Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Mom and a Teenaged Boy Walk Into An American Eagle Outfitters

In a month, the Big Kid will be in high school - and, for the first time since kindergarten, he will not be constrained to wearing only navy and white polo shirts.

You would think that this would be viewed as a positive development, but not so much. 

"Honestly, I'd be happy just to continue wearing navy and white shirts, Mom."

Understood, but fairly sure that you don't want to be that guy, so let's look through your closet.  Anything with a collar and smallish logo (regular Polo pony but not "Big Pony") is fair game.

Found seven shirts:

1 orange/white-striped Polo ("Too small.");
1 turquoise Lacoste ("WAY too small.  I don't even know why that one is still hanging up.");
1 purple Lacoste ("People will think I go to [name of rival high school].  No way I'm wearing their color.  THAT would be social suicide more than just wearing navy and white shirts all of the time.");
1 coral Lacoste ("Too close to pink.");
1 navy/pink/white-striped Lacoste ("It's, like, a thin stripe.  A golf stripe.  A DAD stripe.");
1 turquoise/multi-striped Hollister ("That one I like."  [DUH, you've worn it twice a week all summer.  I get it.]); and
1 navy Hollister with tipped collar, shoved in a drawer ("Oh, I forgot about that one.").

I lobbied hard for the coral, which looks killer on him, and the navy stripe, which is similarly attractive.  We compromised:  he'll wear them to church, "some, but not a lot."

So, because swim season is over and we didn't particularly have any other place to be, we went to the mall, and walked through a couple of stores, trying to figure out what his personal style will be (aside from "Howard-Wolowitz-from-Big-Bang-Theory-esque geek tees," which I imagine will still be the uniform on the weekends but are verboten at school).  It was slow-going at first.  First stop:  the Lacoste section of the department store.  (Okay, so I have a problem.  If you hear of an appropriate twelve-step program, let me know.)  He was only meh about the selection, and I was meh about the pricing. 

Walked past the Izod section:  "I like that belt."  Huh?  "In the poster."  Yeah, okay, they don't actually carry the belt here.  "Oh, well, never mind.  I just liked the belt."

Continued past a display of plaid shirts:  "I like SOME plaid.  But long-sleeved only.  Short-sleeved plaid shirts are dorky.  [YES!  A glimmer of hope that I am raising a bro-grammer, as opposed to a garden-variety programmer or engineer who thinks that short-sleeved buttondowns are nifty.]  Except I think I might like the less boxy ones with the pockets and the pearl snaps?  [NO!  MAYDAY, MAYDAY!  D-BAG ALERT!]  On second thought, I don't like those.  They're too swag."

["Swag" is teenage-speak for "d-bag."  Crisis averted.]

On our way out of the department store, he pointed to a couple of things:  "Maybe that one [Guess, full price], or that one [Calvin Klein, full price]."

Crud.  Indicators pointing to personal style being "expensive."

We ended up at American Eagle and were immediately pulled into the tractor beam of Hipster Employee (shaved head, handlebar mustache, beard that screamed "lute player in indie band playing brunch gig at artisanal cheese shop in Brooklyn").

"HI-THERE-WELCOME-TO-AEO-WE'RE-HAVING-A-SPECIAL-PROMOTION!  If you try on a pair of jeans, we'll text you a code for 20% off of your purchase.  Except clearance items - the code won't work on those."

Got it.  Mr. Levi's 514 Straight Fit requests a pair of slim straight denims to try on.  [UGH, what happened to "I hate skinny jeans?"  I was so on board with your skinny jean-hatred.]  Boy and jeans disappear into a dressing room.  I find a neon green polo shirt on the clearance rack.

Hipster Lute Player:  "Now, those are on the clearance rack, so THE SPECIAL CODE WON'T WORK ON THOSE."

Yes, Hipster Lute Player.  I.  GET.  IT.

Boy walks out to model jeans.  While pretty darn skinny, they are not overly "swag," and I give them a thumbs up.  Hipster Lute Player selects this moment to go on break.  Boy seeks to return to the dressing room to try on the neon green shirt and discovers that the door has locked behind him.  Boy starts to panic.  "My phone is in there, and my regular clothes.  I WANT MY REGULAR CLOTHES." 

It's okay, kid.  Hipster Lute Player is bound to return eventually.  Except that he was very slow to do so, so we went out in search of other AEO personnel, wherein we discovered Tiny Elfin Girl folding t-shirts.  She unlocked the dressing room, and we experimented with a couple of different styles of polos.  All had their baggage: 

"I LIKE the color-blocked one, but the seam rubs right across the nipples.  [Huh, never thought of that.  Bras are a wonderful thing.]  So I'd have to wear a t-shirt under it."

"I like the IDEA of that one, but I refuse to wear those colors together.  Because they're the Nerf colors."


"It's just that particular orange - it screams Nerf."


We picked out two polo shirts in addition to the clearance one, I authorized the purchase of another pair of aviator sunglasses that he can mangle or lose, and we went up to the register. 

And that's where the fun began.

Tiny Elfin Girl:  "Okay, so you text JEANS to this number.  But type JEANS first, and then the number."

No.  The order in which we type these things is irrelevant, provided that we type them in the correct fields.  Believe it or not, we HAVE texted before.  We start on Big Kid's phone, because my phone was turned off due to low battery issues.  Big Kid's phone informs him that it is blocking the text.  Kudos, Samsung Galaxy, for taking a hard line against trendy retail gimmicks.  Except, I kind of want my 20% off, so I restart my phone, which take eons to reboot, and the whole time Tiny Elfin Girl is just staring at me, and unfolding and refolding our purchases like she's moving deck chairs around the Titanic.  The text doesn't go through the first time, because SOMEONE (no one will admit to it, but I suspect Spouse, who is always installing battery-saver apps) has set up my phone to turn off mobile data without asking.  I enable data, try the text again (each time, she tells me to "type JEANS first"), and the status icon just cycles and cycles and cycles.

I lose my patience a bit.  "Isn't there something that you have at the register that you can swipe to give us the discount?  I mean, what happens if a customer doesn't have a smart phone?  How do they get the discount?"

Tiny Elfin Girl's brain clearly cannot compute the concept of SOMEONE NOT HAVING A SMART PHONE.  She looks close to crying.  Then she brightens:  "I'll ask my manager."

Yup, you guessed it.  Hipster Lute Player returns to the scene, just as the text goes through.  TEN STEPS LATER, I get a scan code.  I have to check out twice, because THE SPECIAL CODE WON'T WORK ON CLEARANCE ITEMS, and apparently some combination of the register and the sales staff can't process everything on one ticket.  I am asked for my email address both times.

I kind of want to kill someone. 

Fortunately, Big Kid gets, and shares, my frustration, and we make fun of the experience on the way home.  At home, we show Dad our purchases, which he actually approves of (even the neon green shirt), and then Big Kid tries on the aviators and screams:




No, they are sort of purplish.  Which I actually kind of get, because the frames are chartreuse, and yellow and purple are across from each other on the color wheel.


YES.  I try them on, to demonstrate that they are way too big for a female head.  Spouse points out the second-bar-across-the-nose-thingie that they don't put on girl glasses.  It takes, roughly, TEN MINUTES for Sunglass Emergency to resolve itself.

And I find myself reconsidering the "navy-and-white-shirts-only" idea.

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