It’s not appropriate for work, Mom, my 20-year-old sighs, as she pushes aside yet another strapless sundress in her closet.
Home for the summer, my kid sets up her work ‘uniform’ every night at an hour she’d likely be ramping up if still at university. Early mornings are still revelations.
I lie on her bed, the only spot available in a room of scattered somethings, the very bed where unspooling the stuff of life was once a nightly habit in our chapters together.
Appropriate. No smirking. I won’t do it, won’t say it: I told you so.
Raising girls in an era of booty calls and boilerplate feminism isn’t for cowards. We’ve stitched and stewed, these girls of mine, on the fine thread between shaking it and shaking it up.
We agree feminism shouldn’t be a loaded word, but one of clear definition; equal rights, mutual respect, and asking the hot boy to the dance. We disagree though whether he should come to our house to greet us. If I ask him, then it’s my turn to pick up, they school me —me who would like to shake said boy’s hand, look him in the eye, and determine if he uses our terms dictionary, even if I have talked their father down from following at a discreet distance.
We agree all men are not sexist and all women are not oppressed. We disagree coming home on the bus late at night alone and walking down our darkened street is okay for city savvy girls. You can’t watch us all the time. We are grown up now, we can take care of ourselves, they insist, conceding that it only takes once.
We agree Dad doesn’t mind ironing their clothes and being called at any hour to pick them up, from anywhere, here or in Europe two years from now, if they’ve saved enough money for their planned backpacking adventure. We disagree when I say learning how to take care of yourself means learning how to iron and walking to school in the morning.
We agree slut and skank and bitch have all been appropriated by second and third wave feminists. We agree certain kinds of clothing look better on certain kinds of bodies. We disagree you can wear whatever you want, whenever you want.
“I need to look professional”, new working girl dismisses most of her student wardrobe, an assortment of vintage finds and quirky threads, collected when most girls begin to define who they want to be. I know she’ll wear those clothes again often. So she should. She rocks all of it, to use my children’s language.
We agree some definitions are fluid, even if we do have a good dictionary.
For more on the ongoing conversation, read Love me, love what I love. Not always.
For some really great parenting, read how Dutch parents view sex education.
More on uniforms: No time to slink into the shadows.