Written by Bert Plomp
Grandpa Heijgen, my mother’s father, could be found every week at the railway auction in Utrecht. There, he bought all sorts of items left behind by train passengers for a bargain. I was there every Saturday morning, eager to search through clothing and such with him. He had spread those items, like in a little shop, over the large kitchen table. Nothing was inherently not good enough for me.
I believe my passion for clothing originated in the attic of my friend Joop. Right under the roof of his house, I rehearsed plays with him and other classmates at a young age for school performances. We eagerly made use of Joop’s parents’ extensive, old wardrobe, where outdated clothing was stored in suitcases. The old garments of the lady of the house were particularly popular. As a boy, it was quite exciting to dress up in women’s clothing.
My daughter Florence may have inherited some of my love for dressing up. In her younger years, dressed as Lawrence of Arabia, she roamed the ‘Oog in Al’ neighbourhood causing a stir.
If my parents spent money on clothing, which rarely happened, it was mainly for my older brother Theo. He would vehemently deny this, though, citing that I was always mother’s favourite. But, well, Theo was a student and the main source of income for my parents in terms of child benefits. And tit for tat.
When I wanted something new, it wasn’t a reason for my parents to go on a shopping spree. When I persistently begged for a ‘Beatle jacket,’ a large piece of black corduroy was eventually purchased at the fabric market. With that piece in hand, my father eagerly jumped behind the sewing machine at home.
Unfortunately, that enthusiasm rarely promised anything good. When it came to making clothes, the dear man always did his best to make something decent. Despite his scarce free time, he spent days in a row behind the ‘Singer treadle sewing machine.’ Like a man possessed, he would kick away to keep the machine sewing. On such days, you could almost hear the neighbours thinking the Plomp family is busy ‘sewing’ again. The rhythmic thumping produced by father and the machine was audible and palpable in every corner of the apartment building.
To be fair, I must admit that making the intended garment, however simple in cut, was quite a task for a well-intentioned amateur. The jacket that eventually rolled out of the machine, however, could withstand criticism. The homemade piece had a round collar without a lapel and no revers. Truly a ‘Beatle jacket.’
It was a different story with the trousers he made at my request. After the success of the jacket, I thought: Now Pa can also make me a pair of trousers from the same fabric. With slightly flared legs.
It seems not so easy to sew a decent-looking fly on a pair of trousers. At that time, my father was indeed a respected insurance agent, but certainly not a celebrated couturier. The trousers he produced, which I had to proudly display afterward, had two embarrassing details that caught the eye.
Firstly, the crease in the slightly flared legs. That crease pulled excessively far outward in both pant legs. I feared that onlookers of the opposite sex, if I walked down the street in those trousers, might get the misplaced impression that I was moving rather provocatively, with legs spread wide.
And then the fly. The trouser closure was stitched so thickly onto the trousers that it truly bulged. It protruded so far that, even from a distance, the false thought could arise that behind the closure of my trousers, there was a giant excitement hiding. Especially the latter was a true nightmare for me as a fourteen-year-old teenager. I felt like I was walking around like a ballerino. One of those boys dancing in ballet who has crammed his whole package into a suspensory at the front. I find that a hideous sight. Just for that reason, you’ll never see me at ballet performances.
Hiding your entire gender somewhere between your legs or pushing it further back would probably be too painful of an option. You must really come from a damn skilled background if you want to keep everything under control throughout the entire performance without such a device. Imagine enduring a whole performance with a beautiful ballerina alternately pressing her vagina against your neck and sliding it over your torso.
Back to my new trousers. Each of the two embarrassing features of the pants alone was reason enough not to use them, let alone the combination of the two. But well, if there’s no other pair of trousers available, I thought, I’d rather go out with that crazy pair than without any pants at all. I was truly embarrassed. Because everywhere I appeared, I knew girls’ eyes were focused on my crotch.