Mostly whimsical reflections on life
Back to school means back to stores, reprising a peculiar and predictable annual rite for fathers and teenage daughters.
The ritual begins at a clothing store that offers trendy – and thankfully affordable – fashions.
Once inside, dad is excused politely and allowed to check the sports scores on his smartphone. Sometimes, he is delegated to hoof it to the nearest Starbucks to bring back a morning brew.
If by chance, a dad sees an outfit that catches his eye and blurts, “How about this beauty?” the suggestions almost automatically is dismissed with a disapproving-bordering-on-disgust look.
When shopping excursions occur earlier in the day, there aren’t many sports scores to check, so dads take to wandering through the endless aisles of tops, pants, dresses, sweaters, jackets and accessories. There are lots of “looks,” but most don’t look very good.
To a father’s eye, the skirts are too short and the tops too tight.
Color coordination appears passé. Conformity to fashion trends of unknown origin trump the old-fashioned ideal of wearing clothes that make you look good.
Time passes. A lot of time. Fathers can become bored, even delusional. I once waited so long for the teenage shopping experience to end that I drifted into a Hallmark store and began reading random greeting cards.
After decisions have been made, more or less, dad is summoned to the court of last resort – the cash register.
Checkout lines are often long. Teenage shoppers break the tedium by second-guessing their choices, frequently resulting in new forays into the mounds of clothes they have already touched and tried on.
There is usually enough time for a second round of shopping while dad holds a place in the checkout line, where he checks sports scores and tries to recall the funniest lines in the greeting cards he just read.
Finally comes the moment of truth. The store clerk, overcoming the seeming anguish of various ill-placed body piercings, methodically rings up the purchase. If you are lucky, the clerk remembers to detach all the alarm tags so you don’t cause an unseemly stir upon leaving.
The banter at the checkout counter can be light and breezy. Clerks are trained to make teenage girls feel good about their purchases and to distract dads from the mounting price tag.
Before you know it, you have swiped your credit card, signed your name and are hustled out of line with a bulging bag toward the door.
For dad, the shopping experience has ended.
If he is lucky, he won’t have to think about it again, at least until the credit card bill arrives or he sees some of the prize purchases strewn on the floor of his daughter’s bedroom. By then, there will be sports on television to take his mind off the world’s problems – and the next shopping experience opportunity: the big dance. But that is another story.