Home Life Laurie Nigro Laurie Nigro Clothes-shopping with my pre-teen, reliving the fashion horrors of my...

Laurie Nigro
Clothes-shopping with my pre-teen, reliving the fashion horrors of my youth

I am a woman who has too many clothes. I am fully aware of this and also don’t feel even a little bad about it. I am careful about my spending and buy almost all things at the thrift store. So my 53 dresses probably cost me about as much as most people would spend on just three.

As it turns out, I have passed my love of clothes on to my daughter. Though I often curse myself for this when her two dressers and three closets cannot contain her growing wardrobe, she is also budget conscious and will balk at anything with a price tag over $10 (so at least I know I’ve done something right).

However, as my frugal child ages, she is (understandably) becoming more interested in new clothes that are actually in fashion. I’m all about being your own person and raising a strong and independent woman who doesn’t fall victim to trends and peer pressure, but I also remember being a teenager — and sometimes you just want those Jordache jeans that everyone else is wearing (yes, I know I just dated myself but I’m at peace with my old-ness. Plus, I freaking loved my Jordache jeans).

Unfortunately, wanting fashions that are current means you have to go to stores that sell current fashions. And then you have to go inside. And stay there for some amount of time that comes out to more than I would like. For some reason, when I was a teenager, these things didn’t bother me that much. In fact, I enjoyed wandering through racks and racks of jeans and even looked forward to my current arch-nemesis, the mall (I also found a large amount of my wardrobe at the Army Navy surplus store, to stay balanced). But now that I’m the mom, I have found shopping in stores that are aimed at people a couple (or so) decades younger than me, to be actually excruciating. Like, I’d like to claw my own eyes out with a rusty spoon, excruciating.

I can spend three hours roaming through the disorganized and mismatched rows at the thrift store, but 11 minutes inside Forever 21 and I start to feel like a junkie going through withdrawal. The loud and overpowering music with the size extra large bass rattles my entire skeletal system. And then there’s the people. They jam the store up with so many racks and shelves that I feel like a sardine. But they’re all used to this and see no issue with bumping into each other and sucking in their stomachs to try and slide by to peruse the next aisle of shite we already wore 30 years ago and unfortunately got rid of 20 years ago. And I swear they pipe in artificial scents to weaken you with nausea. Or maybe it’s just that some overzealous, way-younger-than-me person who lacks impulse control has tested all the tester perfume bottles at once. Either way, in less time than it takes for me to follow my child from one end of the store to the other, I am shaky, queasy, jumpy, and in need of some whiskey or three.

On top of the sensory overload, I have yet to see one single sales person in any of these places actually smile. It’s like somewhere in the job description it says, “since you will be serving the teen population, you must either be a member of this population or act accordingly, which means that all parents are to be treated just like you would treat your own parents — after they grounded you and/or sold you into slavery — regardless of whether or not they are the ones who are, in fact, paying for the crap we are peddling.” I mean, I bet your mom and dad spent a buttload on braces. Don’t make it all for naught by refusing to bare your teeth in a non-menacing way. If I’m going to pay $20 for a Kiss t-shirt that I wouldn’t have paid $20 for when Kiss was actually popular, the least you can do is say, “Thank you for shopping with us and I hope you find your sanity by the time you get home!”

I also find it disturbing to have my own past mistakes shoved in my face. Why — dear God WHY — are we reliving crop tops and acid-washed anything?? Did we learn nothing from reruns of “Family Ties”? It wasn’t good the first time and there is no way that reviving that look is going to end well. There’s nothing to look forward to except an awkward conversation with future grandchildren who have looked through the photo albums and are demanding to know why this happened to BOTH of us and now want to know what we have to say for ourselves. We’d be better off reviving pantaloons and the beehive, together.

I know, I should be thankful that my child will allow me to be seen with her, in public, in the same location, at the same time. I also know that one day I will miss spending these (many) hours together, being best friends and laughing at anything yellow. (We’re both painfully pale — yellow nearly guarantees people giving into their fears of jaundice or hepatitis and crossing the road when they see us.)  And I really do. I just wish we could bond over clothes we already own, at home, where the closets are full — and so is the wine glass.

While I age considerably with each trip to H&M, I console myself with the thought that my child may have to do the same one day with her own spawn. And also that when you google “Fountain of Youth recipe” every result is a cocktail. Faith in humanity’s ability to understand its own limitations restored! Try this version from The New York Times. It seems like a cool and refreshing option to while away a summer evening (and numb the painful memories of that grumpy kid’s black lipstick and spiked eyebrow ring). Cheers!


Laurie Nigro
Laurie is the mother of two biological children and one husband and the caretaker of a menagerie of animals. Laurie is passionate about frugal, natural living. She was recognized by the L.I. Press Club with a “best humor column” award in 2016. Email Laurie