Saturday, February 14, 2009

Shiny Red Shoes

Having a child stirs up all your old insecurities and then reorganizes them and if you are lucky, makes them go away.

It was like that with the clothing issue. Growing up I always felt very insecure about my appearance. It didn't help that my mom and grandmother, huge hat wearing fashionistas who insisted that I wear cordoroy jumpers with itchy tights to school. But I always wanted to wear what everyone else wore. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to disappear. I would save all my money from dog walking and babysitting and buy Jordache jeans and Nike sneakers and then change in the stairwell of my apartment building between the first and second floor before heading to school only to change back before I returned home. Leading a schizophrenic clothing life dictated by either my seventh grade classmates or my matriarchy left me without any real fashion sense of my own. This fashion confusion has stayed with me as an adult. Going to a store becomes a frustrating panic inducing event where I continually question my looks and often leave empty handed because I cannot even decide what to buy. I always revert back to the old standard; jeans and T-shirts. My cover was that "I just don't care about such superficial things like clothes".

When my daughter was born her clothing choices were dictated by my safe middle of the road philosophy. Everything was washable and soft. Everything was gender neutral. However, she began to refuse to wear the little baby gap jeans overalls and the tiny converse all stars. She wanted pink. Pink tights, pink shoes, pink dresses. The shinier the better - glitter and beads and sparkle. Patent leather and sequins. I realized that we were having a crisis when I was in a department store to select a pair of sturdy snow boots and she was fondling the shiny red patent leather party shoes. When I said no, she threw her first tantrum in the middle of the shoe department and I carried her out, mortified - no shoes or boots in hand.

I actually became one of those annoying mothers in baby Gap who was actually asking their two year old which outfit she preferred because I was uneducated on this issue. To her credit, she was secure with all of her fashion choices and never refused to wear anything that she had picked out. Her favorite shoes became the red sequined slip ons that were from a Dorothy costume. She wore them to day care everyday and I became known as the mom with the daughter who wore the red shoes.

My feelings were mixed. On the one hand, the frilly dresses, her obsession with princesses, fairies, and mermaids, uggghhhh... I could see where this was leading - instead of a smaller version of myself she was an attention seeker - she was a girlie girl - she was a cheerleader. My old insecurities surface as I heard my mother whispering in my ear - are you going to let her go out like that? as she had often said to me.

On the other hand, I was secretly happy that my daughter was developing her own fashion sense and that she was so secure in herself. I patted myself on the back for not passing on my own clothing fears and holding back the unnecessary criticism that my mother felt free to express to me. She was not afraid to accessorize. She wore everything with such self confidence - I didn't want to do anything to squash it. My mother be damned, she could wear her princess dress to the grocery store.

So, I did what any other loving mother would do. I adapted. I did a dark a white and a pink load. I embraced my inner girl. Slowly I began to rediscover that one of the powers of being a girl was that you can express yourself in so many ways. You could be girlie or plain. You could wear evening gowns or powers suits. You had freedom. Her reckless clothing abandon became infectious and pink underpants started showing up in my own bureau draws. It was OK to stand out. It was OK to draw attention. It was OK to look silly. Despite all of my resistance to the sparkle and power of pink my daughter has taught me to relax a little and not to take myself too seriously. Shopping has become fun, especially when she accompanies me and acts as my fashion consultant. She has opened up a new world of choices to me... and I have to admit that now she is growing up I sometimes miss the tiaras and the boas and especially the shiny red shoes.


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