My Daughter Bought a Grateful Dead Sweatshirt -- But Doesn't Know Who They Are
“I can finally get that Grateful Dead sweatshirt!”
Heloise wriggles with joy as I show her an Urban Outfitters credit for $70.35.
(Molly, a dear former mentee of mine, bought something recently for herself from Urban Outfitters. Finding that it no longer fit her style, she returned it – and decided everything else in the store was also too young for her. Molly follows me on Instagram, and has a sense of my daughter’s style; very generously, Molly sent me an electronic gift card for the balance of that return, with instructions to use it for Little H.)
If you haven’t paid attention to teen fashion in the pandemic era, t-shirts and sweatshirts with the names of old rock bands are ubiquitous. I first noticed it a year ago, when high schoolers began to come through my lane at TJ’s, sporting Dokken, Motley Crue, and Y&T t-shirts. The first time I saw a 16-year-old wearing a Def Leppard tee, I smiled at her and said - in what I hoped was a friendly and safe adult voice -- “I saw their Pyromania tour when I was about your age! Before Rick Allen lost his arm, of course.”
I might as well have recited Jabberwocky – backwards - for all the sense my words made to the child.
“I don’t even know who they are. I just like the shirt,” she said flatly.
And as the pandemic wears on, the teens in ‘70s and ‘80s rock and roll attire have kept on coming into the store. The Rolling Stones are still around, so their merchandise is timeless – but to see kids born well into the 21st century walking about in Judas Priest and Doobie Brothers shirts is bizarre. Is this a way of mocking their parents, most of whom are Gen Xers who grew up on stadium rock, hair bands? It’s evidently not fandom, as these Gen Zers are not actually listening to Rob Halford or Michael McDonald, and they certainly don’t know or care about Rick Allen’s car accident.
And now, my not-quite-13-year-old daughter has decided she has to have a $70 Grateful Dead sweatshirt.
”I’m happy to have you use Molly’s gift to get it,” I say, “but do you even know who the Grateful Dead are?”
Heloise shakes her head, gloriously untroubled by her ignorance of popular music history. She does attempt a guess: “Were they in a show about zombies? ‘Grateful Dead’ sounds like the name of a horror movie you and Victoria would like.”
It is a daughter’s sacred right to bait her father. I glower at her. My daughter beams: “We have time for you to take me to Starbucks first, if we hurry!”
We go to the Starbucks on Melrose across the street from my daughter’s favorite store. Little H orders a peppermint mocha, I have my abstemious drip. I look at my watch; it’s 9:58 and Urban Outfitters opens at 10; we stroll across the street.
Before we walk in, I can’t help myself, and tell her that when I was her age, I wanted to wear the shirts of bands I actually listened to. “I had a Clash tee, and a Sex Pistols shirt your grandmother hated. I had an AC/DC one too.”
I don’t know what other dads expect their daughters to do when they are made the unwilling targets of such useless recollections. I know damn well that I’m begging for an eye-roll and a grunt, and that’s what I get -- but I say it anyway. My old youth group training tells me that sometimes kids remember things they pretend to dismiss.
She finds the sweatshirt in seconds, hugs it to herself. “Do you want to try it on?” I ask, and Heloise shakes her head, promising it already fits. I’m dubious; it looks much too big for her. A voice comes into my head: Be glad she wants a huge baggy sweatshirt, and not a tiny miniskirt. I protest at that voice: I’m not that kind of overprotective dad! The other self shrugs. So you say now.