Beta male: the great tutu mystery

‘We were all drunk. But I think I would remember if we’d stopped off to steal women’s clothes’

There’s no easy way of saying this so I’ll just come right out with it: a bag of women’s clothing has turned up in my room at home and I’ve no idea how it got there. There’s a black glittery top, a couple of summer dresses, a formal black skirt and a few other bits and bobs. Oh, and a tutu. That’s not right, is it?

Three weeks ago we held a leaving do for our colleague James, style editor of this magazine, now away to pastures new. It was a big occasion. We went to Chuzzlewits, a local bar, commonly known as the Chuzzle, as in, “Where are you taking that bloke for lunch?” “Oh, I thought I’d just take him up the chuzzle.” Never ceases to amuse, that one.

Popular chap, James, and he’d been here 12 years. Long story short: we got utterly wasted. My wife was away up north for a few days, it was about 11pm. “All back to mine!” I shouted. Madness not to.

So Cousin George and I jumped in a taxi. (Cousin George, despite never having worked at The Times, had nonetheless successfully attached himself to the leaving do.) A few minutes after we’d got to my house, James, Jorge and Lyndsey arrived in another taxi. James, I registered dimly, was carrying a bag with his leaving present in it. More drinking, bit of dancing, chat, possibly a game of darts, I can’t recall the details. At some stage in the early hours, my guests went their separate ways.

The next day I noticed that James, in the confusion of minicabs arriving, drunken farewells and so forth, had left his present behind. I also saw there was another bag, and assumed this belonged to James, too. Or possibly Lyndsey. No doubt one or other of them would text me about it in due course.

When she got back, my wife spotted the presence of two unfamiliar, interesting-looking bags in my room within about seven seconds. “What are they?” she asked.

“Oh, James forgot to take his present,” I told her. “But there’s a tutu in this one,” she said.

“Really? Maybe we gave him that as a joke. I can’t remember. I’ll ask him when he picks them up.” The bags sat there for a week, unclaimed.

The following weekend, his new career under way, James, accompanied by our mutual friend Hilary, called round to say hello and collect his present. “Oh, you left this, too,” I said.

“What’s that?” “It’s a bag with a tutu in it and, um, some other women’s clothes.”

“It’s not mine,” said James.

“You sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“I assumed you brought it with you the other night.”

“Well, I didn’t,” said James.

“How did it get here then?” asked my wife, folding her arms and looking at me. “I simply don’t know,” I said.

James, Hilary, Nicola and I examined the contents of the bag. Rachel, my daughter, freebie radar on full alert, emerged from her room and began sniffing around too. “They’re quite small,” said Nicola. “Mostly size 8.” “Is Lyndsey a size 8?” I asked. “No,” said Hilary. “But she’s pretty slim,” I said. “Lyndsey is not a size 8,” Hilary said emphatically. “Obviously one of you boys must have started cross-dressing.” Rachel looked at me, not sure whether to be amused or alarmed.

“Listen,” I said, “if these dresses wouldn’t fit Lyndsey, with the best will in the world, they’re not going to fit me or James are they? Or George or Jorge, they’re both bigger than we are.” “You mean taller?” “OK, thank you for pointing that out, yes, to be strictly accurate, George and Jorge are taller than me and James, and me and James are fatter than George and Jorge. The point is, if any of us were dressing up as women, we wouldn’t be doing it in a size 8, would we? Much as we might like to, those days are gone.”

“Maybe you and George just stole them from a washing line on your way back,” said James. “You were pretty drunk.”

“We were all drunk,” I said. “Besides, I think I’d remember if we’d stopped off to steal some women’s clothes. Anyway, it’s underwear you’re supposed to steal from washing lines, isn’t it? Not dresses and skirts. Or tutus.”

“This top,” said Rachel, “can I have it?”

“If you like,” I said. “No,” said Nicola.

James and Hilary left, the mystery unsolved. As indeed, it remains. Can anyone help? Maybe someone left a bag of clothes in a taxi in East London, 11.30ish, Thursday, September 15. Describe the contents of this bag (lime green, with black handles) in a semi-convincing fashion and they’re yours. Bottom line: I have a bag of women’s clothes in my possession, doesn’t belong to me, making me uncomfortable, want rid.