I’d like you to meet my daughter, Samantha. She’s eleven years old and badly in need of some new clothes. She didn’t want any for Christmas and no one bothered getting her any. We’ve all learned our lesson. If you ask Samantha, she’ll tell you her current wardrobe is more than adequate. Her dresser drawers are bursting with old t-shirts, most related to some high class event like soccer camp, Flag Day, a school field trip, or a friend’s paint your own t-shirt birthday party. Of course, she knows she can’t just wear t-shirts all the time. That’s why she keeps a large supply of sweatshirts and jeans with holes in the knees. Such outfits, according to her, are appropriate for any occasion: dinner, the theatre, church, high tea,, etc. Nice clothes, again according to Samantha, aren’t comfortable. Her idea of “nice clothes” is pretty much anything that’s not an old t-shirt, sweatshirt, or pair of jeans with holes in the knees.
My wife and I have made several fruitless yet frustratingly entertaining attempts to make our daughter look presentable. Just last Christmas, we decided she really should have a pair of decent looking black shoes. I forgot to mention her footwear preference. It’s sneakers eight days a week. So, we picked out a pair of nice black shoes in the hopes we could somehow convince or, if necessary, trick her into wearing them at least once or twice. Anytime Samantha tries on something she doesn’t like, she’ll immediately tell you the item doesn’t fit. It could be an eighth of an inch too big, too small, too tight, or perhaps not quite tight enough. What happens next is truly remarkable. Her gross motor skills suddenly deteriorate to a dangerous level. So, with much eye rolling, huffing and puffing, we cajoled her into at least giving the hateful new shoes a try. She put them on, got shakily to her feet, and attempted to walk. She got at least a half a step before crashing violently to the floor where she writhed in apparent agony. Amazingly, it’s the same result whether she’s trying on shoes, pants, a skirt, a shirt or a bracelet. If she doesn’t like it, we’re scraping her off the floor because her limbs no longer function. Keep in mind, this same kid plays soccer, basketball, softball, and football. She’s strong, athletic and agile. Yet, show her a bit of silk, lace or taffeta and she’s the Wicked Witch of the West and that piece of fabric is the world’s largest bucket of ice water. Needless to say, she hated the shoes. She’d already proven she couldn’t walk in them. If we insisted that she wear them, we’d likewise have to invest in a matching wheelchair. We said fine. We told her we’d return the shoes and she could pick out a pair she liked; but, they had to be black and they had to be nice. While my wife and I waited in line at the return counter, Sam headed for the footwear department… where she picked out the same damn shoes: same size, same style, same color, same EVERYTHING! Samantha’s big on drama, and her preferences change with about as much frequency as the second hand. on a clock. On occasion, she might find a blouse she absolutely loves. By the time we pay for it and get it home, it’s the devil. More than once, we’ve returned items she picked out herself. I wish I was making this up but every word I’ve written is true.
As I said before, and despite anything she might indicate to the contrary, my daughter does need new clothes, and my wife and I knew our only chance, slim as it may be, of getting her to actually wear anything new was if she picked it out herself. With that stark reality imbedded horrifyingly in our consciousness, we jabbed flaming cattle prods into our bellies and steeled ourselves to take her shopping. Samantha tried on at least a dozen items. She loathed everything. Her reasons were entirely valid. She claimed, among other things, I don’t like V-necks. They come down too low. These are bootleg pants. I don’t like bootleg. This shirt is too tight at the bottom. This shirt has a tie at the bottom. I can’t stand that. I don’t like three-quarter sleeves.
What about your football jersey? we asked. That has three-quarter sleeves. We really thought we had her with that one but she didn’t miss a beat.
I like three-quarter sleeves, she said, not actually saying DUH aloud but we could hear it in her voice. I just don’t like them on sweaters. This is a sweater. These are black leggings. I already have black leggings, something she’d previously denied. And here’s my personal favorite. The pockets are too tight. The girl is nothing if not creative. We eventually did buy a few things–things she picked out on her own but not before she realized there was no way in hell we were leaving the store empty handed. So, Sam has some new clothes, and they all got her reluctant stamp of approval. I can’t wait to see what happens when she actually has to wear them.