I couldn’t stop myself. It was as if I was possessed by the spirits of cranky ghosts of shopping trips past.

I became that mother. In my defense, back to school shopping makes me insane.

Every ounce of cool, hipster, I’m-still-with-it youthfulness died the moment I reached for the price tag and saw the digits $54.99 hanging from the ripped-to-shreds denim pants my darling daughter insisted were a must-have for her school wardrobe. I am fairly certain the sound that erupted from my throat was akin to something a dragon with a serious case of acid reflux would make.

“This is ridiculous,” I declared, louder than intended. “For half this price, I could take a razor blade to a brand new pair of jeans that cost 20 bucks and make them every bit as cool.”

Crickets. I swear you could hear crickets, people. Well you could if the speakers of the store that sold pants that weren’t actually pants anymore would turn down that hideous techno-rap thundering noise disguised as music meant to entice you into migraine so you will hurry up and make a ridiculous purchase – like pants that aren’t pants – and then run out of the store deeper in debt.

Confession: I own three pairs of slightly ripped jeans, with one, maybe two tears in them. I love my little rips that keep me in touch with my rock’n roll rebellious side (which, admittedly, I never had).

It’s as if my cellulite gets the gift of fresh air and maybe a little sun, but not too much sun, (because age spots are a super sexy reality), but the flesh remains encased like a sausage in the cotton threads of the whole denim casing. My ripped jeans have a purpose: self-confidence and self-acceptance, just with air holes. You can’t see my thighs jiggle.

Yet at no point have I spent that much money on blue jeans that are basically naked at the front, held together by strings that will wither in the wash. Of course, that is assuming the teenager (who has now rolled her eyes like I am too stupid to actually acknowledge with eye-to-eye contact) ever puts them in the laundry. What are the odds?

A perky retail clerk, trying to ease the obvious mother-daughter tension, was kind enough to point out that the not-really-jeans came in three different denim washes. She was a super big help. I smiled in that way that suggests I may be homicidal, and also may not want to hear the pants were buy one, get the other for half price. She realized suddenly she was needed on cash. Smart move.

Moving on, one aisle over to where the fabric actually extended around the entire garments, I found a skirt that I thought would be ideal for work. I placed it against my waist to see how short it would be and heard the word “No” distinctly from my daughter, who apparently has a dragon in her too. “That skirt is too short for you, mother,” she said dryly, with emphasis on the pronoun.  There was a stand-off. I put the skirt down. (Respect the dragons).

Did my daughter get the shredded jeans? Yes, she did, because in January, when frostbite is a reality, I want to see her cope with the buy-one-get-none pants, in dark denim and light wash. I am that mom.


Kelly Waterhouse