Stephen’s mum was more than a little intrigued to hear her niece Rachel mention that her friend Pamela’s brother had to change back into short trousers the minute he came home from school. What made her even more curious was the fact that Pamela’s brother was in the Sixth Form! Stephen’s mum was determined to find out more.
So it was that after the Family Meeting at which it was decided Stephen should continue to wear short trousers to school despite his fast approaching fourteenth birthday, Felicity took her niece to one side and asked her if she would introduce her to Pamela’s mother, Mrs Evans.
“Do you happen to know how old the boy is?” Felicity asked.
“Oh yes… You see Oliver… that’s his name… well, Oliver’s birthday is a couple of days before Stephen’s, which makes him the oldest boy in his class, just like Stephen. That’s why it’s always been so… maybe… well, why his mum has always been so strict with him,” Rachel said, “Making sure he sets a good example to the younger boys in his class, I suppose.”
“Yes, I see… but do you know how old Oliver is?” Girls could be so infuriating at times, Felicity thought. See could see by the faraway look in her niece’s eye that Rachel was thinking about Pamela’s older brother dressed in his school uniform short trousers.
“Oh… oh… sorry auntie, Oliver’s seventeen,” Rachel replied, “He’s got lovely smooth legs,” she added unprompted.
Hmm, Felicity thought, so Rachel was dreaming of Oliver’s bare legs!
Rachel agreed to help and a few days later Stephen’s mum made contact with Oliver’s mum and the two ladies agreed to meet, “… for a nice cup of tea and a chat. If you come over about three,” Vera Evans suggested, “we’ll have plenty of time to get to know one another before Oliver gets home from school.”
The day came and the two ladies sat down in Vera Evans’ living-room. Felicity had had a busy day, so the tea was most welcome. She made herself comfortable in the cosy armchair and the two began to talk. Felicity told Vera about the Family Meeting and how it was decided to keep Stephen in short trousers. She explained that her niece Rachel had told them about Oliver and how he was required to change into school short trousers when he arrived home from school each evening.
“It was such a eye-opener to hear that another mum could have such firm views as to insist that her son wears short trousers that I felt I simply had to meet you,” Stephen’s mum explained. “I gather that Oliver, who I understand is seventeen, is allowed to wear longs to school, but only because his school insist on him wearing them…”
Mrs Evans was perfectly open and more than happy to explain her views on the correct upbringing of boys. She practiced what she preached and had no qualms at recommending her “tried and trusted” methods.
Vera Evans was a firm believer in the undoubted benefits of the short, sharp shock of the well-aimed smack to the backs of a naughty boy’s bare legs. And this was of such paramount importance that it followed quite logically, she thought, that a boy’s legs should be kept bare at all times. The only way to achieve that, she explained, was by keeping the boy permanently in short trousers.
“Yes, Felicity, you are quite correct. Boys at St Cuthbert’s are, unfortunately in my opinion, required to wear long trousers when they move into Upper School… that’s usually when the boy finishes Prep School…”
“… Oliver wore the standard grey schoolboy short trousers up until he finished at Prep school at the age of 13,” she explained, “He then moved into the upper school and into long trousers which were a compulsory part of the uniform worn by all the boys. Like your son Stephen, Oliver’s birthday is in early September, so he is the oldest boy in his year. I actually allowed him to put on his first ever pair of longs on his fourteenth birthday, a week before the start of term…”
“Might I enquire as to the leg length of his Prep School shorts?” Felicity asked.
“Certainly, Felicity, I do realise these details are very important to an interested mum such as yourself. The leg length of Oliver’s short trousers for everyday wear has not changed; it was and remains 1 ½ inches maximum. He also has some pairs of junior short trousers which have a nominal 1 inch leg length along with a half-elasticated waist, which Oliver wears for special occasions. I have also had made especially for Oliver some ‘naughty’ shorts which he simply hates to wear. These are actually based on the design of very short school trousers that are worn by young boys at infant school. I’m sure you’re familiar with the style. They have a fully elasticated waist, no fly or pockets, so that they have to be pulled on or off. Oliver’s naughty shorts are shorter still with no leg at all to speak of… but perhaps we can discuss those later.”
“That’s most interesting, Vera. You certainly have given a lot of thought to Oliver’s clothes. His everyday short trousers are much the same length as Stephen’s. Stephen’s school insists on a maximum length leg of 1 ½ inches… but the school outfitters I take Stephen to always recommend a slightly shorter length just to be on the safe side. I’m afraid Stephen always makes such a silly fuss about that, saying why should he have to wear shorter trousers? And that it isn’t fair… So I have to explain to Stephen that the assistant is very experienced and that if she says it’s best to wear school trousers with a shorter leg then that’s what he will wear.”
After pouring them each some more tea, Vera Evans continued:
“In Oliver’s final year at Prep School, boys were allowed long trousers and indeed most of his classmates wore longs throughout the year, although Oliver and one or two other boys remained in shorts. But by the end of the year I believe it was only Oliver who still wore short trousers in his class. You have to remember, Felicity, that like your son Stephen, Oliver was the oldest boy in his class, so that of the boys already wearing longs some were almost a year younger than he was. Of course I would have dearly liked to have kept him in short trousers in upper school but the Headmaster made clear that this was not an option…”
Felicity nodded in sympathy, thinking that at least her son Stephen’s school gave parents the option of keeping their boys in short trousers, as longs were only to be worn at the parent’s discretion.
“… As a special birthday treat I took Oliver to the school outfitter to be measured for his school longs,” Vera continued, “He was so thrilled to be allowed to put on longs for the very first time and I could see that he must have felt really grown up when he was given help to put them on by the assistant. We let him walk around the shop, just to get used to wearing long trousers, but of course he was not allowed to wear them home, or indeed until he started school. I’m afraid we had a little sulk from Oliver when it came time to take off his longs and hand them back to the assistant, but as I explained to Oliver, longs were for school only…”
“Oh, I know just what you mean, Vera. I’ve lost count of the times Stephen has pleaded with me to be allowed to wear longs… ‘Please, mum, I’m thirteen, mum…’ as if that’s got anything to do with it! But you know what boys can be like…”
“I do indeed, Felicity, but can you imagine what I had to put up with from Oliver? Just because he had to wear longs for school, Oliver thought this automatically meant he would be allowed to wear longs when he came home! The tantrums we had when he realised he had to change back into short trousers after school…”
“Does that mean he was only ever allowed to wear longs to school?” Felicity asked, “I mean did you keep him in short trousers at weekends and during school holidays from the time he went to upper school?”
“I most certainly did and still do,” Vera replied emphatically, “Oliver’s long trousers are only to be worn for school and only as long as the school uniform regulations state that he must do so.”
Felicity was impressed. If she had any doubts about keeping Stephen in short trousers, they were dispelled as she continued to listen to Vera and how she had dealt with Oliver.
Vera went on to explain that she did at one point consider allowing Oliver to wear his school long trousers for special occasions such as a trip to the theatre, or for church on Sunday. It was the approach of her son’s fifteenth birthday and towards the end of the summer holidays during which Oliver was kept continually in short trousers. Oliver was growing and it was now perfectly clear that the boy wearing short trousers was older than one would normally expect to see a boy so dressed. To see Oliver in short trousers standing next to a couple of boys of perhaps eleven or twelve wearing longs… well it was quite obvious that Oliver was the older boy; an older boy who was kept in short trousers… extremely brief short trousers at that. No, there could never be any doubt that Oliver, even though his legs were still smooth and quite hairless, was an older boy.
“I can’t believe it now, but I was almost ready to concede a few little special trips out in his school longs,” Vera explained, “Oliver had been such a good boy during the long vac., but I put that down to his being kept in short trousers. They seemed to keep him out of mischief…”
“What happened to change your mind?” Felicity asked.
Vera replied bluntly: “I caught Oliver doing something he shouldn’t.” She pursed her lips and paused for a moment, clearly wondering if there was any need to elaborate. She decided that Felicity would understand what she was talking about and continued, “To be perfectly honest with you Felicity, I’d suspected Oliver was up to no good for some time, but I was a fool and like lots of mum’s I suppose I thought that my son wouldn’t do such a thing. It just goes to show we delude ourselves…”
“Well that little episode put paid to any thoughts I’d had about treating Oliver to some special days out in his longs. I made it quite clear to him that, but for his behaviour, he would have been allowed special dispensations to wear longs… He was most contrite and promised me he’d never do it again, but I’m afraid it made up my mind that while Oliver remained under my roof he would be kept in short trousers at all times.”
“That must have been very upsetting for you Vera,” Felicity consoled her friend, “but we mums must remember that boys will be boys and I’m afraid Stephen is just the same. You’d think they would learn to behave, but I’ve caught Stephen doing it more than once! I can’t tell you how shocked I was when I first saw him… I simply couldn’t believe my eyes. Each time he promised not to do it again, just like Oliver, but boy’s promises are easily made and just as easily broken. As you say Vera, mums never think their boys are up to no good… until they catch them that is…”
Vera sighed: “I told Oliver then and there that if he behaved like a little boy, then he would be treated like a little boy. As I said Oliver kept promising not to do it again, but as you’ve just said, ‘boys will be boys’ and I’m under no illusion that he’s kept his promise, just as Stephen hasn’t kept his…”
Then the ladies both sighed. It was an expression of the weight of their responsibilities; what mums have to put up with when boys misbehave.
Just then the back door was heard to open and the sound of someone entering the kitchen. It was Oliver returning home from school.
“Come in here, Oliver,” his mum called out, “I’d like you to meet Mrs Wilding.”
Felicity turned round in her chair as Oliver entered the room. He was quite tall, as his mum had described and clearly couldn’t be confused as to age. He was smooth of face; there was certainly no sign of him needing to shave anytime soon. His haircut was a very neat, almost severe schoolboy short-back-and-sides. Oliver was wearing his school longs and black lace-up shoes. He wore the blazer of a 6th Former.
“Say ‘hello’ to Mrs Wilding, Oliver,” his mum instructed him.
Felicity noticed a slight shy rosy-red blush suffuse the boy’s cheeks as Oliver spoke:
“Umm… Hello, Mrs Wilding,” he glanced towards his mother very briefly before he added rather formally, “I’m pleased meet you.”
“And I’m pleased to meet you too,” Felicity replied as she smiled and nodded to Oliver. She thought he looked somewhat nervous as he stood in front of them. Felicity thought it was because of her unexpected presence, but what she didn’t realise was that Oliver was more concerned about what he knew his mother was about to say. He didn’t know whether Mrs Wilding had been told about his upbringing and therefore waited anxiously for his mother to speak. When she did speak it made him more nervous than ever.
“Mrs Wilding and I have been discussing school uniforms,” she said, “Her son Stephen is going to be entering the 3rd Form at his school in the autumn. He’ll be fourteen soon. His school has a different uniform policy than St Cuthbert’s in that… well, why don’t we discuss that after you’ve changed, Oliver?”
Felicity watched as Oliver’s face fell. She almost felt sorry for the seventeen year old boy standing in the middle of the living-room.
“I’ve laid out your clothes on your bed as usual, Oliver… Now off you go and get changed. Then I want you back down here so that Mrs Wilding can see what a smart boy you can be when you want to.”
With a sheepish “Yes, mummy,” Oliver went upstairs to his bedroom.
Oliver’s bedroom was best described as ‘cosy’. It was a small room, but with ample space for his hobby table, a school desk at which to sit and do his homework, his single boy’s bed with a blue candlewick bedspread , a chest of drawers, a bookshelf and a small wardrobe. All in all though, it had the air of the room of a younger boy, but perhaps that was mainly due to the school uniform Oliver’s mum had laid out on his bed for him to change into.
It was a daily ritual during term-time, but one that always caused butterflies in Oliver’s tummy as he walked into his bedroom to see what was laid out for him wear.
Oliver stood by his bed and without thinking took off his 6th Form blazer. He opened his wardrobe, took out a hanger, put the blazer on it and put it into the wardrobe without taking his eyes off the ‘home’ school uniform laid out on his bed. More particularly his eyes were focused on the short trousers his mum had put out for him to wear. It was a pair of his junior school shorts with the half-elasticated waist. That meant he had to wear his junior school uniform underpants. Oliver found these junior underpants extremely embarrassing to wear. Not only were they best described as ‘snug’, they were of a supposedly ‘healthy’ open-mesh design with a small cotton front panel which contained the fly. These were sometimes known as boy’s ‘string’ underpants. Oliver thought they looked ludicrously childish and was certain the reason they were so snug was that they simply weren’t made for boys of his age. He was sure no boy over the age of twelve would ever been seen dead wearing them, yet here he was, a seventeen year old 6th Former about to change into them so that he could put on his junior short trousers.
Oliver glanced at the rest of the uniform; long turnover-top school socks with their coloured hoops, grey Trutex shirt, school tie along with his junior boy’s prep school blazer and school cap. He looked down and on the floor by his bed he saw a pair of dark, cherry-red T-bar school sandals. Oliver always looked at this uniform with dread, but what he found most upsetting were the T-bar sandals. To him they emphasised the juvenile nature of the school uniform he was to wear. No single item of school uniform made him feel as uncomfortable as his T-bar sandals.
The butterflies were swarming in Oliver’s tummy as he undressed. He wasn’t allowed to keep his school longs in his room. Those had to be handed over to his mum for safe-keeping, so he carefully folded them and put them to one side to take back downstairs. It wasn’t long before he was standing in front of his mirror making sure everything was straight and he was properly dressed. He bent down to have a final check of his knee-socks; making sure the turnovers showed the coloured hoops and were as level as he could judge. As he bent over, Oliver caught sight of his junior short trousers and saw how they had ridden up at the back. Gosh they were short! He never got used to how different it made him feel to change out of longs and into short trousers. Try as he might, Oliver could never get used to the experience. There was just something about putting a grown boy back into short trousers…
But Oliver knew that however much he made sure his socks and tie were straight; however hard he tried to look smart for his mum, she would find something that needed to be straightened; something that needed adjustment. Or, heaven forbid, the words he dreaded most of all, “It’s about time your hair had a proper trim, Oliver. Time you had another appointment with the barber’s chair.”
With a final look in the mirror, Oliver put on his blazer then picked up his school cap and placed it carefully on his head. He made sure that apart from the short fringe of hair which was just visible below the peak of his cap, no other hair could be seen which might prompt that visit to the school barber.
Oliver picked up his school longs and went back downstairs.
Felicity could hardly believe her eyes. The transformation of Oliver was quite beyond that which she had imagined. Vera was quite right; there was no mistaking the fact that Oliver was an older boy fully dressed as a junior schoolboy. Oliver was simply too tall for a start to be mistaken for anything other than a boy of seventeen dressed in short school trousers… at least she hoped he was wearing short trousers, as they weren’t to be seen. Oliver’s prep school blazer, Felicity could see, was actually longer than his short trousers! Then she looked downwards and saw Oliver’s cherry-red T-bar school sandals. My how they called attention to Oliver’s reduced juvenile status, she thought.
Oliver stepped into the middle of the room and spoke:
“Please, mummy, will you look after my longs until I need them for school again?”
The term-time ritual was observed as mum replied: “Yes dear, just put them on the table and I’ll put them away somewhere safe for you later.” Vera turned, smiled at Felicity and explained, “Oliver likes me to take care of his school longs, just in case anything should happen to them. He knows that if anything should happen to them I might be forced to have a little word with his headmaster and tell him that Oliver would be wearing short trousers to school until I found time to get him another pair of longs from the school outfitter.”
From the tone of her voice Felicity had no doubt that Vera would be as good as her word and from the rosy-red blush that darkened on Oliver’s smooth cheeks, she could see that he too believed every word his mum said.
Oliver did as he was told and placed his neatly folded school longs on the table. He returned to stand in front of his mum and Felicity, stood at attention and raised his school cap to the ladies. As he did so his blazer lifted up slightly and Felicity could see that Oliver was indeed wearing short trousers.
“Good afternoon, Mrs Wilding…” Oliver announced.
“Good afternoon, Oliver,” Felicity replied, “I see you’ve changed. You look much smarter now I must say. Is this your ‘home’ school uniform? I think it suits you a lot better…”
“Thank you, Mrs Wilding,” Oliver said as he was made to accept the compliment, “Yes; mum lets me change into this uniform when I get home from school. Then she can look after my school longs for me…”
“There’s just one thing, Oliver. I can’t quite see your short trousers. Your mother told me they were the same length as my son Stephen’s short trousers. He wears a 1 ½ inch leg, but yours must be shorter than that…”
Felicity saw Oliver give a quick glance towards his mum and then he explained: “Um, it’s… Mum put out my junior short trousers for me to wear this afternoon. So I’m wearing those today. That’s, um, that’s why you can’t see them… They’re a bit shorter than my standard school shorts.”
“Take off your blazer, Oliver, so that Mrs Wilding can see the short trousers you’re wearing,” mum instructed.
Ever the obedient schoolboy, Oliver removed his blazer and placed it over the back of a chair. He turned back to face Mrs Wilding.
Felicity just about managed to stop herself from gasping at the sight of Oliver’s junior short trousers. As it was she was astonished by their brevity even as she recalled Vera’s description of them. It was all very well saying they had “a nominal 1 inch leg”, but to see them worn by a seventeen year old boy… it looked to Felicity as if there was barely any leg at all to the trousers they were that short! Whatever must he look like wearing his ‘naughty’ shorts, she wondered?!
“Well I must say they are nice and short, Oliver,” Felicity said, then added, “… and very smart indeed!”
“Thank you Mrs Wilding,” Oliver replied politely, now even more conscious of the expanse of bare leg exposed between the tops of his long grey school socks and the hem of his ridiculously short junior school shorts. It really was intimidating how those garments, school knee-socks and short trousers, were designed with the sole purpose of drawing attention to that part of a boy’s body he would least like to be seen, at least that’s what Oliver thought. Even though he was seventeen, or perhaps because he was seventeen, Oliver was extremely self-conscious. Even when he was wearing long trousers Oliver was likely to become tongue-tied and blush when he was the centre of attention, particularly in the presence of his mother’s friends. Imagine what it was like then for Oliver when he was dressed in his prep school ‘home’ uniform complete with tear-inducingly short school trousers. It wasn’t long before mum was telling him to speak up and to stop mumbling when asked a question by Felicity Wilding.
“Really Felicity, sometimes I just don’t know what to do with him,” Vera said, clearly exasperated with one of Oliver’s barely audible replies.
“Oh, don’t be too hard on him, Vera,” Felicity said, endeavouring to show Oliver a sympathetic side, “Can’t you see that Oliver’s just a bit shy. I think it’s very sweet of him to change into the school uniform he wears at home and to come and show me how much nicer boys look when they’re wearing proper short trousers.”
Felicity’s sympathy was quite misguided as all it did was make Oliver feel even more embarrassed to be standing in the middle of the living-room dressed like a little boy in front of his mum and her friend. He was seventeen, he told himself, seventeen years old and in the 6th Form, yet here he was behaving like a helpless little boy. He rubbed his bare thighs together and felt the tiny string underpants as they irritated him. The underpants itched like mad and his hands began to wonder. He pushed the tips of the fingers of his right hand under the leg of his junior school shorts and was about to relieve the itching by having a good scratch when his mum saw what he was up to.
“Oliver! Stop that at once!” she snapped, “Really you are such a fidget. Why you can’t keep still for one minute without fidgeting, I just don’t know… I think you’d better go and get your naughty stool Oliver…”
To say Oliver’s heart sank would be an understatement. When he heard the words, ‘get your naughty stool’ Oliver very nearly fainted. His naughty stool was only used if mum thought it necessary to teach her son a lesson… whoever was present to witness his shame!
Oliver’s naughty stool was an old foot-stool that had been found a new lease of life when Vera discovered it at the back of a second-hand shop. “Just what I needed!” she had exclaimed to the surprised proprietor who was most interested to learn of its new purpose. The naughty stool was kept in a kitchen cupboard, which meant Oliver had to suffer the further indignity of leaving the room to fetch the stool. He opened the cupboard and picked up the stool and treated it as if he was carrying valuable antique. Oliver walked back down the hall and walked into the living-room, holding the stool with his arms outstretched, back to where it was needed.
Mum made Oliver stand while he held the naughty stool out in front of him.
“I don’t know what’s got into today Oliver,” she berated him; “You don’t seem to be able to stop fidgeting. How many times have I had to tell you to keep your hands where I can see them? I saw you trying to sneak your naughty hands into your shorts just now. Haven’t I had to tell you a thousand times not to play with your short trousers?”
On and on his mum went as Oliver stood still holding onto his naughty stool. His arms ached as the lecture continued. In spite of mum’s repeated questions, she was not expecting any answers from Oliver. If he did attempt to answer Oliver knew he would only be accused of trying to make excuses.
Finally Oliver was told to put down his naughty stool right in the middle of the living-room. He did as he was told and stood to attention with his hands, palms inward, pressed against his bare legs. Oliver nervously waited the next instruction.
“Now… onto your naughty stool, Oliver,” mum ordered, “Hands on head… that’s it, flat on top of your head, Oliver… Honestly Felicity, what a mother has to put up with!”
If it were possible for Oliver to feel even more like a little schoolboy than he already felt, then mum ordering him onto his naughty stool and to put his hands on his head in front of Mrs Wilding achieved a level of hitherto undreamt of shame. Now Oliver was made to feel not just like a little schoolboy, but a naughty little schoolboy.
The reason Vera was so pleased to find the foot-stool was now apparent. Oliver, so presented, found that his bare legs, and more particularly his bare thighs, were at the perfect height should it be necessary to draw his attention to his naughtiness by means of some sharp smacks to the back of his legs.
Oliver tried so desperately to avoid the need for mum to resort to using her hand; he knew from bitter experience how much well-placed smacks could sting and even force tears from a seventeen year old boy such as himself. He pressed his hands onto the top of his head and tried hard not to give mum a reason for smacking his legs… but it would only be a matter of time, as Oliver knew full well, he had never managed to step down from the naughty stool without displaying bright red and sharply stinging thighs.
In the meantime Felicity Wilding was looking on with approval. Her own son Stephen would be seventeen one day and she hoped that she would still have the resolve and determination in applying the same high standards to his upbringing as Vera did to her son Oliver. As it was dealing with a recalcitrant thirteen year old could be exhausting at times. But what boys, whether it was Oliver or her own son Stephen, failed to realise was that their strict upbringing was for their own good and that one day they would be grateful for the self-sacrifice of their mums.