"Check out those chicks," I said to my son, pointing to a gaggle of elementary age girls on a sidewalk near our house. He's at that timeless and tender age, the gangly male fruit of my womb. Daily he walks a delicate line between loving girls terrible and shooting spit balls at them to ward off a cootie attack.
"Gross, Mom!" he protested too loudly, just in case there were any hidden spy devices in my car that might beam his response to the girl's bathroom at school. "Besides, I know those girls. They are only in the FOURTH GRADE!"
When you're eleven and going in the sixth grade, not to mention still counting the halves and three-quarters of your chronological existence, even a month's age difference can put the whammy on an otherwise promising relationship.
"Oh, poo." I said. "When I was in sixth grade, I had a boyfriend who was in the eighth grade!"
A dead silence fell over the car coupled with a disgusted look I can only compare to the time I was sixteen and my Mother wanted to talk to me about my right to have a "climax" with a future sex partner. (At sixteen, I was still guarding my boobies like the gold at Ft. Knox and thought a climax was something you reached in a good book. I have never since allowed that word to be used anywhere within my listening air space.)
"Mom!" my son yelled in disbelief. "Are you kidding me? You DID NOT have a boyfriend when you were in sixth grade!"
Sometimes I forget that I was raised a southern girl who was considered an old maid when I was still unmarried at seventeen. Could it be that normal children of a non-southern persuasion are not in committed relationships in sixth grade? I realized that perhaps I should ease off the whole boyfriend-girlfriend thing and talk about something more appropriate for eleven-year-old boys, like the incredible jumping power of Nike's or how many hotdogs I can eat without throwing up.
I would have done just that, had my son not made the following statement with as much authority and certainty as he uses when telling me the product of 9 times 9.
"Besides," he said, "nobody in eighth grade would ever want a girl in sixth grade."
My boy just called me out.
"Let me tell you something right quick, Big Dog. Your Mom was H-O-T: hot, when I was a girl. Hot, hot, hot. That eighth grade boy was lucky to get me. In fact, I think I still have the romantical letters he wrote to me in my hope chest out in the garage to prove it!"
That was not a lie. I have an obsessive need to hang onto mementos, (go figure) and I have at least a little something from every boyfriend I ever had. If ever I should feel the need to perform a black magic voodoo ritual on a guy I knew when I was sixteen, I'm golden.
"Mother," which is my slave name and what my children call me when they are about to talk down to me, "nobody says hot anymore."
"Paris Hilton does."
"Who is Paris Hilton?"
"She's the devil," I answered.
"Anyway, there is no way my MOM was cute. I'm calling Paw-Paw when we get home and asking him. He would NOT have let you have a boyfriend when you were my age."
"Son, your Paw-Paw was poor and had five kids, three of whom were girls. He tried to marry me off to a neighbor boy whose family owned some good looking goats when I was in fourth grade. If I hadn't been so smart as to fake a seizure, your friends would be calling you Bobby Joe and you'd have your Daddy's lazy eye and inability to go an entire week without wetting the bed."
We argued all the way home, the blonde love of my life and I. He continued to tell me I could never have been a hot chick, which nobody says anymore, and I did my very best to convince this stubborn clone of myself that I was in fact not born a forty-one-year-old woman.
Finally, realizing that he was never going to admit defeat, I played the trump card.
"If you don't say that your Mom might possibly have been a cute girl at one time in her life, I swear on the Kansas City Chiefs that I will tell all your friends you were a breast fed baby."
As you might have guessed, in this house we value the long term mental well being of our children above all else.
"Alright, alright. I'll admit it if you answer a question for me," he said, pulling off seamlessly the classic Testosterone Subject Change used by men worldwide to avoid admitting defeat or having to say "I love you".
"Why do you wear shoes with high heels on them and put on make-up and fix your hair just to go to Wal-Mart?"
"So I look good, silly."
"For who?" asked the sly child as he popped and tugged on the myriad of rubber Live Strong bands adorning his wrists.
"For anyone that might see me."
"Didn't you tell me it doesn't matter what people think of you? Didn't you tell me if people make fun of you because of the way you dress or look it's only because they feel bad about themselves?"
"Well, son..." I tried to defend myself, but the Big Dog hadn't finished presenting his argument.
"PLUS," which is kid speak for 'Here comes my big finish. My indisputable evidence. The mother of all good points in the history of good points is about to be made'. "PLUS, when you get married you're only supposed to care what your husband thinks!" He was grinning like a mini Johnny Cochran after he'd come up with the whole try on the glove idea.
"Oh yeah?" I said as we pulled in the drive. "Well, I was cute then and I'm cute now and I if it hadn't been for high heels and Max Factor, you wouldn't even be here right now, Mr. Gonna Tell Me How I Can Dress.
"PLUS...." Hard as I tried to smack him down with a comeback, I went totally blank. How do you argue with someone who uses your brilliant words of wisdom against you? Especially when they have big puppy dog eyes and hold your very heart in their hands?
"Have I told you today that I adore you?" I asked as I smacked him on the back of his spiky-haired head. "You're the best kid ever."
"You're the best Mom ever." Those words from those lips will forever hold all the power of the universe for me. "Do I still have to clean my room?"
Copyright © 2004-2005, Sherri Bailey
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