Monday, April 12, 2010

What Not to Wear

When I was a teenager, I once came downstairs dressed in a body-hugging t-shirt, bellbottom jeans that revealed pelvic bones in the front and butt cleavage in the back, a woven Mexican vest to hide that d├ęcolletage (at least until I was out of the house) and a pair of fringed leather moccasins that were invisible when I stood still, due to the diameter of the aforementioned bellbottoms.

Those clothes, along with my past-my-waist hair, duplicated the appearance of the kids I'd seen on the evening news, the ones who hung out at the corner of Haight and Ashbury Streets in San Francisco.

My dad took one look at me and hit the ceiling.

There was a short but emotional discussion, resulting in my returning to my bedroom to remove the vest and replace the t-shirt with something looser that hung well past my hips.

As I headed out the front door, I muttered that wearing hippie clothes didn't mean I used drugs.

Dad said, "What you wear tells people who you are."


This may be why, years later, when my 16-year-old stepson started sporting a black raincoat he'd purchased at a local thrift store, I flipped out.

We fought like badgers over that coat.

He thought it made him look cool.

I thought it made him look like the guys you see coming out of XXX movie houses in the middle of the afternoon with furtive expressions and sticky-soled shoes.

He thought he should be allowed to decide for himself how to dress.

I thought people would peg him for a druggie.

In the end, he wore the coat, even through the heat of summer, until he finally moved out, to live with Jason W (who had a similar coat), just weeks before he would have graduated from high school.


That summer, my pastor, preached a sermon on dealing with teenagers.

"Concentrate on serious issues," he said. "Drugs, sex, staying in school.

"Don't waste your energy on the petty stuff, like what they wear and how they keep their rooms."


From time to time, I still wonder who was right--Dad or my pastor?

And I still don't know.

Which makes me thank God on my knees that I will never again have to raise a teenager.


  1. We've just come back from staying with friends who have four sweet kids aged between 2 and 9 years. I can only imagine what their house will be like in 10 years time!

  2. I'm scared of the teenager years to come in my house.

    I think I'm pretty open to most clothing choices, but really revealing clothes would push my buttons.

  3. Presumably these days you've stopped wearing that body-hugging t-shirt and low-hanging pelvic-revealing jeans? Just checking.

  4. I remember the same fight with my dad, and he won.

    And I remember a similar fight with my son, over his pretentious preppie clothes. I didn't win that one either.

    We all lived through it. Could be there is no right or wrong here.

  5. I do think a lot of parenting is about choosing your battles. That doesn't mean it is easy to know which ones to choose and with teenagers there are plenty of options.

  6. I think they are both right, and if Pastor saw the outfit you had on, he would have said differently! There are limits to what can be ignored.

  7. I had similar struggles with our girls..I too am thankful I survived. I am way to old to do it anymore. House rules..those are the ones I tried to enforce..certain things were not worn out of the house:)

  8. Unless I have to dress up I usually wear jeans and trainers, which I know makes me look slouchy and not very sexy at all. I don't know what people think of me when they see me. I have such little interest in shopping.

    It's sad that we assume we know someone by what he/she wears.

  9. I guess we hope that by fighting over some of the smaller things we are shaping the way teenagers will approach the big things. It's not easy. But I often think the real foundation was established by the age of three or so.

  10. What a refreshing post! I remember the photo of you and Chuck Scott(our drama teacher) in the Wilbur Wright Alumni room... you with the bellbottoms and super long hair, circa 1972.

    We lucked out with Ryan. He just wanted to "blend in" at High School, and consequently, never acquired a " brand". I'm glad too, because I get headaches just walking by Abercrombie and Fitch.

  11. I just recently read somewhere that our children will try like mad to show us how different they are from us.

    Since I look like a soccer mom most of the time, my daughter has a pretty wide range to express herself.

    Shit. That sounds like goth, doesn't it.

  12. I am scared to have kids, let alone teenagers!

  13. Great post! I had an outfit like that, too!!! (Plus I used to wear the skirts down to my knees out the door, and roll them up to mini-skirts in school!) You are so lucky you don't have to worry about teenagers anymore. I have 3 and life is tough!!!
    Lindsey Petersen

  14. Too bad you didn't keep a photo of yourself in the hiphuggers and T-shirt. Your step-son might have used it as blackmail.
    My parents always complained about what I was wearing during my teenage years. I suppose I'd do the same thing to a teenager if I had one.

  15. Yes, I too would want to see that photo, but meeting you in person, I can only imagine!

    My son saw a boy walking by when goth came out and said "I will never be like that"! No instead he comes home one day with his pants falling down around his thighs, and I asked him why he had pants on like that guy we saw on the street once- he said "Mom, I am just skinny, and these are in style", some truth, some style, some laughter still comes to mind when we wore pants so tight they would not go anywhere :)

  16. I recall so many of the same fights or "conversations" with my mom and she'd always end with telling me that when I was grown up and looked back a pictures I'd ask her why she ever let me dress like that. Okay, ONE POINT MOTHER, you win.

  17. The only reason I'd worry over their clothes is because you never know what or who is influencing that kind of dress. But, yeah, I think there's always a more important issue.


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