When I was a few years younger than Twelve, I wanted a certain pair of LA Gear shoes. High tops, with the twisty leather 'flame' detail on the sides. Hot pink and ... was it purple? Hang on, let me look this up ...
Green. Looks like the color combos were hot pink and lime green or purple and black ... eww, I had forgotten about the velcro strap across the top. Wait a minute ... NO FREAKING WAY! They're making a 20th anniversary version! Hang on, this is too funny, let me post it on Facebook ...
Anyway, I wanted those shoes something fierce. I was dead set on the particulars, too. A friend got the low top ones because she had broken her leg or something and the high tops didn't fit with her cast, and I just could not believe that she had settled for the low tops.
I never did get them; my family wasn't particularly wealthy and any extra cash was devoted to the pursuits of the head of household, not to the desires of the children's hearts. His stinginess didn't matter so much at the time because I was homeschooled and there wasn't anyone to impress. When I started junior high, though, it would have been nice to have the right clothes and shoes, and by 'it would have been nice' I mean 'it would have made a huge difference and maybe I wouldn't have felt so much like a complete dork and utter outsider.'
In principle, I am now smugly opposed to excessive material goods. I believe that the truly important things in life are relationships, anything sewn by hand, and delicate pink depression glass cocktail glasses. It drives me nuts that Twelve wants a Coach wallet and a Juicy Couture charm bracelet, partly because both are ghastly, but mostly because she's been trained to desire brand names rather than to assess aesthetic value.
In reality, I recognize that having certain personal artifacts helps Twelve fit in with her peers. This is why I don't mind so much that she has an iPod touch, a Kindle, two pairs of Toms (don't get me started on Toms), and a pair of Nikes that I think have a name but are basically just very brightly colored sneakers. This is why, for her birthday, I gave her a pair of socks that cost fourteen dollars and are JUST SOCKS. They are not even good Smartwool socks with cushion and warmth. They are regular old basketball socks with a bizarrely skeletal design, but they are all the rage, apparently, and the gift was a success. I'm not thrilled with the iPod because, okay, I'm a bit of a Luddite and I want her to interact more in three dimensions. I've made my peace with it because it helps her stay in touch with people and because there's not a lot I can do about it, but it's an uneasy truce that I'm not quite sure about.
Thankfully, I suppose, Twelve gets the really expensive stuff from her dad, and thankfully she's perceptive enough to be more appreciative of $14 socks from me than of $140 shoes from him. We've even begun to joke about how she basically puts in her orders for birthday and holiday gifts ahead of time.
I'd like for my daughter to scoff at people who slavishly follow fashion. I'd like her to try to develop her own style or pick one of the non-mainstream ones; gothic, perhaps, or punk, or just brightly colored hair. If nothing else, I'd like her to be an early adopter, and be dedicated to knowing about and wearing the freshest fashions before anyone else. Instead, Twelve fits in. She's cool.
I ask Twelve questions about her experiences at school and with friends mostly because I want to have a sense of how she spends her days and with whom, but there's a wistful undercurrent there, too.
I'd like to know what it's like to be cool.