I am about eight years old in this photo. The little boy I am towering over is about four. His name is Louis. The 1950’s love-bot next to poor, distraught, little Louis is, indeed, yours truly. For the record Louis did not want to be wearing that frilly dress and bonnet, but I can be very persuasive. Even as a child I had a thing for men in drag.

When I look at this picture I feel profound joy. I smile at those skinny legs, laugh at that proud expression, and am filled with a sense of pride and love for my silly little self. I want to hug me.

There was no adult help in the conception and preparation of this get-up. It was my own creation, my own vision, a vision of a sullen housewife, perhaps, or maybe a haughty hooker. I’m not sure. I have no idea what I was thinking, but I know I loved it. I loved that blond curly wig, those red prostitute heels, that green synthetic monstrosity, those strap-on, plastic, Dolly Parton tits with their enormous pronounced, engorged nipples. I remember the hilarity that ensued whenever I donned that outfit and slunk into a room of adults. I didn’t understand why it was funny, but I loved the reaction.

It sounds like an outrageous statement to make but I’m fairly sure that in the late 1970’s and early ’80’s I had the best dress-up collection of any child on planet Earth.

I was the only daughter of two creatives. A father who dressed like an urban cowboy in constant battle with his own inner Indian, and a mother who was a fashion designer, the founder of Brox Sox (the coolest hosiery company in New Zealand), and the proprietress of a vintage clothing store.

My dress up box was the envy of every girl who ever encountered it, the bane of many a small boy’s existence and the amusement of my mother’s friends. There was never any indication at her soirees that a 1920’s bride, or a clown, or a gorilla would suddenly waltz through the living room. Many a dinner party went happily awry at the unexpected arrival of a princess, bitch, tart, actress, or whatever other slinky little personality I decided to undertake.

The contents of my wardrobe included, but was not limited to:

-Multiple wigs

-Designer gowns dating from the twenties through to the seventies

-Scarves and beads and broaches and bangles

-A silk clown suit

-Many pairs of shoes

-Masks – both glamorous and terrifying

-A full body gorilla suit, including feet

-Hats, capes, cloaks

-Bridal dresses

-Furs and fur stoles, including one with the fox head still attached

-Veils, acres of lace and ribbons and silk

-Negligees, lingerie, slips and petticoats

-Hand-sewn beauties, everything from flowers to handkerchiefs

-A strap-on plastic bosom and matching dimpled ass.

I loved those tits and ass. I still do. I smile fondly as I remember the sense of excitement, daring and masquerade I felt as I tied on those gigantic breasts, donned that curly blond wig, and strapped on my four-inch red hooker-heels. I remember practicing my walk in those heels, a practice that came to serve me well several years later.

This picture is oddly prophetic.

I still love to dress up. I’ve even made a career out of it.

I still love bossing boys around.

I still adore men in drag.

I still love to wear hooker heels, wigs and naughty negligees whenever possible, even when vacuuming.

Not much has changed.

But the more I think about it the more I wonder if my love for dressing-up was somehow tied in to my desire to hasten the process of growing-up. I never liked being little. I never liked being kept in the dark or forbidden to do things because I was too young, too small, too… anything. Being young was prohibitive for me and being grown up seemed like such perfect freedom. Looking back, grown, I love the irony.

The child in this photo had more freedom than she knew.