Something old, nothing new

My adorably-pregnant sister-in-law teaches high school, and because she was to chaperone at prom this weekend we went to the mall to find her some shoes, which is how we found ourselves in the prom shoe aisle at Payless surrounded by a bunch of seventeen-year-old girls. It was an odd feeling, not unlike the time I had to climb into the McDonald’s playland to rescue a treed Noah and all the other preschoolers stared at me in wide-eyed awe and revulsion – “A grownup,” they all murmured. (In my head they’re all saying this in unison, like the squeaky-toy aliens from Toy Story.) “There’s a grownup in the playplace!” This same feeling translated seamlessly into prom-shoe-shopping – we were clearly out of place as Emily tried on Dyeables with her cutely pregnant belly and I watched from behind Peter’s stroller, and we left feeling acutely aware that we’re not seventeen anymore.

We struck out on shoes – heels that seemed to be a reasonable height for dancing when we were seventeen now loom threateningly when paired with a second-trimester bulge – so we wandered into Claire’s. If shoe-shopping amongst high-school students was awkward, accessories-shopping with preadolescents was surreal. “It’s like stepping back into 1988,” Emily breathed as she fingered a piano-keyboard-print belt.

“Are these earrings…Lisa Frank?” I asked, eying a display of butterfly jewelry.

The teenager behind the counter was chipper. “Yeah, isn’t this stuff, like, sooo cute?” she enthused. “It’s all so retro and stuff!”

“Retro,” I said. “The eighties aren’t retro, they’re tragic. They were woefully ill-advised the first time – bringing them back would just be foolish, and –”

“They have jelly shoes!” Emily called from the back of the store.

“The thing is,” I whispered to Emily as we examined rainbow hair clips and neon plastic bangles, “if all the twelve-year-olds are sincerely wearing leg warmers and side ponytails, that means we can’t wear them ironically anymore. Every time New Kids on the Block gets back together or they try to remake 90210, that’s one more thing we can’t be smug about having survived. If the teenyboppers have –”

“Hey, did you see we have slap bracelets?” called the teenybopper at the counter.

Emily’s and my heads swiveled toward her in unison. “You DO?”

“Those things used to be banned from my elementary school,” I reminisced.

“I used to buy them from the quarter machine at the grocery store,” reflected Emily.

“These are just $3.50!” gushed the teenybopper.

“Just think,” said Emily, “if I’d saved all those slap bracelets I bought when I was 8, I could be selling them now at a 1400% markup.”

“The past doesn’t belong to us; we simply market it to our children,” I said. Then we clutched our walkers and shuffled off to catch the early bird special at the Golden Corral.

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1 Response to “Something old, nothing new”


  1. 1 Rachel May 24, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Yep, the slap bracelets were banned at our elementary school. When Amy got busted for breaking into the school (in 6th grade!!) She was going in to rescue her slap bracelet from a teacher’s desk.

    And wouldn’t you know, I just cut my hair WAY to short for a side pony-tail. But if you catch any of those wonderful little heart-shaped thingies that we used to use to bunch our shirts together at the hip, on one side (you know, to match the ponytail) send me one, and I’ll send you a check to cover it. 🙂


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