Recently I was driving with a friend and somehow a conversation came up about kids and how things were different in our generation and today’s youth, a conversation which makes me sound like a grizzled old man. You know, the guy who always says, “Back in my day!”
We came to the same conclusion: We really got hosed as kids and if we were kids today we wouldn’t be worth the price it would take to put us and everyone else out of their misery.
The thing that really got the conversation started in full force was clothing.
I have two sons and being boys, there was a period of their lives that smelling like old sweat socks and stale cheese seemed to be an aromatic statement of their carefree attitude toward hygiene. I don’t ever remember being that bad, but through discussions with other parents of boys, this is definitely a universal existence for them.
Back to my point: Today when you shop for your child, it’s all name brand and expensive chain stores with the foreknowledge the shirt you will pay $50 for today will be out of circulation inside of six months. My oldest is bigger than I am so there’s no working it into my wardrobe without looking like a 10-year-old dressing up in his dad’s clothes.
As we drove along, we were both increasingly disgusted with how the economics of children and the advertising genius of America’s clothing manufacturers had brought about such a cultural revolution. The importance of style, and even more so, name brands, have created a financial maelstrom parents don’t seem to have the wherewithal to end.
“Shame on us,” I said as we drove along. “Back in my day” — yes, I think I may have actually said it — “my parents went out of their way to avoid all of this!”
And that is when I really remembered what it was like, and how I as a child dreaded the inevitable clothes shopping trips with my mother.
I remember being in my single digits, you know, before the big 1-0 and double digits, my mother preparing me for days ahead of time for the upcoming back to school shopping. There were no tax-free weekends, no big media blitzes on new clothing lines, no commercials exhorting the benefits of fitting in by becoming a clone.
Nope, it was always me, my mother and stores so bad they no longer even exist. And no matter how badly I wanted there to be an alternative, there were no Old Navy stores, no Aeropostale, and certainly no Walmart at this point.
No, it was Sky City and S-Mart. My memories of shopping as a kid all happened there, where tennis shoes are so generic they are like the artist formerly known as Prince, represented by a symbol but no name, so generic even Cugas weren’t sold there. Bet that brings back a memory or two, doesn’t it?
I remember it was always such a depressing event, shopping for clothes. There were no automatic doors because that was just another step to pass the savings on to the shopper.
It was a living memorial to the horror classic Night of the Living Dead as moms dragged children along, all shuffling in a psychotropic daze from one mass rack to another, wading through piles of misprints and knockoffs, none of which were separated by size or gender.
After an interminable amount of torture in dressing rooms, hating each crushed velour sweater and pair of rough-hewn denim pants forced upon us. The fabric was so bad that after a day of trying on clothes, it wasn’t unusual to have road rash all over your legs and arms.
And for the employees in these fine clothing stores, it would have been a mercy killing to beat them to death with a pair of polyester pants as they stood there smoking, cigarettes hanging askew in their lips, look of far away anxiety in their eyes.
Who could really blame them had they decided they couldn’t go on, ready to end it all only to fail because the seam in the dress shirt they attempted to hang themselves with gave way, reminding them there is no real escape from the reality of poor clothing choices.
Our kids will never have it so good.
D. C. Moody is a staff writer for The Easley Progress, The Pickens Sentinel and Powdersville Post and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.