I was reminded one crisp, fall Sunday afternoon that pleasure and pain are inextricably linked…
My daughter and I venture to Bloomingdales in Century City in search of a Homecoming dress—her first. She falls in love with a rich, emerald green, velvet dress that, when she tries it on, is clearly low where it should be high, and short where it should be long.
“Mom, it’s on sale!”
I approach the fleshy orbs that rise higher and higher with every breath she takes. “You can pin the cleavage.”
“Why do I have the most conservative parents in the universe?”
“Because you’re 14 and they’re called private parts for a reason.”
We stare. At each other. At the dress.
“I like it. It’s flattering and it’s my body. Don’t be sexist!”
I want to be as certain of anything as my daughter is of everything.
I want her fierce spirit to enjoy her body – I just don’t want her boobs exposed. She should enjoy their buxom beauty – but not at 14, not at her first Homecoming dance. Not while I’m still alive.
“Mom, it’s your fault I have big boobs in the first place!”
“You don’t see me wearing anything showy like that.”
“I didn’t do it when I was young.”
“I’m sorry for you.”
I’m not that old. I just believe that there is no need to fully appreciate the joy of cleavage until college—by which time one’s head has played a bit of catch up to one’s hormones. Hormones–those little devils– control so much of my daughter’s rhythms these days. College is when such joy should be enjoyed. College, when my baby’s breasts are not in my face. Nor her father’s.
“I have a broach you could borrow.”
“A piece of jewelry you pin on clothing.”
Her Fierceness turns and heads back to the changing room. “Mom, I’m going to put away the rejects.”
“You sure you don’t want to take another look at the grey one?”
“The blue one really made your eyes pop.”
She hands me the green dress. “No, mother, I’m wearing this.”
The phalanx of sales people who’ve been asking us if we want to start a dressing room have vanished now that I actually want to spend money.
I stand in front of the cash register.
I have to admit it–the dress is soft, a beautiful green and well-priced. And yet as I hold it, I miss school uniforms with an intensity I did not think clothing could inspire.
My little girl has the body of a woman but not the wisdom. This dress, with its womanly cut, inspires fear, fear of a world that will look at my daughter and see a piece of objectified ass. A voluptuous beauty with an ass – and tits … and no idea the consequences of what showcasing their beauty can incite. In lustful men. In mothers who will judge her – and me. In peers who will judge even more harshly. I know that high school is awkward and sometimes hard. I didn’t think the challenges would include this dress.
“I think it’s flattering,” says a lithe twenty-something salesperson. She is not speaking to me. Nor is she walking toward the cash register. Instead, she approaches a thirty-something brunette who is examining herself from every conceivable angle in a three-way-mirror, the one just behind the checkout counter.
The brunette looks vexed, as if she’s unsure who that woman in the mirror staring back at her is. Her features are not noteworthy but when combined form an attractive visage.
She mentions a preschool aged daughter, and a husband to the saleswoman. “Could I wear this to carpool?”
“Why not?” replies the saleswoman, “mornings are certainly chilly.”.
“Look at the seams, do they seem well-sewn?”
“It’s a well-made jacket,” says the saleswoman.
It should be well made, I manage to say only to myself, the brunette is wearing a $1500 Moncler jacket.
“But my girlfriends don’t think I’ll wear ‘Blush’ very often,” the brunette says. “And they don’t think it’s flattering.”
I can’t help myself. “Do you like how you look in it?”
The brunette turns and looks at me, suddenly aware that I’d been eaves dropping. She doesn’t appear to appreciate my intrusion. She turns back to her reflection.
It’s down. We’re Angelenos. The notion that a Moncler jacket is anything other than a luxury, regardless of its hue, is absurd.
“All that matters is how you feel in it,” I blurt out again.
The brunette stares at me as she caresses the jacket. “You have to understand–I’m a delicate person.”
“Oh.” I am rendered speechless for one of the few times in my life.
I stare at her. then at my daughter’s green dress. I resist the impulse to buy the “Blush” jacket off the woman’s back and force my daughter to wear it 24/7.
My beloved, fierce, first born returns. “Mom, I can wear a sweater with this dress. Or I can try the grey one on again.”
“Like hell you can.”
“The green dress is the one you will wear. And you’ll look beautiful in it.”
Her blue eyes sparkle even brighter. “Thanks.”
There will be battles. Over clothing. And cleavage. And curfews. And and, and–so much more. But my daughter will never, ever, ever, ever choose how she presents herself to the world according to others. While this infuriates me somedays – like tonight when I’m sure to dream of safety pins and uniforms – it inspires me always.
We need fierce females to fix our messed-up world – even if they do so while exposing too much cleavage.