Platform for a Fight, Then a Bit of Reality

Do you have any idea how far a mother’s voice can carry in a designer shoe warehouse with 28-foot ceilings? Far. Really far. All the way from the dress shoes on the back wall of the store, off the vaulted tin ceilings and up to the sandal display near the front doors.

I discovered this as I walked into the store. That’s when I heard Prom Mom and her snarky daughter duking it out over a pair of 4-inch platform heels. It was a match worthy of HBO on a Saturday night.

“You called me all the way over to this store to ask my opinion. I’m telling you right now you are not wearing 4-inch heels. Now, if you’re going to ignore me and wear what you want to wear anyway, why did you drag me here in the first place?”

Ding! Round one to Prom Mom for the classic one-two punch: A maternal decree and some good, old-fashioned guilt.

“If I get these sandals, I can wear them after prom with my sundress for graduation,” the daughter hit back.

Translation: I’m kicking these off the minute I get to the prom anyway. Why do you care?

“They don’t go with your prom dress. They don’t go with any dress. What are you thinking?”

Round two to Prom Mom for including the rhetorical question that cannot be answered by a teenager.

You’re probably wondering how this prizefight ended. So am I. Unfortunately, I got distracted trying to find a pair of flat gray shoes to go with slacks in an odd shade of pewter, and in my quest, I managed to block out the ambient bickering.

I’m not sure what I would have done had I been Prom Mom. The knockout punch clearly would have been to walk out of the shoe store, credit card firmly ensconced within her heavily guarded wallet, muttering something like, “You want ‘em, you buy ‘em.”

Sadly, it looks like this year I won’t even get the chance for a shoe store altercation with my daughter. (Not that we would have one anyway.) This is because Betsy told me last week that she is the only one among her group of girlfriends who won’t be going to the prom.

“How do you know?” I asked. I kept my voice hopeful without infusing too much motherly desperation.

“Mom.” She looked at me as if my head were filled with Styrofoam. “I just know.”

I took a deep breath, thinking of the right tack to take. Do I talk her out of her pessimistic conclusion? Do I start naming names to see if there’s a chance she has forgotten about a potential escort? Or do I face the music and dance with her — or not dance, as the case may be — on the reasonable conclusion that she won’t be asked.

Some children respond well to boundless optimism. Betsy isn’t one of those.

“Bummer,” I said. “Maybe we could go out to dinner and movie.”

I meant well, but the only way to sum up my response is: wrong, wrong, wrong.

As the invitation left my lips and floated across the kitchen, I could see Betsy’s brain connecting the dots. First the junior prom spent watching a chick flick and eating popcorn with her mother; next, she’ll be working in the reference department of the local library and living alone in a third-floor walk-up with only a family of cats for company.

I regrouped before it was too late. “Look, there’s still a week until prom. Some boys are just too nervous to ask a girl until it gets close. Prom hype scares them.”

“It’s OK,” she said. “There are worse things in life than missing the prom.”

Having just suggested she share prom night with her mother, I’m not sure how to take this comment, but at least she was philosophical.

I confess I wish someone would surprise my daughter with a last-minute invitation to be his date for the dance. Then again, thinking back on the stress at the shoe store, I remember that wise old adage: Be careful what you wish for — you may get it.

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