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Coming of Age Contemporary Drama

This story contains sensitive content

Note: this story contains the topic of cross-dressing. 

John put his fork down. The bustling family dinner had gone quiet. Even his kid brother, Carl who’d blabbed on him was silent, but his cheeks were puffed out, like he was going to explode.. Mom in her light blue cotton shirt was looking down at her own plate, salisbury steak half eaten, same with gravy covered potatoes and peas. Dad, at the end of table, still in his work shirt, stared up at the dingy popcorn stucco ceiling, only the whites of his eyes dangling from his brows.. A whole walnut on the table near the pot of peas looked out of place. 

Get a hold of yourself, you’re almost seventeen. Own your sexuality. He picked up his fork again, feeling nervy, but Carl was taking all the attention as usual.

Carl’s cheeks disgorged the food in his mouth in Mom’s direction. She put up her arms to shield herself, but still had to brush off partially chewed potatoes and peas from herself. She frowned, but at least John figured she might be be glad Carl ‘ hates gravy’. Dad cleared his throat, like he was going to say something, but decided not to, and went back to seeking refuge in the ceiling. 

Carl followed up his oral evucuation, by convulsing into laughter, tears, and hiccoughs.

“Carl, that’s enough. Eat your food nicely,” Mom said, her blue eyes burrowing into him, so that he ended up squirming.

“But, Mom, I was only telling the truth.” Carl wiped at the tears that had sprouted on his lower eyelids. 

Mom looked at Dad, who’d hunkered over his dinner plate. He shoved a large mouthful of his second patty into his mouth. His potatoes and peas were untouched. With his mouth full, he shot Mom a quizzical look. John almost thought his dad would do a ‘Carl’ move. 

His mom waited, her hand with her own fork held up like a conductor’s baton, waiting for the lagging baritone, Dad to swallow his food. When he did, he gestered with his hand to wait, and he grabbed a white paper napkin and gave an ear-shattering blow towards the wall. Carl held his hands up to his ears. 

John cringed, but sat still. With all the family dinner theatrics, he could only hope they’d forget about him. After dinner, he’d kill Carl. No, the more he got on Carl’s case, the more Carl would blab, and the more he’d be screwed. Dipshit, Carl.

“Enough, I want to enjoy my dinner,” Dad said, and Mom nodded in agreement.

 Mom and Dad were acting like they hadn’t heard Carl, but they must have. He fet a cramp in his stomach. Were they going to have it out with him later? He stared down at his dinner plate. It’s not like I did something bad like rob a bank.

His parents continued eating, putting up a wall of busied eating. 

“But John did. You can see he’s still got Mom’s lipstick, there on his lower lip.” Carl pointed his finger into his face, his blue eyes sparking. “You’re lying,” John said wiping his mouth with his shirt. It was a dark colour, so the lipstick wouldn’t be there. 

Mom turned to him and held his chin in her hand, and examined his mouth, like he was a little boy. “Nope, nothing there.” He squirmed out of her grasp. 

“Touch his shirt, it’s on his sleeve,” Carl said. 

John glared at him. You feel powerful now, because you think Mom and Dad are in the room with you, but wait til they’re not. I’ll get you then, tattletalle moron.

Dad coughed, and got everyone’s attention. “Can’t we just have a normal meal like a normal family.” It wasn’t a question. Carl grumbled but when Mom lowered her brows and tightened her mouth, he sputtered “it’s not fair,” and nodded yes. 

John offered silent thanks to good old Dad, coming to his rescue. Dad resumed the serious job of finishing dinner. Mom looked at Dad and then at Carl and then at him, with a brittle but satified smile, signifying all was well in her family, and she’d take umbrage at any detractors. He ignored the quivers in his stomach and slowly chewed, avoiding eye contact with Carl, glad he’d made it through that minefield. He lingered at the table, afraid when Dad left, that Carl would really do his best to bend Mom’s ear. If anyone was going to be alone with Carl, it would be him. 

Carl made a couple more attempts to speak up, but each time Mom shut him down. 

John had just a few bites left on his plate. He ate more and then pushed the last bit around with his fork . He couldn’t understand it, but now he felt sad and angry. He wasn’t feeling as relieved as he thought he would at keeping his secret from Mom and Dad. He swallowed the last bit, but didn’t leave the table.

 Why shouldn’t he dress up in Mom’s clothes? He felt good whenever he did it. Last time he’d enjoyed pulling her fine green sequenned dress over his hips and felt the sheer delecate fabric of her nylons pull up over his legs. He liked the taste of her lipstick and how they accentuated his lips and he knew he could put on eyeliner better than most of the girls in his class. The only item he had’t yet dared to try on was her perfume. He’d been holding the delicate pink glass perfume bottle in his hand, when Carl had walked in on him. He shoved his plate away from him and stood up.

 “I’m not a homosexual. I just like wearing woman’s clothes,” he said, and fled from the table.

“Hilllary, what’s he talking about?” Dad said. 

“I told you, he puts on all Mom’s clothes and even her makeup,” Carl said. 

“Carl, no one asked you,” Mom said. 

“Indeed,” Dad said and left the table to sit in the living room and turn on the television.

John went into his room and laid on his bed, waiting for the confrontation. Nothing is wrong with me, I’m fine. I’m not hurting anyone, I’m okay, he repeated to himself in a soft voice. 

Mom let herself in after knocking on his door. She sat on the far corner of his bed, and waited for him to speak. When he didn’t, she said, “Don’t you think I’ve noticed when my make-up is disappearing faster than before. He sat up in bed, and looked at her.

“You knew,” John said. She was smiling and her blue eyes looked compassionate. He wanted to hug her, but didn’t feel sure.

She nodded, her eyes misty behind her gold rimmed glasses. 

“You’re not mad. You don’t think I’m sick or queer or gay,” he said, searching her eyes for any signs of rejection. 

She pulled him in for a hug. “Look, you’re my son. I love you. As long as you’re not harming yourself, and especially if you’re happy, I support you.” 

“I love you, Mom,” John said, tears glistening in his eyes. 

“Though I don’t mind you trying on my dresses, but I’m not so sure about sharing my makeup.”

“Sure Mom I’ll get my own,” He hugged her again. Dad and Carl might give him difficulty, but at least now he had Mom’s support.

September 16, 2022 19:45

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3 comments

Amy Ingram
03:04 Sep 25, 2022

I really enjoyed this interesting foray into the family dynamics around a young man experiencing a developing interest in cross dressing, not something I’d ever really thought about. Very sensitively done, and thought-provoking.

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Hope Linter
19:45 Sep 30, 2022

Thank you. The cross-dressing came as a surprise to me as well:)

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Carl Tengstrom
11:15 Sep 20, 2022

This is certainly an extraordinary story. You get a good insight into the manners around the table. The family seems to fall apart, but somehow they manage to keep together. Carl seems to be homosexual, but he denies it, stating that it is just fun to dress in his mother's clothes and use her makeup. The ending of the story is in line with the rest, but still a bit strange.

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