Another Day at the Mall

“Daddy, I want you to take me and my friends to the mall this Saturday. I need to spend my birthday money,” my young teen daughter ordered.

“Why can’t you save the cash and invest it in a Roth IRA?” I responded.

“Stop listening to Clark Howard, Daddy. Sure he saves all that money, but look how he dresses,” she argued. “Anyway, didn’t you say that everyone’s losing money on Wall Street? I mean, what’s the point?” How sad, but true. My daughter is “saving less and spending more” – Clark’s true nightmare.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Clark Howard, he is a very cheap and very wealthy consumer guru based in Atlanta. Clark preaches “saving more, spending less” on his syndicated radio and cable television shows. So, note to self: Don’t let Clark read this post. I broke all of his rules and now I have visions of little Clark live action figures on my shoulders admonishing me for visiting a mall and allowing my daughter to blow money on things that will diminish in value the moment the cashier hands over the receipt and change.

I obliged and committed myself to supervising four young teens on a sweltering late August afternoon in a cool air-conditioned mall. It seemed like a good idea to beat the heat.

On the way over to the mall, I had thoughts of these energetic young girls knocking over perfume displays. What was I getting myself into? Here they were bouncing in my car loudly giggling while watching YouTube videos of comedian Andy Samberg — of television’s Saturday Night Live fame — on their smartphones.

Before I knew it, I was at the mall waiting for our fourth girl to meet us in front of Macy’s. It didn’t take long for this girl’s mother to show up. The young teen — who is my height — quickly jumped out of her mom’s minivan. The mother shot out of the driver’s seat to meet me and find out just what type of dad volunteers for such activities. It’s a question that no one including myself can truly answer. All I can say is, I’m a glutton for punishment. Yes, I do thank the Electronic Gods for my Blackberry to pass the time when my daughter and her friends model clothing. Trust me, I am always engaged on these excursions.

I once again followed my own mall supervision rule and stayed 20 feet back just in case the girls drive some poor store clerks and managers out of their minds. I’m always ready to step in. I’m also petrified of mall security. At this particular mall, they’re young beefy men with crew cuts who look like they would take anyone to a backroom holding area for looking at them cross-eyed. At one point, my petite daughter wished to piggy-back ride on the back of her friend who is my height. I stopped that idea after a few seconds as soon as I spotted a crew-cut guard pacing near the food court.

Yes, I admit that I’m embarrassing like any other parent, but certainly not foolish enough to let the girls roam the mall completely unfettered. Plus, I’m empathetic. I worked as a store clerk the day I turned 16-years-old. I feel mall workers’ pain. But, do not get me wrong: these girls are mature; they simply get a bit too giddy from time to time.

Most stores that the girls visited were ones in which I could care less such as Charlotte Russe. I followed them into Hot Topic, a trendy store geared to youth who enjoy Heavy Metal “music,” the dark Goth “colors” and a little bit of a raw version of the preppy look. I like that raw prep look, but I’m just too old for it. In fact I’m pretty sure I’m too old for anything that’s offered at Hot Topic, Hollister and Abercrombie and Fitch. All of these stores are designed to make parents feel like they’re yesterday’s news-if they were ever “news” in the first place. On the fashion and affordability scale, Hot Topic isn’t too bad, when compared to ‘Abercrombie’ and Hollister which are ridiculous on so many levels. Both of those stores feature high-gloss professional photos of perfectly ripped male models that work out 20 hours per day. I feel like a fat slob after walking out of those places. Now I understand females’ self-esteem body issues.

There I was standing in front of Forever 21 waiting for my daughter and a band of friends to emerge from the store. All of a sudden, the mall’s kiddie choo-choo train passed by me. Toddlers were waving at me with their parents reluctantly sitting with them. Wow, I had an emotional moment as a 3-year-old who looked just like my daughter at that age, waved at me. It all goes so fast. This particular mall was the first mall my daughter visited. She was five days old. It’s indeed a time warp. I felt like yelling out, “You’ll be here in 10 years! You’ll be here in 10 years!” But there’s no need, the 10 years will fly. Those parents will quickly learn. By then, I hope my daughter will be out of college, working and if I’m lucky, supporting me in my early retirement. Ah, can’t I dream while I wait outside a store, holding drinks as my young adolescent is spending my hard-earned dollars on frivolous clothing and necklaces?

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