A 21st century tale
By Eve’s Rib
15: WOMAN ASCENDANT
When the doorbell rang, Leo was there to answer it. A handsome woman in her mid-thirties was standing on the doorstep in a shirt and tie, and a coat lined generously with fur.
“Good evening, Madam,” said Leo, and curtseyed for the second time that evening. “Please come in.”
The guest stepped across the threshold. “My goodness,” she said. “Don’t you look scrumptious, poppet!”
Leo felt himself go red. “Let me help you with your coat.”
Gina came into the hall and the women greeted one another.
“Leo, this is Linda Bradshaw. She’s chief executive at ClareCo.”
“Would you like a drink, Madam? A white wine, perhaps? Please sit down in the living room and I’ll bring it to you.”
“Thank you, Leo.”
“I’ll have one too,” said Gina, as if this sort of servitude was entirely normal.
The women went into the living room while Leo slipped into the kitchen. “So far, so good,” he thought. He opened the wine and poured two glasses which he placed on a small tray. Like a good househusband, he checked his make-up before taking in the drinks.
Gina was sitting on the sofa making small-talk with the guest. He handed her a glass and put the tray on the coffee table.
“Thanks, Leo,” said Gina.
“Cheers, Gina,” said Ms Bradshaw. “That’s a lovely dress, Leo.” Leo was embarrassed and tried to mumble a thank you. “No, really. It suits you.”
“Patronising cow,” thought Leo as he took another sip of his wine. He noticed the lipstick stain on the glass. Then the other ClareCo executive, a Ms Price, rang the doorbell, and he had to repeat his fawning welcome and serve more wine. The strange thing was, he was rather enjoying himself. Wearing the dress was giving him a tingling, pleasureable feeling. The shimmer of taffeta against his skin, the helplessness of being without trousers, gave him an erotic sense of vulnerability. Whatever would his father have thought? The difficulty now was enduring the presence of these confident women who were enjoying taking it for granted that he should be in the dress instead of them. The humiliation of it soured his pleasure.
He fetched a second bottle of wine and walked back to the living room. Oh, that swish of taffeta on his stockinged legs! What a shame he couldn’t simply enjoy the lovely clothes without being humiliated at the same time!
“It’s nice to see a man who enjoys wearing a dress,” said Ms Bradshaw. “So many men still have objections.”
“They get over them,” asserted Ms Price. “I insist on my husband wearing a skirt and he doesn’t object any more. He knows who the head of the household is.”
“Do you find —” began Leo, then hesitated.
“You may speak,” said Gina.
“Do you find it, well, grotesque?” asked Leo. “Men wearing makeup and dresses. I mean, I don’t think it is at all,” he added hastily.
“No, nor do I,” said Ms Bradshaw. “I find it grotesque when women do it. They’re the breadwinners. Why should they prettify themselves? It’s only natural that the man should be the decorative one, look at most other animal species. It’s the males that put on a show, not the females.”
“Take yourself,” said Ms Price. “You look absolutely ravishing.”
“How do you feel about it, as a man?” asked Ms Bradshaw. “Are you contented, being subordinate to your wife?”
All three women looked at him expectantly.
Jesus, they don’t mince words, thought Leo, shivering. “Oh, yes,” he said. How had Brian put it? “There’s something very restful for a man about knowing you are in the hands of a strong woman. Gina’s very firm and she knows what she wants.” Should he say it? Fuck it, go on. “And I love wearing dresses. Especially this one, it’s so beautiful.”
“Putting it on was quite an emotional experience,” said Gina. “He was nearly in tears, poor baby.”
“Aww,” said the others. “Bless.”
“You know,” said Ms Bradshaw, “you guys had better get used to dresses if you want to get through the next few thousand years...”
He wanted to feel piqued, resentful; he wanted to peform some petulant act, throw a glass on the floor or shout or slap someone; the only sort of resistance he had. But it was impossible. The women calmly watched him, and he felt crushed, a ridiculous male.
“Leo,” said Gina. “Dinner.”
Leo tottered out to the kitchen and busied himself with laying out the roast. The women’s voices, strident and uninhibited, followed him in.
“He’s beautifully house-trained, Gina,” said Ms Price, and they laughed. “He looks better than I ever did in a dress. My goodness, Ginny — can I call you Ginny? — men have always wanted to wear dresses!” (Good grief, what bilge they talk, thought Leo in exasperation.) “They’ve been doing it for centuries. Even before we were emancipated, ten per cent of them regularly used to wear women’s clothes! Those are the statistics!” They laughed. “Mostly just silky undies, I grant you. But don’t forget that old tradition of drag. Our culture’s full of it.” They nodded. How true. It all fitted. “Just taking whatever chance they can and pretending it’s a joke. Nowadays, we hardly have to tell them, they’re pulling on the frocks and loving it.”
“Oh, not all of them, Alice.”
“That’s a mere matter of time. It’s just like Leo was saying. Men long for a strong woman. They always have. That’s another thing they’ve been dreaming of for centuries. Nothing new about the dominatrix, is there?”
“I’m hardly a dominatrix!” laughed Gina.
“Nonetheless, men have an instinct for female authority. They’ve never been happy wearing the trousers.”
“Something to do with their mothers,” murmured Ms Bradshaw with a smile.
“It’s wonderful to see them relax as they let go of the burden of responsibility,” Ms Price went on. “They can leave all the decisions and the work to us. It does wonders for their health. My George complained no end about his first dress, but he’s used to it now and really ever so happy.”
“Once they’re broken in,” said Ms Bradshaw, “there’s a long tradition of so-called ‘femininity’ for them to enjoy. When my chap and I get married, we want to have white wedding. He’ll wear a lovely white dress, and I’ll wear the tuxedo. And a couple of lads dressed as bridesmaids. My sons can’t wait. My nephew’s a bit of a dinosaur — he doesn’t fancy wearing the frilly frock I’ve picked out for him. But I dare say we’ll get him into it.”
Somehow Leo had no doubt that the poor lad would be ‘gotten into it’.
“Leo,” Ms Bradshaw called, “be a sweetheart and get us some more wine.”
The meal went very well. Leo’s cookery practice had paid off, and the women stopped teasing him.
“We want to talk business, Leo,” said Gina after they had eaten, “and I can’t imagine you’d find it very interesting. So if you want you can start tidying the kitchen.”
“Oh, no Gina,” said Ms Price. “Let him stay. It’s much nicer with a pretty man about.”
The women talked business for a while, stuff Leo didn’t really understand. He watched Gina, assuredly talking about schedules, and suppliers, and percentages, and things he could never have handled, and realised for the first time what a smart, independent and high-achieving wife he had. And he had had trouble clicking on the right icon with the warehouse software! No wonder he had had no success in his job-hunting, he thought ruefully, with women of this calibre to contend with. He should admit how lucky was, staying at home and only having housework to do while Gina contended with the hard world for them both. And he got to wear — still that guilt — this lovely sheaf of taffeta that made him feel so protected and spoiled. How lucky he was, really! It had been ungrateful to rebel like a petulant child, after she had done for him, providing for him and so on. He felt a rush of pride and gratitude and a determination not to let her down.
The guests left past midnight. Ms Price congratulated him on his cooking and patted him on the head. Closing the door, Gina turned to him, beaming triumphantly.
“That went brilliantly, Leo!” she cried, and hugged him tightly. “What a wonderful maid you can be! We must do this again soon. Just think, Leo — a promotion, an extra few thousand a year, a company car...” She sighed in fulfillment. “This is a great time to be a woman.”
Taking his hand, she led him upstairs. Leo sat down on the bed as she undid her tie and threw her blazer over a chair. She gazed at him, ran her eyes over the burgundy sheaf that wrapped his body, and her expression became playful. Sitting beside him, she put her hand on Leo’s leg, reached under the net flare of his hem and pushed upwards, pausing tantalisingly as she stroked his stockings.
“I like you in your dress,” she said. “You look really sexy. Quite irresistable.” She withdrew her hand, put it to his crotch and massaged him lightly through the taffeta. “I’ll buy you some more dresses, shall I?”
Leo had no idea what to say. There was no denying that he had enjoyed it, and the more he thought of wearing more dresses, the more excited he became. But the resistance was still there. He shrugged, wordless, knowing that Gina would step into the gap left by his confusion and dictate how she wanted things. She didn’t disappoint him — she suddenly took him by the shoulders and kissed him forcefully. He fought to reciprocate, found himself flat on his back as Gina sat astride him and pursued his tongue hungrily.
The kiss ended and Gina took a large gulp of wine.
“Get your things off, you whore,” she grinned. “I’m going to the bathroom.”
Christ! Who needed Kelly? Here was his own Ginny, pouncing on him like she hadn’t done for months.
Sucking up to three women who were so far above him in power and status had had a strange effect on Leo. He felt sorely humiliated, and yet their confidence had made him feel protected. Women had crushed his sex and were reclining smugly in the satiety of power, like ancient Roman aristocrats. He admired and envied women: knew that he could never show that strength, that competence, that intelligence, that sassy wit. He was their inferior — and it was a highly erotic situation. It was as if, after centuries of miscasting in the leading role, men had finally rediscovered their natural place in the shadow of the female.
With all these thoughts swirling through his mind he didn’t hear Gina come into the room until she sat down on the bed.
“You all right there, trooper?”
“Ginny...” he began, but she placed a finger on his mouth to silence him.
“I know this is hard for you, Leo, and I know you don’t really want to do it. I’m not really getting a kick out of, well, hurting your pride. I want you to be as comfortable as possible with our new way of life.”
Ah, here she was, his old Gina, wanting them to be in it together. “Well, imagine if things were reversed: you wouldn’t like being the little housewife either!”
“No, I know, but the world has moved on, it has new demands of people: male and female. It was no good, the way we two were going — we have to adapt or it’ll end with us splitting up. If I don’t play the tough modern woman, I won’t get on in the professional world, but I need you behind me, supporting me, like I would have supported you if things were different.” Her ran her hand down towards his crotch and paused with it over his belly. She looked at him earnestly. “I want you to help me make this work.”
Her hand didn’t move any closer — she was waiting. Leo gulped.
“Ginny, I’ll do my best. I’ll make it work. I owe you everything, I know that.”
When they were in bed, Gina began caressing him. He responded, and tried to shift on top of her, but she was trying the same, and they tussled a moment until Gina pressed him firmly back onto the bed and lay on top of him.
Leo must have looked ambivalent.
“What?” she demanded. “I like this position.”
“I dunno,” he mumbled. It reminded him too much of Kelly.
Gina’s look hardened for a moment. “Who’s the boss, Leo?”
“You, you,” he said hastily. But it was a rhetorical question.