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There are times in every man’s life when he knows what he has to do and as a man, he goes and he does it.  However, there are also times when that the journey comes with a few “unforeseen” situations, where the man’s only response is..

“Whaa…?”

For me, it was one of those days a few Fridays back.  You see my daughters were invited to a “Princess Party”, and since they haven’t made a lot of new friends yet (they recently moved up here with me.. long story), they were excited to be invited.  This situation, of course, allows me to flex my muscle as SUPER DAD!!  Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!  Able to deny boyfriends at 50 yards!  Yes, its my turn to be SUPER DAD!!

Wanting to make sure that my kids were going to have fun, I talked to my friends who are hosting the “Princess Party” to get a better sense of what was going on.  Sure enough, they have them every year for their family and they kindly invited my girls.  And because of that they are already well prepared with everything.  What about the princess dresses?  Oh, just get them at a second hand store or something, nothing too fancy.   Easy enough.

And thus begins the journey, or more accurate titled, “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!  Oh if only it were that simple”.

First off, this is the scenario my wife DREAMS about.  She loves her kids and like many women my wife LOVES to shop.   She’s an expert at it.  I say that because while it takes me a mere minute or two to identify and categorize all potential clothes purchases into two groups: “Buy it” or “Don’t Buy it”.  My wife studies every inch of fabric on every dress that has even the potential of being worn by her or her daughters, during some period of their life past or present.

I don’t have that level of dedication, and thus, I am not an expert.  One should also be aware that my wife is quite finicky about her clothes.. requiring that all of her clothes and her children’s clothes be shiny and sparkly.  It takes great effort for me to protect my clothes and my son’s from any “sparkle conversion”.

Second, due to our work schedules and the fact that we live far away from what is consider “civilization” (yes, I know.. but I actually like to see earth, and hills, and mountains, and trees instead of my neighbor’s bathroom window), we really didn’t have a lot of time to find Princess Party dresses.  In fact, the only day we had.. was the day before the party.  This is otherwise known as… “today” or more accurately “RIGHT NOW!”.

So the appointed day started out like any other Friday.  I got to sleep in because its my day off and I am tired.  My wife went to work.  My kids went to school.  My wife comes back from work with the girls.. and the girls are crying because of some sort of event that got them in trouble, the gist of it being that I am pretty sure we only heard part of a very overly complicated story.  A foreboding warning, I am sure.  However, since my wife and kids got home early, I spend the next hour loading them up so that we can find some “princess-y” dresses.  A task that I am hopeful we can complete quickly and cheaply.

(silly me)

Our first task is to find us a second hand store.  This seems like an easy task because we actually find three in the immediate area and me and my wife’s mini-minions disembark and scour the premises of all three.  However, we fail to locate anything “princess-y” enough.  All we did manage to find was a decent looking dictionary of medical terms and a picture frame.

The girls say they can put all their friends’ pictures in to the frame but considering that the frame is only 3″x4″.. I am not sure if its cute that they think they can get them all in, or if its sad because they could actually fit them all in.  A Dad’s worry for sure… so long as none of them are boys.

Our next stop is a local Hispanic store which should be open because it is 4pm in the afternoon.  And its not.  In fact, there are no times whatsoever on the doors, the windows, etc.  Only just REALLY pretty, shiny, and VERY “princess-y” dresses that my wife and young daughters are ogling in such a way as to give me goosebumps.  I already hear my poor wallet whimpering, as I explain to my lovely family, that yes, even in this small town, breaking and entering is still illegal.

As we live in a small town, we decide to try a larger town/almost city nearby.  We stop by the first place, a Goodwill.  Now, let me clarify something for everyone.  I intensely dislike Goodwill.  I have some pretty bad childhood memories which involve having to wear Goodwill clothes to school a lot when I was growing up and being regularly humiliated by it because, back then, the only clothes that were available at Goodwill were clothes that even the local garbageman wouldn’t take.  However, I dislike wasting money even more, so we park the SUV and pile on out into the store in what I hope will be our last stop on the Princess Party Incursion.

Fortunately, my daughters are no longer crying but are in full shop mode, in which all emotions take a back seat to finding what you want and sticking to your guns about getting it or not getting it.  So every time I find a “princess-y” dress, it gets shot down.  Every.. stinking.. time.  “Look, here’s one that’s princess-y and would look good on you.” always gets shot down by, “It’s not my color.” or “I don’t like it.” or a variation of those two.

I tried not to get involved, but at Goodwill.. that is HARD because it is the only thing interesting going on.  I can’t go to the electronics section because I’m pretty sure most of the “electronics” are older than I am or their previous owners clearly didn’t understand that pressing buttons didn’t require a sledgehammer.  Anywhere else and I look like a pervert because the ALWAYS have women’s and little girl’s clothes within arm’s reach, no matter where you are in the store.  Book section is the same thing, only worse because now you are trying to find something interesting in among the VHS tapes.

After about a half an hour of looking at dresses that weren’t good enough for my daughters, or couldn’t fit, or worse yet, dresses they wanted but “I” don’t want to see them wearing, we decided that we could get a single, sparkly shirt.  By this time, it is 6pm and we are cruising through a town that closes early.  Potential second-hand stores pass closed and locked up as we drive by.  We start making plans about getting up very early the next day when we spot some Hispanic clothing stores that were still open.  So we park and make our way inside.

Now, my wife LOVES sparkly clothes, jewelry, etc., and seeks it out wherever she goes.  But she has never once been in a Hispanic clothing store.  I tell you truthfully, it seemed as if angels were speaking to her the moment she opened the door and saw all the shiny and sparkly clothes on racks after racks after racks.  Course, I could also be having a weird moment of frustration as there were also miles upon miles of baby Jesus figures and figurines of Catholic origin that were also on the shelves.  Not exactly sure why Baby Jesus needs to be next to the low cut, sparkly sheer bustier, but who am I to judge.

We go through all three stores which just happen to be right next to each other.  All of them had very pretty princess-y type dresses.  One had them still in their packaging, another had them nicely placed next to lingerie all around the store (why, I will never know.. but the lingerie was definitely worth a second, and third, look), and still another clearly believed that princess-y dresses needed to be right next to every religious and Catholic figurine ever made.  Still we made the effort, and after weighing the costs of having to travel to another town to go through their second-hand stores, I decided to spend the extra money and get them new dresses.  Dresses that they looked adorable in and it was nice to get them something pretty.

So, despite my wallet crying a little bit in pain, I am happy cuz my wife is happy that she found a new set of stores to go through the next time she wants something with a bit of sparkle (and a bit of fun too) and the girls got their “princess-y” dresses.  I happily think the weirdness of this day is over.  We stop at Hastings, buy a couple movies and games, then head to Wal-Mart.

And at Wal-Mart, whatever crazy you got away from during the day, comes back and says “Hi!”.  So, my wife has to exchange out some goods and she gets in line.  Me, I use the facilities and head over to the Electronics section because I think they might have a game on sale (Borderlands 2, just as an FYI).  After a bit of time, I get the game and go and meet my family, who are now no longer happy.

Why no longer happy? Well because apparently Wal-Mart again keeps too few people on staff and my wife had to wait half an hour, in a line of four people, to get her stuff exchanged.  Yeah, Wal-Mart messing with my happy family experience is not good thing.  Turns out my wife had to pick up a few things, including a new bra.  My mind:  Hey Great!  Fun times ahead!.  Sure enough, she gets a good one.  This whole episode embarrasses our pre-teen daughters who think it’s “gross”, and then they hide on the other side of the aisle.  We get done with our selection and my wife still needs some more underthings and sure enough, they are on the other side.  So the girls, afraid we will gross them out again, move away to another part of the store.

While we are checking things out, a woman comes up and wonders if she can ask a somewhat embarrassing question.  Knowing this is Wal-Mart and that this Wal-Mart is in a community not known for people with large amounts of common sense, my mind pans through the potential list of embarrassing questions she plans to ask us.

Course, she asks her question and I didn’t expect that one.  Apparently she was having trouble buying underwear for her teenage daughter and wanted my wife’s help.

“Whaaa..?” was my response.

My wife, the wonderful person she is, starts helping the woman out.  The conversation covers all sorts of style of underwear like bikini cuts, old lady styles, etc.  A very detailed conversation about what her teenage daughter won’t wear and will wear ensues, including a discussion about her body shape.

I am still in the same aisle with the “Whaaa..?” response still plastered on my face.  Whereupon she asked my pre-teen daughters about what they though her teenage daughter would like.

The “Whaa…?” expression desperately tried to expand into the “What the hell?!”, yet the shock was still so massive that a mother would talk about such things, that I could do little but stand awestruck at the level of sheer stupidity that this woman displayed.

At this point, there is a bunch of thoughts going through a man’s head: 1.) Women talking about underwear = sexy.  2.) Discussing private things about 13 year old girls = not sexy.  3.) Asking daughters about underwear = very weird/bordering sick.  4.) Asking wife about underwear = not so weird because she has good taste.  5.) Have this conversation at Wal-Mart = Exceedingly Disturbing.  In most situations, any one of those thoughts tend to easily come out on top and an appropriate response can be made.  Here.. not so much.  So I merely stood dumbfounded (that woman didn’t even acknowledge my existence, btw) with my “Whaaa..?” face as the conversation finally finished and we went on our way.

I am starting to think that these types of Wal-Mart conversations are actually a form of viral infection and why most people around here seem to lack some of their sense.  The reason for this is that on the way back home me and my wife had a strange conversation where I talked about people’s personal lives and viewpoints.  It was personal enough that really.. having it in the car with my two pre-teen girls was very like a bad.. bad idea.  I’m just happy we made it home without something worse happening.. like me growing a fondness to twangy country music…

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