Thursday, September 11, 2008

2 Old 2 Go Back 2 School Shopping


by Jenny Gardiner

*slight disclaimer: I wrote this for my newspaper column three years ago but didn’t dare run it, for fear of repercussions from my teenagers once they saw it in print. I figure they're blissfully ignorant about my blogs, so I’m safe, finally having found a venue in which to vent on this subject.

Okay, I realize that I run the risk of appearing like a frighteningly middle-aged mother with what I am about to write. Alas, as a frighteningly middle-aged mother, I no longer care if that’s how I come across, so I’ll take my chances.

I recently had the eye-opening experience of back-to-school shopping with teenaged girls, and at the risk of sounding like an old fart (I know, I know, merely acknowledging that means that I am one), I cannot believe how clothing has changed since I was a kid.

After spending hours at the likes of Hollister, American Eagle and Abercrombie & Fitch, the first thing that sort of depressed me about the current state of dress--or undress--was how downright sexual all teen clothes are. When I was a teen (back when they invented the wheel), clothing styles were downright goofy-looking. Nary a vampish outfit could be found, were we to know to look for them. In fact, I still remember a style of shoes that everyone wore back then--they looked an awful lot like those orthopedic shoes that very old people wear when their gnarled, arthritic feet can no longer accommodate a traditional shoe style. Trust me, there was nothing provocative about them.

Nowadays, it’s virtually impossible to find clothing for teens that isn’t seductive by its very design. Which tends to make me a little bit leery, especially after having recently lingered in the stores targeting these teens. Never before in my life had it been more glaringly obvious that I am so past my prime, and that these kids are so at theirs, perhaps, sometimes by the ripe old age of 13. The choice of clothing was extensive, but limited to basically two things: tops that leave little to the imagination and bottoms that require a professional wax job to wear publicly. There’s no doubt that this clothing looks fantastic on a young, lithe, body, all toned and tanned and raring to go. But is it right for middle-schoolers to look so, uh, hot?

Now I’m going to sound like a granny again, but back in my day, girls didn’t take on a sexualized appearance till they were much older--college, or beyond. In fact, I’m pretty certain that I bypassed that stage altogether. I went from Health-Tex stretchy shorts-sets to leggings and oversized shirts. Nowadays, girls, through contemporary fashions, are becoming more and more sexualized even before puberty. So much so that I found it challenging to find appropriate clothing for my 11-year old to wear without drawing the unwanted attention of any male from the age of 13-on up.

Another depressing observation I made during my recent shopping forays: while milling about these clothing stores, I couldn’t help but notice the profusion of undernourished girls honing in on the size 00 rack. I told my daughter (to her great embarrassment) that an awful lot of girls at the mall could do with a hearty meal of mac ‘n cheese or something equally carb-laden. It seems odd that in a country of such plenty that denial of food is essentially a fashion choice.

Which reminds me of something. I remember in college there was a pizza shop on College Avenue that pumped out its oven exhaust onto the passersby in front of the store. They knew that the aroma of pizza (albeit a mighty overwhelming smell, with the force of those fans) would lure buyers into the shop to spend money.

So right next to Abercrombie is a Mrs. Field’s cookie shop. Which used to waft cookie aroma in much the same way. However, Abercrombie--perhaps in a veiled effort to ensure their buyers remain stick-thin so they can buy their wares--now forces out massive levels of noxious perfume odors into the mall, overpowering whatever cookie scent might still exist in the shared airspace. And something about that Abercrombie perfume just screams Sex! Sex! Sex!

I don’t dare elaborate (much) about the barely-subliminal visual messages being bombarded at teens while they shop, either. Let’s just say that the jaw-dropping “packages” on the two-story tall posters of extremely sexy young men with zippers lowered enough to reveal that yes, they do wax, was downright astounding. Why, some of the shorter kids shopping were just about eyeball-to-um, balls, though their balls had nothing to do with an eye. Oh God, I guess if you get really factual about it, an eye would have been involved, too. Had those men have been completely naked, which they weren’t. Completely.

I am really not a prude. I’m an easy-going middle-of-the-road mom who has a high threshold for all things teen. And honestly, as I sat there being blasted by hearing-depleting music cranked well beyond AC/DC concert level, I quite enjoyed gazing at those enormous Abercrombie posters, even though I felt a bit pedophile-like lusting after guys probably old enough to be my kids. But really, must we lash these teens in the face with this? Whatever happened to subtlety?

I suppose I’m lucky that I’m not out shopping for toddlers any more. Lord knows that’s likely the next line of attack for slut-wear, now that it’s become the norm for anyone over the age of eight or nine.

In the meantime, I’ll bide my time, trusting that the days of leggings and long shirts just has to come back into vogue. In the meantime, you can find me in my granny pants rocking on my rocker. Maybe crocheting something useful, like a shroud, for the age of innocence, May it rest in peace.

7 comments:

Not Too Old said...

Amen! It also bothers me that we are spending FAR MORE money for FAR LESS material to cover our teenager's bodies. I cannot understand spending $30 for a T-shirt that is so thin you have to wear ANOTHER T-shirt underneath!

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

LOL--it's so true! And were it not for school restrictions, they'd not even bother with the shirt underneath...

Barb McKone said...

Love your post! I once shopped at Abercrombie and while in the check-out line embarrassed my daughter by pointing out to the clerk that it didn't seem right that their men's cologne should be called "Fierce" and the ladies' perfume "Ready." Seriously. What the heck?! Ready. Gee, ready for what, I wonder? Okay, I'm officially an "old fart," too.

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Fierce and Ready...that's lovely...

Suzanne Macpherson said...

Our refuge from this onslaught is "Sporty" -although this occasionally moves over into the layered strap tank zone. Sporty involves expensive Nike gear that covers up lots more. Somehow that works for her. I mourned the day she was too big for Gymboree clothes.

Jenyfer Matthews said...

Whenever my husband mourns the fact that our 8 year old daughter is a sloppy tomboy, I point out the alternative and he shuts right up...

I guess I'm an old fart too :)

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Jenyfer you are so right! And Suz, you sound like you're dressing her in retiree wear ;-)