The Photo
By B. Gallatin
Published: October 16, 2007

My children are all grown. My wife and I are finally getting around to putting the house back in good order and repair. We’ve been cleaning out closets and going through boxes and throwing things out and saving s few things. I came across a forgotten box that had not been opened in over forty years. The box contained memorabilia from my days as a youth in San Diego when I was in the U.S. Navy. It was like an adventure, as I would imagine the opening of a time capsule. The box was mine and all of the contents were mine but it made no difference it had been so long ago it seemed foreign. There were things like my dog tags, still on the bath tub stopper looking chain and my military I.D. card. A laminated wallet size copy of my Honorable Discharge and on the reverse side was a copy of my D.D. 214. There was a small address book with a few phone numbers of old girlfriends, along with my parent’s old phone number. I had to laugh at the fact that there were only six digits and no area codes.

There was only one thing left in the box, it was a manila envelope. I opened it and there were some old photographs of me and some local girls that befriended me. They were pictures taken at the beach on Coronado Island, San Diego. It was nice to see myself so young, thin and muscular. The young girls looked even better than I remembered. I was just turning sixty something, so seeing pictures of yourself, young and looking well and liking how you looked isn’t a vanity thing. You’ll understand better when you’re sixty or better.

The last picture was the shocking one. It took me right back to the day I was to attend a Halloween party with these same girls from the beach photos. I had no costume so they wanted to dress me up as a woman. I protested but they insisted and besides I thought it would fun to have the two lovelies fawning over me. The ordeal began, they giggled and had disagreements about what eyeshade, lipstick color and whether I should sport a faux mole and where it should be placed. When they applied eyeliner it was scary, pencils near the eye. All the while as they applied first one thing and another they would step back and look very seriously at me and say things like,

“Oh yes, that works or no I think darker would be better.”

They bantered on and on. I couldn’t see any of what they were seeing as there was no mirror. When I asked for one they wouldn’t allow it until they were done. I could smell the cosmetics being applied. It was that familiar odor that smelled like them emanating from me. I liked that girl smell, no, I loved that girl smell.

When they were done with my face they decided that I should have a proper wig. Neither of them had one so they got on the telephone, calling friends in the neighborhood asking to borrow one. They were forced to tell each girl they called why they wanted the wig. All of this information about a guy sitting still for a makeover as a girl perked the interest of their friends and they started arriving in droves. Each one looked at me and giggled. I heard remarks,

“He’s going to be gorgeous with a wig.”
“He should have been a girl.”
“He’s beautiful.”
“Very pretty.”

I was getting uncomfortable with those remarks but it uped the ante of my curiosity as to what I looked like. I begged to see but they afforded me no mirror. Soon the house was over flowing with girls, maybe ten or more; who apparently knew of me that I never knew existed, flattering though. One girl made the comment,

“I wish my boyfriend was a good sport like you.”

The wig arrived. It was a very curly wig, exactly like Little Orphan Annie’s with tight ringlets only blond, a brassy blond like a Cupie Doll. They installed the wig, tugging, tucking and readjusting it here and there. When they stepped back to admire their collective efforts applause broke out. They all agreed that I made a lovely girl.

I have to admit I was enjoying all of the feminine attentions. They handed me an androgynous, fluffy white bathrobe to put on. However before they let me see myself in a mirror they insisted on a photo.

I was still holding that photo in my hand day dreaming when I realized that my wife was standing beside me staring at it. She snatched it from my me, backed away gazing at it again and broke out laughing,

“That’s a picture of you isn’t it? You know, I always thought you had a feminine side and there’s the proof. You were a cross dresser, now that’s a hoot. Just wait till I show the children.”

I loudly protested walking toward her,

“You don’t understand…it was just a lark…it was for a Halloween party…give it back…I can explain. Come on now, you wouldn’t dare show the kids something like this? You know I could physically take it back from you; so give it back to me now!”

My bold attempt of breaking bad and taking the photo back physically fell on deaf ears. Tucking the photo in her bra and patting her blouse where she put it,

“Oooh, you’re so touchy, touchy about this picture.”

She smirked, looking back over her shoulder, as she left the room laughing,

“You can explain it to all of us over dinner tonight. The kids will be here for your birthday celebration. I’m sure you’ll have an acceptable explanation.” Followed by more laughter.

My birthday dinner that night was memorable to be sure. They all had great fun at my expense. My oldest boy said, handing me the photo,
“This picture sort of looks like a picture of your mother I’ve seen.”

I took another look at it and it did look like my mother in her youth…too weird.