Thursday, March 31, 2011

Like an Old Pair of Jeans

As the mother of a tweenage girl, I'm always making comparisons. How is she like me at that age? How is she not? Is she making the same mistakes I did or coming up with mistakes of her own?

Of course, I'd like to think that she inherited all my strengths (and none of my weaknesses, bien sur). In fact, when she was a baby we used to chant "Mommy's grades and Daddy's athletic ability" as though it was in our power to give her a best of both worlds combination. It's funny how we imagined that we had any control over this at all.

This morning, I recognized myself in my daughter in a rather unexpected way. I walked in on her getting dressed for school. She was lying on her back on her bed, fastening her jeans.

Whoa, talk about deja vu!

I was a few years older than she is, but everything seems to have accelerated these days. The year was 1980, and life was good. I sported a wedge haircut — kind of a cross between Dorothy Hamill and a new wave rocker. I'd been accepted early decision to the college of my choice. I had an exciting summer job lined up with a theatre company in New York.

And, I could squeeze into size 8 Calvin Kleins. "Squeeze" being the operative word.

Do you remember those infamous commercials? Brooke Shields was just 15 when she made headlines in several very provocative spots, packed with innuendo and very definitely selling sex first and denim second. Nothing came between Brooke and her Calvins? Hellooo?!? Nothing could possibly fit between her teenage body and those overpriced jeans.

We all wore them back then. If not Calvin Kleins, then Jordache ("She's got the look! The Jordache look!") or Gloria Vanderbilts (peddled by Blondie, no less). We all squeezed our budding, adolescent curves into the smallest size we possibly could. The smaller the jeans size the greater our self esteem.

Even today, jeans have this illogical power over how we women feel about ourselves. Last Christmas, our family went to New Orleans for a long weekend. When I took a tumble on a bit of uneven sidewalk in the Garden District, I was much more upset about tearing a hole in my beloved "7 for All Mankinds" than about my sprained ankle. Hobbling around the Crescent City the rest of the weekend, I was not only in pain but in a foul temper. I was on vacation and forced to wear sneakers and sweatpants rather than my cute patent leather boots and my 7s!

So how did my daughter learn the lie-on-the-bed-and-hold-your-breath-and-pull technique? She's certainly never seen me do it — I lost the desire to wear skintight pants quite a while ago, thank you very much. I'd much rather breathe. Did she see this in a movie? Did the jeans come with illustrated instructions? Do the girls in seventh grade compare notes?

I have to admit that once the jeans were on, they looked good. They didn't seem too tight and, as far as I could tell, my daughter was getting enough oxygen.

But, I hope that eventually she will choose comfort over constrictive cutting edge style. I hope that she will feel good in her own skin no matter what size her jeans are.

I know this will probably take a while. I'm still working on it myself.

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