Well, it was bound to happen. I’ve been pigeonholed by my daughter. At least my wardrobe has been. Not that she’s necessarily incorrect, but it’s interesting how she’s picked up on my, shall we say, couture-less tendencies?
My side of the closet is a sea of greys and taupes and lots of black. For various reasons, these colors give me comfort. I can blend in and not call attention to myself. I can hide lumps and bumps. I don’t have to worry too much about matching. If it’s all the same color, then I feel like I can get away with wearing things over from week to week, year to year, decade to decade. Indeed, there are at least a few things in my closet that I can remember owning as far back as 2002 (whether they fit or not is another story). There is more pink and purple on my husband’s side of the closet than mine where I have a whopping total of one scraggly purple tank top and one pink Valentine’s day sock whose match has long since gone to the big dryer in the sky. I am sure I don’t even need to describe the volume of pink that resides in M’s bedroom next door.
But now that spring is upon us, and as I continue to figure out this self-employed status, I realized that anything I have warm weather-wise in my closet are either shorts (OK for working from home, not OK to meet with clients) or warm-weather suits left over from my days of going to court (not exactly what I want to be wearing around the house). These are not going to serve me well in the coming months. So, I did what any self-respecting fashion wearing-phobe would do: I ordered some black skirts (to go with my boring white t-shirts) and laid back dresses. In black, of course.
Oh, and one more skirt that looks like this:
I figured that I could stand to “pretty it up” a bit, what with my now almost completed transition from salon colored hair to color-free salt and peppered locks and all. A distraction, if you will, from the matronly tresses atop my head.
The other morning, the skirt was sticking out of a pile of clothes yet to be put away, still in its clear plastic shipping bag, when M noticed it and said,
“Is that for me?”
She called my bluff. She knew that was something entirely not me, and so totally her. Pretty, feminine and fun. Those words easily sum up this skirt, and how I would describe her wardrobe—there’s no way that sequined cat faces or bright pink tulle skirts could be called anything else really.
My wardrobe? Funereal, practical….blah. And vaguely Amish. Except, no bonnet (though that would have been a good idea during the awfully long grow it out phase). I’m OK with how I dress and don’t have any intention of making any sweeping changes. But clearly M has already picked up on this major difference in how she and I approach clothing. I’ve been pigeonholed already as having “boring mom clothes”.
As odd as it may seem, I actually like to look at fashion magazines to admire the pure art of design and use of different colors and fabrics, not to mention the photography in many cases. This is probably one of the things that I actually miss about coloring my hair–less time with the Vogue and Elle magazines at the salon! But I don’t want to wear those things because, in my mind, they draw attention to oneself. I don’t mean that in a negative way for people who like to wear bright and interesting clothes, it’s just not for me because I am not confident in them. I feel like a huge neon sign walking down the street. I’d rather be the little nightlight tucked away in someone’s darkened upstairs hallway.
M, on the other hand, seems to like wear and talk about clothes that are lively and bright and invite people to talk to her. Sure, I am sure she finds them pretty in their own right, but to the extent that 4 and 5 year olds are not exactly following the oral arguments in the Supreme Court this week, what she’s wearing is certainly one of the hot conversation starters in preschool. This is why she has a recent interest in what she pulls out of her drawers and wears to school.
I get the sense that M is also someone who does not like to be the center of attention based on how she acts when we’re in different settings. But then again, her growing love affair with clothes and her desire to showcase them to her friends tells another story. It could very well be due to age more than innate temperament.
I definitely recall some misfires back in my childhood. I can almost hear my mom’s voice inside my head right now reminding me about some silver boots I had to have. But overall I was probably pretty modest and not very fashion forward back then either. Unless you count the striped MC Hammer pants I had. Oh. Yeah.
In fact, as I write this I distinctly remember another paisley piece of clothing I owned. It was a black/purple button down rayon shirt, and I bought it at Chess King (a men’s store) while in high school, a time where I was trying to hide behind clothing and escape the curves of teenage girlhood. I relied on menswear to do so. Gosh, I loved that shirt, and if I still owned it, I would probably be wearing it right now.
I am actually interested to see how the role of clothing plays out over M’s life. I wonder how many arguments we will have about clothing. I wonder how many outfits will be altered in the high school bathrooms. I wonder if she will want to borrow anything of mine, or if I will just come in handy when she needs a shawl for prom. I wonder whether my practical side will conflict with her growing panache. Time will tell. I certainly don’t want to pigeonhole her just yet.
Copyright (c) 2012 by Kristen M. Ploetz.
This post is written in honor of Women’s History Month.
About a month or so ago, M came home a tad miffed because “Boy X” in her class told her that she couldn’t help clean the lunch tables because she was a girl. To those not “in the know”, getting to clean the lunch tables is a “big kid” opportunity in her class, designated to the 4 and 5 year olds. It’s a big deal to them because it’s considered
a way to show the 3 year olds who’s boss a privilege. But apparently only at school. This fervor for wiping down the table does not seem to translate at home.
At first, I laughed to myself because I was thinking that it would have made me more upset if Boy X told her that she had to do it because she’s a girl. But then I realized he was telling her that she couldn’t do something because he apparently thinks or was told that boys can do certain things that girls can’t. Knowing that M sees the household tasks split pretty evenly and free of 1950’s gender stereotypes around here—like when I put windshield wiper fluid in the car and snake the drain and my husband does the dishes and laundry—I could see where she would be confused.
And she must have caught me in a less than sugar coating friendly mood, because my response to her was, “Well, next time Boy X tells you something like that, you tell him that girls can do everything boys can do AND have babies too!” (I admit that I conveniently left out the part about the transgendered man that had a couple of babies a few years ago…but if Boy X knows about this and uses it in his defense, then I am going to have to meet his awesomely open and liberal parents!)
Considering that her teacher noted in M’s journal that M cheekily used this refrain a few weeks later, I guess the message got through to her, or at least gave her the confidence to stand up for herself and feel equal.
But this weekend I realized just how much further we still have to go in giving girls and women equal treatment and coverage (though the topic is already familiar ground). While I was upstairs in the kitchen, I overheard the following exchange between M and her dad, who were playing downstairs:
(NCAA tournament game is on the TV in the background; she’s watched portions of a few hockey games on this TV in the past few months—it is the only sport that she’s ever shown any interest in watching, and this is the TV we use to watch sports—so she really only associates this TV with hockey and I can see why this question crossed her mind)
M: Daddy, can girls play hockey?
M: Oh. Are they on another channel?
See that? She’s already clued in that the hockey she’s seen (Bruins) has been male players only. She hasn’t seen any women or women’s teams. I know some women’s teams exist, like NCAA or USA Hockey, but let’s face it, they’re not getting the attention that professional (NHL) men’s hockey does.
While the Internet does make coverage of these games more available than cable TV, isn’t that essentially the same as the gender wage gap that STILL exists (according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010 college educated women’s earnings were only 74.1 percent of college educated men). In other words, we can sit at the table, but we just can’t have as much of the pie.
And she knows it. She already senses the void and unequal treatment.
We can debate the merits of letting TV coverage acting as the benchmark or barometer for gender equality as a whole, much less as a way to portray various women and girls in media and entertainment to children. And my head is not in the sand such that I think that gender equality will trump profits via viewership and sponsorship in mainstream, male-dominated professional sports.
But if a 4.5 year old can detect a difference or feel left out in some measure, then we all should take notice. I know I did.
Copyright (c) 2012 by Kristen M. Ploetz.
M is four and a half today. For some reason, it’s always the half birthdays that make me take notice more than the yearly ones. Probably because I’m not in the midst of pulling together a party. So last night when I was putting her to bed, I was thinking about how, more and more, she does things without me around. By “around” I mean in the same room or part of the house.
When she was younger, I’d go get a glass of water or to throw a load of laundry in the machine, so there’d be only a few minutes when she’d be “unsupervised”. But now, she’s apt to spend up to an hour in another room playing if she’s really into something. It’s when I catch her in those moments that it makes me realize that the apron strings really have loosened a little (despite that there are some days when it feels like I am being tangled in them). Almost like when I see her through the preschool window carrying on with friends, completely on her own, before she knows I’m there. It’s those kind of scenes that remind me that she has a life outside of her dad and me.
I like to take photographs of those moments when she doesn’t know I’m there. Or of the evidence of her play that she’s left behind after she’s moved on to something else—things that I don’t see her even do in the first instance. Some are sweet. Many are funny. And some just make me go, “huh?”.
When I stumble upon these moments, it’s like she has left her own version of fairy dust. I feel both the weight and weightlessness of her growing independence. And I take pictures of these things because it’s what I’m afraid I might forget first as she gets older. I’d like to share some of my favorites . . .
I can’t wait to see what I stumble upon on during the second half of her journey between four and five years old.
Copyright (c) 2012 by Kristen M. Ploetz. All photographs appearing on this site are the property of Kristen M. Ploetz and they may not be downloaded or reproduced in any way. All rights reserved.
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