I hate clothes shopping. Hate, hate, hate it.
I’m a big proponent of the capsule wardrobe, and about once a year, I force myself to sit down and order a giant box of replacement pieces – 80% of which I’ll return because they were too small, or too big, or too something. If online shopping didn’t exist, I’d still be wearing spit-up stained t-shirts from 14 years ago. So yay, Internet.
My 14-year-old daughter, however, did not inherit my loathing of crowded, loud, overly scented stores with bad music and impenetrable, disorganized racks of synthetic fabrics. She’s pretty close to perfect in all ways but this one, so I give her a pass on this blatant character flaw.
She’s in high school now – a lovely Catholic high school that requires a lovely Catholic high school uniform, thereby further eliminating any need for me to step foot in a shopping mall. I live a charmed life.
Nonetheless, a couple weeks back, Zoë came up to me and said she needed a Homecoming dress and “oh, also some stage clothes.” I’m pretty sure that if your daughter actually asks you to go shopping with her for her first high school dance and you refuse, you get sent immediately to spooky mommy hell. And that, my friends, is how I ended up at Forever 21, combing through racks for a reasonably modest semi-formal dress and skintight black leather pants.
Confused? I’ll back up a bit.
Zoë is the lead singer for a Runaways-inspired all-female rock band called Queens of Noise. There they are:
If you don’t know who The Runaways are, don’t worry – neither did I. They were Joan Jett’s teenage band. 1970s hard rock, birth of the feminist stuff. What can I say? They were big in Japan.
The girls play out a lot. They’re actually pretty good for a group of 12 to 14-year-olds who have to fit in band practice around school plays, athletics, and algebra homework.
Here’s a clip of them performing “Ain’t Afraid,” by the late Jessi Zazu at this summer’s Tomato Art Fest:
Now, I might not know much about 70s rock, but I do know that it’s not compatible with that adorable Catholic school uniform. So, I was onboard with picking up a few things while we were out hunting for the homecoming dress.
Usually, I have three goals when shopping with Zoë:
- Get done as quickly as possible.
- Spend as little as possible.
- Cover as much skin as possible.
But this time, our mission was different: Create a rock and roll wardrobe, the wilder, the better. Oh, and also find a dress.
Forever 21 did not disappoint. We spent three hours collecting the craziest clothes on the racks, and there was a surprising selection to choose from. I don’t know who wears that stuff in real life, but hunting through it was actually (gasp) fun.
We headed back to the dressing room with piles of leather pants, cropped shirts, vinyl bustiers, and exactly two dresses.
Zoë may want me to shop with her, but like most teenage girls, she certainly doesn’t want me around while she shimmies into and out of a hundred get-ups. That meant I was left holding up the wall outside the dressing room door. There were actually a few of us there – middle-aged women standing in the hallway, staring at our phones and smiling sheepishly at each other like a casting call for “bored mom.”
There was another teenage girl trying on dresses in the room right next to Zoë’s. Her mom and aunt were laughing with each other, periodically offering their opinions on the dresses in question.
“I think that’s a little big; it hangs funny. Don’t you think?” the mom asked, looking for my opinion.
I agreed – because that’s what you do when a stranger who’s been standing next to you for half-an-hour is nice enough to talk to you.
The girl disappeared behind the closed door – moving on.
Then, she says, “Oh, I didn’t see this when it was on the rack,” (Girl, you NEVER see all the problems on the rack, I’m telling you shopping SUCKS) “This won’t work,” she says, opening the door.
“Lord, no!” Her aunt says. “Your grandma will never let you out of the house in that!”
The dress was a pretty black thing, with a slit that ran from the floor up to mid-thigh. I assume the slit was the problem.
Just then, Zoë throws open the door to her dressing room, saying, “I like it! What do you think?”
The women next to me took a look, raised their eyebrows and pursed their lips.
I thought about explaining. Making sure they knew I wasn’t that kind of mom – whatever the kind of mom is, who lets her fourteen-year-old daughter traipse around in see-through pants. But somehow that felt like betraying the secret, ruining the inside joke.
“I think it’s PERFECT,” I said.
I’ve got a feeling that afternoon is going to be one of my fondest memories of Zoë’s teenage years. The day I spent four hours in the mall, became a pariah in the dressing room, and had a damn good time doing it.