Yesterday, I had taken a mystery shopping job just off of the University of Texas campus. I have avoided this shop for the majority of the year, but because the Nuthaus is so close, I knew we could park there and walk.

Before we left the house, Daphne was doing school and working on a Minecraft skin and was still wearing what she’d worn to bed: a t-shirt and a pair of mismatched shorts left over from her gymnastics days.

When it was time to go, she asked if she could wear what she had on, and I told her yes. She asked where we were going, and I said that we were going to walk to dinner, then go to the grocery store. She seemed to vacillate between changing clothes and being comfortable.

At one point, she asked what she should wear. I told her to wear whatever she wanted.

As we left, I asked one last time, “Do you want to change clothes?” She said, “Nah, it’s Austin. Why should I?”

Confident with that, we took off.

We drove downtown, parked at the Nuthaus, and started walking up to Guadalupe. Pretty soon, we were passing very hipster-looking coeds, and I saw something in my daughter that I’ve never seen before. She was twirling her hair (which is normal) and appeared to be shrinking inside of herself.

“I wish you’d told me we were going to walk like this. I would have changed clothes,” she told me.

I let this slide, though I usually call her on blaming me for her decisions, because I knew exactly what she was experiencing.

My child had no reason to feel ashamed. She looked fine. She did not, however, look as shiny and put-together as a bunch of young adults, and I could read that she felt “less,” that she compared herself to them and found herself lacking.

For what it’s worth, I was wearing sweats in layers, and it was really too warm for it, but I have (hopefully) gotten past the days of comparing myself to “cool” people.

I hope that Daphne gets past that a lot sooner than I did. I still remember sitting around in BSF, looking down and realizing that everyone had nicer shoes (and toenail polish) than I did.

There’s this juxtaposition in me that I think I see in Daphne: I am pretty low-maintenance. I don’t spend three or four hours getting ready, and I don’t particularly enjoy shopping for clothes, and I don’t have my hair professionally colored or cut unless it’s a mystery shop. I like that.

At the same time, I’d love it if every picture of me looked like it could have been in a magazine.

And I understand looking around and seeing person after person (women) you recognize as being somehow a lot more conventionally one of the “beautiful people” than yourself.

If that’s important to you, if you allow it to resonate in your brain, it can really mess you up. I desperately want my daughter to be able to avoid that.

And she was right: This *is* Austin. If we’d gone farther up Lamar, or farther down Lamar, or almost anywhere else, how she was dressed wouldn’t have been an issue for her. I don’t think any of those kids cared how she was dressed, but it was obvious that she did.

So next time, I’ll be the meanie who forces her to spruce up a little bit.

Adolescence, here we come…