The Girl in the Next Stall

She’s walking into the changing room with four items.  Three are from her usual color palette – shades of grey to black.  This time she found a pair of dusty pink capris in her size – 0.

 

She’s been talking of changing things up a bit.  She systematically cut all the long hair to shoulder length.  She didn’t cut it all at once, but over the course of a year, she had me cut two inches here, three inches there.  One afternoon, while listening to Pink Martini on Pandora, she had me cut six inches.  Between the two of us, Will and I always tell her she looks great, but I can see that she’s looking for other words.

She longs for words she’s heard before, only she wants them to come from someone who never says them.

 

Her style is all her own.  One day we were running errands and she mentioned Pastel Goth.  I had to ask her what that was.  She explained while we were stopped at a light.  I turned to her and said, “Is that what you are?”  She grinned and said, “Not really.  Well, maybe a little.”

She doesn’t dress like other girls her age.  That might have a lot to do with the fact that we homeschool.   Her style isn’t a copycat thing.

I’ve seen the girls at the skating rink staring at her.  As they pull their butterfly covered rolling backpacks over to the bench to put on their skates, I see them glance over at Jen.  I’d love to know what they are thinking.  “Her mom can’t afford butterflies and sequins.”  “Why doesn’t she wear pink or purple or teal?”  “How come her mom lets her wear black all the time?”

Jen told me of the time that a “Butterfly Skater” followed her into the locker room.  She stared at Jen the entire time Jen unlaced her skates.  The girl didn’t say a word.  Jen came out with a mixed expression – part fascination, part frustration.  “Mom, I think she was in there the whole time to make sure I wasn’t going to steal her stuff.”

Her choice in colors gets her looks.  She doesn’t always see the looks.  I always do.  I’m her mom.  I want to laugh at the other skaters’ moms.  They haven’t been the most welcoming group at the rink.  We don’t fit the type.  But when their daughters fall hard on the ice, mine is the first to ask if they are okay.

 

Which brings me to yesterday at the mall.  While Jen was in the changing room, I could hear that the girl in the next stall must have been on FaceTime as she changed clothes.  Weird, but whatever.

Times change.  Maybe this is the new selfie?

While I talk with my kids about absolutely everything, we all three respect privacy.  It’s been a lot of years since I was in the changing room with my daughter.  I browse the clothing racks as I wait, looking at business clothes I can’t afford.  I think of how many houses I’d have to sell before I’d ever even consider spending that kind of money on clothes for myself.  I see the clerk look at what I’m wearing, and realize I know exactly how Jen feels when the “Butterfly Skaters” are staring at her.

As Jen walks out, I try to read her expression.  “How’d it go?  Did you like any of it?”  She smiled her quiet smile, “Let’s go somewhere else.  The pants didn’t fit – too baggy in the thighs.  The shirt goes down too low in the front.  Sorry I’m so picky.”

“Don’t worry about it, honey.  We’ll find something.”

 

As we walk out of the mall I ask, “What was going on in the changing room?”

“A girl was trying on prom dresses in the stall next to me.  She was sending pictures to her mom and grandma and dad.”

“Too bad none of them could be there with her, but it is the time when most would be at work.”

Jen walked around to the passenger side of the car.  “She sent a picture to her dad and he said, ‘Oh, honey.  That’s so pretty.'”

I looked at her as I put the key in the ignition.  She looked at me and said, “Is that even real?”