Parenting Blog

Girls Will Wear Dresses or Skirts

Girls Must Wear Dresses or Skirts_National Elementary Honor Society Ceremony #HeForShe

It’s the year two thousand and fourteen. Commonly written as the numerical 2014.

I feel it important to start with a simple reminder of the year in which we live not because I want to insult your intelligence and not because this is the genesis of another horid Hollywood script where a man is thawed after a half-century in deep cryogenic freeze only to realize he can no longer light up a cigarette at a restaurant and is flummoxed to discover that slapping a woman’s ass as she walks past him is severely frowned upon, but because of what my oldest daughter was told at school this week — a declarative statement which served as swift reply to her reasonable question — a sentence that when repeated for my benefit an hour later made me check my phone’s calendar to make certain I was alive in the present tense.

The 10 1/2-year-old I call the Bear was inducted into the National Elementary Honors Society last night and when she rose to receive her pin and stood in front of a gathered crowd while flowery words were spoken about her, she was wearing a skirt, but that wasn’t her original plan. The Bear prefers pants to dresses or skirts. She’s not trying to make a statement. It’s a comfort thing, nothing more. And so on Wednesday night, during the induction ceremony rehearsal, she asked if she could wear pants. Oh child, have I somehow neglected to teach you that it’s often better to ask for forgiveness than permission?

She was told, emphatically and in no uncertain terms, “no, girls will wear dresses or skirts.”

It is 2014. Still. Again. Here we are right now.

Hilary Clinton was nearly the Democratic candidate to become President of the United States of America in slacks and blouses…7 years ago. And I’m fairly certain Murphy Brown rocked a pants suit weekly some 25 years prior.

As I stood with the Mouse in the back of our local Old Navy waiting to meet the Mrs. and the Bear after rehearsal, a pair of black pants and a classy silver blouse were in my hands, dangling from their translucent plastic hangers. The latter hovered above the former in such a way that would easier demonstrate to all who looked upon the clothes, what the two pieces would look like on a person of Bear’s approximate height. That’s when I was told that pants are out. That’s when I checked my phone and fired this little missile off into the internets. I may have cursed a few times. Loudly. I may have threatened to go all Aaron Gouveia on the school’s ass for enacting and standing by a grossly outdated view of gender-based fashion rules. Plus, I had already found a sweet formal-ish getup the Bear was going to love in the first store I tried. I mean, WHEN DOES THAT EVER HAPPEN? My efficiency-loving heart grew two sizes that day before it was pierced by a glittery pink dagger, circa 1974.

The Bear, who despite bursting out of her shell over the past 18 months, no longer wanted to roll into the ceremony in a pair of smartly pressed dress slacks. She’s not quite that punk yet, and was fearful of breaking the rule, even though she too thought it a most foolish one. I understood and respected her decision but I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t quietly disappointed that she doesn’t yet possess a ‘fuck you and your dumb policy’ attitude. I eventually simmered down, stopped muttering obscenities, and got my wits about me, then suggested she play by the rules in her own way, with a skirt on the bottom and a shirt and tie on top. Both of my girls love to look the part of temps in an accounting office, so this was an easy sell. She’d conform to the exact rule of “dress or skirt” but since the top half wasn’t as rigidly defined, she’d be herself, be happy, be comfortable, and be a teensy bit obstinate.

Problem was, we had two hours to find pieces of this new ensemble idea and couldn’t exactly pull it off after hitting 6 different stores. We were dizzy scrambling about town on empty bellies. And in case you’re wondering, Gymboree seems to cut off most articles of clothing at 5T. Weird, I know! It’s like it’s a baby store or something.

In the end, we couldn’t locate a dress shirt to wear with her favorite black tie, the one with a dozen faint grey skulls on it. Sure, she’s rocked neckwear with a polo shirt and suspenders in the past but didn’t want to go that unconventional route again. Instead, she found a shiny silver skirt at Justice, a rad grey blazer at H&M, and went back for that same silver blouse I found in Old Navy — two hours and 5 additional stores after I first found it, a fact which made a shriveled raisin of my already deflated efficiency-loving heart.

Girls Must Wear Dresses or Skirts_National Elementary Honor Society Ceremony #HeForShe

This is the part where I am supposed to take off my cardigan sweater, untie my sneakers, and wrap this experience up tidily for you in a lesson that’ll positively impact you for life, but that’s not gonna happen. What the teachers at the Bear’s school said and did to her sucks, plain and simple. Putting girls and boys into boxes in a fashion sense or any other kind of sense makes no damn sense, not now, not 50 years ago when our cryogenically frozen friend last roamed the Earth, and not in 50 years time when hopefully boys can wear a silk lavender dress if they choose and girls can put their pants on one leg at a time without comment.

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