Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Back to School Thrills

Back to School becomes more significant when you have a child in Junior High. When Grace was younger I could buy any bunch of clothes so long as I followed the basic guidelines: pink and purple. Everyone was happy and life was good but somewhere along fourth grade she developed definite fashion opinions--think horses and rhinestones--and by sixth grade Grace was nearly impossible to buy clothes for, her idea of coordination meant wearing matching socks, accessorizing meant remembering her watch and she was growing so fast it didn't matter what she was wearing on bottom, it was too short. Way too short.

So this year, amidst all the turmoil over pierced ears and contacts and longing to look more grown up I decided to take matters into my own hands. Not my usual policy, I'm normally very hands-off when it comes to my children's choice of apparel--as long as they're fully covered and not sporting crude words across their chest I'll let them out of the house with orange and red stripes on top and a purple velour skirt on the bottom. They'll learn, right? How many adults do you see walking around like that? But given the degree of trauma we were experiencing I deviated from procedure and enacted some drastic measures.

Originally I'd given Grace cash to purchase her own school clothes and was going to leave her to her business. She did fine with a bit of it but then came to a dead end. I decided more effort (translate money) was needed and had a serious conversation with my little Eliza Doolittle. I picked up the basics: jean jackets, khakis, various t-shirts for layering, hair clips, socks, sweatshirts, and then taught a lesson in Layering 101.

Then came the biggest part: make-up. This was a little trickier so I took her to a professional--to my friend Trachelle, a cosmetologist (which had Grace wondering why she needed to consult an astro-physicist--I wonder if Carl Sagan ever made that mistake).

Trachelle showed her the basics such as blush and lip gloss but when she pulled out an eyelash curler Grace thought it was some kind of medieval torture device and had a hard time getting the hang of it. Then came the real kicker: shaping eyebrows. Even though Grace is too young to darken her eyebrows Trachelle felt no one is too young for the Art of Eyebrow Extraction and without delay tipped her back in the chair and began plucking her fair brows into shape.

Grace looked at me as if I'd turned to over to a white slaver, betrayal was all over her face as each hair was pulled out. She was shocked that anyone would voluntarily submit to having their eyebrow hairs plucked out by the roots but she did look great afterwards. Trachelle's right about the shape of your brows.

I was pretty pleased with the whole process, Grace got suggestions I hadn't thought of and came away with just the right amount of make-up, just enough to give her a healthy glow but not enough to look overly made up (she was terrified she'd come out looking "like Jenna"--some girl at school who's been wearing make-up since kindergarten and who's reputation hasn't faired well consequently).

So success! She feels more grown up and looks great and is taking more care with her appearance (10 minutes every morning now). Though she came home from school today reporting that two boys offered to help her with her locker today "for no reason." Great. maybe I was too hasty in the whole extreme makeover thing.

Spencer and David are low maintenance by comparison. T-shirts, jeans, socks and underwear and they're ready for launch. Last night they both laid out their outfits for the first day of school in proper anatomical positions on the carpet beside their beds, giving the impression that a steam roller had run through the room leaving nothing but squashed little outlines on the floor.

About the only thing Spencer needed that was tough to find was a new pair of play shoes. I took him to Wal-Mart but I was about a week or two too late, everything was gone, nothing but girly clogs on otherwise bare shelves.

As we left the shoe department in the women’s section I saw a display of high tops--not pink or purple, just black so I grabbed a pair of the smallest size and asked Spencer if he wanted to try something different this year. He immediately perked up and became very excited to wear such “cool shoes.” Evidently, they were the rage at cub scout camp but he'd never known what they were called and couldn't ask for them.

They fit "perfectly," though I’ve found my children’s shoe comfort is directly proportional to the attraction and style. If my kids think the shoes are ugly it doesn’t matter how well they fit all I can get out of my children is that the pain is comparable to having your toes sawed off. But if the shoes are cool the kids are determined to wear them and no amount of discomfort will dissuade them from their purchase--they could be trailing blood but the shoes are "great."

So with this successful fitting I didn’t have any intention of telling him that he was wearing a pair of women’s shoes and I combed the box to see if there was any indication of the source of feminity, they're not exactly the most female of designs. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Let's just hope he doesn't show up at school and the girl next to him has a pair just like his. I don't think my shopping credability would survive that kind of disaster.