This is perhaps an odd way to start because I had told you that when I took on three stepchildren the ages were 10, 7, and 4. But the early years we didn’t have that much of a problem as they got to know me and I got to know them.
The problem started when the oldest, Cleopatra, entered darkest adolescence and became a teenager. She took the role of being a teenager like it was a mandate to make the “parental units” miserable. But the REAL problem started when Bathsheba joined the ranks of teenagedom. Now we had to deal with two hostile, critical, judgmental, insecure female teenagers – in stereo. I needed to start a new support group.
One of the things that I was least prepared for was taking them shopping. I had done it once and it took a lot of thumb sucking, tears, grain spirits to get me to emerge from the caves of despair. So when Bathsheba approached me and said “I think we need a few things before school starts,” it may have sounded like a benign request or statement, but it shook me to my very core.
I suspect that they have a secret meeting where they draw straws and the winner get to bring in this piece of news just to see a grown man cry.
I knew that I was not being a team player when I declare that I refused to take part in any school shopping sprees. I justified my refusal to go on the basis that I had not fully recovered from the most recent shopping trip and I was ill-prepared for this type of physical and mental warfare. I also reminded Brunhilda I was unarmed had only with a desperate sense of self-preservation whereas she was a seasoned shopper. (She made the all-mall team the last 5 years and had a purple heart for being injured when she got between two women fighting over a pair of shoes.)
Brunhilda tried everything to try to change my mind, “Are you sure you won’t help me out just a little on this school shopping?”
“ I would rather have Captain Hook give me a prostate exam.”
“Let’s compromise here, how about if I take Cleopatra and Chipper and you shop with Bathsheba?”
“Sorry, but no. I am absolutely helpless against anyone who’s only method of communication is a primal shriek.”
“OK, how about you take Bathsheba and you help Cleopatra?”
“Why would I go along to help someone who has made ‘rookie of the year’ in shopping when she was only 11 and has now perfected her own 100 megaton, scorched earth method of shopping? Just stay out of her way and hope nobody gets hurt.”
“Well then at least take Chipper off my hands.”
“Brunhilda, you know that I cry every time some kid in the 6th grade pays more for a set on sneakers than I paid for my first car.”
“Is there anything I could do to help convince you?”
“Overmedication, I suppose, but other than that – nothing.”
“Well then what good are you in this whole process?”
The answer to that, of course, was “none at all,” but I learned in husband survival school never to admit that so I had to do some quick thinking. So I replied, “Brunhilda, I think I am needed for other jobs that are indirectly related to actual shopping.”
“Yeah, like what.”
“Like signing loan papers and shining up the vehicles so our collateral looks good the banker.”
“Well OK, but remember in addition to the clothes and shoes and school supplies, we may need to replenish the toiletry items too.”
“Does than mean makeup?”
“Forget about polishing the vehicles, let’s just go over a second mortgage on the house. Don’t they sell that stuff in 55-gallon barrels?”
So, off went Brunhilda into battle with all the enthusiasm of a convicted felon picking up trash on the roadside. She accomplished her mission and the nightmares have subsided somewhat. I. on the other hand, due to my extreme cowardice in this situation, have lived to fight other battles. But I did it with the assistance of Dr. Jack Daniels. The mortal injuries were only to my checkbook.
But I still think that it would be a good idea to form a support group for men invaded by teenagers.