My 13-year-old daughter wants to wear $59 jeans from Abercrombie. I refuse to buy them.
My tirades about expensive jeans being the vile creation of greedy, capitalist designers who defile denim's American working-class origins and profit from society's stupidity don't dissuade her.
So our compromise – because all relationships, even the parenting kind, must have a least one – is a consignment shop we skulk into after making sure no friends or classmates are within the two-block area.
We have an unspoken agreement to divert ourselves into the nearby smoothie shop if a familiar face suddenly pops up without warning.
On bad days, I get at least a peanut butter banana smoothie. On good days, we usually emerge with at least one pair of designer jeans in a non-descript plastic bag.
I'm happy because I've saved money. My daughter is happy because she gets her label.
I know I'm a sell-out, a hypocrite. But like the lunch lady who sewed J. Crew labels into her daughter's cheap sweaters on the season premiere of Glee last week, I'm desperately trying to protect my daughter from a teenager's worst possible fate: appearing different, less than fortunate, not cool.
I've been buying consignment shop clothes since college, back when we called it "vintage." When my daughters were babies, I continued the habit because it was a great way to get rid of the clothes they outgrew and accrue credit to buy new outfits I couldn't afford otherwise. My kids used to love searching through the racks and shelves with me.
My youngest daughter still does. She, of the Kool-Aid red hair, will publicly strut into this shop, find a pair of tattered jeans and probably tear them up and write all over them before the day's end. She likes being slightly different, left of center. I have no doubt that she'll be OK in life.
It's the older one, with her desire for order and wave-less seas, who concerns me right now.
A smart and righteous parent would force this child to wear generic jeans to teach her a lesson. But, because I was a teenager, I know the "it's what's inside that matters" advice is meaningless until you've sorted out just what you have inside.
For now, she thinks it has something to do with the A&F label inside her pants. For now, I am her willing accomplice on secret consignment store trips disguised as smoothie runs.