Wednesday, January 07, 2015

“SO, pet, what do you want for Christmas?” I nonchalantly asked my 15-year-old daughter a week before the big day.

“OMG, I thought you’d never ask! Right, I want …” she replied, rattling off a wish list of goodies that included clothes, make-up, CDs, speakers, runners, a handbag, perfume, oh, and a surprise.

If the list was long, it was also peppered with specific brand names and models of said items. She sounded like a talking catalogue, such was the detail involved. Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch, Converse, Beats, Superdry, Benefit. While they may be the stuff of every teenage girl’s dreams, they’re the exact fabric of my nightmares. Some of the brands, though they’re well made, are ridiculously expensive and can be very hard to find.

In fact, anything is hard to find in the Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister stores. (BTW, why is it that they’ve suddenly become stores? When did shops stop being shops in Ireland?)

They’re staffed by beautiful, young model types who are trained in the art of looking vacant and busy at the same time. For us mere mortals known as parents, who venture into these lairs of luxury, they’re akin to death traps. Last time I was there, I stumbled around in the dark and thoroughly resented being suffocated by perfume and deafened by loud, vacuous music.

God be with the days when my daughter was entirely ignorant of such frivolities and vanities as designer labels. God be with the days when Santa was the man who could deliver such treasures as roller skates, Nintendo DSs and Jonas Brothers DVDs. But everyone knows that he’s magic and can manage to come up with just about anything. I know of one little girl who asked for – and got – a herd of unicorns. That said, I’m sure there were hundreds of little girls who missed getting the much-sought-after and much-fought-over F****n doll this year.

With my daughter being the only offspring of separated parents, Santa always came to both my house and her father’s. There has to be some advantage to coming from a broken home, after all. He was always equally generous in both places because, in the general scheme of things, that was important at the time.

Santa in our house had to be just as good as Santa in her dad’s place, otherwise it wouldn’t be right. Now, years later, Santa has retired from her life and the burden of gift-giving has fallen entirely on our shoulders.

Having rattled off her expensive Christmas list for this year, I was momentarily shocked into silence. Three items on the list would alone cost more than my budget. I had to negotiate with her. What about two expensive things plus lots of smaller things?

“Jesus, Ma, don’t be so mean. I’ve been really good this year and I am, after all, your only child. Think about it, Mother. You only have to buy stuff for me. If you had six kids, you’d have to get a lot more presents, so why don’t you just spend as much as you would if you had a whole clatter of kids, except you spend it all on me?”

Since when did she become so cunning and so materialistic, I wondered. When did that happen?

And so, the bargaining and negotiations went on for much of that evening and into the following day. The day after that, however, the world shifted on its axis and everything went a little haywire. News had just come in that Taylor Swift was going to honour Ireland with her presence next summer. The word about her upcoming concert flitted like fairy dust around my daughter’s world. An entire generation of teenage girls screamed and whooped around school corridors all over Ireland.

In work, my phone rang. It was her.

“Okay, Ma. I’ve got the solution. I’ll give up the Hollister and the Converse if you get me one single Taylor Swift ticket,” she said.

Getting such a golden ticket would prove to be outrageously difficult. And I wouldn’t need one: I’d need at least two because I couldn’t let her go alone. The figures for going to the gig were mounting up by the minute. Plus, I’d have to put up with her singing La Swift’s songs from now until June.

And so I had a choice. Armed with my credit card, gas mask and a heavy torch, I ventured into the dark, smelly cavernous confines of Hollister.

Like the explorers of old, I charted unknown territories and discovered teenage-dream treasures there, just in the nick of time.

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