March 07, 2006

Man in Black

The house seems quiet today. Boy in Black is gone for three days, off at a college that invited him to campus to compete for a scholarship.

He was not nervous about the high-pressure interviews. His shyness is curiously specific. Talking to a girl his own age can make him stammer, blush, and lapse into complete silence. But being grilled by a handful of college professors does not frighten him in the least. No, the most difficult part of the process for Boy in Black was the realization he would have to dress up for the interviews.

For awards ceremonies and interviews, most kids here wear khaki pants with a white or light blue shirt. That seems to be the standard dress code. But Boy in Black has always chosen to wear black -- black dress pants, a black dress shirt, and a red-and-black tie. Since he has shaggy dark hair, dark eyes with long black lashes, and skin that always looks tan, black is a good choice for him.

He keeps growing, though, so we had to go buy a pair of new black pants. Yes, that sounds simple. But it was not. There is one person in this world who hates shopping more than me, and it's Boy in Black. The worst part is that because he is very tall and thin, he is hard to fit and that means he actually has to try on the pants. Yes, that's right. His evil mother actually insists that he go into the dressing room and put the pants on. Worst, she makes him walk out of the dressing room and show her the pants. Clearly, she just likes to torture him. What mother would do such a thing to her son?

Boy in Black's shopping strategy is to buy the very first pair of pants he tries on, so that he won't have to try on any more. So here is the kind of conversation we have.

Me: (yelling into the dressing room) Do they fit?
Him: Yeah, they're good.
Me: Come out so I can see them on you.
Him: (deep sigh)
Me: Let me see.
Him: See? They're fine. Let's go.
Me: Fine? They are several inches too short. I can see your socks!
Him: They're good enough. Let's go.
Me: Take your hands out of the pockets.
Him: But this is how I normally stand.
Me: The waist is too big. This is not the right size at all.
Him: They're okay.
Me: Not. even. close. Let me get you a different size.
Him: How long is this going to take?
Him: You wanted me to try a pair on and I did.
Me: Here, try this pair.
Him: But I already tried a pair on.

Eventually, we did find a pair that fit him perfectly. At home, after much prodding, I convinced him to try on the interview outfit. Since he wears the same clothes every day – black band t-shirt, black hoodie, and black zip-off pants – it was a shock to see him dressed up, so tall and thin, looking like a man instead of a teenage boy. But he looked terrific. I felt relieved that he had a decent outfit to wear to the interviews.

Then I saw the movie Walk the Line, and that is when I realized what I had done.

I sent my kid off to an important interview dressed like Johnny Cash.


listmaker said...

That is so funny and I have so been there.

Yankee T said...

A foreign world to me. I'm always the one begging to leave the store, with the 2 teenage girls begging to try on more clothes! He sounds so stunning, jo(e). We're going to miss our 2 seniors next year, aren't we?

jo(e) said...

Yeah, Yankee Transplant, it's hard to let them go. I thought it would be easier with my second, but it is just as wrenching.

bridgett said...

He's probably taking fashion cues more from the White Stripes or the Strokes than from Johnny Cash. It will make a nice change for the committee -- most of the boys they see will be wearing a blue blazer that's too short in the sleeve, khakis, a white shirt with no undershirt, and a borrowed power tie that's either too long, too short, or too wide.

Sounds like Boy in Black now has a great graduation outfit.

kathy a said...

this story is a classic! my son reached his growth spurt late, so our problem for a couple years was too-long pants and the horror of measuring for hemming. on the style front, son now acknowledges that the punk look is not ideal for job interviews, bar mitzvahs, funerals, etc., so he owns one [only one] decent tiny-plaid dress shirt and a couple of ok sweaters. in a pinch, he borrows from his dad, rather than endure shopping.

Jane Dark said...

Oh, hilarious. And though I like shopping, inevitably, I am difficult to fit because I am small, and yet curvy -- and it is very difficult sometimes not to say to hell with it, even if the waist is loose and the legs are too long. (they are never too short).

wolfa said...

When my sister was much smaller, she went with my mother to buy clothes, I think for the New Year. And she came back with a new skirt, which she really loved. Except . . . funny, now that skirt is way too big on you. It fit in the store.

"I puffed out my tummy because if you knew it didn't fit, you wouldn't have let me keep it."

Rana said...


I feel for your son, and for you; D. is also tall and thin, and very, very picky about his clothes. He also hates shopping, and thus has many many things that are virtually alike.

I'm very glad I don't have to take him shopping for clothes!

mc said...

Hey, I bet the Johnny Cash look will go over great with the profs -- Cash is right for their demographic, isn't he? ;-)

CarpeDM said...

Very funny. I hate trying on clothing. I prefer to just grab them and then complain to my roommate about them not fitting later. She says I have only myself to blame. She will make a good mom someday since she now insists that I try everything on.

As for dressing like Johnny Cash, it could be worse. He could dress like Marilyn Manson.

SuperB said...

Dressing like Johnny Cash = cool.


halloweenlover said...

Now I have to watch the movie to see what Boy in Black is looking like.

Good luck to him on his interviews! I'm sure he'll knock 'em dead.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

LOL. I guess I'm the right demographic because I think the Johnny Cash look is awesome. I'm having a retro crush on Cash these days - I'm sure Boy in Black will look EXCELLENT.

Seeking Solace said...

I laughed out loud when I read your post!

Johnny Cash is way cool! Did you son realize the same thing?

Anonymous said...

As a teenager I absolutely hated shopping with my mother. The worst was when she'd hold shirts up to my back to see if they fit... while still in the hanger.

I promised myself I would never do that to my children. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) I have two girls who adore clothes.

[on preview -- I wonder why there isn't a field in which I can type my name. Hmmm]

Sue said...

This is so great!

I used to embarrass my boys terribly by making them show me what they were trying on - they sincerely hated it.

I hope your son does well on his interviews.

Friday Mom said...

Suddenly I have some sense of the great pain I caused my mom which ultimately led to her handing me money and sending me on my own to buy clothes with the stern warning that I had to live with my purchases.

Johnny Cash, though it pains me to say it, must have been ahead of his time. Yeah, that's it.

Scrivener said...

I know you've already gotten the "It could've been worse than Johnny Cash" comments, but I'll post mine anyway:

Johnny Cash? It could've been worse. He could've gone dressed as Elton John.

BeachMama said...

Nothin' wrong with a little Johnny Cash! And there is nothing better than seeing your son dressed up :)

liz said...

Damn! I love this post.

nancy said...

Good one. I don't look forward to shopping with my boys when they are much easier just to bring the stuff home and they are happy to wear it. (for now)

zelda1 said...

Your boy sounds like mine. He would go shopping only if he didn't have to try on clothes, and if I took him to the video game store as a reward. I think he figured if he had to hang out with me in the clothing store, then I was going to have to repay the favor by hanging out with him in the video store. His first suit event was going to meet the govenor. He was 13 and we had to buy him a suit and tie. He has been over 6 feet tall since 12 or a little thereafter so buying clothes for him was and still is difficult. When we finally found a pair of dress pants and a jacket that fit him in length, wow. He looked so smart. He kept saying, yuck this feels weird. I have a picture of him and the govenor, who went on to become the president. He, my son, was shaking Clinton's hand and with his free hand, he was pulling at his collar. I kept thinking, could he not have been still for just five seconds. When he got home, I asked him how was the govenor, and he said, "He sure talks a lot." That was it.

jo(e) said...

zelda1: What a great story.

KathyR said...

Jo(e): This is not encouraging. You practically described word-for-word my last shopping outing with the boy. "They're fine. These are fine. They're fine!" But mine is only in 7th grade and will not be going on college-related interviews for years. I'm so looking forward to four or five more years of this!

And how do you make a boy understand that dress pants are NOT worn barely hanging from the hips like his regular pants and shorts? Argh!

negativecapability said...

Ooh...can we see a non-identifying photo?

Leslee said...

I didn't even see that coming! Too funny. I hope he has a great time and gets that scholarship!

RageyOne said...

Too funny!