Rainbow Risks

There’s always a fad: pet rocks, mood rings, troll dolls, Cabbage Patch dolls … the list goes on. And your kids always want whatever it is.

About 2000 or so, Rainbow flip-flops made it from California to South Carolina and became the latest thing. My children begged for them, but I refused to spend $20 apiece on three pairs of flip-flops that they’d outgrow in a few months.

One late August afternoon, I’d picked them up from after-school care and we were driving home. School had started, summer was ending, and a store we were driving past was advertising a sale on Rainbows. Unfortunately for me, Adam could read.

“Hey, Mom!” he said. “They’re on sale!”

I was in nursing school and I must have been especially tired that day, because I caved. Pulling in to the parking lot, I said, “We’re buying the flip-flops and nothing else.”

As we entered said establishment, I noticed a young man sitting on a bench out front. Tattoos covered each arm, and his facial piercings were numerous. This should have alerted me, but as I said, I was tired.

We entered what appeared to be a surf shop — t-shirts and flip-flops, in-line skates, skateboards, and surfboards surrounded us. They had children’s Rainbows, and we found the correct sizes.

Adam, about 8 years old, wandered back into the t-shirts.

“Hey, Mom, look at this!” he called, holding up a shirt that was entirely inappropriate for his younger siblings to see.

“Adam, put it back,” I said, herding Mary and Ben to the cash register to pay for the three pairs of still-much-too-expensive-but-at-least-on-sale shoes. As I focused on getting out the credit card and signing my name, Mary, age 5, and Ben, age 4, stared into the glass display case in front of us.

“Mom, what’s that?” Ben asked, pointing at something in the display case.

I realized, much too late, that the case displayed rubber body parts with piercings. And there, among the ears and the noses and the eyebrows, was a breast with a nipple ring. Which, naturally, was what Ben was pointing at.

“Let’s go,” I said, snatching the bag from the cashier’s hand and hustling Mary and Ben outside. Adam finally tore himself away from the t-shirts and followed us.

Yes, they got their Rainbows, along with an education in body piercings and, um, highly inappropriate t-shirts.

I think now about how we must have looked to the people who worked at the surf shop — young suburban mom, Toyota minivan, three young kids — wandering into the land of body piercings and sex wax.

As I said, I was tired. And the shoes were on sale.


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