KITCHEN SINK DRAMA
On Christmas Day, I wore the dress The Teenager wore last Christmas Day. On Stephen’s Day, she wore The Youngest’s Christmas dress and the night after she played a gig wearing one of mine. As I write, The Youngest is sprawled on the sofa behind me, wearing my tracksuit bottoms.
I never intended becoming one of those mothers who shares clothes with her daughters, but when there are three women of roughly the same size under the one roof, then it seems churlish not to. Besides, I’ve never quite managed that whole dispiriting transition from the ground floor of Arnotts to the first – a place where, when I was growing up at least, women of a certain vintage wandered around displays of sensible cardigans and mothers-ofthe-bride style dresses that were inexplicably three times the price of the joyful, wispy bits of nonsense on the floor beneath. It wasn’t just Arnotts either: all the department stores in Dublin housed young fashions on the ground floor and then quietly and efficiently herded the invisible middle-aged women of the city and beyond up to the first, out of public view. To be honest, I think it was that whole implication that if older women do have to buy clothes, then at least they should do so away from the madding crowd, that turned me off ever making a proper pilgrimage up the escalator. If I am to dress like a teenager, then I demand the right to be seen and laughed at doing so.
And in our house at least, nobody seems to mind. I do remember, a few years back, unexpectedly bumping into The Teenager in the changing rooms of New Look and thinking she appeared mortified. But her regular rummages through my wardrobe always bear fruit, so if she was embarrassed that her superannuated mother was standing in a skater dress in front of her, then for the sake of her own wardrobe at least, she wisely kept quiet about it.
In fairness to her, my own forays into my older daughter’s wardrobe are less rewarding. Take the roughly out of the picture and the sad reality is that she is a size eight to my and The Youngest’s size 10 – which means that while she can wear everything we own, we cannot always fit into her clothes. Also, her feet stopped short at a five, while mine and The Youngest’s marched on to six. Luckily, though, none of the three of us (so far, at least) has even the remotest interest in shoes (or handbags, come to that) usually associated with our gender, and so we largely keep ourselves to ourselves where footwear is concerned.
I should point out that the whole clothes sharing thing – apart from the inter-changea- ble shoes – does not involve any of us wearing the same outfit at the same time. I have seen photos of mothers and daughters dressed identically – usually just American ones, in fairness – and for reasons I can’t even begin to process, I found them really creepy. Maybe it’s because I look at them from the perspective of the daughter, not the mother – and while I and my girls are perfectly adjusted with our communal clothes, I would never, ever have considered wearing anything belonged to my own mother. Of course, my mother belongs to the generation for whom graduating to the first floor was mandatory – there were no muttony flibbertigibbets like me back then – so there was nothing of interest to me in her wardrobe, apart from her wedding dress, which I wore for a few Hallowe’ens – and equally, there was nothing in my teenage closet that she would have been caught dead in.
And even in our own household, there are some lines I won’t cross. I have never borrowed shorts, playsuits or cropped tops, or the tiny kilt that flatters The Teenager. I have only ever accidentally worn their underwear, and I won’t go near the laddered tights that they both inexplicably deem fit for purpose. In spite of what it says on so many of my labels and how I feel in my mind, I know I am not really Forever 21, and I have no desire to frighten horses by revealing more of my flesh than is strictly necessary. But I declare now that if either of them ever marries, I will not be buying my outfit from any first floor. If it comes to it, I might even chance that kilt. God knows, I wouldn’t be the first person with unsuitable legs to wear a kilt to a wedding.
I’ve never managed
that dispiriting transition to Arnotts’ first level, away from all the joyful bits of nonsense on offer on the ground floor