because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

On Watching My Millennial Son Not Prepare For Senior Prom

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Last Sunday, I asked my 17-year old son about his upcoming Senior Prom. I knew he’d roughed out some vague plans to go with a group of friends, but I didn’t know about any of the particulars. They were planning to go somewhere for dinner. He didn’t know who would be driving. He might be sleeping over at someone’s house. But he might not.

“Are you aware it’s this Saturday?” I asked. “Did you even order a tux?”

He shrugged his shoulders. I’d interrupted his computer game. He’d been winning and was annoyed by my questions.

No, he hadn’t thought of it.

Neither had he thought about shoes.

A half hour later, we were standing in Men’s Warehouse talking to a short Italian stylist who knew his suits. “Tuxedo specials are over,” he said while sifting through a wall of black jackets. “It makes better sense to buy.” Within minutes, Weggie had selected the perfect ensemble, and one hour later, my son was back in front of his computer, a beautiful black suit, shirt and tie now hanging in his closet.

I considered my son’s utter lack of preparation for prom. This is a kid who preps strenuously for academic exams, who is intentional about nearly every decision he makes. What is the deal with his avoidance? Is it a guy thing, this lack of attention to details? What would have happened had I not intervened?

I thought back to my own school formals of the mid 1980s.

TB and me, Junior Prom, 1984

I went to junior prom with TB, a boy I spent most of middle school trying to get to fall in love with notice me. Lord knows, we spent many afternoons in detention together as a result of misbehaving in French class. Before he moved to Philadelphia, I realized we were always going to be “just friends,” which was good enough for me. I figured I’d never see him again, but he magically materialized to take me to prom.

First, let’s establish TB looked awesome in his tux.

Done.

Okay, now let’s talk about my dress.

Featured in Seventeen Magazine, my dress was a gauzy, white Gunne Sax for Jessica McClintock that covered me from chin to ankle; it had three layers of crinoline and 10,000 buttons up the back. I was hermetically sealed inside that garment. All I knew was that from the neck down, I was Madonna in that dress.

Sadly, we must address things from the neck up.

A few months prior, I’d butchered my long mane and had not yet figured out quite what to do with what was, tragically, a long brush-cut. Or a lady-mullet. There wasn’t much I could do. Part of the night, I wore a hat.

For Senior Ball, I was slightly better prepared.

First, let us establish that JMo looked awesome in his tux.

Done.

Now, about my dress.

JMo and me, Senior Prom 1985

Senior year, I toned down my attire and wore a simple dress. But somehow I ended up looking like I’d been dipped first in a vat of French’s mustard and then into a vat of Hellmann’s mayonnaise. Seriously, I had no business wearing pastel yellow. I know you can’t tell from the pictures, but I looked jaundiced. Luckily, people were blinded by my like totally radical Sun-In highlights and my tan, both of which I had been cultivating after school for weeks while ignoring my upcoming Trigonometry final.

I didn’t do a lot of primping for either prom.

I mean, I showered.

I shaved.

I was clean.

I bought a dress and put it on.

(So there was a little extra room up top. What’s your point?)

I didn’t go to a spa for a salt scrub or have anyone professionally style my hair. (Although looking back, I see that would have been a good thing.) I didn’t think about getting a mani/pedi or having my brows arched.

All I’m saying is that I guess my son gets it from me, his lackadaisical attitude about prom. He’ll probably clip his fingernails and clean his ears, shave and comb his hair. But that’s about it.

I wonder if he’s is nervous about the social stuff, all the expectations associated with prom.

Because truthfully, I do remember suffering a wee bit of mental anguish at both dances. Even though I wasn’t dating either guy, I wanted the romance of the evening. I wanted my dates to ask me to dance.

I mean I was scared, but I still wanted to be asked.

I imagine some things will never change about formal dances: the grown up feeling of getting dressed up and “going out on the town” without one’s parents; the freaky-deaky feeling a girl gets in her stomach as she sees her prom date pull into the driveway; those awkward posed moments where adults hover, taking zillions of photographs from every possible angle; the worry that a zit could erupt at any moment.

Even though the dresses are better, prom is still an awkward place, a threshold between adolescence and adulthood where no one really knows what to do, so we hold onto each other and spin in circles for a little while.

And so we did.

And hopefully, he will too.

What did you wear to prom? Did you think you were hot? Were you? Are all boys lame planners?

 

 

On Thunderstorms & Children: Reflections on a Rainy May

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When my son was a wee thing, still wrapped up like a burrito, every time there was a thunderstorm, I carried him outside to the worn wooden bench perched on our front stoop, and, together, we sat and listened to the boomers.

As my burrito grew, he morphed into my l’il Monkey. Whenever we heard thunder or saw that first flick of lightning, we raced to the front door. He’d mastered deadbolts by then, and he turned the knob furiously as if the ice-cream truck were sitting in our driveway. Once outside, we piled on the old bench — my son sat on my lap, holding my hand with a combination of anticipation and fear while I counted: “One-one-thousand, -one-thousand, three-one-thousand…” And when the world shook, we laughed and he begged for another so we waited impatiently for the next thunder-clap to shake our world.

For years we watched the skies darken, the clouds quicken, felt the air grow heavy on our skin. We listened to water slap our sidewalk angrily, and we both came to see how it works: how storms can be furious and yet temporary. He learned that even the scariest storms pass.

I know children who are terrified of thunder and lightning – kids who put their hands over their ears and cry or hide, but my son was raised up on late May storms: flashes of light and all that racket.

Maybe it’s because we imagined G-d taking a shower.

{The way my Monkey was starting to take showers.}

Maybe it’s because we imagined G-d needed to fill up the oceans.

{The way my Monkey was starting to have responsibilities.}

Maybe it’s because he imagined G-d stomping around looking for something He had misplaced.

{The way Monkey misplaced things and got all stompy and frustrated.}

Maybe it’s because he liked talking about G-d and trying to relate to Him.

“G-d makes rain. And rain makes the world grow, Mommy!” l’il Monkey told me as he stared at the yellow lilies, thirsty for a drink.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that with each summer storm, my summer-son was getting “growed up” too.

One May, I saw my son needed a new raincoat and boots for puddle stomping.

“I don’t need a coat. Or boots,” Monkey said as a matter-of-fact.

And he ran out into the downpour.

Unprotected.

Now I’m not saying it’s smart to go outside and run around on a lawn during an electrical storm, I’m just saying that we did. Okay?

We made up goofy dances, sang ridiculous songs, and chased each other around the yard in our bare feet until we were mud-spattered and drenched.

In no time at all, my little burrito will have graduated high school and turn 18.

We live in an apartment with a less inviting front stoop, so we don’t do the thunderstorm thing anymore.

He doesn’t need require as much from me: a meal, a bed, a place to plug in his computer and charge his phone.

Soon, he won’t even need me to provide these things.

While natural, these changes come at me, pelt me, like hard rain on my skin.

One day, when I am an old woman and I hear the distant clatter of thunder, I will remember tiny yellow rain coats and tiny yellow rain-boots. I may not remember much else, but I will remember those little moments — perhaps as one long blurry moment — when the world turned chocolate pudding and everything was positively puddle wonderful.

What do you remember about thunderstorms? What little moments do you cherish?

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How Having a Wedgie Made Me Realize My Son is Becoming a Man

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Me in my Express Jeans. Size 2.

It was a regular day.

I spent a few hours at school, met a former student, ran to the post-office, stopped at the grocery store to pick up that one necessary yet missing ingredient for dinner — just like any other day.

On the way home, while sitting in my car, I noticed my jeans were a little… uncomfortable.

You know, they were a little… tight.

By the time I rolled into my driveway, I definitely had a… wedgie.

I couldn’t wait to get out of those pants.

As I yanked the faded denim over my knees, I saw them: little button tabs on the inside of the waistband.

I sucked in my breath.

Old Navy Boys Jeans, Size 16.

Because I realized I hadn’t been wearing my pants.

They were my 12-year-old son’s jeans from Old Navy.

I am horrified amazed that my son and I are the same size.

And yet, I shouldn’t be surprised.

We’re wearing the same shoes.

Or rather, I can wear his shoes.

When I hear the mail truck coming, I often slip into his sneakers: the ones he so conveniently leaves by the door.

Of course, I know what this means.

From here on out, he will continue to grow.

And soon he will pass me.

Eventually, I will look up at my child.

And that will be a whole new thing.

Although in some ways, I have always looked up to him.

Watching my son become a man is about so much more than watching him slip into and out of his different sizes of clothes.

Obviously.

He’s always known exactly who he is.

I’ve been the one who has had to adjust my expectations about who I thought he might be.

Just like I probably needed to let out a few tabs on his jeans the other day, now I have to adjust to the idea that my son is becoming a man.

With his own ideas.

And his own interests.

And his own methods.

Which don’t always align with mine.

Emotionally, Tech has always been an old soul.

But now the changes are physical.

I realize our state of equilibrium is temporary.

Like receiving an alert from my iPhone, it is a gentle reminder, that while I am still in him…

…he is out-growing me.

Do boys outgrow their mommas?

(NOTE: Clearly, we have to start being more careful with the laundry. Theoretically, Tech could make the same mistake and end up wearing my jeans. And that would be bad.)

I’m thinking this look would not go over well in the boys’ locker room.

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