I know I’ve expressed the sentiments of an alterkocker before, but I think you might be with me here:
Yesterday evening my daughter came out of her room in a pair of orange shorty shorts, ready to go out to dinner.
El Yenta Man looked at me. “Really? She’s going to Hirano’s dressed like a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader?”
I shrugged. I wasn’t pleased, but I know better than to start in with a 5 year-old about her fashion choices. I figure if we begin WWIII over slutty clothes now, she’ll be the 12 year-old who leaves the house wearing a button-down and jeans but has stuffed a plaid micromini and a Sharpie for blackeyeliner in her backpack to change into at the mall. (Not that I know ANYTHING about that.)
But El Yenta Man is senstive to his little girl growing up, especially if she’s going to grow up into looking like someone we don’t want our son dating, so he enforces some rules to keep her dressed her age: No cutesy high heels, no bottoms with writing on the tuchus, and absolutely no teeny shorts.
Though I don’t let my blood pressure get all spiky over them, I think these rules are reasonable, and let me state here that the orange short-shorts that she came out flouncing out in didn’t start out teeny – it’s just what happens when children grow. My plan was to let her wear the shorts to dinner (Hirano’s a nice place, but trust me, you could wear your pajamas there and the waitress would just bring your edamame with no comment) and then snatch them out of the laundry for the hand-me-down pile.
But EYT wouldn’t let it go. “Look, honey, we’re not leaving until you change your shorts.”
Foot stamping. “WHY??? I think I LOOK CUTE, DADDY!”
Daddy: “You’d be even cuter if you were dressed like you’re not ready for a pole dancing lesson.”
Mommy: “Um, what Daddy means is those shorts just aren’t appropriate.”
Daughter Diva: “They are. They ARE. THEY ARE THEY ARE THEY ARE!!!!”
Mommy: “Well, look, I’m pulling up my skirt to where those shorts come down on you. Does that look nice?”
Daughter Diva (looking closely): “No. Because your legs are squishy.”
Mommy (eyes rolling): “Thanks so much. But my point is that is just shows too much, right?”
Daughter Diva crossed her arms and glowered like a pit bull asked to give up its steak. My husband is fairly laid-back guy, but once he issues an edict, it does not get repealed, and seeing that this was one of those family stand-offs that usually end badly, I wandered into the kitchen wondering if I could throw together a meal from cereal and chicken broth.
“Just a minute,” he said, and went into the bedroom. Now, you may remember that EYT has some extremely creative ways of dealing with conflict, but nothing tops what came next:
He comes sauntering out of the bedroom wearing one of my tank tops, shoulder muscles bulging. “OK, I’m ready to go!”
Daughter Diva’s scowl melted into big giggles; I actually found it so hilarious I started braying like a donkey.
“What?!” he growled, flexing. “What’s wrong with this? I think I look nice!”
“INAPPROPRIATE,” said my son, who’s nine and was wearing a perfectly normal shorts and shirt and was not amused by any of this.
“Really? Why?” asked EYT, pointing at Daughter Diva. “It fits me fine. What’s the problem?”
Daughter Diva guffawed. “It shows too much.”
“Riiiight,” said her daddy. “Do you want me to wear this to Hirano’s?”
“NOOOOO!” she squealed.
“Great, then please go change.”
And without another word, she went into her room, put a jean skirt over the short shorts and came out and curtseyed. “Finally, I’m starving!” sighed my son.
We gathered at the front door, where I thanked my husband for handling this so well. “But you look like you belong at strip club in the Castro. Please go put your real shirt back on.”
This all has got me thinking about modesty in our girls. Observant Jewish women follow the parameters of “tznuit,” covering the arms, legs and in many cases, hair. Though I grew up in the hot Arizona sun rocking half-shirts and showing my bellybutton, I’m coming to understand the blessing of covering up one’s physical parts in order to project a deeper, inner beauty. Not that I’ll be giving up my Victoria’s Secret bikini anytime soon, but lately I find myself avoiding things my closet that show cleavage and (and the squishy parts.)
And maybe I am just a premature alterkocker, but it makes me so uncomfortable when I see teenage girls and even younger showing so much skin. “What are their mothers THINKING?” I ask myself. Obviously, it’s pretty damn difficult to tell your daughter how to dress when all of her friends are spending their allowances at Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister. I suspect my daughter was trying to emulate some of her teenage camp counselors, who are otherwise sweet and polite and responsible, but probably aren’t aware they’re influencing their charges into style choices that get hootchier with every passing season.
She’s probably going to be really pissed when she finds out the Shorty-Shorts Rule will apply until leaves for college.