Dressing for the Dance

Daryl’s middle school has an end-of-year dance. A couple of days before the dance this year, he asked a girl at school to be his girlfriend. And then he asked her to the dance. The night before the dance, Daryl was rummaging through his clothing, looking for something to wear.

“Do you know where my Easter clothes are?” he asked me.

“I thought you hated your Easter clothes.”

“I do, but it’s a Hawaiian themed dance and we are supposed to wear Hawaiian shirts or bright colored clothes.”

His Easter clothes certainly would fit the bill. He didn’t want to go with me when I shopped for Easter clothing, telling me instead to “just pick something out for me. I don’t care.”

He cared once I got home. I had purchased a pair of bright turquoise blue shorts on clearance and a sorta-bright pastel yellow shirt. He was horrified! But now? Now he was looking for those hideous clothes. But they weren’t even the best choice he had.

“You should wear your Hawaiian shirt,” I said, pulling a dark blue and white flowered shirt out of his closet. A much more sartorially accomplished friend of Jane’s had handed it down to Daryl a couple of years earlier and Daryl had never worn it.

“I’m not wearing that.” He said it in his serious, no-nonsense voice, which I groaned at and then ignored.

“Seriously, Daryl, that shirt is perfect. It’s a Hawaiian dance and this is a Hawaiian shirt. It doesn’t get any better than that. Here, try it on.” I slipped it off the hanger and handed it to him.

He tried it on. I could tell it was right on the edge of being too small for him but he looked good and I said so. He headed to our bathroom to check it out and I followed. As soon as he could see himself in the mirror, he wrinkled up his nose in disgust and said, “No way!”

“Oh, come on!” I tried. But, no, the Hawaiian shirt would not be worn. He found his Easter clothes soon thereafter and tried to get me to iron them. I pointed out that the Hawaiian shirt didn’t need to be ironed. He pleaded. I told him I was exhausted (I was) and that he could iron them himself. He said he didn’t know how. I said it was a good time to learn. He didn’t iron them but also didn’t switch to the Hawaiian shirt.

The next day, on the drive home from work, I thought about the clothes that still needed to be ironed. Since I was in the car with the bluetooth connection to my phone, I called.

“Get the ironing board and iron out so we can iron those clothes as soon as I get home,” I said.

“Oh, I don’t need to. I took care of it.”

“Really?” I asked in shock. “You ironed your clothes?” He must really like this girl, I thought to myself.

“No,” he said, “I’m not wearing those.” And this is where it got really good. I mean, really, really good.

“I’m wearing the Hawaiian shirt.”

My eyes went as big as saucers.

“Sally wants to match and she’s wearing blue so I’m going to wear that.”

A belly laugh began to work its way up to my throat. I forcefully shoved it back down and in the most neutral voice I could muster, said, “That’s wonderful dear. I’m glad you worked it out. I love you.” At this point, I was in severe danger of making it obvious I was laughing at the situation. “Good-bye,” I said, reaching quickly for the little red “hang up” button on my console.

And then I laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed. Tears rolled down my face. Mom couldn’t have threatened or rewarded him enough to get him to walk among his peers in that shirt. But a pretty young girl just had to say she wanted to match.

The hilarity continued when I got home and a hyper thirteen year old boy showed me how he had shaved. He fixed his hair (again and then again). He brushed his teeth. He took the toothpaste with him to freshen up after dinner. He checked his hair in the car’s mirror. In short, he acted like a completely different boy than I had been living with all this time.

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Profanity Makes an Appearance… or Two

WARNING: Out of necessity, this post contains some mild obscenities.

Jane’s language has taken a bit of a turn for the worse, although not in verbal communication. At least, not yet. We monitor her text messages from time to time so I was surprised to see her refer to a former friend as a bitch. When I called her on it, she responded, “Well, what other word is there to describe a person like that?”

She acquired a new boyfriend about a month ago. They didn’t go on any dates, don’t have any classes together, don’t see each other at lunch, and until recently, didn’t talk on the phone or text (since Jane had no phone). This romance consisted primarily of saying hi in the halls.

It will be no surprise to learn that he recently broke up with her. His explanation was that she knocked his hat off and punched him in the arm. She wasn’t too upset. Mostly just upset that she hadn’t listened to her friends’ warnings when she agreed to be his girlfriend.

While checking her phone, I noticed that his name had been changed in her address book. He was listed under “douchebag”. I had learned from another mother that she had been using this term on a recent bus trip, even helping people spell it correctly, so I was not floored by it.

“Jane,” I asked as she entered the room, “what exactly is a douche? Do you know?”

Her dad, listening in from the kitchen, began to laugh. She got that uncomfortable, shy smile that she gets when she knows she’s been doing or saying something we disapprove of. “Weeeellll… kind of.”

“Then tell me what it means.”

“Someone told me once but I really don’t remember.”

“A douche is something that you stick up your vagina and squirt a bunch of stuff to clean it out.”

“Ewww!” Her face scrunched up in disgust.

“Yeah, so do we really need to call anyone that?”

“No.” She reached for her phone to change his name back.

She’s actually not the only underage member of the family trying on an expanded vocabulary. When I picked up Hal from preschool the other day, I learned that he had told a friend on the playground to “go fuck off.”

Similar to Jane’s douchebag, Hal had no notion what that meant. After a very stern talking to where I explained that that word was never, ever, ever OK for him to use, where I explained that it was way, way worse than calling someone “stupid”, he looked quite abashed. Some intense questioning revealed that he had most likely picked up the phrase, and its proper usage, from another kid on the playground.

Once the shock wore off, I was slightly amused and even felt a little sorry for him. I imagine that he heard someone say it and understood the context. When I want someone to leave me alone, I just tell them to go fuck off. Got it.

It is interesting to experience how much overlap there is between parenting a teenager and parenting a preschooler.