Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Story of Us: Cross-dressing Teens

One of my favorite memories from high school is dress shopping. Yes, me, a guy, dress shopping.

Every year, our school held a Senior Class Play that acted as a fundraiser for the class trip. Some would act/manage/light/etc. the play and others served as waiters and waitresses for the pre-show dinner. My senior year, our play was a comedy about a garden club organizing and producing a play. The characters needed to raise funds for their various projects, so they decided to host a night of theatre and pageantry. Problem is, they didn’t know the first thing about play production or beauty pageants. So, of course, the whole thing is a debacle--albeit an amusing one.

The photo is from the beauty pageant portion. Yes, there were plenty of females in my class and even in the play, but we all thought it would be funnier if I wore a dress, claiming the original, scheduled wearer was nowhere to be found. It was a riot, gaining some of the biggest laughs--along with catcalls and whistles--of our two performances.

To find this pink polyester beaut, we’d hit up a local thrift store. When we walked through the door, the cast, the director and his wife, and I saw this dress hanging behind the counter. We knew it was the one, as long as it fit. The clerk handed it over without question, but when she saw that I was the one going into the changing room, she howled with laughter. Even more, when I came out wearing it, another customer jabbered away, gushing about how much she loved the dress, how good it looked on me, and that if we weren’t going to buy it, she would.

Of course, it was all in the name of humor. But had I not been comfortable enough to cross-dress in front of the whole school and faculty and parents, I would’ve missed out on that woman’s reaction. What helped me along were the words of my good friend, Cale P., who’d said, “There’s no shame in humor.” And while this is very true--you have to be able to laugh at yourself before you can make the world laugh with you--it extends beyond humor. You shouldn’t be ashamed of being you. We each deserve to be comfortable in our skins, and the first step is simply accepting yourself for yourself--regardless of others’ reactions. And who knows, in the process of being yourself, you just might create some favorite memories along the way...

Holly: Your own, personal bully. Most people have one in high school, and I was no exception. 

This girl was relentless, and she took every chance she got (especially when others were around) to make fun of just about everything I did. So when this jock-of-a-chick joined drama, I knew it could only be for one reason: to ruin my life. And when the drama teacher allowed my bully to help her choose rolls for plays because she'd gotten a sports injury and couldn't perform, I knew things were only going to get worse. 

First, she cast me as the goose in a retelling of "Jack and the Beanstalk." And of course, as this goose, I had to lay a real egg on stage by dropping it behind me, letting it break, and yelling "Oh, my little Herbie!" Luckily, I've always been fairly secure with myself (barring a few exceptions), and I decided as a goose to make my rolls, however embarrassing, the best they could be. And people loved it. We traveled to area elementary schools for "Jack and the Beanstalk," and I made all of the little kids scream with glee when I laid that egg. They even asked for my autograph. Take that, bully! 

Well, the next play was "Hansel and Gretel," and it was clear that my bully wasn't done throwing the punches. I'd had short hair ever since my mom gave me a bowl cut in the third grade. I wanted longer hair, but I could never seem to hold out during the "awkward length" stage, so it stayed short for a long time. My bully knew this was a weak spot for me, because we'd both been on a soccer team together from age eight, all the way into high school. She knew the other teams would call me a boy to try to psyche me out, and I guess she wanted to get me good. So, even though there were guys in drama, I got cast as Hansel...yeah, you heard it right. Not Gretel. Hansel. But I did the same with Hansel as I did with the goose. I held my head up high and gave it my all. This play was performed in front of the school, and the entire student body gave me a standing ovation when it was my time to bow at the end. It goes to show that being comfortable with yourself, even in the face of a bully, is worth it every time.

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