I have seen my future and in it I am wearing beige.
It is always a bit disconcerting when you discover that the stereotypes which you have dismissed as pure folklore are rooted in actual truth. This was the case this past weekend when Noah attended his first official school dance with a date. In the weeks leading up to the actual event, I had an inkling that as the mother of the “boy”, I would perhaps be privy to less information and involvement, but I chose to remain optimistic that
my his experience would be one that we could share in some way. But alas, it became an exercise in being as invisible as my DNA would allow. It is a skill I have yet to develop fully but I think with some practice, I could become quite good. This is one stereotype I find to be somewhat intuitive.
We women are emotional – and we tend to project those crazy feelings onto the men in our lives. But approaching this dance from my own perspective would have been the equivalent of pretending Noah was my daughter – not my son. This reality became apparent early on back in March at the first mention of the dance when my heart leapt at possibilities that awaited him.
“Who was he going to ask? How would he make his selection? What if she said no? What if she said yes? Would this be the prelude to a long term relationship? Who was his best friend going to ask? What would he wear? What would she wear? Who was he going to ask again?”
Oddly, posing these questions in rapid succession yielded less information, not more. As I gushed, he stared. Straight ahead. Maybe he blinked a few times. “I don’t know,” became the kid’s best defense against
that crazy woman with that weird smile me. He used it often and well.
He used it up until the point that he asked a girl and she accepted, at which point “I don’t know” was then officially freed up to be the response to every other question I posed.
“Do you need to buy her a ticket? Shall we get her some flowers? Are you going anywhere to take pictures? Do you want to invite your friends to our house to take pictures? What do you want to wear? An all white suit? Do you think that’s a little over the top? Are you picking this girl up? Do you need a ride to the dance? Do your dress shoes fit? Do you want to talk about your feelings?”
Coming off this experience, I have determined that “mothers of the groom” are not born – they are created, molded into the submissive creatures they were meant to be over years of
futility in trying to engage their sons training. Faced with wave after wave of nonchalance, I found myself exhausted from my own inquisition. I subsequently went limp on all issues that weren’t going to blow up if left unaddressed. That left making sure that 1) his dress pants fit (and were not part of a white linen ensemble), 2) he had flowers for his date, and 3) he bought a ticket. For everything else, I was officially on “standby” and waited for last minute instructions. I didn’t need to worry as all of the other details were clearly being addressed – by the brides girls. They really were more suited and motivated to make these decisions, but it did leave their dates and their mothers a few more miles down the information highway. I did receive one direct request as we pulled up to the house where pre-dance pictures were being taken: Don’t cling.
Me? Cling? (No one needs to respond to that rhetorical question.)
So I stood back and took pictures. Smiled and complimented the other parents on how lovely their children looked. And I let the show unfold without directing a single scene. It was not without effort, but I think I pulled it off without incident. Except for the part where I asked if I could wear the corsage, I kept relatively quiet.
I have to imagine that these girls had hundreds of conversations with their mothers about this dance. Together they determined how they would look, where they would go before and after the dance, who would drive them and whether they were going with their dates as “friends” or “boyfriends.” Afterwards, they would talk about the details of the evening – analyzing the play-by-play – and reporting back on not only their experience but everyone else’s. Mothers of the girls would never be stiff-armed at “it was fun.”
It is times like these that I am envious of these mothers of girls and not only because of their level of involvement. I know full well that my fantasy scene of skipping through Nordstrom’s with my imaginary daughter as we find the perfect dress together and never argue about the details of the up-do is just that – a dream sequence. But there is something else that I covet: Access. More than anything, I saw this dance as a window into my child’s psyche and an opportunity to understand him better as a person. The type of girl he chooses, the color tie he wears, and the entire way he carries himself as he approaches this rite of passage are harbingers of the grownup he is quickly becoming. And while I did catch a few of those precious glimpses, I had to do so on the sly, quietly navigating emotional walls, corners and landmines without letting on to my motives.
It was a unique dance that I did — and, like Noah, it was my first. He did report back that he had fun, but he wish he had done a few things differently. Me too, love. But I think we will both improve with time.