In the good old days, boys wore skirts. This is my great-grandfather dressed in all his finery, from an old tintype. He carries a whip to show he's a boy. (The Smithsonian American Art Museum has a painting of Samuel Holland also carrying a whip—for the same reason.)

And there on the right is my father also wearing a skirt. With him are my grandfather and grandmother and my Aunt Bessie as baby. She'll get my dad's skirt as a hand-me-down.

My great-great-great-grandfather,William Wolfe Alais, was a fashion illustrator in 19th-century London, England. You can see his portrait of Fanny Kemble as Julia in Knowles' in 'The Hunchback' at As a young blade, he seduced the Irish maid and the upshot was:

His daughter, Louisa, with her rosebud lips. She married the son of a Canadian "missionary". Their daughter (another Louisa) married the boy in the skirt. In later life he gave up skirts and chased them instead. In one escapade, his brothers had to go all the way to Toronto and bring him back to his wife in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

And there's me, age 11, smiling away because I'm not wearing a skirt. My poor mother was very disappointed when I was born because she was all set to name me Maud. That's enough to make any boy happy to be a boy.