11. Teal.

I went to watch my son at a mini soccer tournament the other day. It was great fun; watching any member of my bloodline play sport is a joy, and not because we are good. But I’m not writing about that today. I’m writing about pants. While the eight-year-old boys ran around the field screaming at each other like pro-footballers and flailing awkwardly at the ball as if it were on fire, I noticed another group of boys on the side of the field. They had found themselves a grassy embankment, and were sliding down it on their knees. It looked like fun.

This is pretty much what the game looked like. If you remove any sign of the ball from the picture.

This is pretty much what the game looked like. If you remove any sign of the ball from the picture.

The reason they could do this was that they were wearing their shiny, slick school tracksuit pants. Their expensive, shiny, slick school tracksuit pants. Kids in South Africa wear school uniforms. Because they aren’t mass produced, these can get pretty pricy. It is a South African tradition to spend the last few months of every year imagining what you are going to do with your end of year bonus (A holiday? A new laptop? A deposit on a new car?), before spending the whole damn thing on school blazers and green denim pants because your ungrateful progeny keep on growing just to spite you.

I smiled a little unkindly at the thought of those boys arriving home in their torn and battered pants, and went back to watching my son cheerfully nipping off unannounced to the gents just as the other team mounted a fearsome, three pronged charge down the field. I smiled a little less when he came home with both knees torn out of his tracksuit pants the next day. He had not, he informed me with slightly hurt outrage, been sliding down the grass. He had simply been walking across the field when both knees failed. Maybe it was moths.

Liar! Everyone knows that the knee-moths were driven to extinction through chronic obesity in the late 80's

Liar! Everyone knows that the knee-moths were driven to extinction through chronic obesity in the late 80’s

Oh well. He needed new green denim pants anyway- he was starting to look like a Michael Jackson impersonator. As a parent you get used to this sort of thing. You can rant and rave as much as you like; broken is just broken. And it’s not really fair to blame an innocent little boy for the malicious behaviour of knee-moths. Sometimes you just have to accept things.

This is not always easy. The very next day, the boy hopped into the car, buckled himself in, and looked me in the eye;

“I”, he announced gravely, “need to go to school on Friday dressed in teal.”

“Good!” It’s best never to let them know they’ve got you on the back foot. I started the car. I mulled things over. I decided I was ready. “Why?”

“It’s for the Mother’s Day concert.”

“Right. And they gave you two days’ notice about this, did they?”


I suspect this reply came from the same place the knee-moths did. But at least we had a little more than the 45 minutes warning he usually gives us for these things. So. Teal. Schools sometimes take my breath away. Most of the teachers I know are parents themselves. They also have to get the blazers, and the green denims, and the shoes, and the jerseys. And I’m sure they moan about it. But then they find themselves standing up in front of a sea of obedient little faces, and the power goes straight to their heads. “I,” they mutter to themselves “shall make them all wear teal! Teal! Ha Ha Ha Ha Haaargh!”

For some people, teaching is not just a job. It is a vocation.

For some people, teaching is not just a job. It is a vocation.

Which brings me back to my little chat with the boy. I thought things through as I pulled out of the school.

“What,” I asked as we pulled up to a traffic light, “is teal?”

“It’s a colour, dad.” He answered with the withering look small boys reserve for adults who reveal their ignorance.

“What colour?”

It was his turn to pause. “I,” he said a little sadly, “don’t know.”

Time to make up for my lapse in knowledge. “There is a small duck called a teal. That must be where the colour got its name from. Do you have any clothes the colour of a duck?”

I would so wear duck-pants. Ducks have got style!

I would so wear duck-pants. Ducks have got style!

In the end, we asked his mother. Teal is not the colour of a duck. Teal is blue. Teal is a special kind of blue. The kind of blue that not a single one of the kids in the concert would own. The kind of blue that embittered speech and drama teachers can use to drive cash strapped parents out on a doomed hunt through the boys section of every store within a 50km radius. People who make boys clothes don’t do teal. They don’t do mauve, or taupe, or fuchsia. They do red. And blue. And green. They do proper colours. Colours that men can ask for in shops without breaking eye contact.

Luckily, there are two of us. My wife has gone to get the teal clothes. And she’ll find them, too. And maybe some shoes (burnt umber). And a handbag (light coral). And some nail varnish (onyx). And maybe a new winter jacket (azure).

Thank god there’s one of us who can do this stuff. Shopping just gives me the blues (ultramarine).

37 thoughts on “11. Teal.

  1. Oh but it *is* the duck colour; look at the duck’s head! It’s that lovely bluey-green colour. I mentioned idly one day last year I’d like to dye my hair that colour, but the very thought caused The Teenagers so much anguish that I haven’t. Perhaps I’ll do it for the next family wedding, then dance in an embarrassing manner (maybe I’ll need gold disco shoes too) as I flaunt my teal hair. Hope your son liked his shirt.

  2. […] The numbers of views doesn’t change according to subject or category. I’ve written about my children, art, Bob Marley and naked Winston Churchill. My most successful post was about Land Rovers, of all […]

  3. narf77 says:

    I am SO glad that my kids are now adult and have to buy their own clothes. I dare say they stopped buying “teal” a long time ago when they had to trawl department stores for hours and ended up tired and in desperate need of a coffee fix. Parenthood repays you when you can silently gloat as your children recount their latest encounters with “the real world”…only last night my adult (25) year old daughter had to phone us up to get us to cancel her Foxtel subscription (satellite television)… not only are we still needed…but there is REAL appreciation behind that need Mr 23 Thorns! You just need to wait it out…appreciation (and revenge) is so VERY sweet… 😉

  4. My kids play soccer; your description made me snicker. The “Bond” cat (in the image you posted) inspired my son to comment shrudely on the nature of villains: they always are petting an animal and going, “hmmmm.” your witty style makes me smile.

  5. Haha! One of my favourite posts so far – this one a day thing is working for you 🙂
    My primary school had a similar problem with unconventional colours. Our uniform was black and gold (not yellow! not orange! it must be gold!) and my sport faction’s colour was aqua (teal’s insipid brother) while the other factions had the nice normal colours of red, green and blue. Why did they insist on making one faction a weird in-between colour when the others were assigned primary or secondary ones? I don’t know, maybe they had a moral objection to yellow, orange and purple (that would explain the gold) but I do know that mum struggled to find plain gold or aqua shirts for me, except of course through the school’s expensive uniform store…..hmmm conspiricy?

    • 23thorns says:

      our school has a second hand store. I’m starting to suspect that they are Staying afloat purely by selling all the jerseys my son loses.

  6. Boys, girls, makes no difference in the beautiful life household. We rarely have 24 hours notice for costumes, clothes, etc. regardless of the gender. the strangest case of knee moths we ever had was when my son used to masticate the collars and cuffs of his shirts. Those were some strange knee moths!

  7. Hysterical! Why is it boys have no sense of urgency and time involved while little girls are obsessive about it. “Is it ready yet? What if it’s not ready and I can’t attend? Why is it taking so long?” Overheard via my friend’s granddaughter making her sewing mom crazy and the event was 3 weeks away!

    • 23thorns says:

      mine has a selective sense of urgency. Take him to a movie and you have to be there 20 minutes early, sitting down with your popcorn at the ready. But school stuff? Meh

  8. artourway says:

    Read this to my boys, they loved it !

  9. Not much I can say but hysterical. My kids keep asking what I’m laughing about. Yes, those same children that do as yours do and put holes in… Oops, suffer attacks from knee moths.Thankfully, my SIL and family do NOT do second hand, even from their eldest son to younger one so we get lots of lovely hand me downs, all in good condition (she won’t pass on the slightly dodgy ones). Here’s hoping your teal concert is enjoyable.
    And nice one n the shopping Tracyloveshistory. 🙂

    • 23thorns says:

      my daughter has four older girl cousins. We are drowning in girl clothes. No such luck with the boy. All I really want to know is when and where he is spending all that time walking around on the tops of his shoes. It’s like he has a secret ballet fetish and spends three hours a day en pointe

  10. This is really funny. Great job

  11. Keryn says:

    My boy once informed me, at 3.30 in the afternoon, that he had to have a costume for school the next day, as he was the lead in a play about Federation. I just had time to google Edmund Barton to see what a 1901 politician might be wearing, before racing round the opshops to find a man’s coat that would fit my 12 year old. It was a disgusting thing, I had to beat mudwasps nests out of the sleeves. Then I came home and butchered it ( thank God they didn’t do lapels in that time period), made a cravat as well, and rang my friend, who told me that she’d had three weeks to make her daughter’s outfit. My boy has a memory that is only triggered by imminent deadlines.

  12. But what shade of teal? Light? Dark? More bluish than greenish? Neon? Pure hue? Muted? Muted with brown or grey? Or white? Black? Some teals are petrol, some turquoise, some emerald, some just green and some plain blues. You can check out shades of teal here: http://pinterest.com/sassaphrass/shades-of-teal/

  13. I still remember as a kid telling my parents the night before an important event or concert I needed a certain outfit that we most definitely didn’t have. It would drive them nuts as we went through every department store looking for the right clothes. Luckily, I was never required to find a teal pair of pants.

  14. ioniamartin says:

    So fun. I know what you mean. Four boys. They never stop growing and find creative ways to ruin their clothes.

  15. interesting Monolog

  16. perhaps butt-moths haven’t made it around to your part of the world – but they’ve devastated many jeans in the U.S., so be on the look-out. And I suspect these pests could come in teal (if they, too, knew how to be that shady). Very fun read, as always!

    • 23thorns says:

      Sadly they have not yet reached our shores. Maybe it would be best if they didn’t. Our traffic is bad enough without extra distractions.

  17. Marcia says:

    At last! A clear explanation of two decades of denim fashion! Knee-moths! Who knew? Thank you, 23. As usual, you are a font of information. Puce.

  18. This is so funny! Because I really did come back from the shops with a teal shirt for the boy. I also came back with a pair of gold disco shoes for myself and a pair of leather pants (black. Studio 54 black). I wish I’d known I was going to be so predictable!

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