This Freaking Kid.

I have two kids.  They couldn’t be more different.


This lovely young person has never given us more than five minutes of trouble in her life.  Now 19 and a half, she has always been the least teenagery teen you can possibly imagine.  She is wonderful.  A delight.

She’s in college now, a sophomore.  She calls me on her way to a Tuesday-morning class every week.  We talk about her weekend, plans for the day, her complex social life (she came out as a lesbian in her junior year of high school, and she’s doing well:  more girls are interested in her than have been interested in any man you know in his entire life).  But mostly we talk about her classwork, which really seems to interest her right now.

The kid writes a lot of papers.  She’s a film and lit major, and she loves speaking up in class, as The Gay Kid.  I have warned her that eventually, the novelty will wear off.  (“Like when you move back to San Francisco,” I remind her, helpfully.  “Everyone’s gay here.”)  But for now she’s doing well.

How well?  Gonna-be-a-TA-next-spring, kind of well.  She’ll be teaching.  At 20.  “Yeah, no one really cares that I’m two years old,” she shrugs.

Then there’s Kid Two.  Sigh.  Two:

She’s just turned 14.  Five feet nine, and then some.  She weighs, as you can see, 15 pounds.  And her current Vision Quest?  A red cocktail dress.  (Said dress, which was originally meant to be white, has recently gone to red, since her incessant chatter about white dresses resulted in a First-Communion-style rush on white-dress-buying among her classmates.)  This dress is for her eighth-grade, pre-graduation dinner dance, which as of this writing is “the most important event of my life”.

For those of us who have been there, this means “the event I will forget four days later, when I begin obsessing about summer camp.”

We have gone everywhere looking for this godforsaken thing.  We have searched for it in boutiques, department stores, on sale racks and at full price.  She’s taken her father, her mother, and me as hostages on the search.  Now (not unlike Israel) she has exhausted both resources and goodwill.  She’s alone, with neither dress nor transportation; and time is running out.

The problem?  There’s not just one:

Everything looks good on her.  The kid could wrap a piece of cloth around her waist, grab a skinnier piece and tie it around that, and call it a night.  When she was small, she did this every day.  She once walked into Les Halles in Midtown Manhattan with a swath of pink tulle over her skirt and a green one around her head.  A passing waiter stared.  “Cool!” he said.  It was 2002, and she was six.  (Eight years ahead of you, Lady Gaga.)

The things she likes cost quite a bit.  Our younger kid has her dad’s champagne taste.  Me, I’m Secondhand Rose.  But despite this kid’s fondness for Forever 21, she prefers the high-end to the chaotic emporia of the hoochie.  She’ll try on the cheap stuff, but the dresses that haunt her are the $400 numbers at Betsey Johnson.  Which she’ll try on.  Because she’s perverse.

She believes the perfect dress is out there.  I think we’ve convinced her there’s a chance the dress might not be red, but she persists in every other element of the fantasy.  The clouds will part and light will shine down upon this thing.  The price, the fit, the length – even, I think, the music in the dressing room – will be perfect.  Signs on the day of the purchase will point her in its direction.  And thus will they become one, Girl and Dress.

She argues strenuously against every dress that is not IT.  And so many dresses are not it – including many that may qualify.  “Too poofy.”  “Too pink.”  “Too casual.”  “This part here doesn’t fit,” she says, poking at an impossibly beautiful bodice.  All around us, shorter, older women – women who look more like me – try not to glare.


I don’t.  I am super nice.  I am Saint Anne of Stepmoms.

And why?  Why?

Because I’m really hoping she’s gonna be this way about boys.


9 responses to “This Freaking Kid.

  1. Update: Kid Two found the perfect dress. Well, Anne found it. On her own. And bought it, brought it home and gave it to Kid Two.

    After all the painful shopping, Anne went out on her own, shopped some more and found the dress she knew Kid Two was looking for.

    Isn’t she the best?

  2. Dancewosleeping

    Oh and by the way, that was one of the more…cogent…and even-handed comments about Israel that I’ve read this week.

    • You know, in light of the bashing Israel took and continues to take, I’m torn about having written even that.

      Every nation makes defensive decisions that cost it the goodwill of its allies. But Israel seems to pay an outsize price, and I wonder whether this is happening more recently or if I’m just imagining it. Is it that anti-Semites really are more prevalent and vocal now, or that I just notice them more?

      Again, I’m a former Catholic so this isn’t what you could call my first language. But the recent “Beat the Jew” game, in a town not too far from where I grew up, was a nasty wake-up call. Everybody deserves respect, support, and yes, protection from those who mean them harm.

      Anyway … thanks, dance. I’m glad it didn’t come off any harsher. That would not have been my intent. Ever. 🙂

      • dancewosleeping

        YOU’RE torn? In my own biased, Zionist (about a dirty a word as liberal or feminist) opinion, yes you’re right…Israel (and Jews) are held to a higher standard.
        There are many ways to wage war; not all involve weapons. The Israelis have been on the losing end of a propaganda war for decades. Partly(mostly?) their own fault for letting their buttons be pushed and then reacting in predictable ways.
        To make human analogies…the kid who gets picked on on the schoolyard eventually beats the shit out of the bullies, becoming even more violent than they were. Or, younger sibling taunts older sibling, who then lashes out and gets into trouble, cuz”you’re older and should know better.”
        That being said, how does a Jewish Zionist Israel-supporter begin to address how horribly they went about this without playing into the “go back to Poland” “Jews are Nazis” camp?

      • That’s the question, isn’t it?

        You’re right to bring up bullying. I believe that we are seeing that here, complete with the paranoia that a long history of being the bullied party creates.

        Maybe the only correct response is *no response* — as awful, as painful as that is. The President and Secretary Clinton are leading by example here, holding the same line they’ve always held, maintaining the relationship while condemning one discrete incident. Hate the tactical move in the game, not the player? Maybe that’s the way to go.

        In the meantime … parts of this are just gonna hurt. 😦

  3. dancewosleeping

    A lone red dress in a sea of white…why do I keep picturing Bette Davis in Jezebel? Bwaa haa haa!

  4. … and, my God, they’re so much fun.

    The dirty little secret of stepmomhood. 🙂

  5. that’s so damn cute. thanks for this.

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