It’s a strain to keep your face blank.
Your wife says, “Relax your jaw, Decker—it’s just one day.”
“But I’m an electrician,” you say.
Your wife tilts her head and crinkles her forehead. In spite of the look, you feel fairly certain she’s feigning the sympathy. “Find the dress first,” she instructs, picking up her overnight bag. “Then, go for shoes and accessories. Sorry to run out on you like this, but mom needs me, and I’ll be back tomorrow before the dance.” She misses your cheek, pecks your nose. You hear her voice trail off down the driveway. “…she looks hideous in yellow and orange.”
The following morning you wait for your daughter to arise. The hours tick by. You forgot to ask for guidance regarding this. At ten you call her cell phone.
“Dad—you let me sleep too long!”
While she gets dressed, you go to the computer, pull up a diagram of the mall and decide on a circuit that avoids unnecessary double-backing or criss-crossing. You need to do this right. You haven’t shopped with Leandra since she was four when you bought her dress-up clothes for her friend’s tea party. She’s almost sixteen now.
On the way to the mall, you explain the plan. Leandra says, “But, Dad, we don’t shop at the mall.”
She shakes her head.
“Mom likes Kohls.”
She swings her thumb over her shoulder. “Back that way.”
You pull a wifferdill through a gas station to circumvent U-turning across six lanes of traffic.
“Woo-hoo,” laughs Leandra.
The interior of Kohl’s is altogether too overstuffed with prints, colors, and textures to find anything specific, but you dutifully follow your daughter from one rack to another. You spot a pink fru-fruey dress and hold it up. “How about this?” you ask.
Leandra looks from you to the dress and back. “You’re letting me get spaghetti straps?”
This should be a clue.
She takes the dress, returns it to the rack. “You know, Dad, there’s this place at the mall I’ve been wanting to go...”
Back in the truck Leandra asks, “Mind if I change stations?”
“Pick anything you want,” you answer. “Well, within reason.” You realize it’s been ages since you’ve listened to 60s rock n’ roll. Ellen programmed your radio, and you’ve never thought to change the settings.
Once you reach the mall, you try reverting to the plan by parking at the South Entrance. Leandra says, “Oh, not here. The store’s at the other end.” You put the car in reverse and merge back onto the loop. “I think I need a haircut, too, Dad…something with bangs. Maybe.”
“You’d look nice in bangs,” you say.
“Really? Mom’s not so hot on them.”
The day progresses among a tangle of destinations. You gain firsthand knowledge of what a boutique is, how to pronounce it, and how you can save a ton of money by shopping the back corners. You learn how a moderate platform shoe doesn’t really over arch the foot; how your daughter’s drowning in math class, absolutely despises changing in the locker room, and adores a sophomore named, Seth, who, incidentally, will be at tonight’s dance. All this and how mineral-based make-up reduces acne.
You glean from some of what is said, and some of what's not said, that your wife has some control issues. Yet, foolishly, the doubts, second-guessing, and fear don’t really kick in until Leandra’s upstairs getting ready and Ellen’s outside parking the car.
An image appears in your mind’s eye—your daughter making her grand entrance into the living room. She’s wearing a black strapless mini-dress with fringe at the hem. Perhaps you went overboard. Waves churn through your gut as Ellen opens the front door and announces in three syllables, “I’m ho-ome.’ She drops her bag.
“Ellen, you’re home.”
“Come here, Decker—you big lug of handsomeness.”
And now someone’s really coming down the stairs—clopping because she’s just not used to peep-toed platforms.
Your wife gasps. “Black?”
“It’s not orange,” you point out.
“Decker!” she yells. You wish lighting would zap you. Poof.
But then she crumbles. “It’s all my fault,” she cries. “I didn’t give you enough guidance.”
Phew! That was a close one, buddy.
Tomorrow you can tackle the problem of exactly how much guidance she likes to give.
For tonight, breathe easy.
Every man deserves to savor a rare and poetic victory.
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