This one’s for any of you who step a bit too readily into conflict. The take-all-comers folks. Those of you who’d love to be a little less reactive to the day-to-day squabbles that make up a part of life.
When I was eight, I rather desperately wanted a pair of “boy sneakers.” Up until then, I had been wearing the little white canvas “girl sneakers” that a lot of mothers seemed to buy their daughters in the 60s. All of my girl classmates had them too.
I couldn’t stand those sneakers.
I thought, though the word may not have existed then, that they were dorky. I seemed to go through a lot of them because I wore out the toes. Those little girl sneakers just didn’t stand up well to tree climbing, kickball, stopping bikes with a toe-drag, and building forts in the woods.
I wanted a pair of red boys’ Converse All-Stars. I think it was probably my older brother who started it. He’s 10 years older than I and I worshipped the ground he walked on. He was already a hip artist intellectual college student when I was eight and he had a pair of red Converse All-Stars.
I recall being a complete pest about it with my mother. Whining. Cutting out pictures from magazines and planting them “casually” around the house. Stuffing extra socks into the toes of my girl sneakers and hobbling around, pretending they’d already gotten too small for me. Did I mention whining?
When I got my red All-Stars I went straight to heaven, which in those days was our giant yard and the horse’s field down below it. I recall running around and around, staring down at my newly beloved feet.
As my mother tucked me into bed that night, she asked how I liked my sneakers. I’m sure I practically beamed with satisfaction.
“You know,” she said thoughtfully, “you could have gotten them sooner.”
Sooner? How was that possible? What tactic had I missed? Where had my whining strategy gone so very wrong? Sooner?!
“To be honest, I was ready to buy them for you last month. But you got so annoying about it I figured you could use to learn a bit of patience. Then you started talking about that new bike radio that Laura has. You probably should have focused yourself a bit.”
Well, damn. My first lesson in negotiation. Patience and timing and choosing my battles.
P.S. Eventually got the bike radio, too. My mother proudly noted that I’d handled myself much better on that one.