WINTER fashion can be tricky, because no matter what you do to make that puffy coat look nice, you still end up resembling the Michelin Man. That's just the way it is, and most of us have learned to live with it.
Unfortunately, there are those among us who refuse to accept winter's fashion limitations. Grown women tiptoe through the snow in high heels. Men wear windbreakers when it's five below zero. Fools don slippery shoes the day after an ice storm. But, no matter how reckless we are as adults, teenagers have us beat when it comes to fashion foolishness.
The other day, it was 12 degrees, and I saw a young man wearing sagging pants that revealed the state of his underwear. They were dingy at best, and downright dirty at worst. A few days later I saw a group of boys wearing hoodies without jackets. It was 20 degrees that day. I know those fools were cold. As bad as those things were, however, I've seen worse. And I'm afraid I've seen it from my own child.
My 12-year-old daughter, Eve, wears her sheepskin Ugg boots in snowstorms. For those of you who don't know, the only thing a soft sheepskin boot can do in a snowstorm is absorb rock salt. I know this because Eve's boots have a white, squiggly line around the edge, where the rock salt has had its way.
Though she's told us repeatedly that she wears her Uggs because of the warmth they provide, I suspect that there is a more trite reason. Namely, her Uggs are an expensive name-brand product. And the world will apparently come grinding to a halt if she is spotted in the inexpensive snow boots her mother bought for her.
I understand the position of my wife, LaVeta. She's a mom, after all, and moms have a time-honored tradition of buying the cheaper version of what you requested. My mom did it, your mom did it, and any mom worth her salt is still doing it today. And when kids question moms' clothes-buying decisions, every mom in the world has the same answer:
"It's just like the one you wanted."
As much as we all hated hearing that, LaVeta has a point in this case, because no one can see the name on your boots when the snow is 6 inches high. When I think about it, though, I guess I can see Eve's perspective, too. She is a preteen in Philadelphia, and she's a girl, which means that she has to be judged by her school's local chapter of the Mean Girl Council.
In my limited experience, these councils are much worse than boys', because boys will tease you a couple of times and leave you alone. The Mean Girl Council? They treat cheap but effective boots like a dog treats a bone.
They simply won't let it go.
I can hear them now: "We used to think Eve was cool when the rock salt was eating through her Uggs. Now we just don't know what to make of her."
Right about then, in a desperate ploy to regain the Mean Girl Council's approval, Eve will do what any 12-year-old would do. She will take off her boots all together, and walk barefoot through the snow.
"See? Look! I'm cool. I'm so cool I don't need any boots at all!"
At first the other girls will be skeptical, but as they observe Eve's smiling demeanor while she treks bootless through the snow, things will change. Within five minutes, they will determine that Eve is, in fact, the coolest person they've ever seen.
Fools that they are, they will follow Eve's example, and after every sixth-grade girl in her school removes her boots and walks through the snow in subzero temperatures, a frostbite epidemic will ensue. Feet will be frozen. Toes will be lost. Parents will riot. And the school will be burned to the ground.
When the mayhem is tracked back to Eve, I will become the subject of the other parents' ire, and I will be forced to fight off an all-out assault on our house. I don't want that, so I'm going to do the right thing.
As soon as I get my next paycheck, I'm going to put a nice pair of waterproof winter boots on layaway for my little honor-roll student. She deserves at least that much. But in case I can't get them off layaway before spring arrives, let's hope it doesn't snow anymore this winter.
Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books, including his latest novel, The Dead Man's Wife (Minotaur Books), and the humor collection Daddy's Home: A Memoir of Fatherhood and Laughter. The married father of three has been featured on NPR and CNN, and has written on parenting for Essence and other publications. He created the literacy program Words on the Street. His column appears Tuesdays. More at Solomonjones.com.