Monday, October 26, 2009

Slaves to Fashion

I have this recurring, vivid memory of one particular day in kindergarten that sometimes makes me break out in a cold sweat.

It was the day my mother forced me to wear a green and white checkered pantsuit to school.

I sat huddled on a piece of wooden playground equipment, sighing forlornly as I watched the other girls prance around in their Oshkosh jumpers and pretty blouses and matching socks and sneakers with glittery laces and friendship pins.  And then I looked into my lap, into the sea of kelly green and white, the pattern making my eyes sting and my head spin, and I made myself a promise.  I vowed to never make my kids wear horribly outdated, scratchy, hand-me-down, ill-fitting clothes for one single second of their privileged little lives.

So far I've managed to hold myself to that promise.  Which has turned me into a bit of a clothing snob.  Not a snob about my own clothes (I have a hard time buying myself a shirt that costs over twenty bucks, and don't even get me started about shoe-shopping...if I could wear the same pair of flip-flops for the rest of my life, I would die a happy person) but a snob about my children's.  When my kids actually wear clothes  (usually when we're outside of the house, although sometimes even then it doesn't always happen), I strive to ensure that they look pretty hip.  Usually hipper than me.  Which, sadly, isn't hard to do.

Before I had Elsa, I always pictured having a daughter who ran around in frilly little dresses and adorable shoes and kept to a palette of pinks and purples.  I'm not sure why my vision of her took on this incredibly girly flavor.  I sure didn't dress like that.  I had jeans with zippers on the ankles and stirrup pants and skorts and lots and lots of neon.  I wore pantsuits, for God's sake.  Why didn't my mother pin a sign to my lapel that read, "Self-Confidence Issues In The Making"?

I don't dress Elsa in pantsuits, but I also don't stuff her into pink dresses and lacy socks.  Don't get me wrong--I think little girly clothes are really cute.  But for some reason Elsa just doesn't look right in that stuff.  Is it her lack of hair?  Her chubby pale legs?  The fact that if she wears a dress, her knees step on the hem when she crawls around, and she gets stuck and cries?  Or is it because I myself don't wear dresses, never really did, and I've been shaping my children in my image, because they really are a couple of Mini-Me's, and until they start picking out their own clothes, I can dress them however I please?

That's another thing that makes me nervous--wondering how my kids are going to dress when they're older.  I'm afraid that Clothing Karma will come after me.  How I remember my father barking at me to go change because my shorts were too short.  And back in the early 90's, anything above the knee was considered 'too short' to my dad.  But have you seen some of the shorts out there now?  I have underwear with longer hemlines than some of the shorts out there.  And shorts with words written directly on the butt?  Forget it--that's like giving people a reason to stare at my daughter's ass.

And so it is my desperate hope that by the time Elsa is in high school, Grunge has made a tremendous comeback.  Give me baggy jeans and flannel shirts and big ol' boots.  Let's make it as difficult as possible to size up adolescent breasts, let's make our daughter's butt's invisible beneath layers of sweatshirts tied around their waists.  I figure the '80's are in right now, so in about 10 years, Grunge will have already settled in across malls and departments stores, and Elsa will have no choice but to don oversized t-shirts and pants that don't display any crack.  I'll even take the gothy, teen-angst that accompanies such fashions.  I don't care how much Elsa hates me, as long as her shorts aren't too short, I can handle anything.

And I'm sorry, Dad, for all those years my clothing put you through coronary distress.  If I could take back all those eye-rolls and door-slams, I would.

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