Raising a daughter is one of the most gratifying things I do. But it does come with some complicated moments. At the top of that list is buying underwear — especially as she gets older.
You see, I miss the good old days when buying underwear for my high school-aged daughter was as simple as purchasing paper towels. In fact back then, it was a lot like buying paper towels. I could find a six-pack of whatever it was she needed. Something for the top. Something for the bottom. Maybe I’d even jazz things up with pink stripes. Or a picture of Cinderella. It was a simple parenting task.
But little girls grow. So does their interest in underwear.
Boys are easy. They don’t care about underwear. They can wear their ware 24/7 and you’ll never hear a peep out of them. As far as boys are concerned, holes in underwear are like battle scars. No big deal. Sometimes, when I’m doing laundry for one of the boys, I’ll look at all the holes in them and ask myself, “How do they know which holes are for their legs?” And then, I decide not to worry if they aren’t complaining. My youngest son is still wearing a pair of boxers he got from Santa about four years ago. When he first started wearing them, they were pretty big on him. Now, many years later, they’re a little tight, a little shredded, and awfully faded. But he throws them on, complete with the “Ho, Ho, Ho”s written all over them. They are familiar. They’re family.
Girls are different. My daughter now schedules a “date” with me to go shopping for underwear. This occurs a couple times a year. I’m not sure what prompts it. I don’t ask. Maybe it’s seasonal. Maybe it’s a way to deal with peer pressure. Maybe it’s just a necessity. Whatever it is, I know that it’s important to her.
And it’s what’s made me a seasoned dad shopper at Victoria’s Secret.
When you first walk in, there are always a few nice young sales clerks — all dressed in black — who are working in the front room. They busy themselves by folding clothes and greeting everyone who walks in. It’s peaceful, soothing and low-key. A good first impression.
But it’s all a trick.
Because the farther you walk into the store, the more chaotic it gets. The store quickly takes on a video arcade kind of atmosphere with lots of chatty people, tables overflowing with sales items, lots of women and girls scurrying around desperately searching for the last something-or-other in a size “M” on sale for $1.99. It’s not a fun place to be when you’re a dad.
And, I struggle with exactly how I’m supposed to act. I’m not worried about what all the other people there think of me. I learned years ago that they either ignore me or are mildly freaked out by a middle-aged dad hanging out in the store. Sales clerks regularly offer me a place to sit down. And, I enjoy bugging them by declining. I do worry, however, about saying the wrong thing to my daughter. I always feel like I’m one or two words away from totally blowing it. If I act too interested, it’s weird. If I show my true feelings about her looking at a pink leopard skin thing with lace, then I’ll never be invited back. So I’ve learned to say things like “That’s a nice color,” or “I didn’t know zebra stripes came in aqua.”
And, I’ve learned to never, ever comment on all the names of the products I see as my eyes wander around. Cheek-Boo? Bold Hold? No comment.
I’m happy to report that I recently survived another shopping outing with my daughter who is now enjoying nine or ten new items, which fit quite nicely into an itty-bitty little sandwich bag.
Will I be invited to the next shopping spree? I’ll let you know. But, I have a fear that, once my daughter reads this story, I’ll have to promise to keep the next excursion a secret.