Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Babes in Mall Land

Despite my long-held desire never to birth children of my own, I have over the past year found myself in the intriguing position of serving as a surrogate parental-type unit to my sixteen-year-old-niece. The shorthand version is that she's had a less than desirable upbringing, and although her father is currently making amends, most everyone else to whom she is related, including the woman who birthed her, is begging off.

Which leaves - ta da - Moi.

On the one hand, who better to hover cautiously overhead with a greater-than-average understanding of the average teenage proclivity towards pouty-lipped, arm-crossed rebellion?

On the other: Good Lord. Why didn't someone warn me about Hot Topic?

I'm the kind of person who resolutely believes that there's nothing so terrible in life that it can't be fixed by lunch out followed by shopping. Whether or not that is an advisable surrogate parenting tactic, much less the basis for an entire life philosophy, work with me here, Party People; it's all I got.

So most of the time I spend with my niece is time spent eating and time spent shopping. And since she managed to receive a healthy little bankroll for Christmas, naturally her first question to me this weekend was, "Aunt Moi? Can we go shopping before I go back to school?"

On the one hand, totally! On the other, I knew our foray would eventually lead us to Hot Topic, a place which, never mind my own teenage punkette history, I find so loathsome, so insufferably tacky, I feel a "Five miles uphill through the snow." lecture coming on just thinking about it.

But, as I have come to discover, if you have a teenager in your life, there is no escaping Hot Topic. One day you're operating under the golden glowed assumption that all retail shopping is a version of the cashmere coddled dreams engendered by Bergdorf's and the next you are lured against your will and with much shock and horror into the incense reeking, music-blarring, darkened depths of Hot Topic.

Really, I try. I try not to feel old; try not to pass judgment on the parade of wary-eyed teens with their lank hair, slack jaws, and pissy attitudes; try not to ponder for the gazillionth time the wisdom of allowing these children to grow up to be our fyoooture.

So there I was again yesterday, trying. And watching. Watching, with a certain feeling of deja vu, as my niece meticulously made her way through racks of belts in her search for just the right kind of faux leather studded belt. Watching, irritation edging over into amusement, as a male specimen of her species made several nonchalant passes by the racks, hands stuffed in pants that were inching themselves slowly down over grungy, plaid-patterned underpants, while trying for the most part to look like he was trying not to look. Suddenly, somehow, courage outweighed angst, and said specimen presented himself fully in front of my niece. "Cool," he said, with a flip of his hair. "Anarchist chick."

My niece, who thankfully remains mostly nonplussed by the quality of male attention that slouches itself her way, simply rolled her eyes, turned her back, and went back to her task. Away slouched the specimen, most likely to hone in on another anarchist chick, although the last I saw him, he was paying an alarming amount of attention to a stack of Twilight tee shirts.

Later, after the purchase of the proper faux studded belt, along with two pairs of black stovepipe skinny jeans from 5-7-9, a neon green top from Pac Sun, and a pair of outrageously over-sized sunglasses from Anchor Blue, we stopped for further sustenance at Dipping Dots. While in line, my niece turned to me, put on a thoughtful expression and said, "Aunt Moi? That poser dude got it wrong. I'm not an anarchist. I don't want chaos; that would be stupid. But I do think our government is dangerous. Don't you?"

Crab apple? Meet tree.


Jenny said...

This is probably one of my favorite posts this year. It has everything; fashion, shopping, how annoying teens can be, being an Aunt, Twilight and of course..... POLITICS. You are a gifted writer, Pal. I laughed out loud at your description of the dumb-ass teen boy. Bwahahahahahah. I was in the local grocery store on the Island recently when the local high school let out and converged on it. Oh.Dear.God. The Horror. I called Mr. Boxer and said "I'm sorry, we're not having dinner tonight, I have to leave." And I did. Knowing you spent an entire day is heroic. And makes you a wonderful Aunt.


h said...

Good post.

Didn't know you'd been surrogate parenting and no, I'm not surprised.

Never heard of "Hot Topic" or "Dripping Dots" and think my odds are good that I'll never encounter either.

My advice for Anarchist Brat (and99% of all members of Generation Yo) is, of course, Military School. There are at least two excellent ones right there in the sovereign nation of Nuevo Mexico.

If you can't afford that, then, because you're my friend, I'll train her in Troll County for two weeks for the low-low price of 500 dollars per.

Visits to "Hot Topic" and movies featuring ghey vampires will not be part of the program.

moi said...

Boxer: Well, that's lovely of you to say. Most teens make my brain fry, but she's a good apple.

Troll: Two weeks in Troll Country . . . now there's an idea. She might have something to teach you, too :o) She's actually not typical Generation Yo. She's mega intelligent and articulate, straight As and Bs, very curious, and has the makings of a principled little conservative. But, yes, focus and discipline is much in need.

sparringK9 said...

grrrrrrrrherhahahahahahha!!! excellent finish. what fun. and oh what an edjoookashun is coming! lucky little tadpole.

sparringK9 said...

LOL to trolls comment.

"not on the program"

Pam said...

"Crab apple? Meet tree."

Most brilliant line I've read since forever. I love this story. I think everyone should have to give birth just only for the joys of living with a teenager full time. I speak from experience.

Re the shopping: I'm not sure if I'm more disturbed by Hot Topic or some of the other slut-wear stores popular with "kids today". I think you got off easy. Isn't it fun to watch the males picking up the scent like a ... wild coyote or sumthin?

Bretthead said...

I will cross that pick-up line off my list (since I need to compile them now).

I like how you designated her a crab apple rather than just an apple.

Gnomeself Be True said...

Your neice is cool. Guide her to be the future Moi.
(Batman meet Robin)

Have I ever mentioned how glad I am that I did not get my fondest wish...daughters?

moi said...

K9: Like all teens, she has a leaky brain. Adults speak, she listens, then it slowly seeps out. But even if a fraction ends up sticking to her brain matter, I'll take it.

Pam: I have to say, the quality of boys these days? Not heartening. But the hormonal dance seems the same as it ever was, regardless.

WTWA: Let me know how that works for ya, 'kay? In fact, one of the things I'm looking forward to in 2010 is your first First Date post.

Gnome: Based on my observations, boys are definitely easier. Definitely. But they'll still set ya back a pretty penny at Hot Topic.

Buzz Kill said...

I don't know what Hot Topic is either and I'm glad of that. I'm also glad I don't have daughters. I have the 16 YO boy and I can barely understand a word he says. He purposely mummbles just to anoy. Problem is that he is smart, just lazy - which also anoys. All I can say is 1 year and 69 days and he's the state's problem.

And remember, the nice part about being an aunt is that you can give them back to their parents any time you want.

And Trolls' right except I want to put them in the military. What doesn't kill them gets them out of my house.

Aunty Belle said...


Oh this is RIPE.

BWHAHAHAHA! to Boxer fer her revulsion on leaving store wif no grub fer Mr. B--howlin' hilarious...wich brings me to mah favorite line in this post:

"...try not to ponder for the gazillionth time the wisdom of allowing these children to grow up to be our fyoooture."

Eggsactly! Who can possible plan to rely on Dot Drippers?

Doris Rose said...

Dear Crab Tree,
I loved the post and lil miss crabapple is one lucky little chica!
happy new year,my friend.

h said...

Master Bansho Says:

"A" and "B" grades mean
nothing when "C" grades rarer
than pearls in oysters.

Like mythical town
in today's schools everyone
above average.

Diploma? GARBAGE!
Troll School Survivor? That is
a badge of honor.

moi said...

Buzz: Well, 16 YO will be out of the house soon. Until then, "just keep drinking . . . "

Aunty: To steal from Paul Simon: Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts . . . and bemoans the youth. It amazes me, how we just keep moving along.

Doris: I'm lucky to have her, too. It's an interesting feeling, having unconditional love for a critter that isn't a canine. Which doesn't mean there won't be hell to pay if she forks up.

Troll: Well, kid does have a pretty sophisticated palate; as long as you feed her well, you may be able to whip her into shape.

fishy said...

So I took a look at the Hot Topic website. They actually have an apparel category defined as
"rakish belle" , Er ... not to be confused with our own dear Aunty as I saw not a swatch of batiste.

So Moi, kudos! to you for stepping up. I have no doubt you counter things like the Shopping Maul experience with well selected books, music, movies, conversation and real food. You know, things which do not include vampires, self degradation, souless sex, empty calories, horrid concepts embedded in rap or unprincipled anarchy.

On the rare occasion when I place myself in the domain of massed teens I find myself feeling so sorry for today's young women.They have a tough environment and yet, as you mentioned, the dance goes on.

I agree with Boxer, it definitely is in the league of heroism to spend a day in this altered reality of teen world. Over the holidays we went to see the Avatar movie. While in the lobby being shocked to my shoelaces over what crap and quantity of fake foods were being consumed, I was more shocked by the dress, demeanor and language of the teens. I found myself feeling compassion for a young woman, maybe 15 or 16, who had obviously gone to much effort to look great for this "date". Her escort was filthy,smelled horrid,
had the crotch of his pants somewhere below his knee, couldn't speak a complete sentence and could not refrain from repetetive public adjustments of his personals. "The horror" to quote Boxer is very, very ... horrible.

Beautifully written Moi, and again so great of you to make the effort of influencing how the apple falls.

moi said...

Fishy: It does seem that teen girls today are wrapping themselves around the axle for boys who hardly seem worth the effort, doesn't it?

In 5-7-9, while my niece was in the dressing room, I kept an eye on this one young couple. The gal was very pretty, with beautiful posture, long shiny hair, nicely dressed. The boy in tow, however, looked like he just crawled out of a garbage bin. What IS it with these knit caps they all seem to be wearing these days? And the droopy pants thing makes me nuts. My niece has a similar disdain; she calls these boys "penguins."

sparringK9 said...

indeed. the triumph of post-feminism: hot topic. nice going bitches. now girls believe power is to parade around like a las vegas cupcake while sharing (or picking up!) the olive garden check with some mouth breathing SK8R boys.

Aunty Belle said...

if pretty groomed girls (Moi's 5-7-9 comment) is draggin' around wif ratty garbage bin dwellers, is cute groomed boys grabbin' hanks of goth haired zombies?

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Thanks for the tips Moi - I look set to inherit a couple of teen step-daughters, so will need all the tips I can get!

Happy New Year! Lx

Making Space said...

I think this is, like, totally, one of the best blog posts I have ever read. ROFL

And I totally want you to take me shopping. The good news for you is I, too, hate Hot Topic.

Making Space said...

Oh. The bad news? I'm a hardened leftist who Wants To Raise Your Taxes. Yes, you and I will be throwing dipping dots at each other before day's end.

But if it gets you another good blog post, all shall be well, no?

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

there was a really awesome South Park episode that featured Hot Topic- I'll dig it up for you if ya like.

One day my children will be doing things that I find distasteful and annoying as an adult, and I'll have to reach deep into my calm and un-curmudgeonly reserves to remember that I too once had pink hair and ripped up jeans...

come to think of it, not much has changed.

I digress...

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