the cubicle. The girl next opened a drawer, and took out a pair of pale yellow satin girl's knickers decorated with small satin bows, together with a pair of white cotton ankle socks decorated with a lace frill at the top. She put them in the cubicle, and then said 'And now for some shoes. Perhaps you'd like to sit him down and I'll show you some.'
Mum sat me down, removed my shoes and socks, and replaced them with the childish ankle socks with the lace frill. After checking my shoe size, the girl showed Mum a selection until she chose a pair that the shop assistant put on my feet. They couldn't have been more humiliating. They were a pair of white leather T bar strap shoes, decorated with small leather ping flowers, and they were fastened securely on my feet with buckled straps at the side of the foot.
Once my feet were taken care of, Mum took me into the cubicle and removed my school uniform. She took the pale yellow knickers, and I blushed as she made me step into them and she pulled them up my legs. The elastic at the leg openings and waist seemed restrictive as they gripped me firmly. Next came the taffeta petticoat, and Mum held it while I stepped into it. She pulled it up around me, and pulled the waist thread tight before tying it in a non-slip bow at the back.
Then came the party dress. Mum took it down off its hanger, unfastened the back, and opened it up for me to put on. 'Arms up' she grinned. With a sigh of resignation I raised my arms and she put them into the sleeves and pulled the dress down over my head. Then she fastened all the buttons up my back, secured a hook and eye behind my neck, and tied the sash in a neat non-slip bow behind me. I stood there for a moment, fingering the dress with distaste as I realised that it fitted me perfectly. The petticoat underneath made it stick out sweetly, and I groaned with despair.
'Right' said Mum, 'Let's see what the others think.' She pulled the cubicle curtain open, took my hand, and walked me out into the showroom.
I was horrified to see two girls about my age dressed in their school uniforms standing at the counter with their mother, being served by the other shop assistant, and as soon as they saw me they shrieked with laughter. Their mother and the two shop assistants grinned, and my mother said 'Well. How do you think he looks?'
The two schoolgirls couldn't resist coming over to us with their mother, and one of them giggled and said 'Doesn't he look adorable? I used to look just like that when I was about six! Except I had pigtails. But why is he dressed as a little girl?'
Mum quickly explained, and the other girl grinned and said 'I wish Mum would do that to our brother. He's a real pain sometimes, and I'd just love to see him dressed up like that!' She turned to her mother and said 'How about it Mum? Next time Ricky's naughty, can we dress him up as a little girl?' Her mother looked at me, grinned, and said 'Well I must say it's original. My goodness, he'd be absolutely mortified if we dressed him up like that!'
'So can we Mum? Please?' begged the other girl.
'Why not?' she smiled, 'All right then girls, next time he's really naughty you can dress him up as a cute little girl, just like this.'
'With ribbons tied in his hair' giggled one.
'Tied really tightly' chuckled her sister with a malicious grin. I didn't envy their brother.
'So' said Mum, 'As I said, how do you think he looks? Cute enough?'
'Oh yes' grinned one of the shop assistants, 'Without a doubt. He looks absolutely perfect. I've never seen a boy look so humiliated in his life. It's an exquisitely ingenious punishment.'
'Good. Well in that case we'll take the complete outfit. I'll just get him changed back.' She took me back into the cubicle, removed the little girl outfit, and dressed me once again in my girl's school uniform. She picked up the little girl items of clothing and took me out into the showroom, where she put all the items she'd bought on the counter to be put in bags.
As soon as the two schoolgirls saw me they burst out laughing again. 'Oh how delightful' giggled one, 'When you said you were going to get him changed back, I thought you meant into boy's clothes. Not a cute little girl's school uniform! Doesn't he look sweet?'
Will this day ever end? I thought wearily, as once more I had to stand there blushing while the two girls teased me.
But at last Mum paid the bill, picked up the bag containing my new outfit, and after thanking the shop assistants and bidding the still giggling girls farewell, she led the way downstairs and out into the street. It had stopped raining, and much to my disappointment, she made me carry my raincoat over my arm. This meant that I was clearly visible to every passer by as a boy dressed in a girl's school uniform, so their reaction was a foregone conclusion. A barrage of teasing comments and giggles followed me as we walked along, and Mum couldn't help smiling as she saw the kind of comments I'd had to put up with at school all day.
After a few minutes, Mum said 'I can't be bothered to cook tea tonight. Since we're here we might as well eat out. Come along dear, we'll go to Mitchells café.' We walked on a little further, and then crossed the road to enter a large café full of people having their afternoon tea. There weren't many tables free, but Mum managed to find one. It couldn't have been a worse choice. Sitting at the table next to us were two sisters, Jenny and Hilary Fraser, and Emily Jackson, all girls in my class at school, and they had their mothers with them.
Mum and I draped our coats over the backs of our chairs and sat down, and as soon as I was seated, a loud voice said 'Well well, if it isn't Susan Taylor!' I knew that voice. It was Hilary Fraser, and as I looked across at the three girls they burst out laughing. For a moment their mothers were puzzled, but then one of them looked at me more closely before she grinned and said 'You mean her? Somehow I think she's a him! What's he doing in your school uniform? And why did you just call him Susan?'
'Because' giggled Jenny, 'That's what we've called him for today.' She went on to describe the situation, and as she did so, wide grins spread across the faces of their mothers. One chuckled and said 'Well I can understand why you called him Susan, dressed like that. Seems rather suitable doesn't it?'
'It certainly does' smiled Mum, 'I'm his mother, and I must say I thoroughly approve of such an ingenious and amusing way of bringing naughty boys into line. As a matter of fact I intend to use it at home from now on, and I've just taken Jimmy (or rather Susan) into Buttons and Bows to buy him the sweetest little party frock to wear when he's naughty. Somehow I think the threat of wearing it is going to guarantee his future behaviour.
'You mean you've bought him a dress to wear?' giggled Emily, 'Can we see it?'
'Of course' said Mum, and while I blushed crimson with embarrassment, she stood up, took out the dress, and held it up so that the girls could see it. They saw it all right, and fell about with peals of laughter.
'Oh that's absolutely gorgeous!' chuckled Jenny, 'I'd just love to see him in that. It's so utterly cute. I reckon he'll look like a six year old in it. Yes, a sweet little girl of six' she added with a chuckle.
'I also bought the underwear and shoes to go with it' said Mum, 'He tried it on in the shop, and the petticoat made it stick out beautifully.'
'A Petticoat!' shrieked Hilary, 'He's going to wear a petticoat as well? Oh how delightful. My goodness, I'd give anything to see him all dressed up!'
'Well that might be arranged' said Mum, looking at me with a grin. 'As a matter of fact, I'd already decided to invite a few of his friends round to tease him if and when it becomes necessary to make him wear it. I think you girls would be ideal, so when the time comes I'll invite you round to tea. You can bring a few other girls, and I might even let you take him out for a walk. I imagine you'd like that?'
'Would we?' said Hilary eagerly, 'Oh yes, that would be hilarious.' She turned to her mother and said 'That would be all right wouldn't it Mum?'
'I don't see why not' smiled Mrs. Fraser, 'I wouldn't mind seeing him myself. Yes, that will be fine by me.' The girls beamed and looked at me with huge mischievous grins while I groaned inwardly at the prospect.
Grinning with relish at the prospect of witnessing my next humiliating punishment, they returned to eating their tea, while Mum and I ordered ours. I didn't have much of an appetite, particularly under the frequent amused stares and giggles coming from the girls.
They eventually got up to leave, and as they did so, Emily looked at me, grinned, and said 'See you at school tomorrow Susan. Pity you won't be dressed like us again though. Never mind, I can't wait for you to misbehave at home so we can see you in your pretty new party frock. We'll take you for such a long walk!' I couldn't wait for them to go, and breathed a sigh of relief when they finally did.
Once we'd finished our tea, Mum and I set off for home. When we reached the door of the café we saw that it was raining again, and once again I felt like a little girl as she buttoned me into my raincoat and pulled up the hood. Then she put on her own raincoat and we set off through the rain soaked streets on our way home.
A stiff breeze blew the driving rain hard against my raincoat, and I must admit that I was actually quite glad to be wearing it, even though the rain poured down it onto my bare legs and soaked my feet in their short ankle socks and shoes. As we walked along, the hem of the wet gaberdine raincoat slapped against my bare legs, and the hood restricted my field of view. But the coat was surprisingly warm, and as the rain drummed down on my hooded head, I felt well protected from the rain.
We finally reached home, and as soon as we were indoors, Mum hung up our wet raincoats in the kitchen to dry. We went straight up to my room, where Mum took my little girl outfit out of the bag and hung the party dress up on the back of the door. 'That's to remind you to behave' she grinned, 'Every time you look at it, remember it's waiting to embrace you in its dainty grasp if you don't. And by the way, if you refuse to put it on, I'll simply call in Mister Kelly from next door with his two sons and they'll force you into it. And if that happens, I'll also strap you into a set of lockable baby reins and drag you around town, so I recommend that you co-operate if you know what's good for you.'
It was her trump card, and one I hadn't thought of. I miserably realised that I would have no choice but to accept this humiliation as my punishment if I misbehaved, and suddenly I was determined to keep out of Mum's bad books. The thought of being taken out by the girls dressed in that outfit was unbearable to contemplate.
Mum decided to put all the other items away in her room, but she left the dress hanging on my door as a constant reminder to behave. Once she'd put everything away, we went downstairs and watched TV for the next few hours before I went to bed. As I lay there, I kept looking at the dress hanging on the door in the dim light, and shuddered at the thought of having to wear it.
Next day I was back to normal, and although I received some teasing banter from my classmates, the affair was more or less forgotten until the next hapless individual transgressed badly enough to suffer the same punishment as I had.
And eventually, Billy Gardiner did. He spent a day of humiliation just as I had, and I must admit that I did find it amusing. I thought I was now out of danger as long as I kept my nose clean at school, but my smug self-satisfaction was premature. A few months later a local orchard owner called Mr. Harper caught me scrumping apples from one of his trees with two of my mates. They managed to get away, but I was up the tree at the time, so I didn't stand a chance. Furious, he took me home and told my mother, demanding that I be punished. I'll never forget the expression on his face when she showed him my little girl party frock and told him that she intended to take me out dressed in it. Mr. Harper's face immediately broke into a broad grin, and he laughed as he said that he'd be more than satisfied with such a punishment.
And sure enough, that was my fate the following Saturday. Mum dressed me up, the girls came round to our house, and they took me round the town on the most humiliating walk of my life.
But that's another story.
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