Clara; Oh, To Be A Flapper

My history class was becoming quite a problem. The teacher was middle age and female; she was strict in her teachings, making us learn every facet of history or we would not pass. She loved to assign research papers on the time of history we were studying, she handled that by engaging us in debate during class about some part of what we were studying. Then, as a subject came up, she would pick a part of that, then assign it to a member of the class at random. Whenever she assigned a subject to one of us, there would be groans, loud ones. She would giggle and then sometimes add to the subject she just handed out. Believe me, no one slept or daydreamed in her class, we had to be alert to keep from being singled out more than usual.

We were talking about the early nineteen hundreds and female beauty. The original conversation was about flappers but as most of the discussions in our classroom, it quickly migrated to beauty, female actresses and hair styles. When I saw her glance my way I should have panicked, but she seemed to move on shortly thereafter. She had handed out quite a few subjects that would require papers of at least five thousand words. She did allow adequate time for us to do research for our papers, usually six to eight weeks.

When I first encountered Ms. Johnson as a teacher, I rebelled when she handed me an assignment, I told her she couldn’t make me do work that everyone else was not assigned. That was not the response she was expecting, I quickly learned as she added to my assignment. Then when I questioned where I could even get information on what she had assigned, she added another section to my report. Now three similar subjects and fifteen thousand words were due, the resulting paper to be half of my semester grade. I caught myself before I groaned out loud, fearing of what that might cause her to add to my dealings.

I did get the research paper finished and got a B on it, much to my surprise. She made numerous notes on the research paper, questioning parts of it and mentioning that more information was out there for this, but was not in my paper. I took the hint, my next assignment was only the minimum length and I researched it thoroughly earning me an A+.

Now though we were in the next semester, starting all over again. I had hoped for the other history teacher, like most of my fellow classmates. But when classes were assigned I was back with Ms. Johnson.

Today though, I was trying to keep a low profile, beauty, female fashions and flappers was not really where my interests were. I did catch her looking my way several more times during class, but my name was never called. With about five minutes of class remaining, I sighed a little, knowing that I had made it without being singled out. I didn’t hear her call my name, too busy patting myself on the back for escaping untouched. She repeated it several times, finally, I heard her and answered.

“Nice of you to join us today, see me after class for your assignment.” Apparently there had been several of us singled out, a line at her desk awaiting me. From the ones ahead of me and what they were receiving in assignments, this was not going to be good. The second one in line got four subjects added to his paper, now owing twenty thousand words to the history teacher. Each one in the line left dejected and very depressed, I moved up and discovered that I was the last one.

Well Clarence what have you to say for yourself today? My brilliant reply, Huh? She giggled at me, “You are a challenge, very smart but not really motivated. So let’s see what I might do to change that a little. First, your subjects for your research paper are flappers, Clara Bow, flapper fashions, and makeup of the twenties. You are to convince me of how they tie together and relate to the history of the period.

Now for motivation, twenty thousand words, listing ninety-five percent of available research, and tying in its importance to the history of the period and pictures as you deem necessary for the paper. You have three weeks from today to prepare it and have it on my desk. I will make an exception in your case, basing your semester grade on the results of your paper. I know your abilities and I will not hesitate to flunk you if you don’t put in the effort necessary to do this right.”

I stood there utterly in shock. I opened my mouth several times and nothing came out. I did sit in the chair opposite her and managed to ask her to reconsider. She smiled, “Okay I will offer you one option to the previous assignment. In three weeks, you walk in here to my office and present yourself in appropriate clothes, makeup and hair of Clara Bow, answer my questions of the period and their tie-in to your looks and I will give you a passing grade. Get all of your questions right, and present yourself as a proper flapper and I will award you an A+. Your choice, take it or leave it. Now, you have quite a bit to work to do, I might suggest that you get at it.”

The bell was the only thing that brought me back to my senses, well partially back. I walked right by three of my classmates, all three asking me questions on what I had been assigned. I didn’t hear a word they said, I doubt I even knew where I was going. When the bell rang for the start of the next class, I found myself in the cafeteria, not the Algebra class I should be attending. I went to the Principals office, telling them I didn’t feel good, which was true.

They gave me a note and sent me to the nurse’s office. I eventually made it there, the nurse quickly checking me out. Again, she was talking to me, asking me questions and I didn’t hear a word she said. I found myself laying on a bed in the office, when my mind finally came around some. I spoke some, because I was still kind of lost and did not realize how I even got to be in her office. I lost consciousness again for a while, then set up quickly when I realized I was not in class. Ms. Fowler sat next to me and we talked some, working in some of the questions she had into the conversation without me realizing it.

I think she has seen similar behavior in the past, since she mentioned that I had just came from History class. There was quite a smile there, she did allow me to stay for another class before she wrote my excuse and sent me back to class. I spent that time trying to figure out what happened today and how in the hell I was going to handle it. Three weeks and twenty thousand words, researched properly, that would be a monumental task for a computer, much less a student. I knew I wouldn’t question her, the last time that was tried, I got even more work assigned. Nope, I will have to do the research, then write the paper.

As I walked to class, a tear escaped my eye, my hand brushing over my eye trying to remove it from sight before anyone else saw it. I did make it through the next class, lunch to follow, as I made my way to the cafeteria. I grabbed a sandwich and went outside to the tables looking for a quiet corner to sit and think. I walked to the far corner of the courtyard, finding a table under some trees, allowing for some shade from the hot sun. As I looked around, I was one of only three out there, everybody else inside with the air conditioning. It wasn’t really that hot, the cool breeze making it somewhat bearable. I needed the quietness more than the cool temperatures today.

I let my mind run wild, trying to figure out why I got this horrible assignment, and how in the hell I was going to get a passing grade on it. The first bell rang signaling the end of lunch and I had only taken three bites out of my sandwich. I threw it in the garbage, by the time I had a chance to eat it, it would be spoiled most likely. This day was not going well, probably will rank as one of my worst in twelve years of attending school. Yes, I was now a senior, if I can somehow hold it together enough to graduate in two more months, I will be out of school for good.

My parents wanted me to go to college, but so far, the urge to spend four more years in school was not there. A stint in the service would be preferable to four more years in school. I did manage to make it through the last three classes of the day. Luckily, I was not called on or subjected to any pop quizzes.

I gathered up my books and headed towards home, the two mile walk might be just what I needed to make the day bearable. As I was covering the last block of my walk, I ran into Beth, my next door neighbor’s youngest daughter, a fellow classmate and sufferer of the same history class as I. She was getting out of her friend’s car, where I had to walk, she usually rode with one of her friends. After waving goodbye to her friends, she walked over to me and asked if I wanted a coke. I hesitated but she grabbed my hand leading me into her house.

Her Mom hugged her and then gave me a hug too. She had noticed my frown when I entered the kitchen, figuring I needed the hug as bad as her daughter Beth. Beth grabbed the cokes, then dragged me to her room. I spent a lot of time with Beth, we were friends and had been for quite some time. Each of us has supported the other through some tough spots, so the friendship was deep and pure.

After twenty minutes and numerous questions, she finally got me to tell her my assignment. When I finished she took my hand and squeezed it. Her next statement hit the problem right on the head. “What did you do to Ms. Johnson to piss her off? You will be lucky to get it done, much less good enough to get a passing grade!”

I didn’t say anything, Beth grabbed my other hand and made me face her. “Okay, what are you not telling me about this assignment? I want the truth, if I am going to help you, I need to know what is going on.”

I swallowed hard, finally telling her about the other option in lieu of the paper. She giggled several times as she looked at me closely, apparently seeing if this other option might be a possibility. She dropped my hands and went to her computer and brought up the internet. Some five minutes later, she had what she was looking for on the screen. She placed her hands on either side of my face and stared into my eyes, you are taking the second option, you are a dead ringer for Clara Bow.

“Now starting tonight, I want you researching everything you can about the period and about the lady. Print out what you find, so that I can quiz you about it. I mean everything. The quizzing starts tomorrow, your lunch period now belongs to me, you will be with me every lunch period and after school until time for your appearance. I will take care of your clothing, makeup and hair, that is gathering it all up, you are going to learn to do all the transformation yourself. Your hair is long enough, do not get it cut or I will personally see to your humiliating experience right in front of the whole school. Am I understood?” I nodded my head, speech was impossible.

Ten minutes later I was in my house, accessing the internet myself. I found way too many references to Clara Bow and the flapper era. Maybe Ms. Johnson will not have the time to find them all herself, sparing me some aggravation. Of course, I had no idea which ones she would find and quiz me about. I printed fifteen references, read them thoroughly trying to remember the material for my quiz tomorrow.

I kept coming back to Clara’s picture that was in most of the references. Some of the pictures of her were cute, a curly hairstyle framing her face, the mostly short dresses showing off her legs and the makeup quite pronounced and very feminine. I tried to picture my face in place of hers, but just couldn’t see the resemblance. Maybe Beth was just kidding me about the resemblance.

The next day at school, Beth was waiting for me, I didn’t even get to eat anything, Beth said I needed to lose a few pounds anyway. I did manage to get through the history class without further stress or assignments. The whole class was subdued some, her assignments taking their toll on everybody. Beth was one of the few lucky ones only five thousand words and two extra weeks to complete it.

As soon as we sat down outside, the first questions started in. A few minutes into the session, I knew I would have to study harder, I was missing way too many to make it through her test in three weeks. Beth didn’t say much but I could tell she was thinking of another way to make the information stick with me better. That afternoon, on the way home from school, she walked with me; I knew how much she was trying to help me, even turning down her ride so she could spend more time with me.

I was dragged into her house, handed a diet beverage and pushed into a seat at the kitchen table. Her words were short and highly punctuated. Total immersion! I was trying to figure out what that meant as Beth was talking to her Mom. Then, her Mom made a call to someone, and twenty-five minutes later my Mom entered the kitchen. Now I was scared, Mom seldom, if ever, came home early from her work, now, two hours before she normally came home, she was standing in front of me. Meanwhile, Beth’s Mom was on the phone again. This couldn’t be good.

I tried to zone out like I did in class when things were piling up and I could see no way out of them. Beth was the first to break through my façade, getting me back to the now and present time. “Starting Monday you attend school as Clara, you will live and breathe Clara until the three weeks are up. That means dressing like her, makeup like she uses and acting as much like her as possible. It is maybe a touch crazy, but if Ms. Johnson flunks you, you are looking at summer school to be able to graduate. I will watch out for you, forget about the ones making fun of you, this is way more important.”

“This is Friday, starting tonight you are Clara, wardrobe and makeup tomorrow, and all weekend you are going to practice dancing and acting like her. We have found a couple of movies featuring her so that is on the agenda tonight. Tomorrow we hit the shops to get your wardrobe and makeup and you practice the rest of the weekend doing it yourself. Now are you going to participate or do I need to spread a few rumors Monday to convince you that I am serious and will not be ignored in this.”

I nodded, but apparently that was not enough. I had to tell her that I was appreciative of the plan and would embrace it wholeheartedly. I then dropped my head and shed a lot of tears, talk about being lost as what to do this was definitely it. I know she was trying to help, maybe this will work, but dressing and acting like a twenties actress is far from mainstream. Of course, of the questions Beth had asked me earlier I had only got three right, maybe this way the material will stick with me.

The final blow came a few minutes later when Beth’s Mom got off the phone telling all that I was cleared to attend school as a female until needed. Gawd, the tears did continue, nothing so far making the situation any better, at least, in my mind.

Mom was her usual self, listening carefully to everything and nodding approval of the plan. I thought sure she would come to my rescue, but instead she thought it was an excellent way to get me to learn about this period in history. She even ended up calling the salon she uses and got me an appointment for early Saturday morning. Beth was asked to go with me for moral support, and to make sure I was sufficiently changed to meet the requirements of the assignment.

I was sure after they tried I would be deemed still too masculine and everything would be dropped, leaving me to concentrate on doing the paper somehow. Back in my own house, I was ensconced in a very frilly nightie and put to bed, Mom kissing my forehead as she pulled up my covers. That in itself was a shock to the system, first time since I was two or three that I got put to bed and kissed.

The ensuing few days were a mad rush as they shopped all the vintage thrift stores looking for appropriate clothes for me. I was taken to a salon and my hair style changed to one that fit the roaring twenties. If that wasn’t bad enough the hairstyle was helped along with a curly permanent. Two hours of me sitting in the salon chair as each section of my hair was wrapped around small curlers after securing it between a paper produced the tight curls of Clara. The curler was tightened so much I felt any more tension would have my hair falling out of my head. Then came the smelly permanent solution and a short stint under the hair dryer, followed by it being rinsed out and a neutralizer applied to stop the curling process. That again rinsed out, then the curlers were removed. My head was covered in small curls the eight inches of original length now only five inches or less.

Another set of curlers were then put into my hair, larger than the others, but no other solution or chemical added. Another stint under the dryer and then they were removed. The sight of my curly hairdo was comical, but after she started brushing it out it turned into something so feminine. I looked like Clara now or countless other flappers I had seen pictures of in the research material I was gathering. Even at the salon I had articles in front of me trying to absorb all the info. It was somewhat easier with the new look, the hairstyle only reinforcing the look of a flapper. I started to see the connection to what the history was and my looks.

The main difference was that I was that female I was learning about, not just a subject, but the exact image of her anytime I looked in the mirror. It hit home, made it all real somehow. When I read a part of her history I could almost feel it, dancing at one of the clubs she frequented, I could picture me doing it, reveling in the applause I would get after performing for a show. I could read about a movie she was in, could almost feel the kisses, and the interaction with some of her male co-stars.

Now when I was quizzed I got most of the answers right the first time, not having to review the answer for later. Quite a change from a few days ago.

The big change was going to school as Clara. The first day I got a lot of funny looks, but as the days wore on, it got less and less. Ms. Johnson was the quietest of my group, she recognized me right away, calling me Clara from the first day. She was polite, still calling on me in class, but not exclusively. Every time I caught her looking at me in class, there was this small smile on her face, reminding me of a cat who had just finished something tasty.

I ended up going back to the salon several times, each time a little more was done to make me look more like Clara. At home I was taught that style of dancing, a friend of Mothers who had a dance studio doing the training. It came easy, once I let down my guard some, five lessons later I was doing several twenties dances with ease.

Needless to say Clara remained as a student for that semester and the one following. I did graduate, evn received the diploma made out to Clara, my legal first name now. Beth never gave up on me, once I had Clara down pat she moved on to me learning the movements and nuances of a female. After we graduated a quick trip over the state line and we are now married. Junior is still there under the silicone vagina, you can never tell when he might be needed, if so he is there ready and willing.

For a career I decided on American History specializing on the early 20’s and especially Clara Bow. I teach at the same high school I attended a few years ago, Ms. Johnson now the principal here. Oh to be a flapper was my motto back then and still applies today. Beth in particular loves her flapper and I enjoy being one for her. So far no male students that look like her, but surely there will be one along one of these days.

Story Complete For Now

© 2016 thru 2021 Fran Cesca Walker

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