Once upon a time there was a little girl who liked to look pretty. Let’s call her Becca (not necessarily her real name.) Becca was a cute little girl who looked pretty in everything, even during the summer before kindergarten, when she refused to wear anything but bike shorts. Alas, that is a story for another day.
Becca grew into a beautiful young woman, although she suffered the plague of adolescence and did not see the beauty. When Becca entered the eighth grade, she began to talk about the eighth grade dance.
“Mom,” she said, “When the eighth grade dance comes, I’ll need a nice dress.”
Her mother, who didn’t wear a formal dress until the senior prom, assumed that meant Becca would wear something she might wear to church or to a nice dinner. But no, Becca said, everybody would be wearing a party dress. Her mother then wondered if Goodwill would have any party dresses that had been worn once to the eighth grade dance. But no, Becca said, everybody would be wearing something brand new.
The mother, hereafter known as the Extraordinarily Generous Mom, took Becca and her girlfriend shopping at the local mall, where they tried on a number of party dresses. Some were too short. Some were too long. One made Becca look like a smaller, cuter, less orange version of Snookie, which Becca thought was a compliment. It was not.
Finally, they found an adorable black dress that was fitted enough to hug Becca’s figure, but not so skin tight that she would need industrial strength undergarments. The dress was even 30 percent off, and the the Extraordinarily Generous Mom bought it and a fun necklace to dress it up. Because the dance rules said all dresses must have straps, Becca and her Extraordinarily Generous Mom took the dress to the tailor's to have spaghetti straps added.
(Note that mothers of boys merely had to find a nice dress shirt to go with the khakis their sons wore to church, dinners with grandparents and an occasional sports banquet. Lucky!)
The dress was finished on the day before the big dance. Becca tried it on at the tailor’s and looked unhappy. She assured the nice tailor that everything was fine, but once she was in the car with her Extraordinarily Generous Mom, the tears started to flow. The dress was hideous, she said. She looked ugly in it. It was too big. It was too long. The color made her look horrible. The Extraordinarily Generous Mom rolled her eyes and said, “You will wear this dress. I’m not buying another.” More tears. Didn’t Mom understand? Becca had been looking forward to this dance all year and now it was going to be ruined.
“Didn’t you ever feel this way,” Becca asked her Extraordinarily Generous Mom.
Extraordinarily Generous Mom said no, she had been a grateful child who would never want to waste her parents’ hard earned money. But then she remembered the haircut.
On the weekend before senior pictures, the Mom went in for a haircut. Her hair was between lengths, so she foolishly asked the stylist to keep it long in back and short in front. Consequently, the 18-year-old walked out with a mullet. Remember? “Business in front, party in the back!” The Mom had a head full of thick unruly hair, so we’re talking “stick-up-the-butt business in front, blow out party of 16-year-olds with no sense of decorum in the back.”
The 18-year-old was devastated. Beauty shops were closed on Sundays, and pictures would be taken at school Monday morning. She sought consolation Sunday from her cool aunt who lived down the street with Grandma. Cool aunt looked at her and said, “Come on, let’s see if we can find a haircut place.” They went out to the local mall, where a wise stylist sent the partying 16-year-olds in the back packing and took the business world from the front. The 18-year-old’s hair was shorter all over, but it looked much better than the mullet. (Did mullets look good on anyone?)
With this memory, the Extraordinarily Generous Mom turned the car to the local mall. They looked at one store and found nothing. Becca noted a new store across the street called Charming Charlie. Check them out at http://www.charmingcharlie.com/. Perhaps they would have a dress.
Charming Charlie, for those who haven’t visited yet, is a store full of fun jewelry, accessories, shoes and apparel. To the relief of Extraordinarily Generous Mom, the prices were beyond reasonable. Becca looked at the dresses and decided there was nothing there. In desperation, Extraordinarily Generous Mom went up to one of the women who worked there, who turned out to be the general manager. The general manager’s name was Janey, and she also had a 14-year-old. Janey was sympathetic and optimistic. Bring the dress in, she said, and we’ll see what we can do.
Becca put on her dress and Janey proclaimed that it would be easy to dress up and accessorize. Extraordinarily Generous Mom snuck away to look at cute little turtle necklaces and dream of the day she could spend money on herself. In the meantime, Janey treated Becca like a fashion model, bringing a selection of belts, necklaces, shoes and earrings. Other employees made suggestions, including a jeweled belt that accentuated Becca’s waist and added flair to the dress.
For the next hour or so, Janey worked with Becca, giving her advice on creating a new look that complemented the dress without overwhelming it. She scoured the store for shoes. She brought out an assortment of jeweled headbands. The tear-provoking dress was now a winner. Extraordinarily Generous Mom bought everything – shoes, belt, necklace, earrings and headband – for a mere $54 and decided Charming Charlie was the best store in the world.
The story doesn’t end here. Extraordinarily Generous Mom knows there will be other episodes throughout adolescence, where her daughter can’t see the beautiful person in the mirror. But thanks to a little luck and Janey’s magic, Becca will smile tonight when she puts on her outfit.
And the Extraordinarily Generous Mom can go to bed dreaming of the day when she goes to Charming Charlie and asks Janey to transform her from frumpy middle aged soccer mom to Extraordinarily Generous and Cool Mom. But that’s another story.