In the intervening months since the start of my ordeal I had pleaded on many occasions with Emily, my babysitter, to be allowed to wear ‘longs’ again, but my words had fallen on deaf ears. Emily had the full and unqualified support of my mother who had been impressed at how something so basic as a change in my wardrobe could have such a dramatic effect on my behaviour. The truth was there was no longer anything to distract me from my schoolwork, other than my own innate tardiness, since none of my erstwhile contemporaries would have anything to do with me. If you were nearly 16 years old, would you want to be associated with a boy of your own age who had been put back into short trousers as well as put back a whole school year? No? Well neither did any of my former ‘friends’ either. As for the 13 year old boys in my class, they didn’t want anything to do with the gangly 15 year old in short trousers either. To them I was at most a curiosity; an odd specimen of boyhood who had landed in their classroom dressed like a bare-legged 1st Former. No, the only contact I had with them consisted of little more than was required in the classroom together with a considerable amount of teasing about my oh-so obvious juvenile status.
But worse were the younger boys in the 2nd Form, many of whom were already in long trousers, who would tease and humiliate me without mercy. To these younger boys, proudly wearing their first pair of ‘longs’, I was a figure of fun dressed in my ludicrously short, short school trousers. One of their games was to ‘tag’ me. This involved creeping up behind me to give me a sharp, stinging smack on my bare legs with their school rulers. The ruler would be held in one hand and the boy would bend the ruler back as far as he could using the tips of the fingers of his other hand. When the boy got as close as he could to my bare legs he would release his fingers and the school ruler would deliver a stinging smack to my exposed and vulnerable thigh that would make me jump in the air. The idea of their fiendish game was to see who could make the highest and reddest mark on my thighs. I’d be walking along the corridor between classes or out in the playground during break-time when all of a sudden I’d feel the sharp sting of a well placed ruler, smack on the top of one of my thighs. I’d turn to see the boys cheering, whistling, pointing and yelling “Shorty-short-shorts!!” (this being one of my new nick-names), “Who’s a shorty-short-shorts? He’s a shorty-short-shorts!!”
Their game would invariably leave me with red legs and sore thighs for the rest of the day.
The awful aspect of this teasing from junior boys was that I soon found myself powerless to retaliate, since the only time I did lunge at one of my tormentors, who had me almost in tears, I was accused of being a bully! One the teachers (an eager student P.E. teacher who everyone hated) saw me pushing the boy, a 2nd Former of course, out of my way in an effort to escape the taunts. The teacher grasped hold of me by the ear, gave me a stern telling off, turned to the boy I’d shoved and told the boy to give him his school ruler!
The P.E. teacher then twisted me round, bent me forwards, leant down and grabbed one leg of my grey school shorts and yanked it right up as far as it would go! He then proceeded to give me six very hard smacks with the boy’s ruler right on the very top of my thigh, before pulling up the other leg of my short trousers and giving another six whacks with the ruler on the top of my other thigh. My god how they stung!
To the delight of the 2nd Formers watching I pleaded shamelessly with the P.E. teacher to stop and actually was in tears by the end of my ordeal.
When he’d finished and handed the boy back his school ruler, he turned to me and told me that I was a bully and that he hated bullies: “I’ll be keeping and eye on you from now on Harris and if I ever see you pushing younger boys around you’ll think you got off lightly today… Understood?”
“Yes, sir,” I said as I rubbed the backs of my sore thighs. Through my watery, tear filled eyes I could see my 2nd Form tormenters; their faces filled with glee. They knew I wouldn’t dare risk a repeat of my punishment.
It will come as no surprise, I’m sure, when I tell you that incident gave the green-light to those junior boys to torment and tease me as much and as often as they pleased.
It will come as no surprise, I’m sure, when I tell you that incident gave the green-light to those junior boys to torment and tease me as much and as often as they pleased.
After sir finally let me go, I ran off, but now with tears of frustration stinging my eyes. The unfairness of it all… me a fifteen year old boy!
Being permanently dressed in short trousers also meant I was subject to certain other school rules and the most significant of these was that I had to wear my school cap. Only boys who wore short trousers to school were obliged to wear school caps, as if it wasn’t enough to mark one out as a junior boy to be dressed in short trousers in the first place. Of course the wearing of a school cap also brought with it even more school rules to be obeyed, such as the raising of the cap to grown-ups. Humiliating as this was for a 15 year old boy, it was even worse when I was called to do so in the presence of a school prefect.
Of course school caps were always fair game for other boys to knock off your head and run off with and as a consequence I was always being caught without my school cap. I soon found out it was no excuse to blame the high-spirited boys who were so intent on teasing me and getting me into trouble. As a consequence I was forever being told not to let it happen again, but never was I told how I was to achieve this.
Shaming as my short-trousered school uniform was, I was totally unprepared for what happened when school resumed after the Easter Holidays. You see I had quite forgotten about ‘shirt-sleeve order’…
If I was not used to being put back into short trousers, then the best that could be said was that by the approach of Easter I had become resigned to pulling on my white-lined grey short trousers for school every morning followed by long grey woollen school socks. I would sigh and carefully turn the tops of the socks over to reveal the hoops in my school colours and then finally slip on my black lace-up school shoes which Emily made sure that I polished the night before school. With my shoes laced up I would stand and look at myself in my bedroom mirror and tell myself what an ass I looked. Then, after I’d made sure my tie was straight, my socks were both pulled up neat and level, I packed the previous night’s homework in my satchel (yes, I had to carry a schoolboy’s leather satchel to and from school every day, just like any other junior schoolboy), I made my way downstairs.
School holidays gave me no respite from the ritual of putting on my full school uniform as I was expected to wear it when mum had guests, when we visited family friends and relations, and of course on Sunday when I was taken to Church. The vicar seemed to take great delight in telling mum how smart I looked in short trousers and every Sunday he made sure he complimented Emily, who always accompanied us to Church, on her suggestion to put me back into short trousers. I was not expected to say anything other than to thank him for drawing attention to my humiliating clothes.
As I’ve said before, short trousers were a compulsory part of the school uniform at my school for all First Year boys. Boys were permitted to wear ‘longs’, at their parents discretion, from the 2nd Year onwards. It was not at all unusual though for a number of parents to keep their boys in short trousers during the 2nd Year, but by the 3rd Year it was very rare for any boy to be seen in short trousers… apart from me that is. For the two years I ended up spending back in the 3rd Form, I was the only boy to be still dressed in short school trousers.
Humiliating as it was to be kept dressed in short trousers, I think I could have coped much better had it not been for the yearly ritual of ‘shirt-sleeve order’. If I had given it any thought, I’m sure I would have thought it wasn’t going to be applied to a boy of almost 16 such as myself, even though he was still in the 3rd Form.
I should perhaps explain what ‘shirt-sleeve order’ entailed. This might help you to understand why it caused me so much anguish. When school resumed after the Easter holidays, boys were dressed in the same school uniform that had been worn during the previous two terms. The main feature of this uniform was that long-sleeved grey school shirts were worn whether or not the boy wore short or long trousers. School blazers were worn at all times unless boys were given permission to remove them during class. However, when the days started to get warmer during the Summer Term, the Headmaster would announce the commencement of ‘shirt-sleeve order’ during School Assembly. From the next day all boys would change into thinner, short-sleeved grey school shirts and these would be worn whatever the weather right up until the end of the School Year.
For junior boys wearing short trousers to school, there were other changes too. As well as wearing short-sleeved shirts, boys in short trousers also had to change into short, turn-over-top, ankle socks and at the same time swap their black lace-up shoes for brown T-bar school sandals. If that wasn’t enough, standard junior lined school uniform short trousers also had to be swapped for lighter, ‘summer’ regulation school shorts. These summer shorts were cut even shorter than my standard school shorts and to add to my distress were accompanied by supremely brief white cellular underpants.
If all that wasn’t bad enough, matters were made considerably worse for me since no one knew when the Headmaster would announce ‘shirt-sleeve order’. Every School Assembly became a nightmare for me. Emily had made sure I was ready for ‘shirt-sleeve order’ during one of our increasingly embarrassing trips to the school outfitter and I knew my summer school uniform was all ready for the announcement. Every day I’d look outside at the weather, trying to gauge if it was sufficiently gloomy for another day’s respite from the dreaded announcement from the Headmaster. Mum couldn’t understand my increased interest in the old-fashioned, mahogany-cased barometer that hung in the hall. My heart would sink as I tapped it and the needle jerked to ‘set fair’. Would this be the day, I’d ask myself?
Of course the inevitable happened. How Emily found out about the announcement I’ve no idea, but by the time I got home that day, she had already laid out my official summer school uniform on my bed. Each item of clothing had been neatly laid out for me to see and I also saw, on the floor by my bed, the brown T-bar school sandals I would have to wear from now on.
Normally I would find my play-clothes laid out on my bed ready for me to change into when I arrived home from school, so I knew without Emily saying anything that today I was expected to change into my summer school uniform.
“Oh, but please Emily, I don’t have to wear it until tomorrow…” I pleaded pathetically as I looked at the clothes laid out in front of me. I tried desperately to postpone the inevitable, but Emily would have none of my procrastination.
“I want you to get changed Scottie,” she said firmly, “It will give you time to get used to wearing your summer school uniform. Don’t forget you’ll be wearing it every day from now on, so the sooner you get used to wearing it the better.”
“But please, Emily, do I have to…?” I whined.
“Yes, Scottie… Now get a move on, I really can’t see why you’re making such a fuss about it…”
“That’s enough, Scottie. Now hurry up and get changed.”
I did as I was told. I knew there was no point I my arguing. How could I possibly explain to Emily the full extent of the added humiliation that wearing my summer school uniform would entail? Even if I could put into words the horror I felt at the thought of presenting myself at school the following morning dressed even more briefly than ever, would she understand? I knew she wouldn’t; girls just don’t realise how embarrassing it is for a boy of my age to be dressed in short trousers for school.
Mum would back Emily up if I kicked up too much of a fuss anyway and that could lead me into big trouble. With an aching heart I undressed; out of one set of school regulation clothes and then into another. Gosh but summer school uniform was brief; flimsy too, much thinner than my standard uniform clothes. In fact the summer school uniform was even thinner and briefer than the continental-style suit my Aunt Violet had bought for me to wear… and that was saying something!
The white cellular schoolboy underpants were clearly designed to be worn with exceedingly brief short school trousers. I pulled them on and they were a comfy fit, even if they were cut so high as to hardly cover my bottom cheeks. I knew this meant that even with my school shorts on, I was going to be showing an awful lot of bare bottom for everyone to see. Quite how much was still a shock to me as I turned to see myself in my bedroom mirror. As I stretched backwards and twisted my head back over my shoulder I was horrified to see the lower curves of my bare bottom utterly exposed.
Emily thought they were a perfect fit and when I complained they were far too short, she simply told me that summer school shorts were designed for boys to get lots of healthy sun and fresh air to their legs. I pleaded that it wasn’t only my legs that would be getting lots of fresh air, but most of my bottom too! At this Emily told me not to be such a silly boy, which was her usual way of ending an argument. A silly boy! For heavens sake I was nearly 16 years old!
My next shock came when Emily told me that we must have my ‘winter’ school shorts properly cleaned, pressed and put away “…ready for next year.”
The implication of this statement was news to me. I spluttered: “But… but, Emily… I thought…”
“What’s that Scottie?” Emily asked cheerily.
“Um… nothing… that is… that is, I thought…”
What I was trying to say, but getting desperately tongue-tied in the process, was that I didn’t think I’d need short trousers again when I went back to school after the Summer Holidays. It was evidence, if any was needed, of how junior my status now was that I dared not argue the point in case the sliver of hope that I retained that I would get my ‘longs’ back might be dashed. I knew how fragile my hopes were and that if I complained about having to wear short trousers what the response was likely to be. Only the other day mum had heard me complaining and her response had left me in no doubt of her views:
“Scottie," she said, "the more you complain and the more fuss you make about a silly little pair of short trousers, the more I’m inclined to think you’re even old enough to be considered for something as grown up as ‘longs’. I really can’t understand why you make such a fuss… they’re only short trousers after all…”
There was more, but it was clear enough to me that if I complained about having to wear short trousers, this would be taken as proof that I was not mature enough to be awarded the privilege of ‘longs’. It was also equally clear, to me at least, that the less I said about the indignity of wearing short trousers, the more it was taken that I was happy to wear them! As time went on the more apparent it was that I was stuck in situation that I couldn’t win.
So I handed over my ‘winter’ school short trousers to Emily without any further comment. I had to accept that whichever way I looked at it and however depressing it was, this was a clear sign I was to remain in short trousers for longer than I thought… much longer. I hardly dared think just how long Emily had planned to keep me in short trousers, but I tried to put the thought to one side; there were much more pressing matters now that I was dressed in ‘shirt-sleeve order’. I had the rest of the Summer Term to get through during which I would be dressed daily in my summer school uniform. My stomach was in knots.
“Come on, Scottie, let’s go downstairs and show your mother your official summer school uniform,” Emily said brightly, completely oblivious to my obvious discomfort at wearing a school uniform that made me look even more like a little boy.
So downstairs we went and into the living-room where mum was having tea with Mrs Jennings, one of her friends and one the few friends of mum who hadn’t seen me since I’d been put back into short trousers. Mrs Jennings took one look at me and nearly dropped her glasses into her tea-cup.
“Well I never! Scott! It is Scott, isn’t it?” she said, “My… I nearly didn’t recognise you…”
Needless to say I was blushing fit to burst as Mrs Jennings looked me up and down… mostly down at my tiny thin summer short trousers, I noticed, then further down my bare legs to my ankle socks and T-bar school sandals.
“What lovely legs…” she added. “I do think it’s such a shame when boys cover their legs… they all seem to want to get into long trousers just as soon as they can these days… such a shame.”
Mum agreed: “Yes… It was Emily’s idea to put Scott back into short trousers… Scott was held back a year at school, you see,” she told Mrs Jennings by way of explanation and left it at that, as if no further justification were needed to put a boy of nearly sixteen back into short trousers.
“Well, he certainly does look very smart,” Mrs Jennings said.
“Scottie thought you would like to see his summer school uniform, didn’t you Scottie?” Emily said.
The last thing I wanted was for anyone to see me dressed as I was, but I knew enough now not to make a scene, however galling it was to have agree with Emily all the time.
“Um, err, yes…” I said without any enthusiasm whatsoever. I think I may have even pouted a little, in which case I probably looked even more like a little boy than I already did.
“Oh, isn’t that nice,” Mrs Jennings gushed, “It’s so nice to see a boy who’s proud of his school uniform and wants to show it off for everyone to see.”
Emily explained that when my school went into ‘shirt-sleeve order’, because I went to school in short trousers, I had to change into this new uniform. Mrs Jennings expressed a great deal of interest in the changes to the school uniform for summer wear and I had to stand right next to her as Emily pointed out various details.
It was all very embarrassing as Emily, mum and Mrs Jennings discussed how much shorter and thinner my school shorts were; how I’d had to change to short ankle socks and the humiliating (to me) T-bar sandals; how my arms were now as bare as my legs; how it was so much healthier for young boys like me to get as much sun and fresh air as possible. And so it went on with me standing there like, like… well I might have been a tailor’s dummy for all the attention they paid to me or my feelings.
Then Mrs Jennings spoke: “Do you know… I’ve just had the most wonderful idea…”
It turned out that her daughter Melissa was busy planning her wedding which was to take place in a month or so. Mrs Jennings explained that her daughter had always wanted to have a pageboy at her wedding. There were plenty of bridesmaids she explained, but there were no boys of a suitable age that could be asked to join them on Melissa’s big day. Would Scottie help them out?
“Scottie would love to, wouldn’t you darling?” my mother enthused. It turned out that Mrs Jennings was ‘someone-to-know’ at the bridge club or something, so mum was extra keen to offer my services… whether I wanted to be involved or not!
“… wouldn’t you like to help, Scottie?” mum repeated and I was left with no choice but to agree to be a pageboy.
“Yes…” I said with as little enthusiasm as I felt I could get away with, but that didn’t matter as mum, Mrs Jennings and Emily were already discussing Melissa’s wedding plans, the husband-to-be, the guests, the huge reception, the honeymoon arrangements and all the thousand and one other things in which I was just not interested in hearing. I stood there and was pretty much ignored.
In hindsight perhaps I should have paid more attention to what was being said, and listened more carefully when I heard the words, “… and there is far more material than the bridesmaids will ever need… Trust Violet to order too much, but I sure she’ll find a good use for it…”
In the end the wedding was postponed and didn’t take place until November of that year on a Saturday towards the end of the month. There had been a hard frost overnight and, would you believe it, flurries of snow in the afternoon. It was bitterly cold, but I’ll return to that story some other time, as it’s making me shiver just to think about it.
To round off my current story… I found out later the Headmaster had actually written to mum on the subject of shirt-sleeve order. He was of course aware that I had been put back into short trousers and so he realised the particular implications of the forthcoming change in school uniform to shirt-sleeve order would have on a boy of my age. He accordingly suggested that a special dispensation could be granted in my case, subject to mum’s approval, allowing me to remain in long socks, black school shoes and my regular grey short trousers. Indeed the only change to my uniform, he suggested, would be for me to wear short-sleeved shirts after the order was given to the school.
As I said I didn’t find this out until later as it wasn’t considered in the least important that I should be consulted. But as you probably will have guessed mum did ask Emily what she thought of the Headmaster’s suggestion. And I’m also quite sure you can guess what Emily’s response was.
The upshot was that mum wrote back to the Headmaster thanking him for his kind suggestion, but having given the matter considerable thought, she had decided that no exceptions or allowances should be made for her son. The school rules, mum pointed out, were quite specific on the subject of shirt-sleeve order and she felt that to make any special allowance for me, even though I was nearly 16, would be unfair to other boys who were still in short trousers and risk setting an undesirable precedent. Mum ended by saying that school rules, in particular those governing uniform regulations, must be complied with at all times and that my wearing of ankle socks, T-bar school sandals and summer short trousers would, she hoped, set a good example.
To complete my change to shirt-sleeve order Emily arranged to take me to the school barber’s for an extra special short back and sides ‘summer term’ haircut. The barber knew just what was needed and recommended to Emily that I had, “a nice smart short haircut” to match my “nice smart short trousers”. I left the barber’s with my fringe reduced to barely half an inch… I’m sure you can imagine what the rest of my haircut looked like! I felt like... and probably looked like... an overgrown and somewhat gangly eleven year old schoolboy.