82: You’re Going to Wear That?

82: You’re Going to Wear That?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

You’re Going to Wear That?

One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.

~Oscar Wilde

I pulled the bleach from the cabinet, set up the plastic bowl in the sink, and grabbed my jeans from the hamper. My mom, folding laundry next to me, shot over her famous “What are you up to?” glare. I knew I would have to explain, again.

I should have waited and snuck downstairs when she wasn’t there, but I didn’t have time. The next day, my friends and I were going to the movies, and I wanted to wear these pants.

Wondering when the third degree would start, I bunched up part of my dark blue jeans — the part above my right knee — and dipped it into the bleach and water combination before my mother could stop me. The spots were supposed to be cotton white. I didn’t really know how to get the spots that white. It smelled pretty bad, so I guessed I had added enough bleach.

“What are you doing?” my mother shrieked. Horror filled her eyes, like she had just seen a ghost or something.

“I told you the other day. I’m bleaching my jeans.” A few of my friends had done the same thing — spotted their dark jeans white, reverse snow leopard style — and then slashed the fabric to get that fringy thread look. They were cool.

“Are those your new jeans? The ones we bought a few weeks ago?” My mom couldn’t get her head around why anyone would destroy perfectly good clothes in what she considered such a barbaric manner. It was beyond her understanding.

“Uh, yeah,” I said.

“And you’re going to wear those? Outside? Like that?”

“Duh, yes.” I shook my head and kept dipping away, sporadically fading the color from patches of cloth around my butt, hips, calves, and thighs. She didn’t get it. She was still wearing sweaters from three years ago.

“It’s not like I’m dying my hair blue or anything. They’re just jeans,” I insisted. She was always nagging me about stuff. You’d think just once she would like my suggestions. “This is art, Mom. Fashion. You know? No, you probably don’t know.” I clucked my tongue, and waved my hand, dismissing her lack of fashion sense.

She gave me that glare again. Oh, great. Here it comes, I thought. Another long-winded rant about my strange tastes and how ridiculous she thinks I’d look wearing a clown suit. But, then she shocked me.

“Do what you want. They’re your clothes,” my mom sighed, rolling her eyes. In the bigger scheme of things, white spotted jeans must have seemed more logical to her than blue hair. Last week, when I mentioned that maybe I would add a few blue streaks through my blond hair, she went nuts, thought it was the most absurd thing she had ever heard. I couldn’t convince her. She didn’t buy the line that blue hair would match my eyes. Well, it was only an idea. I wasn’t really going to do it anyway.

“There’s a lot of bleach in there. You should use gloves. Here, take these.” She handed me the yellow rubber dish gloves on her side of the sink, and slid the pile of clean towels closer to her. “But, please, don’t get bleach on anything else. I’m sure the rest of us would rather not look like zebras.”

“Leopards, Mom. Zebras have stripes,” I corrected. Unbelievable. How could she not know the difference between zoo animals?

We stood side by side a few minutes longer, concentrating in silence on our individual tasks. When I finished speckling my pants, I rinsed them quickly in the sink and hung them on the clothesline we had in the basement. My mom told me to put them in the dryer. I didn’t want them to shrink. Jeans never fit right when they come out of the dryer.

“With the amount of bleach you used, you won’t have to worry about them shrinking. You’ll have to worry about them falling apart.” She picked up the laundry basket and headed upstairs.

“Whatever,” I mumbled, blowing off her commentary. What did she know?

I stepped back and admired my work, mentally deciding where I should cut the fabric in the morning. “Not bad,” I muttered. “I think the girls will like it.”

And, they did. The next day on our way to the movie theater, we swapped bleach-spotting techniques and decided dark jeans worked better than light ones. And, man, did we laugh when people at the mall did a double take as we walked by. The looks on their faces — priceless! Maybe, famous fashion designers would hear about us and want to copy our look. We pretended to be models prancing down the catwalk, loving the attention we drew.

But, my mom was right. I had used too much bleach. In places where I double-dipped or dipped too long, the bleach spots turned into threadbare holes. After wearing them a few times, the threads vanished completely, and my jeans resembled a slab of Swiss cheese. I didn’t mind much. By then, the leopard look was so yesterday. My friends and I had moved on to our jackets, using hundreds of safety pins to make complicated designs. Oh, and then we started painting our boots fire engine red and fuchsia.

My mom often would look over my shoulder, and roll her eyes when she saw me slicing or shading my next work of art. Once in a while, she would complain about the mess I was making, and I’d have to come up with a good excuse so she would let me finish what I was doing. Sometimes, though, she had really great ideas. Like when she showed me how to fasten safety pins so they wouldn’t leave big marks in my denim jacket. Or, when she joked about adding yellow swirls to my freshly dyed boots. Hmm…maybe there was hope for her yet, old sweaters and all.

~Jennifer Baljko

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