Jason announces to his family that he’s gay. His sisters and his father tell him that it doesn’t make any difference, they love him regardless of whether he’s gay or straight or whatever. But what about his mother? Can she come to accept that her son is gay?
Jason woke up before his alarm on Sunday morning. He smelled bacon and coffee, and that meant breakfast. He pulled himself up and out from under the covers, then sat on the edge of his bed for about a minute, yawning and stretching. Finally, he felt awake enough to stand and strip off the boxer briefs he’d slept in, grabbed a clean pair and a pale blue T, and checking that no one could see him, hurried across the hall into the bathroom. After he’d showered and brushed his teeth he returned to his bedroom and put on the cargo shorts he’d worn the evening before and went downstairs to breakfast.
As he entered the kitchen he yawned again, a long yawn, and sat at the table. He rested his elbows on the table and his face in his hands.
“Well, good morning to you too, sleepyhead,” Betty joked. “Not enough sleep last night?”
Jason yawned again and dropped his hands onto his lap. “Morning, Mom. I guess I didn’t get enough sleep. I’ve been yawning since I woke up, and my mind’s kind of mushy. That’s weird because I went to bed as soon as we got home.” He closed his eyes, and that felt good and made him smile. “It feels so good to just close my eyes.”
“Sometimes if you get more sleep than usual, your body decides it’s going to catch up on all the sleep you missed recently.”
“But I didn’t miss any sleep this week,” Jason protested.
“Night before last you, Ron, and Steven didn’t get to bed until late, around two a.m. So you missed about four hours’ sleep.”
“I don’t think we got to sleep that late.”
“Well, why don’t you go back to bed for an hour? You have enough time to take a nap before we have to leave for the ten o’clock mass at St. Stephen.”
He locked his fingers behind his neck and stretched, then yawned again. “No, I don’t want to spend any more time in bed. I think I need some food, and a half cup of coffee too, black, please.”
Betty filled a mug halfway and set it in front of her son. “You should be careful about the amount of coffee you drink. You can become addicted to caffeine.”
“I know, and I don’t drink it much. They don’t serve coffee at school, so what I get is what I have at home. And that’s not much.” He blew on the top of the coffee, trying to hasten cooling so it would be the temperature he preferred.
“Bacon and eggs, or would you like pancakes?”
“Bacon and eggs, over easy, please. I think pancakes would fill me up too much. Remember that Ron and I are taking Steve clothes shopping after Mass. We’ll stop and grab some lunch somewhere.”
“Where are you going?”
“Downtown. That’s closer than going to the mall, and we won’t need someone to take us all the way there and pick us up after.”
“Do you want me to drop you off after Mass?”
“That would be okay for me and Steve, but Ron’s coming so either he’d have to walk downtown or you’d have to pick him up.”
“I can pick him up and take you guys downtown.”
“Thanks Mom, but you’ll have Jen and Thea in the car, then add me and Steve and Ron and that’s six of us. We won’t all fit.”
“I’ll take the SUV instead of the Civic. And it’s seven of us. Your father’s coming too.”
“That’s great, thanks for taking us. I’ll call Steve and Ron and let them know. Ya know, when I call Steve I’ll bet his mom will want to talk to you.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“I think she tries to control Steve’s life, like he’s still a little kid. He isn’t a little kid, he’s almost as old as me. I know she doesn’t like the idea of him dressing like the rest of us. She wants him to dress like he’s going to Cathedral High, in a uniform.”
“I talked to Linda Graff and it seemed like she’s started thinking about how she relates to Steve.
“You know, boys don’t wear uniforms at Cathedral High. They wear regular clothes, khakis and button down shirts. They look nice.”
“If Steve went to Cathedral it would be different. But he’s going to Hillcrest, and he stands out like a sore thumb. The way they dress makes the guys from Cathedral look like geeks. Because Steve dresses that way, with the same color clothes and plaid shirts every day, he looks different and kids stay away from him. Add that he’s very shy, and there’s his problem.”
“I think that’s very unfair of the kids at your school. They’re judging Steve based on what clothes he wears, not what he’s like as a person.”
“That’s true, but that’s high school. If when I started at Hillcrest I’d dressed the way Steve dresses, I would’ve had the same problems he’s having.”
“But you’re not shy, Jase. You would have made friends regardless of how you dressed.”
“I don’t think so. Maybe when you went to high school things were different, but today kids don’t pay attention to things like race or sexual orientation, but they do pay attention to how you fit in with everyone else. For guys that means that you don’t wear geeky clothes. I don’t know what it means for girls. I don’t pay that much attention to girls.” Jason grinned.
“Well, that’s something else I don’t understand. But what you say about fitting in, I do remember how important that was when I went to high school. So, where are you taking Steve shopping?”
“I figured we’d start at Macy’s, then go to Nordstrom. Then we’ll go to some of the stores that cater more to teens like Gap and H&M then we’ll walk over to Urban Outfitters and Tilly’s.”
“I assume that you’ll have lunch while you’re shopping?”
“Yeah. Don’t know where, just someplace we see while we’re walking around, when the urge hits us.”
“Do you plan to buy anything for yourself?”
“Mmm. I don’t know. Maybe, depends on what’s on sale and if I see something that grabs me.
“Say, where is everybody?”
“Your dad’s in the living room reading the Sunday paper. Jen and Thea are probably still in bed. I have to go upstairs anyway, so I’ll get them up.”
“What time are we going to leave for church?”
“Around nine fifteen.”
“Isn’t that a little early?”
“I don’t think so. We’re going to a new church and you know how hard it can be to find parking at St. Mary’s. St. Stephen could be the same. Then I want to find Linda Graff and chat before the service. I’m sure you’ll want to find Steven.”
Jason looked at the clock. “It’s not even eight o’clock yet!”
“You know you came down very early. I assumed your alarm woke you this morning.”
“Actually I woke up before my alarm. I didn’t pay any attention to the time. I just shut it off and got up.”
“It’s a good thing that you got up early. Other than putting on some slacks and shoes, you’re all ready for church.”
“I forgot about that, I mean wearing slacks for church. I don’t want to go shopping wearing them. I’m going to bring a pair of jeans and my Kicks and I’ll change in the men’s room after church. I better call Steve and find out if he can go right after church and if so tell him to bring jeans and shirt I loaned him and shoes he can change after church too.”
Jason got up and rinsed his plate and glass and put them in the dishwasher. Betty had gone upstairs to make sure his sisters were out of bed and getting ready, so he stepped into the living room.
“Hi, Dad. Anything interesting in the paper this morning?”
“Nothing new, just more of the same old thing. Oh, there’s a story about your basketball game in the sports section. It's really just a mention with the box score.”
“Cool. Please save the sports section and I’ll read it later.”
“Okay. Did you eat breakfast?”
“Uh huh. Did you?”
“Yes, I did. Have your sisters come down yet?”
“No, but Mom went up to get them out of bed.”
“You got up very early this morning, Jase.”
“Yeah, I woke up before my alarm. I figured I should go ahead and get up.”
“Are you and Ron still taking Steve shopping after church this morning?”
“Yes. I was thinking that instead of coming home then getting together with Steve, since he’s going to be at church then you could drive us to Ron’s to pick him up, then drop us off downtown, maybe at Macy’s?”
“Sure, I can do that.”
“Great! Thanks, Dad. I’m going to call Steve and make sure he can get the okay from his mother do go with us.”
“Why do you need to do that? She and his dad gave Steve their okay last night.”
“Two reasons. First, his mother seems to try to control everything he does, so I’m sure he’ll have to get her permission again. Then if he does get the okay, he won’t want to wear church clothes when he’s shopping for stuff for school, and neither will I. So I’m going to tell him to bring some jeans and stuff he can change into after church. And assuming all that’s okay, then I have to call Ron and tell him we’re going to pick him up.”
“What are you guys going to do for lunch?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe Chimichanga, or some other place where we can eat fast and get back to shopping for Steve.”
“Jase, I suggest that you think about this as Steve shopping for himself, with you and Ron as friends who will make suggestions.”
Jason thought about that for a few seconds. “Yeah, I see what you’re saying. They're his clothes, and he shouldn’t be pushed into something by us that he doesn’t really want but buys because he’s trying to please us. Right?”
“Right. There’s one other thing as well. If he decides he doesn’t like something he bought, or his mom gives him grief about it, then it’s not your fault.”
Jason grinned. “Uh huh, that’s maybe the most important thing for me and Ron. Thanks for the advice, Dad. I’ll let you know if we’re going to Ron’s from St. Stephen, then go downtown from his house.”
Jason went upstairs, being careful to not run, and phoned Steve.
“Hi, Steve. I see you’ve got me on caller ID.”
“Yeah, knowing who’s calling keeps all the perverts away, and all the girls too.”
“Oh, so now you’re a chick magnet?”
“I don’t know about being a chick magnet. Anyway, this is your call, and I assume there’s something you wanted to talk about?”
“Yeah. Since you and I are going to be at St. Stephen for ten o’clock Mass, I was thinking that my Dad could take us to Ron’s from church to pick him up, and then he’ll take us downtown. That way you wouldn’t have to go home first and we could get started sooner.”
“But I’ll be wearing slacks and a white shirt. I don’t want to go shopping wearing that.”
“I thought of that too. So what I’m gonna do is bring a pair of jeans and a different shirt and my Kicks and change in the men’s room at the church. I assume that St. Stephen has a men’s bathroom.”
“Clever idea, but that men’s room gets real crowded after Mass. You know, those old guys having to pee all lined up sort of dancing from one foot to the other hoping they don’t wet their pants. It’ll take at least twenty minutes for it to clear out so we have room to change.”
Jason laughed at the ‘old guys’ comment. “Be nice to the old guys. You’ll be there one day, dancing from one foot to the other trying to keep from wetting your pants! Anyway, I have a solution to that. We can change when we get to Ron’s house. That’s a lot better anyway, more room and definitely more private.”
“That sounds like it’s a plan. I’m in.”
“Do you need to get your mom’s okay?”
“Nope. We had a family discussion this morning and confirmed what they agreed to last night. So I can make decisions about things like what you just suggested, and I don’t have to get anyone’s okay. I just have to let them know where I’m going to be and what I’m going to do and when I’ll be home.”
“Cool, sounds the same as for me and for Ron too. I’m going to call Ron and let him know what we’re going to do. I’ll see you at church. My mom’s sort of antsy about it, this is the first time we’ll be there for Mass, so we’re leaving around nine fifteen and will be there by nine thirty.”
“We usually get there around nine thirty so Mom can talk to her lady friends and Dad can talk to some of the other husbands. I have some friends there, including some from Cathedral like Grant, and I hang with them while we wait outside for people to start heading inside for the ten o’clock Mass. I’ll introduce you.”
“Okay, sounds good. I’ll call Ron now, and I’ll see you at around nine thirty.”
“Good. See you then. Bye, Jase.”
Jason called Ron.
“You have reached Ron the Horrible. Say your piece or hang it up.” Jason heard Ron start laughing.
“Ron the Horrible. I am so going to remember that! Anyway, the reason I’m calling is that my folks will bring me and Steve to your house, the two of us will change out of our Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, then they’ll drive us downtown. That way we can get an earlier start. Is that okay with you?”
“Yeah, no problemo. What time to you think you’ll be here?”
“Well, Mass will be over around ten forty-five, then there’ll be all of the standing around doing the talking thing after, then we’ll drive to your house. Say eleven fifteen to eleven thirty? And I’ll call you if it looks like it’s going to be a lot earlier or later.”
“It’s a deal. I’ll clean up my bedroom a bit so there’ll be room for you two to change without tripping over my stuff. I’ll see you guys whenever. Oh, are we going to eat out or should I have some lunch at home?”
“I thought we’d eat out somewhere like Chimichanga.”
“Okay, sounds good. I’ll see you later, Jase. Gotta go tell the parents what I’m going to be doing.”
“Bye, Ron.” Jason ended the call and put his cell back in his pocket.
‘Now what to wear for church, and what to bring with to change into,’ Jason thought to himself.
The Phillips family arrived at St. Stephen Church at exactly nine thirty. Jason saw Steve talking to several guys and girls, so he walked over and joined them.
“Hey, guys, this is Jason Phillips. His family is going to start coming to St. Stephen from now on, assuming they like it. Jase, don’t try to remember everyone’s name. Let’s go into the vestibule and we’ll each fill out a stick-on name badge and then we’ll all be able to figure out who’s who.”
Jason grinned to see Steve taking the leader role. Maybe he did it because he knew the kids here. As they stepped up to the table and filled in their name badges, Jason felt someone tap him on the shoulder.
“Hey, Jason. Remember me? I’m Grant. We met at the basketball game yesterday.”
“Yes, I remember you. You and Steve were friends when he went to Cathedral High.”
They turned and walked outside, and Steve joined them.
“I wanted to let you know how amazing it was when you talked to Tony Santos. You guys handled him like you were professional counselors or something. Anyway, Tony phoned me last night and apologized again. I could tell that the big black guy, I don’t know his name...”
“It’s Leshawn Cross,” Jason told him.
“Okay, I could tell that Leshawn totally freaked Tony; he is one scary guy. Then you introduced yourself and got Tony to calm down, and Leshawn introduced himself and even though I didn’t hear what they said I could see that Tony and Leshawn sort of, you know, hit it off because they shook hands. Anyway, I saw the impact that whole thing had on Tony. I think he’s going to be a different kind of guy from now on.”
“I hope it’s that way. You still want to transfer to Hillcrest?” Steve asked.
Grant smiled. “You know it. My folks are talking to your folks about it over there.” He pointed.
“My folks are also talking with them,” Jason said. “I think they’ll get positive feedback about Hillcrest from my folks and from Steve’s folks too.”
“Do you think we should walk over and join the conversation?” Grant asked.
“I don’t think so,” Jason replied. “It’s best to let your parents ask questions that they might not want to have you hear. You can talk to them after Mass and find out what they think.”
“Hey, let’s go over to where the others are standing and Jase can figure out who’s who.” So that’s what they did.
The sermon impressed Jason and his family. Father Lee spoke about God’s love for everyone. He quoted 1 John 4.16, “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.” He talked about inclusion instead of exclusion, and that what John said related to “us” and that means all of us, no one excluded. 1 John 4.16 continues, “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” That rang a bell with Jason. Gays have suffered from exclusion, and inclusion is new and continues to be implemented very slowly in the Church. Jason realized that one interpretation of “whoever remains in love” could relate to gays and maybe even gay marriage. That was worthy of some thought, and perhaps a discussion with Father Darcy.
Father Lee gave an example. He is Chinese, and historically Asians had been excluded. But that has undergone a significant change, and now they are largely included everywhere. That same kind of change, he said, needs to include everyone else who has been excluded. He said that ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ isn’t limited to your next-door neighbor but to everyone, including embracing all of those who have been excluded. That, in Jason’s opinion, meant him as a gay teen.
After Mass Jason stood outside with his family. “How did you like the sermon?” he asked.
“I thought it was cool,” Thea said. “He is sure different than Father Morton and Father Langston. I like coming here. I think we should switch churches.”
“I agree with Thea,” Jen said. “I see how all the people around here seem to be happy. That’s a nice change.”
“Like he said in his sermon, I feel that this is a more inclusive and accepting church,” Tim said. “It’s that kind of church I could attend each week.”
Jason smiled. “I especially liked the way Father Lee talked about exclusion and inclusion. That makes so much sense. And it makes me feel good being a gay Catholic.”
“I agree with what you all have said. I would like to become a member of this parish,” Betty told her family.
“Can we change my confirmation and have it done here?” Thea asked her mom.
“I think that should be possible,” Betty said. “Let me see if I can find Father Murphy. We can ask him.”
Jason split off from his family when he saw Steve outside the church, and walked over and said, “Hi.”
“Hi, Jase. How’d you like the Mass and Father Lee’s sermon?”
“I liked it a lot. I loved the sermon, and so did my folks and sisters. He didn’t say the ‘gay’ word, but in my opinion we were part of those he said were excluded.”
“I agree, Jase. So is this sermon something you would have heard at St. Mary’s?”
“Not likely. They made it very clear to me that their definition of ‘Love thy neighbor’ doesn’t include gay people.”
Steve’s mother walked up and put her hand on his shoulder, and looked at Jason.
“Hi, Jason. Steven, you should get your things out of the trunk. Here are the keys. I’ll wait here with Jason.”
Jason figured something was up. So he decided to play along.
“Well, Jason, are you ready for your shopping trip with Steven?”
He smiled. “Yes. I can tell that he’s looking forward to being dressed like the other kids who go to Hillcrest High.”
“That’s nice. I do have a favor to ask of you.”
“What’s the favor?”
“I don’t want Steven to spend too much money on new clothes. I’d like you to keep track of how much he buys and suggest that it’s enough when he’s spent no more than $150.”
“That’s not very much. He needs enough jeans, shirts, and T-shirts to last him about two weeks.”
“I’d bought him several sets of khakis and shirts that are like new. They are still perfectly acceptable for him to wear to school.”
“Then that’s something you’ll have to discuss with Steve. I can’t control what he spends of his own money.”
“So you won’t do this favor for me?”
“That’s not something that would be appropriate for me to do. It’s a family matter that’s between you and Steve.”
Mrs. Graff glared at Jason then turned around and walked toward their car. Jason saw Steve talking to his father when she walked up to them. He watched as what appeared to be an argument started, and after about a minute Steve turned and walked back to Jason, grinning.
“I can’t believe it. My mom didn’t want me to spend more than $150 because she says I have plenty of khakis and plaid shirts that I can still wear to school. She said I can wear jeans one day and khakis the next. I said I’d wear the khakis when I go to church on Sundays, but I’m wearing jeans to school. My dad agreed with me, and Mom stopped arguing about it. Now I just wish she’d get with the program that I am not wearing khakis and plaid shirts to school anymore.”
“I see you have your gym bag.”
Steve held up the gym bag. “Yup. I’m ready to change into my new look when we get to Ron’s house.”
“Cool. My folks are ready to leave. Let’s go.”
When they arrived at Ron’s house he answered the door. He saw the Phillips’ SUV driving away.
“Hey, Jase! Where are your folks going?”
“My mom wanted to get home and so did Jen and Thea. I’ll call as soon as we’re ready to have Dad drive us downtown. He said when we’re finished shopping I can call him and he’ll pick us up and drive us home.”
“Way cool, Jase,” Ron said. “Well, don’t just stand there. Come in and take your shoes off and I’ll direct you to the changing room, a.k.a. my bedroom.” He grinned and wiggled his eyebrows.
“Where are your folks, Ron?” Jason asked.
“They went to the Farmers Market. We’ll be out of here before they get back. Well, this is my personal abode, Steve. Of course, Jase has seen it hundreds or thousands of times.”
Ron ushered them into his bedroom with a bow and a flourish with his left arm.
“Nice room, Ron,” Steve remarked. He looked around, then went to the bookcase that held Ron’s CDs and DVDs and some of his books. “You like science fiction. So do I. I have some of the books you have. Same with music. I don’t have a TV in my room so I don’t have any DVDs. Dad tells me I can watch them on my computer, but it’s a laptop with a small screen so I’d rather watch movies in our family room on the big screen TV. Your room is mostly neat, too. Mine is neat when my mom yells at me about it.”
“Don’t peek under Ron’s bed,” Jason said. “He just shoves stuff there when he wants to give the impression that he keeps his room neat.”
“I do not!” Ron shouted at Jason.
“Shall we take a look?” Jason asked, sweetly.
“No! What’s under my bed is my personal business.” He started laughing, and then both Jason and Steve laughed as well.
“See, Steve. I’m right about what Ron does with his stuff instead of putting it away.”
Ron shook his head. “Okay, okay, enough of this demeaning of my apparently feeble attempts at neatness. We have shopping to do, and you two need to get out of your church clothes and into something more comfortable.”
“You’re right, Ron,” Jason said. He opened his gym bag and pulled out a pair of blue denim jeans, a dark purple T, a pale yellow short-sleeve shirt, black athletic socks, and his Kicks. He started undressing.
Ron looked at Steve who had the clothes he got at Jason’s pulled out of his gym bag. He was slow to undress. “You still feel uncomfortable undressing in front of us, Steve?” he asked.
“No, it’s not that. I feel embarrassed because I want to look at you guys when you get undressed. I shouldn’t want to do that with friends.”
“Why not?” Ron asked.
“Huh?” was Steve’s response.
“I asked you, ‘Why not?’ What’s wrong with watching your friends get undressed? Or even get naked? We’re friends, and it’s okay for us to look at each other when we get undressed.”
“You look at your friends?”
“Sure. Right, Jase?”
“Right. After a while you’ll have seen us enough we’ll have seen you enough that it’ll be same-as same-as, and we won’t care anymore. But at first guys want to check out their friends. Gay guys, especially.”
“But what if looking gets me excited?”
“You mean you get hard,” Ron corrected Steve. “Say it like it is. And if you do, or we do, then there’s more to look at.” Ron grinned and wiggled his eyebrows.
“We might stare,” Jason added, “but we won’t laugh at you if you get hard. We get hard too, sometimes. Just remember, between friends it’s always look, don’t touch.”
Steve grinned and slipped off his dress socks then pulled off his slacks. It was obvious that he was hard. But he ignored it and changed his dress shirt and undershirt for the T and short-sleeve shirt he’d borrowed from Jason on Saturday, and the jeans Jason had given him. He put on a pair of grey gym socks and set aside a pair of beat-up Converse gym shoes he’d put on when they left.
“So, do I look like I’m ready to go shopping?” He turned all the way around, slowly.
“If your closet was full of the clothes you’re wearing now,” Ron replied, “you wouldn’t need to go shopping. But since your closet if full of geek clothes, we’re ready to ruuuuummmmmble!”
“You’ve been watching too much hockey,” Jason mumbled.
Ron looked at his boyfriend who had already changed. He realized that he’d been watching Steve, and hadn’t paid any attention to Jason. “Jase, you look great.”
“Thank you, Sir! I’m gonna call my dad to drive us downtown. I suggest we start at Macy’s, then to Nordstrom, then H&M, Lucky Jeans, Gap, Urban Outfitters, and Tilly’s. There’s lots of other stores, but those should be a good start.”
“You realize we’re going end up as pack animals by carrying all the bags with the stuff that Steve buys,” Ron said.
“No problema,” Jason responded. “I’ll call my dad and he’ll pick us up and drive us home.”
“That’s really nice of him,” Steve said, “but I can get my folks to pick us up.”
“Nah, it’s all arranged, my dad’s expecting to do it.”
Ron thought for a few seconds. “Uh, Steve, is your mom going to be okay with what you buy? Should we go to your house with you when you show them what you bought?”
“Not necessary, It’ll be good. Mom might grouse about things, but my dad’ll be there and he’s going to be cool about whatever I buy. After a couple weeks it’ll be normal and she’ll forget about all the old clothes I have in my closet. I told her I’ll wear them to Mass. She won’t let me do that. I always have to wear slacks and a white dress shirt with black socks and dress shoes. I’ll probably end up giving my old outfits to the Cathedral rummage sale. Some family that can’t afford to buy their kid new Cathedral-style school clothes will get a good deal.”
During this conversation between Steve and Ron, Jason called his dad to say they were ready to be picked up.
“My dad’ll be here in a few. Let’s go on outside and wait for him on the porch.”
So that’s what they did. They were dropped off in front of Macy’s. The men’s and teen’s departments were on the first floor, with the more expensive designer brands on the second floor.
“Okay, here’s what I recommend,” Ron said. “Don’t jump in and buy everything right away. You want to do some comparison shopping and make sure you’re getting the best deals. Jase and I will remind you of that if we think there’s something better coming up. The way Jase listed the stores is like in a big upside down U, so it’ll be easy for us to go around ending at Tilly’s. Then if you want to come back to Macy’s it’s a short walk, or if you want we can start over, or we can go back to any of the other stores you want.”
“So,” Steve responded, “you two are playing the role of my father. Right?”
“You got it,” Ron replied. “Better than us playing the role of your mother, don’t you think?”
Steve looked Ron up and down. “Yeah, definitely not my mother. But it took a while to make sure!”
“Dufus!” Ron said, and he lightly popped Steve in his shoulder which made Steve laugh.
In Macy’s Steve found two pair of jeans that he liked. “These are on sale, and I have this ad from today’s Times for an additional fifteen percent off.”
“Don’t you have to use a Macy’s credit card to get the extra fifteen percent?” Jason asked.
“Nope, I read the fine print in the ad, which took a magnifying glass, and it doesn’t require a Macy’s credit card.”
Steve inspected the jeans and made up his mind.
“I think I’ll try them on.”
Only one person could be in a fitting room at one time, so Jason and Ron had to wait while Steve put on each pair of jeans and came out to see what they thought.
“They’re both a little loose in the waist, but not enough that they’ll fall off or slip down too far. I figure I’m growing so that’s a good thing. There aren’t any cuffs, but they have a lot of extra fabric inside the bottom of the legs so my mom could make them longer if I start getting taller.”
“They look good,” Jason said.
“They’re a little big in the butt,” Ron said.
A Macy’s salesperson overheard their conversation, and she walked over to where they were standing. “You know,” she said, “these jeans are shrink-to-fit. They will shrink about a half inch in the waist and about an inch in the leg. I’d recommend getting one size larger in the waist and an extra inch in length. Wash them by themselves in hot water wash and cold rinse before wearing them the first time, and they should be fine.”
“Do you have pre-shrunk ones?” Jason asked.
“Yes, but they are more expensive and they aren’t on sale. This is a very good price, fifty percent off. Do you have the coupon from today’s paper?”
“Yes,” Steve replied.
“Then they are an additional fifteen percent off. That makes them just over $16 a pair, plus tax.”
“That is a good deal,” Steve said. “Let me try on a larger pair like you recommended.”
The twenty-nine-inch waist and thirty-two-inch length made the fit a little more than one size too big, like she said.
“What if they don’t shrink?” Steve asked.
“Then wash them once more in hot water with cold rinse.”
“Hmmm. Let me think about it. It’s a great price but it’s my money, so I’m worried about them not fitting.”
“They are in stock, so we should still have them when you get back. The sale runs through Wednesday. The fifteen percent coupon is good today only.”
They left the store. “So you didn’t buy those jeans,” Jason said. “I think that’s good. If they end up not fitting after you wash them, then you’ve thrown your sixteen bucks a pair in the toilet.”
“I agree. Let’s go to Nordstrom. They’re having a shoe sale; I saw it in today’s paper. I can check their jeans prices at the same time.”
Steve seemed to be more of a looker than a buyer. He spent some time looking at shoes in Nordstrom but couldn’t make up his mind. He decided to skip the jeans, so they left. On their way out, Ron had a suggestion.
“Let’s go to The Walking Company. It’s right across the street, and they have some great athletic shoes.”
Steve agreed. And he found a shoe that fit perfectly and was on sale for $99. It was an MBT Chakula GTX, and the regular price marked on the tag was $284.95. They had his size, 8, and he decided to put them on and wear them. They took Steve’s debit card and asked for picture ID. He showed his school ID card and the guy was satisfied.
Ron carried the shopping bag with Steve’s old Converse gym shoes, which were in the box his new MBT’s came in.
“I can carry it,” Steve said.
“Hey, we’re here as your pack animals, so don’t take away our jobs!”
“But Jason isn’t carrying anything,” Steve objected.
“Just wait,” Ron said.
“I just love it when people are talking about me when I’m standing right here,” Jason complained. “Sheesh!”
They went to Lucky Jeans, just down from The Walking Company. Steve found that Lucky 487 jeans were perfect for him. They were standard blue denim, were soft instead of stiff, relaxed fit, and had a zipper fly. The jeans at Macy’s had a button fly. Steve said he didn’t like pants with a button fly. The sales guy said they wouldn’t shrink if he used a cold water wash and cold rinse, and if they did bring them back within ninety days and they’d replace them. He bought three pair, $79.50 each. They were having a fifteen percent off sale, so he paid just under $220 with tax. They took Steve’s debit card and his school ID.
“Anybody hungry?” Jason asked. “I hope so, because I’m hungry.”
“I’m hungry,” Steve said, and Ron added, “Me too.”
“How about California Pizza Kitchen?” Jason asked.
Again, they all agreed. They had to wait about ten minutes for a table to be cleared, and the hostess brought them to a booth that had enough space for the three teens with their shopping bags.
“I’m gonna have a pizza,” Jason stated. He reviewed the menu and when he saw they had a Chile Relleno, and the picture made it look really good, he picked that instead. Ron ordered a Sicilian pizza and Steve ordered the Meat Cravers pizza. Both were the thin crust type, so the toppings were the most important part.
While they waited for their food, they talked about the upcoming basketball game with Alcosta. It would be the last game of the season before the playoffs, and they talked about the way the team had improved over the year before. Finally their lunch arrived and they dug in, not saying much while they ate.
After lunch they went to Gap. Steve tried on a pair of loose fit jeans, and liked them. The sales girl said they were pre-washed so they wouldn’t shrink. They were $59.95 a pair, and weren’t on sale. But he bought two pair anyway.
“How are you doing on your debit account?” Jason asked.
“Let’s see, I bought five pair of jeans for about $350, and a pair of shoes for about $110, That’s $460. I checked my account online this morning, and I had almost $900. That doesn’t include the $300 my dad told me he was adding to it to help pay for my clothes. So I still have at least $400. Now I need some shirts and T’s and I should be good to go.”
“Damn,” Ron said, “how’d you get $900? That’s a ton of money.”
“Well, I get $25 a week allowance. That’s over $1,200 a year. I don’t spend much, mostly on books, CDs, MP3s, going to the movies, stuff like that. I just saved it up. I’m going to show my folks what I bought, and say I want to buy my own clothes from now on and I’d like a clothes allowance. I’ll see how that goes over.”
“Good luck with that,” Ron said. “I gotta try it myself. And I absolutely gotta get an increase in my allowance.”
“How much do you get?” Steve asked.
“I don’t want to say. It’s too embarrassing.”
“Oh,” Steve said, and not wanting to embarrass Ron, changed the subject. “While we’re here at Gap, I want to look at shirts and T’s.”
After looking at the shirts, Steve came to a conclusion. “I think the shirts here are too expensive. Let’s go to wherever is next.”
They went to H&M. Steve found some short-sleeve shirts he liked a lot, including one in light blue denim for $24.95, so he bought it even though it wasn’t on sale.
Next they went to Urban Outfitters. Steve found a bright orange long sleeve shirt that had button tabs so the sleeve could be rolled up to become more like a short-sleeve shirt. It was on sale for $39, so he bought the orange shirt and a gray one in the same design. He also bought one in the same design that had narrow vertical stripes in sort of a rainbow pattern. It was also on sale. He also saw a pair of bright red Speedo-style swim briefs. He tried them on but wouldn’t let Jason and Ron see them on him. However, he must have liked them because he bought them.
“Now I need some T’s,” Steve said. He found some pocket T’s on a sale table at two for $28, so he decided he’d buy four of them in different solid colors with the pocket patch in another color or with a graphic. While Steve selected the pocket T’s, Ron pulled Jason aside.
“Come see what I found,” he said. “They have some T’s that I’d love to buy, but if my mom saw them she’d probably take them away from me. Come here and see.”
Jason walked over to where Ron had picked up a T with the back facing out.
“Now, close your eyes and I’ll turn it around and I’ll say ‘open your eyes’.”
Jason closed his eyes. “Okay, but this seems....” He was interrupted when Ron said, “Open your eyes!”
At first Jason couldn’t figure out what he was looking at, but then it came into focus.
“Oh! That’s... unbelievable!” he said. The front of the T had a picture of two girls, probably in their late teens or early twenties, underwater in a pool, facing each other and pulled close together, and each tugging the bottom of the other girl’s Bikini down past her hips.
“There are more!” Ron exclaimed. “Look at this one.” The front of a black T had a picture of a girl’s breasts right where it would be anatomically correct on the guy wearing it. The girl’s hands were covering them, but there were old fashioned cartoon hands trying to pull her hands away.
“And I love this one,” Ron said, holding up a black T with words in white that read, ‘Go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company’. “I’m gonna buy it,” Ron said, “it’s worth the $28.”
“Your mother’s going to kill you, you know.”
“It’s worth it.” Ron said, and grinned.
“Then you oughta buy the Bikini one too. If you’re going to die you might as well have a better reason than just that ‘Go to heaven’ T.”
Ron picked up the Bikini T and checked the price. “$24, I’m gonna get it too. Thanks, Jase.”
“You are crazy. One hundred percent certifiably crazy. I don’t want to be there when you show that one to your folks. No, correct that. I do want to be there. It’ll be the last time I ever get to see you.”
“You gotta learn how to have fun, Jase.”
Steve walked up. “What are you guys doing?”
“Ron is signing his death warrant,” Jason said.
“What?” Steve asked, looking confused.
“Show him the T’s, Ron.”
Ron showed the ‘Go to heaven’ T and Steve read what it said. He burst out laughing. “That’s funny. I know my mom would ground me for a year if I came home with that.”
“You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Show him the other T you’re buying, Ron,” Jason said.
Ron held up the Bikini T.
“Oh, oh, oh!” Steve barely got those words out. He stepped closer to see the detail on the image on the T. He looked up at Ron, who was smiling and chuckling. “Nice to have known you. What kind of flowers would you like on your grave?”
“No worries. My folks are used to me, and this is mild compared to some of the things I’ve brought home. Like Jase. Now, how about some T’s for you?”
“None from where you got those two, that’s for sure!” Steve replied.
“Hang on a minute, most of these graphic T’s are mild, and some are really funny. Take a look at these. I picked them out for you.”
Ron began showing the T’s he’d picked for Steve.
“This white T has the word ‘obey’ showing through a red background. This one has a tiger printed all over the T. Think about wearing it with a black shirt, either short or long sleeves. You like Coke, right? This red Coca-Cola pocket T is great with any color shirt. I like this black T with a full-color melting Rubik’s Cube. And this yellow Cheerios T. This blue T that has a Charlie Brown cartoon with a word balloon that reads ‘Everything seems hopeless’ is priceless. My favorite is this gray T with the word ‘Polaroid’ and under it a rainbow flag. That one is a winner for every gay guy, and I’m buying one for me.”
“I’ll buy one for me, too,” Jason said. “It’s like the gay rainbow flag but more subtle.”
“You know, I like most of these,” Steve said. “The ‘obey’ one you can put back. That sounds like something my mom shouts at me.” Steve grinned. “Just kidding. But I’ll take the other six. Now I have to buy a couple more shirts. Let’s find where I can pay for these, and then let’s go to Tilly’s and see what shirts they have. That’ll end our day of shopping, and I’m glad it’s going to be over.”
After paying his bill for the shirts and T’s, and Ron and Jason paid for their T’s, they went to Tilly’s. Steve picked a white short sleeve shirt with small blue checks, and two solid color short-sleeve shirts, one in charcoal and one in burgundy.
After paying and walking out of Tilly’s to the sidewalk, Steve yawned and stretched. “I think I’m done. I might need something else, but For now, I don’t want to even think about any more shopping.”
“How about something to eat. Like a frozen yogurt?” Ron suggested.
“That sounds good,” Steve said after yawning again. “Where to?”
“That self-serve frozen yogurt swirl place is just past the theater. Let’s go there. They have like a hundred flavors, all self-serve.”
“You’re kidding,” Steve said.
“Nope, it’s true,” Jason said.
Steve shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know how they’d do it, but that’s okay with me. Let’s go.”
When they got there it wasn’t busy. The set their packages down and Jason volunteered to sit and watch their purchases. “Ron, please get me a coffee and dark chocolate. About medium size. I’ll pay you back.”
“No, I’m paying for this,” Steve said. “No arguments.”
Steve discovered that they did have what looked like one hundred flavors of frozen yogurt and it was all self-serve. He went for the dark chocolate and pecan praline. Ron got Jason’s, then picked the five citrus flavors, lemon, orange, tangerine, lime, and grapefruit, for himself.
They sat talking about their day shopping, and how it turned out to be a lot of fun, especially when they went through the graphic T’s from Urban Outfitters. They started to make up their own designs and text for T’s, and laughed at their bizarre ideas.
“Okay, is it time for me to call my dad to come pick us up?”
No one disagreed, so Jason placed the call and after a few minutes they gathered the bags of clothes and waited in front of the frozen yogurt shop. This turned out to be a fun but tiring day, helping Steve complete his new wardrobe. They were all glad when Jason’s dad arrived and they had someone to drive them home instead of having to walk.
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