“I have no idea what size you wear,” I sighed, slightly rattled by my confession.
My teenage son snorted and said he had no idea what size he wore. I suspect this bothered him less than it bothered me.
We stood in the men’s department and looked at each other. The border of the boy’s department had been breached. We escaped the domain of skateboarding skeletons and dinosaurs piloting planes. The two of us were Von Trapps, traipsing over peaks, through valleys, until we found ourselves starting over in a new land. Of course, I had been there before, but only as a tourist shopping for my husband.
Emigrating with my oldest son was entirely different. It wasn’t long ago I had to put footsie pajamas on him backwards to prevent him from stripping in the middle of the night. It was just yesterday I buckled his overalls and sent him to the backyard to splash around in a sandbox with Tonka trucks. With seven boys, I was about to become a permanent citizen of the Men’s Department, with every smiling race car on a cotton tee driving toward this one goal, a finish line. Grown.
My son needed pants for eighth grade continuation. Skinny jeans and baggy shorts didn’t convey a seriousness I felt the occasion demanded. The pants in the boy’s department were comically short. They’d convey an entirely different message: My mom thinks I’m nine and she looks the other way when I eat paste.
Slowly, we began to pick at racks and racks of pants, holding up possibilities across the rows, shrugging, not speaking much. I rejected pants that seemed too old and serious. Too many pleats, creases, fabrics for dads with comb-overs signing refinance paperwork! Finally, we found a section devoted to younger men—the trendier stuff. Still baffled about sizes, we chose a few pairs of skinny, flat-front pants that seemed nice, but not fighting-a-traffic-ticket nice. I chose a waist size with no numbers to back me up and we headed for the dressing room.
My son had never used a dressing room. I told him to show the attendant the clothes. They would give a ticket to him. Choose a booth and try them on. I’d be right outside if he had any questions or felt the sizes were way off. I sat on a chair and played with my phone. It was taking a long time. I walked into the dressing room and called his name. He answered from the first little booth, “In here!”
“Is everything okay?”
“Do they fit?”
It never occurred to me to confirm they fit, which is very unlike me. Finally, he emerged from the dressing room lugging the pile of pants. He told me about each. I asked him to choose his favorite. He settled on grey.
A few nights later, he wore his new grey pants. He was right. They fit perfectly. Now we know his size. It will change as he grows, but there are no more borders to cross. He’ll sift through man pants and man shirts, knowing what to do in a dressing room, knowing what to wear to fight the speeding ticket, knowing how it feels to stand under a sign hung from a ceiling that heralds, “Men.”