For Madison With Love & Polar Bears

(c) Tom Moffett <>

So there's this skinny chick in LA who wears too much makeup and works at this lame-ass store in the Westside Pavilion where they sell little skirts and dresses and the tight black pants that publicists and sorority girls wear to bars. And I don't want to be judgmental or anything here, but the Skinny Girl talked some real catty smack to the hero of this story, who's 15 years old and was looking at dresses for her high school's semi-formal on this particular sunny afternoon in LA.

After about 60 seconds, the Skinny Girl came up and put her hand gently on my friend Madison's arm and said, with a fake smile full of lip gloss, I just wanted to let you know that we have more sizes in the back.

And this is where Madison's mouth fell and her face went red and she pulled me out of the store.

Madison is pretty and funny and cool and popular and all that.
She's probably a size eight or something and she eats cheeseburgers and fries and Mrs. Fields Cookies, plays varsity volleyball, gets good grades, loves the Beastie Boys and sleeps with a stuffed polar bear named Ming.

We bought Ming together, one afternoon when she was visiting New York and we went up to the Zoo in Central Park. She walked around the Upper East Side the rest of the day, pointing out cute guys to me, with Ming's head sticking out of her backpack. She was 14 then and had just started high-school and I'd been doing dumb things like telling her how a lot of guys are jerks and that she should never get drunk around them and so on. I told her that she better be careful and she smiled in that way that girls do sometimes, that lets you know that they're smarter than you or smarter than you think without making you feel bad about it. 

Still, Madison is my girlfriend's little sister, and watching her grow up is scary sometimes because there's so much shit out there like sleazy guys and skinny girls with fake smiles and she's at that weird age where if you're not careful, you can lose something really good which was supposed to be yours forever.

But that's stupid a stupid thing for me to worry about because Madison, I have a feeling, will always be Madison.

I saw her once, in the middle of the night, when she was wearing pajamas and had pimple cream all over her face, and I felt better about all the worst days I ever had in high school. I'd never seen a pretty girl covered in pimple cream before.

She kissed a guy at a party on New Years and made a resolution to learn how to flirt better in the year 2000. She has crushes on Dave Matthews and Joshua Jackson and one of the Backstreet Boys. She loves Ben Stiller and has really funny ideas for Saturday Night Live sketches, recently got her tongue pierced and is learning how to drive. She's looking forward to going to the semi-formal with a bunch of her friends and hopes an older guy asks her to the prom. 

And when we got out in the parking lot of the Westside Pavilion, I started to tell her how the Skinny Girl probably had a Diet Coke for lunch and obviously doesn't know anything about polar bears or  happiness. "Whatever," Madison said, wrinkling her face up, "those clothes were ugly anyway."

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