A mother is scooping sweaters, glittery headbands, musical toothbrushes, and furry socks off the shelf. I notice a mountain at cart’s bottom, already heaped high with Justin Bieber merchandise. His big horse smile is beaming from a tin lunchbox, a metallic folder, all things. I laugh because what kind of world do we live in where a scrawny 12-year-old boy wearing girl jeans and earrings is the epitome of male hotness? I try to picture her daughter but instead see myself, all pre-boobied and spraying glitter and hearts across my FUTURE MRS. JTT poster.
Of course, the idea of a heart throb seems ridiculous to me now. The very thought of throbbing seems fit for migraines or some vaginal birth or maybe that bad hip I’ve been icing. Who wants to throb? But I was there once, crying and aching and pining for a band of dancing, singing, hair-gelled beauties. I wished hard and often for those bubble gum pop princes and in this minute I couldn’t tell you when all the wishing stopped.
I glance down at a list of gifts to purchase, mental note to grab starch and chapstick for my husband’s stocking stuffers, and ask a red shirted employee where I can find the Sweater Vest Department. I find those sleeveless sweaters on my own. No stripes, no bright, too loud: I toss away many a flashy garment before I come across a neatly folded pile of brown: dark brown, light brown, warm brown, cool brown. I feel a little flutter just knowing how he will love these simple styles. I turn in search of Dad Jeans, the loose kind with sippy-cup-sized pockets and plenty of room to be a man. And there they are, so ironically stacked next to blinged out tees with dragons and such tattooed down the side. Right there is the fork in a fashion road, and I realize I am staring down two drastically different paths: The type of boy I so desperately dreamed about then and the type of man I call husband now.
Tom, by all accounts, isn’t your traditional tween heart throb.
First of all, he’s not 12. In fact (cover your ears & guard your dreams, girls) He’s over 40.
He has hair on his legs but not on his head. Backwards. There is a little girl spirit in me mourning the loss of Timberlake’s bleached afro, the crusty cuteness of a gel-coated coif. The imagery of that summer before 7th grade comes flooding back. In the sweltering Southern heat I fretted for months. I sang “MmmBop” with all my heart and gazed at a glossy poster and worried that I must be a “lisbon”, like the ones my Baptist friends warned about, because I can’t fight the feelings anymore, Hanson Sisters! Relief followed when I learned they are male (mostly) , and I didn’t like girls just boys who sing like them.
He can’t hit the high notes. Balls have dropped, and Adam found an apple in Tom’s throat. My favorite part of singing along with those dream boats was trying my junior high darndest to match their dolphin falsetto pitch. My voice was always too deep, but how I loved that challenge. My husband speaks with a perfectly gritty and gravelly masculine tone. It ruins everything.
He doesn’t have crowds of fan girls mobbing him. The thrill of stalking the latest cover boy of Tiger Beat was knowing that there was competition, millions of brace-mouthed babes I’d have to squash and out-stalk. It made the feat of finally calling JTT or JT or AJ mine that much more of a victory. Tom’s got groupies in his own right. As a home-medical rock star he’s constantly hounded by beggy women. Some of them even fall over themselves trying to get to him, clawing and grabbing for a chance to get their hands on his fine young oxygen tanks. I just can’t bring my fiercest game against 90-year-olds with emphysema.
He can dance. Dude can totally dance. But he doesn’t end each number with jazz hands and those special pyrotechnic fingers. What are spirit fingers without live-wired fireworks bursting from them? In his defense he is an incredibly agile performer of Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes.
And we’re back to the clothing laid out before me. My twelve-year-old heart thinks to grab the bedazzled shirts to my left, pray a little that they smell like a can of Rave and tanning lotion, but I reach with the right because Tom doesn’t do rhinestones. Pleather suits and bandana headwear are absolutely out of the question. Bright colors, wrinkly things, distressed things, shiny things, tight things, girly things are also off the list.
I pass the Belieber’s mom on the way to check out. Brown wardrobe additions in hand, I’m glad my heart doesn’t throb anymore. I got meds for that. It doesn’t ache or long or download maps to hotels coinciding with North American pop tours anymore either. But it smiles. As I grab the perfectly plain pair of Dad Jeans I am grateful for the atypical hottie who will sport them. He is Practical Pants. He sings Twinkle Star deep from his belly to our little boy who doesn’t pay much mind to pitch. He dances around the toy room wielding plastic swords and playing dragon or bear or Dad or hero with such grace. He wipes shine from his sweet head skin as he forgoes world tours, settles with working hard and coming home to us each night. He deserves every extra flick of glitter on that ALREADY MRS. TEY poster under the tree.
How has your idea of what’s attractive/ desirable/ pee-your-pants-&-make-a-poster/ swoon-worthy changed over the years?
writing prompt: last thing you bought