As I mentioned previously, this has been a bad week and I almost had a stroke. For all I know, I did, actually. But I don't have time to mess with going to the hospital or the doctor, or even calling a ask-a-nurse. I'm busy. It's the week leading up to the most important event of Daughter #1's life: Her first high-school formal. No. It's not prom. She's too young to go to prom unless invited by an upper-classman. It's winter formal - Snowball - to be exact.
The preparations have caused me many hours of reflection. She's already attended two formals - in junior high - yes, formals. You know, complete with long formal dresses cut down to there and setting me back several hundred dollars. I don't recall having a long dress or even a formal until my junior year - prom. In my day, schools recognized the financial burden of holding such extravaganzas and limited them to once a year - for upper classmen only. Prom. The day you looked forward to your entire junior high/high school career. A special day. A day on which you dressed like a princess, in a dress your parents couldn't afford but sacrificed to buy you, rode in your parent's car and went out to eat at a fancy place that you otherwise would never go to. A day to pretend you were an adult.
But in today's society, the over-zealous parents rule, and they cannot wait for their daughter to arrive in her junior year so she can go to prom. Instead, these women (and I say that because I find it very hard to believe that ANY father or man is actually behind this new plot) start pushing formal dances in junior high. And not wanting to be the mother that tells her daughter no and scar her for life, I'm forced to go along with the bullshit - like a lost sheep following the herd.
So, back to the preparations for this dance. The FIRST formal of her high school career. (Which in my mind means there will be more and therefore, NOT a big deal, but I'm not 14 and as such, we do not see things in the same light). A new dress was in order. There is no way that either of the other two formals we own would suffice. Those were from junior high. And no, for the Love of God mother, we cannot just trade dresses around - everyone has already seen them. (I'm such a dipshit when I come up with those kinds of ideas). And no, a dress could not be purchased in our home-town - we had to make a special trip - an entire day's trip - to the "big" city to look for this dress. So I got myself mentally prepared for this outing - it would be fun! A day for just the two of us - me and my Daughter #1 - shopping - doing gal stuff - without the prodigal son, Daughter #2 or the husband. Just me and my beautiful daughter who is very quickly maturing into a lovely young woman right before my eyes at a pace that is so rapid, I cannot even calculate it. She asked to bring a friend. My heart sunk. And in all my 40 something, motherly mature way, I responded, "WHAT? What the hell am I supposed to do all day? Just walk behind the two of you looking like a loser while you two laugh and giggle and enjoy the day? I thought it would be just the two of us?"
See, that's how it's done. Make the middle child feel guilty - she doesn't already inherently carry a heavy load on her shoulders anyway. Make the child pity you and your pathetic life without girl friends and world without girl outings and shopping excursions. Let her know just how empty your life really is. Nevermind the fact that I don't live in a world filled with girl outings and shopping excursions because I don't like to do that kind of shit - that's irrelevant - make her feel guilty for her selfishness of wanting to bring a friend. It works. She apologized and replied, "Okay mommy."
So off we went - our big adventure to the "big" city. We put on our biggest sunglasses, hopped in the car and off we went. She listened to her iPod and texted her friends the entire 60 mile drive there. I listened to whatever I could find on the radio through the one remaining un-blown speaker in my new car (what happens when you let your 17 year old drive your car to the store). When we arrived at our destination, I asked her where she'd like to start - she didn't know. So we just started wondering around. I suggested Nordstroms. It's her first formal of her high school career - let's get the dress somewhere special, right? Well, they wanted $350+ for their dresses and frankly, the occasion really wasn't that special so I wasn't willing to meet their prices so we continued along our trek. She must have tried on 10 dresses or more at the first store. None of them were to her satisfaction. The lines to the dressing rooms were miles long - and it took a VERY long time. But the dresses were not "the one". So we moved forward, to the other stores - the SAME stores they have at our home-town mall. The same dresses in every store - or so it seemed to me. She claimed they were different - but they all looked the same to me.
We finally got to Dillards (which is where we entered the mall to begin with) and started trying on dresses. ALL of the dresses. EVERY single dress in the store. And because there were 50 other girls trying on dresses and because they were evidently all the same size, the selection kept changing every 10 minutes as the girls threw the dresses back out to their mothers and they were returned to the racks. Having no chairs for the patient mothers to sit in, I plopped down on the floor outside of her dressing room. It smelled like feet down there. Like a stinky old locker room. 10 dresses in, 10 dresses out. And off I'd go, to grab 10 more. I bet we went through more than 50 dresses. Maybe more.
One of the first dresses she tried was a short number. I thought it was too short and I really didn't think it was becoming on her. I liked the long dress - the navy one - with the amazingly chic cutaways at the back and sides. It looked amazing on her. But she really wanted a short dress - she didn't want to be "over" dressed. 3 hours and a million dresses later, she decided on the first one that I didn't really like. The exact one I specifically said was too short and unbecoming. Having completely lost my will to live at this point and wishing I'd let her bring that friend so the friend could be the one sitting there on the stinky-feet floor while I was off getting my neck rubbed or having makeup applied by one of those Mimi looking gals at the MAC counter, I succumbed. "Perfect! I love it! Let's pay for it and blow this Popsicle stand!"
As we drove to a local restaurant to indulge in some Pad Thai, I was informed that because the dress was ivory, she would need to fake bake, and because the dress was short, she would need to wear her hair down but wanted a braid for a headband and oh - don't forget - I need to get my eyebrows waxed. And oh - is it okay if everyone comes over after the dance? Trying to be one of "those" moms - you know - the cool mom - the one that treats her daughter like a princess, recognizes that these "things" are monumental and necessary when you are 14 - I agree to all.
We stopped at a book store on our way out of town - she wanted a book. And what kind of mother would I be if I did not foster her desire to READ (I so rarely see kids reading anymore that I'm thrilled when one of mine displays a love for a good book). We grabbed some coffee infused confections on our way out and headed home. The drive home was different than the drive there. She didn't listen to her iPod. She didn't text her friends. Instead, she turned off my radio in search of silence, opened her book and read. While I drove her home in complete silence, left with nothing but my thoughts. Thoughts about how I really wasn't one of "those" mothers. Thoughts of wondering - do "those" mothers even exist? Or are "they" just putting on a front to make me feel inferior?
That was two weeks ago. The dance is tomorrow night. And just about every night, either myself or my husband has transported her to and from the tanning salon - dropping her off to fake bake and increasing her risk to skin cancer - in 20 minute intervals. Dropping what we're doing when we get the text that she's done and getting dressed so we can return to the salon to retrieve her. It's driven a wedge between the husband and me. We're no longer irritated with her over the tanning - we're pissed at each other. Tuesday, she had a brow waxing appointment (this really is a necessity for her and I started her on this routine when she was far younger - it had to be done). My husband drove her to that brow waxing appointment, after he'd already taken her to the orthodontist, and right before they went to see "Dear John" together. My husband's a gem - and he seemed to enjoy his girl's day out with her more than I did when I took her shopping for that dress.
On task for today/tonight - cleaning the house, purchasing $300 worth of junk food and decorations - for the after-dance party being held at my house. I'm a glutton for punishment. I'm already irritated at the thought of 10 squealing girls, dressed in formals, returning to my house, plowing through my kitchen, one will get a stomach ache - I can guarantee it. One will cry. I can promise you that. And there will be boys - invited, welcome, or not. They'll show up. Through our back yard, where they will be greeted by my husband - reminding them that the proper way to see our daughter is via our FRONT door - NOT the back yard. The girls will stay up all night, eating and watching scary movies and squealing and my husband and I will not get a wink of sleep. And just as we do finally doze off, the little one will wake up and inform us that the trees are covered in TP and the cars have been wrapped in cellophane. And my husband will put on his clothes, trudge outside and bitch under his breath the entire time he cleans it up.
I will parlay the damage to the interior of my house. Start the clean up process and try to get on with my life while the 10 little angels sleep peacefully on the family room floor. My clanking of dishes and the sound of the vacuum will cause them to stir and sleepy eyed and hungover from fun, they will ask, "What's for breakfast?" And I will again start cussing "those" mothers - the ones who initiated this whole multiple formal dances throughout junior high and high school. The ones who just couldn't WAIT for the junior year to introduce this rite to their children. And knowing full well "those" mothers are at their houses making a 12 course breakfast to feed their sleepy brood - I will feel obligated to do the same.
Also, note to self: Get 2nd job, because you have 3 more years of this and 2 of those will include 2 formal dances - so that's like $8 million needed just for school dances. That doesn't even include Homecoming - which also requires a dress - more formal than an every day kind of dress, but not AS formal as Snowball and Prom is more formal than all of them. Seriously? In my day, only Royalty at these events wore super fancy clothing. (except Prom) - but because, as a society, we feel compelled to make all children feel like winners, and because we promote ineptness and encourage it with positive feedback (good job!!! Even though you stood there and got hit with the ball instead of putting your glove out to catch it and you're a complete dipshit- GOOD JOB!!! YOU ARE A WINNER!) - we've now carried this ridiculous attitude over to irrelevant shit like dances. I'm sure somewhere, sometime there was a mother, who having been scarred by not being Snowball Queen, decided that ALL the girls should LOOK like the queen and started this whole fiasco. I wasn't Snowball Queen or Homecoming Queen or any other kind of queen. I didn't have a desire to dress in fancy clothing and be a wanna be. I knew my place in the hierarchy of things back then and I was comfortable with it. I enjoyed it.
So THANK YOU!!! Thank you to you over-zealous, living your lives vicariously through your daughters, SOB mothers. Thank you - for finding a way for our teens to suck the last ounce of remaining life we had left right out of our souls. I really do hope you achieve that "special feeling" of royalty as you watch your young daughters prance around in dresses inappropriate for their age and that all your teen scars are healed from the experience. And as you sit and reminisce on the night before and how beautiful and mature your 14 year old looked the night before and wonderful it was that she, too, would be perceived as royalty - I'll be in bed sucking my thumb.