Tony Thorpe, writing for the Sandwich Comprehensive School Magazine. Edited by Lucinda Lawless.
It was all Lucinda's idea. Since becoming Editor of the School Mag a month ago, she's been shaking things up. The mag used to be just a one sheet thing with details of who had been made a prefect or won a 200 metres swimming contest, stuff that merited only a quick glance and than got dumped in the bin.
Lucinda decided to expand the magazine to include things of more interest to the school population and her first brainwave was to write a piece on gender. What if a boy and girl swapped places for a month, the boy going to school as a girl, being treated like a girl and even having to answer to a girl's name, and vice versa?
I thought it was a brilliant idea. Until, that is, Lucinda decided that I should be boy who had to live as a girl! I was horrified. It was a disgusting idea.
But Lucinda pointed out that as she had made me her deputy, and that she would be the girl who swapped to become a boy, I must take part. It still took her some time to convince me and I agreed with great reluctance.
Arrangements had to be made. After all, I couldn't just pitch up to school in a skirt and expect to be accepted as a girl. The teaching staff were told. I would do games with the girls but would change in a seperate area.
The night before I was due to appear at school as a schoolgirl, Lucinda dropped round her uniform and some underwear and picked up my stuff.
All Lucinda would have to do was get her long hair chopped off and get into my uniform. My own change into a girl was more involved. I remember looking at the alien garments lying on my bed and could still not believe I would be wearing them.
Mum took me in hand and insisted that I try the uniform and other things on to see if they fitted. It was highly embarressing to have to put on a pair of frilled knickers and Lucinda's lace trimmed training bra. The blouse buttoned up the wrong way and having to wear a skirt instead of trousers was weird.
At least the frilly underwear was hidden away underneath my outer clothes. Well, almost. The straps of my bra could be seen under the white blouse and the frilled cups were threatening to explode from the blouse, which seemed too tight.
The white patterned socks that I had to put on were alarmingly girlish but, combined with the long grey pleated skirt, at least hid most of my legs. I put my feet into a pair of shiny black shoes. Mary-Janes, Mum called them.
That was not quite the end of my changeover. Mum produced the long blonde wig that Lucinda had included with her uniform and put it on my head. Then she walked me over to the mirror.
I had to admit that the change was amazing. With just some different clothes and a wig, I looked quite a lot like a girl! I cringed with embarressment but I was also very confused. How could I, a boy, suddenly look like a convincing girl?
Mum was satisfied that the uniform fitted perfectly. I had different ideas about that. The blouse seemed too small and keep coming out of the band of my skirt. The wig was hot and itchy. I wanted to get out of these things immediately but Mum said I needed to keep wearing them to get used to them.
She got me to walk about the house dressed as a I was. It was crazy going around dressed as I was. The hem of the skirt kept bouncing against my legs as I walked and my legs felt all exposed without the benefit of trousers. The bra was restrictive and I was aware of it all of the time.
What made it worse was that Dad and my little brother, Max, were home and could of course see me in this get up. They almost split their sides laughing at me. I was on the verge of tears at the humilation and ran out of the room.
I couldn't do this, I decided, and began tearing off the uniform. But Mum intervened, sat me down and told me that I needed to be brave and go through with it. I felt better after our chat. Mum sorted out my appearance and took me back downstairs. There were no laughs or unkind remarks this time. Mum had obviously had words with Dad and Max.
It felt very strange to be sitting watching the telly in a skirt and long blonde hair. Was this really how a girl felt?
I was thankful when it was time for bed and I could escape from those clothes!
At 830 am, Mum dropped me off at the school gates. I gulped as I faced the prospect of facing my classmates dressed in Lucinda's uniform. I picked up my bags and ventured into the school grounds.
A group of sixth form boys, kicking a football around, stopped as I approached and looked at me as I walked past them, my face burning and my head down in an attempt to avoid detection. I had feared that they would clock me right away but it was worse than that.
They actually accepted from my appearance that I was a girl and, not only that, they were checking me out! I was horrified and increased my pace. I was relieved when I got past them. But my relief was short-lived. There were boys everywhere and all of them were checking me out.
Miss Pritchard, the maths teacher, announced to the class that Lucinda and I were working on a project for the school magazine and had switched gender roles and clothes. There were howls of laughter from the other pupils as we were presented to the class and I suspected that this was far easier for Lucinda than it was for me.
Lucinda, now called "Jack", went to sit with the boys whilst I, enduring the titters of the girls, went to sit amongst them. My new name was Sarah. I took care as I sat and arranged my skirt. It was amazing how quickly I had learned that trick from last night.
Now that the novelty of seeing me and Lucinda dressed as each other had worn off, the pupils seemed to accept the change. Double math passed without further incident but during chemistry I realised that I badly needed to go to the toilet and so had to raise my hand and ask to be excused.
Miss Wright, the chemistry teacher ordered the rest of the class to continue with their studies, and treated me like the girl I had become. She took my hand and marched me out to the girls' loo and practically pushed me inside.
The girls' loos were, of course, forbidden territory to boys, and I felt embaressed to be in there. But I was desperate to go, so putting all thoughts about being a boy in a girls' loo aside, I relieved myself and washed my hands. It was more awkward doing my business in a skirt and being reminded that I was wearing girls' underwear caused me to burn with shame. But it was done and I returned to class.
Lunch was a lonely business. I didn't know any of the girls and so could not sit with one of their groups and I certainly couldn't face my usual boy classmates dressed as I was.
Thankfully, the school day was over. When I got home, I tore off my uniform and hunted for my usual clothes but they were not there. Mum came in and saw me dressed only in my bra and knickers. Embarressed, I grabbed my skirt and used it to shield my near nakedness.
The frock, with it's deep lace collar and frilly bits, made me look even more girlish. My legs and arms were more exposed. I had to wear a pair of frilled ankle socks and the shiny mary-janes so that almost all of my long slender legs were on show. Finally, Mum took my wig and managed to tie a ribbon in it.
My face flushed, I went to sit with my Dad and brother but Mum had other ideas. As I was a girl now, I was to help her in the kitchen and with chores. I had to wear a frilly apron and serve my Dad and little brother like a waitress. I then had to do the dishes and Mum got me to do some dusting. Max was sniggering as I went about in my apron, dusting.
When bedtime came, I was exhausted after a day at school, the ordeals I had gone through and then housework. I trudged to my room, only to find Mum waiting there. She directed me to the spare room and opened it up to reveal my new room.
Due to my new status, Mum told me, it was no longer fitting for me to share with my brother. I was getting a room of my own. Max had been gibing me and teasing me, so I was pleased to be getting away from him.
Mum had been busy. She had converted the spare bedroom into a proper girl's room, with pink sheets on the bed and a vanity table. A pink, frilly nightdress lay on the bed and I realised with horror that I would have to wear it.
I found that I couldn't remove my frock without help as the buttons were all at the back. Girls' clothes were insanely hard to get into and get out of! Mum unbuttoned me and I struggled out of the frock, wearing only my underwear. Mum held up my nightdress and I allowed her to put it over my head. I raced to the bathroom in my bare feet, praying that no-one else would see me as I was, brushed my teeth and raced back.
Mum kissed me and left me alone in that overly girlish room. I looked at myself in the mirror. The wig was sitting on a special pedestal, ready for me tomorrow, so I looked like a boy dressed in a pink nightdress and felt utterly ridiculous. Everywhere I looked, I saw girliness.
I now had a greater idea of what it was like to be a girl and already I longed to escape from the constant girlification.
Double Games. The two words which prompted horror. I now sat with some of the girls at lunch, who had invited me into their group, aware that in less than half an hour I would have to do games. As one of the girls.
Sighing, I accompanied the other girls to the changing area. I had to change in the Games Mistresses room. I took Lucinda's games kit out of my bag. There was a blue T-Shirt that was indistinguishable from the ones worn by boys, a pair of black pumps and white socks. All gender neutral.
I emerged and was greeted without comment. The girls were used to having me around already. We were marched out and I flushed as we passed a group of boys heading off to the rugby field. There were a number of wolf whistles and I recalled with shame that I had once wolf whistled the girls when I had still been a boy. The girls giggled, but I was horrified at being accepted as a girl by a bunch of boys.
We spent the next two hours playing netball in the cold. It was less active than the sports that boys played and I was wearing a lot less as a girl, so my legs were freezing. I was on the verge of crying with the cold. And with the shame.
A year ago, one boy caught misbehaving on the sports field had been punished by being made to go and play netball with the girls. I had laughed as loudly as the other boys as the miscreant had been marched off in the direction of the netball court and heard the squeals of laughter from the girls.
But at least he had been allowed to wear shorts and a T-Shirt. I had only the tiniest of skirts that barely covered my knicker line. When I had to jump up to intercept the ball I was constantly aware of my skirt flipping up and exposing my knickers for all to see.
This was a deeply humiliating experience for a boy, I can tell you. The girls, used to all this, took it in their stride. They marched past the boys with dignity, even though they were aware that the boys got a good eyeful of knicker.
Ashamed, I got changed back into my uniform as soon as possible. At least it offered more cover.
At home, I once again had to do girls' chores. Mum took a file to my nails and smartened them up. She took a great interest in my appearance and was enjoying the novelty of having a daughter.
I got through the first week. Double Games had been the worst ordeal for me. Doing Home Economics and Jewellery Making had been easy by comparison. As I had to wear an apron at home, it was no big deal to have to wear one at school. The other lessons were standard subjects like English and Geography and I could wear my "usual' uniform for those. There was the odd remark or wolf whistle, but I was learning to cope with those.
My first weekend came and seemed to offer an escape from girlhood. Or so I thought. On Saturday morning the doorbell rang and there were four girls from my class, all dressed in jeans and T-shirts. Would I like to go shopping? Dressed in my gingham frock, I tried to politely refuse, but Mum insisted and pushed me out of the door.
The girls took me to the shopping mall. I needed a new look, they had decided. So they took me around several girls' outfitting shops and got me to try on dresses and skirts. No jeans or trousers, I noted. They settled on a pretty powder blue top and flower patterned skirt. I pointed out that I had no money but one of the girls had a store card and put the purchases on her account. We hung around the mall, with me feeling silly dressed in girls' things and carrying my frock in a bag.
When I left the girls, they kissed me and said I should come to one of their slumber parties next weekend. Mum liked my new look, even if I didn't!
On Sunday we normally went to church and Max and I went to Sunday school. It was a drag (no pun intended), but Mum insisted. I usually went in my smartest suit and wondered on Sunday morning what I would be wearing.
It was the most girlish thing I had ever seen and I was determined that I was not wearing it!
An hour later and I was in church, wearing the dress and all of the rest of it! I was learning another lesson about being a girl. Girls had to wear what their mothers told them.
I felt foolish mincing into church in my petticoats. What was worse was the knowledge that the dress was so short that my ruffled knickers were on display plus the fact that I looked not only very pretty but more like a little girl than a girl of my own age.
Mum was most attentive to me and insisted on me holding her hand, which made me feel more like a little girl than ever. I think she was really pleased to have me as a girl, even though I was not one. My parents had tried for a girl after Max had been born but there had been no more babies and so Mum had to settle for having two boys so having me as a "girl" must have been like her dream come true I suppose.
I was introduced to the vicar, who looked bewildered (probably because if his memory served our family had two boys and not one boy and a girl) as he gave my hand a dainty shake and then I had to sit amongst the girls at sunday school. Finally, the ordeal was over and I was able to get back into "normal" clothes (in this case a denim mini skirt, pink top and white cardigan with little rosebuds all over it).
Another week at school was endured. Everyone there was now used to seeing me as "Sarah". I had girlfriends instead of my boy pals and I was now getting used to my new clothes. One morning I had donned my schoolgirl's unform without even thinking about it. As though it was entirely natural.
The following weekend was the slumber party at Andrea's house. Mum dropped me off and once inside the house I got changed into my pink silk PJ's. I had to admit that the feel of silk against my skin was good.
I joined the girls and we watched some DVD's. Then Andrea got her make up box out and we had a make up session. Me included. By the time the girls had finished with me, my face was so beautifully made up that I looked as much a girl as the genuine articles.
It was so very confusing to be a boy and to see the face of a pretty girl staring back at him and to realise that it was his own face. I could so easily pass as a girl.