There's nothing like driving over a bridge in one of the thousands of vehicles that cross it each day knowing that you designed it and oversaw its construction. It's a unique satisfaction because it was a product of your mind, and you hope after you are gone it will still be there. It's a stab at immortality. Nothing lasts forever, but some things can last for many generations.

I had taken the last exam of my senior year and done well. There was no doubt that I would be getting my civil engineering degree just a few months shy of my twenty first birthday. That's what comes from skipping two grades early on. The plan was to eventually take my EIT (Engineer in Training) exam and then a few years later, I'd get my PE (Professional Engineer) certification and be on my way to a great career in a field I love. Best of all, I had met the girl of my dreams and we knew we would marry, even if it wasn't official yet.

Beth, my unofficial fiancée was smart, pretty, level headed and way out of my league. And, perhaps a bit kinky. Actually, it's more likely her best friend Judy was the kinky one. I think she pushed Beth and then Beth pushed me and it turned out to be great fun for all. Their kinky side played well, however, against my straight laced, nose to the grind stone nature.

My parents were not rich, nor were they poor. They were however, cheap, so I was poor. They paid for my first year of college, and after that I was on my own. I had some savings from jobs in high school, did odd jobs and some tutoring for a while and then I hit pay dirt, a co-op program with a large construction company. The money was good, it was not only salaried, but with per diem because the job often involved travel for weeks at a time. Best of all I was getting experience on real projects in my chosen field and working with real world professionals. But, it only three months twice a year, so the money was just enough to make ends meet.

By the end of each academic quarter when I would return to working full time, I was living on a credit card and roman noodles. Then, with the first paycheck the card would be paid off and I'd start saving. When I went back to school the next quarter I would take a very heavy course load to make up for the time lost working. It saved money since after a certain number of credits, tuition was a flat rate and the extra hours were free. But, it left no time for a social life.

On our campus, there was a small canteen in the basement of the chemistry building across the street from the engineering college. People could pick up snacks or even have lunch rather than walking to the cafeterias on the other side of campus. Clearly, Beth picked me. She was a sophomore, my age, and new to the campus having transferred from a small private girl's school in the Midwest. I thought she picked me out like a person picking a goldfish and all I can say is I thought I was one lucky goldfish. She asked to share the table and we started talking. As she was about to leave, I built up the courage to ask her out and to my amazement she said yes. Not that I had time or money to go out, but it seemed like an opportunity not be wasted.

I did my best on the dates to show her a good time and she was remarkably tolerant of my poverty. In addition to fun, the real purpose of dating is to get to know the person. I think she was appalled by my apartment which was always clean, but small with worn furnishings and let's face it, a dump. Even at age twenty, she was a too refined to say anything disparaging. The apartment was much cheaper than dorms and provided less distraction for one with such a heavy course load. If college is supposed to be the best time of your life, I missed it. Then again, maybe those for whom college was the best time missed everything after that.

As Halloween approached, knowing that I was agonizing over a costume, she said she and Judy would take care of the costumes - it would be fun. When she said she wanted me to go out with them dressed as a girl, I said no. Then she said "Aren't you the least bit curious what it's like for us?" and yes I was. Even though I had never given it a thought, at that very moment something in my brain clicked, and yes, I was curious to experience the world from her perspective, perhaps as a way to know more about her.

We arranged to meet in her dorm room to try it on a few days before Halloween. That would involve a bit of subterfuge because there were absolutely no men allowed upstairs in the women's dorm and a matron who could intimidate an army drill sergeant stood guard in the lobby. Happily the girls had a fairly standardized method to circumvent this. As the day to try on the costume approached, Judy would meet me at a first floor utility room window, I would climb through and we would scurry up the stairway to their floor. This was obviously not unprecedented and there was a code to let the other girls know there was a guest on the floor.

Their spacious nicely furnished room was the antithesis of my apartment and for every two rooms there was a shared a bathroom, no communal showers or toilet stalls as were found in the men's dorm. I knew the girls pretty well by then and in those, by my standards, luxurious surroundings it was easy to relax. The girls started showing me what they wanted me to wear and the costume that would go over it. It was to be a costume over a costume, so I'd be anonymous.

I don't know if feminizing of boyfriends is really a thing with some girls or not, but it wasn't their goal. They just wanted to do something different and have fun, but none of us expected the unintended consequences. They got me into a bra and girdle comparing fashion to building construction in the importance of a proper foundation. They got my shirt off and had me in a longline bra stuffed with gym socks almost before I knew it. Beth might have been grossed out if she knew the odd satisfaction I felt while wearing a bra that had encased her breasts and body - You are a pervert, I thought to myself. But, when they went after my pants, I said no, instead going into their bathroom to strip. When I came out in the panty girdle they had for me, seeing my excitement, they had a good laugh at my expense talking about the futility of modesty in this circumstance. Judy even let out "Well Beth, at least you won't be disappointed when the time comes." I was glad to know they had decided the time was going to come.

They said I would have to shave my legs for the big night but handed me a pair if old stockings to try on just for the experience. When it was determined that I needed bigger shoes than either of them wore, Judy disappeared and showed up a few minutes later with some that did fit. I have no idea which girl contributed them but thankfully they were not high heels.

Something happened when I put on a slip. Different layers of smooth fabric sliding independently against each other felt incredible to me. Rubbing my nylon clad legs against each other was ecstasy. I couldn't believe women experienced this sensation all the time. When I commented on it they looked at me funny for pointing out what was normal to them and said it was of no consequence. To this day I can't believe they could help but revel in that sensation.

I have never taken illegal drugs so I don't know what they do as far as providing an escape from reality, but I was mesmerized by this slight compression on my body in the satin feeling bra and girdle combined with the tactile sensation of the soft sheer fabrics layers sliding over one another and over me. They had introduced to an escape from the reality of my generally miserable life. I was a totally different person when dressed this way and I loved it. If I was a transvestite before, I didn't know it, and if not, I may have just become one.

Satisfied with the dress, and shoes they wanted to experiment with the makeup and wig to have it right for the big day. As minutes turned to hours, we were all three having fun. The makeup and hair were done, I had tried on and removed the other costume and we were just sitting around talking, I still in the dress and all. I wished it could have gone on all night.

The phone had rung several times but we did not want to be disturbed so we ignored it. All of a sudden, we heard a key sliding into the door lock. As the door swung open, the RA walked in pulling her key from the lock. "Beth, your mom is here and wanted to drop a care package off for you. We tried to call but there was no answer so I was going to let her leave it in your room," As the RA glanced at me, she smiled and then looked down as she backed out of the room and left. In walked Beth's mom and in a move reminiscent of Huck Finn catching the ball of yarn with his knees rather than his skirt, I outed myself by instinctively standing up when the lady entered the room. A slight "You're so screwed" smile showed on her face. As she walked in handing Beth a cardboard box, she said looking at each of us in turn, "Hello Judy, Hello Elizabeth, and who is this lovely young lady?" Well, I had met the mother!

Before a word was spoken, with a movement of perfect grace she effortlessly pulled the ribbon from Beth's care package, walked behind me and quickly put the ribbon around my neck. Did you notice that this pretty young lady in YOUR dress has an Adam's apple? I'd accessorize an Adam's apple with a choker collar, or better yet, I wouldn't wear a dress if I had an Adam's apple! "Who's the transvestite and why is it in your dress?" she demanded. I replied, "I'm not a transvestite!" "You're in a dress, stockings and women's shoes with a wig and makeup, and you tell me you are not a transvestite. This is debauchery! Beth, this is what we get for sending you to a big state university. YOU - GET OUT RIGHT NOW!"

Beth nodded toward the door. She knew best how to deal with her rampaging mother. I made a hasty retreat down the stairs, through the lobby, and out the front door and home with some unknown girl's shoes and a ribbon still around my neck. When I got home I was locked out of my apartment and didn't even have my wallet or money. I was so upset that I left my clothes with my wallet and keys on her bathroom floor.

I removed the ribbon and walked all the way back hoping to somehow retrieve my clothing. I arrived just as Judy was on the way out of the building. She had remembered my keys and had quietly gathered my belongings into a bag and followed along leaving the room to mother and daughter in a terrible row. She told me this was all her idea and now Beth's mom, Mrs. P, was threatening to pull her out of the university and send her back to her previous college where the town is boring, there are no boys and there is no Judy or Les.

Judy was frightened. They were good together and had formed a really close bond in just the two months they had known each other. "I think she could be the best friend I ever had, and I don't want to see it ruined by her mom putting the worst possible interpretation on something that is completely innocent. She wants to have you expelled and call your parents." Unbeknown to me she actually did call my parents, but happily she didn't report it to the school.

In an odd way, I was bit jealous of Beth for having parents that cared enough to make such a fuss. I could not imagine my parent's going to bat for my welfare. Judy and I waited in the lobby. Nobody even looked at me or my offending neck to notice anything out of the ordinary about the two girls sitting in the lobby. When we saw her leave, we both went upstairs. Rather than confronting Mrs. P, I had chosen to let things calm down and write a letter expressing my regrets that we had met under those awkward circumstances, express my feelings for Beth and explain that Beth was a good daughter of whom any parent should be proud. That seemed to help because Beth remained in school and I was invited to their home for Easter to meet her family.

Between Halloween and Easter, I went out with the girls several more times dressed as Leslie. We all had fun and there was no pressure on anyone. When Easter arrived I rode home with Beth to meet her family. Mrs. P was still hostile, the brothers were cordial, Mr. P was friendly but her maternal grandmother Lizzy was the best. She liked me and I liked her. I could see where Beth got her brains and rebellious streak. She had a Masters degree in mathematics and had been one of founder Thomas Watson's "System Service Girls" at IBM. Many people think women in the professions started in the 60's and would be surprised to know that most of corporate America's first generation business computers were installed and programmed by women. While she could regal me about her adventures at IBM, her true passion was philosophy.

Like me, because of her a technical education, she never had the opportunity to study subjects like philosophy at university. The curriculums are just too demanding to allow it. So, she was self taught later in life. The family had an impressive home library and she had added and read lots of philosophy books, while her daughter had added gardening books.

She talked about Deontological Ethics (from Greek δέον, deon) - literally "duty based ethics", a system of ethics that says we have a duty to do inherently good acts and refrain from those acts that are inherently bad. Problem is, few acts are inherently good. Charity for example is good but not inherently good because it can be bad if it removes the work ethic. Truthfulness can needlessly hurt people so it is not inherently good. Sometimes you should just keep your mouth shut. She said "That system of ethics, our system, works best in the negative; don't murder, don't lie, don't steal, don't cheat. Those are absolutes." She stated her preference for the Buddhist version of the golden rule which is also stated in the negative; 'Hurt not others with that which pains yourself' as compared to the one I knew. She said, "As individuals we have obligations to others but we assume those obligations voluntarily, they can't be forced on us."

She contrasted her system of ethics with Consequentialism, the notion that even an evil act, is good if it produces a good outcome. It can be summed up as "The ends justify the means." The flaw in that was obvious - a good outcome for one person is often a bad outcome for another, and she pointed out that the way to deal with that flaw is called Utilitarianism - the notion that whatever brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people is the right thing to do. She said, "But, that wrongly assumes that happiness is the goal of ethics and assumes that we have the wisdom to know what will bring happiness - we don't. Also it rejects minority rights, especially for the minority of one - the individual. Protection of the individual is the basis of the founding of this country, so when we treat people as groups instead of individuals, Utilitarianism becomes a numbers game with tragic outcomes." - That from a mathematician. "Karl Marx was wrong. The war isn't between classes. It's between systems of ethics."

This lady was the matriarch of a prominent family. She might be throwing pearls before swine but to her relief I understood what she said. She was explaining her families most basic values in a way I doubt one in a thousand people could. She was explaining Beth's values with an elegance, wisdom and self awareness that I had never encountered. She was awesome.

The purpose of the visit was not to educate me on philosophy, which it did, but to educate her to see if my values were compatible with Beth's. She asked probing questions, but subtly. Beth was her only granddaughter and that meant she had a special destiny if she chose to assume it as four previous generations of her maternal family had done. She said that her daughter's hostility was because she is trying to force an obligation onto Beth and I was a threat to that. "Make no mistake, my daughter and I want the same thing, just by different means."

Lizzy and I continued discussing ethics and everything else. For her, tolerance was as simple as the golden rule. We talked about duty and personal prerogative and how one is often misrepresented as the other to bully us into doing things we are not obligated to do. She knew everything about my relationship with Beth, not from Mrs. P, but from Beth - everything. So, I asked her the one question that has nagged me since the first day, "Why me?"

Her reply was, "That's simple. Don't sell yourself short. You have a good reputation in your department; you are smart and work hard. Beth knows one of your professors who used to teach at our school and he suggested that she should look you up. He thought you'd be a good match. You should have asked Beth, she would have told you." She went on to explain what she meant by "our school". It's is a small college for women founded by her grandfather and grandmother and endowed by her family and others. The school exists for a good reason and insuring its survival is the duty Beth must be persuaded to assume.

We left on Monday and back at school things went well on all fronts. I must have passed the family's exam and they passed mine. They were good people, not particularly religious except in a social way - to support neighbors in something they viewed as good. I liked all of them, but Lizzy and I would become true friends. After we left, Lizzy apparently began working on a scheme that might solve everyone's problem and that brings me to acing my last exam.

Balancing a social life for the first time in my college career with the extremely heavy course load proved difficult, but successful. I had been so busy that the apartment was a mess, the mail unopened for a week, and I just needed to relax. I slipped into my Halloween costume which somehow had a calming effect on me. The apartment, rather than dorm life was a definite advantage when it came to my new escape from reality. For the first time in years I had an open calendar and a little bit of money unspent - freedom! I cleaned the apartment in anticipation of moving out, and with that done, I sat down to plow into the pile of unopened mail. A letter from my parents expressed regrets that business would prevent them from attending my graduation, so I'd skip it too. As I opened the last letter, the phone rang. It was Beth, "I've got to talk with you now, it's very important. Mom and Dad are here right now and want to take Judy, Leslie and me out for supper tonight to talk about something Grandma has cooked up. Leslie has to come over right now". So, I folded the letter back into the envelope, stuffed it into my purse, put on makeup the wig and a choker collar and headed over to Beth's where she and Judy would touch up my makeup. Little did I know, I'd never see my apartment again.

I may have looked like a girl, but I didn't sound like one. Fortunately, supper was in a private room in a nice restaurant, so we could talk. Beth's dad was embarrassed to see me like that and I was equally uncomfortable. "Do you always dress like a girl except when you are at our house?" Mrs. P asked, already knowing how unfair the question was. Beth just shook her head. "You seem to have only one dress. (That should have answered her question, right?) Actually I bought that dress for Beth so maybe you don't even have one dress. We'll have to get her some clothes so he doesn't show up in class naked. Oh, I'm getting ahead of myself." "Well, the big news is, my mother has extended an invitation to the three of you to attend a special Women's Studies Program put on each summer at our school with full scholarships. It lasts five weeks. It is normally very selective and limited to 21, but this year they have lowered their standards and upped the number of slots to 24. My mother urges the three of you to take advantage of this truly unique opportunity. The program started today, so they have sent a school van to meet us here and pick you up. Beth can take Leslie shopping tomorrow afternoon after class but you must leave immediately after supper so you can get settled before you join in tomorrow." Beth's jaw dropped. She obviously knew about the program and was totally surprised. Judy had heard of it but didn't know it was actually happening and I was clueless.

"Les and Judy, your parents have already given written permission. Les's, or should I say Leslie's mother will clear out his apartment and take everything home with her. We'll send her the key if you will hand it over. We will clear out the girl's dorm room and since they will be attending our school for the next two years, we'll just take it all there next week. Headmistress didn't want you to miss any of the programs, so time is tight. Les, are you willing to do this?"

Was this her way to part us? I was shocked at the turn of events, but if it was Lizzy's idea, she knew what she was doing, and the timing couldn't have been better. So, I said yes, much to Mrs. P's dismay and Beth, relief. The first potential hurdle to break us up was passed.

We arrived at first light, the three of us sleeping in the van during the trip. The campus was beautiful, especially in the morning glow. A nineteenth century architecture style was carried throughout the campus even in new buildings with well manicured landscaping, lots of shade trees with well established flowerbeds. It being summer, classes were out except for a few summer programs, so there were few people. The school would normally have about six hundred students. The van arrived about 5:30 in front of the office and Beth thanked the driver.

The headmistress, a good looking woman of about 40, had come in early to welcome us. She immediately pulled Beth aside and quietly explained that she was responsible for me. "This experience would either give you a common bond or break you up and I didn't care either way".

When we entered her office she said, "Welcome back Beth. Beth knows all about this program so she can explain it if she hasn't already." She then looked at me and said, "So you are the boy who likes to dress like a girl. Well around here all the students dress that way, so that shouldn't be a big deal, but you had better blend in. A lot of strings have been pulled for you. I hope you are worth it. You should not be here! This is a program for women, and you know nothing about womanhood and don't need to know some of the content of this course. You will respect the privacy of the other students and keep any unwarranted comments to yourself. If you are the source of any disruption at all you're out! You will be excluded from some classes that are not appropriate for you or might embarrass other students and you will be given special assignments at those times. Keep your mouth shut and ears open and you might learn something. Be on your best behavior, even if others aren't. I stuck my neck out and vouched for you because I was asked to do so by someone I admiration and respect. No male has ever been given this opportunity. She has entrusted her reputation to you. Don't screw it up! That part goes for you two as well. All three of you look ragged and one of you needs a shave. I know you have arrived here with just the clothes on your back so here is an envelope for each of you, a clothing stipend for this afternoon. She will show you to your rooms."

A student appeared and escorted us to our dorm rooms. She showed us the laundry room, a recreation room and the cafeteria on the way. She told us where the classroom was, and to be there by 8 am. Of course, Beth knew her way around already, and would already know several of the students. Beth and Judy had the room across the hall from mine. Someone had sent our sizes ahead because there were toiletries and a clean change of clothes for each of us. We had time to shower get dressed and go down for breakfast before class. The girls came over to help me with my makeup and clearly I'd have to learn to do it better by myself. Entering the cafeteria, all eyes were on us, well, me. Word had gotten around fast.

If Lizzy was entrusting her reputation to me, she was entrusting her granddaughter as well. All three of us knew the stakes were high and we would have to justify the trust placed in us. Lizzy had a reason for me to be there, but so did Mrs. P. Both of them must have settled on this as sort of a trial by ordeal for Beth and me.

This was not a women's studies course in which aggrieved girls sat around bashing some nebulous patriarchy. It wasn't an "us versus them" thing. These girls were individuals who saw and judged other individuals by the content of their character, as MLK put it. Racism and bigotry are forms of collectivism that judge people only as groups. They are enemies of individualism.

Spreading discontent was not this schools style. It existed to improve society one woman at a time and they would in turn create better sons and daughters or better corporations, schools and governments. They had been a bastion of feminism for a hundred years. They didn't need to be in the streets. An alumna in 1920 whispered into the right ear and got the 19th Amendment passed when a mother in Tennessee called her legislator son and turned his vote. That one anti-suffrage man's changed vote was the final ratification of the women's right to vote. Not showy, just results. A small plaque on a wall told the story. Their brand of feminism employed reason - not hysteria, and they would no more burn their bras than an army would burn their rifles. What some saw as a symbol of oppression, they saw as a source of power. They were constructive, not destructive. For these feminists, men were not the enemy, but potential life partners who would help them build a better society. They would make the world better for women, but not by harming their sons, brothers and husbands. An agenda aimed at helping one group by harming another fundamentally violates the golden rule. They had a better way than divide and conquer.

This program was designed to ensure that these young women would be successful and excel in whatever role they chose. It could have just as well been called "men's studies" because they would be studying men in the same way a biologist studies lab rats. One important purpose of the program was to make sure they made the right choice for a husband the first time, so it was the only time. This was more important than ever with the dawn of the sexual revolution.

Not only was the student selection process rigorous, so was the selection of guest speakers and instructors. Prominent biologists, psychologists, economists, lawyers, doctors and sociologists made themselves available for classes and seminars on their chosen subjects. A famous husband and wife team known for groundbreaking sex studies would be there for several days. A local minister was slated as an instructor as were hairdressers, a makeup artist, fashion experts and a bar tender. The Headmistress, everyone called her HM. was right. I didn't belong there. Entry into this program was very competitive and limited. I was there as a favor, not as a result of merit. At least they didn't push a deserving girl out to put me there, but I would do my best to make amends for interloping.

Part of the popularity of this program for students and teachers and the reason it was somewhat low key is what I call the Mardi gras aspect of it. Whether the battle between the sexes is a war or a game; they would be equally prepared to win it. This course would familiarize them with the full arsenal available to women from merry widows to tort law. They examined the psychology of sex and each aspect of women's relationships with men - everything from the psychology behind high heels to fetish ware. And, they got to play dress up! The girls got to go down to the drama department, try on various outfits, or make their own and in some cases model them as a show and tell often requiring students to research and instruct the class about the outfits or accessories, and why they were effective in manipulating the male brain. I did feel like a lab rat and I was in for discomfort in more ways than one.

Sex is power and like all power it can be abused so as always the topic returned to ethics and obligation - the foundations of the tolerant stable society they wanted. Regardless, of the seriousness of the day's topic or the silliness of the costumes, it was to be presented with humor and respect - no meanness or hostility, but as the girls got to know me, I was in for a bit of ribbing even in the best of circumstances. Only two girls were openly hostile to my presence for religious reasons, one walking up to me saying "Deuteronomy 22-5". A few others considered it an invasion of privacy, and assured them I wound respect their privacy and asked only that they judge me as an individual rather than as part of some group. That won them over.

The school attracted daughters of Midwestern families that wished to avoid the drugs, crime; STD's and unintended pregnancies that long befell some students at schools farther from home. They rejected decadence and promiscuity, but did not want their daughters to be ignorant of those aspects of our society. This program provided knowledge in a safe environment.

These women were to be leaders in their communities. They were from wealthy families and money, like sex is power that can be used for good or ill. They had to be mindful of that and instill it in their children and others. Abuse of wealth or power through decadence or promiscuity was viewed as unseemly in their circles. The Greek ideal of moderation was embraced, but that applied to moderation itself, so every now and then it was OK to cut loose and have fun.

Bring on the fun! All of the girls had finished their junior year, so were upperclassmen compared to Beth and Judy, who would have attended the next year if it weren't for me. With my one dimensional education, most of them knew more than I about history, literature or the social sciences, and other so-called soft subjects, thus the advice to keep my mouth shut and learn proved useful. I had a solid background in math, science and economics (an elective minor for me) and I had even taken a course in art history, so I wasn't too far behind.

The law, psychology, and sociology classed were interesting condensed courses. I was learning a lot without the pressure of exams. I enjoyed the minister's class, and you'd never guess who taught a class in philosophy, that's right - Lizzy. So, now she too had seen me dressed. With those out of the way the classes on the psychology of sex brought on an impromptu change of wardrobe by the girls. Hemlines rose as, necklines fell and all of a sudden flirtation seemed to be the order of the day. With no change in my modest attire and a very firm girdle successfully hiding the results of their flirtations, I did my best to keep a low profile.

When it somehow came out I was a virgin, some of the girls gave me a hard time. A few even offered to alleviate the situation, but I thanked them and explained that I was spoken for. Beth jumped to my defense explaining that she too was a virgin and when the girls ribbed her about it she said she had a question for the class. "What do you call that circular thing that men slip onto an appendage before having sex with a lady? When a few of them blurted out "rubber" or "condom", Beth replied, "No stupid, it's a wedding ring". HM at the back burst out in laughter as did most of the class. That ended that.

HM had been sitting in on several of the classes observing me. I was her project and she was weighing what to do with me. When Masters and Johnson came over from St. Louis for their four days of classes, my low profile evaporated. The girls had questions and in spite of my complete ignorance of the subjects of cross-dressing and sex, I was the one expected to provide answers. Even these experts had questions because it seems cross-dressing usually starts at an early age or at the onset of puberty and it was suggested my case might have been triggered by stress. Who knows? If so, it's certainly better than shingles.

As the classes continued with all the girls in their ever skimpier outfits, and fetish wear giving their talks, I was quietly enjoying the eye candy. It started with shoes of different types and discussions of high heels and the message they send to men and moved on to all sorts of cute outfits from French maid costumes to baby doll nighties, with each item being intellectually dissected. Not one girl ever asked for me to be excluded from her show and tell as was their right. As the only male there, the girls wanted my input, but, at some point my continued modest attire drew unwanted attention and the ire of the other students who said I wasn't pulling my weight. HM at the back of the room loudly voiced her agreement.

I would be excluded from next day's of classes due to subject matter, so she had a special project for me with an instructor from the Drama Department, Mrs. Howard. It was time for me to do a presentation as the other students had. Mrs. Howard told me I was to be a dominatrix and she would make the costume for me. While the other students were in class, we were down in the sewing area of the Drama Department. Mrs. Howard picked up a black vinyl raincoat and said, "This is going to be your costume. It started life as a bolt of vinyl fabric and someone made it into a raincoat, a perfectly practical garment to protect us from the rain. Watch as we cut it up and reshape it for a new life as a theatrical costume. To her it was very sterile, no ulterior motives to worry about, no concerns about the physiology behind it or the emotions it would foster. It was just fabric to be cut and stitches to desired shape as she had done with hundreds of costumes she had made and thousands she had fitted over the years. Man, woman, boy or girl; it made no difference to her. She was a pro. She had seen it all and knew all the tricks.

That afternoon she had it done and fitted and I practicing walking in the four inch stilettos that were part of the costume. I also had to do some research and worked up my presentation for the class. I was confident I would hit this one out of the park. The next morning before class I showed up at the Drama Department dressing room where Mrs. Howard would help me into the costume. Heavy black sheer to waist panty hose covered a small girdle that held my privates between the legs with butt padding so there was no bulge and a fuller bottom. Over that was the vinyl bodysuit with high cut legs that zipped up the back all the way to the top of my neck. And over that was she laced me into a black leather corset that was very very tight, giving me an incredibly feminism figure. She redid my makeup in a theatrical style to match the outfit. Mrs. Howard was justifiably proud of her creation handing me a riding crop before she took a few pictures for her portfolio.

In that outfit, I even walked like a girl in my heels with my padded bottom moving from side to side. I had been warned not to drink or eat anything that morning because a bathroom break would be out of the question. As I walked over to the classroom, everyone who passed me smiled. I could hear whistles from a lawn crew. I hate to admit it, but I felt exhilarated by the attention. As I walked into class there was an overwhelmingly positive response from the girls. I was there to pay my dues, as they had. I was ready for my presentation as I sat in front of the class crossing my legs properly as nylon slid on nylon. As I glanced to the back of the room I could see an approving good natured smile on HM's face. I had risen to the challenge.

But on the other side of the room I saw an expression of sheer terror on Beth's face. Tears filled her eyes as she stood up in a state of confusion looking to Judy and running over to me whispering, "Oh my God! Look at yourself. You are in my world, and if I married you, we will be a laughing stock for the rest of our lives. I have to live with these girls. I'll see them at alumna dinners and I'll meet their children and husbands and welcome their daughters when they attend this school. Mother and grandmother are trustees and you chose to walk across our campus in that? God damn you!" Then she ran from the room with Judy running after her. Startled but keeping her composure, HM told the instructor to go on with the presentation.

I recovered from the shock, and determined not to let the class down, I carried on. I modeled my outfit as the other students had, making sure to exaggerate my feminine moves so there was no doubt I was mocking them. It was received as intended in the spirit of good humor because they were now my friends. I delivered my presentation as practiced and confessed to the inexplicable and admittedly inappropriate since of exhilaration I felt wearing it. A good discussion followed. The instructor was satisfied and thanked me when I finished. The class even clapped. They hadn't done that for anyone else, but I knew I was in trouble.

Still in my costume I rushed over to their room to see if I could set things right. Judy was there, but Beth has gotten away. Judy told me she thought the costume was beautiful and she was sorry she missed the presentation. She went with me back to the Drama Department so I could change and help her look, but by the time I had gotten changed I was summoned to HM's office. Word was already out that I was out of the program and going home.

HM said, "Les", she had always called me Leslie, "One of our drivers found a purse in a school van and they have been trying to trace down the owner. The only possible identification was an envelope they could not make sense of. I apologize for reading the letter and I'm even more regretful for its content. Clearly you will not be finishing our program and you have no idea how sorry I am to lose you as a student. I have become very fond of you and I have no doubt of your devotion to Beth. She's a lucky girl and I hope she patches things up. Your parents sent a change of clothing and some travel money soon after you arrived knowing you would need them eventually. I hope you patch things up with them too. Obviously your days in skirts are over, but I have two questions; First, Did you tell Beth about this letter? And second, why, knowing you had a deadline before it ended, did you agree to start this program?

I replied, "I won't miss the skirts. They've lost their charm. As Mrs. Howard says, it's just fabric. Regarding your questions, I didn't tell her because if you succeeded in breaking us up, I saw no reason to burden her. You and I both know where I'm going, so she'd be better off not knowing. If you didn't break us up, why ruin these last few weeks we might have together? Regarding your second question, I attended because I wanted to be with Beth and Judy a bit longer. Also, I took it on blind faith that if it was Lizzy's idea, it was a good idea, and I was simply going to show up two weeks late for my randomly assigned deadline. HM said, "For a smart kid, that was a really dumb idea. You'd end up in handcuffs, and not the fun kind Judy had in class."

By the time I got back to my room, removed the makeup, cleaned up and put on men's clothes, the girls had arranged an impromptu going away party for me. They were sorry to see me go. Even the "Deuteronomy girl" kissed me and said I was "not a sinner". Judy was at the party, but Beth was not. As I got back to my room, Judy handed me something, "These are some of those circular things that men... well" and left.

Beth was inside wearing only a corset and handcuffs with the key in her sweet lips. As I removed the key and kissed her I apologized for embarrassing her family. She told me HM found her and explained everything. "HM said she picked out the costume, and that you were a real trooper for pulling it off. She said the girls loved it and it's a real shame I missed because it has all been for my benefit. They even clapped for you." We both lost our virginity that night, and it was worth the wait. She promised she would wait for me and she did.

The Draft notice ordered me to an induction center. From there I went to Basic Training, then to OCS and Engineer Officers Basic, where I learned how to build and blow things up, plant and find mines and booby traps and countless other things. The army was in desperate need of engineers. From there I went Vietnam where as a 21 year old I was put in charge of forty men and millions of dollars worth of construction equipment, the equivalent of a small construction company, with responsibilities few men of any age would ever shoulder.

Two years after my departure from the school I was back for my wedding with Beth. The man in the dress blues bore little resemblance to the scrawny kid they knew. HM kissed me and said "You're the first of my girls to return with a Silver Star on her chest." We all laughed. My experience from the army served me well for the rest of my life. Eventually I got my PE and Beth and I opened our own company that has earned a good reputation and grown over the years with projects all over the Midwest. Much of the profits help support our worthy cause.

I would see HM a few times in the intervening years but 25 years had passed since our wedding and we were back at the school for the graduation of out eldest daughter Lizzy. It's too bad her great grandmother hadn't lived to see it. Beth took her seat on the board of trustees, so her scheme seems to have worked. HM is retiring this year, and after the graduation ceremony she came up to us and said she wanted to show us something she found a few years ago. We followed her down to the dressing room in the Theater Arts Building and there on the wall was an old 8X10 glossy of a girl in a corset and 4" heals with a riding crop, obviously taken in that room. Mrs. Howard had put it up 27 years before. Judy let out a howl of laughter. Lizzy, who had seen the picture many times when she used that room said, "Gee she's very pretty. Nice outfit too! Who is she?" HM replied, "One of my best students" as she looked at me with pride and affection. Beth looked up at me and said, "I'm sorry I ruined her big day." And I smiled, "You made up for it that night." and I kissed her. Judy said "I'm really glad we got to know that girl." "Me too" I replied.

As I looked at the picture, I reflected on how innocent we were back then, on the randomness of paths taken or not taken, on opportunities seized or allowed to slip away. My mind drifted back to that day in the canteen when I summoned the courage to ask a girl for a date. I reflected and the fragility of life and of all the boys who never made it home, denied the blessings we have enjoyed and the potential families snuffed out by war. I thought about Grandma Lizzy, and all the lives she had touched and about Beth's family legacy and its mission to make the world a better place. I'm glad I was that girl for that brief moment.
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