Thursday, October 15, 2015

Passing the Torch.


Contending with my girls' fashion sense is a daily battle around here. For some unbeknownst reason,  when giving birth to daughters, I was delusional enough to think I would have some say in dressing them. It was the stereotypical extension of the sort of fantasies nursed by an adolescent girl playing with dolls. In other words: I like to think I am a completely normal, well-adjusted mother with reasonable expectations.

Then, there was Lily.

She, who came from the womb with an agenda to take over the universe and do it in her style. I would describe her taste in clothing, from the time she was two, as Floridian retiree skanky chic. Think lots of undersized, skin tight leotards. Preferably in a leopard prints. Orange lip glosses jaggedly applied well over the lip line. Oversized sunglasses paired with old tennis shoes and a pony tail she has requested be tied directly on top of her head, spraying up and outwards like a fountain.

We wrangle over where to purchase clothing. I prefer any store that channels the essence of Peter Pan collars and cross stitching. Pressed pinafores, knobby little knee highs with scalloped edges, anything  embroidered with kittens, etcetera. When walking through the mall my girls' eyes literally pop out of their heads as they begin drooling the moment they see the neon sign flashing in the distance for the Justice store. Shoot me now. Justice. Overpriced, bedazzled, peace signs in tye dye prints covered in sequins greet you every where you turn. There are millions of mean little elementary age girls squealing and pleading with anxious, debt-laden mothers, each girl clamoring for the official spot as queen bee of the school playground in 27 dollar tee shirts that have been shredded at the bottom and tied off with plastic beads you can buy in bulk from the craft aisle at Walmart. It's a nightmare.

They gave it that name on purpose, you know. It's justice for what I did to my mother as a kid. My overconfidence in my fashion sense as a child bubbled up from some miraculous spring of mystery. Maybe it was the chemical solution seeping through my brain from all of the perms I regularly got between the ages of 7 and 12. I was quite sure I was hot stuff. This vanity ran mostly unchecked until high school, aside from a brief childhood confrontation with my little sister: Sarah.

As a child, Sarah proudly accompanied my Dad on his monthly trips to his barber, where they would take turns getting matching hair cuts. Her hair was trimmed into a short bob that curled just above her ears, circling in an entirely even line around her head. When my mother found time to actually comb and style her hair, usually a biannual event occurring on a Sunday morning before church or the first day of school, she would part the top section of Sarah's hair into an even square, rubber brand it into a pony tail and clip in a bow which rivaled the circumference of Sarah's skull. The remaining minimal layer of hair left lying around her head would then be curled in a 1/4 inch curling iron and fluffed to excess. 

Everyone was always raving about Sarah's progressive, short bob. That is, everyone except our 12 year-old guncle {gay uncle} Ryan. Each time we arrived at our grandparents house with Sarah's hair freshly chopped, he would look at her in horror and exclaim,

"My GAWD why do you keep doing that to her?! She looks like Christopher Robin!"

As an older sister I came to Sarah's defense, countering with our observation of Ryan's ring collection on his hands. For the majority of his 6th grade career, he sported at least 7 bulky rings at any one time on his fingers, most of them in the shapes of eagles. It was about as close to authentic self expression as he could get at the time. He managed to squeeze by with the excuse that they represented something to do with boy scouting. Still, regardless of his questionable choice of male accessories, we couldn't shake the suspicion that he certainly knew hair. It couldn't be denied, as it was more than evident when one watched him passionately unfurl his latest illustration of mermaids; mermaids with long generous locks floating magnificently weightless underwater, perched upon spritely decorative coral reefs. 

Nonetheless, I stood firm in my alliance with Sarah. The bob stayed. 

Until, one particular day, I found it to be my sisterly duty to inform Sarah that she looked ridiculous as she sat working on her own hair in the bathroom.  It was a morning when my mother decided to be completely lazy and neglect Sarah's hair styling in order to tend to other non-essential tasks, such as feeding her other 7 children and assisting with homework. Typical. Excuses. 

Sarah's short, thin hair sat stick straight - lying limp and flat above her ears - yet, still circling in that perfectly dependable level line around her head. She pumped hair gel generously into her hands from our bulk size L.A. Looks hair gel container, the one that looks like green, carbonated aloe vera in a bottle. She left two small sections of hair hanging near her ears, and used the gel to slick the rest of her hair back into a pony tail, producing a small pea sized nub of hair that stuck straight out of the back of her upper neck. Next, she took the two reserved sections of her hair around her ears, like sideburns, and wove these strands into miniature braids. They almost looked like ear-rings, if anyone were ever masochistic enough to actually pierce the section of skin above their ears and hang tangled strands of burlap for jewelry. She proudly reviewed her look in the mirror. 

WOW. You CANNOT go to school looking like that, I commanded.

Sarah stroked her ear-braids and raised an eyebrow defiantly in my direction, all while keeping her eyes satisfactorily locked on her face in the mirror. With a voice that still manifested a fair lisp, she squinted her eyes and retorted,

"Well guessth what? Mom saysth your not the fathsion queen, Rae."
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NOT the fashion queen?! NOT THE FASHION QUEEN? 

I rolled my eyes as I turned myself to the mirror, finished curling the third layer of my bangs, matted it all with a brush and gave a sweeping spray of Aqua Net.

  Whatever. These people. Amateurs. 

It was this story that came to me as I sat in the dressing room of Old Navy with Lily, gazing at my tired reflection in the mirror, holding a Wetzel's Pretzel in one hand and a pile of clothing that I moderately despised in the other. We had narrowed down the selection to items that I could at least stomach purchasing, after I told her she was going to need to meet me in the middle. Lu, go find something a little less Miley Cyrus and a little more Beatrix Potter, I instructed as she first approached me with her signature spandex selections. 

Lily jumped up and down excitedly dressed in her self-selected outfit, stopping dramtically at intervals to strike a new pose in the mirror. This was it.  

"Um. Wow. Okay, Lily, is this really what you want to wear?"

Her giddy giggles said it all, she didn't even have to speak. Just moments earlier when I had suggested a perfectly timeless denim jumper, explaining the merits of adjectives like understated and pure, she held up a hot peach tank top stenciled with the block words FIERCE and FABULOUS.

"Um, mom, NO OFFENSE. (She actually pronounces it with the emphasis on the wrong syllable, as if announcing the strategy of the offense in a football game). No Offense, Mom. But your fashion is kinda....um, olden days. My fashion? Is fashion."

It was at this moment, I surrendered. I relinquished my crown. I'm really am no longer the fasthion queen. I am a mother. A mother to daughters with wills, expression, and hopeless amounts of confidence dripping forth from same everlasting mysterious wellspring that has no correlation to objective reality whatsoever. Besides, her selection really was kinda cute. Cute in a BLAMMO! THIS IS ME. LILY HAACK. FOURTH GRADE GONNA BE LIKE WHAAA?! BURNIN IT DOWN sort of way. A strong self-introduction to the first day of school. One that has the potential to establish her firmly somewhere in the middle of the elementary pecking order. I remember that at this age, all that really matters is that she feels like she's coming out on top in life.  

I call my Mom regularly and tell her of my struggles. She reminds me of the knee high white go-go boots I wore to my first day of kindergarten. Yes. Yes, I remember. Justice.


{first day of school!}


{My big girls. Their outfit choices. Their shoe choices. Spoiled. Silly. Wonderful.}



{Oh snap! And those nails. WHO'S THE FASHION QUEEN NOW, SARAH?!!}





1 comment:

Katy Nicole. said...

I died over this!!! Can we get a Pulitzer Prize up in here?!!! You can write with the freaking BEST!!! Miss you friend!!