Shop ‘Til You Drop. Or Cry. Or Howl.

31 08 2008

When I was a kid, few things made my stomach roll with anxious excitement quite like the thought of going shopping for back-to-school clothes. Excitement because, with each new school year came a shot at re-invention. A chance to impress my peers with the chic and stylish new me that had evolved in the last week of August. And anxiety, because not only did the new me have a tendency to pick out the exact same clothes that the old me would have picked out, thus spoiling any chance of impressing anyone with any re-invention, but also because back-to-school shopping meant going shopping with my mother. Oh the horror.

Back-to-school clothes shopping with my mother was – how can I put this gently – a nightmare. A nasty, brutish and short nightmare. Clothes shopping with me quickly morphed her into a snarling, starving werewolf. Her general approach to shopping is less like a leisure activity, and more like a military exercise. You’re going into a hostile mall environment, so you better know exactly what you want and exactly where to find it. And don’t even think about stopping to collect any casualties. Or accessories. They’re dead weight, and a waste of time. Get what you need, pay for it, get out, and go home for lunch before somebody gets hurt. And whatever you buy better fit, better not be too expensive, and better not look like “something you’d see on Jarvis Street”, which was code for anything hooker-looking. I, on the other hand, always liked to take my grand old time. I had to explore every article that caught my eye. Rub it against my cheek. Smell it. Imagine it in fifteen different scenarios, and assess its potential for mixing and matching with the new me and the old wardrobe. Try it on. Sometimes more than once, depending on my degree of indecision. Stop for a leisurely snack in the food court. Repeat the exploring/assessing/trying on process a dozen or so times, preferably in several stores. Then go back and buy the first few things I tried on, which, incidentally, closely resemble all the stuff already in my closet, only more expensive. Throw in a few outlandish impulse accessory purchases that may or may not ever see the light of day, and voila! My perfect back-to-school shopping day trip. See how these two shopping styles could cause a little conflict, and much rolling of eyes (me) and gnashing of werewolf teeth (her)? Yeeeaah. And that was even before I started wanting to buy Jarvis Street hooker clothes in high school.

Now, as the mother of two little girls who are about to head back to school, I vowed that we would not follow in the same frustrated footstomps of my mother and me. I promised myself that our back-to-school clothes shopping experiences would be the picture of family bonding. There would be no yelling. No crying. No eye rolling. No werewolves. Things would be different. And they were. This weekend, as I traipsed through stores – touching, smelling, imagining – the rest of my family seemed intent on sabotaging my attempt to get the biggest pile of perfect clothing for the smallest pile of credit card debt. Roo rode in the cart, barely able to tolerate the bright lights, loud noise and general hustle and bustle of the over-crowded understocked Sprawlmart. Neener alternated between wanting everything and then nothing, all the while trying to hide under racks and shelves of clothes and whining about going to Mc Donald’s or getting a Kindersurprise. Mr., along for the trip to help kiddie wrangle, did his best to be patient with us all, and to prevent a scene. God love him, he tried. And Squiggles – obviously more than a little jealous that she was not in on the shopping action despite her own rapidly shrinking wardrobe and rapidly growing legs – just yelled and squiggled. And threatened to poop. We made it out of the Sprawlmart with $150 in hastily selected crappy Sprawlmart clothes, and everyone’s nerves slightly more than slightly frayed. Then we pushed our luck. We went shoe shopping. Hoping to salvage the trip, I suggested that Mr. take Squiggles for a walk while I took my big little girls shopping for some new, desperately needed big little girl shoes. Which would have been fine had the shoe store had an even remotely decent selection of comfortable, sensible, not-nauseatingly-expensive big girl shoes. Right from the get-go, Roo was set on a pair of sporty pink Disney Princess mary janes. With blinky lights on the heels. There was only one pair. In her size, naturally. And naturally, everything else in her size was either too flimsy, to boyish, or too hard to get on and off by herself. I had no choice but to let her get them. And naturally, Neener decided that she too needed sporty pink Disney Princess blinky heeled shoes. But Neener was shit out of luck. They didn’t have them in her size, and it would take a week to get them in. Let the teeth gnashing (her) and eye rolling (me) begin! I tried to talk her into a sparkling black and silver pair of Hannah Montana mary janes.

No! The don’t have blinky lights!

A pair of blue and silver Champions, just like the ones she had last year?

No! I want blinky lights!

A sporty pink pair with rhinestones and silver stripes?

No! I! Neeeeeeeeeeed! Bliiiiiinky! Liiiiiiights!

No. What Neener needed was to be escorted from the shoe store by her father, who heard her howling at the other end of the mall. And suddenly, faced with the prospect of being dragged from the mall, new big girl shoeless, Neener changed her tune. The howling stopped. She peeled herself off the mall floor.

Fine. I’ll get the sparkling black and silver Hannah Montanas.

Score one for Mommy. Yes, my kid threw a fit, and yes, I wound up buying two pairs of over-priced Disney character themed shoes. But, I had accomplished what I’d set out to do: I took my daughters back-to-school shopping and I did not turn into a howling, teeth gnashing werewolf. And, it was buy one get one half price at the shoe store. Score two for Mommy!

I can also proudly say that, despite the best efforts of many manufacturers of trampy little girls’ clothing (yeah, I’m talking to you, Stuff by Hillary Duff!), none of the back-to-school duds my daughters will be sporting next week even remotely resemble something you’d see on Jarvis Street. No. Not yet. I am not so confident in my own parental omnipotence to think that our back-to-school shopping battles won’t ever go there. I’m sure they will. They are, after all, my daughters. But I am also my mother’s daughter. Which means I could morph into a snarling, starving werewolf  – who likes to take her time shopping – at the drop of a hookerish looking hat. And then…ooooh the horror.




8 responses

1 09 2008

T.ake one kid ,with a mind of her own and feet like a duck, and try to squeeze her into things that make her look like a bag of mush tied in the middle and she, insisting that is what she wants and you’ve got me. Regardless of the fact that I have no taste or no patience , this scenario looks good on you. To this day I can send my sister shopping for me. The time will come when you wil crave an Aunt Dookie. i still ask her opinion. Remember the prom. may you live in interesting fashion!

1 09 2008

I have an Aunt Dookie. Her name is Jody. She was just too damn far away this time around!

1 09 2008

Aunt dookies are never too far away!

2 09 2008
Mr. Blister

Untrue Nanny, Jody is too far away. Especially (but not exclusively) when we are shopping.

2 09 2008

Hmmm, perhaps future back-to-school shopping will involve the girls and I making a trip to Toronto at the end of August to shop with Jody. And we can see what’s being worn on the Jarvis Street runway first hand!

2 09 2008

I’m tired so excuse the segue: what happened with Neener? Roo? and the kid in the park – did they meet again?

And, how did the girls fare at FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL? Is Squiggles missing them?

2 09 2008

Hahahahaha, sorry to keep you hanging Lisa! We have yet to encounter the mysterious Ms. Brookelyn at the park. But that’s ok. Neener has since made several new best friends – a different one each trip to the park, in fact. Seems people come form all over town to play in this park, but no one goes there on a regular basis except us!
And they don’t start school until tomorrow, so you can look forward to a full report soon. But, I spent some time at the school today and I’ve got high hopes. Not a single person I spoke to suggested that Roo had “emotional problems or an ill temperament” so we’re already off to a better start than we had last year!

4 09 2008

They can come back to school shopping anytime!!

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