“Mom, you can’t go out like that.” My 14-year-old daughter somehow managed to express horror, disgust, and the scantest level of pity in one glance as she took in my outfit.
I looked down at my t-shirt and denim shorts. I couldn’t imagine what fashion rule I was breaking with this most basic of outfits.
“Why?” I asked, clueless.
Her eyes grew wide, and she responded as if the answer should have been obvious, “Mom, your shirt is tucked in.” She shook her head, exasperated and not a little defeated, and walked away.
I untucked–of course I untucked–but it was too late. Once again, I had proved to my teenager what she already knew to be true: I am the world’s most un-cool mom. But the thing is, she’s wrong: because I had the world’s most un-cool parents. And I’m not even kidding.
Start here: my children are being raised in the new millennium. I was raised in the seventies. My children’s parents wear Life is Good™ shirts and Levi’s™. My daddy (a truly wonderful human being but a product of his times where fashion was concerned) wore plaid polyester leisure suits and ties that were at least six inches wide.
In the 70’s, we didn’t so much style our hair as glue it into place. My mother had a lovely and lofty bouffant and my daddy, God love him, wore a toupee for at least a decade and a half. Fun fact: he stopped wearing it after our family vacation one year. He’d stripped the thing off when we’d pulled out of the driveway, curled it up so it looked not unlike a sleeping ferret, and placed it in the glove compartment of our Chrysler station wagon. Ten days later, the toupee had permanently molded into its rodent shape. Daddy, looking not nearly as upset as a person should have been after having lost an entire head of hair to a faux ferret, never replaced it.
Here’s something: my children’s parents can dance. We boogied in college and two-stepped as newlyweds. My children are delusional when they say we can’t dance. Ingrates! They have no idea how bad it could be. Consider MY lot in life.
In all fairness, because Daddy was a Southern Baptist preacher, he didn’t get much opportunity to cut a rug. Had his career taken a different path, perhaps he could have been the next Fred Astaire. But things were what they were, and Daddy’s dance moves were somewhat. . . well. . .let’s just say unrehearsed. Once, my brother–a teenager at the time–returned from a shopping trip with Daddy ashen-faced, “I think I’m going to be sick,” he said, plopping in Daddy’s recliner and covering his face with his hands. They’d been shopping for speakers for my brother’s car. In the store, Daddy, listening to the music as they tested quality, had, well there’s just no other way to put it, Daddy had busted a move. Busted it wide open. My brother hasn’t been the same since.
As for TV, when I was a teenager, there was no American Idol or Dancing with the Stars. No. When I was 14, my parents were watching The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie. Actually, my sister and I wouldn’t let them watch anything else because those were our favorite shows. Remember when John-boy fell in love with Jenny? Oh I loved that one–except, of course, for the knife-to-the-gut ending: “To Be Continued.” And who didn’t weep when Mary became blind or cheer for Laura and Manly? (Okay, so my parents were pretty cool about TV.)
Here’s the amazing thing when it comes to coolness and parenting, though. My kids think it is cute when Papa dances in public. Cute! They love the stories about Papa’s toupee and can’t even imagine Gangi with big hair and therefore don’t really believe the hype. “Gangi always looks so pretty,” they explain to us patiently. “She never tucks her shirt in.”