I’m a girl. (No, really! I know my family doesn't see me that way, but I really am.). And as a girl, I like clothing. I like fashion. I like shopping — when it’s just me, and I have a relatively empty credit card, and I’ve just watched a mini-marathon of “What Not to Wear.”
I do not like shopping with my sons. But it is, on occasion, necessary. That is, if I don’t wish them to be whisked away by Child Services.
One son has pretty much reached his adult height, so shopping for him is painless — he just tells me to pick up another pair of jeans in the usual size, whenever I’m out. The other son, though (and despite my best efforts, like feeding him a steady diet of junk food and trying to get him to take up smoking) is still growing. Which led to our latest shopping expedition.
Which in turn led to my latest headache.
Now, I’m the one who generally has to push for these expeditions. I beg, cajole, shame — “Look at those pants! They’re up to your knees! They have holes upon holes! Aren’t you ashamed?” Usually he isn’t. Usually he shrugs and tells me he’s busy right then. Until one day he’ll suddenly, hysterically demand that I take him clothes shopping right now, how could I let him out of the house like that, what kind of mother am I?
(I refrain from rolling my eyes until they disappear into the top of my head.)
So we get in the car and go to Penney’s. We always shop at Penney’s. Penney’s has nice, safe, not-too-fashionable boys’ clothing, and they usually have some great bargains, to boot. So I’m jiggy with shopping at Penney’s — for them. (I’m more of a Macy's girl myself) My son already knows what he wants — five more pairs of the same pants he has on. (He’s currently in a khaki-cargo pant phase. Last season it was carpenter jeans. This is the adventurous one of my two sons — the other hasn’t worn anything but jeans in years. And perhaps, the same pair of jeans — I really can’t tell anymore.)
All right, let’s go, I say, with touching optimism that this will be a short, painless trip.
My first clue that it won’t be is when I dare to voice the hope that he’ll try the pants on before we buy them. “No,” he says firmly. “Why not?” I ask. “Because,” he replies. “You’re gonna,” I say. We growl at each other, then head for the boys’ department. He’s at the very upper end of this department; he could probably go into the men’s, but that’s so hard, what with all the numbers and stuff involved. Shopping for men’s clothing is like being back in algebra class. I just can’t hack it.
So we go to the safety of the boys’ department, and look for the exact same pants he has on — since, naturally, we bought them here.
The second clue that this won’t be painless? The fact that they don’t have these pants anymore.
“But look — these are almost the same,” I hold up a pair. Son grimaces.
“They have zippers at the knees,” he says.
“I don’t like zippers.”
“But they’re exactly the same, except for that!”
“I don’t like zippers.”
“Fine.” I toss the pants aside and continue looking. Son doesn’t help. He just stands there, frustrated at my inability to magically produce a pair of pants that no longer exists. “What about these?” I hold something else up. It’s got pockets, two legs and a fly. Personally, I think it’s close enough to what he’s looking for.
"No,” he says, wandering away to a rack of different-sized clothes. He holds up a pair of pants that look similar to the ones he’s wearing. “I suppose I could get these.”
“Not your size,” I reply.
“How do you know?”
“I just know.”
“But they look OK.” He holds the pair up to his waist, and the length does look OK. Maybe the waist does, too - it's close.
“Well, try them on.”
“No!” His eyes widen in horror, as if I’ve just suggested that he disrobe right then and there.
“If you want them, you have to try them on.”
“They’ll be fine.”
“How do you know?”
“They’ll be fine.”
“I’m not taking them back if they don’t fit.”
“They’ll. Be. Fine.”
“It’s coming out of your allowance if they don’t fit—”
“Then find me the other pants.”
“They don’t have them in your size!” I throw a pair of pants — with those cursed zippered knees — across the aisle, where they almost hit an elderly lady in the head.
“I don’t like—”
“I know!! You don’t like zippers! Just try those da** pants on!!!!”
Son gets tears in his eyes — which he is sometimes inclined to do, and hates himself for, and so gets really cross and angry with me when he does because I’m usually the person who has reduced him to this state. Because, you know, I exist. “You’re embarrassing me!” He hisses, turning his face away from me, clutching the pants, his knuckles white.
“Try the pants on. Now,” I hiss back.
He sighs. He trudges to the fitting room. I follow behind, feeling like such a…a…MOM. I wish I were at Macy’s, trying on cute boots.
Son reaches fitting rooms, The doors are closed tightly. He turns around and says with a triumphant smirk, “They’re full.”
“Then we’ll wait,” I reply.
He turns around and sighs again.
We stand in silent — yet bitter — companionship; two sentries guarding the fitting room doors.
A lady and her son cut in front of us, walking right up to those doors. “Oh, they’re full—” I start to say. Then stop, when, with a simple knock on the door, the lady discovers that one of them is, in fact, empty, and she and her little brat sashay inside.
“Mom,” son says with a mature shake of his head.
We stand some more. The other door opens. Son goes inside — after first telepathically warning me that if I so much as take one single step after him, his head will explode and I will have to explain to his father and brother why we’ll be setting one less place at the dinner table from now on.
So I stay rooted to the spot. I didn’t want to go in there, anyway…I mean, it’s not like I need to see that the pants really do fit, it’s not like I suspect that he’s not above telling me they do just to prove his point, and then in two weeks they’ll still be in the bag on his dresser, unworn, the tags caught off and the receipt thrown away just to thwart me, no, it’s not like I suspect that at all…..
“They fit.” He emerges from the fitting room with the pants draped casually over his arm.
“They’re long enough?”
“They fit in the waist?”
“The crotch isn’t too—”
And then his head does explode. Well, really it doesn’t. But if it could, it would; he turns bright red, his eyes grow cold and dead, and he expresses — very articulately, considering — the fervent wish that he and I did not share any strands of DNA.
I have to confess, my own wish at the moment isn’t so very different.
I pay for the pants. I rejoice, a little, at the savings — 50% off! I make my son carry the bag. I also make him walk with me through the ladies’ underwear section on the way to the car, just for fun. His head starts to throb ominously, but he makes it to the parking lot without further cranial damage. When we get home, I make him take the pants up to his room.
The next day they were still there, in a bag on top of his dresser. He wore an old pair of raggedy khaki cargo pants to school.
The day after that, they were still in the bag. He wore another old pair of pants. (With zippered knees. When I pointed this out — using a combination of hand gestures, broken words, and repeated smacking of my forehead with the palm of my hand — he merely shrugged.)
I'm giving it another week. Either he wears those pants —
Or someone’s head will explode. Two guesses whose it will be.
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