Tag Archives: dress

A Tomboy and a Dad

Hannah at the Who
Hannah at the Who

When my middle child, Hannah, was born, there’s no doubting the fact that she was almost like the son we’d never had.  She was persnickety.  She hated having her hair braided, bowed, cut, or even tampered with in any way shape or form.  Hannah hated being held unless it was by her mother . . . and her mother alone.  It’s funny, too, because when she was hurt she’d run straight to me – and I wasn’t the pharmacist or medical expert in the family – only to return to her mother after she felt better.  The only thing missing was the proverbial sticking out of her tongue at me to signify that I was good for what was necessary and that’s all.

After her mother passed away just about 2 1/2 years ago, Hannah got a lot closer to me.  Don’t get me wrong, as she got older she sat on my lap and hugged me and all that.  Still . . . she fought me at every turn.  The only times she’d calm down – and I’m not kidding – was when I’d hold her as a baby or toddler and sing Desperado by the Eagles to her.  The song and its cadence along with the simplicity, I suppose, just made her relax.  She actually liked it so I sang it whenever she was crying or whenever she asked.  It was a good opportunity to get closer to her in any way I could.

Today, though, the tomboy returned.  I had to take her brothers shopping for suits and ties and everything they needed for a funeral.  I needed a new white dress shirt . . . and I asked Hannah what she needed.

“I already have black pants and a blazer but I can’t find my dress shirt,” she informed me.
“You mean blouse?” I corrected her.
“Sure, Dad, my blouse.  I don’t know what happened to it.  Did you take it, or one of the boys?”

Now the only way I get her clothes is if, by some miracle from above, she puts them in the laundry when they’re actually dirty.  (Sometimes when they’re not and she’s “cleaning” her room)  Then came the blame that it ended up in the boys’ room.  After that, it was just one thing after another.

I found a pretty blouse that made her grouse in the store.
“It had this weird hole in the back,” she informed me.
“You mean it was ripped?”
“No, it had this weird hole, like a circle.”
I stared at her, informing her, as politely as I could, that women’s clothing have things like that.  The back would button shut but there’s a little loop that exists that is also like a decoration.  Not everything is a comfy old t-shirt.

“Okay,” I informed her, “we’ll get this one, a white blouse that would go well under a black blazer with pants.”

Bear in mind that this is for her grandmother’s funeral and she’s giving a reading at the church.

“Your blazer is a nice one, right?  Pants too?”  I got the obligatory eye-roll after I said this.
“Yes, Dad, I have nice stuff.  The sleeves I usually roll up but I will put them down and it looks nice!”  That should have been my first clue.

When we got home I had her try on her outfit.  It was too late to go back out, by the way, and after she came out and showed me . . . she was sloppy to say the least.
“You can’t wear that,” I informed her.  “That would work for school, or a speech tournament, but not a funeral.”  Her blouse was too casual (my fault) and the blazer was like a sweatshirt material.  The pants were the only workable item.
“Yeah, I kinda thought so,” she informed me.
“You know, Hannah, you should probably wear a dress.”
Her eyes already narrowed and she started to formulate her redress of her father.
“I know,” I told her, “that it’s not fair.  Women should wear what they want, guys wear whatever, whole nine yards, but it’s your grandma’s funeral.  You should dress nice.”
“Daaaad!” She said it in her best teenage timbre.  “I’m a tomboy, and no offense, but you’re a guy.  You’re not Mom or Abbi.  You know how hard it is to find a dress with a guy?!”
I stared at her, calmed myself, and then asked: “who helped your sister find her homecoming dress?”
“How long do you remember I was married to your Mom?”
“18 years.”
“I started, Hannah, by telling your Mom she looked good in everything.  Then the one time I was wrong she never forgave me.  From that point on I told her if something looked bad.  You’re built almost exactly like your Mom was when she was your age, so I know what stuff looked like on her.  I’m not going to make you wear something that looks bad.”
“I know, but . . . ”
“Hannah, I went to the Emmy awards, and you know what?  I hate ties and stiff shoes and being uncomfortable, just like you, but I wore a tux.  Sometimes it’s good and builds up your confidence if you dress up and look nice.  It certainly helped me.”
“Dad, this is a funeral!”  She had a point.
“I’m not trying to make you sexy, Hannah.  I’m trying to make you presentable for the occasion.  I know this sounds weird coming from your Dad, but a basic, pretty, nice black dress is a staple.  Not a trendy black dress.  Not a sexy black dress.  I mean a nice, standard, Audrey Hepburn, “every girl should have a little black dress” black dress.  I may not be a fashion designer, but I know what looks nice and I know what will look nice on you!”

She looked at me and resigned herself to the fact that tomorrow after work we’re shopping.  Sometimes being the only parent isn’t just victim of others’ stereotypes it’s your own children’s . . . or yours.  I don’t pretend to know if something’s amazing, but I know the basics.  That’s what she needs: a nice, simple, black dress that she can keep and wear when she needs it.

By the evening’s end she had calmed down.  She actually referenced the song up above: Desperado.
“Did you ever play it on the guitar for us,” she asked?  I hadn’t.  I always had one of them in my arms, her, Abbi, the boys . . . no free arms.

Then Hannah informed me she’d learned it.
“I love that song.  I always remember that you sang it to me.  So I learned it.”
We spent the rest of the evening on the floor of the office with her showing me and by the night’s end we were singing it together, playing it, and she was the happy, smiling little girl on my lap again.

She’s a tomboy . . . and I’m still her Dad.


The Consternation of Boobs . . .

The prom dress . . . you didn’t think I’d show my daughter’s dress, did you?

You Just Can’t Stop It by the Doobie Brothers from What Were Once Vices are Now Habits

Yeah, I know, it’s a salacious sounding title, but it’s not what you think, get your minds out of the gutter.

Anyone who has read more than a couple posts on this blog knows that there’s been more than a few issues with getting to this weekend: the prom.  Not the least of the issues was the dress itself: Santa Clause and I went through hell just trying to get the damn chiffon and jewel encrusted thing to our house.  After it arrived, we reached our first issue: the fact that none of the women I’d spoken with told me how the dress was affected by my lovely daughters endowment.  The first dress, the one that was hanging on the fireplace Christmas morning, didn’t zip up because of her bosom.

Then we got a second dress, sitting in a box, and exciting my daughter.  It arrived, looked amazing, then she told me it was too big . . . fortunately only just.

Then came the discussion of cleavage.

See, as much flexibility as I’ve managed to muster here, I’m still a Dad.  If it were totally up to me, she’d be in a dress that covered almost all her skin and had her head sticking out like Harry Potter wearing an invisibility cloak.  (Yeah, I’ve read the books.  Sue me, I had to read them all to my kids so leave the geek comments on your own computer, please.)  But I’ve had to be far more flexible and Mom-like since being her only parent.

So after all the discussion of body suits and what will hold her in place so the dress doesn’t fall to far and keeps her from looking bad we bought one at Target and she tried it on.  The tailor who took it in told her the dress was beautiful, but she called me unsure.  The dress, you see, still fell farther down than she wanted and it made her look far more . . . well . . . out there than she or I wanted.

So here we were tonight cutting stockings apart to see if that would work.   It didn’t, the middle of her dress exposing the nylon and looking just weird.  We looked at the body suit and to my consternation, they’ve added padding – padding in a cup that was large, by the way.  My daughter developed a lot and she inherited her mother and great-grandmother’s attributes so it’s not like she has a small chest.  So why in the hell would they make this thing with padding to make them look bigger?!  

In the end we found a strapless bra that she’s used before and realized that it worked so much better.  Some fashion tape, a few adjustments, my helping her zip it up, all of it will hopefully adjust it.

“You’re not just saying it looks good to make me feel better, are you?” asked my daughter.
“No, I want this to work as much as you do, but I don’t want you looking . . . available, either.”

That’s the end of the conversation.

But there was a part of the evening that really stood out to me.  (No, don’t go there, get your awful minds out of the gutter.  Just because we’re talking about boobs doesn’t mean everything’s about boobs!)  In the search for what would work I was tossing out ideas and Abbi just kept shooting them down.
“No, that makes it worse.”
“No, that’s going to do the same thing.”
“No, it would hurt.”

I finally said, apologetically, “I’ve never had to deal with this before, so I’m making it up as I go along.  I only can do what I have seen or heard or think might work.”
“It’s OK, I figure it out as I go.  Mom had to do it, too, so I will.”

And that’s the thing.  Abbi and I both are dealing with and learning things as we go.  Yes, I have family, friends, loved ones, all those people can help us I suppose.  But when I thought it would help in buying the dress it was a miserable failure.  That one statement by Abbi showed me exactly what we’ve known and practiced but never really talked about: we’re figuring it out on our own.

And that’s OK.

Abbi’s right, her Mom did have to figure it all out by herself.  Andrea was taller, sure, than Abbi, but proportionally about the same.  Andrea’s Mom, however, was so uncomfortable with any kind of thoughts, ideas or discussion of sex, boobs, private parts, love, childbirth, that Andrea was completely alone.  I knew but until now never realized just how hard it was for her and how much she went through in trying to become the woman she was.  Andrea was a beautiful woman and as a girl wanted to be that beautiful woman.  Not the popular, evil, cheerleader who used people to get ahead, no Andrea was just fun and pretty and loved to go out and dress up.  As much as her Mom wanted her to have a good life and survive in the real world she never prepared her for it.

So now, in hindsight, I wish I hadn’t tried to rush her or get frustrated when it took her so long to do her makeup.  When she did her hair and picked out outfits to wear for the night it really was a measured, refined process.  I feel like I had killed some of that spark after pushing her to speed up all those years of our marriage.  She didn’t even have her Mom to help her figure out what to wear or what bras to buy . . . nothing like that.  Her sister was a tomboy and not built the same, so they didn’t have that connection.  Andrea knew how to put things together and make everything work and solve problems.

So now, Abbi has to do it herself as well.  I am happy she comes to me and we try to solve it together.
“I want to find one of those places like Ulta to do my  makeup on Saturday,” she said.  “I don’t trust anybody else.  The only person who would have done it right was Mom.  I wish she’d showed me how.”

So do I.  But she solved the problem.  Without realizing it, she’s like her Mom . . . in all the best ways today.  I know they use that awful, cheesy line of “it takes a village” to raise a child, but we are the village: the five of us.  We get help from outside sources, but more often than not, we have to make adjustments to the advice we would have done on our own.  I mean, we need that help and that advice, but our first line of defense is always ourselves.

The best proof of that came right as they were all heading up to bed.  My middle daughter, Hannah, wanted to show me her homework: putting together a coat of arms.  She’d looked at everything from both families, tried to find it all and used some school website to get a computerized version of it.  On the bottom was a ribbon of parchment with a Latin saying on it.
“What’s the saying there, Hannah?” was my question.
“Yeah . . . ” she said with a grin and a small blush on her face.  “Abbi helped me with that.  I needed a motto for that and Abbi told me I should use what you tell us all the time.”
“What’s that?”
“We’re stronger together than we are apart.”

I say it a lot, as a matter of fact.  As hard as life is, no matter where we go or how far we end up living from each other, we have each other.  I want them to know they’re never alone.  I want them to know it’s true, and this night, the consternation of boobs giving more grey hairs, we epitomized it.

It’s a great feeling, though, to know my kids don’t just say but live the philosophy.  We are stronger together than we ever are apart.