Based on the prompt: “but you have to! It’s tradition!”
“Tradition is just peer pressure from dead people.”
For as long as I could remember, my mother upheld tradition. It didn’t matter what it was, she would uphold it. Even if it was super outdated and didn’t work with the current time period we were in. I loathed her for that since because of her upholding tradition, she is typically considered old fashioned and old timey. She also highly regarded societal norms such as having two parents and staying married since in her time divorce was highly frowned upon and typically got them shunned.
Since she took societal norms in such high regard, she has since loathed me dressing in all black and dying my hair. I have one other sibling who is typically normal mostly due to being highly oppressed by my mother. She was not allowed to dress how she wanted or really be who she wanted to be. Once she graduated from high school she moved away as soon as possible and as far away as possible to get away from my overbearing and oppressive mother. I don’t blame her.
I end the entry in my diary and close it making sure the lock is on tight. I then go to my closet and grab my shoe box from the top shelf. I’m blessed that I’m tall enough to reach the top shelf. The box has a post it note labeled “HYGIENE PRODUCTS. DO NOT OPEN.” I smirk knowing not even my mom who has no sense of privacy would go through this box. I stuff it deep in the box under a stack of various papers and put the box back on the shelf. I take a deep breath and then exhaled looking down at my outfit. I was wearing a black tank top and a pair of generic red sweatpants. It wasn’t horrible by any means, a good pair of pajamas. However, I knew this obviously wasn’t going to work for what I had planned today with a friend of mine.
You see, my friend Ellie invited me over to her house. She’s so cute. She has the cutest freckles on her face and a ginger pixie cut. She has the most gorgeous blue ocean eyes that you could swim in. Anyways, I’ll stop going on about her. She invited me over for coffee and to smoke with her. I was quite excited as I haven’t seen her in a few weeks. It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve seen her.
I started looking through my closet to see what I could find. It took a while, but I finally found the perfect outfit. I hastily put on my binder and my black T-shirt that had a dinosaur skull on it. It said f*ck the system. I saw it in a thrift store at the mall and I had to get it. My mom was furious when she saw what I had bought. I proceeded to put on my black ripped jeans (with cheeky little rips right where my thighs and shins were) and socks on. Then I put on my combat boots and my leather jacket. I quickly brushed down my dyed black hair (which didn’t take very long as I have a pixie cut) and looked in the mirror. I did finger guns and winked at myself.
“Not too shabby, Ryder,” I say to myself and then immediately burst into laughter. Damn I was a nerd. Who laughs at their own jokes? I take a deep breath and then exhale. I was grateful that my mother was at work today because I know she would immediately scrutinize my outfit and insult me in someway and tell me how I’m shaming the family name. I grabbed my phone and stuffed it in my bag and then made sure to grab my keys. I was incredibly grateful that Ellie didn’t live too far, just about a 10 minute walk. I made sure to listen for my mother just in case and then walked down the stairs as soon as I felt it was safe.
I head out the door and make sure to lock the door before heading out to Ellie’s home. I whistle the Steven Universe theme while on the walk. Many thoughts plagued my mind as I was not occupied by my phone for once. ‘Would Ellie like my outfit?’ ‘I wonder what Ellie is wearing for our meet up today.’ And other various thoughts. Before I knew it, I was at Ellie’s small yet comfortable and cozy home. I took a short breath and then exhaled.
“It’s just Ellie,” I told myself as if that would make my anxiety any better. “You can do this.”
I knocked on the door and smiled to myself as I heard her dog barking at the sudden noise. After a few seconds, Ellie opened the door. She looked surprised as I could see she was still dressed in pajamas and had her toothbrush in her mouth. She was wearing a cute pastel purple tank top with a pastel yellow star on the front and Aeropostale sweatpants. It suited her well. Ellie smiled sheepishly and quickly took her toothbrush out of her mouth.
“S-sorry about that…” she said hastily, “I had no idea you were coming so early. But uh.. come in, come in!” She makes a welcoming gesture and I walk in, laughing as her golden retriever was immediately all over me.
“Sorry, Max gets incredibly excited about any visitors, especially with the cute ones,” Ellie said and I immediately feel my face heat up as I realize she was flirting with me. I’m rendered speechless. “Cmon Max, lay down!” He immediately obeys and goes to lay on the comfort fuzzy cream colored living room rug while taking a big yawn. I follow Ellie upstairs and she heads into the bathroom to finish up. I choose to go in her bedroom and sit on her bed to give her privacy. As Ellie is finishing up I look around her bedroom and smile to myself. There were so many memories here. She had a string of lights on the right side of her bedroom when you walked in, right above her bed. She had various Polaroid pictures of us. One of them was of us after we had went to Starbucks. Another one of them was when we went to Disney World. I looked down at her bed and shook my head.
She had a cream colored comforter and a white sheet underneath. She had two matching pillows with the comforter and a large fuzzy purple pillow in the middle. I looked around the bedroom again and sighed happily. I jumped as I heard the bathroom door open. Ellie came in shortly afterward. She had a shy smile on her face.
“Sorry to scare you,” she said. “You came way earlier than I was expecting but it’s no problem. I’m just not a morning person.”
I shrugged and laughed, “sorry about that.. I was just in a rush to get out of my house. It’s been so long since I’ve been out and you know how… confining my mother is.”
Ellie nodded solemnly. She knew firsthand how traditional and restrictive my mother was. My own biological mother didn’t approve of hardly anything I do. I haven’t even told her I was transgender yet because I know she won’t react well. She didn’t even approve of me and Ellie being friends because of how much she had changed since we first became friends. Ellie grew up raised catholic but then realized she was agnostic eventually which my mother was furious about since it wasn’t an exactly direct belief in God. She didn’t openly express it (for once) but I could tell she didn’t approve of our friendship or whatever we have because any time I brought Ellie up she would show a face of disgust. She proceeded to even openly insult and talk bad about her right in front of me like I couldn’t even hear her.
Ellie began to change in front of me and I felt my face heat up. I looked down shyly as to give privacy.
“I-I can leave if you want me to…” I mumbled. Ellie shrugged and responded that it didn’t matter much to her since we’ve been friends for so long. I hastily grab my phone from my bag and tried to distract myself by scrolling through it.
After a few minutes of hearing her shuffle around her closet and drawer I hear her ask me, “how do I look?”
I look up and am rendered speechless. She wore a red checkered long sleeve t shirt with black ripped shorts and ripped stockings with combat boots. She also donned black lipstick that really put the whole outfit together. I felt heat rush to my face. After a few seconds she snapped her fingers in front of my face and laughed playfully at me.
“Ryder? Hellooo, earth to Ryder?” She said to me. I was jolted back to reality and I sputtered, embarrassed. I nodded and rubbed the back of my neck embarrassingly.
“Y-yes yes of course..” I replied, “you look beautiful, Ellie.” Now it was her turn for her to blush. God she looked adorable. She just shrugged me off and giggled. She grabbed my hand and pulled me up off the bed.
“Alright hotshot, let’s go get our coffee already.”
I nodded and we headed downstairs to her kitchen. She had a nice and comfortable house. It wasn’t too big but it wasn’t too small either. It was just the right size. Her kitchen was pretty sizable and was able to fit 2 people with ease. She began preparing the coffee in the cute old fashioned coffee maker she had. She grabbed two mugs from the cabinets with ease and set them on the table. One of them was a purple that had a rainbow unicorn horn and said “I’m a unicorn” on it, and the other one was a white mug that said “don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee.” Despite the way that Ellie usually dressed when she went out, she was very much into pastel things and cute things that people typically wouldn’t associate with her style. We sat in a comfortable silence for a while until the Ellie went to go check on the coffee. She examined it and nodded as she grabbed the coffee pot and swiftly poured equal amounts into two cups.
She went through her tidy fridge, then to where her utensils were, grabbed a spoon, and then headed back to the table. Ellie put two cubes of sugar in my mug and one cube in hers. She also poured an immense amount of hazelnut creamer in both of our coffees. It was a small detail but I appreciated how she knew how I liked my coffee even after all this time. It’s a miracle how we haven’t died from so much sugar in our coffees. She stirred her coffee until it was a nice cream color and did the same with mine. She then took a hearty swig of her coffee and set it on the table.
“Man, that hits the spot,” Ellie said. She grabbed my hand and looked up at me. I quickly swallowed what coffee I had in my mouth and looked up at her, an obvious blush on my face. “So.. let’s talk my dude. What’s on your mind?”
I looked down and frowned. Was it that obvious I had so much on my mind? That I was dreading tomorrow. I took a deep breath and sighed.
“I… plan on coming out to my mother tomorrow. As transgender.” I said and immediately felt my hands start to shake. Ellie didn’t say anything, just squeezed my hand in comfort. I saw her nod out of the corner of my eye. “I’m… dreading it. You know how my mother is. She’s all about upholding traditions and societal norms. And my whole existence contradicts that. I’m a walking contradiction.” I felt my eyes start to water. I looked up at Ellie for the first time in a while. I was always bad with words and getting my feelings out due to me feeling as if my mother oppressed me and feeling as if anything I said went against her beliefs.
Ellie clicked her tongue and got up, giving me a big and tight hug. “Oh Ryder… it’s okay. I’m here for you. No matter what happens with your mom, I’m always here for you. And if she for some reason threatens to kick you out, well.. you know you always have a place to stay.”
I felt my eyes water again but this time out of joy and gratefulness. How did I get so lucky with a friend? I continued hugging her for a few more seconds and then let her go. She sat back down at the table. I looked down at my coffee that was slowly going cold and shook my head. It wasn’t a good idea to continue drinking coffee with my nerves on edge like this.
Ellie took my hand and rubbed her thumb on my palm in comforting circles. “I would say we should smoke, but… seeing as your nerves are probably fairly high right now I don’t think that’s a good idea. How about we watch a Disney movie instead?”
I felt a smile creep up at the edges. She always knew I loved Disney movies and was a huge sucker for them. I nodded. “Can we.. watch Tangled?”
Ellie nodded and smiled. We spent the rest of the day eating popcorn and watching all the Disney movies she had. I ended up spending the night there.
The following morning, I woke up in her bed with her arms wrapped around me. We were still wearing our clothes from the day before. I slowly pried her arms from me and got up from her bed. Ellie mumbled something and sat up, rubbing her eyes sleepily.
“Wha..? Are you.. heading out?” She mumbled sleepily. I looked down and nodded. I felt my hands start to shake again. She must’ve realized how anxious I was feeling because she went to grab my hand. She pulled me back down on the bed and I turned towards her.
She lifted my head up and smiled encouragingly. “Hey. Like I said, whatever happens, I’m here for you.” She said in a comforting tone. “You’re not alone.” I shakily smiled and nodded. She leaned in and kissed my cheek. I immediately felt the heat rush to my cheeks again. I leaned in and kissed her softly. She made a gasp of surprise but kissed me back. After a few seconds we pulled away and Ellie looked at me with a look of surprise but smiled shyly. She punched me on the shoulder playfully and pushed me off the bed as to head me off.
“Alright buckaroo,” She said, “you can do this. If anything goes wrong, don’t hesitate to call me or text me.”
I nodded and took a deep breath. This was the next step in the journey of being myself. I thanked Ellie for being such a good friend and for letting me stay the night. I headed down the stairs and left my second home. I began the walk to my mother’s house feeling like it was taking forever. Which I guess was a good thing but also a bad thing as I wanted to just so readily get this over with. But I also didn’t want to do it at all.
Soon I was at my house. However, I didn’t even really consider it my home. If anything I considered Ellie’s place more of a home than my actual home. I unlocked the door and walked in.
I saw my mother emerge from the kitchen.
“Bella! You’re home!” I cringed as she uttered my birth name. That wasn’t me. That wasn’t my name. She had a smile on her face that immediately dissipated after she analyzed me and saw what I was wearing. “Now you know we don’t accept those kinds of clothes in my household.”
I despised how she said “my” household. As if this was her house and I was just a guest in it. In a way, she wasn’t wrong. Since I didn’t consider this my home that was a good thing I guess. But that didn’t make it hurt any less.
She continued talking on as if she didn’t notice the change in my facial expression or posture. “Now get yourself changed. We have an important family event we’re going to today.”
I balled my hands up into fists and took a deep breath, bracing myself for what was about to come after I uttered these words. “I can’t.”
She clicked her tongue and sighed, putting her hands on her hips with an oven mitt covering one and a spatula in another and I dread knowing I probably am about to ruin what was going to be a family breakfast. “Now why not, Bella?”
I feel another part of myself chip away as she utters my birth name yet again. “I can’t… because you won’t want me anymore after I tell you this.” I cringed internally. Great start, Ryder. My mom looks at me in confusion but doesn’t say anything, just lets me continue speaking.
I decide to just spit it out and get it over with. Just rip the bandaid off. “.....I’m transgender.” I could see the cogs turning in her head. I saw her face immediately cringe in disgust.
“What? But… you can’t be!” She exclaims, her voice immediately rising in anger. “You’ve always been my baby girl, Bells.”
I felt my face heat up in anger. “I’ve never been your baby girl,” I spit back, “I’ve been a man for as long as I can remember.” I felt hot tears fall down my face.
My mom doesn’t say anything for a long while. There was so much tension in the room you could cut it with a knife. Then, she finally speaks.
“But you have to be my baby girl! It’s tradition!” She exclaims.
I recoil and bare my teeth in anger.
I ball my fists up as I utter the next sentence, “tradition is just peer pressure from dead people.”
I enjoyed this piece very much. Rhyder and Ellie are cute together, nice of Rhyder's partner be supportive of him/them (not sure what pronouns Rhyder prefers I apologize). I also like how you have the piece end with Rhyder saying that quote, ends on a strong note there.
If I were to suggest something, maybe have the second paragraph focus more on why Rhyder's mother don't like them dressing in all black and such instead of their sister. I feel the mention of their sister isn't that important here.