Disguised in Skirts
I first met Rita in the winter of 1982 in the make-up department of a top store in Manchester. It was late afternoon – one of those dull dreary November days. I was due go to a little “do” that evening in a local pub, where a number of like minded people met every week.
I was already dressed as a woman ready for the evening’s jollities. I remember I was wearing a new olive green straight skirt I had bought the previous week and it fitted me like a glove, making me look slim and elegant. With it I was wearing a beige silk blouse and a little green and brown silk scarf. Of course Rita could see very little of my sartorial elegance as I was wearing a three quarter length swing back camel hair coat to keep out the chill.
Whether she picked me out as a transvestite or not, I do not know. At first glance I was reasonably sure that she was one, even though se was stylishly dressed in a black tailored suit and a white silk blouse. Her feet in their high heeled patent leather court shoes and black stockings seemed very small – one of the things that made me uncertain as to whether or not she was actually a fellow traveller. Nevertheless, there was something about her, — I could not put my finger on it, but there was something not quite right.
“That’s a beautiful colour” – I acknowledged, as she tried a lipstick on the back of her manicured hand. She looked up with a start, her eyes momentarily frightened. Yes, I ad been right. “Yes”, she replied, forcing a little smile as she stared at me. In the moment we both knew the other was a fellow traveller, and I saw her relax.
We chatted away for several minutes afterwards about make-up in general and then I suggested that she might like to join me upstairs for a coffee in the cafeteria it being such a miserable cold day. She agreed readily as we toddled on our high heels.
“How did you know?” she asked as she sipped her coffee.
“Darling,” I smiled, “when you’ve been at it as long as I have it is extremely difficult for someone to deceive you!”
“Oh”, she sighed, obviously upset that I had “read” her.
“Look, you’re extremely good – one of the best I’ve ever seen. You mustn’t take offence.”
“No, it’s not that. It’s just that, as far as I know, I’ve never been read before.”
“Really?” I smiled eyebrows raised.
“Not as far as I know, anyway” Oh dear, how we deceived ourselves, I thought. The poor girl, good as she was, had probably been “read” by a good few people before now.
“Have you been doing it a long time?” I enquired casually – not wanting to appear to pry.
“Since 1972 – since I was twelve”
“My mother started me off”, she smiled.
“Well I must say that’s decidedly unusual. Tell me more.”
And so she told me her story…
As I mentioned earlier her femme name was Rita, but her real name was Roger and she was born in Reading in a beautiful house with gardens sloping down to the river. Both her parents worked and she was an only child. Her father was a city solicitor and her mother an architect.
Roger’s earliest memories were of the furious rows between his parents. His father was demanding, domineering and short tempered, and always complaining about something. His mother was artistic and gentle by nature and always ended up in tears during the rows. Roger was terrified of his father, who frequently beat him, even when he was only 3 or 4 years old. His mother would try to intercede on his behalf but usually ended up being brutally beaten herself for her pains. Roger did not go into a lot of detail about his early life with his father but it was obvious that both he and his mother were physically terrified of the man.
Eventually his mother decided to break up the marriage and start a new life with Roger.
She was welcome to go as far as Roger’s father was concerned but Roger stayed – under no circumstances would he let his son go. He would have made him a ward of court – anything, but he stayed with his father. Roger, who overheard all this being shouted across the dining room table on evening, was distraught – as was his mother. Under no circumstances would she desert Roger, she whispered to him as he clung to her and wept bitter tears in the privacy of his bedroom.
Two weeks later his father had to go up to London for a weekend conference. As soon as she had left his mother hurried home from work, packed some clothes for both of them and they drove off into the night in her little Renault – both of them determined never to return. That night they stayed in a small hotel on the outskirts of Birmingham. His mother had had the forethought to withdraw all her money from the bank in cash before leaving in order to avoid being traced by her husband.
When his father returned home late on Sunday night, and realised what had happened, how his wife had outwitted him, he was beside himself with rage and frustration. On the Monday morning he set about making Roger a ward of court, and thanks to his influential position, ensured that the story was published in most of the national daily papers, together with photographs of Roger and his mother.
Roger’s mother saw their photographs in the paper on the Tuesday morning and was panic stricken. She was determined that she would never let her husband have Roger, but how to avoid detection – that was the problem.
She sat in the hotel, rocking backwards and forwards as she cuddled Roger who, even at the age of twelve, was glad of the warming assurance. Suddenly she got up off the bed and put on her coat – her mind made up.
“I’m going out for a while, Roger. You must stay here. Under no circumstances must you leave this room or let anyone in – anyone at all. Is that clear?”
“Where are you going?” Roger demanded to know.
“When will you be back?”
“I’m going to the shops – to the town centre. I should be back within a couple of hours. Now remember, stay here whatever happens.” With that she was gone, leaving young Roger alone. He stared out of the window and watched the little red Renault drive off, feeling frightened and alone.
It was, in fact the best part of two and a half hours before Roger heard a car pull up outside again and rushed to the window. It was not the Renault and his heart sank. However, out of the battered Fiat stepped his mother clutching armfuls of carrier bags and parcels? Roger rushed to the door and unlocked it, waiting for his mother to appear down the corridor. “Get inside!” she ordered sharply as she came into view, almost smothered by parcels. She threw the parcels onto the bed, ordering him to close and lock the door.
“What happened to the car?” Roger asked.
“I’ve sold it – part exchanged it for another one. Your father would have traced through one of his contacts. It was much too risky.”
“Do you really think he will go to all those lengths to get us back, mother?”
“Any lengths – he will see this as personal – a humiliation. It’s not me – I could go to hell as far as he is concerned. It’s you he’ll be after, Roger. Here, come into the bathroom”, she ordered.
Both Roger and his mother had dark brown hair – almost black. It being the early seventies Roger, like most boys at the time , wore his hair quite long – much to his father’s disgust, who had numerous rows with his mother about it.
An hour after his mother’s return they were sitting on the bed staring at each other fascinated, for they were both as blonde as it as possible to be.
“It suits you” Roger said to his mother, grinning.
“You don’t look so bad yourself,” his mother replied.
“You think we’re safe now then?”
“No way! This is only the beginning,” she said starting to unpack her parcels. “By the time we’ve finished he’ll never find you. We’ll be safe.”
Roger stood fascinated as he watched his mother unpack the parcels and horrified as he saw the contents and begun to realise what was going to happen. She had spread out on the bed a girl’s pink gingham dress with a large white collar and cuffs, a silky white vest and knickers, a lace trimmed waist slip and a pair of white ankle socks.
“What are they for?” Roger whispered, but he already knew.
“Your disguise, darling,” his mother smiled encouragingly. “Get undressed – quickly.”
“No!” He gasped.
“Don’t be silly, Roger.” she said impatiently.
“I’m not wearing a dress – not for anyone.”
“Do you realise your father has got every policeman in the country on the look out for us – a woman with a twelve year old boy?”
“I know, but�”
“Any policemen worth his salt would have us placed in no time at all.”
“Not with blonde hair – we’ve both got blonde hair now.”,
“That’s a help certainly, but it’s not enough. Now come on put these on,” se demanded, holding up the knickers. Roger blushed and shook his head vigorously.
“I can’t”, he muttered.
“Alright then, I might just as well take you down to the station and put you on a train back to your father.”, she snapped. “Is that what you want? Do you want to live with him, alone – without me, until you’re old enough to leave home? Do you want to be beaten and shouted at all the time?”
“No, No,” Roger whispered.
“Then get undressed – if you want to stay with me, get undressed and put these things on, Roger, “she said sternly. It was not that his mother was unkind, on the contrary, but she was desperate and determined that her violent and selfish husband would not get Roger.
Slowly, reluctantly Roger stripped off his shirt and long trousers, watched by his mother. When he was standing naked in the middle of the room she handed him the kickers again. Deeply embarrassed, he pulled them on. Next his mother slipped the little silk vest over his head and told him to tuck it into his knickers. She helped him to step into the lace fringed little waist slip and settle it around his waist before handing him the gingham dress. Roger stared at it and then, pleadingly at his mother. To be continued…