There is a thread on our local Moms and Dads Facebook page that has gotten me thinking. And by thinking, I mean angrily refreshing the thread every two minutes when I should be getting other things done.
As often happens, there are very strong opinions on both sides of an issue. As always happens, I agree very strongly with one side of the debate but I have held back on commenting. I do not believe social media is the place to have heated conversations. I feel like words are taken out of context and that people say things that they would never say in person. That said, I have learned enough about myself to know that I am not going to stop thinking about this until I ‘write it out’. And yes, I will put this on social media and yes, I understand the irony but I hope my words will be met with kindness.
The topic is the length of girl’s shorts.
As the mother of two girls, eleven and fourteen years old, who like to dress on trend, here are my thoughts.
When I was a teenager, enormous Benetton sweaters were all the rage. Remember that sweater? Mine was grey and royal blue and I would have worn it every day if I didn’t go to a school with a uniform. I loved it. Did I look great in it? Let’s just say that I weighed 100 pounds soaking wet so there were more flattering styles out there for me than enormous sweaters. Did I wear the sweater because I liked the way I looked in it? No. I wore the sweater because everyone else was wearing the sweater and this is what teenage girls do.
The enormous Benetton sweater was the 80s version of the tiny jean short. And the halter top and the tube top and the tops that are designed to show your bra straps. These are the clothes that everyone is wearing now.
In this conversation, there is a crucial distinction to make and I am so thankful that a mom with girls older than mine explained this concept to me a few years ago. As this mom showed me pictures of her college-aged daughters, my face must have done that thing it does when it refuses to hide what I am actually thinking.
“They all look like sluts, right?” she said. And because of that face thing, I was forced to admit that I had thought just that. And then she went on to teach me something really important. When we were young, she said, the sluts dressed like sluts and the other girls didn’t. I agreed. Now, she said, slutty is just a style. It signifies nothing about your sexual behavior.
So slutty is a style in the way that Benetton sweaters were a style when we were young. Did my mom like the Benetton sweater? Absolutely not. I still can’t believe she let me wear it. Do I like the miniature shorts that our girls wear? Absolutely not. I try hard every season to find longer, stylish shorts that the girls and I both like. Each year we compromise. The shorts are shorter than I would like and longer than the girls like. Because of the styles that are out there now (this is a topic for a whole separate discussion), we have to agree to disagree.
I remind myself every morning that the girl’s shorts imply nothing about their behavior beyond one thing. As teenage girls, our girls like to wear what the designers are producing and what their friends are wearing.
Now, I am going to tread into deeper water. On the above mentioned Facebook thread, for the most part, it was the moms of boys who were very quick to say that they would never let their children out of the house looking the way our girls do. This got me wondering if there is a boy equivalent to the short shorts.
This is going to seem a bit off but stick with me for a moment. I believe the 2018 boy version of the girl’s short shorts is tee shirts and gym shorts. Of course there are exceptions in the same way that a handful of girls wear long shorts. That said, I am hard pressed to remember the last time I saw a boy walking into the middle or high school in a collared shirt and shorts that required a button and a zipper. This athletic outfit is not highly sexualized as the girl’s shorts are perceived (perceived- not actual- see above) to be but nor is it an outfit that we would have considered an appropriate school outfit for boys to wear when we were in school.
Times have changed. I choose not to fight my daughters every day to wear something that I deem more appropriate in the same way that boy moms don’t fight their sons to stop wearing athletic clothes to school.
I wonder what kind of a conversation we could all have at the end of the week if we tried the following experiment. What if, for a week, we challenged ourselves to make all girls wear shorts to mid thigh and to make all boys wear collared shirts and shorts that button and zip?
I predict we would learn a lot about each other and how we parent and more importantly, I predict that our conversation at the end of that week would be filled with a lot more kindness, empathy and understanding than our conversation currently is.