The closet drama behind wear and tear of 'hand-me-downs'
Published 19/07/2010 | 05:00
You're standing in your 13-year-old son's bedroom and he's close to tears; his eyes are brimming with resentment and frustration. He's off to a week-long residential summer camp soon, something he's never done before.
You've already got him the new shorts, the new t-shirts and the new trainers in honour of the occasion, but, it appears, he's also required to bring a dressing-gown.
When you check, the old one's too small. You suggest that your son use one which used to belong to the Wolverine and which has been hanging on the back of his bedroom door for at least a year.
It's very long, very hooded, very black and very, very masculine. Indeed if it wasn't for the small appliquéd character from 'South Park' on the chest it could have been a prop in a black-magic ritual.
Your daughter found it in the boys' section of a big department store some years ago. At the time she was going through a tomboy phase and refused to consider any of the pallid, flowery pink-and-purple creations considered suitable for girls.
Now you hold it up and shake it out, pleased. "It's perfect," you tell your son.
"It belongs to her," he says gloomily.
"Nope," you say brightly, "it's been yours for absolutely yonks!"
Your son -- normally a mellow, easygoing chap -- indicates with some temerity that he does not, under any account, wish to appear in front of other male campers in a garment pre-worn by his big sister.
You breezily ignore this, as you notice a small lump in one of the pockets.
"What's this?" you say cheerily as, oh damn and blast, you pull out a pair of crumpled pink knickers covered in love-hearts.
Your son goes berserk. That's it; he's not bringing the dressing gown to camp!
Those knickers have probably been in the pocket of her old dressing gown for years!
It's smelly! It's disgusting! It's revolting! The Wolverine makes him sick!
Look, you say soothingly, you'll put the robe through the washing machine. It's perfectly all right.
You point out reasonably that he can't seriously expect you to buy him a new dressing-gown when there's a perfectly good one on the back of his door.
"Will you wash it three times?" he asks.
You'll wash it four times, you lie.
Four long washes to eliminate any lingering odious traces of girliness or, er, horrid, pink, love-heart knickers.
"Nobody must know," he warns. "Nobody!"
"Of course not," you say, crossing your fingers behind your back.