The McComber Switch
By Karen Singer
Chapter 27 Part 1 of 3 - Attitude Shopping
Jan 24 - 26
Bright yellow tights. His sister’s colorful zigzag skirt. A black knit top with a white cardigan sweater over it. The nice boots to help keep his legs warm. And a yellow bow in his hair to match his tights. If Jasmine wasn’t so used to it now he’d literally scream – which is what he really felt like doing. But he was more used to it now, and he knew perfectly well that screaming wouldn’t do him any good at all.
With his sister’s school coat over it all, he grabbed his sister’s heavy purse and followed his mother out to the car. He was more used to carrying the purse around now, but it still irked him.
“So how has school been?” Susan asked as she left the driveway. “You haven’t said much about it all week.”
“Weird!” Jasmine replied.
“What’s weird about it?”
“Well, ever since Jas…”
“You mean Jimmy!”
He rolled his eyes and sighed. “Whatever! Ever since she decided she wasn’t going to hang around with her friends anymore, they’ve…”
“Jas isn’t spending time with her friends?” Susan asked, shocked to hear it.
“Not since Tuesday,” Jasmine replied.
“When did that happen?”
“I just told you. Tuesday.”
“No, I mean…why?”
“I don’t know. Jas just got it into her head to pretty much disown them all. And when she did it, Allison came and got me and literally dragged me to their lunch table and said I was now a part of them instead. Trust me, it’s all weird!”
“Um…yeah. I bet. So what happened?”
“Well, ever since then, they all seem to be hanging extra close to me. And whenever anyone says something about what a sissy I am now, the girls all get real huffy about it and won’t let me even say a word back at them. And sometimes, Mom, I really want to punch some of those guys out so bad it hurts! But the girls won’t let me!”
“Thank heaven!” Susan exclaimed. “Um, is your sister still spreading trash about you again? I thought your father put a stop to that.”
“I’m not real sure,” he replied. “I kind of think so, but since the girls all keep me away from the guys so much, I don’t really know. In fact, the only time I seem to be near any guys at all is when I’m sitting at my desk in class. And that’s about it.”
“Remind me to thank the girls later!” Susan said. “The last thing we need is for you to start a fight somewhere.”
“Hey, I wouldn’t be starting it. They would, by saying all that junk about me.”
Susan looked menacingly over at him for a moment before turning back to watch the road. “What kind of things are they saying?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s all mostly stuff about what a sissy I am now and how I actually think I’m a girl now instead of a boy.”
“And do you think it’s your sister that’s spreading these things, or is it just the things the others see in you now.”
“Things they see in me?”
“Like you showing up to school every Monday dressed as your sister. Or like the fact that you’re constantly hanging around with your girlfriends. Or…um…I guess your hair is starting to get more than a bit long for a boy now too. Although what I really think is that it needs some shaping again.”
His hands automatically went to his hair, feeling the length of it a bit. “I don’t know,” he replied. “I guess it could be all that. Maybe it would be better if I didn’t hang with the girls now. I’m not really one of them anyway.”
“Don’t you dare!” she cautioned him quickly. “It sounds to me like they’re the only thing that’s keeping you from starting a fight.”
“Like I said,” he replied, “I wouldn’t be starting it!”
She again glared at him angrily. “Just don’t stop hanging with the girls. Okay? Promise me?”
“Unless they don’t want me around anymore,” he replied. “Which most likely will be the case if Jas…I mean Jimmy finally decides to start hanging with them again.”
Susan didn’t know which would be the better thing, her daughter once again back with her friends, or her friends protecting Jimmy.
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“Don’t forget your purse, dear,” Susan said to him once she had parked the car and was starting to get out.”
“Ugh! Why do I always have to carry this thing? I’m not going to need it anyway.”
“All women carry purses,” she replied. “Get used to it!”
“Ugh!” he grunted again as he pulled his sister’s purse up from the floor and got out of the car. “Why is her stupid purse so heavy?” he asked as they headed for the stores.
“First of all, it’s your purse. And how should I know? What do you have in it?”
“I don’t know. The only time I ever open it is to put my lunch money in it or take it out, or to grab a pen or something.”
“Well it’s your purse,” she told him. “If you think it’s too heavy, then clean it out.”
“Does Jas have another purse that I can use instead that isn’t so…heavy? I don’t want to get rid of anything she might need.”
“You have lots of purses. And you know perfectly well where they are.”
“Maybe I’ll just do that,” Jasmine decided. “Maybe I can set one up just for me that won’t have so much junk in it.”
“That’s up to you dear,” Susan replied. “In fact, while we’re out, if you see a new one that you’d like, then maybe we can get it for you.”
Shopping for a new purse wasn’t exactly high on Jasmine’s list of things he wanted to do.
“Now don’t forget,” Susan told him. “Smile! You really do look so much nicer.”
Jasmine followed his mother into one of the major department stores. “What are we looking for?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied. “We’re just shopping today. I was thinking though of looking at some new leggings while we’re out. They’re very popular right now.”
“Where are they?” he asked.
“I don’t know. We’ll find them eventually.”
“Should we ask?”
“Jas, we’re here to shop. There’s lots of things for us to look at. I really just want to enjoy the afternoon shopping with my daughter. Okay? Relax…and smile!”
He showed her one of his mock smiles, then broke into a more honest grin afterwards because he thought it was funny.
“You really do need to do that more,” she told him.
He put the mock smile back on his face.
“Not that!” she exclaimed.
Once again, the genuine smile returned.
“That!” she told him with a laugh. She shook her head. “Jas, you could be beautiful if you just smiled more.”
He didn’t dare tell her that he wasn’t the least bit interested in being “beautiful.” Of course, just then, the thing he really wanted was to not get laughed at, so he did his best to keep at least some semblance of a smile on his face…as if it would really help, which he seriously doubted.
He wasn’t at all comfortable going into the women’s department of the store – he never had been. The girls department either. Fortunately, in the past, every time he had been there with his mother, she had never lingered there long. However, that wasn’t the case now. Now he was more uncomfortable than ever because she was there to shop specifically in that department. And since she was obviously moving all to casually and slowly as she looked and picked at all too many things, he felt more uncomfortable than ever in that overly feminine world.
Susan didn’t often buy dresses, but that didn’t mean that she didn’t look at them often. She just rarely went anywhere where she could wear them. As Jasmine stood back watching her, she allowed herself the luxury of flipping through dress after dress on the racks in her size, stopping occasionally to examine some of them more closely. She pulled one out for a closer look, then she turned to Jasmine as she held it up in front of her body. “What do you think?” she asked.
Jasmine didn’t know what to think. “Um, it’s nice, I guess?”
Susan’s face pursed up in a look of annoyance. “Jas, you’ve really got to get more interested in this stuff. Don’t your girlfriends all talk about clothes with you?”
Once again he rolled his eyes. “Constantly!” he sighed. “You should hear them sometimes. They never stop!”
“Maybe you should start listening a little closer to what they’re saying,” she said. “Start forming some of your own opinions.”
“Why?” he asked.
His question was exasperating. “What do you mean, why? Why not? It wouldn’t kill you to try to get interested in what would look nice on you or not. Don’t you have opinions about what you see others wearing? Don’t you ever notice if someone looks nice or not? You’ve got to notice that sometimes.”
He thought about that for a moment as his mother put the dress she was holding back on the rack. “Everyone pretty much always looks nice,” he decided.
“They do?” Susan replied. “All the time?”
He shrugged. “As far as I can see.”
“What about if a woman’s hair isn’t fixed or if she hasn’t bothered to put any makeup on. Would she look nice?”
“I don’t know. I guess it depends.”
“On what she was doing.”
“Let’s say she’s out shopping…like we are. Would she look nice for that?”
“I don’t know,” he said again. “I guess I’d have to see.”
This time it was Susan who rolled her eyes. “Well, if you spot anyone today who doesn’t look nice, then let me know!” She looked at him again. “And while you’re at it, don’t forget to smile again.”
Ugh! “My face is starting to hurt.”
She ignored him and went back to looking at the clothes, moving slowly and casually, not purposely taking her time except to enjoy being out in the stores. Twenty minutes later, they found some leggings and Susan began going through them.
“They look like Jas’s tights, only heavier,” Jasmine told her as he looked over her shoulder at some leggings that were all brightly colored patterns.
“You mean like your tights,” Susan corrected him. “And yes, they certainly do,” she replied as she studied the bold patterns seriously. “I know they’re really popular right now, but do I dare wear something like these? Like you said, they do look an awful lot like some of those tights you have.”
“I wish I could wear those instead of skirts,” Jasmine replied. “At least they’d be warmer. And they would be something to wear other than a skirt.”
Susan looked at him. “You’ve got a couple of pairs of these things in your drawer. You can wear them anytime you want – under one of your skirts. You don’t have to always wear tights like you do.”
“No. Of course not.”
“Can I get a few more pairs of those then?” he asked.
She smiled. “Sure!”
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Two and a half hours later, Susan and Jasmine were both carrying a number of bags. One of the bags Susan held contained two pairs of leggings that Susan was very worried about wearing in public – or even in the house for that matter. They really did look like some of Jasmine’s all too brightly patterned tights! But she had noticed so many women wearing them under skirts or long tops that she felt she just had to buy them. Of course, she held another bag that held two more pairs that pretty much looked like jeans. She would have no problem wearing those. She also had hopes that her husband would have even less problem with her wearing them around him – like when she was interested in getting him into the bedroom after the kids had settled down to sleep.
She thought about the leggings that Jasmine had selected – and finally tried on. One pair – in plain black. He had wanted the same jean pattern she had bought, but she had told him she didn’t want him wearing jeans of any kind to school. So he had chosen plain black. Definitely not something his sister would have chosen. But…they would certainly go with just about anything.
She had sent him into the changing room to try them on, with orders to come out so she could see how they looked on him. It took her no time at all to decide that wearing skirts over top of them would have to be mandatory for him – even if he wasn’t already supposed to be wearing skirts. The tight stretchy fitting slacks had been thin enough to show that while she thought his hips were starting to grow some, they hadn’t grown enough to look convincing enough for him to pass that well. And that had been the view from the back. It was the view from the front that had been the worst. His crotch had just looked all wrong! So skirts of some type over top of them were going to be essential – one way or another.
Susan had noticed that for most of the day he had only stood back and watched her shop. The only time he had ever shown the least bit of interest was very briefly while they had been trying to pick out some leggings for him. And even then it had been a bare minimal interest, as if he really just wanted to get away from there as quickly as possible. It wasn’t hard for her to figure out that he was just too embarrassed to shop for girl’s clothes.
Later, when she had taken him through a store that had a really good handbag collection, she had to literally talk him into selecting a new purse for himself – after he had expressed an interest in getting one earlier. And even then, he had seemed so nervous that it had really been her that had chosen one for him. The most he had done was to nod his head and agree that the one she had selected had been fine. She was tempted to just forget the whole thing and leave the purse on the shelf. She still thought that she should have.
But it was in that same store a little while later where she had seen him finally take an interest in something. Sort of. She had been looking at some nice long sweater tops in the store to go with the new leggings she had bought, when she had noticed him looking across the aisle at a rack full of skirts. She had stood there for quite a while just watching him, and he had kept looking at them. “Like them?” she had finally asked.
“Like what?” he had replied quickly as he turned his head back toward her. She couldn’t help but notice his face starting to turn red.
She had almost totally lost it with him then. “Stop it Jas!” she had said. “Do you like the skirts?”
“Um…I was just thinking…”
“Well, they all look pretty long.”
“Yes,” she had said. “They are. They’re supposed to be that way.”
“Oh.” And then he hadn’t said another word about it and had remained turned away from them. She had continued shopping for a few more minutes, when she saw his eyes turn briefly back toward them again. “Oh for heaven’s sake!” she had exclaimed. She had literally dragged him into the girl’s department at that point, and took him to every rack of long skirts they had. Knowing his reluctance, she had forced him to pull skirt after skirt off of the racks and hold them up to look at them better, and also hold them up against his waist to get some idea of how they would look and how long they would be. He hadn’t exactly been comfortable doing it, but she had felt that it was time to start getting him past all that embarrassment. And he really didn’t need to be embarrassed. She hadn’t seen one person all day who gave him a second look as if he wasn’t really a girl. Which was something that did help her day to be much more pleasant.
By the time they had left the store, he was carrying a bag with a new pair of leggings, a bag with his new purse in it, and a bag with a long pink skirt. She had really liked the skirt they had both chosen. While it was fairly fitted at the waist and across the hips, it then widened out into a nice wide skirt that would be comfortable for him to wear. To her, the style of it almost looked a bit western. And the pink color would really go well with the pink leather purse she had picked out for him.
And now with their arms fully loaded, especially hers, they were heading back to the car again. And that was when he said, “There’s one!”
“There,” he said, “That woman over there,” he said indicating a woman just then hurrying toward the stores.
The woman was obviously in a hurry, and obviously didn’t look like she had planned on being out shopping for any length of time like they had been. “What about her?” she asked.
“You said to let you know when I see someone who doesn’t really look good.”
She stared at the woman, but only for a moment since she could tell that the woman had seen them looking at her and was a bit embarrassed. “Stop staring, dear,” she said as she forced herself to keep walking. “But you’re right. She isn’t exactly dressed as nicely as most others here, is she?”
“You said to let you know.”
“Yes. And because she wasn’t as nicely dressed, did she seem to stand out to you more?”
It was a moment before he replied. “I guess,” he replied.
“How about a little more than you guess! Face it, you only noticed her more because she wasn’t as nicely dressed as everyone else.”
“Okay,” he admitted.
“So the point is, maybe taking an interest in what you’re wearing and how you look, might keep people from taking too much of an interest in you. Isn’t that what you really want?”
She didn’t have to look at him to know he was doing his usual eye rolling again. “Ugh!”
“Now what’s wrong?”
“In other words,” he replied, “in order to keep people from noticing me too much, I’ve got to become even more of a sissy.”
This time it was Susan who rolled her eyes. “Not a sissy, Jas, a girl! You’re a girl right now, not a sissy! Get that through that thick skull of yours. And besides, didn’t I tell you once that there’s no such thing as a sissy girl in the way you keep thinking of it?”
“Try explaining that to Jimmy!”
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