Monday, January 16, 2006

Dads and Daughters and Shopping for Clothes 

If God had intended fathers to take daughters clothes shopping, why did he bother inventing mothers? Aside from the obvious I mean.

And not just mothers, but grandmothers, aunts, sisters and girlfriends, too. It doesn't make sense that God would give each girl her own personal universe of female shopping buddies, and then send her out to the mall with Dad instead. It's just unnatural that so many safety valves could fail simultaneously, thus entrusting a delicate flower's fashion sensibilities into the hands of someone who watches televised football games with a cheese hat on his head. What kind of a world is this?

This is all introduction to the fact that last night was Father-Daughter time for me and my oldest girl, eight year old Rachel -- sorry, sorry, she's almost nine. If this involved little more than going out and drinking hot chocolate while puzzling over fun math problems and teaching her how to play tricks on her classmates, I think I'd be good at it. But it often involves shopping, and here's where it gets dicey. You see, I have to be prepared for the fact that occasionally, once in awhile, every effort to keep my girls in the toy store will fail and I'll have no alternative but to try to help them figure out whether to get the skirt with the pleats or the plaid. Or at least pretend that I share their belief that the difference matters.

It's a frightening time too. I didn't realize the kind of fashions and lifestyles that are being sold in these stores "these days" until I actually went in and looked -- I try not to go in clothes stores unless I absolutely have to. But I quickly realized that if I wasn't careful, my little girl could have come out of there with a belly ring and a tattoo and I probably wouldn't even have known it.

But at least my recognition of that risk gave me something to work against whenever I had to invent an opinion about something. My basic goal was to make sure any candidate skirt wasn't a hip-hugging, belly-baring britney number. I was holding out for something that went up to the neck.

Apparently at some point Rachel somehow formed the opinion that I wasn't being particularly helpful. While I was struggling over the Hebrew cleaning instructions on one especially bulky skirt, she slipped away and asked the "sales lady" to help her. Mind you, I would never have condoned that kind of thing myself, asking for help. I wanted to just wander around the racks for a little while longer, until she lost interest and agreed to go to the bookstore instead.

And yes, I don't like to ask for directions on the road either. I prefer to rely on my finely honed sense of direction and an almost instinctive ability to ferret out an optimal route by trying all of the possibilities. Rachel really should have trusted that I would eventually have brought these talents to bear on navigating her to an appropriate skirt too, if she'd just given me 15 more minutes or so. I was that close.

But she got the "sales lady" to help her -- the quotes denote the fact that there is no such thing as a sales lady anymore, just "sales bad-examples" who are probably the ones who would do the tatooing and belly piercing if you aren't careful.

It seemed to work out in the end. I spent money, Rachel got a skirt, the sales lady didn't tattoo anybody. You can't ask for much more than that.

Quality time.

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