It was difficult to get out of bed the following morning. I had awoken at my usual time, a few minutes past seven. After finishing off my familiar yawn, the sudden memory of last night came rushing over me as if it were icy water. Darting up over my covers, I spied that bathing suit lying on my floor, exactly where I had left it.
If I were to be entirely honest, I wished that it had all been a dream. Although I was remarkably thankful with my grandma's reaction to it, it was also terrifying in that she now knew of this secret. I couldn't see her telling anyone about this, knowing how ashamed of it I was, however she wasn't the type of person to believe in shame, rather that people should be themselves, not hiding behind covers.
Thinking it over, this was probably why she was so keen on buying me a leotard, which I had to admit, wasn't against, although something told me that there would be more to it then just that and this was troubling. Perhaps it would be best to tell her that I no longer wanted it, but would she accept that?
I spent the next ten minutes in thought, trying to come up with a way out of it. Like my first time wearing it, I wanted a way to pin it on a misunderstanding, but in the end I found it to be futile. There was nothing that could hide the fact that I had put it on willingly. With a sigh, I heaved myself out of bed, stepping over the bathing suit, and dressed myself in my own clothes.
Throughout the day, I was always on my toes awaiting my grandma to pull me aside, where I would then, most likely, make a pathetic attempt at explaining myself. Like being sent to see the principal at school, it was something that I was dreading.
However, this never came. The day had proceeded as if our incident had never occurred, and it wasn't like I was avoiding my grandma either. Even when I first saw her during breakfast, she made no signs out of the ordinary. As the hours went by without anything unusual occurring, I was able to loosen up.
Once lunch passed, I was nearly convinced that she had forgotten all about it. She didn't suffer from Alzheimer's but why wouldn't she have confronted me about it by now? She had had plenty of opportunity. On the other hand, perhaps she knew that I didn't want it brought up and dropped this whole leotard idea. Knowing her though, the former was the most likely option. Whatever it was though, I was relieved that it didn't look like I had to go through with it.
“All right girls, ready for your first gymnastics lesson? We'll be leaving shortly.”
It was an hour later when I heard that, crushing any hope that I had of avoiding it. I had stupidly completely forgotten about my sisters' gymnastics try outs.
“You might as well get ready now. Just wear your clothes over your leotards.”
My sisters darted up eagerly to their rooms to get changed.
“Actually, come out here to show them to your brother.”
As if her first message hadn't been enough realization for me, this one was. Turning towards her, she was looking back at me with a small smile on her face. I knew then that it had been remarkably dense of me to think that she had simply forgotten and it felt as if she was teasing me about it.
I thought about saying something. If there were a time to get out of it, this would be it. Although I could say that I simply no longer wanted one, I was positive that she wouldn't accept this without bombarding me with a series of questions to which I would find difficult to answer. Playing out our conversation in my head had quickly left me at a dead end.
“Um... I no longer want a leotard.”
“Hmm, why not?”
“Well, they're too girlie.”
“As I mentioned, boys wear leotards too, and you seemed to like wearing a girl's bathing suit at the beach the other day, or yesterday for that matter.”
I was shocked to find that I had envisioned her saying that I had liked wearing it. At the very least, I had to make it clear to her that I had in no way liked it. As soon as I was able to muster up the courage to tell her this, in a stellar example of perfect timing, my sisters came back skipping into the room.
“What do you think?” April asked, twirling around.
My grandma hadn't exaggerated in any way. In terms of shape, they were exactly like a girl's bathing suit, a single piece covering the torso. Their design, on the other hand, was completely different.
Although I had seen some very colourful bathing suits before, leotards seemed to take this several steps further. April's one was shades of red with a majestic golden phoenix across its front. Faye's one was mostly blue which was covered in waves of bubbles all around it.
What I found most extraordinary about them was that they were very flashy, and as they twirled about the light would reflect off them making them appear like a glistening metallic material. Looking at them closer, they appeared to have glitter and beads covering them as well.
“Shiny.” had automatically slipped out of my mouth.
“Well, it's not too late to buy you one.” my grandma added. Per the norm, my sisters got a chuckle out of this. I barely registered it though as I was left thinking; could it be that I would be wearing one of these before the day was over?
With a clap, my grandma said; “Come on, it's time to go. Sam, would you like to come?”
Diverting my eyes off my sisters' mesmerizing new uniforms, I turned to her and she returned a wink that only I would notice. I knew right then and there, that this could possibly be my only chance to get out of it. But after seeing them, I wanted one.
Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the gym to drop off my sisters, literally.
“All right girls, have fun. I'll be here at five to pick you up.”
Registration had seemed to have already been taken care of, or perhaps they didn't need any for try outs, as my grandma didn't need to go in with them. If I had the option, I wouldn't have minded going in to take a look at what exactly they would be doing, not to mention seeing any more leotards.
On the drive there, I kept thinking of my own. I was also interested in seeing if my grandma had been truthful in that boys wore them as well. Looking around though, as I had partly expected, I couldn't see any boys, although there were a number of girls talking around the entrance. None of them had gotten changed yet however.
“So Sam, ready to go shopping?”
This I hadn't expected; another way out. I thought my decision had been made clear when I entered the car. This gave me another chance to think it over, but by now, I didn't want to.
“Yes, please.” I promptly replied without any further thought.
“That's good to hear, however if you're going to have your own leotard, I won't let it go to waste.”
Ah, so here was this catch I had been expecting.
“While your sisters are doing gymnastics, I will be teaching you ballet. I also want to you to treat your new leotard with respect. Whenever you're not wearing it, it will be hanging up proudly in your closet, not under your bed or elsewhere hidden away.” she told me using a stern tone.
Now this I had to think about. The latter condition was most concerning.
“What if April or Faye find it?”
“They won't. How often are they in your room?”
I had to admit, she was right about that. None of us ever went into each others rooms outside of asking each other something or to state that something was ready such as dinner. Although it was still a worrisome feeling in knowing that this leotard would be in plain site behind an unlockable door.
“You won't tell them, will you?”
“No, but I would like you to. If not now, later on. However, I will not be lying for you.”
This was exactly what I had thought she would say.
As for ballet, outside of knowing it was a form of dance, I knew absolutely nothing about it. It felt justified though. With a bathing suit, it was for either swimming or possibly sunbathing and like that, it didn't seem right to own a leotard and not to make use of it. I was positive that I would have liked just wearing it but to actually do something in it, I felt that it was more of a bonus then a punishment.
Although I had no interest in dancing, I would be willing to give it a try.
“I'm glad. I'm sure that you'll enjoy it.”
On the way to the store, we discussed it. During the three hours that my sisters were to be at gymnastics, my grandma would train me in ballet. Provided that they enjoyed the try out and wanted to keep going with it, this would give us two and a half hours each weekday for our practice as they needed to be dropped off and picked up.
As I knew very little about ballet, she said that it focused on elegance and therefore was mostly a slow dancing style. She said that for her first lesson, she'll show it to me first from an old video collection she had, rather than training me straight away. I was glad when she told me not to worry though as this wasn't going to delay me from getting a leotard.
It didn't take long to arrive at the store which was only a five minute drive away. It was a small one called 'Swift Movement – Gymnastics & Ballet Supplies'. Outside of its name which was painted like a signature on its plain black exterior, there didn't seem to be much to it but as I stepped through its door, I was taken aback.
It would have been best described as the candy store equivalent for clothing. Inside was littered with racks packed full of leotards. They were all the colours of the rainbow, all in hundreds of styles and designs. It was one very colourful pleasant sight. Along with the racks of leotards, scattered around its walls were even more, as well as accessories such as batons and hoops which were just as colourful. The only places that weren't filled with product were large posters of gymnasts and ballerinas although I wouldn't have been surprised if they were for sale as well.
I was a single foot into the store but I already knew that I would be spoiled for choice. It would have been difficult to select just one. I could see why my sisters had taken as long as they did.
My grandma followed in behind me.
“The boys ones are over there, Sam.” she said pointing at the back of the store were a blue sign was hanging. She then walked over to the cashier, a young lady, whom I had only just noticed, the only other person in the store. She was looking at me with a blank expression on her face. I embarrassedly looked away and walked over towards were my grandma had pointed, feeling like a fool as I'm sure she had seen me admiring the ones in front of me, which I had now learnt weren't for boys.
I froze in revulsion for a moment when I reached the boys' selection, marked with blue signs mounted on top of their racks. When it came to choices, there appeared to only be three; plain black, plain navy blue, and plain white. I then had a sudden realization. It was now apparent that all the others were clearly for girls. Looking around, I couldn't believe I hadn't notice it before, but what boy would want to wear something so glamorous? Come to think about it, what boy wanted to prance about wearing something that looked so girlish? Actually, what boy even wanted a leotard anyway?
Although this revelation filled me with disgrace, we were here now and at this point, if I didn't pick one, I was certain that my grandma would have forced one on me. When we were talking in the car, she had sounded very merry about training me so I doubted that she would let this opportunity go to waste.
As I was sure to be leaving here with my own leotard, I would rather have it be one that I had chosen and with all that said, I was still disappointed to find my available choices had taken a drastic turn. The ones that I had available to me were so extraordinarily bland compared to the others that filled the store. I felt that even the bathing suit that I had worn were better than these. In a desperate attempt to find something that was even slightly interesting, I went through the boys racks one by one to see if there were any other styles that may be hidden from view.
With the final rack searched with no results, I sighed and glanced at the surrounding others. Although most of them were clearly girlish, some of them weren't and I felt they could have passed as boys' ones. I couldn't quite understand this as outside of their design, both the boys' and girls' ones were exactly the same shape, well, outside of some of the girls' ones that had sleeves. Why did they even need to differentiate between boys and girls anyway?
If I had picked one from the girls' selection, would my grandma even care? I mean she had seen me in a girl's bathing suit so would there really have been much of a difference?
“You know Sam, I wouldn't mind if you chose a girl's one.”
Her sudden voice from behind startled me. She must have seen me staring at the others and came over. Looking back, the cashier was looking at me as well, smiling this time. She seemed to have made this connection too which made me a bit queasy.
“I can't blame you. These ones are kind of boring, aren't they?” she said looking through the boys' racks.
I had to stop and think for a moment. Although I was now free to select any leotard in the store, this had come with a dose of frustration as well. I knew that I was going to make use of this privilege, I wanted to, and I'm sure that my grandma knew it as well but doing so while in a stranger's vicinity was loathsome. With that mystery girl at the beach, and possibly a neighbour who had opened that window yesterday, this now made possibly three people who knew about this, and I didn't know anything about them. At the rate I was going, it felt like at least half the town would know of this within a week's time.
I tried to stay positive. On the other hand, it was unlikely this cashier and I would ever cross paths again, and she was probably the only one who had gotten a clear look at my face. The one that had opened the window yesterday, if they had even noticed me, probably thought that I was a girl at the distance I was at, not to mention behind the cover of the trees.
I didn't know what to say in response to my grandma's question so I just started looking through the girls' racks as a sign of acknowledgement to which she did the same, probably to help me find something. Now that I was looking closer at them, I noticed that some of the girls' ones did have different straps and neck lines. Many even had skirts, some attached and others as a separate piece.
When I had started off, it didn't feel right admitting but nearly all of them looked amazing, and the more that I saw, the more I began to appreciate them. It was funny actually, this morning I was dreading this but now that I was here, I was beaming that I had been given this opportunity to the point that I couldn't help but smile.
For every twenty different designs I saw, about four of those I placed on my mental possibility list. After going through the first of many girls racks, I had to laugh at how foolishly futile that had been. Looking at the others, there were easily no less than two hundred unique designs in the store. Just like I had expected, this would be a very difficult decision.
I think I must have been too quiet, taking too long, or maybe both, and therefore my grandma starting suggesting ones, calling me from across the store, holding them up to show me. Although I didn't care what the cashier thought, it was still nerve-racking at how public she was making this. Thankfully nobody had entered while we were here. What would they think when they saw a boy shopping for a girl's leotard?
I shook my head at the ones she was suggesting. Although some of them were possibilities, I simply couldn't muster up raising my voice above a whisper to say “That one's nice.” across the store.
After fifteenth minutes or so, I had gone through all the racks in the store. It had made no difference though. Memory of any previous leotards were replaced with newer ones when I came across them, as if my memory were a basket now overflowing with choices.
“Sam, you'll need to choose one in ten minutes. We've been here for about half an hour now and they'll be closing soon.” my grandma approached me to say.
“I put together a selection for you. What do you think of these?” she said gesturing to a number she was holding.
She showed them to me one by one. I thought that she had made some good choices, some of which were ones I had added to my possibility list. None of them I felt were overly girlish as they were mostly made up of boys' colours, blue and black. Although a few of them had skirts, they were separate pieces so I wouldn't need to wear them.
“Do you like any?”
Yes, I did. All of them in fact, although I'm sure she was looking for a narrower answer then that. With only ten minutes remaining, I figured it would be easier to choose from her selection rather than looking through the racks again.
Going through them once more, I was finally able to make my choice. Out of the ones she had chosen, there was one had stood out as the coolest, although only slightly. I hadn't noticed it when I made my rounds, probably because it contained a skirt which would have made me immediately dismiss it. I felt a bit guilty seeing this as I realized that I hadn't given them all a fair look but it was too late to go through them all again.
It was mostly black but it did shimmer a bit in the light. Across its front and back were what looked to be claw marks, as if a large monster had slashed at it. They were made by patches of orange and blue material, shiny and coated with glitter, similar to what my sisters' ones were made of.
“This one's neat.” I said.
“Ah, good. I think so too.”
She held it up in front of me. “Looks like it'll fit but we better make sure. I'll be right back.” she said walking over towards the cashier.
She came back with a measuring tape in her hand. Escorting me to the changing rooms, we went inside where I stripped down to my underwear so she could take my measurements. I felt exposed being so bare in front of her, but then again, yesterday I was in the same position wearing nothing but a girl's bathing suit which was far worst. It did feel a bit weird though. Soon I would be wearing an almost identical garment, this time with her full approval.
“I'm not sure if we'll need to compensate for anything but I think that it should be fine.” she said looking at a size chart attached to the back of the changing room's door. “As they won't be open much longer, it would be best if you tried it on now.”
I hadn't expected this, thinking that I would first be wearing it in the comfort and privacy of our home. However, I didn't make a fuss as I would have been disappointed if we found that it hadn't fitted and couldn't replace it until tomorrow. Handing it to me, she left the changing room.
As I was already undressed and being very eager to wear it, I had in on in less than five seconds, all whilst smiling. I didn't bother with its skirt though and left it on the hanger. It was almost not worth my grandma leaving. She somehow sensed this and asked through the door; “How does it fit?”
“Great!” It fitted perfectly, just as good as that bathing suit, if not better.
Somehow thinking that my response was another way of saying “Come take a look.” she opened the door for the world to see! The changing room was in direct line of sight of the counter and if she wasn't standing in front of it, the cashier would have easily seen me. I wanted to run and hide but this wasn't possible in a one meter squared changing room.
“Looks good, Sam.” she said looking at it with a pleased expression, not noticing my face filled with terror. “You should walk around in it for a bit to see how well it moves with you.”
...was she joking? She wanted me to walk around the store wearing just this?!
“What... what about her?” I whispered pointing through her at the cashier.
Having absolutely no idea, she casually turned around to look at her, stepping out the way in the process, giving her a full unhindered view of me. The lady was looking at me with a grin across her face. I could feel my eyes starting to tear up in embarrassment and diverted them back to my grandma as it was too painful to see.
“She already knows that you're wearing it, Sam, and don't worry, nobody else is here. They're going to be closing soon so nobody will be entering.”
As the damage had now been dealt, I reluctantly stepped out of the changing room and began my shameful walk around the store, all while thinking how stupid I was for getting into this mess. Although I had my head down sulkily, eyes fixed to the floor, I could feel them both looking at me with great intensity as if I were an animal at the zoo.
Being so invested in my self-loathing, I barely registered what I was doing or for what purpose.
“Ah... yea, fine.” It fitted well even when walking about, although I couldn't understand why it wouldn't have. It got me thinking, did she really think it might not have, or was this some sort of cruel exercise in an attempt to make me more comfortable about wearing it?
“Good, this'll be the one. Come over to the counter so she can scan it, Sam. You can wear your clothes over top of it.”
As soon as its tag was snipped off, a symbolic moment overcame me. I was now the owner of a leotard. It wasn't anybody else’s. It was mine, entirely for me. This had invoked a number of feelings, both good and bad, but after putting them all together, it was pride that eventually overpowered the rest.
There wouldn't have been many boys that had been able to experience this opportunity, and even less with the support that I had. Some of them would probably have been punished just thinking about it, perhaps to the point of even being disowned. Not me though. Although I wish that it hadn't involved me standing here, in a public place, wearing only it in full view of a stranger, I was entirely sincere when I said that I was now the proud owner of leotard, a girl's one at that.
I almost skipped back to the changing room to don my regular clothes, doing what my grandma had said, putting them over my new leotard. When I got back to the counter, she handed me a bag. Being a standard practice when shopping, it took me a moment to realize why this was strange. I was already wearing her purchase, so what was in here?
“They've got a special on tights, Sam, so I've bought you a pair as well.” she said pointing to a sign upon the counter which read; '50% off plain tights with any leotard.'
I didn't quite know what to think of this. Tights were associated with girls, at least to me. I had never heard of boys wearing them. Although I'm sure that my grandma would state that they were if I had asked, it still didn't feel quite right having a pair of my own.
You would think that I wouldn't have cared about what gender they were for as I was currently wearing a leotard of the opposites, but these tights I felt were a different matter. My leotard was very similar to a boy's one so I could look past that. I couldn't with tights, and as she had implied that she brought them solely because they were on special, this meant that they weren't a required part of the uniform. Now that I had some though, I was sure that I would be expected to wear them, not “letting them go to waste” as she had put it.
Then again, I was in no position to argue. I was lucky to be here in the first place, nor should I be so dismissive without trying them on first. I may actually find that they are a good companion with my leotard.
As my grandma and I left the store, it was impossible not to notice how much time had gone by. The sun was beginning to sit and the sky was getting dark. I couldn't help smiling about this thinking; could anyone have chosen a leotard quickly with the selection that they had?
“Well, you took nearly as long as your sisters.” my grandma added looking down at her watch. “Hopefully we'll have enough time to get through that video.”
Just as I was about to open the car's door, I heard a “Hey, wait!” from behind. Looking back, it was the cashier hurrying towards us.
“You forgot your skirt.” she said holding it out for me to take, still on its hanger, with a grin across her face. Thankfully the area was deserted at this hour but having a sentence like that directed at me, made me bright red with embarrassment.
“Thanks.” I muttered, looking away.
I hoped that my grandma hadn't thought that I had left it behind on purpose in case she had wanted me to wear it as well. With it resting on my lap on the drive home, I couldn't help picking it up to inspect it closer, although not without a second thought. It would be a very girlish act to perform although I knew at this point that it wouldn't have bothered my grandma even the slightest.
Like my leotard, it was black made from a material that I wasn't familiar with. It had several layers all at different lengths, making it become transparent at its hemline. Like most of the other skirts I had seen at the store, it wasn't very long. Perhaps an inch shy from the top of my knees if I were to guess.
“You don't have to wear it if you don't want to, Sam, although I do think that you should at least try it on.”
Unlike the tights, I was well aware that skirts were solely for girls and therefore they were something that I didn't want to have anything to do with. I hadn't worn that bathing suit and now this leotard simply because they were for girls. I was able to take some pride in that. I had worn them because they were unique, like nothing I had ever worn before.
With all the support that she had provided me though, her request would be an easy one to fulfil so it was granted without question.
As I was so immersed with my new uniform and the upcoming lesson, I hadn't noticed that she hadn't taken the usual route home...