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Torfaen Tales

The Compliment

Having a teenage daughter is like walking blindfolded through a minefield. You know that despite your best efforts there will inevitably be an explosion: screaming, slammed doors, possessions flung about.

I’ve always been a believer in discipline and respect. I’ve tried my best with Ellie, but lately all we seem to do is argue. I understand that it’s part of human nature, the way one’s offspring develop into adults. It’s just a shame that it’s so very wearing on the nerves.

My friend Claire noticed I was looking stressed, and gave me her opinion on the situation.

“Ah yes, the teenage tantrums. I found the best way was the line of least resistance.”

“But I can’t just let her roam the streets at all hours of the day and night in clothes that make her look like a common prostitute!” I shrieked.

Mandy nodded. “I agree, you need to nip the street roaming in the bud. But with the clothes thing, what harm can it do if she goes around looking a bit weird? It’s more or less expected of the teenage species.”

I gave Claire’s opinion some serious thought. After all, she’d survived the teenage years of two daughters and a son without recourse to a mental institution. Perhaps she was right. Perhaps I should lighten up a bit, try not to be such a control freak when it came to Ellie’s appearance. Really, when it came to the crunch, it was Ellie’s problem and not mine.

I thought back to my own teens, back to the 1960s when my father had taken one of my mini skirts and ripped it to shreds, declaring that he didn’t want to see any daughter of his showing that much of her anatomy. I remembered how angry I’d been. I’d saved for weeks in order to enter the hallowed halls of Biba Boutique and make my purchase. Perhaps I was being too hard on Ellie.

I took a long look at my daughter. Beneath the ripped jeans was a slim figure and long legs, and she had lovely long straight hair that I would have sold my soul for at her age. Perhaps my problem was that I was jealous of her.

Suddenly I was bursting to pay her a compliment, say something nice instead of picking holes in her appearance. But would she believe me? I decided to say nothing. No compliment, but then again, no criticism.

After a couple of weeks of biting my tongue it gradually became easier. I felt more relaxed, and we didn’t seem to be at loggerheads quite as much.

Eventually I did pay Ellie a compliment. She’d streaked sections of her hair with bright blue, and it actually didn’t look too bad.

“I like your hair,” I ventured, expecting a waspish retort.

“Thanks,” she replied.

I held my breath, but she was preoccupied with the application of mascara. “It’s only vegetable dye,” Ellie continued. “It’ll come out after a couple of washes. You can get all sorts of colours.”

This felt like a turning point in our relationship. Ellie instructing me in matters of beautification. I felt beginnings of a warm glow in my heart.

The next time I saw my daughter I hardly recognised her. She’d cropped her hair to half an inch long, and dyed it bright purple. With her bright blue eyeshadow, red lipstick, orange dress, and skinny tartan leggings she looked, well, colourful.

To me this new look seemed like a smack in the teeth after I’d paid Ellie a compliment about her appearance. It took every ounce of my self-possession to refrain from commenting, but I was determined to stick to my regime of calm acceptance come what may.

By Karenne Griffin


Last Modified on: 05-11-2015

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