Yesterday, my son texted me while I was out running errands. His text said the following:
“Can u pls bring me a white shirt by 100”
So I responded back:
“For you? Does it have to be new?”
No response. I have no idea what the boy wants… is this for a project? Is it for him to wear? No clue. I happened to be at Walmart when he texted me, so I picked up a $5 white t-shirt and bought it along with everything else. He really doesn’t own any white t-shirts because my boys instantaneously stain white shirts within seconds of putting them on.
I drove to his middle school, the requested white shirt in a Walmart bag on the seat next to me. Baby L and I were just going to run it inside and drop it off with the school secretary. I glanced down at the white bag and I wondered for a moment if it would embarrass him for me to be bringing him a new t-shirt in a Walmart bag.
And the reason why this occurred to me is because my brain instantly jumped to a memory of myself, in high school. In the small town I grew up in, there was this certain store that was VERY, VERY not cool. In my high school, like most middle and high schools, what you wore was very important. There comes a time that Rustlers just aren’t going to cut it anymore in the social strata that is teenage life. Of course, we grow up and pay mortgages and pediatrician bills and insane electric bills and suddenly that little label on our jeans isn’t QUITE as important. But to a 13, 16, 18 year old… it is of immense importance.
It was almost time for the TWIRP, or Sadie Hawkins dance at our high school. This is the dance where the girl asks the guy, instead of the other way around. It’s not as formal as Prom, or Homecoming, but it’s still a dressy event. I was talking with my grandmother about what I was going to wear and she looked over at me.
“You know, I was out shopping at UNCOOL STORE NAME, and they had these white, cotton blouses that were really pretty on clearance. I think that if we washed and ironed one very carefully, it would be beautiful. You could wear a black skirt and pearls. I think it would be really classy.”
I’m quite sure my eyes bugged out of my head in horror at the notion. For starters, my God, does she have any idea of the social suicide I would be creating if I wore something from UNCOOL STORE?? And to a DANCE?! It’s bad enough if you got caught wearing something from there to, say, GYM CLASS. I can’t even carry a backpack from that store! BUT TO A DANCE?! AND CLEARANCE?!?! That part alone is enough to make me want to retract my invite to that boy. Forget it. I feel the flu coming on.
She smiled at me, in that beautifully knowing way that she had.
“Will you please just try it for me? I’ll do all the work for you. If you don’t like it, I’ll take you shopping and we can find something else. But really, I think that you will be beautiful and no one will know where it’s from.”
And so, against my hormone-fueled-teenage-not-so-better judgment, I agreed. She went to the pariah store and bought me this white cotton blouse. It had flowy sleeves, a large ruffle that lined the deep v-neck front, and tiny pearl buttons (she might have added those buttons). She found me a long black skirt with a small slit on one side that fit my sixteen-year-old figure perfectly. She washed and starched and ironed this appalling shirt and invited me over to look at it (I wasn’t allowed to see it until she had worked her magic). I grudgingly agreed the shirt was pretty… I guess it might work. As a backup plan, I guess we could just stay at the hotel room we had all rented to party at. I could always accidentally spill something on it, say, in the first ten minutes of leaving the house. If I had to. Then we’d be forced to avoid the dance, and the throngs of label-conscious snooty teenagers who might call me out in public as a WEARER OF UNCOOL CLOTHES.
And the night of the dance came. As usually seemed to happen on big nights, we had family in from out of state and we were all at my grandmother’s house. I went upstairs to get ready. I put on my black pantyhose, my black fitted skirt, and hot rolled my hair. I lipsticked and mascara’ed and put on my drop pearl earrings. And then I put on the blouse and turned to the girl in the mirror.
I looked… well… beautiful. I looked grown up, and classy, and elegant. I looked everything my grandmother had said I would and more. I felt positively perfect in this outfit. I couldn’t have found anything better if I had tried.
She was a smart woman, my grandmother. She knew that it wasn’t about the label or the price or the store it came from. She knew, with enough love and care, that I’d be beautiful in anything, if I could find within myself the self esteem to pull it off.
And really, isn’t that true with most things in life?
I so very much miss that wonderful, beautiful, elegant woman. She was everything I hope to be.
Have a fabulous weekend, my friends.