Thursday, August 14, 2008

School Days

Earlier today as I was returning home from a jaunt to Utah, I swung by a couple of stores in Logan. Since my husband and I are now considered an empty-nesters (our youngest son is currently serving a mission in Canada) I'm obviously out of the groove for the yearly tradition known as "Back-to-School Shopping." Both of the stores I happened to visit today were filled with harried parents and their offspring. It was rather fascinating to watch.

"Here's a pair of pants on sale," a hopeful mother offered.

Her daughter, who looked to be between the ages of 12-14 replied: "Puh-leeze. The zipper is like gi-nor-mous!"

"What's wrong with the zipper?"

"It's like 5 miles long!"

The mother examined the pants in question, then rolled her eyes. "It isn't either. It's barely 4-5 inches. Now stand still so I can see how they'll fit."

"Mother! They come up to my armpits!" the teenage girl wailed.

"They'll barely cover your rear-end."

"That's what layered shirts are for." With that, the sweet young thing turned and began to send a flurry of text messages, her thumbs moving so fast they were a blur.

"You did not just text your friends about this. And just so you know, you are not buying those low-cut pants your friends all wear!"

Since I was in this particular store to find a pair of shoes for my husband, I moved out of range of the ensuing argument. Hurrying toward the back of the store, I passed a mother and son combo. They were looking at shirts.

"Here's a nice looking shirt," the mother said, retrieving a striped polo-style shirt from the rack in front of her.

"You're all up in the Kool-aid," was the indifferent reply. (Incidentally, I looked this phrase up online when I returned home and learned that it means: "You're getting in my business.")

"Well then, what do you want to wear?" the tired mother inquired.

The teen in question sauntered to a rack of t-shirts that looked like something from a frightening Halloween movie. "Aight!" he exclaimed. (I looked this term up, too. It means: "All right, or okay.")

Casting a sympathetic glance toward the appalled parent, I moved on past, finding the shoe aisle. I passed a small girl, possibly about 6-7 who was looking at shoes with her mother. The only requirement this young lady stressed was that the shoes had to be pink. Her mother was trying to convince her that pink wouldn't necessarily match everything in her wardrobe. This discussion didn't seem to be going well as I moved on toward the mens' section.

As I searched for the shoes my husband wanted, I began pondering what the conversations might have been like during shopping adventures when my parents were teenagers:

"Jane, what makes you think you need a poodle-skirt?"

"All of the other girls are wearing them."

"What's wrong with this nice black wool skirt?"

"Puleeze! There's not a dog on the front of it and it's black!"


"Son, what is that stuff in your hair?"

"Gel. All the guys are using it."

"If all of the guys were jumping off a cliff, would you do it too?"

Here's a hilarious blast from the past. I came across this set of lyrics that my grandmother wrote with regard to a hairstyle she and my grandfather had no doubt discussed with my father:

Years back, when I was just a lad
A notion in my head I had,
Each year I asked my dad once more
To cut my hair in a pompadour.
Each time he only shook his head,
“A plain haircut for you,” he said,
“Is so much better now my boy,
“And other people won’t annoy.”
Which only made me want the more
To have my hair cut pompadour.

A pompadour, a pompadour
Oh how I want a pompadour;
To others it may be a roar,
But I sure want a pompadour.

And then one day when I came in
And with a firm, determined chin,
Said, “Dad, I’m asking you once more,
To cut my hair in a pompadour.”
“Alright my boy,” he said, “you’ll see.
A pompadour your hair shall be.”
The clippers he began to work
And with no time to rest or shirk
He clipped and clipped and clipped some more
And gave to me my pompadour.

My pompadour, my pompadour,
At last I have my pompadour,
To others it may be a roar,
But I sure love my pompadour.

-------Elsie C. Jackson

I guess my point is, the styles and speech patterns may change, but the arguments stem from the same source. Teenagers are trying to establish who they are. They are striving for independence and anything considered cool by their parents is automatically out of the question. And on the other side of the coin, parents are usually appalled by the current fashion trends. This is a time-honored tradition. I predict that in years to come, today's teens will be having similar conversations with their offspring:

"What are you thinking? That metallic suit is atrocious. The colors don't even match!"

"I like it! It speaks well of my individuality."

"Your what?! Don't you use that kind of language with me young lady!"

"Talk to my robot."

"Come back here! We are not through discussing this! And I refuse to speak to a stupid brain in a can!"

"Warning, Tercel's mother unit, your blood pressure is dangerously high. Refrain from this behavior."

And so on. I suspect conversations like this began with Adam and Eve's posterity:

"You are not wearing that leopard skin skirt!"

"Why not? Cain slew the beast. It's not like anyone else is using it. And it looks great with my emu-feather top."

"I've asked you not to wear that thing. It looks disgusting."

"You don't understand me!"

"You did not just slam that wooden door! The house collapsed. Are you happy now?"

Here's what I've noticed: Trends and fashions change. The relationship shared with our children is what matters most. I learned to pick my battles. My kids picked out interesting hair styles and clothing through the years, but I usually let that go, standing firm on items like curfews, etc. I did stress that my sons had to dress modestly---to me, that's important. But if they wore colorful, sometimes outrageous looking garb in the process, I tried to be tolerant. After all, I'm from the era that made bell-bottom jeans popular. I don't have a leg to stand on. ;)

Return to the Neighborhood


Cindy Beck said...

Oh my heck, that was such a hoot! And it made me all the more glad that I don't have to do "school shopping"!

Cheri J. Crane said...

Me, too, Cindy. =) The parents I observed didn't appear to be having a good time. ;) Thanks for stopping by.