Break on Through to the Other Side? But What if I Don’t Want to?

First we were shoe shopping. I know for some people this is like saying "First we went to get ice cream sundaes." I am not one of those people.

Chestnut and I were looking for small happy sandals. She is 10, after all. We looked, and we looked, and we looked. When we got to the third shoe store, it was thronged. The music was relentless. I was barely hanging on. But we found what we were looking for, sandals with three big bows (trust me, it would like nice on her) and asked for her size. When the shoe store person heard us, she took the shoes with bows away. "Oh, for that size, you need to go to the other side."

Do you want to know what the other side is? It's where they keep the grownup shoes. Shoes that may have bows, but they're not what I would call friendly bows.

And then I was at Barnes & Noble. (I know this is starting to sound like some hallucinatory bad dream, but it's all real. I'm just skipping the nonessential—I was solo this time.) I'd tried looking for Fun Home at my local bookstore, but they didn't have it. I was out of books, and I was wandering in the hopeless way that afflicts me in large and impersonal stores. I though, "I've been meaning to read When You Reach Me. Maybe I'll look for it here?" And I thought, maybe I'll get something for Diana. I wandered to the children's section. I looked for chapter books—and they were all "ages 7 to 12." Or "Through Grade 6." Apparently if you want to get a book for someone older, you have to go to the other side of the bookstore, far far away, where you disappear into the endless shelves of "Teen Paranormal Romance."

I feel immensely foolish even saying it, and heaven knows plaintive as well, but why must there be this big divide? I feel like I'm about to push my kids out the airlock. As if there's a here—and then there's a there, and it's nowhere near where you started.

Must the gradient be quite so steep? I wish, somehow, that one could drift from A Wrinkle in Time to The Hunger Games to…well, to anything. I want all the books to organized by greatness, not by age. I don't want Diana to feel like the children's section has no place for her anymore. I want Chestnut to be able to buy sandals with giant freaking bows and smiley faces too. I want….

I want, I guess, things that aren't quite possible.

7 thoughts on “Break on Through to the Other Side? But What if I Don’t Want to?

  1. My girl is 7 and wears a size 1-2 shoe. (Going to have her mother’s big feet, clearly.) I’ve been trying to find her some dress sandals for a wedding but in the stores, there are no more little girl options for her. She’s just finishing 1st grade! I don’t want her wearing heels! I had to scour Zappos to find something girl-like and appropriate.


  2. My, I’ve been there on the shoe shopping just this week. My daughter, age 9, has to shop for sandals in the women’s section too – size 8! She had her heart set on a glittery pair with pink peace signs on them. And the book stores are starting to fail us in the same way too. Oh dear…


  3. I am in the same situation. My 3rd grader wears a 7 1/2 women’s and finding age appropriate clothes for a tall kid is not easy. And I agree it transfers to music, books etc. instead of competition of what you wear and brand name clothes (like when I was a kid) it is all about what books you are reading, what music you have downloaded, what apps, movies you see (how many are pg13), if you have a fb page etc… All by the age of 8-9. I don’t like censorship at all but I want my kids to be kids and enjoy these days. They already worry and stress enough and work so hard in school. It is such a challenge. Glad there are others out there who see the same thing.


  4. I love the title to this post.
    I came from a eccentric household, and was always told “I don’t know why [insert “book” “shoe” “movie”] was over there, but here this is good”. So I grew up believing the world just had horrible organizational skills.


  5. I agree. It isn’t fair that if I want one of my favorite manga series, it’s apart from all the other manga because the romance isn’t center stage in it and the main character is young. It isn’t fair that the Young Wizards series gets 8 books in the childrens section and one in YA. It isn’t fair that people look at you funny if you’re a teen in the kids section, because I know they do. It just isn’t fair.


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