The last week has been a busy one, if the word busy can be summed up by saying that I have planned a birthday party, shopped for a birthday party, thrown a birthday party, survived an overnighter (where small boys stayed up entirely too late and spent the majority of the following daylight hours shrieking over video games and inhaling all of my food), orchestrated a birthday dinner for the boy, conducted another completely spontaneous dinner party at our house, made a trip to Bigger Town, USA (which is far enough away to constitute the use of half a tank of gas) to deposit Cody’s mom at the airport and secure enough denim bottoms for the boy to start the school year with, spent a full day working at the office, accomplished three loads of laundry, cleaned up the hideous remains of a potted houseplant that Cat 2 felt the need to stalk, attack, and kill to the death, and successfully managed to run the dishwasher twice.
The entire realm of party-throwing and dinner-having and working and adding detergent to both the washing machine and the dishwasher was nothing, when compared to the feat of taking my son shopping for clothes.
The boy has grown an inch over the summer, which he was quite pleased with, until he learned that a couple of his friends managed to sprout two entire inches since May. The basketball playing does not appear to be in his future.
Gaining an inch in height in the last couple of months has caused a bit of a problem at home, because the boy’s jeans are all powerfully short now. Man capris, as Hubs is prone to calling them. Or, as the boy’s good friend Kellen’s mom is fond of saying, “Why don’t you throw a party, and tell your socks to invite your pants down?” A retirement party was planned for the boy’s Seven-Slims, and we didn’t invite the socks.
The back-to-school denim sales in Bigger Town beckoned to us, and we gave in to their calling, starting with Old Navy.
I grabbed a stack of size 8 slims, and the boy and I hit the dressing room, where he asked, “Hey, Mom, if I’m really good on our shopping trip today, could we just skip a trip to Toys R Us, like we usually do when we come to Bigger Town, and instead could we just go to American Eagle, because I want to get a fedora hat there, like the cute neighbor boy has, because that’s where he said he bought his?”
I stared at him in amazement. This was a major milestone for us. My baby was asking to give up a potential trip to Toys R Us in exchange for a trip to a clothing store. Toys R Us has always been the boy’s best friend.
The trick to good parenting is to never quickly agree to the terms placed on the table in full. I smiled and said, “Well, we’ll see. We’ll see how you do.” Phrasing my response like this was a pre-meditated tactic, which gave me the power; I would see how the boy behaved, and maybe, if all went well and mama’s nerves weren’t completely sizzled by the end of the trip, we could hop on over to a store or two of his choice.
The doffing of the boy’s shorts and the donning of eight pairs of size 8 slims proved one thing to us:
Old Navy, you have made your pants longer this year.
None of the 8’s worked. They were all so long, the boy’s shoes were completely hidden by the yards of extra denim piling up around his ankles. I looked at the boy and said, “Stay here,” and I went back to the shelves of jeans. I loaded up on a stack of size 7 slims, and we started the entire process over, and guess what?
The Old Navy Seven-Slims that are in the boy’s closet drawers right now? Well, they are entirely too short. But the two pairs of brand-spanking new Old Navy Seven-Slims, which are still sitting in a plastic sack from the clothing store on our dining room table? They fit perfectly. I have no logical explanation for it.
As a side note, I’ll just throw it out there and let you know that shopping for jeans for Hubs is nothing short of my worst nightmare. The man wears Levi’s and Carhartts, and absolutely nothing else. I keep tossing out suggestions that maybe he’d look really cool in a pair of faded wash jeans from American Eagle, and he looks at me like I’ve suddenly decided to stay home and cook a seven-course dinner. Surprise. And then he says, “Real men don’t wear those jeans. I wear Levi’s. And Carhartts. And that’s it.” And then I make bold suggestions that perhaps Hubs would look fantastically tough in a pair of whiskered jeans from Abercrombie, and he sighs and says, “Honey, not a chance. I wear Levi’s. And Carhartts. And all the other jeans are for men who don’t understand the rules of hockey.”
Clearly, the boy is my last hope at getting a guy in our house to wear trendy denim.
Our next stop was a hot spot in the mall in Bigger Town, where I found some size 8 slim Levi’s on sale. The boy and I took four pairs into the fitting room, and he looked at them and said, “I don’t think these are going to work. I can just look at them, and I know they won’t fit.”
“Try them on.”
“But you can just look at a pair of pants sometimes, Mom, and you can feel in your bones whether they’ll be good for you or not, and I don’t think that these are going to be good for me.”
“Oh, that’s too bad; I think I just heard the doors on American Eagle closing. All the fedoras are locked up.”
The boy tried the Levi’s on. And then he stood in front of the mirror, and he gasped and said, “Wow! These jeans are perfect. I love them. I don’t want any other jeans after all. Just buy these four pairs, and we can wrap up our shopping.”
The boy had fallen in love with the Levi’s. Much like his daddy. Red lights were flashing all around me. I assured him that we’d get two pairs of them, and our next stop was Gap Kids. To this, the boy cried out, “Why? These pairs of jeans are great; I don’t need any more from the Gap!”
We went to Gap Kids anyway. I hauled four pairs of Eight-Slims and the boy into the fitting room. He looked at them, and his eyes started to spin around in his head like he’d had entirely too much caffeine. He threw his head back and said, in a rather calm voice, “Four pairs? This is ridiculous! I don’t have what it takes to try four pairs of jeans on in here! I’m tired! My legs are sick of being in new jeans! I want the Levi’s. I don’t even like these Gap jeans. I can tell just by looking at them that they’re going to be all wrong! Look! I’ll just hold them in front of my body, and you can see for yourself that they won’t work for me!”
This entire conversation took place very quietly, so I was surprised when my head fell backwards and I snapped. Quietly snapped, without a sound, right there in the fitting room of Gap Kids, in which I had hit a shopping wall. I wanted to go home; I wanted to crawl into my bed and fling the covers over my head; I wanted to melt an entire dark chocolate bar into a cup of hot chai tea; I never wanted to see another pair of Eight-Slims again.
I sat there under the fluorescent lights in that fitting room, quietly wishing to be some place else, and I realized then that boys, if left on this planet without female guidance, would grow up to wear nothing but Levi’s and wrinkled shirts. They would belch everywhere and anywhere. They would eat nothing but take-out pizzas, and the cardboard boxes would be stacked to appalling heights on their kitchen counters. They would quit shaving and wearing deodorant. They would all drive El Caminos. I was placed in my boy’s life to be an intervention and to stop this from happening. And, regardless of the fact that I wanted to be done shopping right then, just as much as he did, I had to muster the strength to get him to jump into a few more pairs of jeans, because the vision of a run-down, souped-up El Camino sitting in my driveway someday horrified me.
And that’s when I looked in the mirror in that Gap Kids fitting room and suddenly realized, for the first time, that my face actually looked better if I put a hand on either side of my eyes and pulled the skin backwards.
When on earth did THAT happen?
I sat there, a victim of the silent snapping, and pulled my facial skin backwards, over and over again, and tried to come to terms with the facts that no boys in my house were ever going to wear the whiskered jeans and that a face lift might actually be something I’d enjoy.
As Dolly Parton once said, “There is no such thing as natural beauty.” I can see that now. Sometimes natural beauty is just a couple of good tugs and two staples away.
Eventually, the boy patted me on the shoulder and quietly asked, “Mom? Mom, are you okay? I’ll try these pants on, after all. Look. I’m putting them on, Mom. Why are you pulling your eyes like that?”
We came home with six pairs of jeans, and only two of them are Levi’s. None of them are Carhartts. There may still be a tiny ray of hope for the boy.
We also came home with three new Under Armor shirts, because, according to the boy, Under Armor is how clothes are supposed to feel.
Dear Under Armor,
Why don’t you try making some jeans in, say, an 8 slim? And why does a little shirt made out of an ounce of nylon, need to cost $39.99?
While I worked today, the boy hung out with Mam and Pa, who took him fishing. They fished and they fished, and they made plans to try their hands at the sport again tomorrow, so it just seemed natural for the boy to spend the night with them.
When Hubs heard this, he looked at me and said, “We could go see a movie together.”
I like to think that Hubs was forming a Busy Week Recovery Plan for me, so we headed out to the local cinema to see Salt. I even managed a good giggle when my dad’s cousin’s daughter, who is exactly my age, drove by the theater and called out her truck window, “Are you guys on a date?” We told her that we were, and she said, “You’re so lucky! I’m going home to comb bubble gum out of a head of hair and make dinner, and I’d give anything to just be on a date right now!”
I also had to laugh at Hubs as we were standing in line to buy tickets, because he smacked his cell phone and said, “I’m like Jack Bauer; I just went dark. No one can find me! I am, for the duration of this movie, completely untraceable.”
And really? After this week, I decided that going dark was fantastic, so we both just powered down the cell phones and made plans to relax in front of the big screen.
Only…hello! If you have any hopes of relaxing, then Salt is really not for you. My blood pressure was high enough to start spurting out my ears throughout the entire film, and I’m pretty sure I crushed Hubs’ left hand twice during all the hopping from one semi on the interstate to another. My head was spinning by the time we left the theater.
My official movie review is simply this: Almost everyone gets shot. Fatally. Although there are a couple of bullet grazes that are survived. Almost everything blows up. After twelve explosions, I lost count. And I’d consider a woman lucky if she jumped off a bridge and landed on a semi truck. I’d consider her enormously lucky if she was then able to successfully jump to the back of a second semi truck. I’d then consider the movie to be slightly fake if she jumped from Semi Number Two onto the top of a rented truck from a moving company, all while everyone was driving on an interstate. At speeds above 40 mph. Evelyn Salt, you’re a whole lot tougher than I am.
Hubs liked the movie. A lot. It’s because the firepower never took a break.
On the way home, we ended up taking a route that takes us through what Hubs and I now call the Irritating Mousetrap. It’s a road block — a diversion, if you will — near one of our local grocery stores, which completely reroutes you to another street, whether you wanted to go in that direction or not. As we approached the Irritating Mousetrap, Hubs said, “Hey, you know you want to just go around it! Do it! Be Evelyn Salt and just drive where you want to! I triple dog dare you!” And, people, I could have. I could have broken the driving rules established by Small Town’s Chief Mousetrap-Designing Warriors, driven on the wrong side of the street, cleared the Irritating Mousetrap, and shot off in the direction that I wanted to go.
But I am not Evelyn Salt. I do not have what it takes to jump from one moving vehicle to another, over and over and over, or use a syringe to take venom out of a spider. My face looks better if I pull the skin backwards a little by my eyes. I have had a week.
I followed the Irritating Mousetrap, and I let it reroute me. I did what was right.
And, although I’m not good at hopping onto the backs of semi trucks, I can sort of survive a shopping trip with a ten-year-old boy, and I have six new pairs of jeans sitting on my dining room table for the 4th grade which proves it.
I consider that a major accomplishment.