The best tactic for back-to-school shopping when I was young was simply to go with my grandmother.
She wasn't a pushover, it's just that when it came to buying clothes, well, she had two sons and I was the youngest grandchild. You do the math: No daughters, plus a mutual affinity for fashion, plus a requisite amount of grandparental indulgence equals Happy Grandma and Me.
With my mother, it was a different story.
She was generous, but there were limits, and her stringency was hard to crack. Watching Nicole Boscarino and her mother, Diane, shop for school clothes recently brought memories and comparisons flooding back.
I can still recall what I wore on my first day of high school: a blue-and-white striped-knit T-shirt tucked into jean shorts rolled at the hem. It was not the right choice.
While styles have changed and prices, too, since I was a teen in the 1990s, the delicate deliberations between mothers and daughters continue. Tempers hang in the balance. So do the happy endings of hugs and thank yous and girls exiting the mall with a bountiful bag of goodies.
My mother was less adamant about what I chose than she was about how much of it I wanted. That's because, when I was Nicole's age, I tended to buy pants and shirts several sizes too large. Hide everything, I thought.
In retrospect, I think my mom had it easy. There is no way she'd agree.
We definitely fought about how much I could have. She wanted me to learn limits. She didn't want to spoil me. She wanted me to be modest and to understand that, no, I did not "need" one more white T-shirt. Just because I "really, really" liked it was not good enough rationale. Didn't I know how fortunate I was to have any of these things in the first place?
We bonded on our shopping trips because I loved it when she told me I looked nice, and I had her all to myself. But I also distinctly remember driving home in the car in utter silence when things didn't work out so congenially. I did my best then to conjure steely adolescent glares. Didn't she understand how important it was for my reputation to have the right items in the first place?
Yes, this was about clothes.
Silly? Perhaps. Typical? I think so.
These days, my mom and I shop together rarely. But we enjoy a much more collaborative approach, usually with me goading her into buying more and trendier threads.
And, now, when she tells me something doesn't look good, or asks if I haven't bought enough already, I smile and nod and sometimes I even listen. I'm my own woman, but my mom has style. More to the point, I totally adore her.