Sunday, December 10, 2006

Ongoing rebellion

Yes, Pretty Lady must confess that it is true. Despite the fact that within the last week, she has been inundated to the point of immersion with depressive rants, anti-capitalistic screeds, atheistic diatribes, protestations of disaffected anomie, and People Buying Tickets to China, her mood remains somewhat festive. In fact, she and her Japanese neighbor seem to be forming an inchoate Celebratory Cabal. Friday evening, the two of us constructed the above-pictured sample of confectionary excess; irregularities in icicle formation may be attributed, in equal parts, to lack of experience with pastry bags, and overconsumption of eggnog and Dewar's.

As if this were not shocking enough, on Saturday afternoon the two of us went Christmas shopping. Indeed. We even enjoyed it; the combination of two sets of eyes, attuned each to her own aesthetic and temperamental frequencies, meant that many extraordinary things were discovered that might have been Passed By, had we been trolling the streets alone. Pretty Lady now knows where one buys exotic beer, in singles or in quantity, wholesale. She possesses the actual contact information for a lady who special-orders and custom-imports handmade decorative wood-and-leather boxes from West Africa. Thanks to her friend, she is now intimately familiar with the inside of a shop where one buys Nifty Things for Boys, all specially gift-wrapped with shiny high-security packaging.

And of course, there was Pretty Lady's Waterloo, the Sample Sale.

Parents of daughters aged one to seventeen, Pretty Lady has some very serious advice for you. This advice is: Allow your daughter to choose her own clothing, now and then. Do not restrict her too severely to the bounds of perceived Good Taste, no matter how much you may wish to muffle the little darling in serge, acrylic and tweed, for her own good, and the Good of Society. If she wants to dress like a kitty cat, or a fairy princess, or Scarlett O'Hara, let her. She is not interviewing for a job at the Republican National Headquarters just yet. There is time. Do not panic.

If you do not do this, if you rigidly and continuously thrust your budding princess into stiff, sexless cutouts from The Preppie Handbook, if you swath her eternally in oversized Catholic school prison garb, if you squelch every yearning toward sartorial frivolity on your little girl's part, for whatever noble sociopolitical reason, be warned that you are creating a monster. Not a bland and well-adjusted future medical student. A monster.

Because a daughter thus molded and suppressed will then never get it out of her system. While shopping most nobly for Improving Literature, and Pragmatic Gadgets, and Warm Winter Woolens that Go With Everything, she will not be able to focus. Every nerve in her blighted seven-year-old id will be calling out for that blue velvet and purple silk Cinderella dress at the end of the rack. She will not be able to help trying it on. Just to see. She will be genuinely disturbed when it fits as if tailored specifically to her measurements; she will be confused and befuddled when every person in the room, even those with no vested interest in selling dresses, makes awed and approving noises. She will thrust it precipitately back on the rack and flee the shop.

But her seven-year-old id, unsatiated in youth, forever keening and hollow, will not shut up. Three hours later, ground down by its insistent prodding, she will return to the sample sale and charge the dress. Thus insuring that her entire future will be mortaged to an impulse that, if only propitiated early enough in life, might have subsided into mere casual flirtation.

Parents, do not sabotage your child's future in this cruel way. Allow your daughter the indulgence of velour and the occasional sequin, even if it clashes with her spectacles. Bite your tongue when she exuberantly dons the red top with the purple skirt and the aquamarine slippers. Let her imagination run free, at a time in life when indulging it is a matter of pennies, not pounds.


Chris Rywalt said...

I assiduously allow my children to dress however they want. I don't care if I wince when they leave their bedroom; I don't care if William wants to wear shorts in the middle of the winter.

A new doctor joined our pediatrician's practice; we saw her for the second time last week when William had a fever -- very rare for him -- and I brought him in. As we were leaving, the doctor said to me, "You have his coat, right?"


"His coat. It's cold outside."

"We're only going from here to the car."

"Yes, but he should keep warm so he doesn't get more sick."

"Didn't they teach germ theory in medical school? You know, how disease is caused by little critters, not temperature? Pasteur?"

"I believe in all the old wives' things."

"Uh huh."

Next time, I think I'm going to check with the medical assistant and make sure we get one of the other doctors in the practice.

Anyway. I let my kids dress however they want. I do this because my lovely wife absolutely cannot stand to see our kids in clothes that don't match, or don't fit quite right, or are otherwise weird or inappropriate. Our kids are nearly ten and eight years old, and my wife insists on picking out their clothes whenever she gets the chance. I therefore feel it's my parental duty to encourage my kids, when I can, to dress like hobos, or pirates, or princesses, or teen pop singers/prostitutes.

Also, anything that drives my wife crazy can't be all bad.

Anonymous said...

Let me expand on PL's advice.

Fathers and mothers, let me tell you something that you did not know about your daughters. You sent them to Catholic schools, you never permitted them to wear their skirts above the knee, you howled when they wore makeup. You scared off the pimply suitors that appeared at your doorstep with bluster and the threat of buckshot, and accompanied them to the mall and stayed 25 ft. behind them and eyed any male form that approached them with the darkest suspicion. They graduated from high school, virtue intact from too many weekends with the church youth group.

Then, they went to college. There is the cliche of the "Freshman Fifteen" which states that a freshman at college adds 15 lbs. to their frame from eating at the dormitory mess halls. We had a very different meaning for the "Freshman Fifteen" when I attended college, it meant that for the first fifteen days of the fall semester all the Catholic schoolgirls were finally away from home, no watchful parental eyes, no curfews.

In other words, parents - your daughters were ready to party. For those in the more promiscuous set this was a bonanza of casual flings that would shame the Roman orgies of centuries past. These girls could care less if they ever saw you again, they had been denied for far too long and were going accomplish in two weeks what had been denied them previously.

Think on that when you decide it's time to crush your rebellious teenager, that the ones who were the most repressed often end up damaged when the spring finally snaps back into it's natural shape.


Chris Rywalt said...

I can state, from personal experience, that a repressed Catholic school girl, during the first month at college, is a wonderful find. I married her, in fact, and she's, shall I say, crazier now than she ever was. Like wine, she just gets better with age.

It may take a little time, initially, to find the on switch, but once you do, you'll never find the off switch.

Gandhi once said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." When I was fourteen, I wished all the girls were shameless sex fiends. I can't go back and help my fourteen-year-old self, but I can help the upcoming fourteen-year-olds; so I'm bringing up my daughter to be a wanton woman.

Pretty Lady said...

Chris, Pretty Lady didn't hear that. She didn't hear that thing you didn't say about your daughter, and she was deaf to the incident regarding the feverish child being taken to the doctor without a coat.

You have heard, I am sure, about those studies which prove that the secondary-infection rate in hospitals was reduced by half, by the simple expedient of keeping the patients warm. Warmth being a necessary condition for the optimum operation of the human immune system, of course.

Anonymous said...

As one of said Catholic school girls, let me assure you that the Catholic youth organization conventions were one of the MAIN sources of booze, sex, etc. we encountered. SO do not assume that the "born to be wild" theme song only starts up once said school girls are 18 or older! LOL.

Whatever you set up as a rule for your children, your child will test or want to test. So choose your boundaries wisely.

My best girl friend, who had children the same age, had tons of rules. She was constantly fighting with her two boys (who are both full grown now). She said they needed to have lots of rules to break, so she was going to give them a whole set to choose from!

I on the other hand didn't want to battle with my only child (now 28) day and night. So, I had very few hard and fast "rules" with my son. Be polite. Get a college degree or even a graduate degree, be polite to everyone, and stay in church. Not much to rebel against. He didn't finish his education and wants nothing to do with any organized religion. However, he is unfailingly polite, so at least he didn't rebel against that value. LOL.

The point being that your children are individuals. You can poke, prod, point and plead. But in the end, you'll make as many mistakes as the average parent makes. So love them and enjoy them. They'll be adults, making their own mistakes with their children, all too soon.

Congrats on keeping the Christmas spirit alive PL. Wish I had your friend and shopping stamina!

Chris Rywalt said...

Regarding colds, here's the Straight Dope. Accept no substitutes.

Regarding children being individuals: Never mind the mistakes. I've concluded that I have little to no bearing whatsoever on my children and how they turn out (are turning out, have turned out). Seems to me they arrived with their own personalities almost fully formed.

The only things, I'm fairly sure, we as parents teach our children are the things we are NOT trying to teach them. They pick those up in spite of anything we do to prevent it by watching us and imitating us more closely than we'd ever want.

Anonymous said...

I hope that you all did not think I was talking about myself with the whole freshman fifteen thing...

I always went home early on Saturday nights, so as to get up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for church come Sunday morning. Yessiree, that's the way it happened. Yep!



Chris Rywalt said...

You know what's sad? I was raised approximately Catholic but never attended Catholic school; I stopped going to church in 7th grade and stopped identifying myself as Christian somewhere in high school, when I realized I had a choice. I don't believe in almost anything Christianity or Catholicism has to tell us. I am a proud secular humanist.

And yet I'm certain my life has been more Christian than almost anyone's, because I am the most boring person on Earth.

Recently our town made plans to fingerprint and check the backgrounds of all the youth soccer coaches. I fully expect, after they've violated my civil liberties in this manner, to find agents of the FBI at my door. And they'll say, "Mr. Rywalt, we've never run a background check on anyone as boring as you. Nothing exciting or interesting has ever happened in your whole life." And then they'll invite me on a drug bust or something, just so I can have a little fun before I die.

Pretty Lady said...

I always went home early on Saturday nights, so as to get up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for church come Sunday morning.

Crom, that had better be the tallest tale I have yet heard from you, or you are going to jail, directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200. I do not consort with smug, fatuous non-prodigals. Do you hear?

Chris, that goes for you, too. The very fact that you know me personally means that the FBI is watching you with grave suspicion. I promise this is true. You may rest easily now.

Chris Rywalt said...

If they put people on FBI watch lists just for the people they know, then good golly, I'm in the Top Ten Most Wanted. I know all kinds of entertaining people. I'm just not entertaining myself.

For example, I know the woman in this photo. See? Far more interesting than I am.

Crom said...

"Crom, that had better be the tallest tale I have yet heard from you..."

It is a shame that tone does not come through in text as well as we would hope... Fear not, dear Lady - I have as rakish a past as you could ever possibly desire. The idea of me returning home early in college on any given evening of the week and missing the nights of wonder was almost a mathematical impossibility. Indeed, I may have forgotten more about going out than most people will ever learn.