A Dazzling End to Childhood

By Chris Erskine
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES ~ “I’m going to Starbucks,” Posh announces. “Want anything?”



The way to mess with Posh’s head lately is to not want anything. She is so under the gun – with prom, with graduation, with life – that when you don’t want anything from her, she gets very suspicious of your intentions. I assure you, my intentions are as suspect as the next guy’s. But I try not to press it.

“You sure you don’t want anything?” she asks again.

Like many mothers, Posh is a Starbucks aficionado. Her latest fave is a half-Valium, half-vodka mocha frap with a Red Bull boost. After three of four of those, she is good to go.

And that’s very fortunate, because tonight is prom, the biggest, longest night of the year. Imagine Christmas, Mardi Gras and a beauty pageant smashed together like a muddy snowball.

Already my wife and the little girl have yelled at each other once, and that was before they even woke up.

Now, loitering around the kitchen at the ungodly hour of 9am, the little girl is laying out her schedule for the day. She punctuates each event by making a click-cluck sound with her tongue – like pool balls colliding – and making the sort of gesture umpires use to signal strike three.

Pre-prom schedule:

10am. Mani-pedi.

11am. Borrow some trippy shoes from a friend, probably Natasha.

Noon. Apologize to Mom for things said in haste.

1pm. Find jewellery to go with outfit for the evening.

2pm. Put clothes together for post-prom party.

3pm. Get hair and makeup done.

4pm. Apologize again to mother for being sort of snippy.

6:30pm. Be late for pre-prom pictures.

“Oh, and you and Dad have to figure out how to get a car down to Balboa Island,” she announces before returning to her bedroom.

“Why Balboa?” I ask Posh.

“That’s where the party is.”


“Because they want to be down by the beach,” Posh explains.

You know what it’ll be like dropping a car off in Balboa? First, there is only one parking spot in Balboa, and that is likely already taken. So we’ll take a car down there, wait forever at that stoplight on Pacific Coast Highway, then slither our way across the island hoping that the one parking place opens up while we are nearby.

Fortunately, I have nothing to do with my life than cater to the whims of my four children.

Later, the plans change, as prom plans often do – usually minute to minute.

“They’re flying to Paris?” I guess.

“Rome,” says Posh.

Honestly, I don’t know who’s financing this whole prom adventure. I’m selling blood almost daily just to pay the mortgage. Instead of milk, I’m eating my Wheaties with stale merlot – breakfast of morose and fallen champions.

Last year, the little girl wore a borrowed dress to prom, and I was so proud of her frugality – her consideration of our unsteady finances – that I had to tell the world. In this very column, I announced that she wore a borrowed dress to prom.

Better if I had stood up in church and announced she had 14 toes.

“Barneys,” she explains when I say something nice about this year’s dress.

Barneys? I love Barneys. Sounds like a good place to get a sandwich, when in fact it is a very expensive place to buy a shirt. I once priced a sock – one sock – at Barneys. On sale, it was $422.

“I need a cheque, Mom,” the little girl says.


“To pay for the boutonniere,” she says.

At about 6:30, we arrive late for prom pictures. This photo session is a relatively new tradition in which all the kids – who travel in packs to prom, in limos the size of New Jersey – gather in someone’s backyard for pre-dance group shots.

It is a sensational California evening, all buttery light and songbirds. The kids glow like movie stars in this beautiful garden. There is a helicopter floating overhead; I expect it to drop rose petals at just the proper time. Life could not be more perfect. Camelot on a credit card.

We have mostly survived her teen years. We survived the arguments over curfew. Arguments over grades. Arguments over clothes, cars, boys, money, jobs, chores, hair, diet, drugs, drinking, cellphones, church, skincare, music and movies. Arguments over brushing, wiping, flossing, cussing, scrubbing, bathing, sleeping and flushing.

And now we have survived this – preparations for her senior prom, the last lovely moments of an American childhood.

Hold still, kid. Click… click.

Listen, kid, try not to upstage the flowers. Click.


Erskine can be reached at chris.erskine@latimes.com.

Filed under: Man of the House

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