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Column: Bathing in teen angst

Column: Bathing in teen angst

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There is a special sort of feeling one can only experience when you have children.

I am, of course, talking about the receiving end of teen disdain.

“Ughhh, no way,” said my daughter, looking at the bathing suit in my hand like it was a blanket laced with the plague.

She is coming up on 15. The teen angst everyone warned of, basically since the day she was born, has been a bare minimum. That said, the rare moments when it does rear its hormonal, Sour-Patch fueled head, it is always a bit of a shock to me.

It’s like driving down the road and having someone sneeze in your hand. It leaves one equal parts confused and disgusted, all the while wondering, what do I do with this?

“OK, look ...” I said, putting the bathing suit back on the hook. “I get that I am an outdated old lady in your eyes. But the fact that we are in the Target juniors section means any censure regarding my offering should be directed to Target’s merchandiser, not me. Clearly this is in.”

She sighed the way teenage daughters have sighed at their mother’s since the dawn of time and we began pawing through opposing racks of spandex as teenager daughters and mothers have done since the advent of synthetic fabrics.

Maybe it wasn’t teenage angst at all. But bathing suit angst. And we all get that, no matter the age.

Over the store speakers, Elton John sang “Candle in the Wind” setting the perfect tone of mournful acceptance.

We were nearly three hours into our bathing suit adventure and seemed no closer to finding anything than when we started.

“Why don’t you like this one?,” said the girl, emerging from the dressing room in a suit that left little to interpretation. “It is just an illusion.”

“Yes, and the illusion is that your top is about to pop so I would say the illusion is working. No.”

The child was not thrilled with me. And I couldn’t blame her. I wasn’t thrilled with myself much at this point either, and I wasn’t even the one trying on suits.

I took my usual position when on marathon shopping trips with my kid, I was camped out in the adjoining changing room with water, WiFi and opinions — just what every teen wants.

Then something happened. The child emerged with a suit, looked at her reflection and scrunched up her face like she had just eaten a handful of those Sour Patches.

“Well, I don’t hate it,” she said, turning in the mirror to catch all the angles.

I held my breath. It was one of the bathing suits I had picked out. I didn’t speak. Or move. Fearful of startling the moment away.

“It is not as awful as the others,” she continued, spinning in the mirror once again.

Then I saw it. A smile.

She did not sneeze in my hand. But kissed my cheek.

“I love you, mommy.”

Martha Petteys writes a weekly column for The Post-Star. She can be contacted at or visit or on Facebook.


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