My little nine-year-old daughter, Elliana, came down the stairs to where I was making breakfast. “Dad, I need to dress up like in the olden days for school today.”

“Okay,” I answered. “We have some pioneer costumes in the closet downstairs. You can look through them.”

“No,” she replied. “Not the pioneer days. The 70’s and 80’s, when you were younger. What did you wear back then?”

It took me a minute to recover from hearing the years I went to high school called the olden days. When I finally did, I told her she probably ought to ask her mother for something that girls wore.

Elliana found her mother, and asked if we had something she could wear for 70’s and 80’s days at school.

“The olden days,” I added.

“But I don’t want to look stupid,” Elli complained.

“We didn’t look stupid,” I told her.

One of my older daughters chimed in. “Have you looked at your yearbook lately?”

“Yes,” I answered, ” and we didn’t look stupid.” I paused for a moment, and then added, “Okay. Maybe bellbottoms were the exception.”

My wife, Donna, found Elli a dress. It kind of just draped around her. I had forgotten that girls wore those unflattering dresses, but the dress didn’t seem to bother Elli.

“Elli, you better come upstairs and let me do your hair,” Donna said.

“How are you going to do it?” I asked. “The Farrah Fawcett feathered look?” That was the one thing I remembered about girls’ hair from that era.

“What else was there back then?” she replied.

“I thought that was a pretty nice hairstyle,” I said.

“That’s because you didn’t have to spend an hour doing it, nor did you have to worry about a high forehead,” Donna answered back.

The two of them went upstairs, and I finished making breakfast. It took them so long I was sure I would be late getting the kids to school and me to work. When I finally told them they had to hurry, Donna called down that they were almost done.

She then hurried downstairs to help finish up the morning schedule. Meanwhile, Elli turned around and looked for the first time at herself in the mirror. Suddenly we heard a horrible scream. “Aww! I look horrible!”

She came down the stairs, her eyes full of tears. “Mom, what did you do to me?”

“Honey,” her mother answered, “that is the way we always used to do our hair.”

“But I look so stupid,” she wailed.

“But that is the way your mother always used to look,” I said.

Suddenly, everyone turned to look at me, and everything went quiet in the house except for Elli’s sniffling. That was when I realized my choice of words and my timing left a lot to be desired. I decided it might be a good time to retreat out to the van.

Donna helped Elli brush out a portion of the feathering from her hair, and we finally were on our way. When we pulled in to her school, Elli paused before she got out. She just watched the other kids briefly, then turned back to me. “I don’t feel so bad now. Everyone looks stupid. And the boys look even stupider than the girls.”

With that, she skipped off to class, feeling better while I felt worse.

Later that day, when I picked her up, she was wearing her normal clothes that she had stuffed into her pack before school. Her hair was also brushed straight. When I asked her why she had decided to change, she shrugged.

“I couldn’t stand to look stupid like that one minute longer than I had to,” she replied.

 

Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at [email protected]“; or visit his website