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Archive-name: Changes/bobbie1.txt

Archive-author: Leigh de Santa Fe  Copyright 1990

Archive-title: Bobbie: A Girl's Own Story

Bobbie was not actually a pretty sixteen year old blonde girl

with a towel wrapped around a pile of wet hair but as he stared

into the bathroom mirror he pretended he was. With his lips parted

in a pout as he turned his head this way and that as though he

weren't looking at himself at all but merely catching coy glimpses

of his turbaned beauty in a passing reflection.

Across his chest he wore a strapless white brassiere, its cups

firm with underwiring that left no natural curve to chance. It was

an old bra frayed from too many trips through the spin cycle, a

discard he'd found in the Goodwill bag his mother kept in his

closet. Nearly an artifact now from the fabulous fifties, it

possessed none of the lace of today's fashion but Bobbie favored

it because he could stuff anything, socks, tissue, underpants, into

the cups without deforming the basic cone shapes that formed his

illusory bust.

But the girl in the mirror didn't need real breasts. Didn't

need real waves of golden hair underneath her purple terrycloth

turban. She was the perfect girl. And as Bobbie drifted farther

into her, forgetting his own breastless three dimensionality, he

miraculously began to feel the heft of her breasts heaving beneath

the brassiere, feeling their constraint against the fabric, the

nipples stiffening even as her breath quickened and her mouth

became dry as she looked out at him from the mirror.

"Bobbie, are you still in there," his mother called. He could

almost see her hand reach for the doorknob and his knees went weak

as he listened to the frustrated metallic click. The door was

locked. He knew he was safe and yet something so powerful as this

spell he was conjuring never seemed safe from others. It had to be

locked behind doors, kept in secret places, observed in silence

under the half-light of a single hall light.

But now the spell was broken and he hastily twisted the bra

around so that the breasts projected from his back and the clasp

was available to his clumsy fingers. He didn't look at the blonde

in the mirror now. She had dissolved and left a shy, 16 year old

boy in her place.

"Bobbie, what are you doing in there. You've been in there 45

minutes just to take a shower. I swear you act more like a girl

than a boy sometimes," her voice trailed off down the hall.

"More like a girl than a boy," she often said that. And it

always sent him racing in two directions. The mirror was one

direction with its exciting Breck girl vision of girlish

perfection, pretty, pink, and pouty. The other was the agony of

being different. Of being the only one in the world with this

impossible, and delightful burden. In anyone else's eyes it was not

a delicious miracle but a sickness and now, in a sweaty frenzy, he

switched over to that way of thinking himself. Would she see the

marks the too-tight bra had left on his back? Could she read his


The strange thing was: he knew his mother knew about the girl

in the mirror. It was unspoken but hardly a secret between them.

As a child he had dressed up a few times in the clothes he'd found

in his closet. A cache of clothes from the thirties that belonged

to his mother's aunt, clothes that had somehow escaped the Goodwill

bag, were stored in his closet in clear plastic bags alongside his

own clothes. A vivid memory from his childhood that he had examined

many times found him alone in his room wearing a purple satin slip

and creating a bust with the unlikely padding of a toy punching

bag. His mother opened the door as he vamped away. She laughed and

shook her head and disappeared only to return a moment later with

a box of jewelry and some old make up which she placed on his bed

without a word. Then she left him alone.

One Easter morning he had found a little pink Easter dress and

a pair of shiny Mary Janes on a chair. His mother had said nothing

about them and neither did he and after a week or so they were gone

but not before he had secretly slipped them on and felt the first

pulse of their talismanic power rocketing through his veins.

That was all he could remember until he turned thirteen when

the game, for it was a game, resumed. One day not long after his

birthday he was rummaging in his dresser drawers for some

firecrackers he had hidden under his clothes when he pulled a white

brassiere out from beneath a pile of sweaters. It was clearly not

one of his mother's. In fact, it was barely a bra at all but more

a wide strip of slender elastic. He held it for a long time then

he tucked it back under the sweaters and closed the drawer.

Every day he would open the drawer and take the delicate bra

out, taking care to lock his door before hand. He would fasten and

unfasten the hooks, hold it up to his chest or lay it on the bed

and stuff socks into the tiny cups. Finally one night when his

mother had gone out he went into his room, intending only to

retrieve a book, but instead found himself pulled toward the

dresser. He pulled the drawer open and pulled the bra out, his

heart pounding. Then very deliberately he locked the door and took

off all his clothes. In the dim light of desk lamp he knelt down

on the soft carpet and with a clear knowledge of the voyage he was

undertaking he put his arms into the straps and the old world

seemed to recede and a new one filled with powerful mysteries

loomed on the horizon. Fastening the hook and eye took him ten

minutes but when he felt the eye hold, the elastic secure across

his back, a wave of ecstasy shuddered through him.

He knelt there for several minutes before he felt ready to

actually look in the mirror. Finally he brought himself up and

walked unsteadily to the door, unlocked it and stole along the

darkened hallway and into the bathroom.

When at last he looked at himself in the mirror he was

unprepared for the dramatic effect the strip of white cotton cross

his chest had. Blood pounding, his hands quickly stuffed Kleenex

into the cups and as he turned to observe the infinitesimal change

in his profile the once weak pulse of the girl in the mirror became

a manic, driving beat.

That was how the girl in the mirror had been born with his

mother as midwife and the training bra as her swaddling clothes

From now on when Bobbie looked in the mirror he would see her

waiting patiently behind his eyes with the secret longing that only

he understood.

Ever since that time there had been "gifts" placed in his

dresser drawers after special occasions, his birthday, Christmas

or when he had been good at school or for no reason at all. There

were brassieres that changed in size to match the unseen growth of

the girl in the mirror or panties or blouses or skirts until the

bottom drawer was stuffed exclusively with "her" clothes. With the

steady accretion of "her" wardrobe came more frequent visits into

the mirror and more confusing feelings about her presence there.

By the time he began high school, his ash blonde hair had

grown past his shoulders, framing a face that still retained the

soft androgyny of childhood. And increasingly the thrill of his

secret conjuring was mingled with a seering guilt that gave a

exotic edge to his secret pleasure.

His closeness to his mother made him uncomfortable and yet she

seemed to be his best friend. In fact, their trips to department

stores were notorious excursions where she would furtively tease

him. "What do you think?" she'd ask holding up a risque black

brassiere to her chest. He'd be embarrassed but at the same time

flushed with excitement. When he nodded assent she'd ask, "For me

or for you?" Then they'd laugh like conspirators as the imperious

sales ladies walked by. The world was such a fool.

Games like these that teenagers loved to play with each other

Bobbie would play with his mother. When he was down and withdrawn

she would ask him if "Bobbie wanted to go shopping." It nearly

always worked.

And even though the thrill was increasingly blended with

guilt, whenever she left the apartment for a few hours he could not

resist opening the bottom drawer of his dresser to finger the most

recent acquisition. Sometimes it was a lacy bra or a pair of new

high heels or once, after a particularly vicious fight with his

mother, a lovely red v-neck sweater. When, at last, he put them all

on he felt such power and such confusion that it overwhelmed him.

And yet he managed to swivel hip his way across the house with a

trembling euphoria to see what he looked like in the reflection of

his mother's full length mirror.

Nothing could touch the thrill of seeing himself with a bust.

It was absurd. If he had been a girl he would have probably barely

needed a bra but the girl in the mirror had a precocious bosom and

a tight sweater to display it. He loved to walk about the apartment

wearing nothing but a pair of heels and a turtleneck sweater

stretched tight over the strapless bra. He was entranced by the way

his bosom led the way as he moved from the mirror in the bathroom

to the mirror in his mother's bedroom. Mincing his way across the

carpet in black pumps he was amazed at the steadfastness of his

curvy bust. No matter how he moved, they moved with him, they were

his and he was possessed by them. The excitement grew unbearable

as he shifted from heel to heel to catch glimpses of his profile

miming a startled doe-eyed innocence in one moment and lustily

clutching his pendulous breasts in the next.

And now his hair was long enough so that he could, with a few

subtle brushstrokes or a well-placed barrette, create the illusion

of a feminine hair style. He had no curls, of course, but curls

weren't necessary. Most of the girls he knew would die for straight

hair like his and he took a profound joy in the irony of his secret

fashion coup.

He knew he was turning a corner that other boys hadn't but as

he laid out his wardrobe for an evening's entertainment he was

helpless to change course. And somehow the tacit approval of his

mother made it both easier and a great deal more exciting. It was

a hidden pleasure but a sanctioned hidden pleasure that somehow

wasn't so strange after all.

One night he put on his black strapless bra and his lacy black

panties and sat on the bed and wept for an hour. He was so lonely.

He thought of Margaret Wilding, a girl at school that he liked.

What would she do if she could see him like this? Or his few male

friends. Then he walked to the bathroom and revived by his sexy

figure forgot about them all. His girl was here with him.

He opened his mother's makeup drawer and pulled out a

lipstick. It was old, in a worn brass cylinder. He took the top off

and rotated the base. The vivid, hopelessly out-of-date red stick

appeared. He held it up to his lips and paused here in a silent

tableau he'd seen his mother repeat a thousand different times. But

this was his first. He'd never worn makeup. Gently letting it

course over his lips all thoughts of Margaret Wilding and his

classmates receded and the pure pleasure of painting his lips

overwhelmed him with the specialized ecstasy that his first bra

his first blouse, and his first heels had evoked.

After he'd rubbed a little color on he rolled his lips

together, smoothing and covering them with red. The gesture made

his legs weak it was so filled with the passionate mystery of

femininity. It was just too sexy to be endured and he sat down on

the edge of the tub to regain his composure.

The doorbell rang.

Blood, already rushing in all directions under his skin, now

stopped abruptly and changed course and a tidal wave of anxious

fear swept over him. He was paralyzed. The world was on the other

side of that door. Margaret Wilding, his friends, everyone.

Breathing deeply, he stood up and caught his reflection in the

mirror. He could never remove the lipstick in time. Stiffly and

feeling quite naked and exposed he walked softly across the carpet

to the front door. Then he thought with horror, "What if they

opened the door?"

The doorbell rang again and he crawled to his mother's room

and waited. From her window he watched a postman with a package

walk down the front stoop. He breathed in deeply. He was safe.

Then the doorbell rang again. "Bobbie, it's me. I've locked

myself out. Open the door." Another wave of panic forced him back

on the bed. Then he leapt up and raced to the front door, unlocked

it and raced back to the bathroom, jumped in the shower and drew

the curtain. When his mother opened the bathroom door to say hello,

steam was already fogging the bathroom mirror.

That night he lay in bed and recalled the whole scene over and

over again. What disturbed him most was not being seen running

across the apartment in black silk panties but the impulse he'd

suppressed to walk to the door and defiantly display his delectable

if illusory feminine charms. Although his mother had colluded and

conspired to create this clandestine creature she'd only imagined

what she looked like. To open the door and face her would have been

a grave unmasking of the game they both were playing. And it would

have destroyed the sense of conspiracy they both shared. Despite

all that, Bobbie wanted to come out to his mother. He wanted her

to know how confused he was about the beauty he had invoked in the


He stopped dressing for a long while after that and his

mother, sensing something had changed in their game, stopped taking

him shopping or buying him girls' clothes.

But that afternoon was replayed again and again in Bobbie's

mind. Sometimes with terrible guilt but often with an overwhelming

excitement. He would play it over in his mind with different


Sometimes he would open the door and his mother would drop her

groceries in shock and other times she would lead him into her

bedroom and finish making him up. Then they would go out and shop

for a new dress.

In one ending she stares for a long while and then smiles.

"I've wanted to meet you for a long time and now at last

you're here," she says putting her hands on his shoulders and

drawing him close.

"Oh, you don't know how I've waited for your, darling. My

sweet little girl is all grown up. Come with me, honey. I want to

show you something," she says taking his hand and leading him to

her bedroom.

"Sit down on the bed for a moment," she says as she opens the

closet door and retrieves three boxes from the top shelf.

The first box contains a pair of shiny black high heels, the

second a black skirt and white cashmere sweater and the third, an

ash blonde fall.

"Want to try them on, honey?" she asks. Without answering he

slips the sweater over his head and steps into the skirt. Then he

slips into the heels without difficulty.

"Bobbie, you look so lovely. Go look at yourself in the

mirror." He turns on his new heels and flies to the mirror.

"Oh, mother, I'm beautiful, aren't I?"

"Yes, you are, young lady," she says fastening a necklace with

heart shaped pendant round his neck. "Would you care to go shopping

with me?"


"That's where the stores are."

"But . . ."

"Why not? I think it's time we bought you some bras that fit

don't you?"

"But . . ."

"But first let me fasten your fall and redo your make up. That

lipstick should have been thrown out in 1954."

An hour later he stands once again before the mirror but this

time he has long bangs that kiss his eyebrows and long, straight

blonde hair pulled back by a large black bow.

"Oh, Mommy, I feel so . . . beautiful. I want to be a girl


And in his fantasy he does. These fantasies are so vivid that

at times he can no longer remember if he had actually tried on a

blouse in the dressing room of Bloomingdale's or had his face made

over at the Macy's make up counter or actually been to the beauty

parlor to get a bubble cut.

In the real world, however, relations with his mother

continued to deteriorate. He felt angry with her all the time

without knowing why.

Then one day Bobbie came home to find his mother looking

through his drawers.

"What are you doing?"

"I, uh, was wondering if I could borrow one of your uh, 


Bobbie started to cry. His mother rushed over to him and he

pushed her away and ran to the bathroom and locked the door.

"Bobbie, it's okay. It's okay. I know you like to dress up,

It's okay. I don't care."

"I don't like to dress up. I hate to dress up," he screamed

between sobs.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I, I, didn't realize. I'm sorry. I'll take .

. . . those things and give them away."

"No," he yelled.

"No? What do you want me to do?"

"Leave me alone. Just leave me alone."

"Okay, honey. I'll go. I'm going."

She left the house.

When he came out of the bathroom he found a note on his

pillow. "Meet me at Flanagan's and we'll talk if you want."

He put on his jacket and walked for two hours before arriving

at Flanagan's, a dark, narrow pub with a long bar and three grimy

booths with ancient green leather upholstery. His mother sat in a

both at the back of the bar.

"Hi, Bobbie. Want a beer? Ed, get him a beer will you?"

Bobbie studied the cocktail napkins.

"It used to be a game," he said finally. "But it's  not a game


"What is it?"

"I don't know. I don't know."

"Bobbie, if you don't want to dress up anymore I'll take the

clothes away and you won't have to see them again."

"It's not those clothes. It's . . . it's being a . . . girl.

I want to . . .I like to dress up, but . . ."

"But what?"

"It's  not right. It's not normal. But I . . ."

"You were always so cute. I always . . ."

"You aren't normal either," he said suddenly. "We're all so

weird and fucked up."

"Bobbie, I love women and it's not weird."

"But who do I love, Mom. Who do I love?"

"You have to start with yourself."

"But how can I do that when I'm weird."

"You're not weird. You're just different. But that's something

you share with everyone that breathes. That's what makes life


"But I don't want to be different. I want to be a boy not a

freak. You made me a freak."

She looked over at the bartender. He was holding the phone and

pointing. She frowned and shook her head."

"I didn't make you a freak, Bobbie. I . . ."

"But you did. You did . . ." he yelled.

"Look, stay here, okay. I'll be right back." She left the


He turned to watch her. She took the phone from Ed and she

suddenly became coy and girlish, laughing and flirting into the

phone. She saw Bobbie staring at her and she turned around and

continued to talk for a minute.

When she got back to the booth he was gone. On a napkin he had

written, "Whore."

Bobbie walked the streets for hours, finally winding up on

Market Street where the girly shows, hock shops and wig stores


He often came down here and paced in front of Wig World with

its flirtatious, bewigged heads revolving in a lurid window

display. In all his years of dressing he'd never had a wig.

Sometimes his own hair had been long enough, like now. But even so

he was lured by the sirens in the window with their absurd piles

of curls. The wigs were arranged like Neopolitan ice cream with a

blonde, redhead and a brunette all framing the same pertly

seductive face.

Today he might actually go inside. He was that upset.

The street was filled with the noon hour business crowd. He

felt they all knew why he paused ever so briefly in front of the

wigged window and stared blankly through the glass door into the

heaven inside. Aisles of wigs, dozens of them in all colors and

styles. God, what would it take to push past that door into that

world? Who would see him from the street?

He walked up the street, crossed it and watched the store for

a while from a safer distance. Then he crossed with a large crowd

and as they moved en masse down the street he peeled off at the Wig

store and pushed the heavy glass door open.

Immediately his mouth went dry and he was gasping for air. The

Asian saleslady looked up at him as though he had a machete in his

teeth. He smiled nervously and so did she.

"Can I hep you?" she asked in a strained attempt to be


"Oh, no, I'm just looking," he smiled, the sweat beading at

his temples.

He walked down the aisle breathing in the deeply inorganic

smells of dynel and hairspray. Another woman was at the back of the

store teasing a wig on stand that looked like a cloth football. She

smiled with an ingratiating grin of someone that speaks no English

and for whom nothing is strange because everything is strange. He

returned her smile and they both shared a small laugh at the

absurdity of life. Then he walked back up the other aisle admiring

all the exciting tresses.

A young Asian man in a suit walked in the door and looked

uneasily at the saleslady as he saw Bobby staring at a row of

brunette Supergirls. She shrugged at him and he said a few

exasperated words at her and then he walked up to Bobbie.

"Excuse me, my sister is not very polite. She doesn't

understand that in America, men buy wigs too," he smiled and almost


Bobbie was horrified by this immigrant frankness and he turned

a bright red color that blended well with the row of hennaed wigs

in back of him.

"Perhaps you would like the privacy of our back room," he

said, smiling fiercely and it occurred to Bobbie that perhaps it

embarrassed the man to have him wandering around the store. Bobbie

nodded obligingly and followed the man past the smiling woman into

a room not much bigger than a walk-in closet. Two cheap vanities

each with its own mirror were cramped up against one wall.

A young man sitting at one of the vanities looked up with a

startled look as Bobbie and the owner walked in. He and Bobbie

looked at each other a moment and then looked away immediately.

The Asian man motioned for Bobbie to sit down on the vanity

stool. "What kind of wig are you looking for? Blonde, brunette.

Long and wavy?" he said motioning with his fingers along side his


Bobbie was confused. He wanted to just blurt out, "I'll have

what he's having." But he just nodded and grinned.

"What color, blonde, brunette, redhead what?"

"Oh, one of each," Bobbie said with a forced casualness.

The owner rolled his eyes slightly and disappeared.

The man next to him turned his head from side to side to

examine the long blonde wig on his head. "What do you think?" he

said matter of factly.

Bobbie was silent but the other man didn't seem to mind.

"Not my color is it? I know it isn't but we all dream of being

blonde once don't we?" he said sarcastically.

"It'd look great on you," the man said putting the wig back

on the stand. "Hi, I'm Del Street. But you may know me better as

Miss Della Street."

"No, I don't think . . ."

"What kind of a queen are you anyway?" Della Street said good

naturedly. Turning to try another wig on he said into the mirror.

"I'm part of the show at the Mogambo. It's not much really . . ."

The owner suddenly appeared with four wigs and set them down

in front of Bobbie and waited for Bobbie to nod which he finally

di. Then the man left.

"Anyhow," Della continued, "it's more or less a burlesque show

except that all the girls are boys which makes it more interesting

I think. Oh, that one would look good on you."

Bobbie was too embarrassed to try it on with the man in the

room but he picked up the blonde wig called "Dolly" and pretended

to look at it while Della continued to primp and chatter next to


"It's your standard courtroom burlesque and I play  Della

Street of course. I come on stage in a severe pants suit, hair up

in a bun, glasses, that bit and the defendant goes berserk and rips

off the pants suit to reveal a steamy red bustier and garters etc.

When he's done with me my hair is down and I'm singing, "Put The

Blame on Mame." It's corny but it's better than lip-synching old

Sophie Tucker routines. What do you do?"

"I'm a student . . ."

For the first time Della turned on his swivel stool to look

at Bobbie. "A student? You mean a high school student?"

Bobbie nodded.

Della noticed for the first time how frightened Bobbie was.

"This is your first time in a wig store, right?" He took off the

brunette wig and put it back on the stand. "What's your name?"


"Does it feel strange to be here?"

"Yes, I guess so. I . . ."

Del put his hand on Bobbie's knee. "Look, let's get out of

here. I'll buy you a coke at Stanton's. It's right down the street.

Okay. C'mon, I'm not going to molest you. You can talk to me.


Bobbie stared at the wig in his hand. He felt frozen to the

chair but Del took the wig from his hand and pulled him up and in

a minute they were walking down the street toward Stanton's diner.

"So how old are you, anyway?" Del said after their cokes


"Seventeen," Bobbie replied.

"Seventeen. When I was seventeen I was already performing at

The Detour. My friends and I had a Supreme's lip synch act. It was

fun. But it's not so much fun for you I guess."

"No, sometimes . . ."

"Do you dress up at home when no one's around?"

"Not for a while. I used to when I was a kid more."

"But now you feel strange about it?"

"It's not normal," Bobbie blurted out.

"Normal." Del drew himself up and stared out the window at

people in the street. "Let me tell you about normal . . ." He

looked back at Bobbie whose eyes were welling with tears.

"No, you tell me about normal. Why do you want to be normal?"

"Everybody but me is happy. Other boys don't have a drawer

full of bras and girdles their mother gave them. They don't have

to dress up to feel . . . good. They don't feel guilty all the

time. They don't want to be girls. They want to be what they are.

It's so easy for them. Just once I want things to be easy for me."

"Have you ever talked to anyone about this before, Bobbie? 

Del asked.

"No. Just my mother."

"She doesn't sound like the right person to talk to. Why did

she buy you girl's clothes?"

"She never wanted me. She didn't want kids at all. She wanted

a little doll, a doll to play with. When I was young it was okay

to wear a pinafore and mary janes but when I got older everything

became weird."


"I didn't want to dress in front of her anymore. But I wanted

to dress. And so she kept buying me all these girl's clothes

knowing that I was dressing up when she wasn't around. It's sick.

But now I don't feel good about it. I feel dirty and weird. I'm a


"Is that because you get excited when you dress up."

"I guess."

"I was confused too. My mother never knew I dressed up. Even

when I was doing the shows at The Detour. I'd change at the club

and change back before I went home. I was different though and they

knew I wasn't exactly the boy next door. But I had friends that

were different too. We'd get together and dress up and practice our

act and it never seemed anything but normal to me. Well, most of

the time. It sounds different with you and your mom. That changes

everything. What happened to your Dad?"

"I never knew him. He left when I was two."

"My dad should have. So it was just you and your mom."

"And my mom's girlfriend's."

The waitress asked them if they wanted anything else. Del

looked at his watch.

"Jesus, I gotta go. Listen, I have to get ready for the show.

You're welcome to come back stage and talk to me while I get

dressed but we have to leave right now."

Bobbie was too startled to say anything.

"Come on. I'll introduce you to all the perverts. I'm sorry.

I was just kidding. Come on. It'l be alright."

Once again Del was pulling him through the busy streets but

he wasn't embarrassed anymore. He was actually excited about seeing

the inside of the Mogambo Club. He'd often looked for their ads in

the Sunday paper because sometimes they featured pictures of the

female impersonators. Usually they looked like movie star photos

from the 40s. For a while he collected all the ads in a shoe box

but he burned them one night when he was lost in guilt.

"Now don't be disappointed when we go in the dressing room.

It's a dump. But everyone's friendly. Almost everyone anyway. Watch

out for the stage manager. He can be a real asshole. Just tell him

your my brother or something." Del chattered as they raced down the


When they arrived at the Mogambo Bobbie was disappointed.

Sandwiched between topless bars which advertised live sex acts The

Mogambo had vestiges of dignity from an earlier era but that had

been a long time ago. Del pushed open the studded vinyl door and

turned to Bobbie on the threshold and smiled. Then he disappeared

into the darkness. Bobbie followed. As his eyes adjusted to the

light he saw a bar, and the small stage surrounded by a semicircle

of tables. Pictures of statuesque female impersonators with mile

high blonde pompadours in sequinned gowns or large Sophie Tucker

queens with miraculous cleavage spilling over the top of their

dresses covered the wall in the foyer. Bobbie lost himself in this

visual feast. For him, photographs of queens had a precious, iconic

quality and heretofore he had had to worship in private with the

random pictures he had gleaned from the newspaper or the occasional

magazine but here at last were more than he could ever have hoped

for. He drew a tight breath as his eyes tracked along the wall

taking in every bead, feather and tiara. It was as fascinating as

the Sistine Chapel.

This revery was broken when Del's hand touched his shoulder

gently. "They're wonderful aren't they. Did you spot my picture..

Del pointed to a photograph of a brunette in a clinging black gown

which displayed a very feminine figure including dramatic V-neck

cleavage. That's my Suzy Parker look. I think she's gorgeous."

"That's you?"

"Yes, and don't act so surprised," he laughed. "C'mon, I'm


Bobbie followed Del past the Tahitian bar with its thatched

roof and back of the stage into a brightly lit but cramped, low

ceilinged room. It was long and narrow with dressing tables on one

side facing a mirrored wall and a rack sagging from the weight of

the glittery costumes on the other. The dressing tables were

littered with cosmetics, brushes, the exhilarating detritus of

feminization, and against the far wall row after row of elaborately

coiffed wigs perched on shelves that looked like they might

collapse at any moment.

"Hi, girls. This is Bobbie. I just met him at Wig World.

Bobbie, this is Jackie, Silvio and Darlene and . . ."

"And I'm Cubby," said a man in his fifties who didn't look up

from the difficult taskof squeezing his thick frame into a tight

strapless gown that billowed out at this feet in a cloud of tulle.

"And that's Bunny."

The three young men at the dressing tables turned briefly to

eye Bobbie before turning back to their images in the mirror.

Jackie was a tall, sleek looking black boy, Sylvio, an exotic

Filipino with straight black hair and Darlene, a petite young thing

with naturally long eyelashes, was Puerto Rican.

"Louie's pissed. You'd better get dressed quick," Jackie said

to Del.

"Alright, alright. Bobbie have a seat." Del said while kicking

his shoes off.

"Bobbie, you going to join the act?" Darlene said as he

delicately applied wax to his eyebrows.

"Bobbie's not here to compete for your job, Darlene. I just

met him. So lay off."

"Hey girl, I wasn't saying that. I thought he could do

Debbie's act."

"Where is Debbie?"

"Haven't you heard? She's having a baby," Bunny cackled.

"Old jokes. Who writes your material, Bunny. Moses?"

"Debbie is giving up drag to devote her life to Christ," Bunny

said, unfazed.

"You mean he's becoming a nun?" Sylvio said with a straight


"Naw, she joined Drag Queens for Jesus," Bunny said.

"Debbie is leaving the squalor of the city and returning to

Iowa," Jackie interjected.


"He's a masochist. He wants to cruise the streets of . . .

where's he from?"


" . . . the streets of Otummwa in his Chevy and forget about

life in the theatah. He'll be back. It's in his blood."

"When did all this happen?"

"Oh forever. Hasn't he ever talked to you about Otummwa and

the golden fields of whatever."


"Yeah, corn. He has this idea that drag is just a phase he was

going through and now that it's over he can ditch his panties and

become Stanley Kowalski back on the farm. He doesn't know he's


"Blanche. Who's Blanche," Sylvio asked.

"Oh, she's so cute. Who's Blanche? 

Blanche DuBois, darling.

When were you born?"

"Give it a rest, Cubby. She wasn't born here."

"Del, who's Blanche DuBois?" Sylvia asked.

"Blanche DuBois is a character in a play, honey."

"I knew that. I knew that. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Blanche the

cat, right?"

"Right. Anyway so Debbie's gone. And that means we don't have

a blonde in the act. It's not the United Nations of Drag without

a blonde."

"Part of our act is called the United Nation of Drag." Del


"I'm a blonde," Bunny protested.

"A natural blonde, Bunny. You're not natural."

"Neither are you, darlin'."

Bobbie sat off to the side of this banter taking in the

sidelong glances that Del delivered with apologies or


What fascinated him was the way in which the secret ritual of

transformation which he had observed so many nights in dark silence

was taken for granted and carried out with the routineness of

putting on a shirt or a sock. As they talked back and forth they

stripped themselves of their male selves and replaced it with their

femaleness. And not just any drab representative of the fair sex

but a steamy, sensual and extravagantly feminine one. Bobbie

watched in awe as these four bare 

chested men painted, daubed.

brushed and stroked their faces into an exotic, lushly painted

sexuality. And to do it without the hushed suspense of guilt

hanging over the room. It wasn't the same thing at all.

"How you doin?" Della said turning to Bobbie.


"You want to get me that wig on the far left, hon."

Bobbie fetched the wig, a Bubble cut bouffant number with a

cast iron flip, and handed it to Della.

"You can watch the show from back here 

on the TV monitor,.

Della said, laughing slightly at the ancient pun, "or you can go

front and watch with audience such as they are."

"I think I'll stay back here if that's 

alright," Bobbie said.

Still intoxicated by the atmosphere, he couldn't imagine watching

the show with other people. He looked forward to having the

dressing room to himself.

"You want to take in all in first, huh?" Della said smiling

slyly. "Well, if you decide you want to play with the toys in here,

use mine, okay?"

"Okay," Bobbie said incredibly embarrassed at having someone

acknowledge so openly his burning desire to sit at the table with

the others, stroking his own lashes with mascara.

Pulling on her turquoise lame gown, Della turned to Bobbie and

asked him to zip him up. Then he turned and gave himself several

severe sidelong glances to check the illusion at the seams and make

last minute repairs. Then he turned and faced the mirror. Slowly

he smiled and then suddenly the smile disappeared and his face

flashed through a series of quick facial expressions, all of them

broad caricatures of the wide range of feminine traits he sought

to project over the evening. All of this seemed grotesque to Bobbie

and he wished that Della would stop turning his face into a rubbery

gargoyle of femininity. Finally, Della's contortions stopped and

he turned to Bobbie and her face relaxed into a broad, beautifully

serene smile. "If ya think I'm sexy, and you want my body, c'mon

boy let me know," Della sang out unselfconsciously bringing his

hands up to his voluptuous bodice and then letting them slide cooly

out to his wide hips. When he caught Bobbie's eye he could see this

made him uncomfortable and he laughed. "It's just a song. It's in

the act."

A fat bald man put his head in the door and said, "Who's she?.

pointing to Bobbie.

"He's with me, Louie. It's okay."

"Is she gonna take Debbie's part or what?" then without

waiting for a reply, he said to Bobbie, "You'd be a natural, kid.

You're blonde, you're her size and you're beautiful. How about it?"

Bobbie stared awkwardly at Della.

"I don't know, Louie. He's pretty young."

"So how old were you, Della? Jesus, how old were you, Bunny?"

"Sweet sixteen and never been kissed."

"Some things never change."

"See. Look, kid, you can start small. All you have to do is

walk on for the United Nations of Drag number and we won't do it

until the second act, okay?"

Bobbie nodded assent after an approving glance from Della.

"Great. Bunny will help you find everything while Della's on

stage. You dressed up before, right?"

Bobbie turned crimson but the bald head was gone without the


Suddenly he was surrounded with encouragement and advice but

he couldn't hear a thing. He was too numb from the prospect of

being onstage in a dress.

It was one thing to try on his sexy bras under the romantic

veil of secrecy and quite another to strut in front of an audience

in a sinuous satin gown and heels under the bright stage lights.

On the other hand his whole body trembled with the excitement of

having an opportunity to dress up under the loving direction of

such experts and the greater luxury of then having an audience that

would become the new mirror and keeper of his secrets.

The music started up and all the girls took deep breaths.

straightened up and walked past Bobbie onto the stage. He heard

some polite clapping and then they launched into song. It sounded

more like a corny King Sisters act than Disco drag but that was the

Mogambo's hold out against the dismal tide of bad lip synching and

fashion modeling that posed for drag entertainment.

Bub Bobbie's attention was directed toward the dressing table

and he sat down on Della's stool and looked things over. Pasted

onto the upper corner of the mirror were more drag pictures, mostly

unprofessional snapshots at parties and back stage. There was a

picture cut out of a magazine and signed, "With Love to Della from

Michelle." The picture featured a gorgeous young queen in a sheer

leotard with a leather skirt and gold heels. She was very

convincing with real soft brown hair that fell past her shoulders

and a minimum of makeup. There were also pictures of Della in her

prim pants suit and one in a vermilion bustier.

Bunny rushed in out of breath and after restoring her

composure, walked over to Bobbie and put her hand on his shoulder.

"Better get undressed, honey. This may take a while. I'll get some

of Debbie's things together."

Bobbie stripped down to his underwear. "Take your t-shirt off

too, you'll just get your make up all messed up when you take it


Bobbie complied happily, blissfully. "Okay. Now, Bobbie, I

have a plan which I think we'll make you the dish of the evening.

Here's what we're going to do . . ."

When Della returned after the first set Bobbie was the one

giving himself sidelong glances in the mirror.

"Bunny, what an inspiration. Bobbie, you're gorgeous."

Bobbie was dressed in a white cotton sundress with big red

polka dots ala Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits. A nearly white blonde

wig framed his face with soft poufy bangs fell to his eyebrows.

"Do you really think I look good?" Bobbie asked shyly.

"Just like Marilyn only younger and prettier."

The others gathered around him now and showered him with

praise and more advice.

"Now stand up straight . . ."

"Don't be afraid to display your bust."

"Be lovely from the inside out, Bobbie. Be a girl from inside

those luscious lips. Be a girl up and down your legs and down to

your fingers and even to the split ends of your wig. Feel it here,.

Del said touching Bobbie's heart with a gloved hand.



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