Mum took my sister and I for a day out at the seaside, and being a typical girl, my sister couldn’t decide whether to wear her pedal pushers and a t-shirt, a sun-dress or her playsuit. I on the other hand wasn’t bothered. I had my cargo shorts and my sporty sandals which meant I could paddle in the rock pools and play on the rocks. “Right Sarah!” Mum snapped, clearly getting impatient with her indecision, “Just put your sandals on, and put either your sun-dress or your playsuit in your bag in case you change your mind, and get in the car… please.”
Torn between three outfits, one of which she was wearing, Sarah seemed strained to decide. She screwed her face up, asked if she could bring both, was told ‘no’, screwed her face up again and left her favourite sun-dress behind in favour of her favourite playsuit. Why girls describe so many different clothes as their favourite I’ll never know. I have a favourite t-shirt and a favourite pair of trainers and that’s it. Sarah has her favourite pink top, her favourite blue top, her favourite this top and that top, and that’s just her tops. Wait ’til she starts talking about skirts, dresses, pants!!!
When we arrived, the tide was miles out from the shore and the craggy rocks and the sands were open for our exploration. Sarah and I ran around the marshes that sat just above the high tide mark. This flat expanse of grass was scarred with a myriad of shallow pools which were great fun to leap over but not to paddle in, being stagnant and seemingly lifeless. Being a boy, I was always keen to show off by trying to prove that I could jump further and better than my sister, and being my sister, Sarah was always setting me challenges.
“Be careful you two!” our mother hollered as ran across the marsh, jumping the pools and enjoying the freedom of the seaside. We took it in turns leading the way and much to my displeasure, Sarah managed to leap even the widest pools. When it was her turn to lead the way, I was confident that I’d be able to keep up because she is after all, just a girl. But my confidence was soon dissipated as she managed to leap across a pool that I felt was far too wide for me.
“Come on Peter!” Sarah said. “If I can do it surely you can.”
She did have a point, so I took a good run up and leapt as far as I possibly could. For a nano-second I thought I was going to make it. Time seemed to slow to a snail’s pace as I flew through the air, stuck out my foot ready to land on the marshy bank of the boggy pool, only for the tips of my toes to miss the edge by only a few millimetres. No sooner had I realised I’d failed, time sped up to its normal speed and I crashed into the water, and feeling myself falling backwards, I splashed and thrashed frantically to pull myself out. According to everyone, these pools are all full of quicksand, meaning the chance of escape would be almost zero. I quickly realised that wasn’t the case as I found myself sat on my rear in about a foot of murky muddy water. Defeated, I got myself on my feet and dragged my sodden self onto dry land.
“Peter I told you to be careful!” my mother hollered from the track she followed.
“How on earth didn’t you make it?” Sarah said once she’d stopped laughing at me. “It’s not that wide.”
“I think my foot slipped.” I replied as the muddy water drained from my clothes. I looked down to see my legs and shorts covered in mud… and rather smelly mud at that. I slopped my way back to my mother who just shook her head, frowning with that ‘I told you so’ expression.
“Oh Peter look at you!” she said as she turned me around. “You’re completely covered in mud!”
“I’m sorry.” I frowned.
“Well I don’t know what we’re going to do.” Mum said, “You’ve nothing to change into and I don’t want to waste a nice day out taking you all the way home to change.” she told me.
“He can wear my playsuit.” Sarah suggested.
Mum looked at me and frowned, then at Sarah. “I suppose he’ll have to.” Mum sighed. “Come on.” Not keen on wearing anything that belongs to my sister, I suggested that I’d dry off in no time. But mum said that the stinky mud was her main concern. I pointed out that there’s nowhere for me to change, but mum had already thought of that. “There’s enough privacy down by those rocks, and you can wash the mud off in a rock pool.”
Reluctantly, I stripped down to my underpants and seeing the back of my shorts and sweatshirt, realised just how much of a mess I was in. The sticky stinky mud was caked all over the back of my clothing, and even in the rock pool it was reluctant to come off. Thankfully my sister averted her eyes when my mother told me that my underpants would need ringing out. They may not be muddy but they are sodden. Having wrung them out as best I could, I pulled the damp underpants back on and reluctantly stepped in to the playsuit. “Do I have to wear this?” I moaned.
“Well it’s this or nothing.” Mum replied. “Think yourself lucky your sister didn’t bring a dress instead.”
It’s blue flowery fabric was the least of my worries as the top half was held up by two thin straps that tied in bows on the tops of my shoulders. My sister giggled as mum tied them for me. I thrust out my lower lip to make my disapproval clear. “At least it’s clean and dry.” Mum said, before suggesting I get as much of the mud off my own clothes as possible, before wringing as much water out as possible before laying them to dry on the rocks. Sarah very kindly helped, and once done, suggested we climb on the rocks and paddle in the pools.
Being dressed in a girlie outfit, I wasn’t keen on doing anything of the sort. “I will when my clothes are dry.” I said.
“Peter they won’t be dry for hours yet. It’s pointless sitting around and moping when you’ve got almost the whole beach to yourselves.” Mum told me.
Reluctantly, I followed my sister but felt like a complete wally. The only things that were good about her playsuit was the fact it was an all-in-one pair of shorts and a top, and not a dress, and that it was mostly blue and not pink, but other than that it was as girlie as any item of girl’s clothing could be. It wouldn’t be so bad if the shorts were knee length like most boys shorts tend to be. These were short and had a frilly hem. My only hope, should we meet someone else is that I’m mistaken for a girl and not a boy wearing a girl’s playsuit.
We found crabs and sea snails, even a star fish in the many rock pools we explored. We scaled a rock face in the hope of finding abandoned treasure, or at least some interesting bits of flotsam from a passing ship. We found an abandoned fire pit under an overhang which we decided had been used by smugglers or possibly pirates. We found a secret path which led us over and around the rocky outcrop by which our mother sat reading. We tried and failed to sneak up on her, but stealth was never one of my strong points. We ate egg and cress sandwiches, crisps and guzzled fizzy pop. Mum told me that my clothes still weren’t dry, but I wasn’t that bothered. Wearing my sister’s playsuit wasn’t that bad, I admitted. Mum said I looked nice. Sarah said I could keep her playsuit providing mum bought her a new one.
“Just be cause I don’t mind wearing it now doesn’t mean I want to keep it.” I gulped. “Anyway my own clothes will be dry soon.” I added as I grabbed the sleeve of my sweatshirt to find it still very damp.
“Why don’t you two build a sandcastle before the tide comes in?” Mum suggested. She always came up with something when she got the slightest inclination that we’d start bickering. Sarah and I clambered down the rocks and onto the sand. We improvised spades with a couple of pieces of driftwood and excavated a moat, the contents of which became a large mound. From this we formed walls and turrets and a series of ‘streets’ inside the castle’s walls that would eventually flood. I improvised a flag made from a crisp packet and a stick and mounted it in pride of place on the sandcastle’s highest turret. By the time we’d finished, the patchy cloud had dissipated and the summer sun shone down on us. Mum called us over, so we clambered back up the rocks.
“That’s a lot bigger than the last one you built.” Mum said as we approached. Sarah told her we’d made streets and tunnels. I told her I’d made turrets and the flag. Mum told us we needed some suntan lotion otherwise we’d burn. Normally it was only applied to my arms and calves unless I was swimming. It seemed strange having to drop the thin straps that held the top of my playsuit up so mum could apply the sun cream to my back and shoulders,
“I wish I could wear my playsuit now it’s warm.” Sarah moaned as mum put my straps back in position.
“Well hopefully this sun will dry out Peter’s clothes before long.” Mum replied.
“They’ll still stink of mud though.” I added.
“Yes they probably will.” Mum smiled. “Your turn Sarah.” she said as she squirted a dollop of lotion into the palm of her hand. Sarah and I swapped places. I looked down at myself and tried to deduce whether I looked OK or ridiculous in my sister’s playsuit, then I looked at Sarah as I sensed her staring at me.
“Wouldn’t you rather wear my shorts & t-shirt than my playsuit Peter?” she asked.
I considered it for a nano-second. Although the style of her shorts and t-shirt may be a bit more boyish than her playsuit is, the colours certainly weren’t. Her white pedal pushers had turn-ups just below the knees which reveal a pink lining, and her pale pink t-shirt features a big white flower on the front and has a ruffled trim around the short pin-tucked sleeves. “No thanks.” I replied. “At least this is blue.”
“Oh.” Sarah moaned. “I wish I’d brought my sun-dress now… then you’d have worn my shorts.”
Since she’d spent so much time deliberating before we left, I had a clear image of the sun-dress in my memory banks. It was short, frilly and flouncy, in baby-blue with pink butterflies all over its light airy fabric and trimmed with white lace. “I probably would have.” I gulped as I imagined wearing it.
“Well I think you’d have looked just as nice in her dress as you do in her playsuit.” Mum teased. “I wish I’d let you bring both now.” she said to Sarah.
“Me too.” Sarah replied. “Then I could have worn my playsuit and Peter could have worn my dress.” she said in her typical bossy manner.
“Stop teasing me.” I jovially grumbled. “It’s bad enough having to wear this.”
“Now the sun’s out I’d have thought it would be nice wearing that.” Mum said. “It’s a lot more airy than your shorts and sweatshirt.” she added, glancing at them on the rocks.
Mum did tell me I’d probably be too warm when I chose my sweatshirt instead of a t-shirt, but it was cloudy then. A t-shirt would probably dry out faster too, but I guess it’d still stink of stagnant mud from the pool I’d tumbled into. It did feel kind of nice having the sun beat down on my bare shoulders and the breeze take the edge off its heat. I imagined if Sarah had brought her dress instead, the breeze would be whipping up inside it and I’d be battling to stop it blowing up and revealing my undies. I guess wearing a playsuit isn’t so bad, even if it is a bit girlie.
We clambered back down the rocks and tended to our sandcastle. We built a number of outer moats and a long deep channel to take advantage of the threatening tide. As we waited in anticipation for the tide to begin flooding our sandcastle, I noticed that Sarah kept looking at me strangely. I had a feeling I knew why but eventually had to ask. “What?”
“Nothing.” she coyly replied. “I was just thinking what you’d look like if I had brought my dress instead.”
“I’d have looked like you.” I replied.
“All pretty?” Sarah grinned as she turned her head this way and that, as if posing for a photograph.
“No I mean… I’d have worn your shorts and t-shirt.” I replied. “I think.” I added as wearing a girl’s pink t-shirt was also a long way from ideal.
“Is it nice wearing girl’s clothes?” she asked. “It must be boring dressing like a boy all the time.”
“But I am a boy… all the time.” I countered.
“Yeah but, I don’t dress like a girl all the time.” she replied. “Sometimes I like wearing boyish clothes and sometimes I like wearing girlie clothes.”
She’s right, I thought. My sister does seem to switch from tom-boy to girlie-girl in the blink of an eye. I looked down at my playsuit and confessed, “Well, this isn’t so bad… but I don’t think I’d like to wear a dress.”
“How do you know?” Sarah replied. “You didn’t want to wear my playsuit at first.”
“Yeah but this is a just a pair of shorts.” I retorted. “Kind of.” I added as a looked down at myself. “Do I look stupid?” I asked.
“No you look nice.” Sarah told me. “Which is why I was wondering if you’d look nice in a dress too.”
I felt myself begin to blush. “I doubt it.” I half heartedly replied before noticing that the tide was about to flood our main gulley. A few minutes later and the main moat we’d dug was beginning to fill. “Look mum!” I shouted.
“Very good.” Mum shouted back, before advising us to come back up to where she was.
Sarah and I clambered back up the rocks, me first with her following. “I’m glad you’re not wearing a dress Peter otherwise I’d be looking at your knickers right now.” she said.
“Even if I was wearing a dress I wouldn’t be wearing knickers.” I replied as I scrambled up the last little bit.
“Oh yes you would!” Mum said as I appeared. “Nice frilly ones.” she grinned.
“Oh Mu-um!” I groaned. “It’s bad enough having Sarah going on about me wearing dresses without you starting.”
“I think you’d look nice in a dress.” Mum told me as she looked me up and down. “You certainly look nice in a playsuit.” she smiled as she looked past me to watch Sarah climb up the last bit of rock.
“I know but… that doesn’t mean I want to start wearing dresses too.”
“I know.” Mum smiled. “We’re only teasing you.” she said, taking hold on my hand to reassure me. “But it’s nice that you know you look nice.” she added.
“Don’t you think he’d look even nicer in a dress though?” Sarah asked as she joined us.
“Of course.” Mum replied. “But it’s up to Peter if he wants to wear one or not.” she said.
“And I don’t!” I stated in no uncertain terms. We all spent the next half an hour watching the tide slowly destroy our sandcastle. Finally, the flag I’d mounted on the highest turret toppled and mum suggested we walk further along the beach, into the dunes and eventually back to the car. She removed the rocks that had stopped my sweatshirt and shorts from blowing away to check if they were dry. “These are still a bit damp Peter.” she said. “They’ll be OK to wear if you want.”
The idea of wearing damp clothes didn’t sit well with me, plus it’s still very warm under the sun. “Nah I’m OK.” I replied. Mum asked if I was sure and I nodded, so she folded then up and put them in her beach bag.
As usual, Sarah and I ran up and down the dunes whilst mum trod the well beaten path through them. It felt like any other day on Summerday Sands except for the fact I was wearing girl’s clothes, and it was only when I stopped to think that that became apparent. I imagined that wearing a dress would be far worse than wearing a playsuit. At least with this it’s a pair of shorts on the bottom half and not a skirt, so there’s no fear of me flashing my undies as I run and tumble. As we neared the car park on the edge of the dunes, Sarah and I scrambled up the last big incline and ran down it as fast as we could, wailing all the way. Mum watched us and smiled, but an old couple who picnicked next to their car were less than impressed. “Will you tell those girls of yours to be a little quieter!” the old woman hollered in our mother’s direction.
Sarah and I laughed and ran to the car, leaving mum to either deal with them or ignore them. We were too out of breath to speak, so we just panted as mum approached, routing the keys from her handbag. “I think that woman thought I was a girl.” I said.
“I think they both did.” Mum replied. “Not surprising really as you do look quite girlie even if you do have short hair.” she said as she pushed her fingers through it.
I felt myself blushing again. I suppose it’s better that than being recognised as an eleven year old boy who’s wearing a girl’s playsuit. Sarah and I got in the back of the car and fastened our seat belts. Being used to much longer shorts, it was strange sitting with so little on to cover me or shield me from the rough fabric of the upholstery. “Peter?” my sister asked.
“What?” I replied.
“Pleeaaassssseeeee will you try one of my dresses on when we get home?” she asked in the most creepy crawly persuasive tone. “It won’t be really girlie.” she added.
I sighed. “OK then.” I replied. “But please don’t tell anyone.” I insisted.
“It’ll be our little secret.” mum said as she smiled at me via the rear view mirror. I forced a smile back and wondered what I’d got myself into.