“Well, I guess we could go looking next weekend, but I can’t promise we’ll buy anything,” I unenthusiastically replied. She gave me that look only a 16-year-old can pull off. It’s a combination of disgust and irritation mixed with some “little sad puppy-dog.” You don’t know whether to slap ’em or hug ’em. That next weekend we headed to His and Hers Formal Wear in Brentwood with my 7-year-old daughter, Haley, along for the ride.
Once there, I was happy to see many racks of dresses on sale, but Mary didn’t even notice them. Like metal to a magnet, she bee-lined over to the rack of beaded and bejeweled gowns worthy of a night at the Academy Awards. Mary firmly believes that she was switched at birth. How else can you explain the rest of the family’s hideous lack of fashion sense and her keen eye for style? She was obviously meant to go home with the Versaces.
I started shaking my head right away. “No way,” I whispered to her. “That dress has got to be $300! Look at these over here, Mary. How about this purple one? Or this maroon one with the low back?” I was clutching my wallet a little tighter now.
“Can I just try it on?” she pleaded, clutching the dress a little tighter. I knew this could actually work in my favor if the dress looked awful on her, but what if it fit her like a glove? Meanwhile, Haley had managed to pull a pink chiffon flowergirl dress off the rack and was spinning around in front of a three-way mirror, completely absorbed in her own reflection. I finally relented. “OK, you can try it on, but let’s at least find out how much it is.”
It’s never a good sign when there isn’t a price tag. The nice store clerk grabbed a catalog. “Night Moves” she said softly, flipping the pages. It’s never a good sign when the dress has a title that sounds like a James Cameron movie. It was $385. I stopped clutching my wallet and started clutching my heart.
The store clerk showed her to a fitting room and I helped her climb into the dress. Haley rushed in, sweaty and out of breath from her incessant twirling. We zipped the zipper and fastened the hooks – and crap. Mary looked stunning. “Mommmmmm. Pleeeeeeease?” she begged.
“I know it’s beautiful,” I said sadly. And honestly, she looked like a goddess in the darn dress. “But how do we pay for it?” A heavy silence hung in the air, and then two large tears began rolling down Mary’s cheek as she began to finally grasp the reality of the situation. I was frustrated. Times are tough, but Junior Proms aren’t going anywhere, and 16-year-old girls still want a fairytale dress. Mary deserved to have it. She had borrowed a dress for Winter Ball and did her own hair and makeup. She is a 4.0 student, a leader in Leadership and has never, ever missed her curfew. I couldn’t think of one reason why she didn’t deserve that dress.
From around the curtain popped the store owner. I knew that she had probably witnessed these teary scenarios between moms and daughters many times before. She spoke calmly and quietly and with a warm smile, assured us that we could work something out. The smile that came across Mary’s face was worth a million dollars. “What about my dress?” asked Haley, still holding her chiffon dress. “I’ll buy you an ice cream instead,” I said, and she was just fine with that. For now …
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