Thursday, May 5, 2011

Blue hair and combat boots

What is it about middle school that makes children suddenly decide to become, well, weird? Earbaby has been forming a different style, bit by bit, little by little, for the past year. And now I must get ready for the big push.

It started with her new aversion to all things pink and girly. OK, I'll go along with that. She had many princess years, dresses, matching outfits, and a whole room dedicated to the Disney princesses, from wall art to bedspreads. She had dressup dresses of Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine, Pocahontas, with a generic wedding gown thrown in for good measure. She had all the Barbie-sized princess dolls from Disney (most if not all, are now naked, thrown in a satchel and set aside for posterity, whomever those poor souls will be). Her walls were pink. She owned tiaras and dressup plastic slippers of all kinds. And this was all bought and paid for by me, her aggressively feminist mom, who campaigned to pass the ERA, read her Stories for Free Children, yet still gladly celebrated the little girl I waited a long time to have.

Then, last year, Earbaby slowly turned to black. The bright pinks went away, the princess bedspread came off, the Disney characters were taken down and painted over (her walls are now stark white since her first choice of black was not an option), and her wardrobe now looks like it was designed by Morticia Addams. Skull and crossbone motifs have replaced gowns and fake glass slippers.

And she's not done. Next school year EB will be without a school uniform for the first time since K1. Every day will be casual dress day, a right, instead of a reward. And I already know, as I get ready to go through the great wardrobe purge of this past winter and previous summers (she's outgrown almost everything), everything new will be black. That's fine, I've decided not to fight over her clothes. I remember that one with my mother. And my logic then was that I would be the one wearing them. So I have to apply that same rule to EB (darn it!). My only rule is that she must wear something decent for church. She has decided that converse sneakers look great with dresses.

Which suddenly is OK. Because in her never-ending quest for the absurd, EB has decided she wants blue hair and combat boots when she makes her new school debut. Oh, swell.

When she first proposed this new style, I asked if she didn't want to wait until she got there before she decided to be weird. I don't mind if she wants to be quirky, dress quirky, be a little (or a lot) different. I just want her to own it. She has dressed up for school dances, in her own fashion (looked nice even, I might add), only to be crushed when she was criticized by schoolmates. And that's where my problem lies.

At this age, they all are looking for new looks to fit into their ever-changing bodies. But they need to have the fortitude to stand up when others try to put them down. I've told her not to look for acceptance from the pack when she's not following them. What is it, you can either lead, follow, or get out of the way? She's a leader, but I want her to be willing and able to lead her own parade, even if she's the only one marching in it. I want her to be willing to ignore criticisms when others don't appreciate her unique sense of style. I may not agree with it, or even like it, but I want her to be able to handle it.

I'm not keen on the combat boots. Not only do they look cumbersome, they can be expensive and EB has a long history of wanting something expensive and then deciding later not to use, wear, eat, or carry it, and her father and I are left holding the (pricey) bag. She has more things she couldn't live without that she tossed shortly after acquiring it than I can shake a stick at.

Strangely enough, the blue hair doesn't annoy me as much. She only wants a streak, and if it's a temporary color, I can live with that. I have plenty of battles ahead. Eventually (after I've spent a small fortune), she's going to move out of her black phase. Maybe she'll even move out of the blue hair phase. The combat boots phase? I'll let her dad deal with that one. Why should I be the only one exasperated?

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