Little Lord Fauntleroy

Let us begin. First, Mom always wanted a girl. I am not saying she was disappointed when I came along six years after my brother, but even she wouldn’t have denied that she would have liked to have had a daughter, and understandably so. Second,  a long time ago in Elementary School, some lame brain had the thought of doing a Halloween Party for the class – yes a party where everyone would come in costume, as in dressing up and enjoy games and stuff themselves with sugar and just generally be kids. Third…..well do I have to even state the third? With points one and two, you see where this is going, don’t you?

Now, thankfully Mom didn’t give in to her first instinct and simply make me a dress to wear, and do my hair up in a ribbon and put make up on me, though I am positive it must have crossed her mind. No, she wouldn’t have been so misguided – at least at the time – to do that. So our third point will be a name that some of you may have heard but I bet most haven’t : Little Lord Fauntleroy.

It is actually the name of a novel by Francis Hodgson Burnett, published as a series from 1885 to 1886. It was released as a book the same year. It is a Children’s book and has a Dickensonian plot of two countries, identities, titles and pretensions. It was well received at the time and made into at least three film adaptations. But forgetting the plot, the thing that the book really did was make a major mark on the fashion world.  Perhaps better known as the Buster Brown suit (or maybe not depending on how old you are), it created a fad at the time for young boys fashion: velvet, frills, a cut-away jacket, matching knee pants, a fancy blouse, a ruffled collar, and of course the suit should adorn young boys with a full head of dark hair that can be curled into ringlets to circle a cherubic angelic face. It’s interesting that by today’s standards it looks quite effeminate, but it, in fact, introduced trousers to many families who traditionally at least in England, dressed their little boys in dresses (Mom would have loved that tradition).

I am not making this stuff up – look it up; it was a major movement in fashion and somehow hung around long enough to impress Mom, who saw some sexual middle ground in its appearance.  Again, I know you have already guessed the next development: I would go to the Halloween party dressed as Little Lord Fauntleroy.

Oh, Joy.

Well, the day of the party rolled around, and despite protestations from myself and my brother, Mom insisted on dressing me like the fabled young Lord of the novel. I don’t recall but I cannot imagine Dad would have approved of this choice for me, but he was conveniently absent from any discussion; Don had a field day with it as I would have had our situations been reversed.

Now not too many of my classmates, or their parents had read the book, nor seen the movies; they had seen Westerns so dressed their kids like a Sheriff or Gunfighter; they had watched Universal Horror Movies so their children came dressed like Frankenstein, plastic mask and all, or Dracula with a flowing black cape, or other kids came as Astronauts, or Ballerinas (thank God Mom hadn’t thought of that one!), or what have you. But I can assure you no one, and I mean no one, but me came as Little Lord Fauntleroy.

Only Mom knew who I was – I myself was still confused about the whole thing, and didn’t like the way my classmates were looking at me. And indeed I was almost happy when some of them laughed at me as opposed to the ones that looked at me like they wanted to beat me up or get me behind the dumpster out back! Mom was annoyed of course that no one immediately knew who I was supposed to be and spent the afternoon explaining to the other Moms present. I remember hearing parts of the conversations as I tried to eat as many potato chips slathered in French onion dip as I could: “No he is not a girl, he’s a boy…he is Little Lord Fauntleroy…what do you mean who?…don’t you read?” and on and on.

Ah well, go out on a limb and expect to meet the ground.

It all ended fine, as these Children’s parties will. After the first hour, everyone had shed some part of their costume anyway and were just intent on playing and eating junk. Every once in a while Mom would straighten out my jackets or tweak my curls, but I think she knew it was futile for me to try to maintain such a pose while surrounded by Monsters, Cowboys and Indians, and Spacemen.  

I was glad to get home and get out of those clothes and never wore them again; I don’t know what became of them, but I remember Mom carefully folding them, brushing the velvet, preening the frills on the blouse, and putting them lovingly in a cardboard box for another time? Not for me at least.

Mom always wanted a girl. She got me instead, and she was good with that.  But it was nice that one time, thanks to Halloween, I got to stand in for the girl she never had.

And I am good with that.

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