My LifeMy middle daughter is in middle school and stuck in the middle of the need to fit in. One thing she HAS to have is a North Face jacket—the uniform of her people. I, as a mother, am opposed. I do not like the idea of paying double what I would normally pay for a coat simply because it has a brand name plastered prominently on the front and back of it. But, sigh, I do understand the need to fit in, to look like the other girls when you are at that age.
Who among us doesn’t understand that desire to have what"all the other kids have.” Surely we have all had those moments in our childhood and just as surely (unless we grew up in great wealth and overindulgence) we know what it is like to not be able to get something just because everyone had it.
For my husband, his"North Face” item was Levi jeans. He coveted them, dreamed of them, begged for them. But no, his parents told him, they did not have the money for them. They could not bring themselves to pay double for a pair of jeans that said"Levis” when you could buy a perfectly good pair of jeans at Sears with the"Toughskins” label. Yikes.
Recently I revealed to my children my"North Face” memory. In the seventh grade, the thing I coveted most was a pair of Go-go boots. You remember those ankle or knee-high white vinyl boots? Nancy Sinatra had them. My cousin Natalie had them. I wanted a pair more than my next breath but I did not have them. My mother knew this but could not spend my father’s hard-earned money on a pair of boots that did not even keep the rain or snow off your feet. But she did empathize with my burning lust for them, so when she saw the cheap solution in the sale bin at the shoe store she snatched it up and flew home to show me proudly.
“Look,” she said,"You put these on like socks, then you put on your white shoes and it looks like boots!” she said showing me her purchase. They were knee-high, white, stretchy vinyl, spat-like thingies. Except spats go over your shoes and these tucked into the shoe.
I was skeptical but hopeful. I pulled on the spats and slid my feet into my white, patent-leather Easter shoes and Voila! It looked exactly like you’re imagining—like I was wearing shiny white socks with my shiny white shoes. In absolutely no way, not by squinting or standing in dim light, did they look like Go-go boots or granny boots or any boots at all. Still, I did not have the heart to make my mother feel bad so I wore them to school. Mercifully, I have no memory of the reaction my spat-shoes elicited from my fellow junior high classmates. Surely they clapped their hands in delight and exclaimed over their cleverness.
I remembered all this while Grace was on her North Face campaign and I shared it with her and my other two children. It slayed them. They laughed, fell off their chairs, clutched their sides and hooted with glee.
“Mom!” my teenaged son said gasping for air,"Grandma bought you Faux-Go Boots!”
Indeed, my mother had bought me Faux-Go Boots and the memory, while funny, is also slightly painful.
Which is why I relented and took Grace to the sporting goods store to buy a North Face jacket. I don’t feel good about the whole succumbing-to-peer-pressure-message this sent her but I assuaged my conscience by insisting she pay for half. And at least she won’t be able to make fun of me in 30 years about the Faux-Face jacket I made her wear.
She’ll just have to come up with her own sad story about the fake Uggs I got her at Target instead.
Judy Zimmerman is a freelance writer who wears lots of faux clothing in Glenview. This essay was adapted from a posting to her blog, theselfrighteous housewife.blogspot.com.