Monday, February 13, 2006

Express Yourself

As a mother of daughters, I wish to teach my children how to use their power wisely. Little things matter. For example, sometimes women and girls try to get noticed by wearing modish and revealing clothing. They do not get respect in this manner. They can, however, loose it.

This brings me to an odd conversation I had at a department store recently. I had come to this particular store to return an item I had bought online. I passed through the girls department and was surprised to see nice Easter dresses on sale. They, of course, also had the typical trashy, transparent, too short styles, but there were a few modest styles mixed in. I was overjoyed to find all my girls' sizes in a lovely, long, linen style dress. While standing in line to buy the dresses, I bumped in to a casual acquaintance who was waiting in line with two adolescent girls. I made the comment that "it was hard to shop for girls." What I meant was that it is hard to find appropriate clothing in the right size.

The woman, however, misunderstood me. She responded that "if I pick it out they just hate it and never wear it, so I have to bring them along." One of the girls snorted in agreement. The mother lifted up a skimpy t-shirt and commented that if it were too loose, her daughter wouldn't wear it.

I didn't have much to say after that. I felt very sad. I thought about how different things are at my house. When I returned home with the new dresses, my girls were excited. They loved them.

We have a generation of young people (not just girls) who are desperate to be noticed. They are willing to harm and demean themselves just for the attention. Youth mimic "gang bangers" and "prostitutes" just to feel important. Any attention is better than being invisible. They foolishly believe that an invitation for sex or drugs is better than being ignored.

Adolescents have a need to express themselves. They want to be unique. I attended a homeschooling conference in which Susan Wise Bauer emphasized that children who can not express themselves with language will do it with their clothing. Children who can articulate complex ideas with spoken and written words will NOT have the "need" to express themselves in dangerous behaviors or extreme styles.

All of this reminds me why socializing children to the standards of other children is a really, really bad idea. Children need attention. If they can't get in healthy ways, they will take anything they can get from anyone who will give it.

So, when anyone asks me about socialization, I reply, "That's why we homeschool."


Angela said...

I couldn't agree more. There are still modest clothing in bright, fun colors (LLBean and Land's End types), and my daughter never hates what I bring home, as long as it isn't lime green! I am often baffled at parents who allow their girls to dress like trollops yet are shocked to find out that they are those early involved with negative peer situation: drugs, alcohol and sex. Obviously, peer image is way more important than they choose to recognize. I wouldn't have had much to say to that mother either!

Janine Cate said...
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Janine Cate said...

The sad thing is that many of these parents are otherwise very involved with their children. For some reason, they just don't recognize the danger signs.

I had a run in with our local Parks and Rec program a few years ago on this topic. I signed my girls (3 and 5 years old) up for a dance recital. On the first day of class, I met with the instructor asked about the costume. She assured me it would be appropriate, a dog costume. It ended up being a polka-dotted outfit with dog ears and a tail. It looked like what you would imagine a stripper in Los Vegas would wear (flesh colored tights, long white gloves, sequins, spaghetti strap, yuk). The worst part is I pad $50 a piece for them and could give them back.

The next year I tried again. This time the dance outfit was crop shorts and bikini top. I went and talked to the director of the Parks and Rec. She assured me that they don't allow bare midriff for the big girls, but they didn't see any harm if the little girls dress that way.

I responded that, "If a didn't want my teen to dress that way, why would I dress my toddler that way?" We dropped out and I demanded a refund.

Melissa O. Markham said...

A great post, Janine! And your experience with the local Parks and Rec department is terrible!

I used to have long conversations about this with my oldest stepson. Girls would come to church dressed skimply and I would mention it and he would tell me what an old-fashioned fuddy duddy I was being. And of course, fashion faux pas don't stop with the girls...the whole boy wear your pants around your knees thing is atrocious! I wonder how many parents are aware that this fad started in prison! And would they let their sons dress that way if they knew?

I recently read some of the fashions of the 70s and 80s are coming back, so perhaps there is hope for us yet:)

Janine Cate said...

I don't know, I thought the 70's were pretty scary. :)

I am also surprised and disappointed at what girls wear to church. They become "walking pornography." That whole baggy pants thing looks so low-class. I don't know why the parents permit it.

Lioness said...

Leaving aside the issue of immodest dressing, Bauer is not entirely correct in saying that outlandish dressing is solely the province of the inarticulate. Have you ever talked to a Goth over 25? The ones I have met have been some of the most articulate and outlandishly dressed people around both.

Janine Cate said...

I guess I'm going to have to take your word for it. I can't image that an adult that dresses like a character from a B-grade horror movie has anything profound to say about anything, except which types of psychiatric drugs to avoid. :)

Lioness said...

You've missed some fascinating conversations on history, literature, philosophy, aesthetics and psychology then. (Not to mention some fabulous historical outfits.) The arguement that skill in verbal self-expression will completely do away with the need for sartorial self-expression is only true for a certain value of self expression. Have you ever read Elton John's lyrics? The man is hardly inarticulate.