Monday, November 29, 2010

Forever 16!

Jennifer Huffman
Napa Valley Register
Monday, November 29, 2010

An invitation to a “Sweet 16” birthday party and upcoming holiday events had our two teens in need of some dress-up/party clothes. So I hopped in the car with the two older Huffman girls. I knew right where to go. We were headed to Forever 21.

Any mom of a teenager can tell you, Forever 21 is the Mecca for fashionable, but cheap clothes. Best of all, everything at Forever 21 seems to cost $22.95 or less. Sure, much of the clothing isn’t meant to last more than a year or two, but for two rapidly growing teens, Forever 21 is it.

Hitting the Forever 21 store in Santa Rosa, the two girls immediately disappeared into the racks crammed with clothing. We were on a mission for dress-up clothes, and I mean appropriate dress-up clothing, so careful attention was required to separate the thigh-high strapless numbers from the more suitable pieces. Some of them were so short, I couldn’t tell if it was a skirt or extremely short strapless dress.

That’s when I saw it — the cutest chiffon dress with satin trim, covered in tiny silver polka dots. A short, but not too short, bubble skirt. The dress practically screamed “Perfect for Sweet 16 Birthday Party.” It was love at first sight.

Look at this, I said to my oldest teen. Isn’t this adorable? It’s so cute! It’s very Holly Golightly.

This didn’t exactly thrill my daughter. I don’t think she knows who Holly Golightly is. Either way, she didn’t want to try it on.

I played it cool. It’s early in the game, I told myself. We would keep looking.

Middle daughter came over with a skirt.

I like that, said oldest daughter.

I found it first, said middle daughter.

They eyed each other, as if they might start a tug of war over that skirt right then.

Break it up, I said. Each of you go to opposite sides of the store and keep looking.

Almost 45 minutes later, I was starting to get a little worried. Neither had found anything that would work as a birthday/church/Christmas party outfit. Forever 21 has great prices, but most of the clothing is casual, and not always appropriate for dinner at Grandma’s or the school Christmas program.

I tried a different tactic. Approaching middle daughter, I asked if she would consider letting her older sister buy the skirt, on the condition that she would be able to borrow it. Middle daughter considered this for a minute as she held onto the skirt with both hands.

Only if I get to borrow it whenever I want, middle sister said defiantly.

OK, let me take this proposal to your sister, I said in my best United Nations negotiator voice.

Across the store, I found the oldest. The offer was made.

She looked very skeptical at the thought of sharing a skirt with her younger sister.

I’ll think about it, she said.

I was getting tired. I should have brought water and a granola bar for fortification. To make matters worse, for some reason there are no chairs inside Forever 21 stores or dressing rooms. I could only perch on the edge of a display mannequin stand. We had one skirt, no top and no agreement between the warring parties. Desperation was setting in.

I looked back at the cute little Sweet 16 dress.

Would you just try it on, I begged my oldest daughter.

She was still dubious, but I sensed a crack in her defenses, the tiniest hint of an opportunity for compromise.

If you get this dress, I will buy you one complete outfit of your choice, I told her. Yes, I am not ashamed to admit it. I bribed my daughter at Forever 21.

One outfit? She asked. Of my choice?

Yes, I said, swallowing carefully. Will you try it on?

OK, she said.

She stepped into the dressing room. I paced outside, waiting for the great reveal.

Opening the door, there she was. The dress was more than cute. It was darling. She was darling. She was the picture of Sweet 16.

I got all choked up, she looked so cute.

Mom, stop, she said.

I know, I said. I can’t help it. It looks so good on you.

If I agree to wear it, will you stop? she said.

Yes, I nodded carefully. And you can pick out whatever you want.

Twenty minutes later we left Forever 21, the dress in hand.

Victory is sweet. Especially when it only costs $22.95.

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