Jewish World Review July 9, 2001/ 18 Tamuz, 5761

Gayle A. Cox

Gayle Allen Cox
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Consumer Reports

Teen tramps and the mothers who encourage them -- IT is a Saturday afternoon. I am clothes shopping with my daughter at a popular store for teens.

After entering the fitting area, my daughter locates an empty stall, and I join the gaggle of onlookers nearby.

In front of the tri-fold mirror is a young girl not a day over 14. She is a rather pretty girl, but in all candor, I have a hard time focusing on her because of the outfit she is wearing.

Made of a shiny, mesh-like fabric, it consists of little more than fringe. Instinctively, I avert my eyes and wonder where the girl's mother is.

As it turns out, the girl's mother is sitting on a small bench to my left. Her voice is animated, and she is offering her daughter motherly counsel. "That looks great on you, Angela," she says.

Angela isn't too sure.

"You really think so?" she asks, giggling like the child she is.

"Oh, absolutely. I think we should buy it. You have the perfect figure for it, too."

Angela seems a bit embarrassed as she twists left and right, studying her fringe-covered body in the mirror. But after a few moments, she shrugs her shoulders, glances toward her mom and giggles her way back into the stall.

As the door closes behind her, Mom yells, "We don't have to tell your daddy. It will be just our little secret."

Suddenly, an awkward hush falls over the dressing room occupants.

Finally, a stranger asks the question we all are thinking. "Where is she going to wear that?" The stranger sounds disturbed.

"To a party," Mom replies, a hint of defiance in her voice.

"My daddy would kill me if I wore something like that," the dressing room clerk volunteers.

"My daughter's mother would kill her," I say. And once again, the dressing room is quiet.

No, no, my daughter's mother wouldn't kill anyone not literally. But the point is my daughter's mother is a square. A full-fledged, dyed-in-the-wool, fuddy-duddy square.

She is so square that she believes provocative clothing should be worn only by cheap women on street corners, hoping to make a sale.

Obviously, her point of view isn't a very popular one in a tolerant society such as ours, but if there is one thing my daughter's mother doesn't worry about, it is popularity.

Let other mothers do as they please, she never will allow (much less encourage) her teenage daughter to dress in suggestive fashions of any kind for any purpose. Those are the rules of her house, and if her daughter has a problem with them, she can find another landlord.

That might sound a bit harsh, but the square mother loves her daughter too much to be a pushover where such grave matters are concerned.

And how her daughter presents herself to the opposite sex is a grave matter indeed.

You know the old saying, "If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it probably is a duck."

Well, her daughter isn't a "duck." And (regardless of how difficult fashion designers make it for the square mother) her daughter won't be dressing like a "duck," either.

And fashion designers do make it difficult.

Many times, mother and daughter return home from an all-day shopping trip exhausted and empty-handed. Everything was too short, too tight, too low, too sheer, too something.

But tired though she may be the square mother isn't deterred in her quest for modesty. If she has to take up sewing, she will.

And, yes, she is well aware of skeptics who say being too strict on children will turn them into rebellious adults who defy authority and break the law, but she doesn't care what the skeptics say. She believes just the opposite is true.

Kids need boundaries. Kids want boundaries. They just need someone with the guts, the tenacity and the know-how to implement them. The square mother has all three.

So, please, all you skeptics out there, don't waste your ink writing her letters, predicting calamity in her future if she doesn't alter her game plan a bit. She had the squarest mother of them all, and she is unmoved by prophets of doom.

JWR contributor Gayle Allen Cox writes from Fort Worth. Comment on this column by clicking here.


© 2001, Gayle Allen Cox