Life As I Know It

KJ Combs

There are a lot of things you must have to shop with a 13 year old girl. They are: a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of patience, and a lot of willingness to bite your tongue on a regular basis.

School starts in a few weeks. It is time to revamp and recharge my daughter’s wardrobe from top to bottom. It doesn’t matter that it has only been two months since school let out for the summer and I just bought her the clothes she had to have to look cool, cute, or awesome for the end of the year. They are déclassé now because something else is in and she just can’t be out of step, or, if she is like my daughter, she doesn’t want to look like anyone else.

So, off we go, both girded for battle to the local shops. She wants to go to the newest IN place. It is, to my mind, filled with overpriced tiny scraps of fabric that leave my daughter looking like a cross between a low rent hooker and an extra in a low budget vampire movie. Besides, I refuse to pay that much for a pair of jeans that look like they have never been washed after being run over by a Mac truck. And she can just forget the ugly trousers covered with chains, weird metal bits that have no discernable use and cost nearly as much as a new car. She refuses to go to the local discount place because she will not, according to her, dress like a homeless person. The lines are drawn, the budget is set, and the limits of compromise are clearly defined.
The first shop has some lovely clothes, but she heads directly for the ugly clothes department. This is where biting the tongue starts. As she picks through each and every piece of clothing, I try very hard to keep from either laughing or moaning with despair. She fills her arms with things I would consign to the rubbish heap and heads off to the dressing room, leaving me to hover around waiting to see how things look on her. After hanging about for ages, she finally comes out in an outfit that makes me cringe inside. Trying to be patient and diplomatic, I listen to her explanation why she has to have the outfit. It isn’t that it is trashy; it isn’t that it doesn’t fit right; it is simply depressingly black and, well, black. Finally, I ask about the dozen or so other pieces she took back, and she says she really didn’t like any of them. That’s when it hits that it is going to be a very, very long day. As she heads back to change, she casually mentions that the cost of one shirt and one pair of ugly trousers is nearly the same as the national income of a small country. Better revamp the budget for the day.

Leaving the store with one tiny bag is a triumph for her, so I decide to give some input at the second shop. Wrong. Just pointing out something I think would be attractive on her sets off a snarky pouting session. She folds her arms and gives me that superior look and reminds me it is her wardrobe she is shopping for, and she knows exactly what she wants and all I am there for is to pay for it, thank you very much. Being as determined to have a say, because I am paying for everything, I remind her of the rules. Not too much skin, not too tight, not too expensive etc. That only gets me a hateful look as she flounces off to another ugly clothes department. She casts away garment after garment as too preppy, too boring, too sporty, too dressy, to casual, until she finally comes up with the right thing. It’s a dress, that’s good. It isn’t too short, even better, and then she turns around. Where, I wonder, is the back? Nope. Not happening. She is ONLY 13 and there is no way she is wearing that anywhere. Off she stomps in a huff. She comes storming out of the dressing room, breezes past me, heads for the door and the car, livid beyond words. Sighing, I hang up the clothes she left me holding and follow. Oh well, I didn’t like that shop anyway.

Now my tongue is getting a bit mangled, and I figure lunch would be a good idea. She sits through the meal with her arms folded and a sour face, while I try to pretend things are fine and eat a meal that sits like a lump in my stomach. After putting it off as long as I can, I saddle back up and head out again. It is only 12:30 and I am already exhausted.

In shop number three, I decide to look for something for myself while she heads for the teen area. After half an hour of keeping an eye out for her, I see her go into the dressing area with an arm full of clothing. Knocking on the door, I ask if she needs help. I am reminded that she has been dressing herself since she was two, she can deal just fine. After waiting around long enough that store security starts getting suspicious, she finally comes out, dumps clothes in my arms and heads back to for more. While she is changing, I peek at what she chose. Most of it is, naturally, black. Most of it covers her well, no belly showing, not too tight, but my goodness, WHAT does that shirt say on it? I quietly slip it back on the shelf, and pick one up that has nothing on it. She might not notice until we get home, if I am lucky. Finally, she is ready to move on. So I pay, and try to figure out how I can explain it to my husband when he gets the credit card bill.

Now that she has clothes, it is time to shop for shoes. Trust me; don’t go there if you can avoid it. I remind her of the rules, no Frankenstein shoes, no hooker boots, the shoes have to be comfortable enough to make it through a day at school, and something she can wear with a lot of the clothes she just bought. I find a place to sit while she picks out a half dozen shoes to try on. I know she will reject all of them, because she has her eye on a pair of boots that would be at home on any construction worker’s feet. They look heavy and I don’t think they would go with any dress I’ve ever seen. But, I am willing to compromise. She can get the boots as long as she gets something she can wear with the skirts and dresses as well. She, however, has a totally different idea of compromise. She wants the work boots, a pair of sneakers that have a four inch heel that she considers dressy, and a pair of shoes that look as if they are coming apart at the seams. After a half hour of discussion and I use that term loosely, we come to an agreement. She can get the boots, a pair of sneakers that do not have a heel on them, and a pair of generally comfortable looking shoes that can be dressy or casual. Spending nearly a hundred dollars, we leave the store. She still doesn’t get why I won’t spend a hundred dollars on one pair of shoes, but I refuse to spend that kind of money on something she will out grow in three months.

The last stop is to buy under garments. Here the battle lines are drawn deep in the sand. NO thongs, period, no way, no how on my side. NO briefs like an old lady would wear on her side. Somewhere in between there is something she will wear, and I won’t freak out about. My premise is that sexy underwear is meant to be worn for a significant other, and it is simply not something she needs to be wearing. Her premise is that she has to change for gym class and doesn’t want to be laughed at for wearing little girl underwear. I ask her if other girls her age really do wear underwear like that, and if so, do their parents know? Apparently, the answer is yes, as she just glares at me. Eventually, we move on to argue about just about every other under garment she needs. Pretty is fine, color is good, but too sexy is out. By the time we are done, right down to the socks, I am exhausted and she is getting grumpy, so we drag everything out to the car and head for a café to retrench and plan our next battle. My credit card is smoking, my feet are killing me, and it is time to make peace and go home. Next week we have to buy school supplies, I am going to make my husband go.

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