Back to School at the Mall
Wild Child and the Diva are headed back to school. When they arrive for their first day in a higher grade they will be kitted out in new outfits that say to one and all, “this is who I am this year”. I imagine it’s the same for kids across the country; they’ve grown over the summer and not just in shoe size, so they’re gearing up to start again as a new and improved version of themselves.
It begins with the back-to-school shopping trip. These days, we buy everything from pillows to power tools online but, come the end of summer, with growing kids in tow, we head to the mall like running salmon because there’s no online substitute for “*sigh* Go in and try it on”.
I hate malls. I hate what they represent, hate their climate-controlled artificiality, the pseudo bargains, the foot-tenderizing acreage, and the crowds. Even so, shopping with the Diva is a blast; with Wild Child, there are really good moments. But with the both of them . . . well thank god, it’s only once a year because it easily shaves that much off my life.
Fifteen seconds over the first threshold, Diva kicked things off by loudly proclaiming her disgust at the garment industry’s insistence on adding pink to everything made for girls. In store after store, rack after rack, carrel after carrel, she sucked her teeth and “tutted”, her fashion sense mortality offended.
“This one’s nice”, I say to her. “Yes,” she says, simultaneously cocking her left hip and her right eyebrow “except they just had to slap a peace sign on the front of it.” Okaaaay. Last year, peace signs were “oooh, so cute!” but I make a mental note; no pink, no peace signs. This turns out to be easier than expected because at ten, she’s already so tall that she can no longer wear girls’ clothing. Now while I could hardly be described as a prude, I note that many women’s fashions are really not meant for ten-year-olds. Naturally, it’s precisely these that she prefers. “Oooh!” she exclaims, like she’s just found a stray kitten, “isn’t this adorable?” “What? Where?” I say, “I don’t see anything. Oh that – I thought that was a couple of loose threads.” This earns me several moments of aggrieved silence.
Meanwhile, Wild Child is venting his boredom by crawling around on floor and hiding in the clothes racks. “Hey Iiiiiima – you can’t seeee me.” For his part, he made it clear he would consider nothing but t-shirts and he played skateboard with the cart until we made our way to those racks. For him, if it glows in the dark, smells like cookies when scratched or references video games or annoying sisters, that’s the shirt for him. And a hat. He’s got to have a hat. One of those gawd-awful hip hop hats that perches on one’s head like Papa Bear’s cereal bowl. There’s just no way to get through to him that as skinny as he is, the effect is . . . not really what he’s going for.
Which brings us to jeans. I have a pair of beanpoles; skinny jeans are kind of a cruel joke. “Do you have these in slim sizes?” I ask the sales associate. She looks baffled. “Nooo, they’re skinny jeans.”
In and out of the dressing room we go, my son’s tenuous grip on himself visibly unraveling. “Okay look,” I say to him, “try these ones.” He stands there. “Ima, those are girls‘.” “Yes, I know, but they don’t look like girls’ and they’re skinnier than the boys'”. “Ima…” his eyes shift left, then right. I’m starting to unravel a bit, myself. “Just try the damn things on – they don’t look any different.” Shoulders hunched, he slopes back to the dressing room. They fit. They look good. Great, in fact. And no pink anywhere.
Diva, meanwhile, has found the sneakers for her. The child who has grown three shoe sizes in five months wants a $75 pair of kicks. I calmly explain that such a purchase is madness. She’s thoughtful for a few moments. “How muchwere you going to spend on shoes?” “I was hoping about half that.” She smiles. “Well then, you spend that much and I’ll use my allowance for the rest. I really, really love them.”
Later, as she’s cooing over 3 inch heels, my son sidles over to me. “Ima,” he says quietly, “I don’t mind that they’re girls jeans.” “No?” “No. But, you said it so everyone could hear.” “I embarrassed you.” He nods. “You kinda do that, you know.” Mm. “I apologize. I will try not to do that.” He nods again. “Okay. Thanks.”
Yep, kids grow over the summer.