Sunday, 29 August 2010

The Transformation - 2019

My name is Jennifer Walsh. I was born to parents who had once been wealthy but had fallen on hard times. Instead of going to the private schools my parents had attended, I attended state schools but nevertheless won a scholarship to study at a top university.

But my academic career was de-railed by my parents. They wanted me to marry the heir to a textile business so that my father could join their board of directors and return to being wealthy. I had no choice in the matter and so I was married to Duane Cowen, who was some ten years older than me. I was not attracted to him in the slightest and was not surprised that he had never married before.

Duane and his family were very conservative in their attitudes about the roles of men and women. Duane would join the board of directors and be groomed to succeed his father. I, on the other hand, was expected to be a full time homemaker. Cooking, cleaning, making beds, doing laundry, shopping etc, etc.

I tried to put my foot down over this. I was an intelligent woman. I wanted to work and earn my own money. Couldn't I join the board or at least work for the company in some capacity? The answer from Duane and his father was a resounding no. I was to keep house and that was all I needed to worry about.

So I kept house and kept my husband in the style to which he was accustomed. I cooked and served him his meals, washed and ironed his clothes and submitted to him in the bedroom. Years went by. In spite of trying, there were no children. Duane was a selfish, spoilt man who was unconcerned with me and how I felt. He spent our money on good clothes for himself, a top of the range car and on golf. He was a member of the local club and was actually quite good. I had to beg him for money for clothes for myself and money to socialise with other women.

When Duane was aged 40, his father passed away, and he became the CEO of the family business. I begged him to give me a role in the company as I was going out of my mind with boredom and he grudgingly allowed me to be his secretary. I had to wear a silk blouse, pencil skirt, seamed stockings and high heeled shoes. I had had no training as a secretary, but I soon picked it up.

Over the next three years I saw for myself how bad a businessman my husband was. His father had cared about the business and about each and every employee and they worked hard in return to please him. Duane didn't care about the business or the loyal, hardworking employees who had worked for the firm for years. He let things slide and fired anyone who disagreed with him. The company hemeoraged its best employees and the new ones Duane took on were of poorer calibre than the old ones. The poor running of the company and sub-standard work soon resulted in falling orders. I tried to point this out to Duane, but he wouldn't take advice from anyone, least of all a woman.

After three years, the inevitable happened. The company collapsed under its debts and Duane was declared bankrupt. His fall was spectacular. His car was repossessed, our home was repossessed and worst of all for Duane, he was thrown out of the golf club. They didn't tolerate failures. We had to move in with my parents to avoid being destitute.

Duane sank into a stupor, unable to come to terms with failure and poverty. He had no idea what to do. I had an idea though. I would start up my own business. I borrowed some money from my father. who had jumped ship from the old firm at just the right time, and set up a modest business baking and selling cakes. It took me five years of hard work and determination, but at the end of it I owned my own shop, with a flat above for me and Duane to live in, and could afford to hire two other women to help me with baking and service.

A year later my father died and I inherited his house. Duane and I moved in. Duane spent his days slumped in front of the television or practising his golf swings in the spacious garden. He had no interest in finding work and spent my money on fine clothes and golf clubs for he had been reinstated as a member of the club as a result of my becoming a respected local businesswoman.

By now I was becoming irritated with my husband. I had had to hire a woman to take care of the house because he wouldn't lift a finger and he was spending our money freely (for we had a joint account) and doing nothing in return. One day, I took action. I set up a new account in my name only and ordered my salary to be paid there in future. Then I had a talk with Duane.

I told him straight. If he wanted money he could either go out an earn it, just like everyone else, or I would give him an allowance, in return for him doing some housework. Otherwise, he could do without. Those were his choices.

Duane was appalled. He knew he wouldn't get work, not in this town, where everyone knew what a mess he had made of running the old firm. In a small voice, he asked if I would hire him. It must have been humiliating for him to have to ask his wife for a job. I smiled and told him that I had an opening for a secretary. The business was expanding nicely and I had been able to take on enough staff now to take on a more managerial role.

Duane asked how much the job would pay but I said that there would be conditions. He would have to obey every order I gave him and...he would have to dress for the part. I loved the look on his faced as he comprehended what I meant. He would have to wear secretary's attire!

He blurted out that he was a man! He couldn't dress as a woman! I replied that he had been out of touch with what had been going on in the wider world. The traditional roles and dress of women and men were being reversed. Had he not noticed that I had not worn a skirt or dress for years? Men were now openly wearing skirts in public, and everything else that women used to wear.

Duane shook his head in disbelief. It wasn't possible, he asserted. At this, I told him to follow me outside into the garden. The garden looked out into our neighbour's, the Gordons. There was Cynthia, who, like me, ran her own business, in jeans and a checked shirt, smoking a cigar and blowing out blue rings. Her husband, Toby, was bringing her a glass of wine. He wore a blouse and flower patterned skirt and had bare, shaven legs. Toby was a full-time house husband. Like Duane, he had once had his own business but had lost it. The Gordon's had two children, a boy and a girl. The girl, Tabitha, was dressed like her mother and had short cropped hair, and was kicking a football about. Her brother, Timothy, was wearing a dress, had long hair into which ribbons had been tied and he was pushing a doll's pram.

Duane staggered back as if he had been struck and said he had had no idea that this had been occurring. I smiled and said that women were now the dominant gender. We had been for a few years now. Look at us. I'm the breadwinner and you are totally dependent on me financially, a complete reversal of our roles since we were married!

Duane grew quiet as he took all of this in and said he would work for me but could not wear a skirt and the other things. It was too demeaning. I replied that in that case, I wouldn't employ him. He would have to do housework instead if he wanted an allowance from me. Duane became stubborn but eventually came round to the idea that if he did some housework, he could at least remain dressed in traditionally male clothes, although he conceded that he would have to wear an apron, a white, lacy frilly one, to protect his fine clothes.

I left for work the following day, with instructions for the lady who kept our house to train Duane up to do housework. Duane looked rather sweet in his lacy apron, but he was embarressed. I came home to find him watching television. He had done some dusting and hoovering, he said, that was good enough for now. I was not amused, especially as I had to prepare our meal as Duane said he was too tired.

Still, I had my revenge. When he asked me for money, I took a few notes out of my purse and handed them to him. That was all the work he had done was worth, I said, about enough money to buy him a couple of drinks in the clubhouse. If he wanted more, he would have to do more. I expected him to do better, to prepare meals for me and wash and iron my clothes. Duane looked like he was about to cry. Sullenly, he began to wash up and do other things around the house.

The next few days saw a transformation in Duane's attitude and output. Duane had learned quickly and the house was spotless. He prepared and served me my meal when I came home, brought me a glass of wine and ironed my clothes that I would be wearing the following day. That was much better, I told him, and gave him a generous wad of cash. Duane was happy because that meant he could afford to go to the golf club tomorrow.

I could afford to let the lady who had kept our house go, but gave her a big payout as compensation. I now had a house husband. The change in Duane was almost miraculous. He became a whirlwind of activity and could get the chores done by the afternoon, spend some time at the club, and be back in time for when I arrived home.

One day, I took a day off to sort out my wardrobe and do some shopping. The wardrobe was still filled with the dresses, blouses, skirts and shoes I had worn in the past. They seemed alien to me now. No woman wore such things nowadays. I stuffed the clothes into black bags. Duane could take them to a charity shop tomorrow and I went shopping for more suitable clothes, suits and shirts.

I came home to an astonishing sight. Duane was in the Gordon's back garden, with Cynthia and Toby, the children having gone to bed by this time. Cynthia and Toby were complimenting him on his appearance, as Duane was wearing one of my old dresses and turning slowly in it to show it off. On seeing me, Duane went red and ran into the Gordons' house. Toby took me aside and explained that he and Duane had been getting along for a few months now, as being a house husband could be lonely, and he had suggested that Duane try fitting in to the neighbourhood by wearing dresses. It has taken him a long time to persuade Duane to try it, but tonight he had done it.

Duane came back outside, looking sheepish. I told him to relax. He looked fine in the dress. In fact, it suited him better than it had ever suited me. This seemed to relax him. He was awfully self-conscious and nervous. We all said encouraging things to him and he soon adjusted to the dress.

The following day, I took another day off work and took Duane to a salon, where he was depilated and had his hair and nails fixed, and then to the shops where I bought him his new wardrobe. Duane emerged from the shop clad as any other man, in a dress, stockings, dainty lingerie and high heels, with his hair styled, his nails filed and painted and his face made up. It would take him some time to adjust to being a modern man but the role-reversal transformation was complete!

1 comment:

  1. I like this another story of great transformation of gender roles. It's wonderful to see as ex-businessman become short skirted secretary or male housewife.