I’m sure you’re familiar with Victoria’s Secret. If not, it’s a lingerie store with a penchant for displaying mostly naked mannequins in suggestive positions. It’s the sort of store that – if I’m not with my wife – I have to hurry past. Otherwise, I risk looking like one of those creepy guys that don’t hurry past.
You probably know what’s coming.
It is fairly common for the kids and I to have a foot race when we’re at the mall. They get to run, I get to stretch my legs a little bit, and it gets us from store A to store B relatively quickly. The last time we were at the mall, we were racing with J trailing along behind playing catcher. Her job was to catch any boys that slowed down too much and say “Hurry! They’re getting away!” This had the added advantage of letting her do a little window shopping while we ran ahead.
All was going great until C slid to a stop in front of (you guessed it) the Victoria’s Secret window. He was staring at a mannequin that was dressed in little more than cleverly placed ribbons.
“Look! Look!” He said, pointing at her feet.
I should point out that this mall was fairly crowded. I’m not embarrassed by a great lot of things, but it turns out that this was one of them. I could feel my face heating up. I looked back to see that J had caught up with N. She smiled, waved me on, and guided the little guy to the other side of the walkway.
“Um, yes. That’s a statue.”
He pointed at her feet and ankles, and said “look! look!” I knelt down and tried to gently pull him away, muttering things like “yes, it’s a statue” and “let’s keep going”. I didn’t want to just pick him up, because the last thing I wanted was to deal with a tantrum.
We stayed like that for a few minutes: him staring and pointing, me muttering, people walking by and chuckling. I even heard one guy say to the girl he was with “Look! Look!” It was a pretty good imitation, but I think she hit him anyway.
Finally, C looked at me and said ”Why doesn’t she have any shoes on?”
“She’s not wearing any shoes! You said we had to wear shoes. Can I take my shoes off?”
He’s in a barefoot phase at the moment, always wanting to take his shoes off. He’s not allowed to take his shoes off in the mall, and all this time he’d been trying to point out to me that she (the mannequin) did not have any shoes on. According to the ancient precepts of toddler logic, he should be able to take his off.
That broke my parental paralysis. I stood up and took a firm grip on his hand. “No.”
“But why? Why? She doesn’t have any shoes on!” He pointed back at the window as I dragged him away.
“No,” I said. “No she doesn’t.”
“I don’t know. Why don’t you ask your mother the next time you’re here.”
It was wrong, I know, but I just couldn’t help myself.