Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Sorcerer's apprentice

Recently I took a 13 year old greatniece (K), her 11 year old brother (M) and her 13 year old friend (C) Christmas shopping at Woodfield Mall in exurban Chicago. Once the largest indoor mall on the continent, it's still #3 to my knowledge, so I figured that my downstate relatives would enjoy it.

I set some ground rules before we set foot in the mall. We'd split up - K with C and M with me. Both girls had cellphones, and we preprogrammed all of them with each others' numbers. We synchronized watches and agreed to check in at a certain time, after which we'd reunite and take it from there.

Some might doubt how good an idea it was to turn the girls loose like that in a huge mall 100+ miles from home during Christmas rush. But with both of them armed with cellphones and sticking together, and with blessing from both sets of parents, I figured we had everything covered. As it turned out they played by the rules and everyone seemed to have had a good time.

K and C might have had even more fun if they had had credit cards, but hey, I'm not a total idiot. After we regrouped and ate, we made a second pass to pick up what K and M had picked out for Christmas (C was on her own, and her parents had sent plenty of cash with her - everyone knew the plan).

M wasn't too much trouble - a couple of computer games, some cheap clothes at JCPenney and that was it. But his sister...nothing but Abercrombies or Hollister's would do. Merely passing through JCP on the way in and out of the mall was as much as she could be expected to bear.

And then we got to Victoria's Secret. It turns out that K wanted to take a look around.

Hey, I like the scenery too, but today I'm in Daddy mode and well remembering a generation ago. Then I had K's aunt and her friend with me as I drove them around shopping for prom dresses. It seemed that about every time I had young girls in my car I'd get pulled over for something, and that night I wound up in jail (long story later). With that vivid memory in mind, the thought of being seen paying for some clothes for an underaged and overdeveloped 13 year old girl (the little squirt is already sporting a C rack on a small frame, and she knows it) just didn't appeal to me.

Well, I could have sucked it up and gone into the store with her. I'm no coward or prude and my pants were baggy. But I told her that I wouldn't be buying her anything from there, and that was that.

I can hear it now. I just can't deal with "budding sexuality". I'm repressive. I'm treating a young woman like a child. I'm part of a patriarchy seeking to deny women power. And so on.

No. But I'd like to see the kid happily married before she gets knocked up, as disgustingly quaint as that sequence of events might seem nowadays. We don't need another sorcerer's apprentice toying with things she doesn't understand yet. She'll attract enough attention without Victoria's Secret togs. And if by chance VC sells anything that isn't particularly provocative, I dare suggest that she can find it cheaper somewhere else.

Anyway, K didn't pout or anything when I stopped short of VC. She already had plenty of swag in any case, and from what little I see of her she's a good kid.

And whenever I get a chance I'm gonna help her stay that way.

Words of love

That old charmer Garrison Keillor...