Reader Question: Plus-Size Underwear

Oh good morning! This is a good day for discussing unders!

Can you please, please write an update on plus size womens underwear? I REALLY need to find a new style and brand, but those images of thin mannequins make it impossible to know how different styles will fit a post-baby, aging body. I remember some suggestions of Jockey and some pricier options from a plus-sized store, but I wonder if you tried them and if they were worth the cost?



I just looked up the post where I asked for suggestions, and I see I included a good morning with that one, too. Apparently the underwear topic is in the mental filing cabinet right next to that greeting.

I will start by telling you how I chose the three kinds I tried: by whim. I SHOULD have made a list and tallied votes for each suggestion, and thought about which kinds seemed like the best bets, and maybe gone in person to some stores where I could try pairs on—but instead I did it with thrashing impulsive decisions, followed by getting overwhelmed and stopping the research abruptly; and I couldn’t bring myself to try anything on, or buy anything that wasn’t sold in a three-pack. Here are the three new kinds I tried:

Jockey Elance French Cut
Fruit of the Loom Fit for Me Hi-Cut
another Fruit of the Loom kind but without the sporty waistband

Also, in a triumph of hope over experience, I bought another pack of Hanes XTemp hi-cuts (the ones that started this whole process by changing their fit) at Target—AND THIS TIME THEY DID FIT. So I don’t know if the sizing changed back or what. However, now I can’t find the hi-cuts at Target at all and can only get them on Amazon, and I’m worried that if I order those they’ll be the ones that were like a full size too small; the reviews seem to support this concern. Some of the pairs I have are starting to get pretty tattered, which is sad.

Let’s start with the ones I don’t even have a link for. I got them at Walmarrrt. They don’t have the wider waistband I prefer, just the thin kind, but at least it was covered with comfy fabric. They were fine. Just fine. Surprisingly stretchy and thin (not in a good way for me, but I think they’d feel nice and disappear-y to someone who liked that feeling), comfy enough I guess—but I never reach for them first. Of the four kinds, I reach for them third. They don’t feel particularly cute. I feel as if the fit of them accentuates the postpartum-body issues in a discouraging way.

The only ones they win against are the Jockey ones. The Jockey ones SHOULD be my favorites: they’re 100% cotton and the fabric feels really nice; they were the most expensive and seem well-made. But on me they’re like an exaggeration of hi-cut: very, very high, to the point where I feel as if they are peeking out of the top of my jeans. Maybe I should have ordered one size down? I don’t know. I just know I choose them fourth.

Second place goes to the Hanes XTemp. Comfy, cute, good colors when I could still choose the colors. But too risky to buy anymore, so I am gradually letting them go, emotionally speaking.

First place goes to the ones I thought would be my least favorite, the Fruit of the Loom Fit for Me ones with the sporty waistband. You know me well enough to know that “sporty” is not an adjective on my vision board. And the elastic waist looked pinchy in the pictures, and I’d specifically wanted a fabric-covered waistband. But the waist isn’t pinchy, and they’re comfy, and I think they’re pretty cute, and I really love the colors. So I buy those now, is the upshot.

Reader Question: Gift Ideas for Retirees and Other Adults Who’d Like Something To Do

Hi Swistle :) I am mulling a Christmas gift for my impossible to buy for mother and suddenly realized that you/your readers would have the BEST ideas. I hope you might be willing to share my post and get their ideas. I can’t post on my own blog because my mom reads it.

Here’s the situation. My 70ish year old mom is retiring this December. Everyone is a little worried as she is very prone to boredom and doesn’t have many hobbies. I would love to get her a box of “hobby starters” that she can try out and hopefully find some new hobbies for retirement. But it’s tough!

A bit about my mom:
• She is a preschool teacher with the creativity and (short) attention span that you’d imagine a good preschool teacher would have.
• She lives in Northern California
• She is in good health and goes to the gym pretty regularly and walks with a friend
• She is extroverted but doesn’t like to drive far or travel without my dad (who is introverted)
• Her fourth, and last, grandchild is due in December and will live about an hour away so he and his sister will take up at least one day/week.

Hobbies she does enjoy:
• Garage saleing (her top hobby, she finds amazing bargains, but what does one do with all the purchased stuff? Could she garage sale for a local cause?)
• Scrapbooking (but she’s not into the kits and products that are for sale, she just makes albums for the kids using garage sale-found materials)
• Card making/paper crafts (she’s recently taken this up with a friend who buys the kits)
• Volunteering (she’s on a board at a non profit preschool in town and volunteers at events regularly)
• Reading (novels, newspaper, very limited magazines)

Hobbies that might seem logical but probably won’t work:
• She is not very computer savvy so blogging/eBay/anything web based is pretty much out
• Wine or coffee tasting/appreciation (she doesn’t drink any wine or coffee)
• Gardening, bicycling, hiking, photography: those are my dad’s hobbies and it doesn’t seem like her adopting his hobbies would work very well
• Cooking: She stopped cooking when us kids moved out. My dad has mostly taken it up. But maybe she could get into baking since she likes sweets?
• Sewing: she doesn’t like it. Dad and I sew, not her. I have a feeling this distaste would go to other fiber crafts like knitting, crochet, embroidery and weaving but I might try one of them in a gift box.

Ideas I have so far:
• Birding (buy her a bird identification book). Something she and dad could do sort of together. Him hiking, her walking more leisurely and looking for birds
• Puzzles: Not sure about her attention span/interest in non productive activities
• Postcard Crossing–she regularly sends letters and mail so this is fun but not a very substantial Christmas gift
• A pet (I can’t get her a cat or dog but maybe a fish?)
• Book of the Month club (the online mailorder thing that is all over blogs)

What am I missing? What hobbies do the retirees out there enjoy?

Thanks so much!


Is she musical at all? My mom has taken up the ukulele in her retirement and really enjoys it. That’s a pretty expensive gift, but a recorder (this is the one my kids’ elementary school asks them to acquire for lessons, and it has a remarkably pleasing sound for being so cheap) and instruction book wouldn’t be.

(image from


(image from

I wonder if she’d like doing something with clay. A pottery class is probably more than you have in mind, but maybe some air-dry clay (this Crayola bucket has more clay for less money, but looks less…grown-up) and some tools.


(image from

Paul is a revolving-hobbies type of guy, and for awhile he was interested in learning to draw. He liked the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which is also the book recommended by a drawing class I took long ago. (There is a newer edition, but the reviews convinced me it would be better to link to the older edition; this is the same edition Paul liked and that I had for the art class.) I’d add a basic set of pencils with a kneaded eraser.


(image from

I saw the book Learn to Paint People Quickly at our library and thought it looked interesting. If I were giving it as a gift, I’d look inside and see if there were recommendations for paints and brushes, and get some of those too.


(image from

To continue with the book/art theme perhaps too long, I like the look of this “all set to get started” book, Paint This Book: Watercolor for the Artistically Undiscovered. I had an earlier version of this book a long time ago, and although I didn’t stick with it, it was a good way to do it a little bit without getting too invested.


(image from

When I was going out of my mind with boredom, I found it fun to do a mini Jane Austen study, using annotated books. I started with The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, and since I love the Emma Thompson version of the movie, I’d also recommend including The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries. But if your mom isn’t a Jane Austen fan particularly, there are tons of other annotated books: Paul likes The Annotated Alice, and I’ve been meaning to try (or something nags at the back of my mind that perhaps I already did try?) The Annotated Little Women. Annotations are slow, studious reading—but it means doing a little each day and having it last a nice long time, meanwhile feeling as if you’re accomplishing something / doing something good for your brain.


(image from

I wonder if she’d like guided journaling? It might take some research to find a non-annoying book: I picked The Book of Myself from the search results because I liked the look of it, but I would look into it a bit more before buying to make sure the prompts were appealing. A lot of them are geared toward someone writing down a lot of family history or other facts about themselves that their descendants might later value.

Assorted Gift Ideas

We have people working in the yard today (they are clearing out a small wilderness of overgrown and uninvited shrubbery), and I cannot settle. It’s not as bad as when there are people working in the house, but it’s a similar feeling. I keep worrying they’ll ring the doorbell when I’m in the bathroom or something. And soon comes the awkward time of writing a check.

Wouldn’t this be a perfect time to clean the dining room for Thanksgiving, or work on Thanksgiving plans, or make a Thanksgiving shopping list? But here I sit, too unsettled to do anything productive. I am the princess, and the pea is working in the yard.

Shall we discuss some gift ideas? I will show you some of the things sitting in my shopping cart:

(image from

Hexbug Nano Launchpad, plus I’m considering extra hexbugs and replacement batteries. This is for my six-year-old nephew. My kids had a lonnnnnnnng Hexbug Nana stage; each time we considered getting rid of the stuff, there’d be a fresh interest in playing with them.


(image from

Song of the Lioness box set, by Tamora Pierce. There was a discussion on Twitter about this author that made me immediately want to see if Elizabeth would like the books. I normally just buy them ONE book for Christmas, so maybe I’ll get just the first book instead.


(image from

The Mountain Catzilla vs. Robot shirt. We have a bunch of these shirts by The Mountain, and they’re so thick and nice and cottony. This is one I’m thinking of getting for Paul. He already has Krakitten and Lincoln the Emancipator in heavy rotation, but says he’d like one more.


(image from

Oggi 25-ounce insulated bottle. Paul has tried many different ways of transporting his iced coffee to work, and this is by far his favorite so I’m getting him a second one.


(image from

Eight-pack of clip-on bow ties. Henry is very fond of snazzy clothing.


(image from

Planet Plates. I don’t have anyone on my list to buy these for, but I leave them in my cart because it seems like one day the perfect recipient will come along.


(image from

Magpie Jay Cosmos Big Mug. Same with this mug: no recipient in mind, but it’s so retro and cute!


(image from

Ava & Viv olive anorak. For me! It’s even cuter than in the picture, I think, with a cute hood.


(image from

KitchenAid immersion blender. For Paul’s sister. She wanted an immersion blender, and this is the one Paul uses and likes, so I figure it’s a safe bet. Because liking things is on the DNA.


(image from

The Little World of Liz Climo page-a-day calendar. For the household. Page-a-day calendars are persistently popular with the kids (and I like to put the best pages in care packages to Rob), so every year we get one cat-related one plus one other. Last year I waited too long on the Liz Climo one and it sold out, so this year I’m ordering earlier.


(image from

Plague, Inc., the board game. Edward and Henry both want this, so it’ll go to the one we have fewer other good gift ideas for.


(image from

This is the book written by someone I know and love, and also it is a really good book and my kids really liked it and so did Paul and I, and so I plan to keep recommending it until it eventually goes out of print.

HIT THE PEDAL HEAVY MEDAL; Love Nikki Dress-up Queen; Cold-Brew Coffee

I would like to write a post today, and I will, as soon as I can get Rock Me out of my head.

The lyrics are below dumbness (I think the worst part is when they are spelling out the word “rock”), but it’s so so catchy. I can’t stop. HIT THE PEDAL HEAVY METAL SHOW ME YOU CARE. I can’t comfortably sing along with lyrics like those even when I’m by myself. And is it deliberate that the beat is the same as We Will Rock You? And why do I love it. Why. I am going to have to listen to it over and over until the compulsion is extinguished.

Speaking of embarrassing obsessions, have you played a phone game called Love Nikki Dress-up Queen? I cannot explain its appeal for me. Am I at all interested in fashion? Does the “plot,” in which the heroine encounters people who challenge her to fashion battles and then her cat evaluates the results, make sense in any way? Do I approve of how slender and beautiful and perfect everyone is, or how sexualized some of the levels are, considering how appealing the game is to pre-teens and teens? Are the incorrectly-translated instructions intelligible or helpful? NO TO ALL. And yet here we are. It’s a fun game, once you figure out the one hundred million confusing things about it. I would recommend having a teen or pre-teen play it first and then explain it to you, except that that means feeling mounting horror as you realize that the lingerie challenge you are currently playing was first played by the teen or pre-teen.

Have you ever made cold-brew coffee? There was a booth handing out free bottles of Starbucks Cold Brew, so I tried one, and I really liked it, and then I went to the store to buy some and found it was QUITE A SURPRISING AMOUNT OF MONEY for cold black coffee in a bottle. So I looked up how to make it, and it’s not hard. The worst part is finding a couple of jars, but if you have been enthusiastically participating in the “EVERYTHING is better in a mason jar!” trend you will likely have a couple of them in your orbit. I’m using two well-cleaned 24 oz Ragu pasta sauce jars.

Recipes vary considerably, but this is the one I’ve been using. I put half a cup of ground coffee in the first Ragu jar, and fill it almost all the way to the top with cold water, and put the lid on. I give it a few shakes. I let it sit on the counter for some amount of time over 12 hours, shaking it a little when I see it and think of it. Then I put a funnel in the other Ragu jar, line the funnel with a paper coffee filter, and pour the coffee/water into it. I put a lid on the second Ragu jar and put it in the fridge. When I want some of that coffee, I dilute it 50-50 with water and heat it up in the microwave; if I’m going to drink it cold over ice, I use less water to allow for ice-meltage.

It’s kind of fussy, is my feeling about it, but not as much fuss as it seems like it will be, and it would be a handy thing to know how to do in case of a power outage. Also, Paul keeps drinking it all before I get to it: he says it doesn’t taste much different to him considering how much cream and sugar he adds, but that it DOES significantly reduce the Coffee Mouth afterward. I should get bigger jars, but right now I’m not sure I’m going to bother to do this much more.

Seeing Wonder Woman

I think for a man to more fully enjoy the movie Wonder Woman, he should spend five minutes before the movie picturing this alternate reality:

A nation where presidents and vice presidents are and always have been women, literally never men. Until 101 years ago, only women served in Congress; and even now, not even 20% of congresswomen are male. Fewer than 100 years ago, men didn’t have the right to vote—only women could vote. In the 1960s, there were still states that didn’t allow men to serve on juries. Education for men is a relatively recent idea, and many colleges had to be forced by legal action to let men attend. “Traditional values” includes the idea that men should stay at home and raise children and take care of the house and defer to their wives out of respect; many men do go out to work now, it’s true, and this development is blamed for current rates of divorce and the problems kids have in school and the breakdown of the family unit. Almost all religions worship female goddesses, and have female leaders; many still don’t allow men to be priestesses, elders, deaconesses, board members, or serve in any leadership/governing role. (Men can teach Sunday School, sing in the choir, and help set up the refreshments.) Superheroine movies and costumes and books are popular and there is tons of related merchandise for little girls. Even movies that aren’t about superheroines still tend to feature a woman in the lead role; male characters are mostly present to help her learn lessons about herself, or to further her plot development, or to be eye candy so that women will be willing to see the movie. Sometimes there is a movie where one or more male characters play the lead, but it’s called a Dick Flick, and men go see it with their groups of boyfriends because their girlfriends/wives aren’t interested. Fun Boys’ Night Out!

There. Now. Men! With all of that still in mind, pretending we do not instead live in a world where spellcheck underlines the word “superheroine”: imagine that after many, many superheroine movies (including multiple remakes of the same movie), MANY years of going on dates to see yet another movie about a woman saving the world or leading the mission or finding the killer (and then later watching your girlfriend flex her muscles in front of the mirror as she apparently identifies her ordinary self with that heroinic character), MANY years of seeing the male character endangered or attacked or killed in order to give the female lead an excuse to clench her teeth and repress her grief and start shooting up the place—there is a movie staring a MAN in the heroine role. The first whole movie about one of the only MALE superheroines! And the movie is directed by men, too, so the male superheroine isn’t dressed in just a metal speedo and sexy boots as usual! (He still doesn’t get pants, of course, but we will take our progress in stages if we have to. And maybe Davy Duke short-shorts are better for ease of movement in battle.)

And then when the movie comes out, women dismiss it, and roll their eyes, and say it’s no big deal, and deny that it’s anything special, and don’t want to go see it with you because it’s stupid and just some sort of forced political correctness; or they do go see it but then write think-pieces/tweet-threads about how masculism has gone too far in this post-sexism age, and how there are too many movies these days catering to males, and how actually it’s women who are oppressed by men’s relentless demands to be considered equal members of womankind when in fact they’re now OVER-privileged, and you don’t seriously expect any MORE movies about male superheroines now that we’ve indulged you with this one, and maybe we should remake Batboy and Superboy to be about girls if this is how it’s going to be, and is there a way we could make the seventh Spiderwoman movie so that it has more hot guys in it, like maybe by having flashbacks to when Uncle Jay was young and hot?

“It’s not even that great of a movie,” the women say, shrugging, as if their opinion is the only thing that matters, as if that’s the point, as if movie quality alone is why the men are happy-crying and heartened. You make sure your kids see it (“especially the boys”? “especially the girls”? it’s hard to say which seems more important), and you buy a Wonder Man shirt to wear to bed; and if another movie about a male superheroine comes out, you’ll see it in the theater.

Vegetarian Pre-Teen

Elizabeth said she wanted to try eating a vegetarian diet for a week, and she did so, and then she said she wanted to try a second week. So here I am with things like TVP and MorningStar hot dogs in my shopping cart: one week of winging it seemed like it wouldn’t hurt her, but now I think I need to pay more attention and come up with substitute meals other than peanut-butter sandwiches.

I was a little dismayed to see that the faux hot dogs are made of almost nothing except wheat and “corn syrup solids,” which seems…non-ideal, nutritionally-speaking. I guess I was assuming they’d be made of tofu or something, and I should have checked. It was the only option at our grocery store, though, and Elizabeth said the hardest thing to give up was Friday night hot dogs, so I probably would have bought them anyway. There’s a health-food store in town; I’ll see if they have better options.

I feel like I don’t even know really where to start. I’ve never tried to eat a vegetarian diet myself, or had to cook for someone who was on one. I did go through a brief and non-strict Diet for a Small Planet stage in my very early twenties (like, age 20 and 21), because my first husband was into that kind of thing, so I remember there is a bunch of stuff about combining incomplete proteins, but I don’t remember how to do it. Also, I am pretty sure I remember reading a number of years ago that protein-combining was not as important as previously believed? But I don’t remember the source, or whether it was a reliable one.

I remember BEANS playing a big role, and Elizabeth does not yet like beans. She is also not fond of eggs. But I’ve told her she might need to learn to eat beans and eggs as well as some new things, and she is agreeable to that, so I’m going to start experimenting. She does like cheese and milk and yogurt.

Some meals are easy to replace. She can have her pizza with no pepperoni. At Thanksgiving, she can eat potatoes and vegetables and stuffing and cranberry sauce; she never ate the turkey anyway. I’m going to experiment with the TVP in tacos, or she can learn to like burritos made with beans, rice, and cheese. I’m going to see if there are some veggie burgers that are better nutritionally than the veggie hot dogs. But she and I were shopping on Sunday and we stopped at Wendy’s for lunch and…oops, I forgot she wasn’t eating meat. I got her a baked potato and a Caesar side salad, but it seemed a bit sad to both of us, and she said it completely removed the Treat element of eating out. I got her a cookie afterward, out of food pity.

I don’t know what to make for her if I’m making chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes and broccoli for everyone else. I need something kind of easy that can be cooking alongside, so that she can have whatever it is, plus mashed potatoes and broccoli, without me feeling like I’m making two entire meals.

I’d like to find some things that are not just vegetarian versions of other things. That is, I’d rather make her something that doesn’t have meat in it to begin with, instead of substituting in a lot of Faux Meats.

I know there are tons of resources out there, but right now it’s overwhelming. I don’t want a book of two hundred recipes, all containing items I’ve never cooked with before, all of which look like meals for a grown adult with adventurous palate rather than for a picky child; I don’t want a website with ten years’ of archives and a lot of talk about how bad it is to eat meat. I want, like, one recipe that someone’s teenage vegetarian daughter really liked. Or, like, one recommendation for a vegetarian item from the frozen-foods section. (I mean like one or two items per commenter. We don’t have to stop talking after the first comment.)

Edited to add two things I forgot to say:

1. She’s not eating fish.
2. She’s allergic to tree nuts (though not to almonds).

Songs for the End of Daylight Saving Time

Paul has reminded me that it is time to print out Daylight Saving Time Ends to put on the fridge if I want to avoid everyone having those teeth-clenching conversations about whether it’s “really” earlier or later right now.

My friend Surely mentioned this song the other day and I had forgotten all about it and I am listening to it right now for perhaps the dozenth time since she mentioned it:

When I’m With You, by Sheriff.


One of the things I like best about listening to a song on YouTube is following the suggestions. You start with When I’m With You, and then it’s Love of a Lifetime, and then High on You, and then Make Me Lose Control, and then I Can Dream About You, and then Just What I Needed, and then Wait, and then You Spin Me Round, and then To Be With You, and then ’80s Films, and then Love Love Love (avoid watching that last video if you share my Underwater Largeness Phobia)—and by then the Daylight Saving Time transition is over and no one is commenting on it anymore.

Reader Question: Tips for Being a Good Kisser

We have a charming follow-up question on the First Kisses post:

*cough*Could you maybe do a follow-up post on what makes a good kiss/tips for being a good kisser?*cough* (It’s always good to learn knew things, right? *dies of embarrassment*)

Well! I have been thinking about this and I am not sure I can come up with a decisive answer. Or rather, I CAN come to a decisive answer, and it is this: if this question COULD be answered, it would already HAVE BEEN answered and we all would have studied the answer very carefully and now we would all know for sure that our studying had paid off.

Instead, if you were like me, you read the scene in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret where they practice kissing their pillows, and you gamely tried it yourself because apparently that is a thing we do, but then thought, “…But how does this help? Where are the…lips of this pillow?”

It’s like trying to find information on making hard-boiled eggs easier to peel: there are half a dozen methods people SWEAR by, and absolutely no agreement on which one actually works, and in my own experience each method works sometimes and fails to work other times, and apparently it matters hugely what kind of eggs you start with, so anyway you can rest assured that it is a question for the ages and not something there’s a simple answer for. Same with kissing.

And people LIKE different things. This is where we depart from hard-boiled eggs, because with eggs we all agree on the correct result: the shell should be off of the egg, and the shell-less egg should be whole and smooth, and not very much time should have passed. With kissing, some people get dopey-eyed over soft tender kisses and some people prefer to spend the next day with an ice pack pressed to their swollen, abraded lower face, and there are more kinds of kissing than ways to peel an egg, so it’s hard to know what to advise.

I do think we can say one thing based on the comments on the kissing post, and it is this: the problem, when there is a problem, is usually the tongue. Too much, or too soon, or too much accompanying saliva, or some combination of those things. Go easy on the tongue, is my advice; and if in doubt, wait longer to introduce it.

Also, I think it’s safe to say that kissing can take practice, especially with someone new. There are a bunch of things that vary from person to person, and those things take some time to figure out, and it is perfectly normal to bump teeth or to feel uncertain about how long a kiss should last or whatever. With time and familiarity, the protocol is established and things get less uncertain.

First Kisses

This weekend with friends the conversation turned to First Kisses: the FIRST-first kind and also the first kiss in a new relationship. This is a subject I apparently like to talk about more than The Average Person, so when the conversation turned (oh, too soon! always too soon!) to another topic, I was already getting ready to talk to you about it more later. I am not exaggerating when I say I woke up this morning impatient for comments to start coming in. KISS TALK!!

My FIRST-first kiss was when I was 16, with my first boyfriend, and it was after we’d been dating two months. We were not in any way unkeen about the concept of kissing, and had done plenty of hand-holding and sitting close and so forth, but I thought the kissing stage was Important and shouldn’t be just CAREENED into, and I especially wanted the FIRST-first one to be nice and meaningful; and he’d kissed girls before but never their First Kiss, and never someone who was making such a big deal about it, so he was all psyched-out and nervous. We ended up scheduling it, which exasperated and appalled our friends, but amuses and pleases me to look back on it now.

Another memorable first kiss, also high-school era, was with someone I wasn’t even dating. There had been Considerable Flirting but we were not in a relationship, and we were hanging out watching a movie and he said, “If I ask very nicely, can I kiss you?” And I was surprised, and took a moment to consider the question, and came down on the side of “Why, yes you may, good sir!” I don’t quite like the phrasing of the question now, but at the time I found it wonderfully meta and charming—and since we weren’t dating, it seemed right that he would inquire. And I was just starting to emerge from the hurricane of my first heartbreak, so a little kissing around with a cute non-serious boy seemed like a super good idea.

I completely fumbled the first kiss with Paul—and by then I had a whole (albeit petite) MARRIAGE behind me so you’d think I would know what I was doing, but no. I wasn’t yet old enough to realize I was never going to be someone who could pull off a devastating femme fatale move, and anyway it was really embarrassing and let’s not talk about it. We had a do-over another day and that was much better and allowed me to MOSTLY stop cringing about the first one. Life lesson learned: if you’re a femme fatale, WORK that femme fatale thing, gurl; but if you’re a talker/scheduler, BE a talker/scheduler. Just LEAN INTO IT.

I would like now please to hear about your various first kisses: FIRST-firsts, the firsts of each new relationship; the bungled ones, the sweet ones, the awkward ones, the successes. OH DO TELL ME!

Reader Question: Gift Ideas for a 13-Year-Old Girl

Hi Swistle, I’m hoping you and/or your readers can help. My daughter turns 13 this month and I am at a TOTAL loss as to what to get her.

This is a hard age I feel like. My mom wanted to get her an iPhone and I told her NO. I’m trying to hold out as long as possible, because once you cross that line, there is no going back. Besides, Sophie is not really home alone (I pick her up from school every day and continue my work day at home), and she literally only has one friend and so…it’d be pointless. Not to mention that we have – let me count – SEVEN digital devices already in the home for TWO people.

Sophie doesn’t like to travel. Or Shop. Or do scary things. Or do adventurous things. Or have any desire to get her ears pierced. Or her nails done. We just moved in here in May, so she just redid her room. She’s not really into American Girl Dolls anymore; she doesn’t really play. I’m at a complete and total loss, and so is she as far as giving ideas. HELP??!!?

Let me know,

Much appreciation,



I love cool coincidences, and this email came in THE DAY AFTER I CHOSE A GIFT FOR A 13-YEAR-OLD GIRL. Also, I’ve been working on ideas for Christmas, because the three eldest kids are getting really hard to buy for, and one of those eldest kids is a girl of approximately this age. So I would love to collect some ideas.

Here is what I bought for someone else’s 13-year-old girl, on the advice of her friend Elizabeth:

(image from

An OPI mini nailpolishes set. It was not a Hello Kitty one, but similar, with six different colors. I found it at Marshalls for $6 on a post-Christmas clearance last year and bought two, one for Elizabeth and one to set aside for a future birthday party she might attend, and finally the birthday party presented itself. This might not work for Sophie, since she’s not into having her nails done, but I list it anyway in case it might help with someone else’s 13-year-old girl.


(image from

Paint-by-Sticker book. I am a little concerned about giving a potentially frustrating craft to someone entering the peak door-slamming years, but on the other hand it will happen at someone else’s house, so. Also, the easier ones are marked “for kids!,” which I suspect would be displeasing to a 13-year-old. I do recommend having someone TELL the 13-year-old girl that there are grown adult women who found the craft so hard they wanted to cry, because that seems to set expectations at the right level.


(image from

Would she like Thinking Putty? There are a ton of kinds to choose from: iridescent, heat-sensitive, magnetic, metallic. But I recommend this only for a Very Careful child. One of my children got some into one of his dresser drawers and onto one of the recliners, and this stuff is TERRIBLE with fabric.


Duct tape crafts are still pretty popular at my kids’ middle school. Can anyone recommend a particular book of duct tape crafts that their child used/liked? If so, I can add a link here later.


(image from

Does she like puzzles? Elizabeth has this Ravensburger Happy Animal Buddies one. For her, it’s difficult enough that she needs to work on it with a grown-up or else she gets discouraged—but puzzles are one of the things I like to do with her, so that’s okay. If she wants to do one on her own, she does a 100-piece one; I looked for the ones we have and like, but I’m not seeing them. We have a bunch of Crocodile Creek 100-piece puzzles, but I’m not seeing many of those at all; it looks like they’ve switched mostly to smaller numbers of pieces. Ravensburger is a brand we liked, and Mudpuppy, and Springbok. If I were buying her one now, I’d get her this Mudpuppy Forest Friends one.


Here are a few of the things I’m considering getting for Elizabeth for Christmas:

(image from

Clip-in colored hair streaks. She keeps mentioning wanting a colored streak in her hair, but she’s indecisive, and the last time we had color put in her hair (teal ends) they washed out so quickly. This seems like a fun way to avoid those issues.


(image from

Pusheen plush. I think I’ve mentioned this one before. We still haven’t bought it for her, because it is my feeling that we have already reached Maximum Stuffed Animal.


(image from

(image from

Nerf Rebelle gun and darts. Elizabeth and I are of one mind on this issue: (1) We are offended by this marketing. Oh, we’re girls so we have to be appealed to with PASTELS and PRETTY PATTERNS? We’re girls so “rebel” has to be spelled “rebelle,” because a word always means boys by default, and has to be changed if it’s going to refer to girls instead?? (2) Sheepishly, we both suddenly want this Nerf gun and these Nerf darts. (It is the same for me with “women’s” tool kits.)

I have mixed feelings about toy guns to begin with, but Henry is SO KEEN on them that I made some decisions I would completely understand if you came down on the other side of. I don’t think Elizabeth wants this toy enough for me to make that same decision—but on the other hand, I don’t like the idea of being like “yes for boys, no for girls,” even though that’s NOT what I’m saying. Also, I want an excuse to buy the pretty darts. Also, I already floated the idea with Henry and he’s very keen to help me choose WHICH of the Rebelle guns I should buy, and he has many opinions about what makes each one good/bad and knows all about which non-Rebelle Nerf gun each Rebelle Nerf gun is based on, and it appeals to me to call in his expertise on this. I don’t know. We’ll see when we get closer to Christmas.


(image from

Tiny Hats on Cats book. This I purchased within 30 seconds of learning of its existence. Then I told Paul NOT to get it from the library if he sees it there. Every year, EVERY year, I buy a new and interesting book for each child; and every year, EVERY year, Paul sees one or more of those books at the library in the week or two before Christmas and brings it home.


(image from

Rad Women Worldwide. This isn’t something she added to her wish list, but it’s something I’d like her to have.


(image from

More nail polishes. We both like the OPI brand, and I can find them for about $4 each at Marshalls and TJMaxx, so I’m planning to buy some and put them aside. My favorite would be to buy her Christmas-y ones—but then she receives them too late to use them that year.


(image from

Footless sleeper. She is 5’4″ and getting perilously close to being too tall for these, but still fits into the biggest size.


(image from

I’ve been thinking about a coloring book; she still has and uses these glitter pens (she has a set of warm and a set of cool). I’m not sure about this book in particular, but it’s the sort of thing I’m looking for; I’d love to get more recommendations. I’m also looking for recommendations for coloring implements. I use colored pencils but I’ve heard about…is it gel pens? Is that what people use for coloring books? If so, I’d like to get her a nice big set of those. The glitter pens are really fun but there are only ten colors, and they’re all glittery. I’ll come back and add some links here if some favorites emerge in the comments.


We’re also considering getting older-model Android phones for both twins. Paul handles this completely so I have no link. It’s gotten to the point where them NOT having phones is causing ME inconvenience and stress (they both do assorted after-school activities, and Elizabeth recently went to a sleepover and then I had a concern that could have been alleviated by a text but was not worth a phone call to the other girl’s mother), which was our deciding factor when considering phones for the older boys. So we could relieve a fair amount of our Christmas stress by getting them each one of those plus a Google Play card to buy apps and app-related merchandise.

The problem would be that we’ve set up a precedent for A Big 13-Year-Old Birthday Gift, and if we give them phones for Christmas we need to come up with something else for the birthdays. So maybe we should just hang on awhile longer.


That’s what I’ve got so far. She might want another outfit for her cat, but she hasn’t put any clothes on him in ages so that might be over. I am hoping some of you with children this age can give us more ideas.

Edited to add: People in the comments section are talking about what they wanted/got at that age, and that is such a fun idea. When I was around 13, I got a desk blotter set I really, really wanted (pink, with multicolored hearts, and pink paper, and a pink pen holder that held a pink pen); a pink backrest; pink Reebok sneakers; a pink electric blanket (what, do you think, was Young Swistle’s favorite color?); a boom box (BOOM BOX) that had TWO cassette players (CASSETTES) so you could record from one cassette to the other (MIX TAPES); a little starter make-up set geared toward adolescent girls; a jewelry box; a music box; a purse; pretty stationery; a 110 camera; Bloom County stuff (calendar, books, Opus plushes).

Big hits were ANYTHING chosen by my aunt, because she had a daughter four years older than me, so she gave me things that thrilled my early-teen soul: perfume, a thin gold bracelet, a hot-turquoise button-down shirt, a tapestry vest, a plastic double-strand pearl bead necklace—all stuff my older cousin was interested in and that I was a little too young for but recognized immediately as COOL TEENAGER STUFF.